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The Good and Bad of Summer 2017 (So Far): Central Division

This is one part of a four-part, division-by-division series looking at the moves made by each team this offseason and what they still have left to do before the season begins. 

The Blackhawks went through another renaissance and brought back some familiar faces, the Predators added to one of the best young cores in the NHL, the Stars went nuts in free agency and are prime for another ride to the top, the Blues and Wild tweaked around the cap, the Jets addressed their goaltending issue, and the Avs are still very bad.

***Note: This article is posted across all Nation Network team sites so comments are an open forum.***

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Chicago Blackhawks

  • Re-signed Richard Panik to a two-year contract with a $2.8 million cap hit.
  • Re-signed Tomas Jurco to a one-year, $800k contract.
  • Signed Patrick Sharp to a one-year, $1 million contract.
  • Signed Tommy Wingles to a one-year, $750k contract.
  • Signed Jan Rutta to a one-year entry-level contract.
  • Signed Lance Bouma to a one-year, $1 million contract.
  • Minor signings: Jordan Oesterle, J-F Berube.
  • Minor re-signings: Michal Kempny, Ville Pokka, Erik Gustafsson.
  • Traded Scott Darling’s UFA rights to the Carolina Hurricanes for a 2017 third round pick.
  • Traded Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin.
  • Traded Artemi Panarin, Tyler Motte, and a 2017 sixth round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Brandon Saad, Anton Forsberg, and a 2018 fifth round pick.
  • Agreed to allow the Golden Knights to select Trevor van Riemsdyk in the expansion draft in exchange for Vegas also taking Marcus Kruger.
  • Marian Hossa is going on the long-term injured reserve for a skin condition.
  • IN: Patrick Sharp, Tommy Wingles, Brandon Saad, Connor Murphy, Jan Rutta, J-F Berube, Lance Bouma, Jordan Oesterle, Laurent Dauphin, Anton Forsberg.
  • OUT: Artemi Panarin, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Scott Darling, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Marcus Kruger, Johnny Oduya, Dennis Rasmussen, Michael Latta, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Tyler Motte.

It’s going to be a very, very different Chicago Blackhawks team in 2017-18 than we’re used to. Well, to be fair, we’re used to seeing new Hawks teams from one year to next as the front office flips players around its expensive core.

This summer, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Artemi Panarin were the casualties of Chicago’s cap dance. Hjalmarsson was dealt to Arizona in a deal for Connor Murphy, who’s younger, not as a good, and cost-controlled for a longer period of time. Panarin was sent to the Blue Jackets for a familiar face, Brandon Saad, who studied abroad in Columbus for a couple of seasons. Again, he’s cost-controlled whereas Panarin will be a free agent in two seasons.

The Hawks managed to use the expansion draft to their advantage as they had Vegas take on Marcus Kruger’s contract in order to choose Trevor van Riemsdyk. They’ll also get some more cap relief as Marian Hossa is retiring due to a skin condition manifested by his equipment. It’s a puzzling situation. Obviously the Hawks don’t want to lose Hossa who’s still a very good player, but they’ll likely be able to stash his $5.25 million cap hit on the LTIR. Of course, Hossa is unable to play as soon as his front-loaded contract reached the four years in which he was going to be paid $1 million.

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But yeah, the Hawks. They’re a weird combination of new and old as key players have moved on but former key players are back in the picture. We’ve been saying for years they’re going to fall down, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Colorado Avalanche

  • Re-signed Sven Andrighetto to a two-year contract with a $1.4 million cap hit.
  • Re-signed Matt Nieto to a one-year, $1 million contract.
  • Re-signed Gabriel Bourque to a one-year, $750k contract.
  • Signed Jonathan Bernier to a one-year, $2.75 million contract.
  • Signed Nail Yakupov to a one-year, $875k contract.
  • Minor signings: Andrew Agozzino, David Warsofsky.
  • Minor re-signings: Joe Cannata, Duncan Siemens, Felix Girard.
  • Traded a 2019 fourth round pick to the Nashville Predators for Colin Wilson.
  • Lost Calvin Pickard in the expansion draft.
  • IN: Colin Wilson, Jonathan Bernier, Nail Yakupov, Andrew Agozzino, David Warsofsky.
  • OUT: Mikhail Grigorenko, Calvin Pickard, Mike Sislo, Jeremy Smith, Turner Elson.
  • UNSIGNED: Rocco Grimaldi (RFA), Nikita Zadorov (RFA), Eric Gelinas (UFA).

