Top signings of the 2022 NHL offseason: Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk among game-changing moves

The NHL preseason is just over one month away, and most of the top players on the free agency market have been signed. Because of the flat salary cap in the NHL, there’s been quite a bit of movement throughout the summer with numerous impact players changing teams.

With the free agent frenzy all but wrapped up, here are the top signings of the 2022 NHL offseason.

Matthew Tkachuk | LW | Florida Panthers

This one came via sign-and-trade, which was a nice piece of work by Florida Panthers general manager Bill Zito. It all resulted in an eight-year deal worth $76 million. That is a massive financial commitment from the Panthers, not to mention the losses of Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar, but there is a good chance Tkachuk is worth that price tag from wire to wire.

Tkachuk, 24, is coming off a season in which he totaled 42 goals and 104 points and was one-third of the best line in hockey. An elite player in all three zones, Tkachuk is a unique specimen. Not only can he post gaudy offensive numbers and play sound defense, but Tkachuk also serves a major nuisance to the opposing team. After being swept by the rival Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the playoffs last season, the Panthers faced criticism for not being as tough or as heavy. For whatever it’s worth, that will be less of an issue with Tkachuk on the ice.

Johnny Gaudreau | LW | Columbus Blue Jackets

This one gets top billing for shock value alone. After weeks of speculation that Gaudreau was going to end up in Philadelphia, Newark, or New York, he ended up in Columbus on a seven-year deal worth $68.25 million. The Blue Jackets get a bona fide superstar, and Gaudreau instantly improves the outlook of their forward group.

Columbus only had three 20-goal scorers in the 2021-22 season, and one of them is now a member of the Seattle Kraken. Enter Gaudreau and his 40 goals from last year. Of course, Gaudreau can also be an excellent distributor, so pairing him with Patrik Laine could be a winning combination for both players. Now the question becomes whether Gaudreau can lead this otherwise pedestrian Blue Jackets roster back to the postseason.

Nazem Kadri | C | Calgary Flames

What an offseason it has been for the Flames. They lost Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, but they were not content to go quietly into the night, to take a line from President Thomas J. Whitmore. Calgary got Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar in the Tkachuk trade, and now the franchise has ponied up to sign Kadri in free agency. At seven years and $49 million dollars, the Flames spent big to get the tenacious forward.

That contract probably won’t look great over the last few years, but that’s not what Calgary is worried about right now. Kadri helps keep the team’s Stanley Cup window open, and the Western Conference is up for grabs behind the Colorado Avalanche. Kadri is coming off a career year in which he scored 28 goals and totaled 87 points en route to winning it all with the Avs, and he will fit well behind Elias Lindholm as the Flames’ second-line center. At 31, Kadri does come with age concerns, but those did not show at all in 2021-22.

Vincent Trocheck | C | New York Rangers

Andrew Copp and Ryan Strome both signed with other teams in free agency, so the Rangers made sure to address those departures by signing Trocheck to a six-year contract worth $39.375 million. That is a long-term investment for a player of Trocheck’s age (29) but those latter years will hurt far less if the Rangers can win big in the near future.

Trocheck brings some balance to New York as he was a dependable two-way forward with the Hurricanes. He scored 21 goals and added 30 assists last season, so he can do a little bit of everything on offense. Trocheck should have no problem fitting in alongside the likes of Artemi Panarin or Chris Kreider.

Darcy Kuemper | G | Washington Capitals

Few teams had a worse goaltending situation than the Capitals in 2021-22, yet they still managed to reach the playoffs. Signing Darcy Kuemper for $5.25 million per year will give the team a major upgrade in net. The best option Washington had last season was Vitek Vanacek, who saved just 0.96 goals above expected, per Natural Stat Trick. That ranked 43rd in the NHL, and Ilya Samsonov was even worse. He allowed 12.53 goals above expected, which was near the bottom of the league at 112th. Kuemper, on the other hand, was fourth in the league with 25.19 GSAA.

Granted, Kuemper was playing behind a Colorado Avalanche roster that won a Stanley Cup, but he still had an impressive season. His playoff struggles aside, Kuemper will stabilize the goaltending position in Washington and give the organization a chance to reach the playoffs for the ninth straight season.

Claude Giroux | C | Ottawa Senators

The Senators, trying to complete what has been an arduous rebuild, decided to get aggressive this offseason. After trading for Blackhawks sniper Alex DeBrincat, Ottawa signed Giroux to a three-year contract worth $19.5 million. Giroux, 34, is past his prime but still has a lot to contribute to a franchise ready to take a step in the right direction.

