Smoke's Rant: Winners of NHL Free Agency

Christmas comes early in late June and early July as the NHL Entry draft transitions into the Free Agent Frenzy that keeps hockey fans glued to their television, tablets, and phones to see how many changes that their favorite team makes. Fans of the the top teams are hoping that their GM can just keep the team together, while fans of bottom feeders hope that their team gets a shakeup to turn their fortunes around. Since the dust has settled a little bit from all the off-season action, it is my sworn duty to tell you which teams have gotten better and which have gotten worse. Here are the NHL's two biggest Winners of the the off-season so far:

1) Calgary Flames: If the Flames were not already scary enough because of what they did last season, they got even more scary. At the draft, they pulled off the best trade that has been seen in some time trading away a 1st round pick, and two 2nd round picks in exchange for young star defenceman Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins. Some would say all those picks are a steep price for one player, but it was the missing piece to a pretty awesome puzzle in Calgary. When they played against the Ducks in the second round of the playoffs this past season, they were very vulnerable in their own zone and as well as against the transition game. Dougie Hamilton gives the team a young guy that can contribute a little bit offensively, but on the defensive end of the puck, Hamilton is as solid as any young player can be. He always makes the safe play up the board, or makes an outlet pass to let the forwards charge into the oppositions zone with a head of steam. Critics of this addition to the Flames might say that he is not a game changer or that they have never really noticed him as an integral part of the Bruins. THAT"S THE POINT!!! Hamilton will never wow you with making highlight reel goals, he might not even be very noticeable at time, that's because he is doing his job properly. A good defensive d-man is one that nobody notices unless they make a great defensive play or when you look at the score sheet at the end of the game and realize he has a great +/- record. In 2013-14, Hamilton played 64 games, got 23 points and was an astounding +22, one of the best in the NHL. The Flames needed to get a young pillar that they form their defensive core around, they found one of the best young defenceman in the entire league. The Calgary Flames also added some secondary scoring, picking up Michael Frolik from the Jets in the free agency market and locked him up for 5 years. Frolik not only brings you exactly 42 points a season (exact same points that last couple of seasons), he also gives the Flames some much needed Stanley Cup experience, which they will need when they try to make a long run in the playoffs next year.

2) Edmonton Oilers: The Edmonton Oilers are finally moving in the right direction. They went from looking like the goat of the league to a young dragon destined to become a devour-er. The stellar off-season started in April with the luckiest lottery pick in a decade. Facing insurmountable, the Oilers got their name called to pick the 1st overall pick. On June 27th, the Oilers made if official by drafting Connor McDavid, but that was more luck than skill for the Oilers brass. The true work came after the 1st pick when they got Cam Talbot in a trade with the New York Rangers. Now, I am not completely sold on Talbot as a legitimate #1 goaltender. His numbers this past season were great, but he was just covering for an injured Lundquist. Talbot is going to have to face the scrutiny and media that surrounds the Oilers. Next, Peter Chiarelli went into free agency and targeted his team's other weakness by snagging Mark Letestu from the Columbus Blue Jackets and Andrej Sekera from the Kings. Letestu was a solid secondary scoring option for the Jackets with 34 points in 64 games in 2013/14. At only $1.8 mil per year for 3 years, he is low risk good reward. Sekera is the prize signing fore the Oilers, who has very particular stats that interested Chiarelli. When Sekera is on the ice, his team

Teams that were once floundering have now become the envy of most teams with a dominant off-season of change. I am Smoke Stark and this has been my rant on the NHL winners this off-season. I am the best at what I do, but what I do isn't very nice. Thanks for reading Sports Fans!