Best under-the-radar signings of the NHL off-season including Frank Watrano, Eric Comrie

the dust of nhl free agency Settlement continues. The big-name players we’ve analyzed for weeks have (mostly) signed up somewhere, on deals we’ve thoroughly analyzed.

We’re here to talk about the less-chewy tricks. Which probably flew under the radar. Or stuck in a deadlock of other tasks. One way or another, some signs were not given due attention.

Dylan Strom Moving to the Washington Capitals on a one-year contract? This season could be a major upgrade for the Capitals’ offensive prospects.

max domi Seizing a great opportunity to showcase yourself on a one-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks? He’ll have to like it—especially if he gets down on business deadline with a contender again.

Whether the deals are long- or short-term, big-dollar or on the cheap, these are free agent stories worth revisiting, just in case you missed the first one.

deal: Five years, $27.5 million

ever between praise Valery NichushkinEight Years of Expansion With Colorado and Hot Building Still About to Unsigned nazem qadriHis (now former) teammate Andre Burakovsky quietly left for Seattle.

And now the time has come for us to shed light on that.

The 27-year-old landed his role in a deserved new deal that went a bit undetermined because, well, the Kraken weren’t great in their inaugural season. Not the most sought-after free agent landing spot. But Burakovsky can help change the narrative.

He arrived in Seattle fresh from a strong regular season (22 goals and 61 points in 80 games) and a Stanley Cup-winning run with the Avalanche. Burakovsky wound up playing a key role in that push, causing everyone to forget those healthy scratches in Colorado’s first-round series.

When Qadri was injured in the Western Conference Finals, Burakovsky — who broke his ankle in Game 2 of that series — stepped in to help the Oilers secure a sweep of Colorado.

Once there, Burakovsky scored an overtime winner against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1, and lit the lamp again in Game 2 before breaking his thumb. Burakovsky would not play for Colorado again. There were too many free agents in the avalanche, and Burakovsky slipped.

This was great news for Kraken. Burakowski has been a 20-goal scorer for three consecutive seasons and will extend a Seattle offense that finished 28th overall in its first season, with only 2.60 goals per game. Burakovsky is a physical winger who makes good touches around the net and adds to the mix on special teams. He will be a great complement to some of Seattle’s most accomplished forwards and will give Seattle fans more to cheer for in the campaigns to come.


deal: Two years, $3.6 million

A backup goalkeeper signing doesn’t always attract attention. Comrie’s arrival in Buffalo deserves some love.

The 27-year-old is coming off an underrated season in Winnipeg, where he went 10-5-1 with a .920 save percentage and 2.58 goals—behind the Jets’ defense below average. For whatever reason, Winnipeg opted to overplay Conor Hellebueck Down the stretch, and a lack of minutes for Comrie eventually saw him change from an RFA – whose rights the Jets could retain – to a UFA.

Too bad for them. The Sabres swooped in to capitalize.

Buffalo was looking for a low-risk, high-reward supplement for the veteran — and predictable starter — Craig Anderson, Comrie looks like his perfect match. The Edmonton player has been waiting for an NHL opportunity to pay dues in the American Hockey League for nearly a decade. The fact is that Winnipeg would not give Comrie more chances when he did so well.

Comrie should not have the same problem in buffalo. The Sabers are targeting a tandem position, and assuming Comrie’s recent success was no fluke, they should see an appreciable increase over last season’s 16 starts.

More importantly, Comrie wanted to play in Buffalo, a place that doesn’t always have the good fortune to sign good players. Comrie is one. The Sabers’ goal held them back even when other areas improved in 2021-22. Keeping the Comrie in the fold goes a long way toward making sure it doesn’t happen again. He is a great addition to the depth of the team, with a reputation for being a great teammate. This is a real win for Buffalo.


deal: One year, $1.5 million

There is always a big “if” with Ondrej Kase. And this is if he can stay healthy.

Because when Case is not spared from injuries, he is an impressive middle-six winger. Carolina wanted to improve her offense with scoring talents and Case may have fit the bill. If that’s the case this season, the Hurricanes have struck a sneaky-good free agent deal of the summer, bringing Cass on the cheap.

But first: “if.”

Kase has struggled with the problem of concealer throughout his career. Those problems contributed to his exit in both Anaheim and Boston. Kaase played only three regular season games for the Bruins in 2020-21 due to head injuries and post-concussion syndrome. And Boston later made the case a not-qualifying motion when it struck restricted free agency last summer.

