The NHL’s free-agency period opened Friday, and it didn’t generate the frenzied spending of past years.
Blame the flat salary cap ($81.5 million) and the fact that teams are financially strapped, and that the revenue stream is unknown because it hasn’t been determined whether fans will be allowed to attend games in 2020-21 because of the coronavirus.
Players didn’t get crazy contracts Friday, but many signed modest deals, including goalie Henrik Lundqvist, the longtime Rangers star who received a one-year contract with Washington for $1.5 million, and former Flyers right winger Wayne Simmonds, who is headed to his hometown, Toronto (one year, $1.5 million). Lundqvist, 38, is the sixth-winningest goalie (459 victories) in NHL history.
Simmonds, 32, who had a terrific eight-year tenure with the Flyers, will make the Maple Leafs tougher to play against, but his production has faded the last two seasons.
Like a lot of teams, the Flyers were relatively quiet in the first day of free agency, and they lost one of their hustling bottom-six wingers, Tyler Pitlick, to Arizona. Pitlick, 28, signed a two-year deal with an annual cap hit of $1.75 million. He earned $1 million last season, when he had eight goals, 20 points, 132 hits, and a plus-11 rating in 63 games. In the postseason, he displayed more energy than most of his Flyers teammates.
They did sign a left-handed-shooting defenseman, Derrick Pouliot, 26, who is expected to play for the AHL’s Phantoms. The 6-foot, 207-pound Pouliot, drafted by Pittsburgh in the first round (No. 8 overall) in 2012, has 48 points in 202 NHL games with the Penguins, Vancouver, and St. Louis.
Pouliot has a two-way contract and will earn $700,000 if he’s on the Flyers, $425,000 if he plays with Lehigh Valley.
In the first six hours of free agency, there were 83 signings that totaled $152.35 million, according to TSN. By comparison, there were 197 signings that totaled slightly over $600 million in a similar time frame last year.
Derek Grant, a center who played seven late-season games and had five points after the Flyers acquired him from Anaheim, went back to the Ducks (three years, $1.5 million cap hit). Grant, acquired for a fourth-round pick and a minor-league forward, Kyle Criscuolo, had no goals in 13 postseason games with the Flyers.
The Flyers could use a veteran defenseman to replace the retired Matt Niskanen, and they need an upgrade on offense. Offensively, they had a productive regular season but scored a total of two goals in their four losses to the Islanders in the conference semifinals. They averaged just 2.1 goals in their 13 playoff games.
Defenseman T.J. Brodie, 30, was reportedly on the Flyers' radar, but he signed with Toronto for $20 million over four years.
Kevin Shattenkirk, 31, who was also a potential replacement for Niskanen, signed a three-year deal with Anaheim ($3.9 million annual cap hit). Shattenkirk won the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay last month.
Justin Schultz, a righthanded defenseman like Shattenkirk, also came off the board, signing a two-year deal ($4 million cap hit) with Washington. On Friday night, defenseman Torey Krug signed a seven-year, $45.5 million contract ($6.5 million cap hit) with St. Louis, meaning the Blues won’t re-sign Alex Pietrangelo,
If the Flyers can somehow sign Pietrangelo, he would combine with Ivan Provorov to give them one of the league’s best defensive duos. Vegas is considered the frontrunner for Pietrangelo.
Pietrangelo and Tyson Barrie were among the talented defensemen who still had not signed by Friday night, and Taylor Hall, Mike Hoffman, Anthony Duclair, Andreas Athanasious, Tyler Toffoli, and Evgenii Dadonov were among the high-profile forwards still available.
Earlier in the day, right winger Bobby Ryan, 33. a Cherry Hill native, signed a one-year, $1 million deal with Detroit. He returned last season after battling alcoholism and had five goals in 24 games with Ottawa. For his perseverance and dedication to hockey, he won the Masterton Trophy after the season.
While most of the deals were for short term and were club-friendly, goalie Jacob Markstrom signed a six-year, $36 million pact with Calgary.
In one of the day’s biggest developments, Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay put 5-foot-8 center Tyler Johnson on waivers because they need to sign some restricted free agents. A team can grab Johnson, 30, but would absorb his four-year deal, one that carries an annual $5 million cap hit.
Two years ago, Johnson had 29 goals, and he had 14 goals and 17 points in 65 games last season.
The Lightning are reportedly trying to deal veteran defenseman Braydon Coburn, 35, a former Flyer who has a year left on a $1.7 million contract.
Right winger Justin “Mr. Game 7” Williams, 39, who was drafted by the Flyers in the first round in 2000, announced his retirement. He won three Stanley Cups (one with Carolina, two with Los Angeles) during a 19-year career in which he scored 320 goals. He had seven goals and eight assists in nine career Game 7s. .... Former Flyers defenseman Luke Schenn re-signed with Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay, getting a one-year, $800,000 deal. … Radko Gudas, another ex-Flyers defenseman, signed a three-year deal with Florida that carries an annual $2.5 million cap hit. ... Former Caps goalie Braden Holtby signed a two-year deal with Vancouver ($4.3 million cap hit). Another goalie, Anton Khudobin, signed a three-year, $10 million deal to stay in Dallas. ... Right winger Buddy Robinson ($700,000 for one year), a Bellmawr native, signed with Calgary and will again be with Johnny Gaudreau, his teammate at Gloucester Catholic High.