There has been craziness around the NHL over the last month. With the Expansion Draft, NHL Entry Draft, and the beginning of free agency, there has been a lot of activity around the league.
With so much activity going on, plenty of teams have strengthened their rosters for next season. While some teams have improved, some have had to make a few changes to their rosters because of the salary cap.
Which Metropolitan Division teams have improved during the offseason? Which teams have not changed at all? Which teams have potentially gotten worse? Let’s dive in to the Metropolitan Division and give a letter grade to each team’s offseason.
ANALYSIS: The Hurricanes have had a pretty solid offseason. After they traded for Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling in late April, the Canes also brought in former Blackhawks Marcus Kruger and Trevor van Riemsdyk via separate transactions with the Vegas Golden Knights. The Canes brought back veteran Justin Williams on a 2-year deal to give their forwards a much-needed scoring boost. The Canes did about as much as they could do, as they are not a maximum spending team. If Scott Darling can provide good goaltending consistently for the Hurricanes, the club could be on the playoff bubble in 2017-18.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
ANALYSIS: The Blue Jackets were involved in one of the biggest blockbuster trades during the offseason. In a pre-Draft trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Jackets sent Brandon Saad back to Chicago in exchange for Artemi Panarin. Panarin, 25, has recorded 30+ goals and 70+ points in each of the last 2 seasons in Chicago. In addition to adding Panarin, the Jackets also bought out the rest of Scott Hartnell’s contract. There is no secret around the Blue Jackets organization that the club is searching for offense in their lineup. The Jackets have been one of the clubs that has been linked to a potential Matt Duchene trade.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
ANALYSIS: The Devils have had an outstanding offseason. After landing Nico Hischier with the #1 pick at the Draft, the Devils acquired forward Marcus Johansson in a trade with the Washington Capitals. During free agency, the Devils also brought in veteran forward Brian Boyle who spent last season in Tampa Bay and Toronto. The Devils lineup should have a boost in goal scoring next season, although the defensive core is still the biggest question mark with the team. The Devils will likely be improved, but will likely remain a non-playoff team next season.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
ANALYSIS: The Islanders made a couple of tweaks to their roster during the offseason. Before the Entry Draft, the Islanders sent forward Ryan Strome to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Jordan Eberle. Eberle is expected to play on a line with John Tavares. After the Islanders traded for Eberle, they sent defenseman Travis Hamonic to the Calgary Flames for a bunch of draft picks. While the Islanders got a boost in scoring up front, they lost a quality defenseman who can eat a lot of minutes. The Islanders missed the playoffs in 2016-17, but they will likely be on the playoff bubble again in 2017-18.
NEW YORK RANGERS
ANALYSIS: In a pre-Draft trade, the Rangers sent forward Derek Stepan and goaltender Antti Raanta to the Coyotes in a deal that sent the #7 overall pick to New York. Stepan scored 50+ points in multiple seasons with the Rangers. Antti Raanta served as Henrik Lundqvist’s backup in the last couple of seasons and performed very well in his appearances. While the Rangers lost some scoring up front and lost some quality depth in net, they added defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk in free agency. The New Rochelle, NY native took a discount in terms and money to sign with the Rangers. The Rangers will likely remain in contention in the Metropolitan Division in 2017-18.
ANALYSIS: After landing Nolan Patrick with the #2 overall pick in the NHL Draft, the Flyers sent forward Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Jori Lehtera and 2 draft picks. The Flyers landed a good return for Schenn and they are hopeful that Patrick will be available to them on opening night as he is recovering from a couple of injuries. During free agency, the Flyers let goaltender Steve Mason sign in Winnipeg, but they brought in veteran Brian Elliott to share the net with Michal Neuvirth. The Flyers missed the playoffs in 2016-17, but won their last 6 out of 10 games during the regular season. The Flyers will likely be on the playoff bubble in 2017-18.
ANALYSIS: The Stanley Cup winning Penguins had a pretty quiet offseason, despite some key losses. They lost Nick Bonino to the Nashville Predators, Marc-Andre Fleury to Vegas, Chris Kunitz to Tampa Bay, Ron Hainsey to Toronto, and Matt Cullen to retirement. The Penguins re-upped defenseman Justin Schultz and brought in rugged forward Ryan Reaves in a trade with the St. Louis Blues. With Fleury out of the picture, the Penguins brought in veteran goaltender Antti Niemi to take some games off of Matt Murray’s shoulders. While the Penguins are likely not improved, they are still a leading contender to win the Metropolitan Division in 2017-18.
ANALYSIS: The Capitals have had a long offseason. As changes were expected, there were changes that many were not expecting. With a cap crunch and some key restricted free agents that needed new contracts, the Capitals shed some salary by letting Karl Alzner, Justin Williams, and Kevin Shattenkirk join other clubs in free agency. The Capitals also traded Marcus Johansson to New Jersey in exchange for a couple of draft picks to shed more salary. While the Capitals lost a lot, they have kept their core intact for the long haul. The Capitals chose to not let T.J. Oshie test the open market, as they re-upped him for 8 more years. The Capitals will likely take a step back in 2017-18, as they will have some younger players fill open holes on their roster. Despite some key losses, the Capitals should still remain a playoff team and should contend for the Metropolitan Division lead.
By: George Foussekis