2020 Offseason Report Cards: Central Division

Photo: Couch Guy Sports

As a result of the revenue impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHL salary cap will remain flat for the next three years. The unexpected cap constraint has impacted how companies have managed free agency. NoVa Caps grades each of the 31 teams’ offseasons so far in a four-part series. Today, we review the Central Division teams.

Chicago Blackhawks

In: D Nikita Zadorov, F Mattias Janmark, C Lucas Wallmark, D Anton Lindholm, F Brad Morrisson

Out: G Corey Crawford, D Olli Maatta ($750,108 retained), F Brandon Saad ($1 million retained), F Drake Caggiula, D Dennis Gilbert

Re-signings: G Malcolm Subban, F Dominik Kubalik

First-round pick: F Lukas Reichel

Remaining RFAs: C Dylan Strome

Analysis: Just when it looked like the Blackhawks were taking a step forward after defeating the Edmonton Oilers as the No. 12 seed in the Western Conference, they publicly announced this week that they are opting for a rebuild strategy. Maatta, Saad, and Crawford are all gone, and all that the Blackhawks netted in return for those three are Morrisson, Zadorov, and Lindholm, which is underwhelming. Now with Crawford gone, it appears that they will ride a goalie tandem of Subban, who recorded an .890 save percentage last season, and Colin Delia, who did not even play an NHL game in 2019-20. While the Blackhawks are in a rebuild, they have yet to get any promising young players or draft picks this offseason.

Grade: D

Minnesota Wild

In: G Cam Talbot, D Ian McCoshen, C Nick Bonino, C Nick Bjugstad, F Marcus Johansson

Out: G Devan Dubnyk, C Eric Staal, C Luke Kunin, C Ryan Donato, C Alex Galchenyuk

Re-signings: D Carson Soucy, G Kaapo Kahkonen

First-round pick: C Marco Rossi

Remaining RFAs: N/A

Analysis: The Wild made a big change in net, dealing Dubnyk to the San Jose Sharks after he lost the No. 1 job and bringing Talbot in through unrestricted free agency. They have also made some changes down the middle and while it is understandable that they want to get younger, Staal was not bad last season with 19 goals and 47 points in 66 games and they dealt him for a player that has struggled to stay healthy and is not the player he once was in Johansson. While Bonino had a great year last season with 18 goals, 35 points, and a +17 rating in 67 games, Kunin was not far behind with 15 goals and 31 points in 63 games and is 10 years younger than Bonino. They were able to get a steal by giving up just a seventh-round pick for Bjugstad, who came close to flirting with 50-points in the 2017-18 season but was limited to just 13 games due to injury last season. The Wild have been able to re-sign some quality young players in Soucy and Kahkonen but this offseason has been a bit of a mixed bag for them and they are still lacking the firepower they need to compete.

Grade: C

Winnipeg Jets

In: C Paul Stastny, C Nate Thompson, C Dominic Toninato, D Derek Forbort, D Luca Sbisa

Out: C Cody Eakin, D Dmitry Kulikov, D Anthony Bitetto, F Carl Dahlstrom

Re-signings: G Laurent Brossoit, D Dylan DeMelo, D Nathan Beaulieu

First-round pick: C Cole Perfetti

Remaining RFAs: C Jack Roslovic, C Jansen Harkins, D Sami Niku

Analysis: The Jets were able to take advantage of the Vegas Golden Knights’ cap crunch to bring back Stastny, who recorded four goals and 13 points in 19 games with the team in 2017-18, at the cost of just Dahlstrom and a fourth-round pick and add some defensive depth with the free-agent signing of Forbort. They have not lost any significant pieces this offseason and re-signed their prized trade deadline acquisition in DeMelo. There is still some work to do in Winnipeg as three restricted free agents remain but they have only improved this season.

Grade: B+

Nashville Predators

In: Kunin, C Nick Cousins, C Brad Richardson, D Matt Benning, D Mark Borowiecki

Out: Bonino, F Craig Smith, C Kyle Turris, C Mikael Granlund, F Colin Blackwell, F Austin Watson, D Matt Irwin, D Yannick Weber, D Dan Hamhuis

Re-signings: F Rocco Grimaldi

First-round pick: G Iaroslav Askarov

Remaining RFAs: Kunin

Analysis: The Predators opted to buy out the final four seasons on Turris’ contract to give them some more cap flexibility but have not used that to their advantage yet, though they have reportedly talked to unrestricted free agent forward Mike Hoffman’s camp. They lost a solid two-way forward in Smith, who put up 18 goals and 31 points in 69 games last season. After the trade that brought in Granlund backfired, they opted not to bring him back either. In addition, the Predators lost some depth players and added a couple of fourth-line centers and third-pairing defensemen. On the bright side, they were able to grab the best goaltender in the draft which they could use after Pekka Rinne’s play declined last season and he is one year away from unrestricted free agency.

Grade: D+

Dallas Stars

In: D Mark Pysyk

Out: Janmark, F Corey Perry (maybe), D Roman Polak

Re-signings: G Anton Khudobin, C Radek Faksa

First-round pick: C Mavrik Bourque

Remaining RFAs: C Roope Hintz, F Denis Gurianov

Analysis: After pulling within two wins of the Stanley Cup last season, the Stars made a couple of minor tweaks, adding Pysyk to already one of the league’s top defenses, which held teams to 2.52 goals-per-game last season (second in the NHL). They were able to re-sign Khudobin, who led them to the Final after posting a league-leading .930 save percentage during the regular season at a nice price at $3.33 million per season. The Stars only last a couple of depth pieces but work still remains with two of their top-six forwards currently restricted free agents.

Grade: B

Colorado Avalanche

In: Saad, D Devon Toews

Out: Zadorov, Lindholm, F Vladislav Namestnikov, F Matt Nieto

Re-signings: C Tyson Jost, F Andre Burakovsky, F Valeri Nichushkin, D Ryan Graves

First-round pick: D Justin Barron

Remaining RFAs: Toews, F Vladislav Kamenev

Analysis: The Avalanche were able to add Saad, a five-time 20-goal scorer, to what is already one of the league’s most potent offenses. While they lost Zadorov, they have one of the NHL’s deepest prospect pools at the position with Bowen Byram and Connor Timmins looking to take the next step. They also added one of the league’s best two-way defenseman in Toews to an already impressive group on the blueline. The Avalanche re-signed the league leader in plus-minus in Graves, one of the biggest breakout stars of last season in Burakovsky, and one of the NHL’s best defensive forwards in Nichushkin. This team is going to be scary good.

Grade: A-

St. Louis Blues

In: D Torey Krug, F Kyle Clifford

Out: D Alex Pietrangelo, D Jay Bouwmeester, G Jake Allen

Re-signings: F Sammy Blais

First-round pick: C Jake Neighbours

Remaining RFAs: D Vince Dunn

Analysis: While the loss of Pietrangelo is big for the Blues, they were able to cover the position by signing Krug, who has recorded at least 39 points in each of his first seven NHL seasons and is a very solid defenseman. Clifford was not a bad add for one-year at $1 million, giving the Blues some size and snarl, which is how teams are winning the Stanley Cup in today’s NHL. Losing Allen hurts as they will have to go with Villie Husso as their back-up behind Jordan Binnington, who played 50 games last season (the most of his pro career). Despite losing one of the NHL’s top defensemen and downgrading in goal, the acquisition of Krug should be enough to mount the loss and be a player in the Central Division.

Grade: C+

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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