With less than 24 hours to go before the official July 1 free agent frenzy tomorrow all day, things are becoming clearer. For two teams, moves made will determine how active they’ll be.
For the Sabres, they likely are out on defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. New GM Jason Botterill all but assured that with a big acquisition of right defenseman Marco Scandella from the Wild in a four player trade involving two draft picks. The full deal had Buffalo parting with forwards Tyler Ennis, Marco Foligno and a 2018 fourth round pick for Scandella, Jason Pominville and a 2018 third round pick.
The 27-year old Scandella is a good skating puck moving right D who can slot in on the second pair if needed depending how new coach Phil Housley uses Zach Bogosian. That’s if he stays. Scandella has three years remaining with a reasonable $4 million cap hit.
Former playoff hero Pominville returns to Buffalo. Now 34, he’ll be asked to take on a leadership role. A popular Sabre best known for scoring a series clinching shorthanded goal that eliminated Ottawa in the 2006 NHL Playoffs sending the Sabres to the Conference Finals, he’ll turn 35 on Nov. 30 and has two years left earning $5 million in each of the remaining two seasons.
I really like the move for Buffalo. It addresses a need on the blueline and saves money which will no doubt be needed to lock up Jack Eichel, who completes his entry level deal in ’17-18.
Don’t forget the Sabres also acquired ex-Hab Nathan Beaulieu. So, Botterill has upgraded the back end giving it more speed and depth which should aid anchor Rasmus Ristolainen. Along with Jake McCabe and vet Josh Gorges, Buffalo looks set.
Beaulieu and starting goalie Robin Lehner still must be re-signed as Group II free agents.
With the Sabres all but out on Shattenkirk, the Devils look like they’ll be big players for the 28-year old offensive right defenseman who earned $5.2 million this past season with the Blues and Caps. Over 80 combined games, the New Rochelle, New York native posted 13 goals along with career highs in assists (43) and points (56). His postseason with Washington was up and down finishing with a power play goal and five assists in 13 games.
Shattenkirk is an effective puck possession defenseman who excels on the power play. Of his 298 total points, 136 have come via the man-advantage. The breakdown is 35 power play goals and 111 power play assists for 146 PPP compared to 33 even strength goals and 116 even strength assists totaling 149 ES points with the other three assists shorthanded.
The Devils freed up even more room by buying out Mike Cammalleri and Devante Smith-Pelly today. They have approximately $28 million in cap space to spend. They look like the favorites to sign Shattenkirk and fill a big void on the blueline. God knows they don’t have a top right defenseman who can relieve pressure from young blueliner Damon Severson. This is a team that can use what Shattenkirk brings. Offense and skating along with that badly needed power play quarterback they lack.
If GM Ray Shero is all in tomorrow, then expect him to sign Shattenkirk in the neighborhood of seven years between $45-49 million. I would also expect the Devils to be active in search of a scoring forward who can speed up the rebuilding process. They were interested in acquiring Habs Group II center Alex Galchenyuk. But that depends if the Canadiens can re-sign him.
Key unrestricted forwards include Alex Radulov, Patrick Sharp, Thomas Vanek, Nick Bonino and Justin Williams. I doubt they’d be interested in Radulov who wants a term of about six years for $6 million or more per season.
While the Devils should be busy this weekend, it’s anyone’s guess what the Rangers will do. They supposedly have interest in vet Patrick Marleau. But he wants to play with Joe Thornton. A package deal is unlikely with the Kings very interested. Of course they are. They love getting older. Imagine those two as ex-Sharks in Kings jerseys. Can you say puke much?
In related news, Michael Stone re-upped with the Flames for three years at an AAV of $3.5 million. Pretty fair value for a decent offensive right D who projects as a third pair guy with the Flames adding ex-Islander Travis Hamonic to a corps that features Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie.
Brian Elliott is expected to land with the Flyers. I don’t know if he’s even a upgrade over Steve Mason. But that’s the Flyers.
With the clock ticking, July 1 is coming. It should be intriguing. Even if it’s not the best class. Let the fireworks begin!