Johnny Gaudreau makes the Blue Jackets a winner


Judging the success and failure of NHL free agency just hours after the market opens can be tricky, looking ahead to predict what moves will unfold — or not.

Looking back on Wednesday’s slew of signings, it seems relatively easy to identify at least one winner and one loser.

The Columbus Blue Jackets caused a stir, turning the league around when they landed Johnny Gaudreau on a seven-year contract for $68.25 million.

Gaudreau, a first-team NHL player last season, made Calgary an underdog when he informed the Flames on the eve of free agency that he was not signing their eight-year offer to stay.

Columbus added a 28-year-old All-Star six times in his prime. The small and dynamic winger hit career highs last season with 40 goals and 115 points, giving him 210 goals and 609 points in 602 games for the Flames.

The Blue Jackets instantly improved their chance of making the playoffs, after not having done so in the past two years, and improved their chances of making the playoffs for only the second time since the franchise joined the league in 2000.

Calgary, meanwhile, will need to make significant signings or trades to eventually make up for the loss of Gaudreau. If the Flames swing and miss this summer, it might remind them of how bad it was before Gaudreau arrived, when they missed five straight playoff series.

Here’s a look at some of the teams that appeared to be winning and losing on opening day of NHL free agency:


The Hurricanes pulled off a pair of power moves that should help the two-time defending division champions keep pace with the Eastern Conference powerhouses.

Carolina acquired 2017 Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns in a trade from San Jose and veteran winger Max Pacioretty in another trade, taking advantage of Vegas’ difficulty to manage its salary cap.


After failing to make the playoffs for the first time in five NHL seasons, Vegas had to get rid of a player it couldn’t afford to keep.

Pacioretty has 97 goals and 97 assists in four seasons with the Golden Knights, who will struggle to replace his production on a tight budget.


Steve Yzerman has apparently lost his patience. The Hall of Famer and former Red Wings captain has dropped his plan to focus on selecting and developing players with a series of moves that could make the once-proud franchise relevant again.

Detroit signed center Andrew Copp to a five-year, $28.1 million deal, defenseman Ben Chiarot to a four-year, $19 million deal and a pair of wings to two-year deals: David Perron for $9.5 million and Dominik Kubalik for $5 million. .


After a sixth straight outing in the first round of the playoffs, Toronto lost its number one goalie, Jack Campbell, to free agency when he signed a five-year, $25 million deal with Edmonton.

The Maple Leafs just don’t look as solid in net. They gave goaltender Ilya Samsonov a one-year contract to join Matt Murray, acquired from Ottawa a few days earlier, and rely on players who allowed more than three goals per game last season.


Pulling to keep Alex Ovechkin’s championship window open as he nears his 37th birthday, Washington has signed Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Darcy Kuemper to a five-year contract worth $26.25. millions of dollars.

Kuemper has 37 career regular season wins and won 10 playoff games for Colorado. He will be supported by Charlie Lindgren, 28, who signed a three-year, $3.3 million contract.


Being out of the playoffs for two straight years, for the first time since a four-year drought in the early 1990s, didn’t seem to inspire much change in Philadelphia.

With a chance to add much-needed talent, the Flyers’ most significant signing in the free agency opener was handing forward Nicolas Deslauriers to a four-year contract for $1.75 million per season. In 81 games last season at Anaheim and Minnesota, he had eight goals and five assists. Deslauriers, 31, has never scored more than 10 goals.


AP Hockey writers Stephen Whyno and John Wawrow contributed to this report.


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