Is it the start of the NHL season yet? No, it still isn’t. It’s only August. We still have two months to go until hockey starts again. Until then, all we can do is sit here and speculate what’s going to happen, which teams are going to break out, which signings were worth it, which weren’t, etc. You know, all the fun stuff. We can also take a look at what each team has done so far this summer, whether it was good or bad and whether they can still do anything else before the season finally begins. I’m noticing a trend this summer. I’m not quite sure if its an anomaly because of the cap ceiling being lower than expected, but the NHL is truly becoming a draft a develop league, as star players simply don’t make it to free agency. The Metro Division is a perfect example of this phenomenon.
I’ve taken a look at the good and bad of the Pacific and Central Divisions so far, so after the jump, I’ll break down what’s happened in the Metropolitan Division this summer.
- Signed Chris Terry to a one year, $0.875 million contract.
- Traded a 2015 third round pick and a 2016 seventh round pick to the Canucks for Eddie Lack.
- Traded Anton Khudobin to the Ducks for James Wisniewski.
- Signed Andrej Nestrasil to a two year contract with a $0.912 million cap hit.
- Bought out Alexander Semin. He’ll carry a cap hit of $2.33 million for five years.
- Signed Riley Nash to a one year, $1.150 million contract.
- IN: James Wisniewski, Eddie Lack, Noah Hanifin.
- OUT: Alexander Semin, Patrick Dwyer, Brett Bellmore, Jack Hillen, Anton Khudobin.
The Carolina Hurricanes are my favourites to be awarded “most boring offseason” in the NHL this summer. Aside from a couple trades and a buyout, the Canes are heading into next season with pretty much the exact same group they came out of last year with. They shipped goaltender Anton Khudobin to the Ducks for James Wisniewski in what’s likely an attempt to replace Andrej Sekera, who was traded to the Kings at last year’s trade deadline. The hole Khudobin left was filled by acquiring Eddie Lack from the Canucks for a couple of draft picks. Cam Ward, who’s been pretty bad the last few seasons, is set to become a UFA at the end of the year, so I would imagine that the Canes are looking at Lack to potentially become their No. 1 goalie of the future.
The most interesting past of Carolina’s offseason (not counting the draft, where they picked up defenceman Noah Hanifin who could form a really, really good combination with Justin Faulk in a few years) was probably the end of the Alexander Semin era. The Canes bought out Semin’s contract after a lackluster season where he put up career lows in goals and points. He’ll carry a cap hit of $2.33 million for five years. Despite his poor production, Semin’s underlying stats would suggest the Canes were a much more effective team when he was on the ice than they were when he wasn’t — and because of that, Semin has been one of the most polarizing players in the league this summer. He’s a darling of the analytics community because of his nice possession numbers, but to the rest of the hockey world, he’s a tremendously skilled, enigmatic, underachieving Russian who doesn’t back check or show any heart in his game. I’m not going to go much into depth with my stance on Semin, but the Canes were a better team with him on the ice than they were when he wasn’t, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see his production increase next season on a stronger Canadiens team.
Anyways, the Canes are a ways away from being a contender and they’ll probably be focusing on the draft lottery rather than the playoffs this season. Next summer will be interesting, though, as Eric Staal is set to become a UFA. His brother Jordan is signed until 2023, but it’s hard to say what the Canes will do considering the fact Eric will be 31 in a few weeks and his game seems to be going steadily down hill.
- Signed Curtis McElhinney to a two year contract with a $0.800 million cap hit.
- Traded Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp, and a 2016 fourth round pick to the Blackhawks for Brandon Saad, Michael Paliotta, and Alex Broadhurst.
- Signed Gregory Campbell to a two year contract with a $1.50 million cap hit.
- Signed Brandon Saad to a six year contract with a $6.0 million cap hit.
- Signed Matt Calvert to a three year contract with a $2.2 million cap hit.
