Free Agent Frenzy: Metropolitan Division

Free Agent Frenzy: Metropolitan Division
July 6, 2014, 2:00 pm
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(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

With the first few days of free agency complete, CSNWashington.com is breaking down the highlights (and lowlights) of the signing frenzy, division by division. Having already looked at the Atlantic Division, we continue our breakdown with the Metropolitan Division.

While the Capitals made a splash on July 1 with the signings of former Penguins defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik as well as former Hurricanes goalie Justin Peters, Washington’s co-occupants in the Metropolitan Division have also been busy reshaping their rosters.

CAROLINA HURRICANES:

KEY ADDITIONS: Tim Gleason, Brad Malone, Jay McLement

KEY LOSSES: Manny Malhotra, Justin Peters

The Hurricanes have not qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2009, marking the second longest drought in franchise history (1993-98). With a new general manager (Ron Francis) and a rookie NHL head coach (Bill Peters) onboard, the Hurricanes have made a handful of depth moves this offseason.

Carolina signed McLement to a one-year $1 million deal while Malone agreed to a two-year, $1.3 million deal. McLement had four goals and 10 points in 81 games with the Maple Leafs last season and led the team with a 53.6% faceoff success rate.

Malone has four goals and nine points in 54 career games with the Colorado Avalanche, and could take over as Carolina’s fourth line center with Malhotra having signed a one-year deal with Montreal.

Gleason returns to the Carolina blue line with a one-year, $1.2 million deal. The Hurricanes traded Gleason to Toronto on Jan.1 for defenseman John-Michael Liles, but the Maple Leafs subsequently bought out the final two years of Gleason’s contract.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS:

KEY ADDIITIONS: Scott Hartnell

KEY LOSSES: Derek MacKenzie, Nikita Nikitin, Nick Schultz, R.J. Umberger

The Blue Jackets have been relatively quiet since free agency began, but they did acquire seven-time 20-goal scorer Scott Hartnell in a June 23 trade with the Flyers for R.J. Umberger.

“(Hartnell) is a talented, tough, hard-working player who brings valuable experience and leadership on and off the ice,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said. “We believe he will fit in very well with our group and be an important part of our team moving forward.”

Columbus should also get a boost with a healthy Nathan Horton, who had four goals and 18 points in just 36 games last season. Horton signed a seven-year, $37.1 million deal with Columbus last offseason, but underwent shoulder surgery soon after and suffered a season-ending abdominal injury in April. 

NEW JERSEY DEVILS:

KEY ADDITIONS: Mike Cammalleri, Martin Havlat, Scott Clemmensen

KEY LOSSES: Mark Fayne, Anton Volchenkov

Cammalleri had a team-high 26 goals in 63 games last season with the Calgary Flames and should provide an offensive boost for a Devils team that struggled to find the back of the net last season.

New Jersey finished 27th in overall scoring with an average of 2.4 goals-per-game, and 29th in 5-on-5 scoring with 128 goals in 82 games (only the Buffalo Sabres scored fewer 5-on-5 goals).

Cammalleri signed a five-year, $25 million deal while Havlat agreed on a one-year, $1.5 million contract. Havlat had 12 goals and 22 points in 48 games last season with the San Jose Sharks and joins fellow Czech natives Patrick Elias, Jaromir Jagr and Marek Zidlicky in New Jersey.

Clemmensen signed a one-year, two-way contract is expected to compete with Keith Kinkaid to serve as Cory Schneider’s backup.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS:

KEY ADDITIONS: T.J. Brennan, Jaroslav Halak, Mikhail Grabovski, Chad Johnson, Nikolai Kulemin

KEY LOSSES: Evgeni Nabokov, Anders Nilsson

The Islanders met Grabovski’s asking price, which Capitals General Manager Brian MacLellan recently called ‘prohibitive,’ signing him to a four-year, $20 million deal.

Joining Grabovski on the Island is his former Toronto Maple Leafs teammate Nikolai Kulemin, who signed a four-year, $16.75 million deal.

Grabovski, who had career-highs of 29 goals and 58 points in 81 games with Toronto in 2010-11, is expected to be the Islanders’ No.2 center behind captain John Tavares.

Kulemin had career-highs across the board that same season in Toronto with 30 goals and 57 points in 82 games. Grabovski and Kulemin were often linemates with the Maple Leafs and the duo seems likely to play together in New York as well.

Johnson is coming off an impressive season with the Boston Bruins where he went 17-4-3 with a 2.10 goals-against-average and .925 save percentage as Tuukka Rask’s backup.  Johnson agreed on a two-year deal with the Islanders, where he will team with former Caps goalie Jaroslav Halak to give New York a formidable goaltending tandem.

The Islanders acquired Halak’s rights from the Capitals in May for a fourth round draft pick before signing him to a four-year $18 million deal.

Brennan, 25, won the Eddie Shore Award last season as the American Hockey League’s top defenseman. Brennan led all AHL defensemen with 25 goals and 72 points in 76 games with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and could see time on an Islanders power play unit that ranked 17th last season. Brennan’s contract is a one-way deal.

[MORE: Capitals quickly taking on the look of Trotz]

NEW YORK RANGERS:

KEY ADDITIONS: Dan Boyle, Tanner Glass, Mike Kostka

KEY LOSSES: Brian Boyle, Derek Dorsett, Benoit Pouliot, Brad Richards, Anton Stralman

Boyle joins the defending Eastern Conference champion Rangers after spending the past six seasons with the San Jose Sharks. Boyle turns 38 later this month and signed a two-year, $9 million deal. Boyle is expected to help fill the void with former Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman signing a five-year $22.5 million deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Boyle had 12 goals and 36 points in 75 games last season and can also quarterback the Rangers power play.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS:

KEY ADDITIONS: Steve Downie, Christian Ehrhoff, Thomas Greiss, Patric Hornqvist, Nick Spaling

KEY LOSSES: Deryk Engelland, Jussi Jokinen, James Neal, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpirk

Ehrhoff joins the Penguins after having the final seven years of his contract bought out by the Buffalo Sabres and should help fill the void on Pittsburgh’s blue line with Niskanen and Orpik joining Washington.

Ehrhoff’s one-year, $4 million deal with Pittsburgh should also serve as a bridge for the organization as prospects Derrick Pouliot, Simon Despres and Scott Harrington continue to develop.

Greiss went 10-8-5 with a 2.29 GAA and .920SV% with the Coyotes last year and gives Pittsburgh three goalies under contract for next season along with Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff.

The Penguins also lost their fourth and fifth leading scorers from last season with the departures of Neal (traded to Nashville) and Jokinen (signed with Florida). 

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS:

KEY ADDITIONS: Nick Schultz, R.J. Umberger

KEY LOSSES: Steve Downie, Scott Hartnell

According to www.capgeek.com, the Flyers are more than $3 million above the $69 million salary cap for the 2014-15 season. The Flyers have made very few signings this offseason as a result.

Philadelphia General Manager Ron Hextall is said to be shopping center Vincent Lecavalier, who has four years remaining on a five-year, $22.5 million deal he signed with the Flyers last summer.