An Off-Season Look at the Metropolitan Division (So Far):

metropolitan division

The 2016-17 NHL season begins in 100 days. With the draft and opening of free agency behind us, fans and armchair GMs alike have already begun to assess the state of their favorite team. This offseason has brought a flurry of big name trades, some active NHL Draft movement, and some real head-scratching signings in Free Agency. It’s time to take a ride along the Metro Division to catch you up and to hand out some mid-summer grades.

The format will be simple: 1) Teams are ranked by season finish (Pittsburgh won the Cup, so you do the math), 2) List the players signed in free agency (including retained RFAs), significant trades, players lost (via trade or signing), and add a grade (so far)…Let’s GO!

Pittsburgh Penguins – (eventual) Stanley Cup Champion, 2nd Place in the Metro:

Signed – Steven Oleksy (D) 1-yr deal, Tom Sestito (LW) 1-yr deal
Trades – Sent the rights to Beau Bennett (F) to New Jersey for draft picks
Lost via Free Agency – Jeff Zatkoff (G) to LA, Ben Lovejoy (D) to NJ

Grade – A. A huge freaking “A” because they won the Cup, and they are basically solid up and down the roster for next year. As a die-hard Capitals fan I just have to tip my hat to Jim Rutherford. He came in and did a great job with this team, and if he can move Fleury’s $5.75M cap hit he will truly be a genius.

Washington Capitals – Won the Metro division and President’s Trophy, eliminated in the 2nd round:

Signed – Brett Connolly (RW) from Boston 1-yr deal, re-signed RFA Tom Wilson (RW) to a 2-yr ($4M) deal
Trades – Acquired Lars Eller (C) from Montreal for two 2nd Round picks at the draft
Lost via Free Agency – Jason Chimera (LW) to NYI, Michael Latta (C) to LA, Mike Richards (C) UFA, Mike Weber (D) UFA

Notes: Pending RFAs – Marcus Johansson (LW/C) filed for salary arbitration (2nd straight year), Dmitry Orlov (D) did not elect for arbitration

Grade – B. Not deserving of an “A” because the Capitals have not acquired enough secondary scoring to challenge for the Cup. They lost 20 goals from Chimera, they’ve yet to solve the MoJo debacle, but acquiring Eller will solidify the center position with Backstrom, Kuznetsov, and Beagle. The defense was spotty in the playoffs, but as long as Orpik and Alzner are healthy it should still be a strong core (whether or not mistake-laden Orlov improves).

New York Rangers – Finished 3rd in Metro, eliminated in the 1st round:

Signed – Forwards Michael Grabner 2-yr deal and Nathan Gerbe 1-yr deal, and Adam Clendening (D)
Trades – Acquired Nick Holden (D), traded rights to Keith Yandle (D) to Florida
Lost via Free Agency – Viktor Stalberg (RW) to Carolina

Grade – D. The only thing keeping the Rangers from an “F” is shedding Yandle (always overpaid).  RFAs left are Kevin Hayes, Chris Kreider (filed for arbitration), and JT Miller (filed for arbitration) and their cap hits will rise significantly. The Rangers have 18 players under contract, but they only have $12.4M in cap space to wedge the aforementioned trio of young forwards and defenseman Dylan McIlrath. Look for the Rangers to possibly trade one of the four, or a high-price player like Rick Nash.

New York Islanders – Finished 4th in the Metro, eliminated in the 2nd round:

Signed – Jason Chimera (LW) 2-yr deal, Andrew Ladd (LW) 7-yr deal, PA Parenteau (RW) 1-yr deal, RFA Shane Prince (C) 2-yr deal, Casey Cizikas (C) 5-yr extension, and JF Berube (G) 1-yr deal
Trades – NONE (draft picks only)
Lost via Free Agency – Kyle Okposo (LW) to Buffalo, Frans Nielsen (LW/RW) to Detroit, Matt Martin (RW) to Toronto, Brian Strait (D) to Winnipeg, Marek Zidlicky (D) UFA, Steve Bernier (C) UFA, Eric Boulton (D) retired

Grade – B. Brooklyn has a way of attracting free agents. Maybe it’s the money, or maybe it’s just the New York market. The Isles made a splash landing UFA Andrew Ladd and snatching 20-goals scorer Chimera. With a solid secondary core and decent defense in front of Jaroslav Halak, the Islanders should continue to pursue a playoff berth, and maybe surprise some.

