The Good and Bad of the 2015 Offseason (So Far): Central Division

Is it the start of the season yet? No, it isn’t. In fact, it isn’t even close. We still have over two months to go until the puck drops on the 2015-16 NHL season, meaning there’s a lot of time for teams to make moves, and there’s a lot of time to sit around and think about who’s had a good offseason and who hasn’t. Pretty much all of the interesting free agents are off the table now that we’re heading into August, but there’s still a lot of time for teams to make moves and tweak their rosters. 

With that being said, after the jump I’m going to break down the good and the bad of the offseason in the Central Division (so far) and who might still be looking to make some more moves before the season starts.

Chicago Blackhawks

  • Traded Antti Raanta to the Rangers for Ryan Haggerty. 
  • Signed David Rundblad to a two year contract with a $1.05 million cap hit.
  • Traded Brandon Saad, Michael Paliotta, and Alex Broadhurst to the Blue Jackets for Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp, and a 2016 fourth round pick.
  • Signed Artem Anisimov to a five year contract extension with a $4.550 million cap hit that will start in 2016-17. 
  • Signed Viktor Tikhonov to a one year, $1.04 million contract. 
  • Signed Andrew Desjardins to two year contract with an $0.800 million cap hit. 
  • Traded Anders Nilsson to the Oilers for Liam Coughlin. 
  • Signed Trevor van Riemsdyk to a two year contract with an $0.825 million cap hit. 
  • Traded Patrick Sharp and Stephen Johns to the Stars for Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt.
  • IN: Artem Anisimov, Viktor Tikhonov, Marko Dano, Ryan Garbutt, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp, Trevor Daley.
  • OUT: Brad Richards, Brandon Saad, Antoine Vermette, Dan Carcillo, Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, Kimmo Timonen, Antti Raanta, Anders Nilsson. 

Another Stanley Cup, another fire sale for the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks have managed to keep their core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith together, but just as they have multiple times before, they’ve been forced to sell off some of their key assets in order to squeeze beneath the league’s cap ceiling. This time, the Hawks dealt Patrick Sharp to the Dallas Stars and Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets. They also let Antoine Vermette, Johnny Oduya, and Brad Richards walk as free agents. Despite all that, the Haws are still in a tough position cap-wise moving forward. 

They have 13 forwards, six defencemen, and two goalies signed, and somehow, they’re going to have to find a way to squeeze two more players in with just under 300K in cap room available. The moves they made didn’t exactly open up a hell of a lot of space for them. They moved Sharp’s $5.90 million cap hit, but took on $4.20 million with Garbutt and Daley. Next year, they’re going to be paying Artem Anisimov $4.550 million, which is just $1.450 million less than Columbus is going to be paying Brandon Saad. Regardless, there’s probably going to be a move or two to come in Chicago, because they won’t be able to afford to ice a full 23 player roster that fits under the cap come October. To make matters even worse, Brent Seabrook is set to become a UFA at the end of the 2015-16 season and I imagine he’ll be looking for an upgrade on his current salary, which carries an annual cap hit of $5.80 million. Oh yeah, and they also need to sign Joakim Nordstrom and Marcus Kruger to new RFA contracts. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Toews and Kane’s $10.5 million cap hits may look great if/when the cap ceiling goes up to like $90 million, but right now, they’re making it really, really hard on the Hawks. 

Colorado Avalanche 

  • Traded a 2016 sixth round pick to the Bruins for the UFA rights of Carl Soderberg, then signed him to a five year contract with a $4.75 million cap hit.
  • Traded Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn to the Sabres for Mikhail Grigorenko, Nikita Zadorov, JT Compher, and a 2015 second round pick. 
  • Signed Francois Beauchemin to a three year contract with a $4.50 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Blake Comeau to a three year contract with a $2.40 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Mikhail Grigorenko to a one year, $0.675 million contract. 
  • IN: Carl Soderberg, Blake Comeau, Mikhail Grigorenko, JT Compher, Nikita Zadorov, Francois Beauchemin.
  • OUT: Ryan O’Reilly, Danny Briere, Jamie McGinn, Jordan Caron, Max Talbot, Jan Hejda, Ryan Wilson. 

