Artemi Panarin. Matt Duchene. Joe Pavelski. Sergei Bobrovsky. Robin Lehner. Corey Perry. Anders Lee. Names flew around the NHL amidst the free agent frenzy.
By Thursday, only the Golden Knights hadn’t added anyone since free agency began at noon Monday.
A few notable names remain in play — Ryan Dzingel, Jake Gardiner and Marcus Johansson, anyone? — but the ones who drew the most attention have landed. Now that the smoke is clearing, what does the landscape look like for some of the Lightning’s chief competition in the Eastern Conference?
Keeping up with the neighbors
With five consecutive games against the Panthers in the preseason plus the season opener, the Lightning will see a couple of familiar faces early. The Panthers have signed goalie Bobrovsky, forward Brett Connolly and defenseman Anton Stralman.
Bobrovsky, who stymied the Lightning in its first-round sweep loss to the Blue Jackets in this year’s playoffs, fills the crease vacated by Roberto Luongo’s retirement. Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, at least challenged his reputation for playoff struggles this year.
Stralman — who spent the past five seasons with the Lightning — and Connolly — a former Lightning wing who has also played for the Bruins and, most recently, the Capitals — brings veteran leadership to a team that was 12 points out of the playoffs last year.
The Maple Leafs made a few depth signings Monday, headlined by 36-year-old forward Jason Spezza, a Toronto native who said he’s returning home to complement younger players. He’s a good depth piece for the Maple Leafs’ bottom six.
Toronto’s most notable acquisitions so far this week have come via trades. The Maple Leafs sent forward Nazim Kadri to the Avalanche for defenseman Tyson Barrie and center Alex Kerfoot, who was a restricted free agent but signed a four-year, $14 million deal Thursday. Barrie will step into the hole left by Gardiner without the reputation for missteps, and Kerfoot came cheaper than Kadri by about $1 million a season and he doesn’t have Kadri’s suspension history.
In a trade with the Senators, the Maple Leafs got defenseman Cody Ceci, a restricted free agent who signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal Thursday.
The Blue Jackets indubitably got worse. They are left with a talented team and a strong coach but lost their biggest pieces and haven’t filled those holes.
The top three free agents on the board were Blue Jackets: Panarin, Duchene and Bobrovsky. Dzingel isn’t expected to re-sign. There go the cards general manager Jarmo Kekalainen played at the trade deadline.
Columbus did sign Gustav Nyquist, a strong wing, but he isn’t on the level of Panarin and Duchene.
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The Jackets will be working uphill next season.
Welcome to Broadway
The Rangers have been trading pieces away for two years as they rebuild. That’s how Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller got to the Lighting. Monday, New York likely made its last house-cleaning move, sending wing Jimmy Vesey to the Sabres, and it signed Panarin to a seven-year, $81.5 million deal. The 27-year-old is an elite forward, but it remains to be seen if he’s enough to make the Rangers into a contender.
Devils making moves
New Jersey has made the playoffs only once in the past seven years, but the Devils could finally be on the way up.
After drafting Jack Hughes first overall, the Devils traded for defenseman P.K. Subban and added forward Wayne Simmonds in free agency. None of those moves is likely a magic fix — it’s a lot to ask of 18-year-old Hughes, even if he was the top pick in the draft — but they are signs of progress.