Summer is almost over, and what a wild ride it has been.
In the year Let’s take a look back at the five biggest moves of the 2022 NHL offseason and take a moment to appreciate just how hot the furnace is.
Johnny Gaudreau signs in Columbus
So much has gone down since the signing of Johnny Gaudreau that it’s easy to forget it happened this offseason. But bet your bottom dollar that it successfully kicks off a massive chain of events that will unfold in the coming months and change the face of at least three different franchises.
It is impossible to imagine how unexpected this was.
Gaudreau was arguably the best free agent to hit the open market in a decade — a legitimate superstar who was in the midst of his prime and is coming off a Hart-caliber season. Teams lined up around him to sign him, and anyone connected to the situation has indicated for months that Gaudreau, who grew up in the New Jersey area, wanted to play closer to home.
Then, in roughly seven hours, all of that was thrown out the window. Gaudreau waited until after the free agent frenzy to drop the bombshell, leaving an estimated $16 million on the table in Calgary, opting to commit his remaining prime years to a franchise that didn’t make it past the second round.
Perhaps the most attractive of the ball, Bell scouted the market, offered representation and took his talent to Columbus, Ohio.
Unbelievable. What a boon for the Blue Jackets.
Matthew Tkachuk will be traded to Florida, Huberdow will go the other way
Remember the ripple effect I was talking about? Well, this was the next domino to fall.
Almost immediately after Gaudreau left for (I assume) greener pastures, Calgary’s other face of the franchise announced that he also wanted out.
So a week of madness ensued. Tkachuk, like Gaudreau, is a caliber of player that is rare and especially coming off a career year. Of course, he needs a new contract. But for a 24-year-old with 104 points? Teams make it work.
Everyone knew that Tkachuk was for sale. No one knew what that business would look like.
Then, at 11:45 pm on a Friday night in late July, the nucleus exploded.
Tkachuk was headed to the Florida Panthers, where he would sign a massive eight-year extension worth $9.5 million. That’s a very masterful piece though. Because Calgary’s road running back was a package no one thought was on the table: Jonathan Huberdeau, Mackenzie Wegar, a first-round pick and a prospect.
In one night, the Flames changed the entire face of their franchise, softening the blow of losing two organizational pillars with another 100-point superstar, a pair of defensemen and a collection of assets to act as a safety net. One or both will remain in free agency next year.
Trades like this don’t happen in the modern NHL. They must be impossible. It confirms the salary cap. But somehow the Flames and Panthers pulled it off, changing the core of their teams for the future.
We already know Huberdeau won’t be skipping town, as he signed his own eight-year extension a few weeks later and committed to Calgary before playing a game for them.
What a whirlwind. And we’re not even done.
Nazem Kadri signed in Calgary
With Huberdeau locked out, the Flames have successfully burned themselves as a destination franchise for top-level talent. Of course, two talented players who modeled them and raised them completely at home each had their noses up. Still, the man who set the single-season record for assists by a left winger last year signed on the dotted line after reportedly meeting with management.
This can do wonders for organizational morale.
Well, the Flames took that interior addition and once again applied it to their roster, coming out of nowhere to sign Nazim Kadri, the second-biggest free agent of the offseason now set to replace the first.
what about that
For a few weeks, fans of the Flash and Flames have been disappointed. As of late August, they’ve been waiting half a decade for the new pairing of Huberdeau and Kadri — the two players who have purposely had the most productive remaining years for their franchise and their city.
To be honest, I didn’t know Brad Treliving had it in him. But for better or worse, the longtime flameout GM played a major role in three of the most jaw-dropping developments of the fall.
Raise your hand.
The Hurricanes get Max Pacioretty for free
I know Max Pacioretty is going to miss half the season after surgery. But this is still a hugely talented player – a respected veteran leader who is loved wherever he goes and guaranteed to hit a 30-goal pace. Salary should not be a waste.
Don’t tell the Golden Knights, but the Suns are closer to the salary cap than an Icarus dream and were forced to trade him and Dylan Coughlan to the Carolina Hurricanes for nothing.
Literally nothing. Future ideas, if you want to be sticklers about it — which will inevitably prove to be a no-brainer in the future.
Good for Carolina for capitalizing on the other team’s mistakes. And by doing bad things to Vegas, they will only worsen their deteriorating reputation as an organization that values their players.
Ottawa big boy moves
The Senators announced their rebuild last summer and then continued to be one of the worst teams in the league. No one believed their optimism at the time, and few bought into their plans heading into the 2022 NHL Draft in June.
Those people will soon be proven wrong.
The Senators picked up one of the biggest trade chips on the market, getting Alex DeBrincat out of the fray in Chicago for a small sum. They then successfully offloaded 75 percent of Matt Murray’s deal to a division rival, replaced him with Cam Talbot, and put the cherry on top by signing Claude Giroux.
Not to mention, Pierre Dorion followed all that up by locking up two key pieces of the team’s future, giving both Josh Norris and Mathieu Joseph long-term extensions to keep them going through their most productive years in Ottawa.
The blue line is still bad. But Dorion is no miracle worker. And by making the team’s frontcourt a legitimate threat to opponents, the Senators will at least be competitive in the juggernaut Atlantic Division for the first time in years.