Grit and Glue Guys were the big winners in NHL Free Agency

When it comes to NHL Free Agency, the biggest splashes usually come in the form of high scoring forwards or defensemen. This summer felt different.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have always been offensively gifted, but the Stanley Cup seemed to elude them. That was until GM Julien BriseBois started putting an emphasis on getting hard-nosed and talented players for his bottom six.

The result? Back-to Back Cups.

Unfortunately for Tampa, every GM was paying attention and the Lightning lost their entire third line this offseason. Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman signed as free agents elsewhere. Meanwhile, Yanni Gourde was taken by the Seattle Kraken in expansion.

The NHL is a copycat league and this past July teams went after grit and glue types in free agency. Here’s a look at some of the best signings.

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Oilers give Zach Hyman huge deal

The Edmonton Oilers have their two offensive stars in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. After years of playoff failures, GM Ken Holland was focused on bringing in proven winners with character.

At the opening bell of free agency, they signed forward Zach Hyman to a 7-year deal worth $5.5M annually.

zach Hyman oilers
Feb 24, 2021; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman (11) skates against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Arena. Toronto defeated Calgary 2-1 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The 29 year-old got a substantial increase from his last contract worth $2.25 million AAV. Hyman worked his way up from the Leafs bottom six over the years to play with the likes of Auston Matthews. He scored 33 points in 43 games last year and he should be placed on one of the top two lines with either McDavid or Draisaitl.

In a letter to Leafs Nation published at The Athletic, he wrote:

Throughout my time in Toronto I can undoubtedly say that every time I put on that sweater I gave everything I had. I want to thank all of you for supporting me, motivating me, and believing in me... I’m excited about joining the Edmonton Oilers in the next chapter of my life, but I’ll always call Toronto home.

Rangers get tougher with Barclay Goodrow trade and signing

The New York Rangers wanted to be a harder to play against. Chris Drury got that done by trading a seventh round pick for the rights to Barclay Goodrow. He then signed the forward to a six-year contract.

Tampa’s heart and soul glue guy got a deal worth $21.85 million. The 28 year old also earned a 15 team no move clause.

“He’s a guy that we targeted and obviously went out and made a deal with Tampa early to get a jump on it,” Drury said via “I think he’s pretty versatile. I could see him do all different things for Gerard (Gallant), whether that’s more time in the middle, whether it’s face-offs in the d-zone. But we think he’s got a pretty complete game. He’s going be able to help a lot of different areas.”

Goodrow registered 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 55 regular season games with the Lightning in 2021-22. He set a career high in plus/minus rating (plus-16) and led the team with 111 hits. He added two goals and four assists in 18 games during the playoffs as Tampa Bay won its second straight Stanley Cup.

He’s expected to either center or play wing on the team’s new and more rugged third line.

Flames pay Blake Coleman big

nhl bottom six
Jul 2, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning center Blake Coleman (20) and Montreal Canadiens right wing Cole Caufield (22) are separated by a referee during the third period in game three of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Calgary Flames signed forward Blake Coleman to a six-year, $29.4 million deal during Free Agent Frenzy.

The 29-year-old Coleman had 14 goals and 17 assists (31 points) in 55 games last season. Overall, he has 71 goals and 55 assists (126 points) in 301 career regular-season NHL games over five seasons with the New Jersey Devils and Lightning.

After trading away Sam Bennet, Calgary was looking for that type of player but with a little more scoring touch.

Bruins add Nick Foligno

The Boston Bruins pulled a big surprise by signing free-agent forward Nick Foligno to a two-year, $7.6 million deal. Many expected Foligno would sign with the Minnesota Wild to play with is brother Marcus.

Foligno, 33, had just 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) while splitting last season between the Columbus Blue Jackets (42 games) and Toronto Maple Leafs (seven games). Overall, he has 203 goals and 283 assists (486 points) in 957 games over 14 seasons with the Ottawa Senators, Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs.

He should play a prominent role for Boston and be moved between the second and third lines.

Nick Ritchie signs with Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs needed to replace what they lost in forward Zach Hyman. He was a gritty in your fave winger who complimented their high end skill guys.

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed free-agent forward Nick Ritchie to a two-year contract worth $5 million. His AAV will be $2.5 million.

Ritchie, 25, had 26 points (15 goals, 11 assists) in 56 regular-season games and added four points (one goal, three assists) in 11 playoff games with the Boston Bruins last season.

“I didn’t know I was going to be an unrestricted free agent,” Ritchie said after signing with the Leafs. “Just so excited to play for the Leafs and wear the Maple Leaf on my chest this year. There was lots of teams with interest, and I just chose what I thought was the best team and the best fit for me at this stage in my career.”