Last week, I asked if the Oilers really improved this offseason. They signed Kyle Brodziak, Tobias Rieder, and Kevin Gravel (Mikko Koskinen earlier, too), but most of those players simply replace players sent away at the trade deadline. If the Oilers are going to move up the standings it will be based off internal development and players bouncing back.
But what about the rest of the Pacific? The Oilers finished fifth in the division last season, but a few teams have gone out and added to their teams, and others, like the Oilers, haven’t done a whole lot.
Vegas Golden Knights
2017-18 record: 51-24-7 109 points
Notable subtractions: David Perron, James Neal, Luca Sbisa.
Notable additions: Paul Stastny, Nick Holden, Daniel Carr, Curtis Mackenzie.
Vegas’ place in the standings next season is anyone’s guess. After a huge inaugural season, no one would be surprised if numerous players regressed and fell back to earth. They lost David Perron and James Neal in free agency, but signed Paul Stastny to replace some of that scoring going out the door.
Stasnty is a nice signing at a good price ($6.5 million per for three years). He’ll provide some cover if either William Karlsson or Erik Haula can’t replicate their 2017-18 seasons. Losing Perron and Neal hurts, but they were probably wise to stay away from Neal at that price. Perron signed a fair deal with St. Louis, but he seems to love it there and might not have been asking the same of Vegas. Daniel Carr and Curtis Mackenzie both feel like Vegas players who could surprise with an expanded role.
Vegas’ first round picks in 2017 all had great seasons in junior and overseas. Cody Glass and Nick Suzuki could push for an NHL job next season. And they’re still poking around an Erik Karlsson trade.
Verdict: They’ve made some reasonable bets in free agency and are still looking to improve. A lot depends on Marc-Andre Fleury and whether he can deliver another excellent season or not.
2017-18 record: 44-25-13 101 points
Notable subtractions: Derek Grant, Kevin Bieksa, Antoine Vermette. Ryan Kesler (?).
Notable additions: Brian Gibbons, Luke Schenn, Andrej Sustr, Carter Rowney.
The Ducks have been quiet this season. The biggest news is Ryan Kesler possibly sitting out next season in an attempt to get healthy and prolong his career. That would be a considerable loss, but Kesler’s 2017-18 season saw him score 14 points in 44 games, averaging 18 minutes a game. It might be best for both the Ducks and Kesler if he sat out and tried to get healthy. He won’t be as useful if he plays like last season.
Anaheim always stays near the top of the Pacific. Last season, Ryan Getzlaf, Kesler, and Rakell all missed games and players like Derek Grant played huge roles at times. They still finished with 101 points. John Gibson covers a lot of faults, he just has to stay healthy. Ryan Miller was excellent in a backup role.
Ondrej Kase could see an increased role. Their excellent drafting has given them a steady stream of prospects ready to graduate to the NHL. Troy Terry, Jacob Larsson, Marcus Pettersson, and Kalle Kossila are NHL options for the Ducks next season.
Verdict: Anaheim hasn’t done much. They’ve added a few depth guys but their drafting always puts them in a good position. A core of Getzlaf, Rickard Rakell, Josh Manson, and Hampus Lindholm always has them in the hunt.
San Jose Sharks
2017-18 record: 45-27-10 100 points
Notable subtractions: Mikkel Boedker, Joel Ward, Jannik Hansen.
Notable additions: Evander Kane.
The Sharks cleared a lot of salary when they got involved in the Mike Hoffman trade and then flipped him to Florida. San Jose got rid of Boedker’s salary and bought out the remaining year on Paul Martin’s contract. They were well-positioned to take a run at John Tavares, but he ultimately chose to head home and sign with the Maple Leafs instead. They re-signed Evander Kane and Joe Thornton, but haven’t added anyone significant this summer. They signed Logan Couture to a long-term extension, too.
Verdict: The Sharks opened up a bunch of cap space but didn’t use it. They were in on Tavares and Ryan O’Reilly, but couldn’t land either player. It still feels like there’s a move coming. But it’s also mid-July and history suggests there’s not a lot of impact players moved from now until the season starts, but hey, Max Pacioretty is available and could be a fit in San Jose. It sounds a lot like Artemi Panarin is kindly letting Columbus know he won’t be signing with them. Everyone is expecting Carolina to move Jeff Skinner (and Justin Faulk). The Sharks have been connected to just about every big name available. It’s still possible they make a big add, but that feels less likely as the season approaches.
Los Angeles Kings
2017-18 record: 45-29-8 98 points
Notable subtractions: Christian Folin.
Notable additions: Ilya Kovalchuk, Peter Budaj.
Los Angeles’ big move was Ilya Kovalchuk. They gave him the third year to seal the deal, while other teams wouldn’t. But Kovalchuk is 35 now. It’s unclear how much offence he’ll bring back from the KHL, where he scored 285 points in 262 games. Using NHLE, Kovalchuk’s last season projects to 39 goals and 78 points in the NHL. Kovalchuk scored at a 68-point pace in his last season in the NHL, but he also averaged over 24 minutes a game.
Verdict: Signing Kovalchuk to a three-year contract might be one year too long, but he should provide top-six scoring for the next couple years. The Kings also signed Drew Doughty to a mammoth extension, avoiding an Erik Karlsson-like situation. Kovalchuk should help, and maybe Budaj recovers some of the magic he had with them in 2016-17, but it’s still be a relatively quiet off-season for Los Angeles.
