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NHL Free Agency: Trocheck to Rangers, Copp to Red Wings; Blues pay Thomas

NHL Free AGency

RALEIGH, NC - DECEMBER 4: Vincent Trocheck #16 of the Carolina Hurricanes scores a goal and celebrates with teammates on the bench during an NHL game against the Buffalo Sabers on December 4, 2021 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

Two of the top centers on the NHL’s free agent market (Vincent Trocheck and Andrew Copp) signed long-term deals with the New York Rangers (Trocheck) and Detroit Red Wings (Copp), while the St. Louis Blues locked up one of their top young players (Robert Thomas) to a maximum term contract on Wednesday.

Let’s take a look at each deal and what they mean.

Trocheck gets a seven-year deal from the Rangers

With Ryan Strome and Andrew Copp on the move in free agency, the Rangers’ most glaring need was at the second-line center spot and they were able to fill that by signing Trocheck to a seven-year, $39.3 million dollar contract. That comes out to a salary cap hit of $5.6 million per season.

Trocheck is a really good player that fits nicely as a No. 2 center on a contender, but there is always an element of risk with a long-term contract in free agency for a player that is not a superstar. He is coming off a 51-point performance in 81 games for the Hurricanes. He is also a solid two-way player and can play on the penalty kill.

[Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Tracker]

In the short-term, it’s a fine deal, but it is worth questioning how much better the Rangers are in the end. He is a good player, but they are not simply adding him to the roster that reached the Eastern Conference Final last year. Strome, Copp, and Frank Vatrano (three really good players for them late in the season and playoffs) are now gone, while they still have some pretty significant concerns on defense.

After signing Trocheck and Jaroslav Halak to be their new backup goalie they have roughly $3 million in salary cap space, still need to sign restricted free agent Kaapo Kakko, and fill out the rest of their forward lineup.

And, again, improve their defensive play.

There is still some major work to be done there.

Andrew Copp goes to Red Wings

The other big free agent center move involved the Red Wings landing Andrew Copp on a five-year deal worth $28.1 million. That comes out to a salary cap number of $5.6 million per season.

It is very similar to the deal Phillip Danault signed with the Los Angeles Kings a year ago, which makes sense since they are similar players going into similar situations with rebuilding teams ready to take a leap forward.

[Related: Ottawa Senators land Claude Giroux on three-year deal]

Copp started to breakout offensively two years ago and has scored at a 20-goal, 50-point pace the past two seasons. Add in his defensive play and he is a really valuable player to add to the middle of a team’s second line. He is also not only a year younger than Trocheck, his contract is two years shorter in term while still having a similar salary cap hit. Given the market, that is a fairly strong deal for a Red Wings team that is assembling some real talent.

Blues extend Robert Thomas

In non-free agent news, the St. Louis Blues made sure to keep one of their top players by signing Robert Thomas to an eight-year, $658 million contract extension.

Thomas still has one year remaining on his current deal (with a $2.8 million salary cap number), meaning he is slated to be a Blue for the next nine years.

Thomas, 23, had a breakout year in 2021-22 and has quietly blossomed into one of the best playmaking forwards in the NHL. He scored 20 goals to go with 57 assists (77 total points) in 72 games this past season.