- IN: Brandon Saad, Rene Bourque, Gregory Campbell, Michael Paliotta, Alex Broadhurst.
- OUT: Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp, Jack Skille, Mark Letestu.
Don’t look now, but the Columbus Blue Jackets look like they’re finally turning themselves into a legitimate contender. After a breakout season in 2013-14, the Jackets were disappointing last year largely because of injuries to some of their key players. Healthy campaigns from Ryan Murray, Boone Jenner, Brandon Dubinsky, and Sergei Bobrovsky — all of whom missed a good chunk of last season — will go a long way in helping the Jackets return to the playoffs in 2015-16.
Another massive key in the Jackets’ success is how newly acquired Brandon Saad will fit in with the team. Saad, who was an RFA at the end of the 2014-15 season, was traded from the Blackhawks to the Jackets for Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin, and Corey Tropp. The Jackets immediately signed Saad to a six year contract with a $6 million cap hit, making him their highest paid player outside of Bobrovsky. Although it seems like he’s been around longer, Saad has only actually been in the league for three years. In those three years, he’s won the Stanley Cup twice and scored 52 goals and 126 points — a pretty nice career for a 22 year old. That being said, it’s always risky when you’re acquiring a player from a really good team like the Hawks. It’s difficult to tell whether the player is a product of his environment, benefitting from playing alongside Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, etc. Over the past two seasons, Saad has logged the most even strength minutes with Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews (in terms of forwards). His numbers with those two are better than they are without them, but his numbers without them certainly aren’t terrible, so it’s not like he’s a complete boat anchor riding the success of Hossa and Toews.
Whether it was the result of his environment or not, the fact of the matter is Brandon Saad is a 22 year old who’s produced at a first line level for two seasons and still has room to improve. There’s obviously a level of risk in this trade for Columbus, but they clearly see something they really like in Saad. The Jackets are building themselves a really nice young core with Ryan Johansen, Boone Jenner, Ryan Murray and Sergei Bobrovsky to name a few. Like I said before, though, a huge part of whether or not Columbus will take that big step forward this season and push their franchise into relevance for the first time in its history will come down whether or not these key young players can actually play an entire season without getting injured.
- Traded a 2015 second round pick and a 2016 third round pick to the Ducks for Kyle Palmeri.
- Signed John Moore to a three year contract with a $1.667 million cap hit.
- Signed Eric Gelinas to a two year contract with a $1.575 million cap hit.
- Signed Adam Larsson to a six year contract with a $4.167 million cap hit.
- Bought out Dainius Zubrus. He’ll carry a cap hit of $3.10 million for one year.
- IN: Kyle Palmieri
- OUT: Dainius Zubrus, Steve Bernier, Scott Gomez, Martin Havlat, Michael Ryder, Mark Fraser, Bryce Salvador.
Okay, I know I said the Hurricanes were favourites for the “most boring offseason” in the NHL award, but the Devils have to be right up there with them. Like Carolina, they made one kind of interesting deal with the Ducks and bought a guy out. I mean, these two teams almost had the exact same offseason. They traded a couple of draft picks to the Ducks for Kyle Palmieri, who will be a good top six scoring option for them. After that, they bought out Dainius Zubrus, who’s been in the league since 1996. He’ll carry a cap hit of $3.10 million for just one season. Other than that, the Devils only made one notable free agent signing, which was a three year deal to John Moore who was traded by the Rangers as part of the Keith Yandle trade with the Coyotes last year.
They gave Adam Larsson a six year contract with a $4.167 million cap hit after a breakout season last year. Remember a couple years ago when he was being labeled a bust? With his new contract, it’s likely we’ll see Larsson take on a bigger role this season with the Devils. He averaged just under 21 minutes of ice time per game last season, which was a pretty big step up from the 17:47 he logged the year before, but he made nearly 51 per cent of his starts in the offensive zone against favourable competition. I’m guessing this year his ice time will take another bump, and with it, his zone starts will begin to favour the defensive zone. The Devils are starting to build a really nice, young D core with Larsson, Jon Merrill, and Damon Severson around a really good goalie. Does that sound familiar?