2017-18 record: 37-35-10 84 points
Notable subtractions: Dougie Hamilton, Michael Ferland, Matt Stajan.
Notable additions: Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm, James Neal, Derek Ryan, Austin Czarnik.
The Flames missed the playoffs and clearly weren’t happy with it. They made a lot of moves to improve their depth up front, but also sent away Dougie Hamilton in one of the only blockbuster trades this summer. Noah Hanifin had a sort of standout season last year and Elias Lindholm has always been an intriguing player, but Hamilton was part of one of the league’s best pairings. A return to Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie on the top pairing is a downgrade and for all the talk about how much right-handed defenceman are worth, it feels they sold low on Hamilton.
They definitely improved at forward. James Neal and Elias Lindholm can play in their top six, while Derek Ryan is a nice middle-six option. Austin Czarnik is a wildcard that could provide depth scoring or more.
Verdict: Calgary is better at forward, but their defence is more of a question mark now that T.J. Brodie will play more. Hamonic needs a rebound season, but the Flames have so many young defence prospects it might not matter. It’s possible one of Rasmus Andersson, Oliver Kylington, or Juuso Valimaki makes the team and is ready to play meaningful minutes. Hanifin isn’t Hamilton, but he’s still a bonafide top-four defenceman. I’m a little surprised they didn’t do more in net, so a lot of next season rests on Mike Smith.
2017-18 record: 36-40-6 78 points
Notable subtractions: Mike Cammalleri, Patrick Maroon, Mark Letestu.
Notable additions: Tobias Rieder, Kyle Brodizak, Kevin Gravel, Mikko Koskinen.
The Oilers had a wildly disappointing season after they were a few goals away from the Western Conference Finals in 2016-17. They took a step back and most expected changes beyond a few depth players. Tobias Rieder and Kyle Brodziak are fine players, but they aren’t moves that’ll catapult a team back in the playoffs.
Edmonton is counting on some bounce-back seasons and internal development, but it’s also another bet on the 2016-17 team that made the playoffs, which is starting to feel almost mythical at this point. That was a good team, but a lot of players had career seasons and the Oilers should be continually adding and improving instead of relying on a team that won one round in 2017. The depth on the wings is poor, especially on the right side.
Verdict: Bob Nicholson appeared on Hockey Night in Canada early in March and said that fans will buy-in if they understand the plan once they make changes. The changes included some new assistant coaches and a few depth players, which leaves too many question marks and things to go right for the Oilers to return to the playoffs. It’s hard to argue the Oilers are much better than last season.
2017-18 record: 31-40-11 73 points
Notable subtractions: Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin.
Notable additions: Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, Tim Schaller, Tanner Kero.
The Canucks had another poor season and decided to sign a give a bunch of depth players term and money in free agency. Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, and Tim Schaller are useful players, but unlike Schaller’s deal the Beagle and Roussel contracts are insane. Neither player scored more than 22 points last season, but will make three million for the next four years.
These moves are eerily similar to the Edmotnon’s off-season moves of 2011, when they signed Eric Belanger, Ben Eager, and Darcy Hordichuk. Sure, Beagle, Roussel, and Schaller are more useful than the three Edmonton signed, but also come at a higher price and term.
Vancouver had the opportunity to weaponize their cap space and take big-money contracts from cap-strapped teams for assets, but chose to use their cap space against themselves.
Verdict: The biggest addition will come from their 2017 first-round pick, Elias Pettersson, coming to North America. Otherwise, the Canucks haven’t improved much at all. A lack of third and fourth-liners wasn’t what ailed the Canucks.
2017-18 record: 29-41-12 70 points
Notable subtractions: Max Domi, Luke Schenn, Zac Rinaldo, Jordan Martinook, Tobias Rieder.
Notable additions: Alex Galchenyuk, Michael Grabner, Vinnie Hinostroza, Jordan Oesterle.
Arizona swapped playmaking Max Domi for goalscoring Alex Galchenyuk, who may finally get the chance to play center full time. Michael Grabner is a solid middle-six option and Vinnie Hinostroza was a surprisingly effective scorer for Chicago last season.
They won’t miss Luke Schenn or Zac Rinaldo. Martinook when Rieder both took a step back last season.
Jordan Oesterle played a lot in Chicago and could be effective in a reduced role for the Coyotes, while making almost nothing on a one-year contract.
Verdict: The Coyotes finished the season with a 17-9-3 record. If Antti Raanta stays healthy and performs like last year, they can distance themselves from the bottom of the standings.
Arizona, Calgary, and Vegas made the most moves out of the Pacific teams. Have the Oilers done enough to keep up in the division? Rieder and Brodziak effectively replace Maroon and Letestu in my eyes. Their right wing is still far too inexperienced and their defence relies on one of Kris Russell or Matt Benning performing in the top four. Cam Talbot should recover from a disappointing 2017-18 campaign, but Koskinen is both unknown and expensive. A lot of Pacific Division teams are staking a lot on their goaltenders performing well in 2018-19
Still, Edmonton’s off-season isn’t that different of other Pacific Division teams, even if it feels like they lacked a move or two. Help on defence or the wing would have inspired confidence, but as of now the Oilers are once again relying on too many things to go right next season.