Chris Young/Canadian Press
It has been three weeks since NHL Free Agency began on July 1. The landscape has changed around a little since the beginning of this important date on the NHL calendar. With the summer in full swing, the NHL regular season is still a couple of months away.
Last week, we took a dive into the Metropolitan Division and how the landscape has changed inside the Division. This week, we are going to dive into the Atlantic Division.
How is the landscape different inside the Atlantic Division? Which teams have improved? Which teams have not improved? Which teams are the same?
The Bruins were busy on July 1, as they signed 7 players to begin free agency. The most notable signing was defenseman John Moore, who signed a 5-year deal to come to Boston from New Jersey. To backup Tuukka Rask, the Bruins brought in veteran Jaroslav Halak, who was last with the New York Islanders. The Bruins won 50 games in 2017-18, and there is no reason why they cannot contend for the top spot in the Atlantic Division in 2018-19.
New Sabres GM Jason Botterill has had a busy offseason. After landing defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with the #1 overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, the Sabres traded star centre Ryan O’Reilly to St. Louis for multiple players and draft picks. The Sabres landed Patrik Berglund, Tage Thompson, and Vladimir Sobotka in the trade with the Blues. In addition to the O’Reilly deal, the Sabres fixed their goaltending issues. They signed Carter Hutton to a 3-year deal, and brought in Scott Wedgewood to add to their depth. The Sabres have made a lot of changes this offseason, but they have accumulated oodles of draft picks and good young prospects. The rebuild is still on in Buffalo, but the future looks very bright.
DETROIT RED WINGS
The Red Wings remained quiet to begin free agency. They re-signed defesnseman Mike Green to a 2-year deal. In addition to bringing back Green, they brought back forward Thomas Vanek in free agency, as they signed him to a 1-year deal. After trading away goaltender Petr Mrazek during the season last year, the Wings addressed their goaltending issue as they brought veteran Jonathan Bernier into the fold for the next 3 years. The Red Wings are staying patient, and are trying to rebuild on the fly. They will likely not be in playoff contention, but like Buffalo, they have accumulated some quality prospects and plenty of draft picks over the last couple of seasons.
The Panthers stayed quiet during the free agency period. After they re-signed forward Jared McCann to a 2-year deal, the Cats brought in veteran goaltender Michael Hutchinson on a short 1-year deal to add to their depth. The Panthers were very close to making the playoffs in 2017-18, as they missed out on the postseason by 1 point. The Panthers will likely be on the playoff bubble again in 2018-19.
During the offseason, the Canadiens attempted to address their forward depth. To begin free agency, the Canadiens brought back veteran centre Tomas Plekanec on a 1-year deal. In addition to signing Plekanec, they also signed Michal Chaput, Matthew Peca, and Kenny Agostino. To the excitement of many fans, the Habs also inked 2018 3rd overall pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi to his 3-year entry deal. The Canadiens are trying to improve up the middle of the ice, and they are trying to booster their goal scoring. Max Pacioretty’s name is still floating in the trade rumors, as he is currently in the final year of his contract. The Canadiens are likely going to be on the outside looking in next season, but Carey Price should keep them hanging around in close games.
It has been a turbulent offseason in Ottawa. After trading away Mike Hoffman before the NHL Draft, the Senators still have not been able to move star defenseman Erik Karlsson. As expected, the Senators stayed quiet in free agency. They signed centre Paul Carey and goaltender Mike McKenna to add depth at those respective positions. The Senators are expected to keep rebuilding, and they will likely continue to accumulate draft picks and prospects over the next few years.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
The Lightning were one of the top teams in the NHL in 2017-18. After advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Lightning fell short in Game 7 to the Washington Capitals. The Lightning remained fairly quiet to begin free agency. Instead of bringing in any high profile free agents, the Lightning re-signed their own players to new deals. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh signed a big 7-year deal to remain in Tampa. In addition to McDonagh, the Lightning re-signed defenseman Slater Koekkoek and forward Cedric Paquette to 1-year deals. The Lightning’s biggest move of the offseason came with the extension of forward Nikita Kucherov as they signed him to a massive 8-year deal worth $76 million. The Lightning were in the Erik Karlsson sweepstakes for a while, but nothing came of the trade rumors. The Lightning should still be serious contenders in 2018-19.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
There was plenty of turnover in Toronto this offseason. They lost forwards James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, and Leo Komarov to other clubs, but they signed John Tavares to a massive 7-year deal worth $77 million. Tavares was the biggest free agent forward that hit the open market this offseason. In addition to Tavares, the Leafs added to their forward depth by signing Tyler Ennis. They also inked defensemen Rasmus Sandin to his 3-year entry level deal. John Tavares is a tremendous player, and will add plenty of depth to the Leafs centre ice position. The Leafs should be a contender to win the Atlantic Division in 2018-19.
By: George Foussekis