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Dog Days in the NHL, Could Bruins Chase Another Record, and More

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
8 months ago
We are in the real dog days of the NHL off-season. Teams, outside of Ottawa yesterday, have taken a breather from signing free agents, even though there are 67 unsigned (UFA and RFA) players on the market. We will see more signings in August and early September, and some of those players will earn significant money.
Troy Terry is poised to go to arbitration. He’s produced 60 goals and 128 points the past two seasons. He has a strong case to command $7m, and likely more. His teammate Trevor Zegras is an RFA with no arbitration rights, but if he signs long-term, he will make more than $50 million. Patrick Kane, Tomas Tatar, Shane Pinto, and Zach Parise are the other unsigned players who scored at least 20 goals last season. Parise will either sign with the Islanders or retire. Kane likely will wait until after he has completed his rehab to make a decision on where he plays. He could be a huge mid-season addition.
Tatar scored 48 points last year. He might have to sign for a lower AAV than he’d like, and he could be really good value for a team. Pinto will re-sign in Ottawa, but with the Senators signing Vladimir Tarasenko for $5m today, Pinto likely will have to take less than he wants because he has no arbitration rights.
Matt Dumba is the only unsigned player who averaged 20+ minutes of TOI/game last year. He might have to do what John Klingberg did last summer and sign a one-year deal if he wants a higher AAV. He is an intriguing UFA.
Nick Ritchie has scored 13, 12, and 15 goals in the past three seasons while playing 56, 55, and 74 games. He’s 6’2″, and 225 pounds. He could be a real bargain at $1m. There are other UFAs who will come in around $1m who could be very good value signings in Max Comtois, Noah Gregor, Danton Heinen, Tyler Motte, and Puis Suter. I wonder how much Phil Kessel has left? He scored 14 goals last season. He’s said he wants to play again and continue his ironman streak. If you sign him, the odds he is available to play every night are high.
Playoff contending teams who need to add a bottom-six forward depth include Nashville, Carolina, Calgary, Edmonton, Seattle, Minnesota, Washington, Colorado, Ottawa, and a few others. Who will find the best value deal in August or September?

HOW FAR WILL BRUINS FALL?

Mar 9, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center David Krejci (46) and Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) during a faceoff in the second period at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
The Boston Bruins’ off-season has mirrored their playoff run: disappointing. After a record-breaking season where they won a league-record 65 games and set a new league-high for points with 135, the Bruins choked a 3-1 series lead to Florida in the first round, which included blowing a 3-1 lead in game seven. It was rough for Bruins fans, and with Patrice Bergeron announcing his retirement earlier this week, the summer just keeps getting worse.
The Bruins will look much different next season. Players gone from their playoff roster include Bergeron, Taylor Hall, Tyler Bertuzzi, Nick Foligno, Tomas Nosek, Garnet Hathaway, Dmitri Orlov, Connor Clifton and likely David Krejci. He hasn’t announced if he will play or retire, but many in Boston believe he will retire.
That is nine of 18 skaters. They have replaced them with Morgan Geekie, Milan Lucic, James van Riemsdyk, Patrick Brown, Jesper Boqvist, Jayson Megna, Kevin Shattenkirk and Ian Mitchell.
Even if the Bruins returned the exact same roster, this season they weren’t going to win 65 games. But how much will their win total and point totals drop? They could drop by 35 points and still be a 100-point team. But how far will they drop?
Could they challenge the NHL record for the largest point reduction from one season to the next (in years they played the same number of games)?
TEAMSEASONGPPOINTSSEASONGPPOINTSREDUCTION
Philadelphia Flyers20068210120078256-45
Chicago Blackhawks1953706919547031-38
Detroit Red Wings19968213119978294-37
Winnipeg Jets (1979)1985809619868059-37
Los Angeles Kings1981809919828063-36
The 2006 Flyers had 101 points, then 56 in 2007 before rebounding with 95 (finished 6th in the NHL) in 2008. It was quite the rollercoaster three-year span for the Flyers.
The Detroit Red Wings dipped from 131 points in 1996 to 94 in 1997. They won the Stanley Cup. I expect Boston will still be competitive, especially if they add a centre before the season begins. But if they don’t I could see them finishing in the top-five in the above chart.
In case you’re wondering the largest single-season point improvement belongs to the 1994 San Jose Sharks.
TEAMSEASONGPPOINTSSEASONGPPOINTSIMPROVEMENT
San Jose Sharks199384241994848258
New Jersey Devils2022826320238211249
Winnipeg Jets (1979)198180321982808048
Colorado Avalanche201782482018829547
Pittsburgh Penguins2006825820078210547
The Sharks won a measly 11 games in their second season in the NHL in 1993. They were awful going 11-71-2. But they had a 58-point improvement in 1994. The New Jersey Devils had the second largest improvement in NHL history last year going from 63 points in 2022 to 112 in 2023. The 2018 Avalanche and 2007 Penguins are also in the top five. Three of the top-five biggest point improvements in NHL history have occurred during the salary cap era.
San Jose (60), Chicago, Columbus (59), and Anaheim (58) are the only ones who could even garner a realistic 47-point improvement next year. I think Columbus will have the biggest improvement of any team in the NHL, but I don’t see them mirroring the 2023 Devils’ 49-point increase.
Boston is the easy choice to have the largest point reduction this season. Other than Columbus, which team do you see poised to make the biggest point gain?

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