Five NHL Teams That Got Better in Free Agency
The 2014 edition of NHL Free Agency was as eventful as ever, with many high profile players going to new teams, and many teams bolstering their profiles going into next year. Here are five teams that really fared well from their signings on July 1st.
Perhaps no team did more to improve itself than the Dallas Stars in one day, at least offensively. They started the day off with a bang by trading for Ottawa's Jason Spezza, then followed that up with the signings of backup goaltender Anders Lindback, quality forward Ales Hemsky and, well, Patrick Eaves.
The Stars, who just squeaked into the playoffs last season, are building up an offensive core that's sure to score plenty of goals, even if they don't quite have the means to prevent letting in a bunch yet.
New Jersey Devils
New Jersey's signings haven't been as splashy, but they've been nearly as solid. The Devils were one of the weakest teams offensively last season, and they've attempted to address those issues with the signings of Mike Cammalleri and Martin Havlat. With Martin Brodeur no longer backstopping the team, the signing of former Devil Scott Clemmensen to backup Cory Schneider provides some stability in net.
NHL Free Agency 2014
Which big free agent signing will make the biggest impact with his new team?
Tampa Bay Lightning
Steve Yzerman's continued building of a strong Tampa Bay core - even with the unceremonious dumping of its two most prestigious stars in Vincent LeCavalier and Martin St. Louis - yielded some good results so far in free agency. Its the Steven Stamkos show now in Tampa, but the add of Brian Boyle will give the team some nice depth at center.
Somewhat notably, despite the high quality play of goalie Ben Bishop, the Lightning signed castoff Evgeni Nabokov to a deal. At this point, I doubt Nabokov will get a look at the starting spot given Bishop's play last season, but Bishop was injured at a critical time for Tampa last season, and so Nabokov would provide good insurance should Bishop fall again.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues signed only one player on July 1st, but it's a pretty big signing as Paul Stastny leaves Colorado to join St. Louis. Paul, whose father Peter played his last two season sporadically with the Blues, should bolster a Blues team whose biggest problem last season was its inconsistent offense.
Now, the Blues did lose Ryan Miller on July 1st to Vancouver, but they did resign Brian Elliott to a deal shortly after their exit from the playoffs. That said, Elliott, who always backed up one goaltender or another during his time with the Blues, has never started more than 38 games in a season as a member of the Blues. His numbers with the team suggest he'll be able to take on larger workload, and if he can adapt the addition of Stastny should help propel the Blues further than what they've accomplished in the playoffs recently.
Looking at the players Florida has added on its own, it seems evident that Florida has improved. The Panthers, who fared only better than Buffalo in the Atlantic division last season, added a lot of depth in the forms of Jussi Jokinen, Dave Bolland, Shawn Thornton, and Willie Mitchell, all in different positions.
Now, looking at the money Florida has spent acquiring these depth players - especially the $27.5 million spent on Bolland, and it seems evident Florida doesn't feel like straddling the salary floor this year. The Panthers still have no real dominant player in a division full of them, but the additions they've made should help them become more competitive none the less.
Most other teams were moderately busy in free agency, but I felt either that their losses still overlapped their gains, or that the signings those teams made wouldn't make much difference (I suppose Florida could fit this category).
Among the former is Colorado. They did make a flurry of signings, highlighted by Jerome Iginla for three (!?) seasons, but the loss of Stastny may be too much to bear for the Avalanche.
Matt Moulson and Brian Gionta highlighted Buffalo's free agent signings, but without any decent goaltending its tough to say how much that would actually help.
Speaking of, Vancouver may of addressed their goaltending situation, maybe, finally?, by signing Ryan Miller, but that was their only signing and their problems feature far more than just goaltending.
There are other teams that have made good signings (Vanek to Minnesota, Niskanen and Orpik to Washington albeit for too much money), I feel the five teams mentioned above did the most to improve themselves so far.