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The NHL Free Agency period is one of my favourite times of the year

NHL free agency can be stressful and exciting all at the same time
St. Louis Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko (91) reaches for a loose puck as Buffalo Sabres’ Rasmus Dahlin (26) and Mattias Samuelsson (23) defend during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

NHL free agency is one of my favourite times of the year. 

It's part exciting and part demoralizing. Obviously, fans want the best players to sign with their team, but there are several factors to look at. Do they fit into the team's playing style? Will the new player(s) take ice time away from an emerging young player? What about cap space? What kind of contract will they demand?

Much to my father's (he is a Leafs fan) regret, I am a Detroit Red Wings fan.  I am thrilled they signed Vladimir Tarasenko on July 4. It was a deal I did not expect. Tarasenko just won the Stanley Cup with the Florida Panthers, and while he is not the player he was a few years ago, he's a proven winner with two Stanley Cups to his name. The Red Wings have been rebuilding for a while now and have been on the cusp of making the playoffs for the past two years. Tarasenko could be the missing piece for a playoff run next season.

However, the Wings have made some weird decisions during this period. They traded away Jake Walman as a cap dump, despite him averaging over 20 minutes a game this season, and so far have failed to fill his position effectively. They missed out on Shayne Gostisbehere, signing Erik Gustafsson instead.

I have been watching the Canucks a little closer than I would have in my teenage years. After all, I have been in British Columbia since 2017. Jake DeBrusk is a huge and exciting grab for them. He was probably one of the most coveted free agents this year. DeBrusk scored 40 points last season, but with Elias Pettersson centring him, he could score more goals than before. Not only that, DeBrusk plays in the whole arena. He kills penalties, he back checks and does all the little things a coach loves. DeBrusk's contract is for seven years, with an average value of $5.5 million. 

Vincent Desharnais, who signed to a two-year contract with a $2 million AAV, is a penalty-killing machine, and while he will mostly play in the third defensive pairing, he's got loads of potential. According to The Athletic's Thomas Drance and Harman Dayal, the Canucks coaching staff are hoping to develop him into a key piece for the team. 

The Canucks also signed another former Bruins player Danton Heinen. He is a workhorse who scored 36 points last season. He's a hometown boy, originally from Langley. The Canucks also signed (as of July 4) Derek Forbart (Bruins), Kiefer Sherwood (Predators), Nate Smith (Tuscon Roadrunners, AHL), and Jiri Patera (Golden Knights). 

Boston also signed two former Canucks, Elias Lindholm and Nikita Zadorov. Lindholm scored 44 points in the 75 regular season last year, split between the Canucks and the Calgary Flames. Twelve of those points came after he was traded to Vancouver on Jan. 31. He also had 10 points during the Canucks' playoff run. Zadorov had 20 points in the regular season, and eight points in the playoff run. He joins Boston on a six-year contract with a $5 million AAV.

Nashville was also pretty busy, signing Steven Stamkos, Jonathon Marchessault, and Brady Skjei to long-term deals. Stamkos was probably the biggest face of this year's free agency period. He leaves a 16-year career with the Tampa Bay Lightening where he won the Maurice "Rickey Richard Trophy for most goals twice and won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2020 and 21. Last season, Stamkos finished the regular season with 81 points. Stamkos leads the franchise in points, goals, games, power-play goals, game-winning goals, and overtime goals. He leaves a big hole in Tampa. Marchessault was a Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2023 when the Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup. The Nashville Predators may end up making a serious push for the cup next season.