The biggest story of Colorado’s offseason was the trade that everybody had been expecting for years. The Avs finally moved Ryan O’Reilly – who was just one year from unrestricted free agency – to the Buffalo Sabres for a pretty nice package of young players. They also immediately replaced O’Reilly’s spot in the lineup by trading for/signing UFA centre Carl Soderberg to a five year deal with a cap hit of $4.75 million. They also added some veteran depth to their defensive core by signing Francois Beauchemin to a three year contract with a $4.50 million cap hit. Outside of O’Reilly, the Avs didn’t lose anyone of consequence that they weren’t able to immediately replace. 

They sent Jamie McGinn to Buffalo along with O’Reilly, but added another winger in Blake Comeau to fill that hole. They also appear to be letting Jan Hejda walk, as he remains as an unrestricted free agent, but they replaced him with Beauchemin, which is pretty obviously an upgrade. The Avs have a fair amount of cap space still available to spend, but with 13 forwards, eight defencemen, and two goalies signed I don’t see them making any more moves. If they do anything, it’ll likely be nothing more than a depth signing with a one year contract because next summer they’ll be looking to give Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie new RFA deals and Erik Johnson is set to become a UFA. 

Dallas Stars

  • Signed John Klingberg to a seven year contract with a $4.250 million cap hit. 
  • Traded a 2015 seventh round pick to the Sharks for the UFA rights to Antti Niemi, then signed him to a three year contract with a $4.50 million cap hit.
  • Signed Curtis McKenzie to a two year contract with a $0.675 million cap hit.
  • Signed Patrick Eaves to a one year, $1.15 million contract. 
  • Signed Jamie Oleksiak to a one year, $0.875 million contract. 
  • Traded Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt to the Blackhawks for Patrick Sharp and Stephen Johns.
  • Signed Johnny Oduya to a two year contract with a $3.75 million cap hit.
  • IN: Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, Antti Niemi.
  • OUT: Shawn Horcoff, Rich Peverley, Ryan Garbutt, Trevor Daley, Jhonas Enroth. 

The Dallas Stars were one of the NHL’s biggest disappointments last season. After a surprising 2013-14 season that saw them sneak into the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference and an exciting offseason to follow it up, the Stars found themselves on the outside looking in because of their inability to keep the puck out of the net. The Stars had the second worst team save percentage (90.95) at even strength last season ahead of only the lowly Oilers, resulting in them allowing the third most goals per 60 minutes at even strength (2.64) in the league. What did the Stars do to solve this problem? They traded for/signed UFA goalie Antti Niemi from the San Jose Sharks and then signed playoff warrior and rock Johnny Oduya, formerly of the Chicago Blackhawks. Despite signing Niemi to help solve their goaltending woes, the Stars are keeping Kari Lehtonen and his $5.9 million cap hit around. So in total, the Stars are paying $10.4 million on goaltenders this season. 

The Stars also went and improved on their very, very strong offence by trading Ryan Garbutt and Trevor Daley to the Hawks for Patrick Sharp. Sharp will add to an already stacked forward core that includes last season’s Art Ross Trophy winner in Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, etc. The Stars scored the second most goals per 60 minutes (2.70) in the league last season, and unless you consider Shawn Horcoff a big part of that dynamite attack, they didn’t lose anything that would result in their offensive production regressing. Like I said before, though, if the Stars can’t keep the puck out of the net, an elite offence on its own isn’t going to take them very far, especially in the loaded Western Conference. 

Minnesota Wild

  • Bought out Matt Cooke’s contract, which will have a $0.500 million cap hit for two more seasons. 
  • Signed Mike Reilly to a two year entry level contract. 
  • Signed Nate Prosser to a a two year contract with a $0.625 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Ryan Carter to a one year, $0.625 million contract. 
  • Signed Jared Knight to a one year, $0.716 million contract. 
  • Signed Mikael Granlund to a two year contract with a $3.0 million cap hit.
  • Signed Devan Dubnyk to a six year contract with a $4.33 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Christian Folin to a two year contract with a $0.725 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Tyson Strachan to a one year, $0.650 million contract. 
  • Signed Erik Haula to two year contract with a $1.0 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Zac Dalpe to a one year, $0.600 million contract.
  • Signed Ruslan Fedetenko to a one year, $0.600 million contract. 
  • IN: Mike Reilly, Tyson Strachan.
  • OUT: Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cooke, Sean Bergenheim, Chris Stewart, Keith Ballard, Jordan Leopold. 