Philadelphia Flyers – Finished 5th in the Metro, eliminated in the 1st round:

Signed – Dale Weise (RW) 4-yr deal, Boyd Gordon (C) 1-yr deal, TJ Brennan (D) 2-yr deal, Andy Miele (C)  1-yr deal, extended Radko Gudas (D) for 4-yrs
Trades – NONE (draft picks only)
Lost via Free Agency – RJ Umberger (C) was bought out (becomes UFA), Sam Gagner (RW) UFA, Yevgeni Medvedev (D) UFA

Grade – F. The Flyers have some big (bloated) contracts and not enough fire-power down the roster. Having up and comers like Gostisbehere and Couturier helps a lot, but they still need to re-sign Braydon Schenn and Brandon Manning.  Simply adding bit parts like Dale Weise and Boyd Gordon won’t win them a division, let alone a Stanley Cup.

Carolina Hurricanes – Finished 6th in the Metro, did not qualify for the playoffs:

Signed – Lee Stempniak (RW) 2-yr deal (note Carolina will be his 10th NHL stop), Viktor Stalberg (LW) 1-yr deal, re-signed Cam Ward (G) 2-yr deal
Trades – Acquired forwards Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen from Chicago for draft picks
Lost via Free Agency – James Wisniewski (D) bought out (becomes UFA), Nathan Gerbe (F) to NYR

Grade – C. Having acquired Bickell and Teravainen will help the Hurricanes front lines, and if they can bring RFAs Victor Rask and Brendan Woods back on the cheap they will have decent depth for a very low salary cap number. The Hurricanes retained former franchise goalie Cam Ward as veteran depth, and have young talent in Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm. They may not be a playoff contender for a couple years, but they should have a good core to develop.

New Jersey Devils – Finished 7th in the Metro, did not qualify for the playoffs:

Signed – Sergei Kalinin (RW) 1-yr deal, Jacob Josefson (C) 1-yr deal, Luke Gazdic (LW) 1-yr deal, Devante Smith-Pelly (RW) 2-yr deal, Jon Merrill (D) 1-yr deal, Ben Lovejoy (D) 3-yr deal, Vernon Fiddler (C) 1-yr deal
Trades – Acquired Taylor Hall (LW) in a lop-sided trade with Edmonton for (D) Adam Larsson, Beau Bennett acquired from Pittsburgh (RFA rights, signed to a 1-year deal)
Lost via Free Agency – Patrik Elias (LW) UFA, Tuomo Ruutu (RW) UFA, Jordin Tootoo (RW) to Chicago, Lee Stempniak (LW) to Carolina, David Schlemko (D) to San Jose

Grade – A. Anytime a GM can get a top overall pick like Taylor Hall for a one-dimensional defenseman, you get an “A” in my book. Having missed key players Jiri Tlusty, Tuomo Ruutu, Patrik Elias, and goalie Cory Schneider to long-term injuries last year hurt. However, the roster got younger, healthier, and faster this offseason and I feel they may shock some Eastern Conference teams next year with their tenacity and skill.

Columbus Blue Jackets – Finished 8th in the Metro, did not qualify for the playoffs: 

Signed – Seth Jones (D) 6-yr contract extension, Pierre-Luc DuBois (LW) 3-yr deal, William Karlsson (C) 2-yr contract extension
Trades – Acquired Scott Harrington (D) from Toronto for Kerby Rychel (LW)
Lost via Free Agency – Fedor Tyutin (D) bought out and became UFA (signed with Colorado), Jared Boll (RW) bought out and became UFA (signed with Anaheim)

Grade – D. Hanging onto defense prospect Seth Jones will not be enough to be competitive. The Blue Jackets need to trade a bad veteran contract like Scott Hartnell in order to bring in a high powered scoring forward. This team is very young, and you can expect them to be in a “building phase” for quite a while.

A Quick Recap of the Grades:
A: Pittsburgh and New Jersey,
B: Washington and New York Islanders,
C: Carolina,
D: New York Rangers and Columbus,
F: Philadelphia

By Scott Zweibel

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