By: Nathan Shield
Free Agency is one of the most important times of the year for the NHL Season. Decisions made that force the departures of former players and the arrival of future players can make or break a season. With many highly coveted stars this off season, there was a lot of hype surrounding free agency. So, which former free agents are making the biggest impact thus far?
After a Stanley Cup winning season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Carter Verhaeghe decided to take his talents to South Beach and join the Florida Panthers. Verhaege signed a 2-year, $2 million contract which is quickly proving to be one of the best in the NHL.
Verhaeghe is off to a hot start with the Cats, scoring 10 points (7 goals, 3 assists) in his first 11 games. After only 13 points (9 goals, 4 assists) in 52 games last season, Verhaege is on a pace to quadruple his production from last season.
Verhaeghe has been especially impressive on the power play for the Panthers, helping them to 36.7 per cent, currently second best in NHL.
After a 2020 season that saw Tyler Toffoli play for both the Los Angeles Kings and the Vancouver Canucks, Toffoli decided to head to the east coast and join the Montreal Canadiens. Toffoli signed a four year, $17 million contract with an AAV of $4.25 million.
While many questioned the signing at the time, Toffoli is quickly proving his value in Montreal.
Toffoli got off to a hot start with the Canadiens with 9 goals, tied for third in the NHL along with four assists for 13 points in his first 14 games.
Toffoli has been at his best against his former team and has 11 of his 13 points in just five games against the Vancouver Canucks.
Going into this season, Andreas Athanasiou was a relative unknown to NHL fans. After a few years in Detroit and a trade deadline move to Edmonton, Athanasiou signed with the Los Angeles Kings.
Just a one year, $1.2 million contract, Athanasiou bet on himself to have a strong season and he has lived up to expectations up to this point. Athanasiou put up five points (3 goals, 2 assists) in the first seven games before being placed on the NHL’s Covid protocol absence list.
While Athanasiou has struggled in the past in the defense zone, he seems to have put the offensive and defensive game together this season and is one of the few players on the Kings to have an even plus/minus ranking.
At 26, this season could be a bounce back season for the young centre who could be a bright spot for a lack-luster team in Los Angeles.