In a 2021-22 season filled with misery for Philadelphia, Giroux was a bright spot. In 57 games, he scored 18 goals and remained effective on defense as well. The Flyers were not known for having stellar possession numbers, but they still controlled 51.33% of the expected goals with Giroux on the ice at five-on-five, per Natural Stat Trick. In the locker room, Giroux’s experience should benefit the young talent around him.

Filip Forsberg | LW | Nashville Predators

It came down to the wire, but the Predators were able to lock down their best offensive player right before free agency. Forsberg signed an eight-year contract worth $8.5 million per year, and he earned that money with a career year in 2021-22. Last season, Forsberg scored 42 goals to become the franchise’s all-time leader in goals scored. The only reason Forsberg doesn’t own the single-season record for goals scored is because linemate Matt Duchene exploded for 43 goals.

Forsberg is a dynamic winger whose combination of creativity and strength make him a handful to defend when he gets the puck on his stick. With Forsberg on the ice at five-on-five last year, Nashville outscored opponents 58-42, according to Natural Stat Trick. Keeping him on the roster was a must for the Predators.

David Perron | LW | Detroit Red Wings

While it may not be the biggest move, this is up there with my favorite signings of the offseason. David Perron is 34, but he still has plenty of game left, and Detroit signed him for just $4.75 million per year over the next two seasons. Perron is coming off a 2021-22 campaign with the Blues in which he scored 27 goals and tallied 30 assists in 67 games played.

The Red Wings needed some forward depth, and they got a quality top-six winger in Perron. He will also add some experience and veteran leadership to a locker room that has some incredibly skilled young players. Defenseman Moritz Seider just won the Calder Trophy and winger Lucas Raymond was right there in the race with him. Perron’s presence will supplement those players as Detroit tries to turn a corner in its rebuild under general manager Steve Yzerman. Even if that doesn’t happen, Perron could bring back a strong haul in a trade.

Jack Campbell | G | Edmonton Oilers

It appears the days of Mike Smith activating chaos mode in the postseason are reaching their end. That is sad for hockey fans all over North America and good for the Oilers. Edmonton has needed a long-term answer at goaltender for years now, and the front office clearly believes Campbell is it.

The Oilers gave the former Toronto Maple Leafs netminder a five-year deal worth $25 million after a highly volatile 2021-22 season. For the first half of last season, Campbell was legitimately in the running to win the Vezina Trophy. He was playing at an elite level, but that all fell apart in the latter half of the year. Campbell’s play completely fell off a cliff, and his numbers took a nosedive. He still finished with 10.07 goals saved above average, which is a solid number, but there is cause for concern about the way things ended in Toronto. If the Oilers can get the version of Campbell from the first 41 games of 2021-22, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

Andrew Copp | C | Detroit Red Wings

Steve Yzerman can’t be accused of resting on his laurels this offseason. Sensing his team is ready to make a playoff push, he went on a bit of spending spree and Copp is one of the notable additions. Signed for five seasons at a total of $28.125 million, Copp will be a significant part of the future in Detroit.

After spending the first seven seasons of his career with the Winnipeg Jets, Copp had a bit of a coming out party last year. Always a reliable presence in the defensive zone, Copp found an offensive groove in 2021-22, and he scored eight goals in 16 games after being traded to the Rangers. What might be even more impressive about Copp’s brief tenure in New York is the fact that the Rangers posted a 56.44% expected goals share at five-on-five when he was in the game, according to Natural Stat Trick. Considering that was not New York’s strong suit, that shows the impact Copp can have at both ends of the ice.

Patrice Bergeron | C | Boston Bruins

After winning the fifth Selke Trophy of his career, Bergeron is back for at least one more ride. The most noteworthy thing about Bergeron re-signing in Boston is the massive hometown discount he took to stay. The Bruins are paying their captain all of $2.5 million for the 2021-22 season, and you would be hard pressed to find a bigger bargain in the NHL.

That is a fraction of what Bergeron could have gotten on the open market because he is still the top defensive forward in the league. With Bergeron on the ice at five-on-five last season, the Bruins outscored their opponents 49-25, according to Natural Stat Trick. It will be interesting to see how aggressive the Bruins get knowing that they might only have one more shot at hanging another banner with Bergeron in the fold.



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