2021 Offseason Grades: Central Division

Photo: NHL via Getty Images

With the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, entry draft, and most of the top free-agents signed this offseason, teams have moved up and down. How has each team faired? NoVa Caps grades each team’s offseason to date. We graded each of the Pacific Division’s teams’ offseason earlier this week. Today, we look at each Central Division team’s offseason.

Note: The grade reflects how much each team saw their roster improve (or worsen) and how it impacts the team’s outlook for next year.


Key:

A – greatly improved present and future outlook

B – improved present and future outlook but not dramatically

C – stood pat (C+, it was fine to do so; C-, should have been more active)

D – got worse in present and/or future

F – got significantly worse in present and/or future

Arizona Coyotes

In: C Jay Beagle, C Travis Boyd, LW Ryan Dzingel, LW Loui Eriksson, RW Dmitrij Jaskin, LW Andrew Ladd, LW Antoine Roussel, LHD Shayne Gostisbehere, RHD Anton Stralman, RHD Connor Timmins, G Carter Hutton, LHD Ben Hutton, G Josef Korenar

Out: RW Conor Garland, LHD Oliver Ekman-Larsson, LHD Alex Goligoski, C Derick Brassard, LW Michael Bunting, RW Tyler Pitlick, LHD Jordan Oesterle,  LW Dryden Hunt, C John Hayden, LHD Niklas Hjalmarsson, RHD Jason Demers, C Michael Chaput, G Darcy Kuemper, G Antti Raanta, G Adin Hill

Re-signings: Timmins, RHD Ilya Lybushkin

First-round pick: LW Dylan Guenther

Remaining RFAs: N/A

 

The Coyotes have taken on some bad contracts this offseason with the acquisition of Beagle, Eriksson, Ladd, Roussel, Gostisbehere, and Stralman in an effort to accumulate high draft picks. They’ve secured five second-round picks in the 2022 NHL Draft as a result.

Arizona has also signed some low-risk forwards with the additions of Boyd (who earned five goals and 10 points in 39 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks last season), Jaskin (38 goals and 60 points in 59 KHL games), and Dzingel (eight goals and 13 points in 40 games with the Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senators).

The Coyotes were able to get the ninth overall pick and a second-rounder from the Canucks to take on Beagle, Roussel, and Eriksson’s contracts for this season and did not have to give up anything for the Canucks to take Ekman-Larsson’s huge deal (though retained $990,000 of his cap hit).

Arizona also took advantage of the Colorado Avalanche’s desperation to acquire a goaltender after Philipp Grubauer signed a five-year contract with the Kraken, moving Kuemper in exchange for a first-round pick, a third-round pick, and Timmins (who earned seven assists, a +7 rating, a 57.14% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 57.54% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 56.7% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 31 games last season).

The Coyotes lost all three goaltenders from last season and will go into this year with one of the NHL’s worst goalie tandems in Korenar (who went 3-5-0 with an .899 save percentage and a 3.17 goals-against average in eight games with San Jose Sharks last season) and Carter Hutton (1-10-1, .886 save percentage, 3.47 goals-against average in 13 games with Buffalo Sabres). But they got a massive haul for Kuemper and got the Sharks to overpay for Hill, who took over the No. 1 job in Arizona down the stretch last season, with a second-round pick.

The offseason has not been perfect in the desert though as the Coyotes lost Bunting (who earned 10 goals and 13 points in 21 games) for nothing in free agency, but the team has had a solid start to their rebuild.

