Photo: 1st Ohio Battery
With the most significant moves of the NHL offseason likely in the rear view mirror, teams made some that will change their product on the ice for the better while others may have made ones they will regret at some point whether that comes this season or later on. NoVa Caps ranks the five best and worst moves within the Metropolitan Division this offseason.
In the best moves, we are looking for either the most impactful (in a positive way) trades or free-agent signings at the best cost (in terms of salary and/or term) in relation to where the team stands right now.
For the worst, we picked the moves that will most likely hold a team back either now or in the future depending on where the players are in their respective careers or teams are in addition to whether those teams overpaid to acquire or retain them.
The 32-year-old, who ranks 21st in the NHL in wins (210), tied for fifth in save percentage (.920), tied for ninth in goals-against average (2.49), and tied for eighth in shutouts (18) over the past six seasons (among those who have played at least 10 games), gives the Capitals a clear starting goaltender, something they have lacked since Braden Holtby left after the 2019-20 campaign.
Kuemper went 37-12-4 (tied for fourth in the NHL in wins), a .921 save percentage (fifth), 2.54 goals-against average (11th), and five shutouts (tied for fourth) with the Colorado Avalanche last season. During their run to the Stanley Cup last Spring, he went 10-4 with a .902 save percentage, a 2.57 goals-against average, and one shutout.
The term may be a bit much but the Capitals’ final years of their Stanley Cup window are now and Kuemper gives them what they’ve been lacking. The Capitals will likely be rebuilding in the back half of this contract and will not need the cap space anyway. The cap hit is reasonable as well for now.
4. New Jersey Devils acquire D John Marino from Pittsburgh Penguins for D Ty Smith, 2023 third-round pick
The 25-year-old tallied one goal, 25 points, a +1 rating, 51.83% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 51.48% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and 51.4% five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage in 81 regular-season games before earning one assist in seven postseason outings. He is signed up for five more seasons at $4.4 million against the salary cap.
Marino gives the Devils another young defensive blueliner while Smith was underperforming. The third-round pick was also not a steep price to include to get a clear upgrade.
3. Capitals sign C Dylan Strome to one-year, $3.5 million contract
With Nicklas Backstrom expected to miss most, if not all, of the regular season at least, the Capitals added a top-six center at a lower price than projected.
The 25-year-old tallied 22 goals, 48 points, and a 52.3% faceoff-winning percentage in 69 games with the Chicago Blackhawks last season. In three of the past four seasons, Strome has earned points-per-game averages of .73, .66, and .7 (this past one).
The move also does not rush Connor McMichael (or Aliaksei Protas) from being thrown into the fire while also getting some much needed youth up front.
Although being separated from left-wing Patrick Kane will hurt, Strome should stay productive with the possibility of playing with T.J. Oshie, Tom Wilson (when he returns from a torn ACL), Anthony Mantha, and/or Conor Sheary.
2. Carolina Hurricanes acquire LW Max Pacioretty, D Dylan Coghlan from Vegas Golden Knights for future considerations
Although Pacioretty, 33, will be out until at least February with a torn Achilles, the fact that the Hurricanes got the six-time 30-goal scorer for free and got a 24-year-old defenseman to take him puts this acquisition at No. 2.
The Hurricanes have been doomed by not having a natural goal scorer the past couple of seasons and get it in Pacioretty, who did not slow down last season as he put up 19 goals and 37 points in just 39 games.
Pacioretty is expected to be ready in time for the postseason and will give the Hurricanes another threat offensively.
Coghlan recorded three goals, 13 points, a -5 rating, 53.15% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, 52.37% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage, and a 50% five-on-five expected scoring chances-for percentage in 59 games last season and should be a fine addition to their bottom defensive pair.
1. Columbus Blue Jackets sign LW Johnny Gaudreau to seven-year contract ($9.8 million cap hit)
The Blue Jackets got the prize of the unrestricted free agent market despite the Calgary Flames reportedly offering the 28-year-old $15-17.5 million more.
Gaudreau set career-highs last season when he notched 40 goals (tied for 15th in the NHL) and 115 points (tied with current Flames left-wing Jonathan Huberdeau for second) in 82 regular-season games. Gaudreau also tallied three goals and 14 points in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
With “Johnny Hockey” in the fold, the Blue Jackets’ offense gets a much needed boost after finishing last season 14th in the league with a 3.15 goals-per-game average and 24th with a 18.6% power-play efficiency.
5. New York Rangers sign C Vincent Trocheck to seven-year contract ($5.625 million cap hit)
The 28-year-old was productive with 21 goals and 51 points in 81 regular-season games before recording six goals and 10 points in 14 postseason contests last year, but his 0.61 points-per-game fell off from the 0.91 he tallied the season before.
Trocheck just turned 29 and the deal will take him through age 36.
The Rangers needed a center after Andrew Copp and Ryan Strome departed in free agency and while Trocheck is not a bad second-line center at all, the term does not look good for the team.
4. Devils sign LW Ondrej Palat to five-year contract, $6 million cap hit
Palat is coming off of an impressive Stanley Cup Playoff showing where he turned in 11 goals and 21 points in 23 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning but has not reached the 50-point mark since 2016-17, when he notched 52 in 75 games.
Although, Palat came close this past season where he tallied 18 goals and 49 points in 77 games.
It is understandable that Palat’s price tag went up after his postseason showing but it shouldn’t have to the extent that it actually did, especially since he just turned 31.
3. New York Islanders fire head coach Barry Trotz
After two straight losses in the Eastern Conference Final, the Islanders missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs but started the season on a grueling 13-game road trip.
Trotz got the Islanders to exceed expectations in each of his first three seasons behind the bench and was just five wins away from bringing the Stanley Cup to Long Island just a year ago.
Even in a down season, Trotz led the Islanders into a tie for the seventh-best goals-against per game average (2.82) and they were second in that category (2.56) over his tenure. The team also finished fourth with an 84.2% penalty-killing rate last season.
After just one underachieving season with the circumstances dealt to the Islanders, they did not give Trotz one more chance?
2. Blue Jackets sign D Erik Gudbranson to four-year contract ($4 million cap hit)
The Blue Jackets signed the 30-year-old after a career season where he set career-highs in goals (six), assists (11), points (17), plus-minus (+15), five-on-five Corsi-for percentage (57.56%), five-on-five expected goals-for percentage (53.18%), and five-on-five scoring chances-for percentage (56.82%) in 78 regular-season games while playing behind a deep defensive core with the Pacific Division-leading Flames.
Gudbranson never earned more than four goals, 13 points, and a +7 rating, respectively, in a single season during his 10-season NHL career before last season. He also just posted a five-on-five expected goals-for percentage above 50% just once prior.
The Blue Jackets appear to be betting on Gudbranson, who will be 34 when this contract expires, replicating his career-year with one of the league’s top powerhouses.
1. Penguins re-sign C Rickard Rakell to six-year contract ($5 million cap hit)
Since a career-best season in 2017-18 where the 29-year-old set career-highs in goals (34), assists (35), and points (69) in 77 games with the Anaheim Ducks, Rakell has hit the 20-goal mark just once and has not eclipsed the 45-point plateau.
The Penguins were clearly banking on Rakell keeping up his production after getting acquired on March 20 where he posted four goals and 13 points in 19 games.
The deal will take him until he is 35.
By Harrison Brown