In this week’s column, I’ll look at some of the major free-agent signings of the last few weeks. So much happened around the league during the first week of free agency that I couldn’t cover everything in my previous column.
In addition to free agency news, I’ll highlight one of my favorite new uniforms released in the last few weeks. Happy Monday!
1. Krug Signs In St. Louis
There was a great deal of speculation on where Torey Krug would sign this season. After the dust settled, the Bruins didn’t even offer Krug a contract, and he opted to sign with the St. Louis Blues, the team that beat his Boston Bruins in last year’s Stanley Cup Finals. Krug’s contract is for seven years and will carry a $6.5 million AAV.
St. Louis signing Krug was a major surprise. With the benefit of hindsight bias, it makes more sense after the chips fell. Krug’s excellent play warranted a raise. The Bruins didn’t have a ton of cap space to give him the deal he deserved. On St. Louis’ end, their inability to sign captain Alex Pietrangelo led to a vacancy on the blue line and quite a bit of cap space. So, it does make sense.
I like this deal for the Blues and for ex-Michigan State Spartan Krug, who will step right in to replace Pietrangelo. Yes, they are very different players, Pietrangelo a much better stay-at-home defenseman, and Krug more of a power-play quarterback. But, Krug was the best possible player on the market St. Louis could have signed to replace him. I’m happy that Krug was able to secure a large contract.
Krug will leave Boston after nine great years. He posted this emotional post on his Instagram after the signing was announced.
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I am so grateful that Melanie and I could call Boston home for the last 8 years. I have no words to describe how much the city, my teammates, and the fans mean to us. The truth is, I was never a fan of these types of posts but felt it necessary as my only means to connect with you guys. Thank you to the Bruins organization for the opportunity to grow as a player and a person. Thank you to my teammates for the amazing memories and what will be lifelong bonds. Thank you to the fans and the community for embracing my family as one of your own. I truly feel terrible that I couldn’t help bring another Stanley Cup to Boston but I leave with some amazing memories and having played with Hall of Famers on some truly special teams. I wanted to share a few pictures of some of these memories but couldn’t manage to keep the pictures to a minimum. So here you go…
Krug was one of Boston’s best and most consistent defensemen during his tenure. He’ll finish this run with the Bruins having scored 270 points for the B’s. He also helped them reach two Stanley Cup Finals.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this transaction is seeing how Krug’s play will impact the Blues and how his absence will hurt the Bruins. Many have wondered if Krug’s tremendous play was the result of his talented teammates in Boston. St. Louis doesn’t have the elite level of offensive talent that Boston has, so I’m curious to see how that affects his numbers. I’m confident that Krug will still produce and will help the Blues contend for the Stanley Cup.
2. Pietrangelo to Vegas
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It only makes sense for me to speak on Pietrangelo’s move to the desert next. After months of speculation and difficult negotiations, the Blues and captain Alex Pietrangelo could not agree on an extension. So, the Vegas Golden Knights swooped in and signed the Stanley Cup winner to a seven-year contract with an $8.8 million AAV.
The 30-year-old has been one of the best and most well-rounded defenseman over the last few years. He’s posted at least 37 points each season over the last seven seasons. He also led the Blues to a Stanley Cup Championship in 2019, scoring 19 points in 26 games in the playoffs.
This is a monster deal for Pietrangelo. Seeing as he was this summer’s (or fall’s) prized free agent, he was the recipient of the big deal. I’d expect Pietrangelo to pair up with Shea Theodore and form one of the scariest d-pairings in the NHL.
The Golden Knights have continued to add great players to their roster on long-term deals. Long-term deals are always scary, but, you want your best players under contract. The Knights have the following players under contract for a minimum of three more seasons: Pietrangelo, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Alex Tuch, Theodore, and Robin Lehner. They’ve made shrewd signings, trades, and have quietly become a free agent destination. I would be shocked if they didn’t win a Stanley Cup in the next five years. The addition of Pietrangelo definitely increases those odds.
