My 10 favorite NHL offseason acquisitions
Not all of the free agents signings or trades are done yet this offseason, but here are some of my favorites, based on how much they will help their team:
Taylor Hall (Buffalo Sabres): Nobody saw this coming, certainly not a beleaguered Buffalo fan base that deserved a better team it has watched for the past decade.
This move gives new general manager Kevyn Adams a strong start, and provides the franchise more optimism than it previously had. If Hall can have a productive season playing alongside Jack Eichel, maybe Adams can persuade him to sign a long-term deal.
The trade doesn’t automatically put the team in the playoffs, but it might inspire the Sabres to be more aggressive with their roster bolstering than they planned to be.
Devon Toews (Colorado Avalanche): Landing Brandon Saad was a solid play for GM Joe Sakic, but acquiring skating defenseman Toews upgrades the Colorado defense significantly. He’s the prototype modern defenseman coaches want for this faster NHL. He can skate and handle the puck and use his skating to defend properly.
New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello hated to give him up, but had to for salary cap reasons.
At a cost of two second-round picks, this was a great price for a player who could help you win a Stanley Cup.
Marc Staal (Detroit Red Wings): GM Steve Yzerman’s primary focus is building for the future, but it was clear this summer he also wants the team to be more competitive immediately. His acquisition of Staal fit both missions. By helping the Rangers ease their salary cap issue by taking Staal’s one remaining contract season, Yzerman picked up a second-round pick. He also gets Staal who could actually help the Red Wings be a better defensive team this season. He could also trade Staal at this season’s trade deadline for more value.
Ryan Murray (New Jersey Devils): Could have just as easily picked goalie Corey Crawford. Both of these players are going to help the Devils improve immediately. Murray is a dependable defenseman who will play in the team’s top four. Crawford’s former Chicago teammates will verify he can still win games on nights when the team doesn't play well enough to win. Tom Fitzgerald is doing an exceptional job in New Jersey.
Evgenii Dadonov (Ottawa Senators): GM Pierre Dorion is getting it done this summer. He drafted sharply, traded shrewdly and was smart in free agent signings. Dadonov has scored 79 goals over the past three seasons. Dorion got him to sign a three-year at $5 million per season.
Jacob Markstrom (Calgary Flames): He will stabilize the Flames’ goaltending. The excitement over the Vancouver Canucks last season mostly focused on their highly skilled youngsters such as Quinn Hughes, Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser,etc. But Markstrom was the heart of Vancouver’s success. He will help the Flames in the same way, keeping them competitive on nights when they are not otherwise sharp.
Tyler Toffoli (Montreal Canadiens): Maybe fans are more excited about Josh Anderson’s blend of physical play and scoring potential. But his seven-year contract -- with a $5.5 million -- seems scary. Toffoli’s acquisition seems equally exciting with less risk. Toffoli totaled 24 goals in 68 games last season, and his resume shows three other seasons in which he tallied 23 to 31 goals. The price is right at four seasons with a $4.25 million cap hit.
Erik Gustafsson (Philadelphia Flyers): Two years ago, defenseman Gustafsson scored 17 goals for Chicago. On a one-year contract for $3 million, Gustafsson could be one of the offseason’s biggest bargains.
Kevin Shattenkirk (Anaheim Ducks): At $3.9 million per season for three seasons, Shattenkirk rounds out Anaheim’s defense. He fits nicely into Anaheim’s group.
Alex Pietrangelo (Vegas Golden Knights): He was the No. 1 free agent, a 6-foot-4, two-way defenseman. It’s not often that you can land a No. 1 defenseman in the free agent marketplace. But giving up Nate Schmidt lessens the excitement of this pick-up. The bottom line: Any GM would trade Schmidt for Pietrangelo. But here’s another truth: Pietrangelo’s value would be greater if they could have kept Schmidt. I had similar mixed feelings about the Blues' acquisition of Torey Krug. Quality signing by St. Louis. But if the Blues could get that done, why didn't they figure out how to keep Pietrangelo?