NHL Free Agency: Atlantic Division a mixed bag of good and bad

Bruce Bennett

Some Atlantic Division teams are spehttp://movies.netflix.com/WiHomending wisely; others, not so much.

While the Tampa Bay Lightning have remained quiet so far, not yet signing a back-up goalie or a big free agent with the cap space acquired in the firesale from Sunday -- the rest of the Atlantic Division has been all-in on the free agent frenzy.

Boston Bruins

The Bruins, dealing with a serious salary cap crunch brought on themselves with Jarome Iginla's performance-bonus laden contract, basically did nothing.

They signed some guy named Christopher Breen, a move that prompted a lot of this:

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres landed Josh Gorge from division rival Montreal, which is interesting considering Buffalo's status as a bottom-feeder in the league right now and Gorges apparent desire to go to a contender.

The Sabres followed that up by signing the Habs' captain, Brian Gionta, for 3 years and 12.75 million. Buffalo hasn't done anything particularly exciting and they still have a lot of cap space to work with, especially after buying out Christian Ehrhoff (who signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins), and there's little reason to think these depth moves pillaging Montreal's leftovers will do anything to improve their record next season.

UPDATE

They've also re-upped Marcus Foligno.

Lastly, they added oft-injured (and former Tampa Bay Lightning) defenseman Andrej Meszaros on a one-year, $4.1 million dollar deal, likely to help them reach the new cap floor.

Detroit Red Wings

Tampa Bay's biggest competiton for the big UFA D is Detroit, and they've reportedly been given some bad news on two fronts:

Detroit was spurned by nearly every major free agent they chased today, as Dan Boyle opted for less money and less term with the New York Rangers, Anton Stralman picked the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Matt Niskanen took a big payday with the Washington Capitals. That left the Wings scrambling for a much-needed top-4 right-side defenseman, and no real good options. Instead of upgrading, they were forced to re-sign Kyle Quincey at a raise over his previous salary.

Quincey has been ... less than effective with Detroit since being acquired from the Bolts in a three-way swap that saw the Colorado Avalanche land Steve Downie and the Lightning take home the pick they used on goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

The Red Wings also signed some depth with guys like Petr Mrazek, Riley Sheahan, Kevin Porter, and Andy Miele, but failed to make a big splash for what seems like the third or fourth year in a row.

Overall, looks like the shine is coming off what once was a dominant franchise and premium free agent destination.

Florida Panthers

Dale Tallon, after failing to find an offer he liked for the 1st overall pick at the draft, has been very, very active in free agency with his new owner's now-open checkbook.

The Panthers started off by nabbing versatile forward Jussi Jokinen for 4 years and 16 million, which isn't a bad deal, but remember that Jokinen was once on waivers and would have cost absolutely nothing and Carolina even had to retain salary at one point to get him off their payroll.

They also signed former Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks center Dave Bolland to a huge 5 year, 27.5 million dollar contract, which is already looking like the albatross deal of the day. Bolland struggles to stay healthy and will likely slot in as no better than a third line center for the Cats.

The smartest move made by Tallon was signing Al Montoya, who played quite well for the Winnipeg Jets last season, to back-up Roberto Luongo. He followed that up by giving fourth line winger/enforcer Shawn Thornton a two year deal.

UPDATE

The Cats added another try-hard, gritty bottom-6 center in Derek MacKenzie, previously of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Still not sure what Dale Tallon is trying to accomplish here.

The last puzzling add came in the way of another grizzled vet on the back end (not unlike the one they just bought out) when they signed defenseman Willie Mitchell, formerly of the Los Angeles Kings. He might be a potential partner and mentor for 1st overall pick Aaron Ekblad but the direction of this team right now is hard to suss out. Their moves were all over the place.

Montreal Canadiens

The Habs have, like the Cats, been very active as well -- they won the Jiri Sekac sweepstakes (I guess there was a sweepstakes for this guy), signed forward Jeremy Gregoire, and added to their bottom-6 depth by signing center Manny Malhotra.

They also solidified the right side of their blue line, which was thin behind P.K. Subban, by signing Tom Gilbert and Mike Weaver to bargain deals.

All shrewd moves by GM Marc Bergevin, as the Habs look to be once again very competitive in the division.

Ottawa Senators

Their big move wasn't actually signing anyone, but they got a better haul than expected for Jason Spezza when they traded him to the Dallas Stars, particularly with a very limited market. Alex Chiasson, Alex Guptill, and Nicholas Paul are cheap forward depth and they landed a 2nd round pick in a strong 2015 draft, too.

They also re-signed Milan Michalek, which was a good move, but haven't really seemed to make any major upgrades on a team that struggled last season. No doubt the internal cap from owner Eugene Melnyk plays into things there.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Despite reported interest in guys like Dave Bolland and Dan Boyle, the Leafs haven't made any UFA signings yet today. They did trade prospect Jerry D'Amigo and a conditional 7th round pick in order to re-acquire Matt Frattin, who went to the Los Angeles Kings in the Jonathan Bernier trade and then eventually to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The biggest success for the Leafs so far has been avoiding handing out big money and term to players that inevitably fail to live up to the 'center of the hockey universe's expectations (see David Clarkson). Failing to get Bolland or Boyle might actually be good things in the long run.

UPDATE

The Leafs have signed 37-year old Stephane Robidas to bolster their blue-line. A 3-year deal for a 37-year old seems a bit much but Toronto wanted more leadership and experience on the back end and they certainly got it, and Robidas even at his age is much more effective than other guys they've recently jettisoned (Tim Gleason) or acquired (Roman Polak).

Another thing to keep an eye on:

Franson has long been speculated as a potential RD trade target for the Bolts, though with Stralman and Garrison in the fold and several RFAs left to sign, it just doesn't seem likely any more.

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