How do you fix a historically-bad team? You kind of have to just see it out. There’s no way the Avs’ front office can lift a team that won 22 games from the gutter through free agency. This is going to be a long-term building process.

It was sort of expected that Matt Duchene and/or Gabriel Landeskog would be dealt in order for the Avs to address different issues this summer, but both are still on the team. They made a minor trade, acquiring a cap dump in Colin Wilson from the Predators. They also took a couple of stabs in the dark, inking Nail Yakupov and Jonathan Bernier to one-year deals.

Otherwise? It’s been a quiet offseason in Colorado. They still need to figure out a contract for Nikita Zadorov, but that shouldn’t be too hard considering the cap space they have sitting around.

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Dallas Stars

  • Re-signed Ben Bishop to a six-year contract with a $4,916,667 cap hit.
  • Re-signed Mattias Janmark to a one-year, $700k contract.
  • Re-signed Esa Lindell to a two-year contract with a $2.2 million cap hit.
  • Re-signed Radek Faksa to a three-year contract with a $2.2 million cap hit.
  • Re-signed Brett Ritchie to a two-year contract with a $1.75 million cap hit.
  • Signed Alexander Radulov to a five-year contract with a $6.25 million cap hit.
  • Signed Martin Hanzal to a three-year contract with a $4.75 million cap hit.
  • Signed Tyler Pitlick to a three-year contract with a $1 million cap hit.
  • Minor signings: Brian Flynn, Mike McKenna, Brent Regner.
  • Minor re-signings: Mark McNeill, Justin Dowling, Ludwig Bystrom, Gemel Smith.
  • Traded a 2017 fourth round pick to the Los Angeles Kings for Ben Bishop’s UFA rights.
  • Traded Dylan Ferguson and a 2022 second round pick to the Vegas Golden Knights for Marc Methot.
  • Lost Cody Eakin in the expansion draft.
  • Bought out Antti Niemi’s contract.
  • IN: Ben Bishop, Alex Radulov, Martin Hanzal, Tyler Pitlick, Brian Flynn, Mike McKenna, Brent Regner.
  • OUT: Antti Niemi, Patrick Sharp, Ales Hemsky, Maxime Legace, Dylan Ferguson.
  • UNSIGNED: Jamie Oleksiak.

Up and down go the Dallas Stars. In 2016-17, they missed the playoffs, which was a disappointing follow-up to their 50-win campaign the season. That’s exactly what happened the previous years too. If the pattern continues, this will be another jolt up for the Stars, but hopefully for them, they can actually manage to prolong the success.

The Stars made three major free agent splashes this summer. One was pretty predictable, the other two were out of left field. They traded for Ben Bishop’s rights and signed him to a six-year deal, which will hopefully solve the goaltending issue that’s plagued them for years now. The Stars also inked Martin Hanzal and Alex Radulov to long-term deals, further adding to an already very good forward core, and acquired Marc Methot in a trade with the Golden Knights.

On paper, summer 2017 seems like a massive win for Dallas. Hanzal gives them a very good two-way second line centre to compliment their offensive juggernaut. Radulov adds to an embarrassment of riches with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Methot is another veteran defenceman that’ll help make their blueline not a complete disaster.

Ken Hitchcock, who’s back for his second go with the franchise, has himself a very, very good roster to work with here. But a lot of Dallas’ success really comes down to Bishop. Is he going to be the Vezina-finalist from Tampa who took the Lightning to the Cup Final? Or is he going to be, well, whatever the hell he was last season? If it’s the latter, the Stars will have worked themselves out of their Lehtonen/Niemi disaster and into a brand new one.

