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Wednesday 29th Mar 2017

Fans of the other three major professional sports in America who think their sport is better than the NHL, please feel free to state your facts below. For me, hockey rules and this past week in the NHL world was huge. First there was the NHL Entry Draft, then Free Agency declarations on July 1st, and then superstar trades that I think give me the edge in any argument regarding the best sport.

It all started a week ago when the Montreal Canadians acquired agitator and multiple Stanley Cup winner Andrew Shaw from the Chicago Blackhawks. The other three major sports never seem to have trades like the NHL. You never see the best player on one team, for instance the Edmonton Oilers' Taylor Hall, traded to New Jersey for a possible stud defenseman in Adam Larsson. Never. Follow that with two of the best defensemen in the game being swapped for one another, with Nashville sending Shea Weber to Montreal in exchange for P.K. Subban.

So, among all these moves and trading and drafting, who made out the best? Well, let's look, starting with the biggest winners thus far from the past week and the fantasy impact in the Eastern Conference.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Re-signed (C) Steven Stamkos, 8 years - $68 million UFA
Re-signed (G) Andrei Vasilevskiy, 3 years - $10.5 million extension
Re-signed (D) Victor Hedman, 8 years - $63 million extension

With Hedman signing his extension, Tampa avoided the whole season-long show that just took place with Stamkos and his free-agent status all season. GM Steve Yzerman is keeping this young core of studs together, and for fantasy this is DFS stack heaven on the Lightning roster. Vasilevskiy’s signing and postseason play may make Ben Bishop expendable.

Detroit Red Wings 

Signed (C) Frans Nielson, 6 years - $31.25 million UFA
Signed (LW) Thomas Vanek, 1 year - $2.6 million UFA
Signed (C) Steve Ott, 1 year - $800,000 UFA
Re-signed (C) Darren Helm, 5 years - $19.25 million extension
Re-signed (D) Alexey Marchenko, 2 years - $2.9 million RFA

At the NHL Entry Draft, GM Ken Holland managed to trade the one-year, $7.5 million Pavel Datsyuk contract to Phoenix. In the meantime, Holland cleared all kinds of cap space to use in this season's UFA signing period during which he added Center Frans Nielson, who is a perfect Red Wing with his defensive play. Vanek has a lot to prove as he fell off the Earth after going to Minnesota, and Steve Ott adds much needed grit to a soft line-up.

Florida Panthers 

Signed (G) James Reimer, 5 years - $17 million UFA
Re-signed (D) Aaron Ekblad, 8 years - $60 million extension
Re-signed (C) Vincent Trocheck, 6 years - $28.5 million extension
Signed (D) Jason Demers, 5 years - $22.5 million UFA
Re-Signed (RW) Reilly Smith, 5 years - $25 million extension
Signed (D) Keith Yandle, 7 years - $44.45 million UFA

After the Panthers late season push in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the team decided it was time to go all in. Extending Ekblad is the biggest move, and by doing so, Florida locked up its best player and one of the best young defensemen in the NHL. Adding Demers and Yandle also gives the Panthers a deeper, more reliable D-Core to mix with a solid youthful group of forwards, minus superhuman Jaromir Jagr, who will be 44. Reimer will spell the 37-year-old Roberto Luongo often during the season to keep him fresh for the playoffs and give Luongo time to heal from summer surgery. Expect a deep run by the Panthers next spring, and draft these defensemen along with that group of forwards in upcoming drafts. Barkov, Huberdeau, Jagr and Trocheck are all fantasy relevant.

Montreal Canadians 

Re-signed (RW) Andrew Shaw, 6 years - $23.4 million extension
Signed (G) Al Montoya, 1 year - $950,000 UFA
Signed (RW) Alexander Radulov, 1 year - $5.75 million UFA
Traded for Shea Weber

While the length of Shaw’s contract raises some eyebrows, it does not raise mine. Shaw has won three Stanley Cups and is only 24 years old. Radulov has a lot to prove in his second stint in the NHL after walking out on his Nashville contract last time. Radulov has consistently dominated the NHL and will join a Montreal team very close to taking deep playoff steps. Al Montoya will be a much better backup for all world goaltender Carey Price, who must remain healthy for the Habs to have any chance of getting to and lasting in the playoffs. The Shea Weber for P.K. Subban trade was amazing, and many Habs fans think that they lost this trade, but I say no way. Weber is still in his prime and is respected worldwide for his play, leadership, and what the Habs really needed, his maturity. Weber, Radulov and Price are all top end fantasy options this upcoming season while Shaw can be a nice stop gap for your injured players with his power play scoring ability.

There are some other teams in the Eastern Conference that made improvements that I really like as well. The Carolina Hurricanes added some nice pieces via free agency and the Entry Draft. New Jersey made a humongous trade in landing Left Wing Taylor Hall from Edmonton for Defenseman Adam Larsson. Toronto took step two in continuing the rebuild process under Mike Babcock by drafting one of the best players in a decade in Auston Matthews. Speaking of rebuilding, the Buffalo Sabres added a great young piece in Kyle Okposo, and his presence makes the upcoming Sabres even better. Okposo's offensive prowess and budding superstar Jack Eichel have made things in the great city of Buffalo very interesting as GM Tim Murray continues to put together a great young squad.

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