Believe it or not, the NHL season starts in less than a month and a half.
Moves could happen and it’s very possible Rasmus Ristolianen is on a new team by the start of training camp, but most teams are relatively set so I figured this is a good time to recap what’s happened.
Metro Revival– The Metro Division saw two rebuilds get major boosts with the New Jersey Devils drafting Jack Hughes #1 overall, adding P.K. Subban for pennies on the dollar, and acquiring Wayne Simmons on a smart deal. They also grabbed highly-regarded prospect Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights. The Devils aren’t messing around and they could be a very interesting team to watch this season.
The New York Rangers added Kaapo Kakko at #2 overall in the draft and acquired defenseman Jacob Trouba from Winnipeg, youngster Adam Fox, and free-agent prize Artemi Panarin. Both New Jersey and New York already had good youth movements underway, but these additions really speed up both teams’ windows. Add in the Philadelphia Flyers‘ addition of Kevin Hayes and Matt Niskanen and it makes the tough Metro division more crowded than ever.
Dallas Aims High– The Stars were the winner in the Joe Pavelski sweepstakes and he adds a good extra punch to a strong Dallas offense. Additionally, the Stars bought low on former Ducks star Corey Perry, which could turn out to be a nice signing if Perry can find any of his former game.
Sergei Bobrovsky/Panthers Short Term– Bobrovksy’s 7-year, $70-million contract is a landmark win for goalies whose salaries have been stagnant. For Bob, he has gone from an undrafted free agent to a record free-agent goalie deal. For the Panthers in the short-term, they grab one of the NHL’s best netminders to hopefully put them back in contention, although the last years of his contract could be a major cap issue.
NHL Free Agency- For another offseason, the NHL had some truly big names hit the market with Panarin going to NY, Matt Duchene going to the Nashville Predators, Pavelski to the Stars, and big trades such as the Toronto Maple Leafs trading Nazem Kadri to the Colorado Avalanche for Tyson Barrie.
Columbus Exodus: There is no nice way to put it other than Columbus is a disaster. Duchene, Panarin, and Bobrovsky all walked for nothing as did Ryan Dzingel, who they thought was staying. The Nyquist signing is a bandaid on a surgical size hole. The playoff run was nice and they have some good young kids on the roster like Seth Jones, but there has to be buyer’s remorse to give up as much as Columbus did to make the playoffs and receive nothing in return.
Offer Sheets- Exactly one offer sheet was signed, which Sebastian Aho did with Montreal. Unfortunately, all the Canadians did was help give Carolina a discount on their best player, who they quickly matched. Other than that, no other offer sheet was signed, leaving incredible talents like Mitch Marner, Brayden Point, and Mikko Rantanen to sit in the open. In the case of Point, it has been said he doesn’t want to leave Tampa Bay, which makes thing even more frustrating for fans if players won’t even sign offer sheets. For what was supposed to be the great offer-sheet summer it came up as a dud.
Vegas Golden Knights– For the first time since their inception, Vegas felt the pain of the salary cap, losing Collin Miller and winger Eric Haula along with two other strong role players in Edouard Bellemare and Ryan Carpenter. With the salary cap forced trade of touted prospect Nikita Gusev to New Jersey, the Knights don’t have the same otherworldly depth as before. They still are a top contender in the West but they finally might be a little mortal like everyone else.
Pittsburgh’s Offseason- The Penguins started by moving on from Phil Kessel, who has averaged 28 goals and 81 pts and was a big part of their Stanley Cup wins. They did get Alex Galchenyuk back in that deal and freed up cap space. They used some of that space to sign Brandon Tanev to a 6-year deal worth $3.5 million. Olli Maatta, a very solid defenseman for the Pens, was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for Dominik Kahun, a youngster with talent but a lesser player currently then Maatta. All of the moves Pittsburgh made offer some form of questioning. It’s hard to see how they are any better of a team after all said and done.
Minnesota Wild– Minnesota has since fired their GM Paul Fenton after they allowed him to sign Mats Zuccarello to a big five-year deal in free agency so he can join an aging roster with very little youth. The Wild are in that really tough place for a franchise where the window to win has shut but you’re good enough to make the playoffs if everything goes right. Instead, they made a signing with big money as if they were a contender and now a new GM has to clean up the mess with less cap space. In sports, the worst thing you can be is rudderless and the Wild are very much that.
Islanders’ goaltending situation– They let Robin Lehner walk after a Vezina-caliber year under the belief they didn’t need to overpay in net …. and then signed Semyon Varlamov to a four-year $20-million dollar deal. If you were that confident in not paying Lehner why would you spend more for Varlamov, who is as much a question mark as Lehner in terms of long term future?
Calgary Trading James Neal for Milan Lucic- The Calgary Flames have built a great team that is young and should have a few cracks at a Cup in the future. They signed James Neal for too much last year but he at least is a serviceable hockey player. Trading him to Edmonton for Milan Lucic made absolutely no sense.