NHL Offseason Starts Off With a Bang

NHL Offseason Starts Off With a Bang

Talk about a hectic week to 10 days in the National Hockey League. It was just last Monday, June 24, when the Florida Panthers won the Stanley Cup by besting the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 in Game 7 to claim the first championship in franchise history. There wasn’t much of a breather for those two teams before the offseason started in earnest. We saw the NHL Draft take place last Friday and Saturday night in Las Vegas and that was just the start of a whirlwind few days around the league. Why, you ask? Well, we’ll tell you: free agency got underway with a vengeance on Monday with big dollar figures getting handed out like penny candy. What were the biggest stories that unfolded over the last week-plus since Lord Stanley’s chalice was hoisted in Sunrise? Read on to get the latest information.

Holland’s Tenure Ends in Edmonton: While the Oilers fell just one game short of their ultimate goal of winning the first title for the franchise since the 1989-90 season. Edmonton will run it back with the nucleus of their team from this season and their head coach as they try to take that one last step in 2024-25. The Oilers will do it however, without the architect that helped sculpt the roster as Ken Holland and the team decided to part ways as his five-year contract had expired. Holland won three Stanley Cups as the executive vice president and general manager of the Red Wings from 1997-2019 before taking the job with Edmonton. It’s unclear as to who will take over the reins, though Jeff Jackson and the recently reinstated Stan Bowman are in consideration for the job.

Sharks Take Macklin Celebrini With First Overall Pick: The Sharks were the league’s worst team last season and for their efforts at playing dismal hockey, they managed to procure the #1 pick in the 2024 NHL Draft. San Jose made the expected move and selected Macklin Celebrini from Boston University. Celebrini tallied 32 goals and added 32 assists for 64 points over 38 games of action. He became the youngest player in history to earn the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in college hockey. Celebrini was the fourth freshman ever to win the award, joining Paul Kariya in 1993, Jack Eichel in 2015 and Adam Fantilli in 2023. He has yet to make a decision as to whether he’ll join the Sharks right away or return to Boston University for his sophomore season, though he says that decision will be coming soon. He was at the Sharks developmental camp, getting a chance to show his talents, this week.

Trades, Trades, Trades: Before we got to the draft and free agency, teams were still wheeling and dealing as they tried sculpting cap space or bolstering their rosters. The Devils tried to patch up their goaltending by acquiring Jacob Markstrom from the Flames in exchange for defenseman Kevin Bahl and a first-round pick in 2025. Los Angeles added Darcy Kuemper from the Capitals while dealing out Pierre-Luc Dubois and his hefty contract. Tampa Bay dealt Tanner Jeannot to Los Angeles for a fourth-round pick in 2024 and a second-round pick in 2025. Pittsburgh picked up Kevin Hayes and a second-round pick in 2025 for the dreaded future considerations. Vegas dealt Logan Thompson to Washington for a third-round pick in 2024 and 2025. The Rangers got Reilly Smith from the Penguins for a conditional fifth-round pick in 2025. Washington made a big move to boost their blue line by acquiring Jakob Chychrun from Ottawa for Nick Jensen and a third-round pick in 2026.

Then, of course, there were the deals that involved getting a little extra time to negotiate with potential free agent targets. Toronto dealt a seventh-round pick in 2026 to Dallas for the rights to Chris Tanev, who they ended up signing to a long-term deal. Tampa Bay pulled off a similar move, trading a third-round selection in 2025 to Carolina for the rights to Jake Guentzel, who they inked to a seven-year deal.

Old Faces, New Places: The offseason wouldn’t be its usual crazy stuff if we didn’t see guys that are ingrained in your mind as wearing one uniform only to sign somewhere else for next season. It seems that the Music City is the place to be for that sort of thing this season. Steven Stamkos, who played 16 seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and scored 40 goals last season, will be a member of the Predators next season. So will Jonathan Marchessault, who spent the last seven seasons with Vegas, including helping them win a Stanley Cup. He tallied 42 goals last season for the Golden Knights. Nashville also bolstered their blue line group by inking Brady Skjei, who spent the last four-plus seasons with the Hurricanes and added a veteran backup netminder by bringing in Scott Wedgewood, who spent two-plus seasons with the Stars, to play behind Juuse Saros.

New Jersey added some Carolina spice to their roster as they inked Brett Pesce and Stefan Noesen to deals. Chicago added a couple of former Maple Leafs in defenseman TJ Brodie and winger Tyler Bertuzzi along with defenseman Alec Martinez from Vegas, Teuvo Teravainen from Carolina, Pat Maroon from Boston and Craig Smith from Dallas to add some veterans to support Connor Bedard. The Blackhawks also brought in Laurent Brossoit to help stabilize their goaltending.

Stanley Cup Finalists Raided: Florida and Edmonton were the two teams that met in the Stanley Cup Finals and both teams have some pieces that won’t be back next season thanks to free agency. While Florida retained Sam Reinhart and Anton Lundell via new deals, they lost some key components from their championship roster. The Panthers saw backup goaltender Anthony Stolarz leave for a two-year deal while defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson inked a four-year deal, both with division rival Toronto. Ryan Lomberg signed with Florida, Kevin Stenlund landed in Utah, Casey Fitzgerald went with the Rangers and Brandon Montour signed a seven-year deal with the Kraken. Florida brought in Jesper Boqvist from Boston, A.J. Greer from Calgary, Tomas Nosek from New Jersey and MacKenzie Entwistle from Chicago to try and fill in those holes.

Edmonton managed to retain the majority of their guys though there were a couple of defections. Warren Foegele inked a deal with the Kings while Sam Carrick signed with the Rangers. In addition, defenseman Vincent Desharnais, who was a solid anchor in his own end during the postseason, left to sign a deal with Vancouver. Edmonton did bring in a piece to replace Foegele as they inked Jeff Skinner to a one-year deal after he was bought out by Buffalo. They also added Viktor Arvidsson from the Kings and defenseman Connor Carrick.

The offseason will roll on with lesser signings and potential trades dotting the landscape over the next couple of weeks. Preseason hockey will kick off on September 21 while the regular season will get underway on October 4 and 5 when the Sabres and Devils square off in a pair of games at the O2 Arena in Prague. It may seem like an eternity now, but in three short months, the first meaningful games of the 2024-25 season will be upon us.

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Chris King

Chris King has been immersed in the world of professional and collegiate sports for more than three decades. Whether it's playing pickup games or being involved in organized sports to being a fan, he's checked all the boxes. From the NFL to arena football, the NHL to the KHL, the NBA to the WNBA to college hoops, and even MLB to the KBO. If it's out there, he's covered it and bet on it as well, as Chris has been an expert bettor in his career. Before joining Winners and Whiners back in 2015, his work appeared around the internet and in print. He's written books for Ruckus Books about college basketball, the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, golf, and the World Cup. If you're looking for the inside track on hitting a winner, do yourself a favor and read what Chris has to say.