- Traded Griffin Reinhart to the Oilers for a 2015 first round pick (from the Penguins) and a 2015 second round pick.
- Signed Anders Lee to a four year contract with a $3.75 million cap hit.
- Signed Thomas Greiss to a two year contract with a $1.5 million cap hit.
- Signed Thomas Hickey to a three year contract with a $2.2 million cap hit.
- IN: Thomas Greiss.
- OUT: Griffin Reinhart, Michal Neuvirth, Matt Carkner, Lubomir Visnovsky, Tyler Kennedy, Eric Boulton.
It seems a little odd that the Islanders, who enjoyed a breakout season last year, didn’t really do anything to add to their roster despite having a ton of free cap space, right? The focus of the Islanders’ offseason has been getting the key members of their good, young core signed for the long term rather than adding through free agency. This started during the regular season when they locked up Nike Leddy and Johnny Boychuk until 2022 to go along with a D core that already had Travis Hamonic signed long term. This summer, they signed Anders Lee to a four year deal, Thomas Hickey to a three year deal, and they still have just over $9 million to sign Brock Nelson to a new RFA contract.
They’re being careful with their financial commitments because next summer they’ll need to figure out new RFA contracts for Ryan Strome and Casey Cizikas, and Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen who are both set to hit the UFA market. Although it seems like a long time from now, John Tavares’ obnoxiously team friendly deal comes to an end in 2018 and I’m guessing he’ll be looking for a pretty big raise from his $5.5 million cap hit. Thankfully for the Islanders, Josh Bailey, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin’s contracts also conveniently come off the shelf at the same time. Smart planning.
- Traded Carl Hagelin, a 2015 second round pick and a 2015 sixth round pick to the Ducks for Emerson Etem and a 2015 second round pick. They then signed Etem to a one year, $0.850 million contract.
- Traded a Cam Talbot and a 2015 seventh round pick to the Oilers for a 2015 second round pick, a 2015 third round pick, and a 2015 seventh round pick.
- Traded Ryan Haggerty to the Blackhawks for Antti Raanta.
- Signed Raphael Diaz to a one year, $0.800 million contract.
- Made some depth signings: Jayson Megna, Matt Lindblad, Luke Adam, and Brian Gibbons.
- Traded a 2017 sixth round pick to the Predators for Magnus Hellberg.
- Signed Viktor Stalberg to a one year, $1.1 million contract.
- Signed J.T. Miller to a one year, $0.874 million contract.
- Signed Jesper Fast to a two year contract with a cap hit of $0.950 million.
- Signed Derek Stepan to a six year contract with a $6.5 million cap hit.
- IN: Emerson Etem, Luke Adam, Brian Gibbons, Jayson Megna, Viktor Stalberg, Raphael Diaz, Antti Raanta.
- OUT: Martin St. Louis, James Sheppard, Matt Hunwick, Cam Talbot.
Last season, the Rangers were pressed right up against the cap ceiling with four players — Carl Hagelin, Jesper Fast, J.T. Miller, and Derek Stepan — who would be seeking new RFA contracts in the summer. Carl Hagelin, was dealt to the Ducks for Emerson Etem, who would eventually sign a one year contract. Miller also signed a one year deal, Fast signed a two year deal, and Stepan was locked up to a six year deal with a $6.5 million cap hit. They traded Cam Talbot to the Oilers for a collection of draft picks after he put up a really strong season in relief of the injured Henrik Lundqvist and replaced him by acquiring Antti Raatna from the Hawks. A large amount of cap relief came from the retirement of Martin St. Louis, who really struggled in last year’s playoff run. St. Louis only managed one goal in the Rangers’ 19 playoff games before they were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals. While it’s sad to see a legend like Marty go, the Rangers are much better off without him, as his game has quickly deteriorated over the past few seasons.
