Which Teams Lost Day 1 of NHL Free Agency?


July 14

There are times when it’s wise to spend money in free agency, but multiple NHL teams made signings yesterday that they’ll likely regret.

Not only did some teams make signings that were deemed questionable at best, but teams also lost key players to free agency and trades. Many of these teams listed below have put themselves in salary cap jail over the past few summers, and some of that stems from free agency, which hasn’t been a promising aspect of these franchises. 

Let’s dive into some of these teams and why there are question marks about how they kicked off their approach to free agency.

Vegas Golden Knights

The Vegas Golden Knights weren’t active in free agency because of their horrendous salary cap situation. Still, they crack this list after trading away a premier goal scorer for future considerations. Max Pacioretty and Dylan Coghlan were dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes as pure cap dumps in a baffling move to become cap compliant. NHL teams can be 10% over the salary cap in the offseason, but there are a lot of question marks about how the Golden Knights front office is going about their business. The team kept Reilly Smith but handled things poorly with Pacioretty. Vegas will be an interesting team to follow next season, but maybe not for the right reasons. 

Philadelphia Flyers

If you’re looking for a tire-fire of a team, look no further than the Philadelphia Flyers. Johnny Gaudreau was looking to play closer to home, so New Jersey and the City of Brotherly Love were prime destinations, but poor salary cap management took the Flyers out of the running. Already in a difficult spot, the FLyers decided to sign Nicolas Deslauriers and Justin Braun. Both players bring a Flyers’ brand of hockey, but it’s a style that’s been passed by with the infusion of speed in the league. Neither signing was consequential, and giving term to Deslauriers was a poor decision. However, the most significant loss to the Flyers was missing out on Gaudreau, who was open to playing in the city, but management failed to make cap room.

Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks are losers by default. This franchise is headed down a dark path, and it appears that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are on the way out. The Hawks have one thing in mind, and that’s losing games. Chicago still went out and signed Max Domi, Andreas Athanasiou, and Colin Blackwell, but they will likely have short stops in the Windy City. With that, losing is the Hawks’ top priority, with the 2023 NHL Draft class looking promising.

Toronto Maple Leafs

One could argue the Toronto Maple Leafs don’t deserve to be on this list, but when you’re a contending team, you often get overanalyzed. Kyle Dubas and the Leafs’ brass put the club in an unenviable position, facing a need in the net and weak goalie free agents. Jack Campbell gave the team quality goaltending over the past two years, but the Leafs hesitated to provide him with term. The Leafs pivoted, trading for Matt Murray from the Ottawa Senators and signing Ilya Samsonov. Both goalies have had bright spots but are definitely in need of bounce-back seasons. Neither goalie has shown consistency, and it’s a puzzling strategy for a Leafs team in win-now mode.

Vancouver Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks were relatively inactive in free agency, but the one contract they dished out was awful. After scoring a career-high 21 goals for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ilya Mikheyev signed a big-ticket contract with the Canucks for four years worth $4.75 million annually. Mikheyev is fast but lacks finish, and it’s a questionable decision to offer a deal based chiefly on one season’s results. He’s a likable player, but the Canucks might regret giving out the money and term with this contract. 

Thumbnail photo via Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

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