Grade: A

Chicago Blackhawks

In: G Marc-Andre Fleury, RHD Seth Jones, LHD Caleb Jones, C Tyler Johnson, LW Jujhar Khiara, LHD Jake McCabe

Out: C Pius Suter, RHD Adam Boqvist, LHD Duncan Keith, RW Vinnie Hinostroza, C David Kampf, LHD Nikita Zadorov

Re-signings: Seth Jones, LW Brandon Hagel, C Henrik Borgstrom, C Adam Gaudette

First-round pick: LHD Nolan Allan

Remaining RFAs: RW Alex Nylander

The Blackhawks were able to get the reigning Vezina Trophy winner in Fleury, who went 26-10-0 with a .928 save percentage (third in NHL), a 1.98 goals-against average (third), and six shutouts (tied for third) last season, for a prospect who will likely never play for the Vegas Golden Knights.

They also got a third-round pick and Caleb Jones (who earned four assists, a -7 rating, a 49.19% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 50.04% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 44.78% scoring chances-for percentage in 33 games) for the Edmonton Oilers to take on the final two seasons of Keith’s lucrative contract.

The Blackhawks also secured a second-round pick from the Tampa Bay Lightning to take on Johnson’s $5 million cap hit for the next three seasons.

Chicago also made changes to their forward depth with the addition of Khiara and the losses of Kampf and Hinostroza and garnered a third-round pick from the Calgary Flames for Zadorov.

The Blackhawks signed McCabe, who tallied a goal, three points, a 57.02% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 61.97% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 55.86% scoring chances-for percentage last season. But $4.1 million for the next four years is a bit expensive for a player who suited up for just 13 games last season.

While there is a lot to like about the Blackhawks’ offseason, it wasn’t perfect as they let Suter, who earned 14 goals and 27 points in 55 games, go for nothing as the organization did not tender the restricted free agent a qualifying offer, and they gave up Boqvist (one of their promising young defensemen), two first-round picks, and a second-rounder to acquire Seth Jones, who finished last season with recorded five goals, 28 points, a -18 rating, a 48.22% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 45.52% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 46.09% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 56 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Overall, there was a lot of stuff to like in Chicago this offseason but a couple of questionable moves.

Grade: B-

Dallas Stars

In: G Braden Holtby, LHD Ryan Suter, C Luke Glendening, LW Michael Raffl, LHD Andreas Borgman, RHD Jani Hakanpaa, RHD Alexander Petrovic

Out: LHD Jamie Oleksiak, C Andrew Cogliano, C Justin Dowling, RHD Mark Pysyk, C Jason Dickinson, RHD Sami Vatanen

Re-signings: LW Joel Kiviranta, LW Blake Comeau, C Tanner Kero, C Rhett Gardner, LHD Miro Heiskanen

First-round pick: C Wyatt Johnston

Remaining RFAs: N/A

It has been a good offseason in Dallas as they acquired Holtby, who went a career-worst 7-11-3 record, .889 save percentage, and a 3.67 goals-against average with the Vancouver Canucks last season, and Suter, who recorded three goals, 19 points, a +9 rating, a 47.85% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 52.74% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 52.17% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 56 games with the Minnesota Wild, in free agency.

The Stars also added some depth up front and on the back end. Glendening earned six goals and 15 points in 54 games with the Detroit Red Wings last season; Raffl had four goals and 11 points in 44 games with the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals; and Hakanpaa recorded two goals, four points, a +4 rating, a 48.76% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 48.76% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 47.1% scoring chances-for percentage in 57 games with the Anaheim Ducks and Carolina Hurricanes.

Dallas picked up a third-round pick to send Dickinson to Vancouver and escaped the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft without losing a vital piece of their roster this season as Oleksiak was set to become an unrestricted free agent.

The Stars had a pretty good offseason but now the focus becomes trimming goalies as they have three under contract in Holtby, Anton Khudobin, and Ben Bishop and another in Jake Oettinger up and coming.

