2021 Offseason Grades: Atlantic Division

Photo: The Audacy

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

Buffalo Sabres

In: LHD Will Butcher, RW Vinnie Hinostroza, RHD Mark Pysyk, G Aaron Dell, G Craig Anderson, LHD Robert Hagg, G Devon Levi, C John Hayden, LHD Jimmy Schuldt

Out: RHD Rasmus Ristolainen, RW Sam Reinhart, G Linus Ullmark, G Carter Hutton, LHD Jake McCabe, LHD Matt Irwin, LW C.J. Smith, LHD Will Borgen

Re-signings: LW Rasmus Asplund, C Ryan MacInnis, LW Drake Caggiula

First-round pick: LHD Owen Power, RW Isak Rosen

Remaining RFAs: LHD Rasmus Dahlin, RHD Henri Jokiharju

The Sabres have spent most of the offseason selling off major pieces as they traded Reinhart to the Florida Panthers and Ristolainen to the Philadelphia Flyers, picking up a total of two first-round picks (including the 13th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft), Levi (who posted a .964 save percentage and a 0.75 goals-against average for Team Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Champions), a second-round pick, and Hagg (who tallied two goals, five points, a -3 rating, a 53.12% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 50.06% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 51.86% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 34 games last season).

The Sabres are still looking to trade center Jack Eichel prior to the start of training camp and are reportedly asking for the equivalent of four first-round picks in return, which has limited the interest from most teams. The Sabres did a great job of getting a quality return for Ristolainen and Reinhart and have laid low in free agency, though their goaltending is expected to be among the NHL’s inexperienced.

The Sabres, who drafted Power (who recorded three goals, 16 points, and a +18 rating in 26 games with the University of Michigan’s hockey team last season) first overall at the draft, still have to re-sign two defensive cogs in Dahlin and Jokiharju but have had a great offseason so far.

Grade: A-

Detroit Red Wings

In: C Pius Suter, C Mitchell Stephens, LHD Nick Leddy, LHD Jordan Oesterle, G Alex Nedeljkovic

Out: RW Bobby Ryan, C Valtteri Filppula, RW Richard Panik, C Luke Glendening, LHD Christian Djoos, RHD Alex Biega, LHD Dennis Cholowski, C Darren Helm, LW Mathias Brome

Re-signings: Nedeljkovic, RW Jakub Vrana, C Michael Rasmussen, C Sam Gagner, LHD Marc Staal

First-round pick: LHD Simon Edvinsson, G Sebastian Cossa

Remaining RFAs: LW Adam Erne, RHD Filip Hronek

The Red Wings pounced when two teams fumbled around with top young players as they signed Suter (tallied 14 goals and 27 points in 55 games with the Chicago Blackhawks) in free agency and acquired Nedeljkovic (went 15-5-3 with a .932 save percentage (third-best in the NHL), a 1.90 goals-against average (second), and three shutouts (tied for third) during his rookie season to finish third in Calder Trophy voting as the NHL’s rookie of the year) from Carolina.

They were able to upgrade their defense slightly by acquiring Leddy for Panik and a second-round pick. The defenseman posted two goals, 31 points, a -3 rating, a 45.82% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 47.9% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 47.26% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 56 games.

The Red Wings switched up their depth by acquiring Stephens, who has three goals and seven points in 45 career NHL games (all with the Tampa Bay Lightning), in a trade and signing Oesterle, who earned a goal, 11 points, a -10 rating, a 45.94% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 47.11% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 45.11 five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 43 games with the Arizona Coyotes).

They did not lose anyone major and re-signed Vrana, Staal (overpaying him at $2 million for one year but understandable for a team in a rebuild that needed to keep him), and Rasmussen. There is still work to do for GM Steve Yzerman with Erne and Hronek, the Red Wings’ No. 1 defenseman, in need of contracts for this season but he has done good work this offseason despite overpaying to retain Staal.

Grade: B+

Ottawa Senators

In: LHD Michael Del Zotto, LHD Nick Holden, RW Kole Sherwood

Out: RW Evgenii Dadonov, LW Ryan Dzingel, C Artem Anisimov, C Derek Stepan, C Matthew Peca, C Michael Amadio, G Joey Daccord

Re-signings: RHD Artem Zub, LHD Victor Mete, G Anton Forsberg, Head Coach D.J. Smith

First-round pick: RW Tyler Boucher

Remaining RFAs: LW Brady Tkachuk, C Drake Batherson

The Senators have had a relatively quiet season but made a blockbuster (and questionable) trade that sent Dadonov (who earned 25+ goals in three consecutive seasons with the Florida Panthers before earning 13 goals and 20 points last season) to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Holden, who tallied two assists, a +3 rating, a 54.33% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 54.15% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 54.69% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 17 games last season. The flat salary cap may have driven the need for the deal.

