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NHL free agency winners, losers: Predators beef up, contenders lose players

NHL free agency winners, losers: Predators beef up, contenders lose players

Seeing Steven Stamkos in a different uniform after 16 years with the Tampa Bay Lightning and two times as Stanley Cup-winning captain will take some getting used to, but you can’t argue with the result.

Nashville Predators general manager Barry Trotz was extremely aggressive Monday, giving Stamkos a four-year, $32 million contract and also signing free agent forward Jonathan Marchessault (five years, $27.5 million) and defenseman Brady Skjei (seven years, $49 million). Goalie Juuse Saros also got an eight-year extension.

“We’re so excited to be part of this amazing franchise and obviously we saw what happened today with some of these other signings so a great day to be a Nashville Predators fan,” Stamkos told reporters.

Stamkos and Marchessault (Vegas) are Stanley Cup winners and one-time Lightning teammates. They each scored 40 goals this season. Marchessault, like Predators forward Ryan O’Reilly, is a former playoff MVP. Skjei was a key defenseman on a deep Carolina Hurricanes blue line.

Longtime Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos has signed with the Nashville Predators.

The Predators are usually a team that needs a late surge to make the playoffs, but now they’re deeper and better on offense and defense.

“Anytime we can add a cultural serial winner type of player, we’re going to do that,” Trotz said. “I don’t want you to come here to retire. I want you to come here to win.”

Here are the other winners and losers of the opening day of NHL free agency:

WINNERS

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Stamkos negotiations probably could have been handled better, but Jake Guentzel’s signing gives them a younger, gifted replacement. He’s a proven playoff scorer who works well alongside stars. The question is whether the trade of defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, which helped clear out cap space, will hurt them.

The last two No. 1 overall picks

The Blackhawks and Sharks added veterans to surround Connor Bedard and Macklin Celebrini, respectively. Tyler Bertuzzi’s puck retrieval skills and passing will work well with Bedard’s shot, and Tyler Toffoli will benefit from Celebrini’s passing. The franchises still have a long way to go, but it’s a good start.

New Jersey Devils

Veteran defensemen Brett Pesce and Brenden Dillon will help a team that had to use rookies Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec a lot because of injuries. Add in the earlier trade for goalie Jacob Markstrom and the Devils should be able to cut back on their goals against and make a playoff push again.

Boston Bruins

They signed Canucks free agent forward Elias Lindholm, who if he matches what he did in 2021-22 could give them the two-way center they’ve been seeking since Patrice Bergeron’s retirement. They had reportedly sought him at the deadline, but Monday they only had to shell out money (a lot at seven years, $54.25 million) instead of giving up trade assets. Coincidentally, Jake DeBrusk, who probably would have moved to Calgary in a Lindholm trade, ended up signing with Vancouver as a free agent. The Bruins also signed defenseman Nikita Zadorov, who will add snarl to their blue line.

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers’ effective third line was up for free agency and the team got Adam Henrique (two years, $6 million), Mattias Janmark (three years, $4.35 million) and Connor Brown (one year, $1 million) re-signed for an inexpensive price. They did lose Warren Foegele but added secondary scoring with Viktor Arvidsson and Jeff Skinner.

LOSERS

Carolina Hurricanes

They lost Guentzel after giving up a lot of assets at the trade deadline and will have to face him in the season opener. Also gone: Skjei, Pesce, Teuvo Teravainen and Stefan Noesen. The Hurricanes signed defensemen Shayne Gostisbehere and Sean Walker to replace Skjei and Pesce, but it’s not the same.

Vegas Golden Knights

They saw 2023 Cup winners Marchessault, Chandler Stephenson, Michael Amadio, William Carrier and Alec Martinez leave in free agency and bought in only goalie Ilya Samsonov as a backup. GM Kelly McCrimmon said he tried negotiating with the first four during the season and thought he’d be able to get Marchessault re-signed but in the end, he didn’t want to give him a five-year deal because he’d be 38 at the end of the contract. The Golden Knights still will be contenders because of their deadline trades for Noah Hanifin and Tomas Hertl, but their depth has taken a hit.

New York Rangers

Their day was relatively quiet. The trade for Reilly Smith and signing of Sam Carrick paled in comparison to what other contenders did. And the attempted trade of captain Jacob Trouba appears to be on hold.

Florida Panthers

Sam Reinhart agreed to an eight-year deal with a very team-friendly $8.625 million cap hit for a 57-goal scorer, but they lost defensemen Brandon Montour and Oliver-Ekman Larsson plus feisty forward Ryan Lomberg to free agency.

NHL’s news dump

The NHL reinstated Stan Bowman, Al MacIsaac and Joel Quenneville, who were suspended for their “inadequate response” to allegations that a video coach sexually assaulted a Blackhawks player in 2010. Releasing that information during the busy signing period felt like a news dump. The league could have waited to announce it in midweek after free agency cools down and the schedule is released Tuesday.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NHL free agency winners, losers include Predators, Hurricanes

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