Photo: Sports Illustrated
General Managers around the NHL have been busy in the past year with free agency, trades, and the draft. While some teams like the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators have added superstars such as forward Joe Pavelski and center Matt Duchene, respectively, others have been unloading contracts in an effort towards rebuilding. NoVa Caps grades every GM’s performance by division since the end of the 2017-18 season. Today, we conclude our series with the Central Division.
In: Duchene, Mikael Granlund, Steven Santini, Jeremy Davies, Rocco Grimaldi, Dan Hamhuis
Out: P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, Ryan Hartman, Kevin Fiala, Pontus Aberg, Mike Fisher, Scott Hartnell, Cody McLeod, Anthony Bitetto, Alexei Emelin
The Predators brought back the same roster from their Presidents’ Trophy victory in 2017-18 but made some tweaks from the trade deadline into free agency, acquiring Duchene and Granlund while shipping out Subban, Hartman, and Fiala. Despite the turnover, the offense and power-play (which was last in the NHL last season) improve while rookie defenseman Dante Fabbro will likely slot in for Subban. With Duchene, goaltender Pekka Rinne, forward Victor Arvidsson, and captain Roman Josi still there, the Predators are still among the top contenders in the West.
In: Bitteto, Neal Pionk, Nathan Beaulieu, Laurent Brossoit
Out: Jacob Trouba, Kevin Hayes, Brandon Tanev, Matt Hendricks, Par Lindholm, Nic Petan, Ben Chiarot, Tyler Myers, Paul Stastny, Joel Armia, Marko Dano, Brendan Lemieux, Shawn Matthias, Tobias Enstrom, Joe Morrow, Michael Hutchinson, Steve Mason
The Jets have gone over a lot of roster turnover after falling to the Vegas Golden Knights in five games in the 2018 Western Conference Final, losing Trouba, Myers, Armia, Tanev, and Enstrom while picking up just two mediocre defensemen, a seventh defenseman, and a backup goalie in return. The Jets have a lot of talent with a core that includes center Mark Schiefele, defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, forward Patrik Laine, and goaltender Connor Hellebyuck but lack depth on the backend. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, who still needs to re-sign Laine and forward Kyle Connor as both are currently restricted free agents, has turned this team from one of the top teams in the West to a bubble team in just over a year.
In: Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Bozak, Chad Johnson, David Perron, Jordan Nolan, Andreas Borgman, Head Coach Craig Berube
Out: Pat Maroon, Nikita Soshnikov, Chris Thorburn, Michael Del Zotto, Chris Butler, Jordan Schmaltz, Jakub Jerabek, Head Coach Mike Yeo
The Blues arguably had the best offseason last summer, acquiring O’Reilly, Bozak, Perron, Johnson, and Maroon and got rewarded for it as they won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. They have not had any major turnover this summer, losing just Maroon from their Game 7 lineup against the Boston Bruins in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. If goaltender Jordan Binnington proves that he is the real deal this season, the Blues will be contenders once again.
In: Pavelski, Corey Perry, Anton Khudobin, Andrej Sekera, Andrew Cogliano, Blake Comeau, Taylor Fedun, Roman Polak, Jamie Oleksiak, Head Coach Jim Montgomery
Out: Hamhuis, Mats Zuccarello, Jason Spezza, Erik Condra, Valeri Nichushkin, Marc Methot, Kari Lehtonen, Tyler Pitlick, Brett Ritchie, Antoine Roussel, Greg Pateryn, Devin Shore, Gemel Smith, Connor Carrick, Ben Lovejoy, Adam Cracknell, Curtis McKenzie, Mike McKenna, Head Coach Ken Hitchcock
The Stars have bolstered their defensive depth the past couple of years with the additions of Oleksiak, Polak, and Sekera and their top-six forward group with the acquisitions of Pavelski and Perry. They also found a solid backup goaltender in Khudobin. Together, the Stars have formed one of the league’s elite bluelines and improved an offense that already features Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov. After pushing the Blues to double overtime in Game 7 of the second round, the Stars look poised to take a big step forward this year.
In: Nazem Kadri, Philipp Grubauer, Joonas Donskoi, Andre Burakovsky, Calle Rosen, Bowen Byram, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Matt Calvert, Ian Cole, Kevin Connauton, Ryan Graves
Out: Comeau, Grimaldi, Tyson Barrie, Semyon Varlamov, Carl Soderberg, Alexander Kerfoot, Sven Andrighetto, Patrik Nemeth, Gabriel Bourque, Nail Yakapov, Chris Bigras, Jonathan Bernier
The Avalanche have acquired some big pieces in Kadri, Grubauer, Bellemare, and Cole to upgrade their roster over the past year. While losing Barrie will likely hurt, Colorado has a lot of skilled defensemen in the pipeline like Byram, the fourth overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. They are deep up front and on the backend but could use a proven backup goalie as Grubauer has never started more than 33 games in his career and just hit the 30-game mark once (last season).
In: Robin Lehner, Olli Maatta, Calvin de Haan, Dylan Strome, Ryan Carpenter, Brendan Perlini, Andrew Shaw, Zack Smith, Drake Caggiula, Alexander Nylander, Slater Keokkeok, Aleksi Saarela
Out: Artem Anisimov, Dominik Kahun, Nick Schmaltz, Henri Jokiharju, Cam Ward, John Hayden, Marcus Kruger, Andreas Marthinsen, Chris Kunitz, Anton Forsberg, Gustav Forsling, Brandon Davidson, Brandon Manning, Jan Rutta, Lance Bouma, Anthony Duclair, Vinnie Hinostroza, Tomas Jurco, Tanner Kero, Patrick Sharp, Tommy Wingels, Cody Franson, Jordan Oesterle, J.F. Berube, Jeff Glass
The Blackhawks have revamped their defense with the acquisitions of Maatta and de Haan after allowing 291 goals last season, the second-most in the NHL (Ottawa Senators: 301). They also acquired goaltending support in Lehner after Corey Crawford appeared in only 28 and 39 games, respectively, in the past two seasons. They also improved their offense with the additions of Strome, Perlini, and Caggiula. Chicago has made the moves necessary to get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after missing in each of the past two years but it’ll be tough to make a deep run with other teams in the West improving as well.
In: Zuccarello, Hartman, Fiala, Pateryn, Ryan Donato, Victor Rask, Brad Hunt, J.T. Brown, Matt Bartkowski
Out: Granlund, Aberg, Hendricks, Bitetto, Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, Eric Fehr, Matt Read, Ryan Murphy
The Wild have improved their offense this offseason with the additions of Zuccarello and Hartman but could use another bottom-six forward. Donato was a nice add as well. A couple of the pieces that they acquired in Rask and Fiala struggled to fit in after the respective trades but they should be better this season with a summer of training under their belts. Their defense is looking pretty good and they have a solid No. 1 netminder in Devan Dubnyk. The Wild should be competitive this season but with an aging core and other teams in the West improving, their acquisitions in the past few months may not be enough to get them back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after missing out in 2019.
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By Harrison Brown