While it looks like they’re done for now, the Rangers are in for another interesting offseason next summer. Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes will be looking for new RFA deals along with J.T. Miller and Emerson Etem, while Keith Yandle among many others will be hitting the UFA market.
- Traded Nicklas Grossmann and Chris Pronger’s contract to the Coyotes for Sam Gagner and a conditional 2016 or 2017 third round pick.
- Signed Chris VandeVelde to a two year contract with a $0.713 million cap hit.
- Made some depth signings: Davis Drewiske, Tim Brent, and Chris Conner.
- Signed Michal Neuvirth to a two year contract with a $1.625 million cap hit.
- Signed Michael Del Zotto to a two year contract with a $3.875 million cap hit.
- Signed Sean Couturier to a six year contract extension with a $4.333 million cap hit. It’ll kick in at the start of the 2016-17 season.
- Signed Jakub Voracek to an eight year contract extension with an $8.275 million cap hit. It’ll kick in at the start of the 2016-17 season.
- IN: Sam Gagner, Michal Neuvirth, Davis Drewiske, Tim Brent, Chris Conner.
- OUT: Chris Pronger’s contract, Nicklas Grossmann, Carlo Colaiacovo, Ray Emery.
Perhaps the team deepest in the depth of cap hell, the Philadelphia Flyers didn’t do much to remedy their ugly financial situation this summer. They did a good job of shedding Chris Pronger’s contract, which has a $4.921 million cap hit (but only $0.525 million per year in real money owed) for the next two seasons. Along with Pronger, the Flyers sent the Coyotes Nicklas Grossmann for Sam Gagner, who becomes a UFA at the end of the year. While that does save them a little bit of cash, they’re still paying a hilarious amount of money for a group ineffective players — Vinny Lecavalier, Andrew MacDonald, R.J. Umberger, etc. It’s difficult to say what they’ll try to do with these boat anchor contracts, but they’ll have to figure something out because extensions to Jakub Voracek ($8.275 million per for eight years) and Sean Couturier ($4.33 million per for five years) kick in at the beginning of the 2016-17 season and Brayden Schenn needs a new RFA contract next summer.
I mean, what can I say that hasn’t already been said? This team is in the deepest depths of cap hell, and while shedding Pronger’s contract and swapping Grossmann for Gagner helps a little bit, they still have a long way to go before they can feel comfortable with their financial situation. Because of that, it’s difficult to imagine the Flyers will be adding anything to their roster before the season starts. If anything, they’ll likely be looking to subtract one of the many albatross contracts they carry, if possible.
- Signed Ian Cole to a three year contract with a $2.1 million cap hit.
- Signed Sergei Plotnikov to a one year contract with a $3.775 million cap hit.
- Traded Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington, Nick Spaling, a conditional first round pick and a 2016 third round pick for Phil Kessel, Tyler Biggs, Tim Erixon, and a conditional second round pick.
- Beau Bennett to a one year, $0.800 million contract.
- Traded Brandon Sutter and a 2016 third round pick to the Canucks for Nick Bonino, Adam Clendening, and a 2016 second round pick.
- Signed Eric Fehr to a three year contract with a $2.0 million cap hit.
- Made some depth signings: Conor Sheary, Kael Mouillierat, David Warsofsky, and Steven Olskey.
- Signed Matt Cullen to a one year, $0.800 million contract.
- IN: Phil Kessel, Sergei Plotnikov, Tim Erixon, Eric Fehr, Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Tyler Biggs, Conor Sheary, Kael Mouillierat, David Warsofsky, Steve Olskey.
- OUT: Thomas Greiss, Brandon Sutter, Steve Downie, Craig Adams, Max Lapierre, Daniel Winnik, Christian Ehrhoff, Taylor Chorney.