The Minnesota Wild had a very quiet offseason, which is unusual for them. Over the past few summers, they’ve made some huge splashes in the free agent market, bringing Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, and Thomas Vanek to the State of Hockey. This year, they added NCAA free agent Mike Reilly, who didn’t want to sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets who drafted him in the fourth round of the 2011 draft. Aside from that addition, the story of Minnesota’s offseason was the signing of breakout goaltender Devan Dubnyk to a six year contract with a $4.33 million cap hit. This is a really great signing for the Wild, because even though Dubnyk’s numbers may regress moving forward, he isn’t some Scott Darling/Andrew Hammond type random career AHL goalie who had a hot streak for a month. He was a highly touted draft pick who showed quite a bit of promise in Edmonton, but ultimately couldn’t stay afloat behind a horrific team defence. After bouncing around the league for a year, he found himself in Minnesota where he was finally able to play behind a legitimate NHL defence. Anyway, I doubt he keeps up the 0.936 save percentage he had last season, but I also doubt he goes back to putting up the ugly numbers he did when he was with the Oilers. 

Nashville Predators

  • Bought out Richard Clune’s contract, which will have a $0.283 million cap hit for two more seasons. 
  • Bought out Viktor Stalberg’s contract, which will have a $0.667 million cap hit for four more seasons. 
  • Signed Steve Moses to a one year, $1.0 million contract.
  • Signed Mike Fisher to a two year contract with a $4.4 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Mike Ribeiro to a two year contract with a $3.5 million cap hit. 
  • Traded a Magnus Hellberg to the Rangers for a 2017 sixth round pick. 
  • Signed Barret Jackman to a two year contract with a $2.0 million cap hit. 
  • Traded a conditional fourth round pick to the Flames for Max Reinhart. 
  • Signed Cody Hodgson to a one year, $1.0 million contract. 
  • Signed Gabriel Bourque to a one year, $0.866 million contract. 
  • Traded Taylor Beck to the Maple Leafs for Jamie Devane. 
  • Signed Calle Jarnkrok to a one year, $0.735 million contract.
  • Signed Craig Smith to a five year contract with a $4.250 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Colin Wilson to a four year contract with a $3.938 million cap hit. 
  • IN: Steve Moses, Cody Hodgson, Jamie Devane, Max Reinhart, Barret Jackman.
  • OUT: Taylor Beck, Mike Santorelli, Matt Cullen, Anton Volchenkov, Cody Franson.

Nashville’s offseason wasn’t about adding to the roster, it was about keeping the core of last season’s breakout team together and locking up some key young players for the long term. The Predators did just that by signing UFA forwards Mike Fisher and Mike Ribeiro to two year contracts and giving RFA forwards Craig Smith and Colin Wilson five and four year deals respectively. Next summer, they’re going to have to do more of the same as Seth Jones, Calle Jarnkrok, and Filip Forsberg will be looking for new RFA contracts. The Preds still have roughly $12.5 million in free cap space, but I doubt they spend any of it considering their internal budget and the fact those key players are going to need new deals next summer. I mean, they could sign Cody Franson or Mike Santorelli, but I’m sure the Preds would much rather save the money and have more wiggle room so they can get Seth Jones and co. locked up long term. 

One interesting move they made was signing Cody Hodgson to a one year, $1.0 million show me you aren’t a complete bust contract. Hodgson was just bought out by the Buffalo Sabres after a horrific 2014-15 season that saw him score just six goals and 13 points in 78 games. The Preds also took a risk last summer on Mike Ribeiro who had been bought out by the Arizona Coyotes. The Ribeiro move worked out nicely for the Preds, as he finished second on the team in scoring with 62 points in 82 games. 

St. Louis Blues

  • Signed Chris Butler to a one year, $0.675 million contract.
  • Signed Jori Lehtera to a three year contract extension with a $4.70 million cap hit that will start in 2016-17. 
  • Traded T.J. Oshie to the Capitals for Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley, and a 2016 third round pick. 
  • Signed Kyle Brodziak to a one year, $0.900 million contract. 
  • Signed Robert Bortuzzo to a two year contract with a $1.05 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Andre Benoit and Peter Harrold to one year, $0.600 million contracts. 
  • Jake Allen to a two year contract with a  $2.350 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Vladmir Tarasenko to an eight year contract with a $7.5 million cap hit. 
  • IN: Troy Brouwer, Peter Harrold, Andre Benoit, Kyle Brodziak, Jordan Caron. 
  • OUT: T.J. Oshie, Marcel Goc, Olli Jokinen, Chris Porter, Zbynek Michalek, Barret Jackman. 

