It has been an unusual offseason in the NHL to say the least, with a delay in both the draft and free agency and a flat salary cap. So, which teams have done the best and which have done the worst so far? NoVa Caps takes a look.
After upsetting the Pittsburgh Penguins as the No. 12 seed in the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, the Canadiens were motivated to upgrade their team as they brought in top-six forwards Tyler Toffoli, who recorded 24 goals and 44 points in 68 games with the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings last season, and Josh Anderson, who recorded a goal and four points in 26 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets. They overpaid Anderson by signing the pending restricted free agent $5.5 million over the next seven seasons and they got him at a steep price by giving up center Max Domi, who fit in well with the Canadiens in his two seasons there.
On defense, they added Joel Edmundson, who had a down year with the Carolina Hurricanes as he had a 50.74% Corsi-for percentage and a 47.05% expected goals-for percentage last season. Overall, Edmundson is overall a solid top-four defenseman and he played a key role in the St. Louis Blues’ run to the Stanley Cup in 2019.
The Canadiens also got an upgrade at backup goaltender, acquiring Jake Allen from the Blues after he had a career-year with a 12-6-3 record, a .927 save percentage, a 2.15 goals-against average, and two shutouts in 24 regular-season games. In addition, they re-signed forward Brenden Gallagher to a six-year contract that carries a cap hit of $6.5 million and defenseman Jeff Petry to a four-year contract that pays him $6.25 million annually.
This team appears ready to chase a Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Despite having plenty of room under the NHL salary cap, the Avalanche have had a quiet offseason. Colorado made a couple of solid trades, acquiring defenseman Devon Toews from the New York Islanders and forward Brandon Saad from the Chicago Blackhawks.
Toews, who was picked up in exchange for two second-round picks, tallied six goals, 28 points, a +1 rating, a 49.79% Corsi-for percentage, and a 52.18% expected goals-for percentage in 68 regular-season games this past season.
Saad, who scored 21 goals and 33 points in 58 regular-season games last season, along with defenseman Dennis Gilbert, was added in exchange for defensemen Nikita Zadorov and Anton Lindholm. While they lost forward Vladislav Namestnikov in free agency, Saad should be an adequate replacement.
The Avalanche also nailed their first-round draft pick where they selected defenseman Justin Barron, who already has five assists and a +3 rating in six games with the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads this season, with the 25th overall pick.
With depth in all areas of the ice, the Avalanche are poised to take a run at the Presidents’ Trophy this season.
The Flames lost some key players in defenseman Travis Hamonic, defenseman T.J. Brodie, and center Mark Jankowski in free agency but signed the best goaltender on the market in Jacob Markstrom and added a solid defensive defenseman in Chris Tanev.
Markstrom went 23-16-4 with a .918 save percentage, a 2.75 goals-against average, and two shutouts with the Vancouver Canucks last season. Tanev recorded two goals, 20 points, a +4 rating, a 46.47% Corsi-for percentage, and a 48.16% expected goals-for percentage in 69 games with the Canucks last season.
Calgary also added some depth with the signings of forward Josh Leivo, goaltender Louis Domingue, forward Joakim Nordstrom, defenseman Nikita Nesterov, and forward Dominik Simon. While they have a few openings at defense, the Flames should be fine with youngsters Oliver Kylington and Jusso Valimaki in the system.
The Flames appear ready to take a step forward this season.
The Senators struck gold at the NHL Draft where they had three first-round picks. They selected center Tim Stutzle, who recorded seven goals and 34 points in DEL’s Adler Mannheim last season, at No. 3; defenseman Jake Sanderson, who tallied seven goals and 29 points in 47 games with the United States’ national under-18 team, at No. 5; and center Ridly Greig, who scored 26 goals and 60 points in 56 games with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings last season.
Ottawa also acquired goaltender Matt Murray, who is coming off a down year where he was 20-11-5 with an .899 save percentage, a 2.87 goals-against average, and one shutout but won the Stanley Cup as a rookie twice with the Pittsburgh Penguins to solidify the crease.
In free agency, they signed forward Evgenii Dadonov, who scored 25 goals and 47 points in 69 games with the Florida Panthers last season, and center Alex Galchenyuk, who tallied eight goals and 24 points in 59 games with the Penguins and Minnesota Wild last season.
The Senators also acquired defensemen Erik Gudbranson from the Anaheim Ducks and Josh Brown from the Panthers in addition to forward Austin Watson from the Nashville Predators in separate trades.
This team appears to be trending in the right direction with plenty of talent but it will likely take a while to develop these young players and for their plan to come to fruition. However, they pressed all the right buttons this offseason and should be an exciting team to watch in 2020-21.
Honorable Mention: New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres
The Predators missed out on the sweepstakes for forward Taylor Hall’s services and had a quiet offseason but acquired some depth players in center Brad Richardson, center Luke Kunin, center Nick Cousins, defenseman Matt Benning, and defenseman Mark Borowiecki. Nashville also selected the best goaltender in the draft in Iaroslav Askarov, who has recorded a .960 save percentage and a 1.10 goals-against average in four games with KHL’s SKA St. Petersberg, at No. 11.
However, they lost plenty of forward depth as Nick Bonino, Craig Smith, Mikael Granlund are all out the door, and they also bought out the remaining four seasons on center Kyle Turris’ contract that carried a $6 million cap hit. The Predators will always have their solid defense but they got weaker upfront and did not do anything significant to replace the lost production.
This appears to be a team that will take a step back this season.
After making the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in eight years and replacing GM John Chayka with former Blues’ assistant GM Doug Armstrong, the Coyotes lost Hall for nothing and did not sign make any huge noise as they acquired just forward Tyler Pitlick, center John Hayden, and center Johan Larsson to replace him.
Arizona also lost Richardson, center Carl Soderberg, forward Vinnie Hinostroza, and forward Michael Grabner in free agency. The Coyotes did not have a pick in the first three rounds of the NHL Draft and will not sign their fourth-round pick, forward Mitchell Miller, after reports surfaced that he bullied a disabled African American teenager when he was 16. In addition, they had their second-round pick in 2020 and first-round pick in 2021 forfeited after violating the NHL Combine’s testing policy.
What a nightmare of an offseason in the desert.
After trading goaltender Robin Lehner at the NHL Trade Deadline, the Blackhawks, who declared themselves to be in a rebuild in October, lost goaltender Corey Crawford in free agency and will enter next season with arguably the NHL’s worst goaltending tandem of Colin Delia and Malcolm Subban.
Chicago also lost Saad and defenseman Olli Maatta in separate trades and replaced them with Zadorov, forward Mattias Janmark, center Lucas Wallmark, and defenseman Anton Lindholm.
Just when it seemed the Blackhawks seemed ready to take the next step after upsetting the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers as the No. 12 seed in the Western Conference, they declared a rebuild and have yet to pick up any young players in trades or high draft picks this offseason.
The Panthers lost a top-six forward in free agency in Dadonov and appear to be losing another in Mike Hoffman. They did add forward Patric Hornqvist, which should help replace some of that offense as he recorded 17 goals and 32 points in 52 games last season, but he will almost certainly not come close to matching the production either Hoffman or Dadonov brought.
Florida also made some depth changes, bringing in Hinostroza, center Carter Verhaeghe, center Alex Wennberg, defenseman Radko Gudas, and defenseman Markus Nutivaara, which should help improve the defense which averaged 3.25 goals-against per game last season (the most among the 24 teams that participated in the NHL’s return-to-play plan).
Unfortunately for the Panthers, losing Dadonov and Hoffman could be too big of a hole to dig out of.
Honorable Mentions: Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes
By Harrison Brown