On the first day of the NHL free agency alone, hundreds of millions of dollars of contracts were doled out to hundreds of players across the league. July 1st at noon was the first instance this year where players could sign with new teams. Some contracts are given to depth players destined for the minor leagues, some given to prospects, and some are dispensed to players that can help their new team compete for a Stanley Cup right away.
This year, there was one special free agent fitting that last category, John Tavares. The former New York Islanders superstar center took his talents north of the border. The Ontario native signed a seven year pact worth 11 million dollars per season. Tavares, as many analysts have noted, now makes Toronto’s depth second to none in their division, and a top five forward group overall in the league.
The Maple Leafs’ strategy seems to be utilizing their strong forward depth while getting some help from their top defenseman Morgan Riley. Beyond their best defender, the Leafs lack a solid group of second through fourth defenseman to back him up. If Toronto’s forward group can benefit from having Tavares in the fold combined with cheap depth signings like Tyler Ennis, then they won’t need to rely on their defensive corps for offense, and have them focus on maintaining possession.
Along with the Tavares signing, is news out of Ottawa. The Senators are looking to trade almost any veteran player. The focal point of trade discussions center around Swedish superstar defender and Senators’ captain Erik Karlsson. The top teams for his services are, based on reports, Tampa Bay, and Dallas. If Tampa Bay is the destination for the Ottawa defender, then another team would need to take on some contracts from either the Lightning or Senators, as Tampa Bay has under five million dollars of cap room to use. In addition, since Karlsson is a free agent at season’s end, any team giving up the sizable return required to get him will want to sign him to a long-term extension.
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