The Blues’ top priority this summer was signing star forward Vladmir Tarasenko to a new contract after his breakout season last year. Tarasenko was easily St. Louis’ best forward last season, as he put up 73 points in 77 games and managed an impressive 55.4 Corsi For percentage at even strength. All of that was good enough to get Tarasenko an eight year contract with a $7.50 million cap hit something Blues fans are giddy about. The Blues also went ahead and locked up a key part of their forward group in Jori Lehtera to a three year contract extension that’ll kick in after next season. The Blues made a few depth signings, with the most interesting one being a cheap, one year deal to UFA centre Kyle Brodziak. 

Before all that happened, the Blues traded T.J. Oshie to the Capitals for Troy Brouwer. It was well known that the Blues, a team pushed right up against the cap, would likely move a roster player in order to free up some space to sign Tarasenko long term. I don’t think many expected that forward to be T.J. Oshie. I figured they would move Jay Bouwmeester or Patrik Berglund before they moved Oshie. This was a strange move because they only managed to save $500K swapping Oshie ($4.175 million for two more years) for Brouwer ($3.667 million for one more year). Regardless, the Blues are going into next season looking pretty much the same as they did last year, meaning it’s difficult to imagine they’ll finally get over the hump. Another thing to mention: the Blues may have signed Tarasenko long term, but another key forward in David Backes is set to become a UFA at the end of the season. Just something to think about. 

Winnipeg Jets

  • Signed Anthony Peluso to a two year contract with a $0.675 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Ben Chiarot to a two year contract with a $0.850 million cap hit.
  • Signed Drew Stafford to a two year contract with a $4.350 million cap hit.
  • Signed Adam Pardy to a one year, $1.0 million contract.
  • Signed Matt Halischuk to a one year, $0.750 million contract. 
  • Signed Alex Burmistrov to a two year contract with a $1.550 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Paul Postma to a two year contract with a $0.887 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Matt Fraser to a one year, $0.650 million contract. 
  • IN: Alexander Burmistrov, Matt Fraser.
  • OUT: Michael Frolik, T.J. Galliardi, Jiri Tlusty, Lee Stempniak, Jim Slater, Keaton Ellerby. 

There isn’t much to say about the Jets’ offseason, really. They re-signed a good chunk of their free agents, giving new contracts to Anthony Peluso, Ben Chiarot, Adam Pardy, Matt Halischuk, Paul Postma, and most notably, Drew Stafford. Their biggest move was bringing Alexander Burmistrov back after two seasons with Kazan in the KHL. Burmistrov was the Atlanta Thrasher’s eighth overall pick in 2010, meaning he was the team’s last ever first round pick before moving to Winnipeg in 2011. He hasn’t accomplished much in the NHL, but he’s still only 23 and he has an amazing skill set. I mean, there was a reason he was picked eighth overall, right? 

Stats Courtesy of Hockey Reference

Previously in this series: 

The Good and Bad of the 2015 Offseason (So Far): Pacific Division

  • CMG30

    Toews and Kane for 10.5M each?

    Where’s all those commenters who lost their minds when Tambi signed Hall and Eberle to quick 6M for 6/7year deals? You know who you are: time for a heaping helping of crow!

    • ubermiguel

      Toews and Kane have already led their team to 3 Stanley Cups. Hall and Eberle have led the Oilers to multiple lottery picks. I’m reserving judgement until the end of those $6M deals.

    • The GREAT Walter White

      The only difference is that Toews and Kane led their team to 3 cups in the last 6 years…….Eberle and Hall led their team to the worst record in the history of the NHL over the last 6 years.

      Other than that your point is a good one ….

      WW

      • 24% body fat

        agree, and I think Hall will be better than kane, but those contracts are Toews and Kanes third not their second, so lets keep apples to apples.