Grade: B

St. Louis Blues

In: LW Pavel Buchnevich, LW Brandon Saad

Out: LHD Vince Dunn, LW Mike Hoffman, LW Jaden Schwartz, C Tyler Bozak, LW Sammy Blais, LHD Carl Gunnarsson, LW Jacob de la Rose

Re-signings: Buchnevich, RW Jordan Kyrou, C Ivan Barbashev, LW Zach Sanford

First-round pick: C Zachary Bolduc

Remaining RFAs: RW Robert Thomas

The Blues brought in Buchnevich, who finished last season with 20 goals and 48 points in 54 games last season, from the New York Rangers at a pretty cheap price as he only cost them a second-round pick and Blais and Saad, who tallied 15 goals and 24 points in 44 games with the Avalanche. The Blues brought in the forward to replace Hoffman and Schwartz.

St. Louis is also bracing for the potential loss of left-wing Vladimir Tarasenko, who requested a trade in July and is expected to be dealt ahead of the season opener. Losing Dunn in the expansion draft is a blow for the Blues but one that they saw coming. They also lost Bozak and two depth pieces in Gunnarsson and de la Rose in free agency. The Blues still need to re-sign Thomas, who finished last season with three goals and 12 points in 33 games.

Grade: C+

Winnipeg Jets

In: LHD Brenden Dillon, C Riley Nash, LHD Nate Schmidt, G Eric Comrie, C Luke Johnson

Out: C Mason Appleton, LW Mathieu Perreault, LHD Derek Forbort, RW Trevor Lewis, LW Nate Thompson, RHD Tucker Poolman, LHD Jordie Benn, G Laurent Brossoit

Re-signings: C Paul Stastny, LHD Logan Stanley, RHD Neal Pionk

First-round pick: C Chaz Lucius

Remaining RFAs: C Andrew Copp

The Jets upgraded their defense with the additions of Dillon, who tallied two goals, 19 points, a +15 rating, a 50.40% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 51.56% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 51.97% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in 56 games with the Capitals last season, and Schmidt, who earned five goals, 15 points, a -7 rating, a 45.34% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 45.56% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 43.41% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 54 games with the Canucks. Though, they slightly overpaid for Dillon as they gave up two second-round picks to acquire him.

Nash provides the Jets with a solid fourth-line shutdown center who recorded two goals and seven points in 37 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2020-21 and Comrie gives them some goalie depth beyond Connor Hellebuyck.

The loss of Appleton to the Seattle Kraken was a tough blow but the Jets re-signed Stastny, who earned 13 goals and 29 points in 56 games last season, for another year and did not lose anyone else significant.

The Jets certainly improved their backend but their forward group looks weaker than it did last season and they still have to re-sign Copp, who recorded 15 goals and 39 points in 55 games last season.

Grade: B

Nashville Predators

In: C Cody Glass, RHD Philippe Myers, RHD Matt Tennyson, G David Rittich, RW Matt Luff

Out: RHD Ryan Ellis, G Pekka Rinne, RW Calle Jarnkrok, RW Viktor Arvidsson, C Erik Haula, C Brad Richardson, RHD Erik Gudbranson, LHD Jarred Tinordi, LHD Luca Sbisa, RHD Tyler Lewington

Re-signings: C Mikael Granlund, LW Mathieu Olivier, RHD Dante Fabbro, LHD Ben Harpur

First-round pick: LW Zachary L’Heureux

Remaining RFAs: LW Eeli Tolvanen, G Jusse Saros

The Predators took part in one of the summer’s biggest deals that sent Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers that got them Glass, who recorded four goals and 10 points in 27 games with the Vegas Golden Knights, and Myers, who earned one goal, 11 points, a -10 rating, a 54.19% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 51.44% expected goals-for percentage, and a 52.42% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 44 games with the Flyers.

To protect five defensemen (including Dante Fabbro, who found himself as a healthy scratch come Stanley Cup Playoff time), the Predators were willing to expose Jarnkrok, whose 13 goals tied the team lead and 28 points ranked third.

To replace Rinne, who retired, the Predators signed Rittich, who went 5-8-2 with a .901 save percentage, a 2.86 goals-against average, and one shutout with the Flames and Maple Leafs.