3. Jumbo to Toronto By Way of Switzerland
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Joe Thornton’s Hall-of-Fame career with the San Jose Sharks has come to an end. Thornton will suit up for the Toronto Maple Leafs next season on a one-year deal worth $700,000. He’ll hope to win his first career Stanley Cup with a Leafs team full of talent.
Jumbo played parts of 15 years with San Jose after being traded by the Bruins during the 2005-06 season. He led the league in points that season and won the Hart Trophy. During his run in San Jose, he was one of the best players in the NHL and did about everything except for win a Stanley Cup. He’s the Sharks’ all-time leader in assists and is no doubt one of the greatest players to ever play in the Bay area.
Even at 41-years-old, Thornton is a useful player. Although father time has caught up with him, he still posted 31 points last season.
But, before he joins Toronto, he’ll be playing in Switzerland. He’s just signed a contract with HC Davos and will play for them free of charge. Davos is the same team Thornton played for during the 2004-05 NHL lockout. He also met his wife while playing in Switzerland and holds a Swiss passport. So, he will not take up one of the team’s import slots.
Thornton is playing for Davos “free of charge,” per this article, and isn’t an import as he has a Swiss passport. He will stay in Switzerland until the NHL season is closer to returning – still plans on playing in the NHL in 2020-21. https://t.co/H7zsnfJNyG
— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) October 15, 2020
I’d love to see Jumbo end his career the same way Ray Bourque did, by hoisting the Stanley Cup. He’s a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer and that would be great for his legacy.
4. Holtby Fumbles the BagBraden Holtby is officially a Vancouver Canuck. Holtby and Vancouver agreed on a two-year deal with a $4.3 million AAV.
The Vancouver Canucks have signed UFA goalie Braden Holtby to a 2-year, $8.6M contract ($4.3M AAV).
— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) October 9, 2020
Holtby was one of the many goalies that switched teams last week. Holtby signed with Vancouver. Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom signed a fat contract with the Flames. Then, after Henrik Lundqvist was bought out by the Rangers, he signed with Washington to replace Holtby.
This contract sucks for Holtby. Had he signed an extension last season with Washington, he probably could have received a deal somewhere in the 4-year, $5.5-$6.5 million AAV range. Instead, after the worst year of his career where he posted career lows in sv% and GAA, .897 and 3.11 respectively, he wasn’t able to cash in on a tremendous run in Washington.
During his ten years with the Capitals, he went 282-122-46, with a .916 sv%, 2.53 GAA, and 35 shutouts. He played very well in the 2018 playoffs where he won the Stanley Cup with the Caps.
Now, he’ll replace Markstrom on an up-and-coming Canucks team. This is very much a prove-it deal for Holtby. If he returns to form this season, he can re-up with Vancouver for a higher salary. If he doesn’t improve, Vancouver isn’t paying him too much to justify a benching and can move on from him after next season.
This is a great deal for the Cancucks. But, Holtby and his agent definitely fumbled the bag and screwed themselves out of millions of dollars.
5. Team Canada Unveils New Unis
ONE LEAF. ALL HEART.
— Hockey Canada (@HockeyCanada) October 8, 2020
As always, I love featuring new uniforms. Team Canada recently revealed their limited edition “Heritage” jerseys. According to this report by TSN, the jerseys will be worn by Team Canada during the 2020-21 season at “the 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton, as well as by Canada’s National Women’s Team, Canada’s National Men’s Team and Canada’s National Para Hockey Team.”
Canada always brings the heat when it comes to their jerseys. I loved these jerseys they wore during the 2018 Olympics. The black jerseys work well for them. These sweaters are unique, too. The all red with the white leaf looks sleek. They didn’t try and do too much and the red will really pop on the ice. That’s why I like them so much, bright colors like red stick out in contrast to the ice.
I’m just hoping Canada’s team on the ice can take a step back so the US team actually has a shot to compete for once. ■