Minnesota Wild

  • Re-signed Mike Reilly to a two-year contract with a $725k cap hit.
  • Signed Kyle Quincey to a one-year, $1.25 million contract. 
  • Signed Ryan Murphy to a one-year, $700k contract. 
  • Minor signings: Cal O’Reilly, Kyle Rau, Landon Ferraro, Niklas Svedberg, Alex Grant.
  • Minor re-signings: Patrick Cannone, Zach Palmquist, Steve Michalek, Zack Mitchell, Kurtis Gabriel.
  • Traded Jordan Schroeder to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Dante Salituro.
  • Traded Marco Scandella, Jason Pominville, and a 2018 fourth round pick to the Buffalo Sabres for Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, and a 2018 third round pick.
  • Traded the Vegas Golden Knights Alex Tuch for a 2017 or 2018 conditional third round pick and Vegas agreed to select Erik Haula in the expansion draft.
  • IN: Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Kyle Quincey, Alex Grant, Ryan Murphy, Cal O’Reilly, Landon Ferraro, Kyle Rau, Dante Salituro.
  • OUT: Marco Scandella, Jason Pominville, Jordan Schroeder, Alex Tuch, Erik Haula, Martin Hanzal, Christian Folin, Darcy Kuemper.
  • UNSIGNED: Nino Niederreiter, (RFA) Mikael Granlund (RFA), Marcus Foligno (RFA).

Summer 2017 hasn’t been kind to the Minnesota Wild. In terms of additions, they’ve brought Kyle Quincey and reclamation project Ryan Murphy on board. They had to deal the Buffalo Sabres Marco Scandella in order to get rid of Jason Pominville’s contract, but also took on Tyler Ennis’ deal in return essentially mitigating the savings. They managed to work through the expansion draft without losing Matt Dumba for nothing because they were able to talk Vegas into taking Erik Haula by sweetening the pot with Alex Tuch.

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So that isn’t exactly inspiring. But there’s still a lot of work to be done. Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, and newly-acquired Marcus Foligno don’t have contracts yet, and the Wild have to tread carefully because their cap situation isn’t enviable. They also only have, like, half of an NHL roster signed.

The Wild enjoyed their most successful regular season in franchise history in 2016-17, but it only resulted in one playoff win. They haven’t gotten better yet this summer, so they’re going to have to hope that last year’s group can do it all over again.

Nashville Predators

  • Re-signed Viktor Arvidsson to a seven-year contract with a $4.25 million cap hit.
  • Re-signed Austin Watson to a three-year contract with a $1.1 million cap hit.
  • Re-signed Pontus Aberg to a two-year contract with a $650k cap hit.
  • Re-signed Yannick Weber to a one-year, $650k contract.
  • Signed Nick Bonino to a four-year contract with a $4.1 million cap hit.
  • Signed Scott Hartnell to a one-year, $1 million contract.
  • Minor signings: Matt O’Connor, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Anders Lindback.
  • Minor re-signings: Andrew O’Brien, Fredrick Gaudreau, Marek Mazanec.
  • Traded Colin Wilson to the Colorado Avalanche for a 2019 fourth round pick.
  • Traded a 2019 third round pick to the Vegas Golden Knights for Alexei Emelin.
  • Lost James Neal in the expansion draft.
  • IN: Nick Bonino, Scott Hartnell, Alexei Emelin, Matt O’Connor, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Anders Lindback.
  • OUT: Colin Wilson, James Neal, Michael Liambas, Brad Hunt, Mike Ribeiro, P.A. Parenteau.
  • UNSIGNED: Ryan Johansen (RFA), Mike Fisher (UFA).

Despite having an underwhelming regular season, the Predators ran all the way to the Stanley Cup Final this spring for the first time in franchise history. They were stopped in six games by the Penguins, but Nashville proved that they have a team worth being excited about for quite some time.

They lost James Neal in the expansion draft, which made sense because he only had one year left on his contract and likely wasn’t in the team’s long-term outlook. They also dumped Colin Wilson’s contract on Colorado, freeing up the cap room to sign Nick Bonino, who played a key role in back-to-back Penguins championships. Depth was a bit of an issue for the Preds in the playoffs, as injuries ultimately played a role in them coming up short. To address the issue, they brought in former Pred Scott Hartnell and traded for Alexei Emelin, both of whom will provide welcomed veteran depth.

