No matter how we downplay the depth of a free-agent class, the opening of the market is always marked by the wild and the woolly.
Wednesday was no different, as NHL general managers didn't wait for the opening of the market to start making significant moves.
Call it winners and losers or home runs and strikeouts, here's a look at some of the most interesting moves of the day.
The Big Boy(s)
Phil Kessel to Penguins
This easily was the biggest deal of the day as the Pittsburgh Penguins sent two prospects and two draft picks, including a possible first-round pick in the 2016 draft, to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the sniper. Toronto will retain $1.2 million annually in salary, as well as taking on Nick Spaling from the Penguins. The easy read on this is that the Penguins finally have the world-class sniper they have coveted for years to play with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. But the team's issues in terms of offensive depth and defensive structure are not solved by this move, although it sure does ramp up the buzz quotient in Pittsburgh after another disappointing playoff season. In Toronto, this was the first domino to fall under Brendan Shanahan's desire to retool the team and recreate the Leaf identity. How many more dominoes will fall and how big a part of the problem in Toronto was Kessel? Well, those questions will take some time to figure out, but the answers will be illuminating whenever they present themselves.
Mike Green to Red Wings
No disrespect to Mike Green, but "big boy deal" is a relative term given the paucity of blue-chip players available this summer. But Green is a two-time Norris Trophy finalist and still a fine puck-moving defenseman who earned a three-year deal worth $6 million annually. It's what Green was making in Washington as a third-pair guy. Will rookie head coach Jeff Blashill use Green in the top four? Likely. Is that a good idea? Hmmm. Let's get back to you on that. Still, Green represents the big-offense, right-handed shot the Wings have been looking for and, with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk not getting any younger, having a player like Green on the back end should liven things up at Joe Louis Arena.
Small-ball deals that could grow up to be Big Boys
Cody Hodgson to Predators
Like with Mike Ribeiro last offseason, the Nashville Predators are taking a leap of faith (but not an expensive one) on a player who has fallen on hard hockey times. Hodgson was the 10th overall pick in 2008 and traded by Vancouver to Buffalo at the trade deadline in 2012, where he simply did not evolve into a top-two center for the Sabres, who bought him out of his contract. The Preds signed him to a one-year deal worth $1.05 million Wednesday. With Ribeiro and Mike Fisher signed, the Preds would be comfortably solid down the middle, a position that has historically been an issue for them, should Hodgson rediscover his game. If it doesn't work out, no harm, no foul for Nashville.
Viktor Tikhonov to Blackhawks
Tikhonov, the articulate grandson of the late Soviet coaching genius of the same name, has the potential to fill a number of different roles for the Blackhawks, who signed him Wednesday to a one-year deal. Tuesday, of course, Chicago shocked the hockey world by trading Brandon Saad to Columbus, but Tikhonov will be one of a group of players who will get a chance to help fill some of the void created by Saad's departure and the possible departure of other every-day players from Chicago. A smart two-way player, Tikhonov could earn more responsibility as the season moves along.
Viktor Stalberg to Rangers
Variations on a theme here. The Predators bought out Stalberg, the former Blackhawk who just never got it done in Nashville. Then the Rangers jumped in with a $1.1 million, one-year deal. Could Stalberg rediscover the form that saw him score 22 times in 2011-12 with Chicago while playing on a top-end team like the Rangers? One red flag (OK, one red flag among a number) is that Stalberg has just two goals in 38 postseason games. For the defending Presidents' Trophy winners who dealt Carl Hagelin to Anaheim at the draft, there are certainly some openings in their top nine for a guy like Stalberg.
A quiet, comfortable fit
Paul Martin to Sharks
We'll say it again: For our money, Paul Martin was the best all-around defenseman on the open market, and the fact Doug Wilson brought Martin into the fold for a relatively manageable number of $4.85 million per year for four years is a bonus. The Sharks are in mid-transition. Is Martin Jones the guy in goal? What will ultimately happen to Joe Thornton and/or Patrick Marleau? One thing is certain: Wilson found a dependable top-four defenseman who can help the next generation of Sharks defensemen to the next level. We had a chance to chat with Martin Wednesday afternoon and he said he was looking forward to his first excursion West, having played his entire career in New Jersey and Pittsburgh. As for lessons learned after five years in Pittsburgh? The 34-year-old laughed. "Anything can happen," Martin said. One thing to note: Kris Letang was having a Norris Trophy-type season for the Penguins before he was injured this season. His partner? Martin. Just saying.
