In what was a riveting Stanley Cup Finals, the Colorado Avalanche defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the championship. The teams were thought to be among the very best even before the season started.
The series was filled with some of hockey’s most talented players, and the rest of the NHL pondered how they could reach the sport’s ultimate pinnacle next year. To achieve those lofty goals and catapult up the list of NHL odds, franchises had to have looked at the free agency this year with anticipation.
While each team would like to think that they greatly improved their chances to be in the 2023 Stanley Cup mix, we’ll look at the three teams who made moves with the greatest impact in free agency.
Sometimes, in order to build a championship roster, it literally makes the most sense to take players off of the team that just won it all. The Washington Capitals successfully pulled off that strategy by signing Avalanche starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper.
This figures to be a tremendously beneficial signing, considering that the Capitals finished in the bottom ten in the NHL in save percentage last year. By comparison, with Kuemper leading the way, Colorado finished sixth in the league in that category.
Washington made the playoffs last year but lost in the first round. Kuemper’s presence should help them get past the quarterfinals next year.
Like the Capitals, the Ottawa Senators decided to bring in a proven veteran to help improve their culture. 34-year-old Ontario native Claude Giroux will play for a Canada-based team for the first time in his career and should help bolster Ottawa’s offensive attack.
The Senators ranked near the bottom in several offensive categories last year, including total goals scored and goals scored per game. They were respectable with the number of shots they got on goal but could not convert.
Whether Giroux finishes those opportunities himself or creates space for his teammates, his presence figures to be a welcome boost.
Columbus Blue Jackets
While other teams made notable moves to help their future prospects, the crown jewel of the 2022 free agent class ended up signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets in a stunning turn of events. Left winger Johnny Gaudreau decided to take his talents to Ohio after an impressive contract year performance with the Calgary Flames last season.
The 28-year-old played in all 82 regular season games and led the league in plus/minus at +64. Scoring 40 goals and assisting on another 75 makes Gaudreau one of the premier offensive weapons in the NHL. His 115 points last season were tied for second in the league, behind only Connor McDavid’s 123 points.
For a long time, it seemed like he would end up with either the New Jersey Devils or New York Islanders, but the Blue Jackets decided to make an aggressive push to sign Gaudreau for the next seven seasons. His ability to produce at an elite level in his late twenties and early thirties makes this signing the best one of the offseason.