They also gave away Arvidsson for a slightly low price (second and third-round picks) to avoid losing him for nothing to the Seattle Kraken. Other than that, the Predators have made depth changes and still have more work to do with Tolvanen (who recorded 11 goals and 22 points in 40 games last season) and Saros (21-11-1, .927 save percentage, 2.28 goals-against average, three shutouts) in need of new contracts for this season.

Grade: D+

Minnesota Wild

In: Goligoski, LHD Dmitry Kulikov, LHD Jon Merrill, C Frederick Gaudreau

Out: Suter, Luke Johnson, LHD Carson Soucy, LW Zach Parise, LW Marcus Johansson, LHD Ian Cole, LHD Brad Hunt

Re-signings: C Nick Bjugstad, C Joel Eriksson-Ek, C Nico Sturm

First-round pick: G Jesper Wallstedt, LHD Carson Lambos

Remaining RFAs: LW Kirill Kaprizov, LW Kevin Fiala

The Wild made some minor changes to their defense after losing Soucy to the Kraken, Cole and Hunt in free agency, and buying out Suter’s contract.

Minnesota added Goligoski (who recorded three goals, 22 points, a +2 rating, a 48.93% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 50.6% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 45.12% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 56 games with the Coyotes), Kulikov (four assists, a -3 rating, 53.41% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 54.9% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 54.03% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 48 games with the New Jersey Devils and Oilers), and Merrill (five assists, -9 rating, 46.8% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 47.57% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 46.32% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 49 games with the Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens last season).

They also lost Parise (buy out) and Johansson (free agency) up front and signed Gaudreau.

The Wild, who re-signed Bjugstad and Eriksson-Ek, still have to re-sign Kaprizov and Fiala, their two leading scorers from last season, especially with the threat of Kaprizov possibly heading back to the KHL.

Grade: D

Colorado Avalanche

In: Kuemper, LW Darren Helm, LW Mikhail Maltsev, LHD Kurtis MacDermid, LHD Ryan Murray, LW Stefan Matteau

Out: Saad, Timmins, G Philipp Grubauer, G Devan Dubnyk, RW Joonas Donskoi, LHD Ryan Graves, C Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare, LW Matt Calvert, C Carl Soderberg, LHD Patrik Nemeth

Re-signings: LW Gabriel Landeskog, LHD Cale Makar

First-round pick: RW Oskar Olausson

Remaining RFAs: N/A

The Avalanche have been a bit of a mess this offseason but made a pretty good move when they sent Graves to the Devils for Maltsev, who recorded six goals, nine points, and a -4 rating in 33 games during his rookie NHL season and also posted one goal in one AHL game, and a second-round pick to avoid losing Graves for nothing to the Kraken.

After losing Grubauer in free agency, they were forced to overpay to acquire Kuemper, who went 10-11-3 with a .907 save percentage, a 2.56 goals-against average, and two shutouts last season but was solid from 2018-20 with a .927 save percentage over those two years.

They replaced Saad (who left in free agency) with Helm, who put up just three goals and eight points in 47 games with the Red Wings last season. They also added Murray, who tallied 14 assists, a +3 rating, a 47.76% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 46.51% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 46.33% scoring chances-for percentage in 48 games with the Devils. And they picked up MacDermid, who earned two goals, four points, a -14 rating, a 43.21% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 36.03% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 38.64% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 28 games with the Kings.

The Avalanche also lost Donskoi and Bellemare, along with other depth pieces, but were able to lock in Landeskog, who finished last season with 20 goals and 52 points in 54 games, and Makar, who earned eight goals, 44 points, a +17 rating, a 60.88% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 61.77% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 61.73% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 44 games last season.

While their offseason has been disappointing, GM Joe Sakic has proven time and time again that he knows what he is doing and the Avalanche still have their core together for the near future.

Grade: C-

Previous Offseason Grades

Pacific Division

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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