Ottawa added depth in Del Zotto (who earned four goals, 13 points, a +5 rating, a 47.7% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 46.55% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 47.24% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 17 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2020-21) and Sherwood (one assist in six games with the Blue Jackets).

Other than Dadonov, the Senators did not lose anyone major and re-signed three depth players. It has been quiet in Ottawa, who is expected to lean on their young pieces this season and still have to re-sign their leading point scorer in Tkachuk (who had 17 goals and 36 points in 56 games last season) and Batherson (who tied Tkachuk for the team lead in goals and finished two points behind him in 56 games).

Grade: D

Montreal Canadiens

In: RHD David Savard, LW Mike Hoffman, C Cedric Paquette, LW Mathieu Perreault, RHD Chris Wideman

Out: RHD Shea Weber, LW Tomas Tatar, C Philipp Danault, RW Corey Perry, LHD Erik Gustafsson, LHD Jon Merrill, RHD Cale Fleury

Re-signings: RW Joel Armia, LW Arturri Lehkonen

First-round pick: RHD Logan Mailloux

Remaining RFAs: C Jesperi Kotkaniemi

After falling in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final and losing their captain Weber for perhaps the rest of the year (or perhaps longer) due to a foot/ankle injury, the Canadiens signed Savard (who tallied one goal, six points, a -27 rating, a 44.57% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 46.11% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 44.48% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 54 games with the Blue Jackets and Lightning).

The Canadiens responded to losing Tatar by signing Hoffman (who earned 17 goals and 36 points in 52 games with the St. Louis Blues last season). Danault, the team’s shutdown center, was a big loss, and Paquette (four goals, eight points in 47 games with the Senators and Carolina Hurricanes) will not replace him adequately despite being known as a strong defensive centerman.

The Canadiens also made some depth changes in signing Perreault (nine goals, 19 points in 56 games with the Winnipeg Jets) and Wideman (has not played in the NHL since 2018-19 and recorded nine goals, 41 points, and an even rating in 59 KHL games last season) after losing Perry, Gustafsson, and Merrill.

GM Marc Bergevin made a gutsy gamble by exposing goaltender Carey Price (went 13-9 with a .924 save percentage, a 2.28 goals-against average, and one shutout during the Canadiens’ run to the Stanley Cup Final but has finished with a save percentage of .909 at the highest in three of the past four seasons) in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft to keep both goaltenders and it paid off as Price underwent knee surgery after the season but is expected to be ready for the season opener.

The Canadiens still have to re-sign Kotkaniemi, who earned five goals and eight points in 19 Stanley Cup Playoff games after finishing the regular season with five goals and 20 points in 56 games, and made a questionable (idiotic?) pick in the first round by taking Mailloux, who asked not to be picked after being accused of a sexual offense in Sweden last season. While they lost some depth, the Canadiens have done some good things this offseason.

Grade: B- (or F if you include the Mailloux pick).

Boston Bruins

In: Ullmark, LW Nick Foligno, C Erik Haula, LW Tomas Nosek, LHD Derek Forbort

Out: G Tuukka Rask, G Jaroslav Halak, C David Krejci, LW Nick Ritchie, LHD Jeremy Lauzon, C Sean Kuraly, RHD Kevan Miller, RHD Jarred Tinordi, RW Ondrej Kase, G Dan Vladar

Re-signings: LHD Mike Reilly, LW Taylor Hall, LW Trent Frederic, LW Anton Blidh, RHD Brandon Carlo

First-round pick: RW Fabian Lysell

Remaining RFAs: N/A

The Bruins were active in free agency as they were able to re-sign Reilly (earned 27 assists, a +5 rating, a 54.76% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, a 54.1% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 54.46% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 55 games with the team and Senators last season) and Hall (tallied 10 goals and 33 points in 53 games with the team and Sabres, including eight goals and 14 points in 16 games with the Bruins).

They also signed Ullmark (went 9-6-3 with a .917 save percentage and a 2.63 goals-against average with the Sabres) after losing Halak and Rask (for at least the first half of this season), Foligno (seven goals, 20 points in 49 games with the Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs), Haula (nine goals, 21 points in 51 games with the Nashville Predators), Nosek (eight goals, 18 points in 38 games with the Golden Knights), and Forbort (two goals, 12 points, +1 rating, 48.22% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 46.24% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 46.49% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 56 games with the Winnipeg Jets).

Not qualifying Ritchie as a restricted free agent was a questionable move after the 25-year-old earned 15 goals and 26 goals in 56 games last season and the Bruins have a hole at second-line center after Krejci fled to Europe for this season to be with family. Overall, the Bruins have had an admirable offseason but have a gaping hole in the middle of their second-line.

