July has historically been the most active month in the NHL over the past decade. The 2018 Entry Draft kicked off the summer in late June, while the July 1 free agent frenzy period shifted the rosters of the majority of teams in the league.
From coaching changes to all-star talents signing in their hometown, below are the three biggest offseason changes in the NHL.
John Tavares signs with the Toronto Maple Leafs
After the New York Islanders failed to reach an agreement with their franchise ceterman in back to back summers, Tavares left for free agency and signed with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Islanders got off to one of their hottest starts in over a decade and it seemed as if maybe this season would be the year that the organization finally got over the hump in the Tavares era. Although, if you pay close attention to the league you know that the wheels came completely off after the All-Star break in February. After sitting atop the Metropolitan Division in January, the Isles fell off completely and finished second to last overall in the division.
The franchise tried to reshape the entire front office for Tavares and they signed 2017-18 Stanley Cup winning head coach, Barry Trotz (the number two offseason splash) to take over the bench. They also added Lou Lamoriello as the team’s president of hockey operations.
In the end, Tavares did not see this roster competing for a Cup during his prime years and decided to sign with the team that he grew up loving.
Barry Trotz Signs with the New York Islanders
Trotz led the Washington Capitals to their first ever Stanley Cup title in 2017-18. After failing to reach a contract agreement with the Capitals this offseason, the 55-year-old head coach felt that it was best to move on.
Moments after winning the Cup, Caps GM Brian MacLellan said that if Trotz wants to be back that they will bring him back. However, he was caught up in the moment and after the honeymoon period wore off the end result came down to money. The Islanders offered him far more than Washington did, and he decided it was time to move on after four seasons in D.C.
Trotz became just the second coach in the past 24 seasons to switch teams after winning the Stanley Cup as Rangers head coach Mike Keenan did it in 1994.
Ilya Kovalchuk Returns to the NHL
After spending the past five seasons in the KHL Russian professional hockey league, Ilya Kovalchuck is returning to the NHL. He signed a three-year contract with the Los Angeles Kings worth $18.75 million.
After signing one of the largest contracts in the history of the league with the New Jersey Devils in 2010 (17 years, $102 million), Kovalchuk left for the KHL after the 2012-13 season. He, as well as the Devils, was widely scrutinized for this mega-deal and he hurt the franchise financially by leaving.
Now, the 2003-04 scoring champion will bring his offensive talent to the Kings who have struggled to score in the past two seasons. He was regarded as the second biggest offseason target this July and now makes the Kings one of the deepest teams in the Pacific Division.
Summer acquisitions are far from over and all eyes will be directed towards Erik Karlsson, the Ottawa Senators Norris Trophy winning defenseman as trade rumors continue to swirl.