NHL free agents take high-priced hit
Aside from defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner attracting $20 million-plus contracts, NHL free agency isn’t what it used to be. Not in a stagnant salary-cap era.
Though plenty of players switched teams once the signing period opened Saturday, missing were the high-priced, long-term contracts that were once the norm.
Shattenkirk, considered the top free agent available, signed a four-year, $26.6 million contract with the New York Rangers. And after nine seasons in Washington, Alzner signed a five-year, $23.1 million deal with Montreal.
Shattenkirk noted he turned down a more lucrative offer to sign with the Rangers, in part for the opportunity to play closer to his hometown of New Rochelle, N.Y. And Alzner noted he had few options beyond Montreal, which was the only city he visited this past week.
The expansion Vegas Golden Knights stayed busy by trading defenseman Alexei Emelin to Nashville for a 2019 third-round draft pick. Vegas selected Emelin from Montreal in the expansion draft last month. The Golden Knights also addressed secondary depth needs by signing six free agents, including forward Stefan Matteau. He’s the son of Stephane Matteau, a member of the 1994 Stanley Cup champion Rangers.
The most lucrative deals inked were a pair of contracts to retain young stars. San Jose Sharks locked up defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic with an eight-year, $56 million contract, and Anaheim signed defenseman Cam Fowler to an eight-year, $52 million deal. The Sharks also extended the contract of goalie Martin Jones by signing him to a six-year, $34.5 million deal.
That’s a drastic change from a year ago, when three free agents signed seven-year contracts, including aging veteran Milan Lucic’s $42 million deal with Edmonton.
“There’s a whole lot of factors,” Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland said, noting age was one and so were the moves by teams to sign their players to extensions well before they might have hit the market.
As for a primary factor, Holland said: “The cap used to go up $4-5 million a year.”