2024 NHL free agency: Winners and losers after spending frenzy

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The first day of NHL free agency saw 185 different signings as teams across the League raced to snag their top targets. While some enticing players like Vladimir Tarasenko, Daniel Sprong, and Cam Atkinson still remain unsigned, the market has largely dried up after the frenzy on Monday.

With some exciting game-changers swapping jerseys, this offseason has the potential to shake up the power rankings for a few seasons.

Who won and who lost on Day 1? Let’s dive right in.

Related: NHL trade grades: Lightning sign Jake Guentzel after deal with Hurricanes

The Winners

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Anaheim Ducks
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Plenty of teams got in on the fun on Monday, but these teams really stood out above the rest with signings that should either result in a big leap or allow them to remain at the highest level of Stanley Cup contention.

Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators and general manager Barry Trotz stole the show on Monday with a flurry of moves that should ensure a return to the postseason and transform them into a legit Stanley Cup contender.

On top of bringing in two of the best wingers available in Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Marchessault, the Predators also bolstered the blue line by bringing back Alexandre Carrier and signing Brady Skjei. Plus, they signed Scott Wedgewood from the Dallas Stars to back up star goalie Juuse Saros, who just signed an eight-year contract extension.

The Predators ranked 10th in the League last season with 3.23 goals per game. Now they add a pair of 40-goal scorers in Stamkos and Marchessault to a top six that already boasts Filip Forsberg, Ryan O’Reilly, and Gustav Nyquist.

Stamkos (4 years, $8 million AAV), Marchessault (5 years, $5.5 million AAV), and Skjei (7 years, $7 million AAV) all have expensive deals that could age poorly, particularly with Stamkos and Marchessault entering their age-34 and 33 seasons respectively. But for the time being, these moves make Nashville a formidable threat in the Central Division.

Boston Bruins

When he spoke at exit-day interviews, general manager Don Sweeney said the Boston Bruins would be aggressive this offseason. He wasn’t lying, as the Bruins lured center Elias Lindholm and defenseman Nikita Zadorov away from the Vancouver Canucks, making sizeable (literally and figuratively) additions to their forward and defense units.

Sure, Boston had solid depth down the middle with centers Pavel Zacha and Matthew Poitras, but it lacked the true 1C that all Cup contenders have. Lindholm comes at a hefty price (7 years, $7.75 million AAV), but he’s a very talented two-way center who was excellent in this spring’s postseason with Vancouver. If he can recapture the way he played with the Calgary Flames a few seasons ago, the Bruins will have a point-per-game player on their hands.

At 6-foot-6, Zadorov is a massive, physical D-man who’s play style will make him an immediate fan favorite with Boston fans. He’s a great fit for their system and gives the Bruins an intimidating blue line as he’ll play alongside Hampus Lindholm (6-foot-4), and Mason Lohrei and Brandon Carlo (both 6-foot-5). Bruins fans will either love or hate that Zadorov wishes to be called “Big Z” despite the city’s love affair with Zdeno Chara.

New Jersey Devils

Plagued by porous defense and goaltending in a failed season when they surprisingly missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the New Jersey Devils addressed those issues this offseason. After trading for goalie Jacob Markstrom a couple of weeks ago, the Devils made much-needed additions to their back end on Monday, signing Brett Pesce from the Carolina Hurricanes and Brenden Dillon from the Winnipeg Jets.

With youngsters Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec still expected to have an everyday role, adding the likes of Pesce and Dillon to a group that will have a healthy Dougie Hamilton again gives New Jersey a vastly improved defense corps.

While the Devils don’t need too much more in the way of offense, they did also add Stefen Noesen, who was a very productive bottom-sixer with the Carolina Hurricanes the past few seasons. All signs point to a much more competitive Devils squad that should be able to return to the playoffs and contend for the Cup this year.

Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers may not have an official GM at the moment, after Ken Holland’s recent resignation, but that didn’t stop them from making more than a few excellent signings. With 10 UFAs and just over $10 million in cap space, team CEO Jeff Jackson not only brought back key pieces from the bottom six but made juicy additions as well.

Adam Henrique, Connor Brown, and Corey Perry each will return and Mattias Janmark comes back on a three-year, $1.45 million AAV deal, an absolute steal after his strong postseason. The Oilers also added a pair of potential top-six wingers in Viktor Arvidsson and Jeff Skinner, at a low cost.

Arvidsson and Skinner give the Oilers some legitimate scoring touch beyond their star-studded core. Plus, they keep a good chunk of a bottom six that became one of the driving factors behind their Stanley Cup Final appearance.