The Penguins were on the right side of a couple of steals this offseason. First, they sent Toronto a pretty underwhelming package for Phil Kessel who’s going to look incredible on either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin’s Wing. Oh yeah, they also get Kessel for $6.8 million rather than $8 million because the Leafs are retaining part of his salary. Next, they managed to send Brandon Sutter to the Canucks for a pretty good haul of players, including Nick Bonino, who’s actually a better player than Sutter in the first place. After that, they still had money to sign Eric Fehr from their division rivals in Washington. This is pretty incredible because last year the Penguins looked like they had missed out on their window of opportunity as a result of a daunting cap situation that had them going into the summer with just eight forwards signed.
The question mark for the Penguins this season will certainly be their blue line. They lost Paul Martin to free agency and they haven’t shown any interest in re-signing Christian Ehrhoff, so it looks like they’re banking on a healthy season from Olli Maatta and a breakout season from another young defenceman like Derrick Pouliot. Up front, the Pens are going to be spectacular to watch. Like I said before, watching Phil Kessel play on Crosby or Malkin’s wing is going to make Leafs fans feel even worse about their team’s situation right now.
- Signed Nate Schmidt to a two year contract with a $0.812 million cap hit.
- Signed Jay Beagle to a three year contract with a $1.75 million cap hit.
- Signed Stanislav Galiev to a two year contract with a $0.575 million cap hit.
- Signed Taylor Chorney to a one year, $0.700 million cap hit.
- Signed Justin Williams to a two year contract with a $3.250 million cap hit.
- Traded Troy Brouwer, Pheonix Copley, and a 2016 third round pick to the Blues for T.J. Oshie.
- Signed Dan Ellis to a one year, $0.575 million contract.
- Signed Evgeny Kuznetsov to a two year contract with a $3.0 million cap hit.
- Signed Zach Sill to a one year, $0.575 million contract.
- Signed Braden Holtby to a five year contract with a $6.1 million cap hit.
- Signed Marcus Johansson to a one year, $3.75 million contract.
- Signed Ryan Stanton to a one year, $0.575 million contract.
- IN: T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, Taylor Chorney, Ryan Stanton, Zach Sill, Dan Ellis.
- OUT: Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer, Eric Fehr, Curtis Glencross, Mike Green, John Erskine, Tim Gleason.
The Capitals’ roster took a pretty big hit this offseason as Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, and Mike Green chose to sign elsewhere in free agency. While they weren’t able to immediately replace Green, the Capitals did their best to fill the voids left by Ward and Fehr by signing playoff hero Justin Williams and trading Troy Brouwer to the Blues for T.J. Oshie.
Williams, who put up fantastic possession numbers with the Kings over the past few years, is an upgrade on all of the forwards who walked on the Capitals this summer. Williams had a 58.4 Corsi For percentage at even strength in seven seasons with the Kings, which impressive in itself, and is even more impressive when looking at his numbers in relation to his teammates. It says something when you manage to have possession superior numbers to your teammates when you play on the best possession team in the league. While his underlying numbers aren’t as strong as Williams’, Oshie has been a solid producer with the Blues the last few years. Oshie has managed to come right around the 20 goal mark in three of the past four seasons with the Blues, with the one outlier coming in 2012-13 lockout season when he scored seven goals 30 games. Hopefully one of these two guys can be the missing piece on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, who haven’t been able to find that one guy to complete their dynamic trio.
Perhaps the biggest task of the offseason was the signing of Braden Holtby, who cemented himself as one of the league’s best goalies last season. Holtby played in 73 (!) of Washington’s games last season, putting up a a 0.923 save percentage and 17.46 goals saved above average. As a result, he was awarded a five year deal with a $6.1 million cap hit. The contract pushed Washington right up against the cap, so I don’t see them doing anything else this summer.
STATS COURTESY OF HOCKEY REFERENCE AND WAR ON ICE.