NHL general managers have been busy wheeling and dealing just before the free agency frenzy gets underway as they try to clear up roster spots and salary-cap space.
The Florida Panthers lost veteran goaltender Roberto Luongo to retirement earlier in the week and GM Dale Tallon then did what most fans expected by trading backup goalie James Reimer and his $3.4 million contract which still had two years to go on it.
The 31-year-old Reimer was shipped to the Carolina Hurricanes in return for fellow netminder Scott Darling along with a sixth-round selection in next summer’s NHL Draft. Reimer has struggled to become an NHL starter over his years with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Panthers and was overpaid as Luongo’s backup in the deep south.
Reimer went 13-12-5 last season with a save percentage of 90.0 and a goals-against average of 3.09 in 36 appearances. It was his third season with Florida and Tallon realized he made a mistake by signing him to a five-year deal as a free agent in the summer of 2016. Reimer of Arborg, Manitoba, was originally drafted in the fourth round by Toronto with the 99th overall pick in 2006. His career regular-season record in 338 games reads 144-120-39 with 91.3 save percentage, a GAA of 2.81 and 21 shutouts.
He also played eight games with the San Jose Sharks after being dealt there at the trade deadline in February of 2016. Reimer has played just eight career NHL postseason contests with Toronto and San Jose with a 3-4 mark along with a 92.1 save percentage and a 2.82 GAA. His most infamous playoff outing was blowing a 4-1 lead in Boston in game seven of the first round in 2012/13 with about 10 minutes to go. The Leafs went on to lose 5-4 in overtime.
Tallon placed his new goaltender Darling on unconditional waivers after acquiring him as he plans on buying out his contract. The Panthers don’t have a veteran netminder at the moment and it’s believed they’ll make a play for unrestricted free agent Sergei Brobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets this week. The Panthers took goaltender Spencer Knight with the 13th overall pick in the recent draft from the USA Hockey National Team Development Program’s Under-18 squad, but he’s still two or three years away from becoming an NHL goalie.
The 30-year-old Darling of Newport News, Virginia, played just eight games with Carolina last season due to concussion problems and went 2-4-2 with a save percentage of 88.4 and a 3.33 GAA. The 30-year-old was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks in April of 2017 and also spent some time in the AHL with the Charlotte Checkers this season. Carolina signed Darling to a four-year contract worth $4.15 million a season after acquiring him.
Darling won a Stanley Cup as backup goaltender to Corey Crawford in Chicago in 2014/15 after he signed in the Windy City as a free agent in 2014. His career regular-season record stands at 54-42-18 in 126 games with a save percentage of 90.8, a 2.72 GAA and four shutouts. He played four playoff games with Chicago with a 3-1 mark, a 93.6 save percentage and a GAA of 2.22.
The Montreal Canadiens sent 27-year-old forward Andrew Shaw back to the Blackhawks on the weekend along with a seventh-round draft pick in 2021 for a trio of draft picks. The Habs receive a second and a seventh-round choice next year and a third-rounder in 2021. Shaw signed a six-year deal with Montreal in the summer of 2016 and still has three years left on it at an average salary cap of $3.9 million.
Shaw, of Belleville, Ontario, tallied 19 goals and 28 assists for 47 points in 63 games this season. He was originally drafted by Chicago in the fifth round with the 139th overall selection in 2011 and played five seasons for the Blackhawks before being dealt to the Canadiens in June, 2016. Shaw won the Stanley Cup in Chicago in 2012/13 and again in 2014/15. He’s played 504 regular-season NHL contests with 111 goals and 122 helpers for 233 points while notching 16 goals and 19 assists for 35 points in 72 postseason appearances.
The biggest trade of the weekend was one which was rumored to happen for several weeks as winger Phil Kessel was shipped out of Pittsburgh. The 31-year-old ended up in the desert with the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for forward Alexander Galchenyuk and blue line prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph. In addition to Kessel, the Coyotes also receive blue liner Dane Birks and a fourth-round draft pick in 2021.
Kessel helped the Penguins win Stanley Cups in 2015/16 and 2016/17. He should have arguably won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2016 when he racked up 10 goals and 12 assists in 24 games. However, the honor went to his captain Sidney Crosby. Kessel then rang up eight goals and 15 helpers in 25 contests the next year as the Penguins repeated as champions.
Kessel’s annual salary cap is $8 million with three years remaining on his current deal and the maple leafs are on the hook for $1.2 million a year until it expires. Galchenyuk is set to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2020 and his salary-cap hit is $4.9 million this season.
Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford attempted to deal Kessel to the Minnesota Wild earlier this year but he refused to waive his no-trade clause. Kessel scored 27 goals 55 assists for 82 points this season in 82 games and notched three points in four playoff contests. He had given Rutherford a list of eight teams which he approved of being traded to. Kessel has now been swapped twice as he was dealt from the Boston Bruins to Toronto earlier in his career and then from Toronto to Pittsburgh.
He does his job on the ice and and also shows up for work everyday as Kessel has played in 774 consecutive regular-season games for the eighth-longest iron-man streak in NHL history. The last time he missed a game was back in 2009/10 with the Maple Leafs. Kessel arrived in Pittsburgh from Toronto in July of 2015 and scored 110 goals and 193 helpers for 303 points in four seasons with the team with Crosby being the only Penguin to post more points over that time with 363.
Kessel will once again team up with Arizona head coach Rick Tocchet, who worked with the player while he was an assistant coach in Pittsburgh between 2014 and 2017. The two know each other well and there will be no surprises on and off the ice for either of them.
Kessel of Madison, Wisconsin, was originally drafted fifth overall in 2006 by Boston. He’s appeared in 996 regular-season games with 357 goals and 466 assists for 823 points and has added 33 goals and 44 assists for 77 points in 87 postseason games.
Galchenyuk, who is 25 years old, was acquired by Arizona from Montreal last summer for Max Domi and scored 19 goals and 22 assists for 41 points this season in 72 outings. He was drafted third overall by Montreal in 2012 and has notched 127 goals and 169 assists for 296 points in 490 regular-season games with 13 points in 28 playoff contests with the Habs.
The 23-year-old Birks was drafted 164th overall by Pittsburgh in 2013 and spent last season with ECHL club Wheeling and AHL team Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The 20-year-old Joseph was taken 23rd overall in the 2017 Draft by Arizona and has yet to play in the NHL.