The NHL is now in the deep end of the summer, just two weeks removed after the Free Agency period begun. The 2018-19 NHL regular season begins on October 3.
The Washington Capitals are coming off a Stanley Cup victory, and have undergone some changes during the summer months. Like the Capitals, all of the other Metropolitan Division clubs have undergone some changes too. The Metropolitan Division is as tough and competitive as it has ever been, and the trend should continue in 2018-19.
After the first couple weeks of the free agency period, how do the clubs look? Which teams improved, and which teams did not improve?
The Hurricanes have made a few adjustments to their roster this offseason. They sent Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm to Calgary in a big deal that brought back Michael Ferland and Dougie Hamilton. The Hurricanes also signed former Islanders defenseman Calvin De Haan to a 4-year contract, and solidified their goaltending by adding Petr Mrazek to a 1-year deal. The Hurricanes will still need to find a solution for Jeff Skinner, as he is on the last year of his current contract. With a surplus of defensemen in the system, the Hurricanes could still look to add to their forward group.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
The Blue Jackets have been quiet during summer. They added forwards Riley Nash and Anthony Duclair to the mix at the open of free agency. In addition to their free agent adds, they re-signed Ryan Murray, Boone Jenner, and Oliver Bjorkstrand to new deals. Artemi Panarin has been rumored to be in the trade winds, as he is on the last year of his current deal. In addition to Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Zach Werenski are also in the final years of their deals. The Jackets have some big decisions coming up, but should remain in the playoff mix if they can keep their core players around for some more years.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Like the Blue Jackets, the Devils have remained quiet during the free agency period. They added defenseman Eric Gryba in free agency to replace the loss of John Moore. In addition to Gryba, they re-signed forwards Blake Coleman and Stefan Noesen. The Devils have always taken a quiet approach into free agency, as they are continuing to build through the Draft.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
With John Tavares leaving to go home to Toronto, the Islanders were busy at the start of free agency. With Barry Trotz now behind the bench, the Islanders tried to replace some of the scoring that Tavares takes with him. They added forwards Valtteri Filppula, Leo Komarov, Jan Kovar, and Ross Johnston to the mix. The Islanders also tried to fix their goaltending situation by adding Robin Lehner to the mix. In addition to the busy free agent moves, the Islanders re-signed Thomas Hickey to a 4-year deal. The Islanders have kept busy, but with John Tavares leaving town, they could be on the outside looking in for the postseason.
NEW YORK RANGERS
The Rangers have been quiet during free agency. The Rangers added former Senators defenseman Fredrik Claesson in free agency. They also re-signed multiple restricted free agent players to new deals. It is rebuilding time in New York, as they also have a new Head Coach with David Quinn. The Rangers did not make any splashy moves at the start of free agency, and will look to continue to insert new young players into their lineup in 2018-19.
The Flyers welcomed back forward James van Riemsdyk to the mix after he signed a 5-year, $35 million deal with the club. He spent the last 6 seasons in Toronto. Van Riemsdyk is coming off a 36-goal campaign in 2017-18, and will bring a much-needed scoring boost for the Flyers. In addition to van Riemsdyk, the Flyers added defensive depth by signing Christian Folin to a 1-year deal. The Flyers are still not out of the clear, as Wayne Simmonds, Travis Konecny, and Ivan Provorov are in the final year of their respective deals. In addition to the skaters, the Flyers two netminders Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth are also in the final year of their contracts. The Flyers added a quality goal scorer to their mix, and that should only help them moving forward.
GM Jim Rutherford brought in some familiar faces to the mix during free agency. He signed defenseman Jack Johnson to a 5-year deal. He also added veteran Matt Cullen back into the mix. While there were some rumors about Phil Kessel being on the move, all seems to be very quiet on that front now. The Penguins should remain in playoff contention next season, and could very well be one of the Stanley Cup favorites again.
The Capitals did not do anything earth shattering at the start of free agency. They let Jay Beagle walk to Vancouver, but they added Nic Dowd to the mix for the roster. The Capitals re-signed many of their own players that they had during their Stanley Cup Final run. Fans will see the return of players like Devante Smith-Pelly, Michal Kempny, and John Carlson. The Capitals still have to negotiate a new deal with Tom Wilson, but indications say that talks are very positive between all sides.
By: George Foussekis