There wasn’t a Matt Duchene trade, but the Preds are at least as good as they were last season. But they aren’t done yet. They got Viktor Arvidsson signed to a long-term contract, so he’ll join Filip Forsberg, P.K. Subban, Calle Jarnkrok, Roman Josi, and Mattias Ekholm as the team’s good, cheap, controlled core. The last key piece left to sign is Ryan Johansen, who has one more RFA year left before he can hit the open market.

It’s been a good offseason for Nashville, but it can become a great one if they get Johansen locked up to a reasonable contract.

St. Louis Blues

  • Re-signed Colton Parayko to a five-year contract with a $5.5 million cap hit.
  • Signed Beau Bennett to a one-year, $650k contract.
  • Signed Chris Thorburn to a two-year contract with a $900k cap hit.
  • Minor re-signings: Oskar Sundqvist, Jordan Binnington, Magnus Paajarvi, Chris Butler, Wade Megan.
  • Traded Jori Lehtera, Washington’s 2017 first round pick, and a conditional 2018 or 2019 first round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers for Brayden Schenn.
  • Traded Ryan Reaves and a 2017 second round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Oskar Sundqvist and a 2017 first round pick.
  • Lost David Perron in the expansion draft.
  • IN: Brayden Schenn, Beau Bennett, Chris Thorburn, Oskar Sundqvist.
  • OUT: Jori Lehtera, Ryan Reaves, David Perron, Landon Ferraro, Brad Malone, Ty Rattie, Nail Yakupov, Kenny Agastino, Scottie Upshall.

After firing head coach Ken Hitchcock and promoting Mike Yeo into the role, the Blues went 22-8-2 and upset the favoured Minnesota Wild in the first round of the playoffs. Next season, they’ll see if that stretch was legitimate, as the Blues will head into 2017-18 with a virtually identical team.

They pulled off one major move, sending Jori Lehtera along with a couple of picks to Philadelphia in exchange for Brayden Schenn. Schenn, on the surface, produced nicely last season, scoring 55 points in 79 games. But 17 of his 25 goals were on the power play, and his underlying numbers at even strength leave a lot to be desired. He can be a good player is utilized properly, but at the cost he came at — both the price of acquisition and his $5.125 million cap hit — is heavy.

Most importantly, the Blues got Colton Parayko, the emerging star of their blueline, locked up to a five-year deal with a reasonable $5.5 million cap hit. Now it’s ride or die with this group for the Blues.

Winnipeg Jets

  • Re-signed Marko Dano to a one-year, $850k contract.
  • Re-signed Connor Hellebuyck to a one-year, $2.25 million contract.
  • Re-signed Andrew Copp to a two-year contract with a $1 million cap hit.
  • Signed Steve Mason to a two-year contract with a $4.1 million cap hit.
  • Signed Dmitri Kulikov to a three-year contract with a $4.33 million cap hit.
  • Minor signings: Buddy Robinson, Michael Sgarbossa, Cameron Schilling.
  • Minor re-signings: Ben Chiarot, Brandon Tanev, JC Lipon.
  • Lost Chris Thorburn in the expansion draft.
  • Bought out Mark Stuart’s contract.
  • IN: Steve Mason, Dmitri Kulikov, Michael Sgarbossa, Buddy Robinson, Cameron Schilling.
  • OUT: Mark Stuart, Paul Postma, Ondrej Pavelec, Anthony Peluso, Chris Thorburn, Brenden Kichton, Brian Strait, Quinton Howden.

The Jets had yet another disappointing season in 2016-17. Since moving to Winnipeg in 2011, they’ve made the playoffs in only one of six seasons despite certainly having enough talent on their roster to be a playoff team. Similar to previous seasons, the Jets struggled with discipline, mediocre special teams, and poor goaltending. All of that ultimately overshadowed the impressive production of young stars Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, and Nik Ehlers.

The Jets tried to address their issues via free agency this summer by signings Steve Mason and Dimitri Kulikov to multi-year contracts. The Mason deal was a very good risk. He was bad last year for the Flyers, but the team did him no favours and he’s a fair bet to bounce back on a team with a stronger defensive system. The Kulikov deal is a little more puzzling. The Jets paid a high price, in terms of length and cost, for Kulikov, who had a miserable season last year in Buffalo. He was a solid shut down guy in Florida, but it’s a pretty hefty price to pay for somebody who, at best, only excels at one side of the ice.