Grade: C+

Tampa Bay Lightning

In: Perry, C Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare, RHD Zach Bogosian, G Brian Elliott

Out: Savard, Stephens, C Tyler Johnson, C Yanni Gourde, LW Blake Coleman, RW Barclay Goodrow, RHD Luke Schenn, LHD Andreas Borgman, G Curtis McElhinney

Re-signings: C Brayden Point, C Ross Colton, C Alex Barre-Boulet, C Gemel Smith, RHD Cal Foote

First-round pick: N/A

Remaining RFAs: N/A

Being $18 million over the salary cap in the Stanley Cup Playoffs means that a lot of players have to go and not many can come in to replace them. That has been the story of the defending back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions’ offseason as they lost their entire checking line in Goodrow (traded to New York Rangers), Gourde (expansion draft), and Coleman (free agency); Savard; and Johnson (traded to Chicago Blackhawks). They had a couple of other minor losses.

The Lightning brought in Perry (nine goals, 21 points in 49 games with Canadiens), Bellemare (nine goals, 11 points in 53 games with Colorado Avalanche), Bogosian (four assists, +7 rating, 52.75% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 55.56% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, 56.1% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage), and Elliott (15-9-2, .889 save percentage, 3.06 goals-against per game, two shutouts with Philadelphia Flyers).

They signed Point, who led the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 14 goals in 22 games, to an eight-year contract extension that carries a $9.5 million cap hit, and Colton (nine goals and 12 points in 30 regular-season games and four goals and six points in 23 Stanley Cup Playoff games) to a two-year contract that will count $1.125 million against the salary cap.

Due to salary cap constraints, the Lightning got significantly worse this offseason but they did make a couple of good low-risk, but potentially high-reward, signings.

Grade: D

Toronto Maple Leafs

In: Ritchie, Kase, Amadio, Biega, LW Michael Bunting, RW Kurtis Gabriel, C David Kampf, LHD Carl Dahlstrom, G Petr Mrazek, RW Josh Ho-Sang (PTO)

Out: Bogosian, Foligno, G Frederik Andersen, G David Rittich, LW Zach Hyman, C Joe Thornton, C Alex Galchenyuk, C Nic Petan, LHD Ben Hutton, RW Stefan Noesen

Re-signings: RW Wayne Simmonds, C Jason Spezza, LHD Travis Dermott

First-round pick: N/A

Remaining RFAs: N/A

Like the Lightning, the Maple Leafs made a couple of low-key signings to surround their highly expensive core with the acquisitions of Ritchie, Kase (who played in just three games last season and tallied seven goals and 24 points in 55 games with the Bruins and Anaheim Ducks in 2019-20), Bunting (10 goals, 13 points in 21 games with Arizona Coyotes), Kampf (one goal, 12 points in 56 games with Chicago Blackhawks), and possibly Ho-Sang (two goals, three points in nine SHL games).

The Maple Leafs changed their goaltending tandem a bit by letting go of Rittich and Andersen and signing Mrazek, who went 6-2-3 with a .923 save percentage, a 2.06 goals-against average, and three shutouts with the Hurricanes.

Losing Hyman was a hit and the Maple Leafs lost a couple of other depth pieces in Foligno, Bogosian, Thornton, and Galchenyuk but hung onto a couple in Simmonds and Spezza.

Grade: B

Florida Panthers

In: Thornton, Reinhart, C Zac Dalpe, G Evan Fitzpatrick (PTO)

Out: Levi, Hinostroza, C Alex Wennberg, LHD Keith Yandle, RHD Anton Stralman, LW Nikita Gusev, C Lucas Wallmark, G Chris Driedger, LHD Vladislav Kolyachonok

Re-signings: Reinhart, C Sam Bennett, LW Anthony Duclair, RHD Brandon Montour, C Carter Verhaeghe, C Juho Lammikko, LHD Gustav Forsling, RHD Noah Juulsen

First-round pick: RW Mackie Samoskevich

Remaining RFAs: N/A

The Panthers have had a quiet offseason overall but made a splash when they brought in Reinhart, who scored 25 goals and 40 points in 54 games with the Sabres last season, for just a 2022 first-round pick and Levi. On Friday, they added Thornton, who tallied five goals and 20 points in 44 games with the Maple Leafs.

The loss of Wennberg, who earned 17 goals and 29 points in 56 games last season, will hurt but the addition of Bennett, who tallied six goals and 15 points in 10 games after getting acquired from the Calgary Flames last season. The Panthers are relying on Bennett to continue that production as they signed him to a four-year contract extension that carries a cap hit of $4.425 million.

The team shed salary by buying out Yandle’s contract and trading Stralman to the Coyotes, which cost them a prospect taken in the second round of the 2019 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft.

With the emergence of Spencer Knight, and with Sergei Bobrovsky likely not going anywhere as he is under contract for five more seasons, the Panthers got off easy in the expansion draft as the Kraken took Driedger, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent and not likely to re-sign in Florida.

The Panthers also lost depth forwards Gusev and Wallmark but re-signed some key pieces in Duclair, Montour, Verhaeghe, and Forsling, who all played key roles in the team’s breakout campaign last season.

Grade: B+

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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