Toronto rolled out with a one-year deal. Kaase did well for the Leafs in the 2021–22 bounce-back season, scoring 14 goals and 27 points in 50 games, mainly on the team’s third line. But Kass suffered another injury that kept him out from late March until the postseason. He returned for the first-round series against Tampa Bay and was solid, adding three assists in seven games.

The Leafs also didn’t qualify the case. An offer came by storm, who could recognize the value by looking at it. Cage has been able to play a variety of roles in Carolina’s lineup, which is now deeper than ever with the addition of Max Pacioretti, Plus, Case is a strong penalty killer, and the Hurricanes place a high value on their shorthand play.

Definitely fit. Following Cass’s resurgence in Toronto, success should reach Carolina behind him – if he can avoid further injuries.


deal: Four years, $11 million

Edmonton originally acquired the Kulaks on the trade deadline to stabilize their blue line before the playoffs. Kulak did exactly that and graduated to earning a decent – if unhelpful – long-term extension.

The 28-year-old has been a perfect depth player for the Oilers. Arriving in March, Kulak continued to deliver solid performances that helped Edmonton reach their first Western Conference Finals since 2006. Kulak added eight points in 18 regular-season games and made five assists in 16 playoff stints along the way.

Contributing aggressively isn’t really Kulak’s strong side, nor is it what the Oilers love about him. Kulak is a true defensive defender who is ready with the puck and excels at zone entries and exits. This feeds directly into the Oilers’ transition game, allowing the team’s talented forwards to do what they do best. What Kulak lacks in Flash, he makes up for as a facilitator in full snow.

Kulak could probably manage a heavier workload than the 17:05 per game given by coach Jay Woodcroft. That’s almost certainly in the cards for him now. Duncan Keetho Retired in July, leaving the Oilers down by a top-four defender. Kulak fills void on re-upping Edmonton second pair where Kulak could conceive Evan Bouchard either Tyson Barry,

The Oilers’ defensive depth chart would be dangerously thin if Kulak had moved elsewhere in free agency. Edmonton was lucky to retain him on a good deal that would pay major dividends over his life.


deal: Two years, $9.5 million

Detroit made quick moves in free agency. Adding Perón was one of his best.

The 34-year-old turned the clock back again last season for the St. Louis Blues, scoring 27 goals and 57 points in 67 regular-season games, then scoring nine goals and 13 points in 12 playoff laps. It was a big time for a veteran who has been doing well since joining the Blues for their 2018-19 campaign.

Louis didn’t get the pay-cap spot to retain Peron, which was disappointing – but not for the Red Wings, who have reeled in a difference-maker on a tidy contract.

Peron is going to build on the ice in the role of the middle-six that stabilizes Detroit’s young, talented forward. That group started the heat last season and ran out of gas; Peron is a firecracker to keep that spark burning. He is an excellent two-way winger who excels along the perimeter, drives and will be a valuable asset in raising the bar on Detroit’s power play (who was 26th overall last season). Peron might just be that struggling sniper jacob vran Bringing experienced presence with enough momentum to keep a linemate needed.

whereas Andrew KoppK’s signing may have garnered more attention in Detroit – and Coop deserves it – having Perón on board would have had an immediate impact. He and Cop could even watch the time playing together. He was caught by the Detroit youths last season. Peron has experience that can take the Red Wings to greater heights. And Detroit gets that without the long-term compromises that may have aged poorly. It’s good for everyone.


deal: three years, $10.95 million

There wasn’t much discussion about Vatrano’s deal with the Duck, but it was a low-key genius move by GM. Pat Verbiecki and Duck’s front office.

Vatrano was deported from Florida to New York at the trade deadline last March and immediately fitted out with the Rangers. slipped at the age of 28 mika zibnejad And Chris Creder Found easy chemistry there on New York’s top line and with good results (eight goals and 13 points in 22 games). Coach Gerard Gallant put his lineup into the blender playoffs, so Vatrano bounced around, but was still productive (five goals, 13 points in 20 postseason tilts).

It was enough for the Ducks to make a serious investment in Vatrano. Anaheim is finding a well-rounded player whom it can count on to score around 20 goals in second or third line role, and who can be bumped into the lineup when needed. The Ducks front boasts a tantalizing collection of talent—including Troy Terry And Trevor Zegrass — with and Ryan Getzlaff After retiring, Anaheim was looking for more experienced players to fill in the younger players.

For them now Vatrano is a great option. He would add some stability to an offense already capable of flying, and the Ducks didn’t have to go overboard with Watrano. This allows them to base in their contributions now without worrying about pay-cap issues down the road when those rising stars look for their new contracts.

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