The weeks between the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs and Aug. 1 tend to see a considerable amount of activity in the trade and free-agent markets. General managers use that period to address their roster needs for the coming season.
In most cases, the GMs are gambling that their moves will pay off. Many tend to involve as little risk as possible. Some, however, take bigger chances than others.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, for example, are betting that their re-signing of Kris Letang to a long-term contract becomes a worthwhile investment. Meanwhile, the Calgary Flames hope the return they received from trading Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers will pay off now and for several years to come.
Will these moves pan out? That's what we'll attempt to determine as we evaluate what we consider the five biggest gambles of this offseason thus far. Feel free to voice your opinion on this topic in the comments section below.
Colorado Avalanche Replace Darcy Kuemper with Alexandar Georgiev
After backstopping the Colorado Avalanche to the 2022 Stanley Cup, Darcy Kuemper signed with the Washington Capitals on July 13 as an unrestricted free agent.
Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic, however, already had his replacement in hand. On July 7, he acquired Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers and signed him three days later to a three-year contract.
Sakic acquired Kuemper the previous summer from the Arizona Coyotes. The 32-year-old netminder had just spent three seasons as a starter in Arizona. Georgiev, 26, spent his tenure with the Rangers backing up Henrik Lundqvist and Igor Shesterkin.
With 58 wins in 129 career games along with a 2.94 goals-against average and .908 save percentage, Georgiev might be best suited as a backup. Nevertheless, Sakic is willing to roll the dice on the Bulgarian blossoming into a starter in Colorado.
Georgiev will be sharing the goaltending duties with Pavel Francouz, who has a career 36-14-5 record with a 2.46 GAA and .921 save percentage as a backup. However, the 32-year-old has been hampered by injuries, including missing the entire 2020-21 campaign with a lower-body injury.
Infrequent starts contributed to Georgiev's limited success with the Rangers. He now has a golden opportunity to establish himself as a starter on a team with a deep and talented roster. His affordable $3.4 million annual average value also makes him a low-cost gamble that could pay off well if he rises to the occasion.
John Klingberg Signs a 1-Year Deal with the Ducks
After eight seasons with the Dallas Stars, John Klingberg opted to test his value in the unrestricted free-agent market. Coming off a seven-year contract worth an average annual value of $4.3 million, the 29-year-old was the top defenseman available, with six seasons of 40 or more points.
Klingberg may have been hoping for a substantial raise on a long-term deal. Last October, Sportsnet's Jeff Marek reported that he sought between $62 million and $68 million on an eight-year contract with the Stars.
However, Klingberg may have misjudged his value on the open market. Over two weeks after the free-agency period began, he signed a one-year deal worth $7 million with the Anaheim Ducks, a move that can be considered a gamble for player and team.
After the signing, Klingberg indicated he's hoping for a long-term deal on his next contract. A solid performance with the rebuilding club will also garner attention from contenders that are in the market for a skilled puck-moving defenseman by the trade deadline or in next summer's free-agent market.
For the Ducks, adding Klingberg brings a welcome measure of experience and offense to their blue line after they shipped out Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson in March. If they're out of playoff contention at next year's trade deadline and can't work out an extension for Klingberg, they can shop him for picks and prospects.