2019 Best Free Agent Signings: The Atlantic Division

The offseason moves on as we head towards the best and worst signings of the Atlantic Division. Soon, it will be September and training camps will open. In the meantime, it is time to take a look back at what signings were made during the free-agency period.

When combing through the signings, this was the division that probably had the most. Let’s take a look at two players — Curtis McElhinney and Marcus Johansson.

Curtis McElhinney — G — Signed UFA with Tampa (2 years, $1.3 million AAV)

Tampa Bay signed a few free agents that were worthy to be on this list (see Kevin Shattenkirk – buyout aided). McElhinney provides stability as a backup that Tampa Bay did not have with Louis Domingue last season. Domingue performed admirably but was barely an average NHL goalie at best.

Many expected a longer-termed pact but in the end, McElhinney wanted to play for a contender and Tampa Bay is the favorite to win the Atlantic Division again. The price tag settled on is also quite reasonable. The contract signed was a 35+ contract as McElhinney is 36-years old.

Here is a bit more from PuckPedia.

Again, Carolina was moving on with Petr Mrazek and Alex Nedeljkovic and it just made sense for McElhinney to find a fit where he could play around 20-25 games or so. Tampa was perfect because Andrei Vasilevskiy is a young workhorse and the backup goalie would not have to play as many games.

McElhinney’s numbers drive upward because of preservation. He only played in 72 games over the last three seasons. As a backup even, those are solid numbers. So even at 36, McElhinney is well preserved. He can handle a 20-30 game workload and has done that pretty well over the past 3-4 seasons.

First, it is not easy to play in a platoon role the way McElhinney did to a point for Carolina. Tampa has a more clear cut plan with the alpha goalie in Vasilevskiy. This role makes life easier for the new backup. It should help as McElhinney will face a few more shots with Tampa Bay.

Some more thoughts on this Atlantic Division signing

There is probably no way he comes in with a 2.58 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. On the other hand, his experience is a huge key. After all, Carolina did get to the Conference Final last season. That cannot hurt. Furthermore, his save percentage may even improve a bit.

Tampa Bay will win the Atlantic Division more than likely. This move was made with the playoffs in mind. It’s a great one if Vasilevskiy takes Tampa Bay on a deep run.

Marcus Johansson — LW, RW — Signed UFA with Buffalo (2 years, $4.5 million AAV)

While the price tag is okay and there is a risk, Johansson at the term he received is quite beneficial to Buffalo. Some fear existed that Johansson, with his playoff performance, may have earned himself a $5 million + AAV. That never materialized.

His minutes dropped to 13 1/2 minutes a night with Boston and Johansson’s shooting percentage dropped to just over 8 percent. On the other hand, his shots plummeted to 1.2 per game. All looked lost until the playoffs where he turned things around.

The playoffs showed prospective teams what Johansson could provide. He shot at an 11.1% accuracy rate which was right around his level for the previous three campaigns. His shots per game rose to 1.7 a contest and his scoring chances per 60 reverted to normal. His health, which was a concern, remained solid throughout the deep Boston playoff run.

PuckPedia has a little more on the left-winger here.

Johansson averaged 1.28 points per 60 playing some erratic minutes when compared from New Jersey to Boston. Also in New Jersey, Johansson saw more power-play time and that is something Buffalo will count on him for.

Buffalo moves up in its chances of making the playoffs with this move for multiple reasons. The Stars signed a player who again can create in a middle-six role. That had been missing for the past several seasons with the Sabres. Not having a versatile player like Johansson hurt when the depth faltered.

A few final thoughts on this Atlantic Division signing

The upside on the forward becomes his ability to produce offensively in his role along with an ability to move up occasionally as needed. Johansson played with Alex Ovechkin for a few years and was able to produce at a high level. He could do the same with Jack Eichel when the occasion presents itself. This becomes a nice luxury to have for Buffalo that did not exist before.

Buffalo enters the wildcard mix with a move like this.