Canadian NHL Free Agency Recap – Eastern Trio Shake-Up Their Bluelines

Brad Treliving Leafs GM addresses the media.New Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Craig Berube being introduced.

The National Hockey League offseason continues to march forward, with the NHL Entry Draft occurring last weekend and free agency opening on Monday. Canada’s seven teams have all been deeply involved in the mix of transactions. Yesterday, Andy MacNeil looked at how the Western Conference quadrant fared. Today, we’ll look at the trio in the East.

Montreal Canadiens

Free Agent SigningsJuraj Slafkovsky (8 x $7.6M Extension), Alex Barre-Boulet (1 x $0.775M)
Recent TradesJune 30: Jonathan Kovacevic to NJD for 4th Round Pick (2026, TBD)

The Canadiens have had a relatively quiet start to their offseason, not yet adding a single player to their NHL roster. In fact, between expiring contracts and their trade with the New Jersey Devils on Sunday, they’ve technically subtracted.

Kovacevic’s move somewhat surprised me, as the right-handed defenceman was one of the most consistently effective members of their blue line last year. At 26 years old, however, he was caught in a tough place, not being at the top of their lineup nor young enough to be considered a part of their future plans.

One player who definitely is part of their future is 2022 first-overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky, who signed an eight-year extension on his first day of eligibility. This is a gamble that might have received raised eyebrows if done with the Slafkovsky of last summer or even early into last year, but it looks like a potentially shrewd bet now. The 20-year-old had a stellar second half, scoring 42 points in 51 games with solid team-relative shot metrics underneath. The team is betting on him continuing to blossom as a player under a rising salary cap, and even if his ceiling isn’t significantly higher than that second-half run, he should be able to meet that contract’s value through to 2033.

Alex Barre-Boulet was the team’s only free-agent signing. “ABB” has struggled to carve a niche in the NHL but has been an excellent tweener, putting up elite numbers in the AHL for most of the past half-decade. He gives the Laval Rocket a locally developed minor-league superstar if nothing else.

Montreal Canadiens to make 2025 Stanley Cup Playoffs

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Ottawa Senators

Free Agent SigningsNoah Gregor (1 x $0.850M), Michael Amadio (3 x $2.6M)
Garret Pilon (2 x $0.775M), Jeremy Davies (1 x $0.775M)
David Perron (2 x $4.0M), Filip Roos (1 x $0.775M)
Hayden Hodgson (1 x $0.775M), Adam Gaudette (1 x $0.755M)
Shane Pinto (2 x $3.75M), Matthew Andonovski (3 x $0.866 ELC)
Recent TradesJuly 1: Jakob Chychrun to WSH for Nick Jensen, 3rd Round Pick (2026)
July 2: Mathieu Joseph, 3rd Round Pick (2025) to STL for Future Considerations
July 3: Egor Sokolov to UTA for Jan Jenik

The Senators had a pretty busy weekend, trying to shore up a roster that has routinely looked exciting on paper to start the summer, but has also failed to deliver on expectations when the actual games are played.

The most noteworthy move of the three was their trade of Jakob Chychrun, just a year and a half after acquiring him from the Arizona Coyotes (now Utah Hockey Club). After paying a first-round pick and two seconds to acquire the 26-year-old, they now move him on for Nick Jensen and a third-rounder. Jensen, 33, has been an effective middle-of-the-pack defenceman over the years, but his upside comes at a lower tier than Chychrun’s, and age isn’t on his side. Nevertheless, the Senators opted for the extra year of term that Jensen provides and recovering a draft pick.

Their forward group gets a bit more potent through the signings of veteran David Perron, middle-six contributor Michael Amadio, and the extension of Shane Pinto, who they hope to now have for a full season after missing half of 2023/24 due to a gambling-related suspension. To make room for their new signings, they moved Mathieu Joseph, who had 35 points in 72 games last year, to the Blues in a pure salary-dump move.

It’s hard to say whether the Senators got much better through all of this, but they’re likely happy to have a few more multi-year commitments while they decide what they are.

Ottawa Senators to make 2025 Stanley Cup Playoffs

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Toronto Maple Leafs

Free Agent SigningsChris Tanev (6 x $4.5M), Timothy Liljegren (2 x $3.0M)
Max Domi (4 x $3.75M), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (4 x $3.5M)
Matt Murray (1 x $0.875M), Anthony Stolarz (2 x $2.5M)
Jani Hakanpaa (2 x $1.5M), Joseph Woll (3 x $3.667M extension)
Dakota Mermis (1 x $0.775M), Philippe Myers (1 x $0.775M)
Cedric Pare (1 x $0.775M)
Recent TradesJune 29: Max Ellis, 7th Round Pick (2026) to DAL for rights to Chris Tanev

The Toronto Maple Leafs have had another busy summer – as the city debates whether it’s time to move on from one of its “Core Four”, the team has switched out most of its coaching staff and rebuilt its blueline.

Rather than work with the pieces that Sheldon Keefe and his crew had at their disposal defensively, Craig Berube and friends will be met with the likes of veteran defensive wizard Chris Tanev and recent Stanley Cup champion Oliver Ekman-Larsson, both signed early in the free agency window. The Leafs were so determined to get Tanev that they traded for his negotiating rights days before and ultimately decided on a very player-friendly deal, which locks him up until his Age 40 season, gives him a full no-movement clause, and near-total buyout protection.

Toronto also locks in their new-look goaltending tandem, promoting Joseph Woll to the starter’s deck with a new three-year extension and bringing in Anthony Stolarz as the backup to replace Ilya Samsonov. Stolarz has impressed with a 0.917 save percentage over his past five seasons but, like Woll, has yet to play 30 or more games in a year at the highest level.

The Leafs also held onto Max Domi on a deal that gave him more term than he’d ever received previously and avoided an arbitration scenario with Timothy Liljegren, signing the Swedish puck-mover for two years.

Overall, it feels like the team has gotten better both offensively and defensively across its blue line but still has holes to fill up front, and there are legitimate questions to be asked about the amount of term being dished out in some of these deals. The health of Jani Hakanpaa is also in question, with some reports indicating that his current knee injury may be difficult for him ever fully to recover from.

Ultimately, Toronto looks like a team that isn’t worried about the long-term anymore and is focused on getting the most out of the now. Whether or not that pays off remains to be seen.

Toronto Maple Leafs to win 2025 Atlantic Division


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