Today marks the first day of September, which means hockey resumes this month!
This also means that the offseason is coming to a close and even though we're waiting patiently on a couple of guys to put a pen to paper (*cough cough* Nylander and Nurse...let's go please), basically everyone is ready to go for this upcoming season.
As we wait for training camps to start up, I decided to review the details of every contract signed in the offseason and pick out what I believe are the best and the worst deals for my first two blog posts.
Obviously, I'm not going to go through every single contract, because that's insane and as much as I love hockey, I don't have the time to write that much. Instead, in no particular order, here's a list of the five best deals of the offseason.
Ryan Ellis - Defenseman, Nashville Predators
8 years, $6.25 million AAV
2018 Stats: 44 GP, 9 G, 23 A, 32 P
Career Stats: 396 GP, 55 G, 118 A, 173 P
If he hit the open market in 2019, Ryan Ellis could've easily earned at least $7 million. Probably more, if we're being completely honest. But Ellis took a discount to keep the Predators' defense stacked for as long as possible. General manager David Poile made it known last season he would do everything possible to keep the core of this team together, and he succeeded with this deal.
Despite a knee injury that kept him out for the first three months of the season, Ellis recorded a career-high in assists (32) and points per game (0.73). His possession numbers have trended positive every season except 16-17, where he recorded his only Corsi-for percentage and Fenwick-for % relative below 50. Additionally, Ellis has played a key role in every playoff run for the Predators, tallying 26 points in 58 games since 2012.
He tends to be overlooked in the pool of NHL blue-liners, but he's most definitely one of the best right-handed defensemen in the league. This contract solidifies the fact that the Preds are stacked and scary. I wouldn't be surprised if they have yet another ridiculous season and contend for the Cup. Also: look at that beard.
Dylan Larkin - Center, Detroit Red Wings
5 years, $6.1 million AAV
2018 Stats: 82 GP, 16 G, 47 A, 63 P
Career Stats: 242 GP, 56 G, 84 A, 140 P
There's no question that as of right now - probably until Filip Zadina makes his mark in the league - Dylan Larkin is the best player on the Detroit Red Wings. The Michigan native has been and will be a cornerstone of the franchise for as long as he's in the league.
On a team that finished 27th in the NHL, Larkin led his team in every offensive category and set career-highs in assists (47) and points (63). He also averaged roughly 20 minutes of ice time per night, more than any forward on the Red Wings. Larkin also switched positions, moving from the wing to center, and played a key role on the penalty kill. He possesses an abundance of talent and can definitely secure his spot as the team's No. 1 center.
With the questionable return of captain Henrik Zetterberg looming over Detroit, Larkin is now the key player on this star-deprived roster. Let's see how he holds up under that pressure. Maybe Zadina will make the roster out of training camp and take some of that stress off Larkin's shoulders.
Oliver-Ekman Larsson - Defenseman, Arizona Coyotes
8 years, $8.25 million AAV
2018 Stats: 82 GP, 14 G, 28 A, 42 P
Career Stats: 576 GP, 102 G, 188 A, 290 P
Here we have yet another elite player that's lacked support from his team for a pretty long time. As the Coyotes have undergone massive change by tearing their system apart and putting it back together, Oliver Ekman-Larsson has been the only constant on the team.
His possession numbers are positive, with a career 50.4 Corsi-for percentage and 99.1 PDO on a Coyotes team that's made the playoffs all of once since he arrived in Arizona. Much like Ellis, Ekman-Larsson definitely could've made a ton of money if he hit free agency in 2019, probably upwards of $10 or $11 million. Locking up their star defenseman to a long-term deal was definitely the Coyotes' best move of the offseason.
Over the past few years, Arizona has steadily improved prospect pool and NHL roster through both trades and free-agent acquisitions. It'll be interesting to see if the Coyotes can start the 2018-2019 season where they left off last year as one of the hottest teams in the league.
Nikita Kucherov - Right Wing, Tampa Bay Lightning
8 years, $9.5 million AAV
2018 Stats: 80 GP, 39 G, 61 A, 100 P
Career Stats: 365 GP, 147 G, 187 A, 334 P
Ah, yes. Yet another genius move by general manager Steve Yzerman. I think he might've been a wizard in his past life, with all the magic he pulls, including this contract. And this isn't even the best contract Kucherov has had!
His current contract - 3 years, $4.766 million AAV - was an absolute steal for a player of his caliber when it was signed just before the 2016-2017 season began. It looks even better now. This deal will, too. Kucherov was 3rd in the NHL in points last season, but more notably 6th in assists (61). In just a few years, he's made his mark as one of the top wingers in the league and there's no way anyone can claim he doesn't deserve this type of money.
Kucherov's extension is just one of a few great extensions Tampa handed out this summer, along with former Rangers JT Miller and Ryan McDonagh, who the Lightning acquired at the trade deadline last season. If this team doesn't win the Cup in the next few years, I'll be genuinely surprised.
John Tavares - Center, Toronto Maple Leafs
7 years, $11 million AAV
2018 Stats: 82 GP, 37 G, 47 A, 84 P
Career Stats: 669 GP, 272 G, 349 A, 621 P
Well, this list wouldn't be complete without a little drama, right? I know all the Islanders fans will be mad this deal is on the list because they get a little feisty whenever they see his name nowadays. I decided to choose a picture of him in a Team Canada jersey to make you feel better, if you're still reading this.
As someone who firmly believed Tavares would get Connor McDavid money, it surprised me when he signed this deal. I also thought he would pull a Stamkos and just stay on Long Island, and here we are. Tavares is, without a doubt, one of the top players in the league. Not only is he dynamite offensively, but he's been improving defensively as well and even played a key role on the Islanders penalty kill the last few seasons. His skill level is off the charts and it'll be exciting to witness what he can do on a team like the Leafs, who have quickly turned into a playoff team within a matter of years.
Obviously this deal would make an appearance on the list. It was the biggest contract signed this offseason. With rumors all around that the San Jose Sharks were willing to give Tavares something like $13 million, this is quite the discount. I can't wait to see second-line center John Tavares played behind Auston Matthews, though. This should be fun.
That's it. There are the five best contract of the offseason, in my personal opinion, of course. I probably would give Noah Hanifin a spot in this post had he not signed literally two days ago. I'm sure there will be people that disagree, and that's totally fine. Let me know who you think had one of the best contracts this summer. Next week, I'll break down the five worst contracts of the offseason. Until then, here's a shameless plug to follow me on Twitter: @juliananikac.