Every year free agency comes and goes in the NHL, the MLB, the WNBA, and now, the NWHL. And every year we learn something new. Fans follow along closely, pounding their fists on the table and howling at anyone who will listen that their team overpaid some moron / is going to win it all / is going to lose it all / will never be as great as it was X seasons ago.
Obviously, until the season starts, this is just speculation. All we can do is attempt to make some sense of what direction a team is going in, study the general manager’s moves, and nod our heads wisely.
Yes, we knew of that coach’s penchant for right-handed defenders. Yes, we knew the cap was going to hinder that general manager. And, yes, we knew that moron would get overpaid.
But we don’t know everything, and every year brings a bit of new information, carefully curated by studying a GM’s moves and player signings. So, when it comes to the Boston Pride, what did we learn in free agency?
Success is attractive
There’s simply no other way to put this. General manager Hayley Moore’s Boston Pride had an incredible inaugural season, taking home nearly every award there was to win, from the Isobel Cup to the winningest season, best defender, best goaltender, and probably best haircut, too.
That kind of success draws others of similar ability or similar drive and typically makes your group even stronger, faster, or more fashion-forward, depending on what someone’s going for.
While the Pride lost out on two truly excellent draft picks when Kendall Coyne decided to join the Minnesota Whitecaps and Emerance Maschmeyer elected for her home country’s CWHL over the strictly U.S.-based NWHL, Boston still managed to add high-skill players.
Alex Carpenter, Meghan Duggan and Lexi Bender joined Boston, all attracted by the idea of playing for a high-powered team in the Boston area, all able to bring something of their own to the ice.
Duggan and Carpenter are two particularly snazzy additions to the jewel-encrusted sweater that is the Boston Pride. Hilary Knight, Briana Decker and Kacey Bellamy weren’t enough for this team; it had to add the Olympian also known as “Captain America” and the woman who scored the gold-medal goal in the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Championships. These two have skill coming out their ears.
Duggan juggled NWHL and coaching commitments at Merrimack last season, appearing in only 13 games for the Buffalo Beauts. Despite that, she tallied 16 points overall and added another assist in the postseason. A Boston native, she brings playmaking and scoring ability to the team and a tenacity that few have. When Duggan wants the puck on her stick, it’s near to impossible for anyone else to keep it on theirs.
Carpenter is similarly tenacious but is at the other end of her Olympic career right now and has room to grow. While Duggan, at 29, is facing what could be her last Olympic Games, Carpenter is entering her second at just 22 years of age and likely will be sticking around for quite awhile.
Her incredible goal-scoring touch won her the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as a junior at Boston College; she’s sure to shore up the Pride’s offense (if it needed any help). The Pride saw not only the highest number of returning players across the league, many of whom are U.S. national team players, it also added some exceptional players to its roster.
Winning is worth a pay cut
Moore played it smart this offseason, awarding solid, but not unsurprising contracts. She had room to give more than one player a raise but when it came to the national team players (of which this team has seven), a bit of community spirit was asked for — and she got it.
The salary cap held steady at $270,000, but the NWHL dropped its rostered positions from 18 to 17, meaning deep cuts weren’t necessary. However, several players took slightly smaller salaries this year.
While not everyone’s salaries dropped, or dropped by much, Boston’s top-dollar roster players took a hit.
This lesson could also be interpreted as “teammates are worth a pay cut,” considering that the smaller salaries taken by Olympians and national team players went to rewarding and re-signing teammates at depth positions (like Jillian Dempsey) or signing Olympic players like Carpenter and Duggan, the latter of whom relocated to Boston to train and play with her national team teammates.
Regardless, while national team or Olympic team teammates elsewhere in Buffalo, Connecticut and New York were given raises in order to lure them back to the NWHL for a second season, much of the high-end talent in Boston re-signed with the team for a little less than last season in order to spread the wealth around and build a better team.