By Nick Villano @nick_villano on July 8, 2014
The NHL free-agency period has been a frenzy. Over $400 million was spent in the first 12 hours, and most of the 30 teams were involved in some way. Eight teams gave out contracts worth more than $20 million on that day alone. Every single team outside of the Columbus Blue Jackets (who made a major trade) signed a player who wasn't on the team the year before. Even though every team made moves, these five did better than the others.
The New Jersey Devils came into the offseason in desperate need of scoring. They answered the call by re-signing Jaromir Jagr, giving Mike Cammalerri a five-year deal and taking a chance on Martin Havlat. They went from needing forwards to having a plethora of them. They even fixed their overstocked defense by letting go of Anton Volchenkov and Mark Fayne.
The biggest move the Pittsburgh Penguins made was avoiding the terrible over-payment of Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen. They replaced them with a better player in Christian Ehrhoff on a one-year, million deal. They did lose Jussi Jokinen, but they brought in lower-line forwards Blake Comeau and Steve Downie. They also fixed their backup goalie situation by signing Thomas Greiss.
The Buffalo Sabres may have made some questionable moves when you look at where they are as a franchise, but they will all eventually move them forward. They gave former Canadiens captain Brian Gionta a three-year deal. They brought back sniper Matt Moulson after trading him to Minnesota at the deadline. They also gave Andrej Meszaros a one-year deal to help with the back-end.
The Florida Panthers made it clear that they were going to eliminate themselves from laughing-stock status when they traded for Roberto Luongo in March. That continued into free agency. They brought in two players with winning pedigrees in Willie Mitchell and Dave Bolland. They also plucked Jokinen from the Pens. Al Montoya will come in to take some of the pressure off of Luongo. Shawn Thornton and Derek MacKenzie were also good signings.
The St. Louis Blues made themselves one of the Cup favorites with the moves they made. They decided to go with Brian Elliot in net, which may be the best move for their buck. They signed the best free agent on the market in Paul Stastny, who is a perfect fit for them. They are the only team who was at the very top of the NHL who made themselves even better.
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