A Quiet Summer in the Pacific Division
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
We are officially in the deadest stretch of the NHL offseason. It’s too early to be talking PTOs, most of the good free agents are scooped up and trade talks are basically dead because GMs are off at their cabins or on the golf course. There’s just really not a lot going on.
For a GM like Ken Holland, it’s not much of a problem. He’s more or less capped out and the Oilers’ roster is basically set. There’s not much he can do.
There are a few GM’s around the league who should not have the same mindset and a few are sitting in the Pacific Division.
This was supposed to be a busy first summer in the GM chair for Craig Conroy down in Calgary, and it hasn’t been. He swapped Tyler Toffoli for Yegor Sharangovich and a draft pick, which is a sizeable downgrade if we’re just looking at next season. There was also talk that he would be looking to trade any pending UFA that wasn’t willing to commit to a long-term deal.
Well, here we are in the middle of July and players like Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin, and Mikael Backlund are still members of the organization and still don’t have contract extensions.
That’s likely more of a comment on the market than it is on Conroy’s abilities as a GM but regardless, the Flames’ roster for next season is not better and they didn’t get a big stockpile of future assets that could lead to a quick roster retool in a few years.
They’re still seemingly stuck in the worst kind of hockey purgatory: not quite good enough to make the playoffs and not bad enough to get a lottery pick.
The Vancouver Canucks are in a worse spot. Their roster likely won’t be good enough to get them into the playoffs and once again, they probably won’t be bad enough to get a top-five pick in next year’s draft.
The difference is that they don’t have a group of pending UFAs that could get them a haul at the deadline. If they fail this season, there will be no silver lining.
They bit the bullet hard and bought out Oliver Ekman-Larsson and with the savings they signed Teddy Blueger ($1.9m), Ian Cole ($3m), and Carson Soucy ($3.25m). Those are hardly the kind of players that will help make up the 12-point gap that existed between them and the playoffs last season.
The big question is whether or not they’ll be able to get Elias Pettersson to commit long-term. I think he will, but if they have another miserable season… I’m sure you can imagine what the conversations will be like in that market.
The third team I wanted to hit on is actually the Seattle Kraken. Now, with young pieces like Matty Beniers and Shane Wright to go along with a handful of NHLers in their mid-to-late 20s, their future is probably brighter than Vancouver’s or Calgary’s, but I’m not that bullish on their chances heading into next season.
Yes, they were a feel-good story this past season but did they get better this summer? The answer is flat-out no. They lost Daniel Sprong, who hit the 20-goal mark last season and replaced him with Kailer Yamamoto. They added Brian Dumoulin, but his best years are behind him and I’m not sure if that offsets the loss of Carson Soucy.
Their goaltending is still suspect, their forward group still lacks high-end finishers, and their blue line is just average. They won’t be a 100-point team next season and I don’t think they’re a lock to make the playoffs.
Now, there is still time for these GMs to change the narrative.
The Flames could still make a big late summer splash like they did last offseason. Although, it’s far from a guarantee that a trade that involves one of their pending UFAs going out the door makes them better for next season.
The Kraken have $9m in cap space, although they need to sign Vince Dunn. Still, they should be trying to shed a few million and bring in a piece like Vladimir Tarasenko. They need more scoring.
The Canucks… well, they’re the Canucks. Their best hope is that Pettersson, Miller, Hughes, and Demko can drag them to the playoffs and I’m not even sure if that will be enough.
Now, for the Oilers’ sake, it’s far from a bad thing that a handful of teams in their division have failed to improve this offseason. Let’s hope it stays that way and no GM has a late summer blockbuster up their sleeves.
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