Brad Richards to Red Wings
A year ago, the New York Rangers washed their hands of Brad Richards, buying him out of the balance of his much ballyhooed long-term deal. Richards admitted it took a long time to get over that and losing in the 2014 finals, even after he'd signed a one-year deal with Chicago. But get over it he did, and Richards had a stellar playoff anchoring Chicago's second line and chipping in on the power play, finishing with 14 points in 23 postseason games and winning his second Stanley Cup. That performance earned him a one-year deal with the Red Wings worth $3 million plus playoff bonuses. The Wings are in transition with youngsters Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and Riley Sheahan looking to take on more responsibilities up front. Richards showed in Chicago he can be the perfect bridge player and, of course, the Red Wings would be pleased with the same result that Richards enjoyed this past season.
Michael Frolik to Flames
The versatile forward went from Winnipeg to Calgary, where the Flames inked Frolik to a five-year deal worth $21.5 million. It's probably a little bit longer term than you'd ordinarily like to give a player like Frolik, who has never recorded more than 21 goals in any one season. At 27, Frolik has lots of good hockey in front of him, although he's only played in 38 postseason games. Still, he's the kind of player that head coach Bob Hartley has a history of getting the most out of. And he has a Stanley Cup on his resume from 2013 in Chicago.
Barret Jackman to Predators
Jackman, once upon a time the 17th overall pick of the St. Louis Blues and a Calder Trophy winner, finds himself on the move for the first time in his career at age 34. And if time had run out in St. Louis, we like Nashville as a landing pad, as Jackman signed a two-year deal worth $4 million. Again, a manageable term and dollar amount for the Preds, who are awash in terrific young players along the blue line but can use a savvy veteran like Jackman to add some ballast. Under the radar but definitely a move that has the potential to pay dividends come playoff time.
Erik Condra to Lightning
Not sure why this deal -- three years for a total of $3.75 million -- appeals to us other than Condra was once an usher at head coach Jon Cooper's wedding. If that doesn't set up a dynamic for success, well, we don't know what does. With Brenden Morrow not returning to Tampa Bay, the Lightning get a little younger -- Condra will turn 29 in August -- and a little deeper, which is what you're hoping for as a Stanley Cup finalist.
Danger deals or "Gee, that seems like a long time"
Andrej Sekera to Oilers
There's no question that Sekera has the potential to be a top-four horse for the remade Edmonton Oilers. But what if he's not? Was there that much demand for Sekera's services that the Oilers had to commit six years at a whopping $33 million total? Maybe Sekera becomes a cornerstone defender the likes of which the Oilers have been searching for for years. But if he's not, it's a huge miscalculation.
Francois Beauchemin to Avalanche
Love the grittiness of Francois Beauchemin and there is no better role model for young defensemen -- just ask Hampus Lindholm, who partnered with Beauchemin the past couple of seasons and saw the level of his game go up exponentially. But at $4.5 million annually for three years, the Avs might have bitten off more than they will ultimately want to chew with the 35-year-old defenseman.
Matt Beleskey to Bruins
No question Matt Beleskey had a breakout season (22 goals) and specifically a breakout postseason for the Ducks, notching eight goals in 16 postseason games playing on the second line with Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg. That was the Ducks' main shutdown line, so Beleskey has learned the 200-foot game, which will make him popular with Boston head coach Claude Julien. Still, Beleskey is an admittedly streaky player and, while $3.8 million a season isn't all that onerous, the five-year term for the 27-year-old is a bit scary. Now, if last season was just a harbinger of things to come, then new GM Don Sweeney will look like a genius and not the bumpkin many Bruins fans believe him to be right now. If, however, Beleskey reverts to the mid-teens in goal production, this will be a problem that won't go away.
Karri Ramo (back) to Flames
The Calgary Flames, riding a wave of positive karma in recent days, signed Karri Ramo to a one-year deal worth $3.8 million. We would give a slight edge to Ramo over Jonas Hiller, whom Ramo supplanted as playoff starter in the second round against Anaheim. And what of Joni Ortio, the third of the three Calgary netminders under contract who cannot be sent to the minors without clearing waivers? Hmmm. We sense a logjam here.
P.A. Parenteau to Maple Leafs
It's been a long, twisty road for Parenteau, once upon a time a ninth-round draft pick (they don't even have nine rounds now). But with the Avs after the 2012 lockout, he lit it up with 18 goals and 43 points in 48 games and was impressive with his grit and resilience. It didn't work out in Montreal for Parenteau, but after being bought out by the Habs, maybe things will look up in new-look Toronto under head coach Mike Babcock, as the 32-year-old signed a one-year deal with the Leafs worth $1.5 million.