By Todd Singer @breakingbadfish on July 10, 2014
Now that most of the big-name free agents have signed, it's time to take a look at who the biggest winners of free agency were. While there are several players who got deals that make them individual winners, there are also a few teams that come out of the free agent period feeling very good about their haul. Although it's tough to tell how everything will shake out until the players hit the ice, these are the five biggest winners thus far.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are proof that sometimes it's what you don't do in free agency that earns you praise. While the Penguins get points for signing Ehrhoff to a very reasonable one-year deal and bringing in a solid backup goalie in Greiss, they watched three of their D-men, Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen and Deryk Engelland, get lavished with absurd contracts that Pittsburgh was very prudent not to match.
The Wild, on the other hand, are proof that sometimes quality is better than quantity. Although Minnesota didn't have the room to make a big splash after inking Ryan Suter and Zach Parise in previous free agent periods, the Wild found enough cap space to squeeze in Vanek, who many expected to get a much larger, longer contract as recently as March. Vanek will be a huge upgrade over Matt Moulson on the Wild's top line.
The Islanders don't usually find themselves in the "winners" category in free agency, but this year seems to be different. The Isles traded for the rights to Halak and signed him to a four-year deal which they hope will fix a goaltending chasm that has existed for years. New York also brought in a very capable backup in Johnson to spell Halak, but the real prize of the offseason was Grabovski, who will serve as the Isles' second-line center.
The Lightning seem to be trying to recreate the New York Rangers' roster as they now have three players who played for the Eastern Conference champs last season. Tampa acquired Ryan Callahan, former Rangers captain, at the trade deadline and re-signed him to a new deal, then went out and signed his former teammates, Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman, to very reasonable deals that should have a nice impact on an up-and-coming team.
The St. Louis Blues didn't make many noteworthy moves in free agency, but the one they did make reverberated around the league. The Blues signed Stastny, arguably the best free agent on the market, to a four-year, $ 28 million deal, which looks like a steal given some of the deals handed out to lesser players. Stastny will add to an already stacked Blues forward corps and might help vault St. Louis to the top of the Western Conference.
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