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.
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.