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Live grades for top contracts in 2023 NHL Free Agency

We’re giving out live grades during free agency on Saturday.

Ryan O’Reilly of the St. Louis Blues battles in front of the net against Dante Fabbro of the Nashville Predators during an NHL game at Bridgestone Arena on October 27, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images

NHL Free Agency has opened at noon ET on Saturday and we’re already getting a flurry of signings being reported. Of the big names, we have Ryan O’Reilly going to the Nashville Predators. We’re awaiting the other top players, including Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko and Matt Duchene. Here we’ll be providing some live grades for all the top signings in free agency.

2023 NHL Free Agency live grades

Ryan O’Reilly to Predators

Contract: Four years, $4.5 million per season.
Grade: B-

I wanted to give this a C+ but O’Reilly is a good fit on paper. The perplexing thing is why he went to Nashville. Barry Trotz is clearly trying to compete right away amidst what should be more of a rebuild. It’s clear the Preds are going to give it a season and see how things go before making a decision on whether or not to move Juuse Saros. Buying out Duchene so you can sign O’Reilly and look to add another center is perplexing given Duchene had one year left and he would have made a decent deadline asset if Nashville isn’t competing.

Blake Wheeler to Rangers

Contract: One year, $800K (plus bonuses)
Grade: A-

This is a solid deal for the Rangers. Wheeler has top-6 upside and at his floor is a good depth scorer on a third line. The bonuses can make the deal worth up to $1.1 million, per reports. Wheeler also brings some size and playoff experience, both things the Rangers need in trying to contend in the East.

Joonas Korpisalo to Senators

Contract: four years, $5 million per season
Grade: C

The Senators “get their goalie” in Korpisalo. Yes, he is in fact a goalie. Ottawa needed someone to soak up starts and Korpisalo is very “mid” as the kids would say. He played well in front of a good defensive Kings team after being dealt by the Jackets before the deadline. The Senators aren’t the Kings, though. Collectively last season, Korpisalo went 18-14-4 with a 2.87 GAA and .914 SV%. Those are fine numbers. If the Sens take a step forward, Korpisalo could have a good season. This feels forced, however. It feels a lot like the Jack Campbell contract with Edmonton from last offseason.

Matt Duchene to Stars

Contract: one-year, $3 million
Grade: A+

When you can land the top forward in the free agent class on a deal like this, you’re getting an A+. The Stars got some help from their location in Texas, where Duchene’s money can go a bit further, plus he’s making decent money from his buyout with the Preds anyway. Duchene can do a one-year deal to try and chase a Cup with the Stars. Duchene should slot in as the second-line center for Dallas and could skate with Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin or Evgenii Dadonov at even strength.