The start of NHL Free Agency is one of the best times in hockey. General managers just handing out piles of cash to players in hopes of improving their team for next season and ultimately winning the Stanley Cup Final. We saw plenty of that on Day 1 of the 2022 NHL Free Agency period with big names changing teams and impacting fantasy hockey lineups. It’s hard to say if a team has won or lost a signing after just one day, but some are pretty obvious. If you missed any of the NHL news and free agency signings from Day 1, check out our 2022 NHL Free Agency Round-Up of all the notable moves. Many of these signings could drastically impact fantasy hockey rankings and NHL projections for next season. So, let’s take a look at some NHL teams that did well and the ones that should have put a lock on the vault from Day 1 of 2022 NHL Free Agency.



2022 NHL Free Agency Winners



The best free agent this offseason turned down more money from the Calgary Flames and hometown New Jersey Devils to sign a seven-year, $68.25 million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets. General Manager Jarmo KeKalainen went out and improved his hockey team by adding Johnny Gaudreau, a player that finished with 40 goals and 115 points last season. While we did know that Gaudreau was looking to move closer to home, Columbus is still a pretty far drive from Jersey. Maybe he just didn’t want to be in Calgary? Maybe he sees the Blue Jackets as an up-and-coming team with a lot of talented young players? One thing is for sure: Gaudreau didn’t go there for the money. The contract is a bargain for a player of his caliber and he can only make everyone around him better. 




It’s not every day that you can go out and acquire an elite sniper for absolutely nothing, but that’s exactly what the Carolina Hurricanes did by trading for Max Pacioretty and Dylan Coghlan for future considerations. It was no secret that the Vegas Golden Knights needed to unload some salary, but giving a top winger away for nothing is quite the bold move. Carolina also went out and acquired Brent Burns from San Jose to help replace the loss of Tony DeAngelo. While they didn’t spend a ton of money singing new players, the Hurricanes are certainly winners after Day 1. Their core remains intact and they are a better team today than they were last week. 




Are the Detroit Red Wings going to be good this year? General Manager Steve Yzerman went out and spent some money on some pretty talented free agents, including Andrew Copp, veteran winger David Perron, and stay-at-home defenseman Ben Chiarot. They also went out and got a pretty good goalie in Ville Husso, who had a career year in St. Louis last season. Don’t look now, but the Red Wings have a decent team that can at least compete for a playoff spot. The Eastern Conference is loaded with talented teams, but Detroit can certainly compete and make it interesting. The days of finishing dead last by a country mile may be over for the fans of Hockey Town.




It’s crazy to think of the Ottawa Senators as a team making good decisions, but here we are. They traded for Cam Talbot earlier in the week and were able to convince Claude Giroux to come back home. The Senators needed some scoring power up front, and they’ve addressed that by adding Giroux and bringing in Alex DeBrincat. This is a young team that needed some veteran leadership, and they have that now. Can Ottawa compete in the Eastern Conference? Maybe, but it certainly can’t get any worse. 



2022 NHL Free Agency Losers



It’s hard to put the Calgary Flames on this list, but the fact of the matter is that they lost an elite player and aren’t going to be able to replace him. They did everything possible to keep Johnny Gaudreau in a Flames uniform, but you can’t fault a player for wanting to be closer to home. They still need to sign Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane and have roughly $18 million in cap space available. It’s unlikely Calgary is going to replace a player who finished last season with 115 points, and this certainly doesn’t bring the Flames closer to winning a Stanley Cup.



The Vegas Golden Knights are starting to act like a team that has no idea what they are doing. Last season, they gave Marc-Andre Fleury away for nothing, and this year, they unloaded Max Pacioretty for the same return. The Golden Knights have now made some pretty questionable moves in the last few seasons and it might start to come back to haunt them. Vegas missed the playoffs last season and is on its third coach in five seasons. Kelly McCrimmon better have a plan to get this team back into a playoff spot or his stay in Las Vegas may be over before this time next year.




Can you win and lose free agency at the same time? The Columbus Blue Jackets certainly did. After saving some money in the Johnny Gaudreau deal, Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen decided he better spend that money on Erik Gudbranson by giving him a four-year, $16 million deal. Gudbranson was making $1.95 million last season with the Flames and has now secured a pretty good paycheck for being a 30-year-old below-average defenseman. He did have a career-high six goals and 17 points last year, but in no way does he deserve that contract. Why Columbus felt the need to lock up a bottom-pairing defenseman for that long and that kind of money is beyond anyone’s guess, especially considering the fact that Patrik Laine still needs a contract! This has to be, by far, the worst contract signed on Day 1.




We know that the Toronto Maple Leafs needed to sign a goalie, but it shocked everyone to see them trade assets to acquire Matt Murray and let Jack Campbell walk. They did go out and get Ilya Samsonov for $1.8 million on a one-year contract, but the Russian netminder has 89 career NHL games of experience and lost his job last season in Washington to Vitek Vanecek. Would Campbell coming back fix all of Toronto’s problems? Of course not, but betting on Murray to be good on a team that plays zero-team defense is asking a lot. Toronto did nothing to improve its team defensively and the offense stayed pretty much the same. Goaltending aside, the Maple Leafs needed help on the blue line and they didn’t get it. Colorado was able to win a Stanley Cup with subpar goaltending last year, but they also had six talented defensemen who knew how to shut their opponents down – that’s what the Leafs need. They will most likely make the playoffs by outscoring their opponents on most nights. Still, without good goaltending and solid defense, Toronto won’t make it past the first round again.



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