Biggest stories of the offseason

ByKatie Strang ESPN logo
Friday, July 17, 2015

The moves came fast and furious this offseason.

Brandon Saad, a key member of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, was swiftly dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The next day, Phil Kessel was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a blockbuster deal that was perhaps the most buzz-worthy news of the summer.

Because of a combination of factors -- salary-cap limitations, threats of offer sheets, etc. -- the frenzy of July 1 was more dizzying than years past. Sure, the interview period might have prompted general managers to exercise greater restraint in handing out those ill-advised contracts to unrestricted free agents, but the sheer number of players who moved in the first few days of July was noteworthy in and of itself. So, if you were lulled into a fog -- or you realized it was actually an opportune time for vacation -- we have you covered. Here are the big happenings in hockey since the July Fourth weekend.

Biggest move: While the Saad trade took some by surprise, virtually no one was shocked to see Patrick Sharp dealt, with the Hawks' long-rumored interest in shopping the veteran forward. Though many speculated he would be traded at the draft, the move wasn't consummated until July 10, when Sharp and top defensive prospect Stephen Johns were sent to the Dallas Stars in exchange for defenseman Trevor Daley and forward Ryan Garbutt. One interesting caveat of the deal is that the Stars retained 50 percent of Garbutt's salary, so in addition to moving an expensive contract in Sharp, the Hawks gained some additional, and much-needed, salary-cap relief.

Biggest off-the-ice player news: Recently traded centermanRyan O'Reilly, who was shipped from the Colorado Avalanche to the Buffalo Sabres this offseason, was charged with impaired driving and leaving the scene of the crime after the 24-year-old allegedly crashed a truck into a coffee shop in Ontario. O'Reilly, who was traded in a multiplayer deal in June, inked a whopping seven-year $52.5 million deal with Buffalo just weeks ago, before finding himself ensnared in this legal drama. The Sabres are looking into the incident; in the meantime, O'Reilly is set to appear in court Aug. 20.

Biggest league-wide development: It was only a matter of time, really, after commissioner Gary Bettman received authorization in June to begin the expansion process. As of July 6, the league is now soliciting official applications, which are due by Aug. 10. And it does not come cheap. According to reports, the cost of simply submitting an application is north of $2 million, and it's not entirely refundable. Furthermore, any interested party must be willing to pay more than $500 million in expansion fees, according to sources. Still, there are at least a handful of interested suitors, with Las Vegas, Quebec City, Toronto and Seattle reportedly throwing hats into the ring.

Biggest non-move: No, you did not miss anything: The Toronto Maple Leafs have yet to hire a general manager for the 2015-16 season, and team president Brendan Shanahan doesn't seem to be in any rush to make a decision. In fact, Shanahan seemed altogether comfortable when asked at the draft about the collective decision-making of his current team, which includes wunderkind assistant general manager Kyle Dubas, director of pro personnel Mark Hunter, capologist Brandon Pridham and senior adviser Cliff Fletcher. That group has been far from idle, beginning the dismantling of the club with the much-anticipated Kessel trade that clearly signaled the team is heading in a different direction.

Biggest need fulfilled: The Stars finally acquired some blue-line help with the addition of veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya, who inked a two-year deal worth $7.5 million on Wednesday. Oduya was a vital component for the Hawks on defense during their championship run, and he will bring some needed veteran savvy and experience to Dallas' back end. Smart signing for Stars general manager Jim Nill, who has been among the most active in this second wave of free agency.

Biggest move for the future: Acquired from the Vancouver Canucks last summer, centerman Ryan Kesler proved to be an ideal fit for the Anaheim Ducks, providing the team a potent one-two punch down the middle along with Ryan Getzlaf. Matchups for the Ducks' opponents will continue to be a nightmare, as the team announced Wednesday that Kesler inked a six-year contract extension, which comes with an annual average salary of $6.875 million, sources told's Pierre LeBrun. The 30-year-old forward led the team in faceoff percentage, faceoff wins and shots and ranked second among forwards in hits, takeaways and blocked shots in his first season with the Ducks. He finished with 20 goals and 47 points in 81 games this season, earning himself a well-deserved extension and a secure future in Southern Cal.