Chicago Blackhawks

It’s unlikely the Chicago Blackhawks will be a playoff team next season, but they’re starting to lay the foundation and could get there sooner rather than later. Attacking the market aggressively, GM Kyle Davidson brought in some pieces that should make the Blackhawks far more competitive and facilitate the development of Connor Bedard in his second season.

To that front, they added wingers Tyler Bertuzzi and Teuvo Teravainen, adding an NHL scoring touch that the team lacked last season after Taylor Hall went down with an injury. With Hall also set to return, coach Luke Richardson will have some talented options that he can place next to the 2023 No. 1 overall pick.

Bringing defensemen Alec Martinez and TJ Brodie into the fold, as well as respected veteran forward Pat Maroon, indicates that the full-on tank might be a thing of the past. They even signed goalie Laurent Brossoit, who’s been an excellent backup with Winnipeg and the Vegas Golden Knights the past two years.

The Losers

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Florida Panthers
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Here are some teams that either didn’t do enough or made questionable signings.

New York Rangers

After waiving Barclay Goodrow and rumblings of a Jacob Trouba trade, it felt like the New York Rangers were loading up for a major move. Instead, they were oddly quiet, signing a depth center in Sam Carrick and acquiring forward Reilly Smith in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Blueshirts still have the core from last year’s Presidents’ Trophy run, but that feels like part of the problem. The Rangers just don’t seem all that different — Smith is an upgrade over Jack Roslovic, but it’s likely not an all-out game-changer. In a market that was filled with talented scoring wingers, many of whom got expensive contracts the Rangers admittedly couldn’t afford, GM Chris Drury opted for a short-term, cheaper option that comes with far less upside.

Perhaps it’s the best move for the team in the long term, but it’s an awfully conservative move for one that’s supposed to be “Cup or bust.” And considering how teams like the Bruins and Devils improved, the Eastern Conference isn’t getting any easier.

Los Angeles Kings

The Los Angeles Kings still have over $10 million in cap space, but it’s unclear if GM Rob Blake is going to use any of it. After allowing Arvidsson and Matt Roy to walk in free agency, Blake signed defenseman Joel Edmundson to a four-year, $3.85 million AAV deal and forward Warren Foegele to a three-year, $3.5 million AAV contract.

They didn’t do much to replace Arvidsson’s production (though he was hurt much of last season), and that’s coming from a team whose goals per game in the regular season was third-worst among all postseason teams. Roy was one of their best defenders on the blue line and he’ll be hard to replace. Edmundson grades out poorly in the metrics and it’s an expensive contract to give out for a player who’s likely not more than a bottom-pairing defenseman.

As teams in the West continue to add, it’s going to be hard for the Kings to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, particularly after this start to the free-agency period.

Carolina Hurricanes

With a myriad of expiring contracts to address, this was always going to be a difficult offseason for the Carolina Hurricanes and new GM Eric Tulsky. To his credit, Tulsky quickly filled the holes on the blue line, replacing Pesce and Skjei with Sean Walker and Shane Gostisbehere, who returns for a second stint in Carolina.

Their backend remains one of the best in hockey, but the Hurricanes have some pretty sizable holes up front. The Hurricanes re-signed Jordan Martinook to a three-year deal, but were unable to come to terms with star winger Jake Guentzel, who signed a seven-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning after his rights were traded there by the Canes, as well as Terravainen (Chicago) and Noesen (New Jersey).

With Martin Necas reportedly wanting a change of scenery, that’s another scoring top-six forward who could be out of Carolina by the time the season starts. The Hurricanes have always played strong defensively, but the general consensus was that they needed more offense, hence why they traded for Guentzel ahead of the deadline last season.

Carolina should still be one of the top teams in the Metro next season, but their top six could be lacking in the goal-scoring department, something that could’ve been addressed on Monday.

Seattle Kraken

If the Seattle Kraken wished to set themselves up for a return to the postseason, it feels like they came up a bit short. Adding an offensive defenseman like Brandon Montour should help the production some, but that seven-year, $7.1 million AAV deal could get real ugly if the 30-year-old loses a step and/or can’t rebound from a subpar season following shoulder surgery.

Chandler Stephenson is an excellent player and a good fit for the team, but the forward’s seven-year, $6.25 million AAV signing raised some eyebrows and could shape up to be a nasty overpay as he’ll also be 30 next season.

Nashville made similar risky signings and is receiving praise, but they were coming off a postseason berth and should be able to compete for a Stanley Cup next season. Seattle isn’t quite there yet, so the best years of Montour and Stephenson might not come when the team is truly ready to contend.

The Kraken ranked fourth-worst in goals per game last season, and while Stephenson is a reliable 50-60 point scorer, they’re still missing that pure goal scorer to really dig this offense out of the basement.

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