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NHL Free Agency: Vanek to Minnesota, Boyle to Rangers, Ehrhoff to Penguins, Moulson back to Sabres

In the first hours of NHL free agency, many big names moved, some to surprising places. Ex-Isles real and theoretical featured prominently.

Money flowing everywhere!
Money flowing everywhere!
Jen Fuller

On the opening day of NHL free agency, activity was fast and far more active than, say, a typical trade deadline. Big names moved immediately, major unrestricted free agents went to long-rumored targets. And a few bombshells dropped with something like 42 signings in the first two hours.

What follows is not a comprehensive update -- you can find a full list of movement at the SB Nation hub here -- but a few non-Islanders moves are nonetheless worth talking about for Islanders fans.

For starters, the Isles' early moves: They signed Chad Johnson as backup goalie, and picked up under-the-radar defenseman T.J. Brennan on a one-way deal. But several moves elsewhere around the league were tinged with an Isles background:

  • The deal for Brennan, a power play dynamo, was in familiar contrast for Islanders fans, as Dan Boyle, the free agent the Isles briefly held from San Jose, chose the Rangers on a two-year contract where he reportedly "left money on the table."
  • Also leaving money and term on the table? Former Islanders Thomas Vanek, fulfilling long-running murmurs that he was bound for Minnesota. Indeed, he signed with the Wild for a very manageable three years averaging $6.5 million per.
  • Another "former Islander" (in the Boyle sense), Christian Ehrhoff, signed for Metro division rival Pittsburgh. A very team-friendly one-year deal for the new Penguin.
  • Finally, completing the whole Vanek cycle that marked the Islanders' disappointing 2013-14, Matt Moulson returned to Buffalo for five years and $25 million, a term and salary that the Isles never appeared willing to approach with the repeat 30-goal scorer.
  • (Oh, Bruno Gervais signed with Colorado, and Blake Comeau signed with Pittsburgh. So there's that too.)

More on Vanek: There was some confusion about whether the Isles were one of the two finalists (the Wild being the other). Newsday's Arthur Staple initially reported that the Isles didn't bother, but then he corrected that information:

All in all, the Isles addressed a couple of depth needs at the opening of free agency. But the big moves, and the big headlines, are laced with swings, misses and regrets from the Isles' recent past.

Another big name thankfully wasn't needed (and surely never would have come anyway): Ryan Miller finally got his desired move to the West Coast, signing in Vancouver.

Meanwhile, one of the early winners was Dallas, which swung a trade for Jason Spezza and then signed Ales Hemsky to really improve their offense. Another winner, the Blues happily took Paul Stastny home from Colorado on a four-year deal.

In the under-the-radar-but-helpful arena, Winnipeg signed underrated Mathieu Perrault on a three-year deal, while Edmonton paid big for sturdy defensive forward Benoit Pouliot.

You can discuss the individual Isles moves in those links above. If you want to discuss general free agency stuff, the morning discussion thread is over here, but this new post will provide you a fresh platform...until it fills up with tomfoolery too.