Let me preface this by saying that by the time you read this, there will probably have been a plethora of trades and signings, ultimately rendering this post useless. But let's continue, shall we?
1) Taylor Hall Trade
Thanks to the cap era of the NHL, most of us have gotten used to being disappointed with annual milestones like Free Agency and the Trade Deadline. We don't typically see blockbuster moves like we used to... Well, that was until Wednesday.
In what would be the craziest 23 minutes in recent NHL news history, we saw two (I would say) blockbuster trades and one major signing. It all started with Taylor Hall getting shipped to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Adam Larsson. Analysts, fans and and pretty much everyone who has anything to do with hockey struggled to make sense of this trade. But it was no where near the most head-scratching trade of the day. More on that later.
Despite playing on the consistently worst team in the NHL, Taylor Hall managed to solidify himself as a star player in the NHL. He may not be up there with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, but he is certainly one of the best left-wringers in the league. Last season he managed to score 65 points (26G, 39A) in 82 games with the Edmonton Oilers. I repeat... the Edmonton Oilers! Since 2012, he's registered 233 points in 255 games, putting him at .91 points per game. Sure, he has his defensive flaws. But it's hard to argue against him being a top player.
Then there's Adam Larsson. Since being selected 4th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, things haven't exactly gone as planned for him. Last season, he scored 18 points in 82 games, a few shy of his career high in points the season before (24 points). To put things in perspective, here are some of the players drafted in the top 10 that year: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Jonathan Huberdeau, Mika Zibanejad, Mark Scheifele, Sean Couturier and Dougie Hamilton.
Larsson does average over 20 minutes per game, and will fill a much-needed defensive hole in the Oilers' line up. But at market value, these two players are not equal.
As ludicrous as this trade seems, Edmonton did manage to get rid of something they have too much of (young talent at forward) and bring in something they need more of (defence). But they could have gotten more for Hall. He is worth more than Larsson alone, regardless of the Oilers' needs. Unless there is something horribly wrong with Hall that we aren't aware of, it's very difficult to make sense of this move.
But if you thought that trade was the most unexpected thing that could happen on Wednesday, you didn't have to wait long to learn otherwise.
2) P.K. Subban for Shea Weber (... seriously)
Mere minutes after we learned about the Hall/Larsson trade, news broke that the Montreal Canadiens traded P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Shea Weber. Although most of us listened to hear what else Montreal got in return, we quickly learned that this was another straight-up deal. Player for player. And it still doesn't make sense.
Subban is an elite player in this league (please don't hate me, Sens fans). He is one of the most dynamic, explosive and exciting defencemen in the NHL, and probably in the top 3 at his position. On a bad team, in a bad year, he scored 51 points in 68 games. Not to mention the team relied on him for 25-30 minutes per game. Weber scored the same number of points, while playing 10 more games than Subban.
Subban is only 27 years old, with a $9 million cap hit for the next 6 years. Weber, on the other hand, is 30 years old and is on contract for the next 10 years. While his cap hit is only $7.85 million, he will make $12 million next season, with another $8 million in signing bonuses on Friday. Montreal is stuck with him until 2026, and his play has already started to diminish.
While Weber is a good defenceman, he is not the same shooting-a-hole-in-the-net player we remember from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. He has lost his speed and defensive mastery in recent years, which was painfully obvious in the most recent playoffs. And although he'll likely continue to be a good player for Montreal, he is not P.K. Subban.
There are plenty of rumours as to why this trade went down, and they all centre around the fact that Subban had too much personality for the team (*rolls eyes*). Because in a sport completely void of personality, why add some into the mix? Regardless of the reasoning, Montreal traded a star defenceman (who actually knew how to give an interesting post-game interview) away for nowhere near what he was worth.
Feel better about the Senators yet?
3) Where Were the Sens?
Amid the trade madness that took place on Wednesday, some Sens fans were wondering where their team was in all of this. Should the team have made an attempt to get Adam Larsson? Many people feel that if any team was going to try and get Larsson, it should have been the Sens. After all, they are in need of help on the blue line. Larsson may not be a star, but he could bring depth to the defensive core in Ottawa.
While I agree that it would have been nice to bring in a player like Larsson, if the price was a player like Taylor Hall, I'm glad the Sens stayed far away from that trade. If trading a player of similar market value was an option, that would be a different story. But I would not want my team giving up a player (or package) equal to Hall in exchange for Larsson alone.
Then there was the question of whether or not they could have made a pitch for Taylor Hall. Now, if someone like Adam Larsson was all it took, I wouldn't be upset with Ottawa trying to make that happen. Cody Ceci could have been the perfect fit for that trade. But then that leaves an even bigger question on our blue line.
As for the Subban/Weber trade, Marc Bergevin wouldn't have traded a superstar within the division. Well, maybe he would have. But let's assume otherwise for now. And if Subban was the asking price for a player like Weber, please count us out.
Sure, that was a very exciting afternoon. And as we learned earlier this year, blockbuster trades that involve your team can be a lot of fun. But let's all be happy that the Sens didn't get involved in either of these lopsided deals. As fans, we were able to sit back and judge some truly terrible decisions being made. And that's just priceless.
4) Stamkos Stays in Tampa Bay
Just when you thought that was it for hockey news, the Tampa Bay Lightning jumped in with some breaking news of their own. Steven Stamkos officially resigned with the Lightning on Wednesday afternoon. The 8-year contract worth a total of $68 million will see him making $9.5 million next year (less money per year later in the contract), along with $8.5 million in signing bonuses. And believe it or not, he left money on the table.
Sure, he probably would have gotten more money if he went to Toronto, if not in the actual contract, then in "sponsorship deals" that were apparently being handed out like candy in Toronto. But Stamkos recognized that his best chance to win a Stanley Cup soon is with Tampa Bay. The team is loaded with young talent in players like Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin (please come to Ottawa), Anton Stralman and Victor Hedman. They proved that they can get pretty far without Stamkos, making it all the way to the conference finals. Imagine what they can do with Stamkos back in the line up, and as these players continue to get better.
Stamkos may have also realized, after two significant injuries/health problems in the last three years, that his career is fragile. Not all players get to play for as long as we think they will. Nothing reminds you of that more than taking serious time off to recover. He doesn't have the patience to go to a team that is three-five years away from contending. If he wants to win now, staying in Tampa is the best choice.
5) Free Agent Frenzy
Why I chose to write an article for the morning of NHL Free Agency is beyond me. So much could happen in the next few hours, and yet nothing could happen at the same time. But, where is the fun in not speculating on the possibilities? So, what do you think will happen?
Will the Sens be busy on Friday, in the hopes of filling some gaps in the line up? Or will they stay quiet, and save their energy for getting deals done with their RFAs later in the summer?
Dorion has made it pretty clear that he is happy with the top-six forwards on the team right now, which is a significant change from the previous management mentality. But where the team needs help is on the blue line. So should they go after a UFA defenceman and try to improve that area of the roster?
There aren't many free-agent defencemen available within the Sens likely price range. The only players who come close are Luke Schenn and Jason Demers, who most recently made $3.6 million and $3.4 million respectively. Justin Schultz, who made $3.9 million last season, is also available. But coming off a Stanley-Cup-winning season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, preceded by a number of disappointing seasons with the Oilers, it might not be a good time to negotiate with a player in Schultz's unique position.
All this is to say that I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen tomorrow. My hope is that the Sens sign a low-budget depth defenceman to help (somewhat) improve the defensive core of this team. But at the same time, I wouldn't be surprised if we don't hear much from them in the coming days.
Enjoy NHL Free Agency, everyone! Have a save and happy Canada Day!