Still, the Jets are a better team going into next season. They didn’t lose any important players over the offseason, made a couple of additions that should make their roster deeper, and will benefit from internal progression of their young players. I feel like we’ve been saying that for years now, though.

Previously in this series…

The Good and Bad of Summer 2017: Pacific Division

  • Shadesof97

    Dallas looking scary. I like it, they are exciting to watch. Shored up their biggest weaknesses in goal, and LD (plus won the lottery for a helluva D prospect). Will be interesting to see Methot without Karlsson

  • Wall2Wall-27

    Looks to this fan like Winnipeg, Dallas & Nashville are progressing and the rest are regressing. I’ve been wrong before though cause there are so many intangibles like injuries and off-ice issues, etc.

  • McRib

    I can’t believe Colorado just had the season they did and they only got Cale Makar as a “reward”. Scouts lost their minds on Makar this year. The AJHL isn’t a good league, case in point the leading scorer on Brooks this year was a kid (Ty Mappin) who washed out of the WHL at 19 years old, another strike against Makar is he is a late birthday who should have already been in the NCAA. Makar would have been a fine 20-25 pick and I am not saying he doesn’t have any talent (but in a good year like the last one, he may not have even been a first rounder), but even in a bad year no way was he better than younger players putting up points like Cody Glass or Nick Suzuki in superior leagues.

    Comparing him to Tyson Barrie, Barrie had similar numbers in a much better league at relatively the same age (comparing Barrie’s NHL+1 to Makars Draft year, because he was a July birhday). Barrie 1.14 PPG in WHL (NHLe 27.10, Makar 1.39 in AJHL (NHLe 15.96). Some want to compare Makar to Kyle Turris, but Turris was almost a full year younger than Makar his draft year.

    • McRib

      There is as good of a chance that Cale Makar ends up being a complete stiff, than of being a star. I don’t know if I have ever seen such a boom/bust player taken after a team just had such a historically bad year.

      • McRib

        Another comparison is Kailer Yamamoto. Yamamoto is only a month older than Makar and he just posted an NHLe of 36.22 (compared to Makars 15.96). I understand one is a forward, but that is insane, thats 227% more offense. Juuso Valimaki another late birthday defender had an NHLe of 21.67 (or 136% more offensive output). Honestly, Makar from an analytic standpoint should never have been a Top. 20 pick.

        • defenceman factory

          why did virtually every prospect rating have him inside their top 20, including this site, which heavily weights analytics in their rating?

          I have no personal knowledge of Makar’s play but interested in why you think everyone else over rated this kid.

          • McRib

            Cale Makar had 8 Points in 4 GP at the World Jr. A Challenge, so scouts went crazy. I was at that tournament, Makar had four of those points in a game against a U18 Swiss B Team with none of their top prospects (see Nando Eggenberger next year, also the dude who just went first) and he had another two of his points against a Russian team with a goalie who couldn’t stop a beach ball. I’m honestly fine with him going 15-20, although that is still rich for me as I pointed out other better comparables who went well after him (Yamamoto, etc), but Top. 5-10 is pure insanity.

            It’s not the first time a Tier Two Canadian League Prospect has become overhyped (see Dennis Cholowski, Beau Bennett, Joe Colborne, Kris Chucko, etc). He is a good skater, but after watching him in the World Jr. A Challenge and AJHL I went back and watched WHL Games and the pace of play looked like the NHL comparatively, it was light years faster, so how good of a skater is he really? If he put up the points he did as a 1999, I could understand him being a Top. 10 pick, but he has played a year longer than most others available at the draft.

            I think Makar could end up being a decent to good (not great) Top. 4 offensive defenseman, but for a team who only won 22 Games last year he isn’t the can’t miss chip they need, which I was mostly speaking to when first writing about Makar. He kind of reminds me of Edmonton getting Yakupov, he is going to have this unrealistic pressure of being a “can’t miss” prospect and he isn’t.

        • LAKID

          I can’t see Yamamoto making it either ( I hope he does). Johnny Hoggy is over rated and will be in on the trading block at next years deadline with Burke making the deals.