After the Stanley Cup wraps up every June, fans must endure four months without any on-ice NHL action. Luckily, the summer months are often full of big signings and trades. Though this summer’s transactions were overshadowed by the Las Vegas Knights expansion draft, they did make for some compelling storylines heading into the 2017-2018 season.
The Montreal Canadiens are always under pressure to make moves, and General Manager (GM) Marc Bergevin didn't disappoint. The transactions started as the Habs finally acquired the young, coveted Jonathan Drouin. In return, they gave up standout rookie Mikhail Sergachev, a small cost to maximize their cup window with goaltender Carey Price. Price signed the richest goaltending contract in NHL history with an eight-year, $84 million deal, keeping him in Montreal for the long haul. Soon after, they added free agent Karl Alzner to their blue line. However, during the shuffle, they lost Russian sniper Alex Radulov to the Dallas Stars.
Along with Radulov, the Stars also signed shutdown centre Martin Hanzal and solved their goaltending issue by trading for goalie Ben Bishop from the Los Angeles Kings. With a high-powered offence, they are now primed for a productive season.
The Edmonton Oilers parted with yet another core player, sending Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders in exchange for Ryan Strome, a younger forward with a smaller cap hit. Strome is projected to play with generational-talent Connor McDavid. In July, McDavid signed the largest contract in Oilers history, a $100 million, eight-year deal. The 20 year-old could have inked an even more lucrative contract, but took a slight pay cut to ensure the Oilers could sign teammate Leon Draisaitl to an eight-year, $68 million contract. These moves signify that the Oilers are ready to make consistent runs at the Stanley Cup.
A few hours drive south, their Alberta rivals made deals, too. The Calgary Flames added steady defenceman Travis Hamonic and goalies Mike Smith and Eddie Lack, solidifying a position that has been weak in recent years.
The Chicago Blackhawks shook up their core, trading talented winger Artemi Panarin for ex-Hawk Brandon Saad. To manage cap restrictions, they also traded defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson for Connor Murphy. The Hawks also brought back a familiar face in Patrick Sharp on a one-year deal. Their constant reshuffling is the small price of winning three Stanley Cups in the last eight years.
The New York Rangers also worked to stay atop the standings. They traded top-six centre Derek Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta for a first-round pick and defenceman Anthony DeAngelo. The Rangers also added prized free agent Kevin Shattenkirk, who gave them a hometown discount and signed a $26.6 million, four-year deal.
On July 1, the San Jose Sharks signed Marc-Edouard Vlasic to an eight-year, $56 million extension. Adding goaltender Martin Jones on a six-year, $34.5 million extension, the Sharks locked up two important pieces of their core roster. They also signed star Joe Thornton to a one-year deal worth $8 million. However, San Jose couldn’t keep everyone in town, losing team-legend Patrick Marleau to the rising Toronto Maple Leafs.
In a very busy offseason, there were many other notable re-signings: Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson returned to the Predators, Evgeny Kuznetsov signed on long-term with the Capitals, and Alex Wennberg got a six-year deal with the Blue Jackets. Plenty of GMs locked their young talent in cap-friendly deals, including Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin in Carolina, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat in Tampa Bay, and Bo Horvat in Vancouver.
The 2017 offseason was focused less on blockbuster trades and more on teams retaining their players. Many teams have locked up young stars, indicative of the league’s shift to a younger, faster game. The upcoming season reflects a new age for the NHL, with new teams entering their cup windows as the past decade’s perennial contenders start to cycle out.