The opening day of 2018 NHL free agency included a seismic shift in the league’s balance of power, with John Tavares signing a seven-year, $77 million deal with the ascendant Toronto Maple Leafs.
But the Leafs weren’t the only winners, and the teams that lost out on Tavares aren’t the only losers. Here’s our rundown of both sides of the ledger after the opening hours of the free-agent frenzy:
Lou Lamoriello is a stabilizer. He arrived in Toronto when they needed a veteran executive in the general manager’s role, and left three years later with the Leafs as a rising Stanley Cup contender. There’s no better validation of that status than the Maple Leafs being good enough to attract the premiere unrestricted free agent available.
He wanted the opportunity bad, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. I asked him and pushed him to make sure that this is something that he was going to fight for and he did.
Washington jumped out early, scoring an unearned run in the fourth on an Anthony Rendon sacrifice fly. In the fifth, the lead expanded to 3-0 when Adam Eaton singled to right to score Daniel Murphy and Mark Reynolds.
However, Gio Gonzalez labored in the bottom of the fifth after cruising through the first four innings with only one hit and one walk allowed. He walked three guys in the fifth inning, including Cesar Hernandez with the bases loaded, that put Philadelphia on the board. Rhys Hoskins’ sacrifice fly to right made it 3-2 then Odubel Herrera singled to score Carlos Santana to tie the game.
Some teams will worry that such deals would compromise future cap space. The Knicks, with big free-agency dreams in 2019 and 2020, seem like such a team. But the league will be (relatively) flush with cap space again in 2019 as more deals from the mega-summer of 2016 vanish. It will never be like 2016 again for players, especially as more of them flood next summer’s market, but 2019 and 2020 will be loads better than this summer.