Rangers get tougher; Cana­di­ens fig­ure Price is right

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - WIN­NER: LOSER: PUSH: WIN­NER: LOSER: PUSH: WIN­NER: LOSER: PUSH:

Sev­eral big win­ners in the first hours of the NHL’s free agent sign­ing pe­riod didn’t even have to move.

From Carey Price to Cam Fowler to Evgeny Kuznetsov, a bunch of vet­er­ans got paid by their cur­rent teams when the free-agent flood­gates opened on the week­end.

Sev­eral clubs moved quickly to lock up proven quan­ti­ties, of­ten a full year be­fore they would have the chance to hit the open mar­ket.

The free agent pe­riod has been even qui­eter be­cause not many big names are avail­able. Teams also did much of their ros­ter shuf­fling ear­lier in the sum­mer to pre­pare for the Ve­gas Golden Knights’ ex­pan­sion draft.

So while the first flur­ries aren’t quite as ex­cit­ing as in past years, a few teams and play­ers dis­tin­guished them­selves with their early off­sea­son ma­neu­ver­ings — and a few left them­selves with work to do.

New York Rangers. They landed the big­gest prize on the mar­ket in Kevin Shat­tenkirk (pic­tured), who clearly wanted to come home to play on Broad­way.

A tough, puck-mov­ing de­fense­man, Shat­tenkirk should be a big boost to an al­ready-strong ros­ter, and New York didn’t have to break the bank or lock in for more than three years to get him. The Rangers also re-signed Bren­dan Smith ear­lier, fur­ther bol­ster­ing their de­fense.

Mon­treal Cana­di­ens. They locked up the ex­tra­or­di­nary Price, one of the NHL’s elite goalies, but paid an ex­tra­or­di­nary price to do so. That re­ported $84 mil­lion com­mit­ment won’t make it eas­ier for the Habs to keep An­drei Markov and Alex Radulov, who com­bined to score 90 points for Mon­treal last sea­son, but are now look­ing else­where.

It’s tough to win ev­ery game 1-0, even against tal­ent-de­pleted ros­ters in a post-ex­pan­sion sea­son.

Chicago Black­hawks. They got the band back to­gether with the ac­qui­si­tions of Pa­trick Sharp and Bran­don Saad, but lost qual­ity NHL play­ers in Nik­las Hjal­mars­son and Artemi Pa­narin, along with Mar­ian Hossa’s un­for­tu­nate woes.

Per­haps the Black­hawks needed a ros­ter shakeup af­ter their post­sea­son past­ing from Nashville, but Chicago could be play­ing it too safe by stick­ing with its old fa­vorites.

Dal­las Stars. GM Jim Nill has checked the most im­por­tant boxes on his pre­sump­tive list of off­sea­son pri­or­i­ties. Af­ter land­ing fran­chise goalie Ben Bishop and de­fense­man Marc Methot be­fore free agency, he signed cen­ter Martin Han­zal (pic­tured) to add depth down an al­ready strong mid­dle and an­other 20 goals to their of­fense.

Colorado Avalanche. It’s been a rough nine months in the Rock­ies. Af­ter a hor­rific 48-point reg­u­lar sea­son and a de­press­ing fall in the NHL draft lot­tery, the Avs lost valu­able goalie Calvin Pickard to Ve­gas in the ex­pan­sion draft.

Over the week­end, Colorado ac­quired Colin Wil­son from Nashville and signed jour­ney- man goalie Jonathan Bernier. Mean­while, Matt Duch­ene re­mains squarely on the trad­ing block.

San Jose Sharks. Joe Thorn­ton is stay­ing in the South Bay on a one-year deal, but Pa­trick Mar­leau is gone from the fran­chise that had em­ployed him since 1997, sign­ing a three-year deal with Toronto, worth $18.75 mil­lion.

Gen­eral man­ager Doug Wil­son also paid top dol­lar in long-term ex­ten­sions for de­fense­man Marc-Edouard Vla­sic — he got more money than the Ducks’ Fowler, who’s five years younger — and goalie Martin Jones.

Nashville Preda­tors. Nick Bonino (pic­tured) is a gritty vet­eran for­ward who should fit splen­didly into a win­ning core, and Alexei Emelin could slot in well on an al­ready for­mi­da­ble blue line. Even with their free-agent losses, the Western Con­fer­ence cham­pi­ons prob­a­bly got bet­ter.

Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals. The NHL’s best reg­u­lar-sea­son team has lost vet­eran for­ward Justin Wil­liams and de­fense­men Karl Alzner, Nate Sch­midt and Shat­tenkirk dur­ing the off­sea­son. Wash­ing­ton locked down Evgeny Kuznetsov (pic­tured) and Dmitry Orlov with top-dol­lar deals be­fit­ting their tal­ents, but still con­sum­ing a chunk of the pay­roll.

The Caps also kept TJ Oshie, but only with a head-scratch­ing con­tract. Wash­ing­ton still has a strong tal­ent base, but it took a hit.

P i tt s b u r g h Pe n g u i n s . The Stan­ley Cup cham­pi­ons had to make sev­eral tough de­ci­sions, and they ended up los­ing a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of their sup­port­ing cast, in­clud­ing Bonino, Chris Ku­nitz, Marc-An­dre Fleury, Trevor Da­ley and Ron Hain­sey. But backup goalie Antti Niemi (pic­tured) is on board, and GM Jim Ruther­ford re-signed de­fense­man Justin Schultz.

The de­par­tures will clear play­ing time for Pitts­burgh’s next gen­er­a­tion — and as long as Sid­ney Crosby and Ev­geni Malkin are on the ice, the Pen­guins can prob­a­bly change on the fly.

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