        Toews and Kane had negotiating power. Eberle did not. Not that the contracts are bad but how much more value would Eberle have to the oilers on the team or as a tradeable asset if he were making 5.4 over 7 instead.

        No one said halls contract was bad, people just think he shouldnt have been handed it, when Tavares is making less.

        In negotiations you want the power, you never take the first offer. Yet the oilers gave up their power and took the first offer.

        Nothing wrong with the contracts today, but they could have been golden if done properly.

        • 24% body fat

          Hall better than Kane?? That is too funny. He’s going into his 6th year and is a 24 year old player who hasn’t managed to play a full season even though his team is never playing against teams with their foot on the gas. Hes got some great qualities but come on.

          • 24% body fat

            Hall will be better than Kane. Have hall play with Toews, Seabrook and Keith and we will see who is better.

            And thats just 3 guys, add in all the other depth, Kane is set up for success, hall is not.

          • 24% body fat

            Kane has played two more games and scored 15 more points than Hall. Is that worth 4.5 million more a year. I am not convinced.

            Good thing MacT spent all that extra cash on Schultz, NN and Ference.

          • 24% body fat

            He joined a Hawks team that wasn’t a playoff team. He helped transform that team into a winner. 3 Stanley Cups, a Calder and a Conn Smythe. He just scored almost as many goals in the playoffs as Hall got all season.

          • 24% body fat

            The point is the two players are not that far apart.At least over the last two years.

            It’s the supporting cast that wins cups. Chicago built from the defense out. The Oilers did it backwards. Kane and Toews joined a team that was ready to achieve. Hall joined a team that was filled with HOPE and little else.

        • 24% body fat

          It was my understanding the contracts were going to be 5 years , but MacT. wanted 6M for 6 years . They all bought into it , and at the time it was thought to be a very good value contract moves on our part . It was negotiated ,not handed to any one of them . The players apparently were only asking for 5 years , but MacT. and Oilers negotiated for 6 . The contracts were handled properly and smartly , and appeared at time to be low risk high reward signings .

          • 24% body fat

            regardless, Eberle did not deserve more than Tavares on any measure. Eberle had limited negotiating power. He is the perfect example of why bridge contracts work.

            For Hall it would have cost more.

            I said the day the contracts were signed Hall is a steal and eberle could have been done for cheaper.

            There was no back and forth the way other teams usually do, there were just contracts within a days of extensions being possible.

            Regardless of if the deal is good or not now, Eberle could have been had for cheaper or had a bridge deal with his next deal being the same taking us two years deeper into his ufa years.

        • Harry2

          I love reading comments like this. Can you please tell us all how you know the Oilers took the first offer they were giving from Hall and Eberle’s agents.

          The one contract I have an issue with was RNH’s. He was in and out of the INJ list and I believe it was before the puck had even dropped on his 3rd season and they signed him for 6 X mil. But all in all those three contracts are pretty damn good to me.

  • ubermiguel

    With the Blackhawks in Cap Hell it’s mind-boggling they haven’t moved one of their Big 3 defencemen yet; moving Seabrook for picks/prospects makes the most sense. But the rest of the league knows the situation they’re in so they’re probably offering pennies on the dollar. If I’m a GM I’m offering a 2nd round pick for Seabrook. Or I’m looking for a sign-then-trade deal for a bit more (depending on what Seabrook is looking for).

    • mk

      Hawks in a win-now mentality. Theres no way they’re trading seabrook, even if they know there is no chance they can resign him. They’re going for it all again this year.

  • mk

    We probably shouldn’t be complaining about 10.5M dollar contracts. We probably have one upcoming in 3 years (well more likely then not). Maybe even more – think that one may be more dependant on Stamkos’s new upcoming contract.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    I’d say almost entire Central Division are slightly worse off than last year except Colorado , whom should be slightly better on defence this season with Beauchemin and Zadorov .

  • Harry2

    Not to pick on you, Cam, and I hate to be “that guy,” but you guys could really use a good copyeditor.

    The way you list each team’s cap information and deals they have expiring next summer changes almost from one team to the next before you abandon it altogether. Nashville traded Magnus Hellberg TO the Rangers, not the other way around. You really should decide whether you’re going to list every transaction a team made in the summer or you’re going to just summarize who’s in/out, not both, because the way you’ve done it is confusing and inconsistent.

    There’s more, but I’ll stop there.