Star players moving from team to team is something the world of professional sports sees often in the NBA, MLB, or even the NFL. To put it simply, it is exceedingly rare in the NHL. With a tight salary cap, when teams strike gold in their drafting, they will do their best to hang onto their best players. The 2022 offseason however, has been as big an anomaly as it could have ever been in terms of star players changing teams.
The NHL’s biggest moves
In 2021–22, a total of eight players hit the 100-point threshold. Three of them are playing for new teams in 2022–23.
The first big splash came during free agency when Johnny Gaudreau announced that he wasn’t going to return to the Calgary Flames and ultimately signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Another big free agent departure occurred in the 2018 offseason when John Tavares left the New York Islanders to go home to the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, he had only scored 84 points in his last season with New York.
As for 2022, with Gaudreau being the first domino to fall, it turned out the second domino was Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk ultimately informed the Flames that he had no intention of signing a long-term contract with Calgary, and instead worked with Brad Treliving to facilitate the NHL’s first ever sign-and-trade deal.
That trade of course saw Tkachuk and his 104 points switching places with Jonathan Huberdeau and his 115 points. That deal turned Calgary’s fortune around as they now have a star in Huberdeau signed through to 2030–31.
A rare occurrence
This is the full list of players who scored 100 points in one season with one team to play for a new team in the next season so far in the 21st century.
|Player||Season||Points||Old Team||New Team|
Yes, that’s the full list. Jagr was the sole player on the list for over 20 years before three of the NHL’s biggest stars joined him over 21 years later in just a span of several days. The 2022 offseason has been monumental for the NHL to say the least.
A new era
Now, general managers around the league are watching these three teams very closely, and may be emboldened to make bigger trades for better players in the years to come. However, they’ll first want to see how Huberdeau, Gaudreau, and Tkachuk all perform on their new teams to validate that these blockbuster trades are even worth it. If all these players regress significantly, teams will hold onto their own stars more tightly.
But let’s be real, the chances of three star players all underperforming is extremely low. Yes, there’s a chance none of them will reach the 100-point plateau in 2022–23, but there is no chance that they won’t remain the among best players in the league.
Tack on the fact that the sign-and-trade deal was established, a new precedent in NHL contracts was set as other players may now seek to leverage their own situations to do the same. If the NHL follows suit with the NBA where star player movement becomes the norm, it’ll usher in an entirely new era for the league.