Unfinished business for Edmonton
There wasn't much surprise when Milan Lucic signed his seven-year, $42 million deal with the Edmonton Oilers moments after the free-agent market opened at noon ET Friday. The Oilers had been courting the big power forward, and he knows general manager Peter Chiarelli well from their days with the Boston Bruins, with whom they won a Stanley Cup in 2011.
Lucic will help plug a hole on Edmonton's top two forward lines -- a void created when the Oilers dealt 2010 No. 1 overall pick Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils in a deal that brought defenseman Adam Larsson to Edmonton.
The picture still isn't complete, as Chiarelli continues to hunt for a top-four defenseman to help shoulder some of burden of turning this team around defensively. Jason Demers was rumored to be a target, but he remained unsigned as of mid-afternoon Friday and eventually signed with the Panthers. Until that defensive solution appears, the Oilers' picture will remain just a little bit out of focus -- even if we love the addition of the hard-nosed Lucic in the Edmonton locker room.
Oh, oh, Buffalo
Sure, the Buffalo Sabres would have loved to have taken a run at Steven Stamkos had the Tampa Bay Lightning captain hit the market. But I have to admit that I like their addition of Kyle Okposo, who signed a seven-year, $42 million deal with the Sabres on Friday, almost as much.
Whether Okposo plays with Ryan O'Reilly or Jack Eichel, he brings 70-point potential and a nice, understated leadership presence to the Sabres dressing room. The fact that Okposo is close with Matt Moulson might help Moulson return to the kind of productivity he enjoyed when they played together for Long Island. Buffalo was a win or two a month away from the playoffs last season. Assuming goalieRobin Lehnerishealthy, the addition of Okposo might be just enough to push the Sabres to the postseason.
A town with no curfew
Lots of curfew jokes accompanied the news that the Montreal Canadiens had signed Russian winger Alexander Radulov to a one-year deal worth $5.25 million. But, unlike last summer's ill-fated experiment with Alexander Semin, this one has the potential to pay huge dividends for the Habs.
Let's assume that Radulov, 29, has grown up some since his late-night excursions during the 2012 playoffs, when he and Andrei Kostitsyn were suspended for busting curfew while both were members of the Nashville Predators. Radulov is a big body with plenty of snarl and big-time skill. In short, pretty much what the Canadiens need. Perhaps he will helpAlex Galchenyuk settle into a more mature role with the Habs -- and, on a one-year contract, there's little exposure for Montreal if it doesn't work out.
The fact that newly acquired defenseman Shea Weber was captain of that Nashville team adds a little intrigue, but shouldn't be much of an issue, assuming Radulov is motivated to take advantage of this new opportunity to establish himself as an impact player in the NHL.
Flames on fire
Calgary Flames' Brad Treliving continues to assert himself as an emerging young GM. He added a gritty, top-nine forward, Troy Brouwer, whosigned a four-year deal worth $4.5 million annually. The money is acceptable, although the fourth year might be a bit dicey given how hard Brouwer, 30, plays. But he is coming off a terrific turn with the St. Louis Blues and adds another element to a team that earlier cemented its goaltending by acquiring Brian Elliottand then adding capable backup Chad Johnson on Friday. It's playoffs or bust for the Flames.
Whither the New York Rangers?
Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don't make. Yes, we've heard that old chestnut before. But what if -- and this isn't a shot at Michael Grabner, who signed a two-year deal with the Rangers on Friday, or Nathan Gerbe, who inked a one-year deal -- you don't do anything of note? How does not making any fundamental change to your lineup help a team like the Rangers, who appear to be sliding out of relevancy?
The team's refusal to engage in anything significant pre-draft or on the opening day of free agency is a bit puzzling given how beaten down it looked, especially defensively, at the end of a first-round loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Even Viktor Stalberg, a useful forward the Rangers picked up off the scrap heap a year ago, took a one-year deal with theCarolinaHurricanes for $1.5 million.
Under the radar, part I
Ray Shero sure does love his Pittsburgh connections. After raiding the Penguins for coaching and front-office hires over the last year or so, the Devils GM signed former Pittsburgh defender Ben Lovejoy to a three-year deal Friday worth $8 million. Lovejoy was part of a solid defense-by-committee group that won a Stanley Cup. While he does not replace Larsson, Lovejoy does become an instant top-four or five defenseman who can log big minutes with little downside. The Devils also brought in dressing-room gem Vernon Fiddler as they continue to remake themselves into a team that should have legitimate designs on a playoff berth next spring.
Under the radar, part II
Credit San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson for adding another layer to his blue-line corps by inking underappreciated 29-year-old David Schlemko to a four-year deal worth $2.1 million annually. Schlemko had a strong season with New Jersey last season and he should fit in nicely with a Sharks defense that was revealed as just a little wanting in San Jose's Stanley Cup finals loss to the Penguins.
Under the radar, part III
The Dallas Stars might have lost Alex Goligoski, who signed with theArizona Coyotes, but it's hard not to see their acquisitionFriday of defensemanDan Hamhuis as a nice upgrade. Hamhuis appears to have put injury issues behind him and is motivated to return to top-four status. His two-year deal worth a total of $7.5 million is Stars-friendly, especially if Hamhuis, a Canadian Olympian in 2014, returns to form, as he told ESPN's Pierre LeBrun he hopes to.
So you can go home again. But can you go home and win a Stanley Cup again? That's the hope, of course, for Brian Campbell and the Chicago Blackhawks who reunited after Campbell spent the past five years with the Florida Panthers.
Campbell is 37, and the one-year deal he signed for up to $2.25 million, pending bonuses, is just about right for a player at this stage of his career. But like Brad Richards two years ago, this deal has all the makings of a winner. Campbell can still skate with the best of them, and playing behind the big three ofDuncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarssonwon't put undue pressure on Campbell.
Not that Campbell minds the big moments. He won a Cup with Chicago in 2010 and now will be part of what the Blackhawks hope will be a bounce-back season after falling in the first round to St. Louis this spring.
But sometimes you have to ask, 'Why bother?'
It's hard to argue with the wisdom of Campbell's return to Chicago, and even David Perron's return to St. Louis after he played so well in Anaheim before getting hurt. But I'm not sure whatMinnesota WildGM Chuck Fletcher seesin Chris Stewart to warrant even the modest $2.3 million Stewart will earn over the two years. Stewart is a big body, yes. But his big body has rarely been put to its proper use, as the Wild well know. (Stewart played 20 games for Minnesota in 2015.) Stewart has 37 goals in his last 200 regular-season games and one goal in his last 21 postseason games.