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Record Setting First Day of Free Agency: Winners and Losers

NHL free agency started with a bang on July 1 with major signings and moves across the entire league. It even managed to set a record for most money spent on the first day of free agency with $1.2 billion spent on new signings. 

Big Moves

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Nashville Predators Sink Their Teeth into Massive Signings

The Nashville Predators easily made the biggest splash on July 1 by signing longtime Tampa Bay Lighting captain, Steven Stamkos to a four-year, $8 million AAV contract. Stamkos has played for the Lightning since the 2008-09 season, and has been captain since 2013. He has been averaging a little over a point per game since 2015 and scored 40 goals and 41 assists for a total of 81 points in 79 games this past season. He also led the team to two Stanley Cups during his time as captain. 

This was a massive move for the Predators, as the Lightning simply didn’t have the cap space to continue signing the captain. The Predators had plenty of cap space left after this season and certainly put that money to use with arguably the most massive move of free agency.

Not only did they sign Stamkos, but they were also able to sign former Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe winner, Jonathan Marchessault to a five-year, $5.5 million AAV contract. Marchessault was one of the few remaining “misfits” on the Vegas Golden Knights, “misfits” being players that have been with the team since their inaugural season. Marchessault was by far one of the most loved players by fans across Vegas, and he will certainly be deeply missed by the Knights fans. 

Nashville also managed to sign former Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei and former Dallas Stars goaltender Scott Wedgewood. With these signings, Nashville certainly put the league on notice and is serious about being contenders for the 2024-25 season.

Lightning Looking to Replace Stamkos

Although the Lightning lost their longtime captain, they were able to make a massive signing during free agency by signing Jake Guentzel to a seven-year contract worth $63 million. The former longtime Pittsburgh Penguin is another point-per-game player with strong offensive skills. He scored 52 points in 50 games with the Penguins last season, and 25 points in 17 games with the Carolina Hurricanes, where he was traded to at the trade deadline last season.

This move is sure to be helpful for their point production, especially after losing some really consistent production in Stamkos. 

Stanley Cup Winners Losing Talent

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After a team wins the Stanley Cup, it is quite often that their players expect more money than they might necessarily be worth which makes it much harder for former Stanley Cup winning teams to keep their players along with their talent and why lots of teams fall off for a while after winning. 

The Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights have both fallen victim to this pattern during free agency. 

Both teams lost players to the Seattle Kraken, Florida losing defenseman Brandon Montour and Vegas losing center Chandler Stephenson. Florida also lost Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Anthony Stolars to the Maple Leafs, Ryan Lomberg to the Flames, and Kevin Stenlund to Utah.

The Golden Knights lost Jiri Patera, William Carrier, Anthony Mantha, Michael Amadio, and Alec Martinez during free agency as well, as they were not able to come to terms on a contract with any of these players. 

The Golden Knights will be forced to use players who spent the majority of last season on their AHL team, the Henderson Silver Knights, at the start of the 2024-25 season unless a major trade or other signings take place. This will be a huge test to the depth of both the Golden Knights and the Florida Panthers and how these teams can survive with drastically different rosters than they had in their respective Stanley Cup winning years. 

Capitals and Blackhawks Expensive Days

The Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks general managers had very busy days on the phone, with both teams making large numbers of signings in order to boost several different aspects of their rosters. 

The Capitals signed forwards Brandon Duhaime and Taylor Raddysh, and defenseman Matt Roy to new contracts, as well as trading for Jakob Chychrun. 

The Blackhawks added forwards Tyler Bertuzzi, Teuvo Teravainen, and Craig Smith to their scoring depth and defenseman Alec Martinez to their blueline along with goaltender Laurent Brossoit. 

Both teams are clearly ready to make a push for playoffs this season with these signings and it will be interesting to see what these mixed rosters are able to accomplish during the 2024-25 season. 

New Jersey Trying to Make a Push Back

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The New Jersey Devils have been a mystery for the past two seasons as on paper their roster seemed to be really solid and worthy of a Stanley Cup, but they have been far from contending, especially during the 2023-24 season where they didn’t even make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

This season they seem serious and ready to build a roster around forwards Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. Their biggest issue last season seemed to be their defense, so they signed defenseman Brett Pesce and Brendon Dillion to new contracts, along with forward Stefan Noesen. 

These moves make it clear that the Devils front office knows that they can compete and could be serious contenders this season, so the Devils will certainly be a team to keep your eye on during the beginning of the next season.

Quiet Teams

There were a few teams that did not take advantage of the record setting free agency day and have been relatively quiet since the end of the 2023-24 season. For example, the Anaheim Ducks didn’t make a single signing on July 1 and only traded for a few well rounded players to try to make their team stronger. For a team that has been struggling for the past few seasons, the lack of movement is very concerning for the future of the Ducks. 

The Calgary Flames also didn’t make any major moves during free agency, but as a team that is committed to going through a rebuild at the moment, this might be for the best for the team, even though it might be a tough few years for all Calgary fans. 

The Colorado Avalanche went into free agency with cap space being an issue, and it really showed. They lost more point production than they brought in by losing Yakov Trenin, Sean Walker, and Brandon Duhaime during free agency.

The New York Rangers were also very quiet and look as though they’ll be using pretty much the same roster as they did last season. They were able to win the Presidents’ Trophy last season, so this might not be a bad thing, but moving one or two players around might be beneficial to find more of a spark for this team. 

Overall, this record breaking day for free agency was certainly one that will be remembered for a lot of teams, but is also one that a few teams might want to forget once the season starts. Regardless of what your favorite team did, there were many massive moves that were made that should help to make the 2024-25 season an exciting one. 

Edited by Breanna Ebisch

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