There were lots of losers on UFA day, and the big winners were the teams that did nothing. Among those teams that did act a lot, let's pull out a few qualified winners:
1. Chicago: Montador and Mayers were nothing special, deal-wise. But they also picked up Daniel Carcillo (one year, $775k), Andrew Brunette (one year, $2M), and Sean O'Donnell (one year, $850k.) The downside risk is inconsequential, and the upside is that they get each player's last good season for less than he's worth. They may have improved two wins for $3.5M, which is hard to do. Plus they dumped Brian Campbell's albatross of a contract. Chicago may be the only team that has figured out how to play the game.
2. Washington: They dumped Varlamov - who put them in a position of weakness by refusing to sign - on Colorado for a first round draft pick that may very well be a lottery pick and a second pick. Then they scored a very good goaltender in Tomas Vokoun on a super low-risk one-year, $1.5M contract. Remember, that's the real market for goaltenders, not the garbage that Philadelphia did with Bryzgalov. Getting Joel Ward without overpaying was also a bit of a coup and Roman Hamrlik wasn't a terrible risk. Too bad they blew the advantage by signing Brooks Laich.
3. Dallas: They should have traded Brad Richards instead of going after the 16th seed in the playoffs. But at least they dodged the bullet by not re-signing him, and they signed six players to short-term deals (Vern Fiddler's three-year contract was the only one longer than two years) without making any obvious blunders. Teams with budget restrictions are actually forced into a segment of the market where they can find a lot of value, and Dallas seems to have figured that out for the moment.
I've written before that no NHL GM seems to have figured out how to win long-term under the cap without getting three consecutive lottery picks (like Los Angeles, Washington, Pittsburgh and Chicago) and without a lot of undervalued talent held over from before the lockout (Detroit, Vancouver). This season, we may finally see who has cracked the system.