Change of location: Hyman to Edmonton, Chara to Isles
One call from Connor McDavid was all it took Zach Hyman to get past the unfinished business of the Toronto Maple Leafs when he joined the Edmonton Oilers.
Hyman left his home team to sign a seven-year $ 38.5 million deal with McDavid and the Oilers, who are also trying to get over the hump in the playoffs. McDavid immediately invited him to train with him and a few other teammates, so it wasn’t long before Hyman felt welcome and appreciated the reigning NHL MVP’s game.
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“It was great,” said Hyman. “It’s not just a natural ability. It’s his drive and determination to keep pushing and getting better. It was really great to see.”
Hyman fell victim to the salary cap in Toronto, where he spent his first six NHL seasons playing a jack-of-all-trades role that also played time at the top. As a two-time 20-goal scorer, he is expected not to score secondary goals to Edmonton, which was swept by Winnipeg in the first round of the playoffs, which will give much-needed offensive depth.
Hyman chose Edmonton after having the opportunity to tour the city with his wife when the Maple Leafs made it clear they would not sign him again.
“I said to my wife, ‘It looks like I want to play here from a hockey standpoint where I think I have the best chance,'” he recalled. “And my wife is all about winning. She says, ‘Go and win.'”
Another factor behind the decision to stay in Canada was knowing that family and friends could travel to see him play, given the uncertainty of cross-border travel restrictions during the pandemic.
The Oilers also got three-time cup winner Duncan Keith from Chicago, took over striker Warren Foegele from Carolina for Ethan Bear and signed defenseman Cody Ceci and striker Derek Ryan.
One of the Maple Leafs’ most notable offseason moves was signing forward Nick Ritchie.
“He’s a big man who moves well on the ice,” said Maple Leafs striker Mitch Marner, who attended high school with Ritchie. “He’s a guy who’s also a bit intimidating. He’s not afraid to throw his body around.”
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OLD TIMERS CONTINUE
When Zdeno Chara considered playing another NHL season at the age of 44, one thing counted.
“I love the game,” said the great defender after signing with the New York Islanders. “I’m passionate about the game and I think I can still play.”
He’s not the only graybeard to play at least one more season. Joe Thornton, who was still hunting at 42, signed with the Florida Panthers.
“It’s not that he just goes to Florida to get a nice tan or anything,” said Tomas Hertl of San Jose, who played for Thornton for several seasons. “I think Florida has a really good team and I think they have proven it over the past two years. … He wants the trophy.”
The Panthers also traded in for Buffalo’s Sam Reinhart after losing to eventual champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round.
KK AFTER CAROLINA
Center Jesperi Kotkaniemi left Montreal to sign a $ 6.1 million one-year offer with the Carolina Hurricanes, which the Canadiens declined. Two years ago, the Canadiens extended an offer sheet to Hurricanes star Sebastian Aho two years ago that was voted on by Carolina.
Coincidentally, Kotkaniemi’s offer sheet contained a bonus of $ 20, which is Aho’s number.
“It’s pretty fun,” said Aho. “I mean everyone’s talking about it.”
Carolina also added goalkeepers Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta to the free agency and let defender Dougie Hamilton go. Hamilton signed the richest deal as an unrestricted free agent: $ 63 million over seven years with the New Jersey Devils.
Chicago: The Blackhawks, who welcome back captain Jonathan Toews after missing all of last season, took over defenseman Seth Jones and signed him to a long-term extension; became the reigning Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury; and increased their depth to the point where they could now be playoff contenders.
“It just makes the team a lot more relevant with these few acquisitions,” said winger Patrick Kane. “The goal is of course to get into the playoffs and hopefully do some damage.”
New York Rangers: Since the infamous game last season that saw Washington’s Tom Wilson injure Artemi Panarin and fined for roughly beating Pavel Buchnevich, the Rangers have been performing a toughness revision. They fired General Manager Jeff Gorton and President John Davidson and replaced them with Chris Drury, fired coach David Quinn and replaced him with Gerard Gallant, traded Buchnevich for Sammy Blais, bought and expanded Barclay Goodrow and Ryan Reaves and signed the great defenders Patrik Nemeth and Jarred Tinordi.
“I think it’s good,” said Wilson. “They obviously wanted to play harder. They wanted to bring in some courage.”
Philadelphia: The Flyers have revamped their blue line with Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen and Keith Yandle and Shayne Gostisbehere, Philippe Myers and Robert Hagg are going out. They also traded Jakub Voracek to Columbus for Cam Atkinson.
“At the end of last season, I swore we would make changes and that this was unacceptable and I think I kept my word,” said GM Chuck Fletcher. “We have been aggressively trying to change our team. We have made a lot of changes. We like to think we have upgraded our club and time will tell.”