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Boston Bruins 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 33-16-7, 73 points

3rd in the MassMutual NHL East Division

Eliminated in the Second Round by N.Y. Islanders

Additions: F Samuel Asselin, F Steven Fogarty, F Nick Foligno, F Jesper Frödén, F Erik Haula, F Tomas Nosek, D Derek Forbort, D James Greenway (acquired from TOR), D Tyler Lewington, G Troy Grosenick, G Linus Ullmark

Subtractions: F Paul Carey (SHL), F Sean Kuraly (signed with CBJ), F David Krejci (ELH), F Robert Lantosi (SHL), F Greg McKegg (signed with NYR), F Ondrej Kase (signed with TOR), F Nick Ritchie (signed with TOR), D Steven Kampfer (KHL), D Kevan Miller (retired), D Jarred Tinordi (signed with NYR), G Jaroslav Halak (signed with VAN), G Dan Vladar (traded to CGY)

Still Unsigned: F Alex Khokhlachev (KHL, BOS reserve list), G Tuukka Rask

Re-signed: F Anton Blidh, F Trent Frederic, F Taylor Hall, F Cameron Hughes, F Joona Koppanen, F Zach Senyshyn, D Brandon Carlo, D Mike Reilly, D Nick Wolff, G Callum Booth

Offseason Analysis: The Bruins are in a period of transition. Stop calling them favorites.

They might still be playoff contenders, but they’ll have to focus on even making the postseason first to begin with shortly– if not already– this upcoming season.

Boston’s General Manager, Don Sweeney, had his work cut out for him this summer and managed it pretty well– all things considered.

Sure, the B’s don’t have David Krejci and we’ll get into that, but instead of signing one or two free agents and calling it a day, then talking about needing to fill a hole that he’s left empty for years or created going into the new season, Sweeney signed five key players and then some for depth.

It’s a transition, not a purposeful tank to rebuild– yet, anyway.

As long as Patrice Bergeron is under contract, Boston has assured him they’ll do whatever he and Brad Marchand say the dressing room needs.

Speaking of Bergeron, though, he’s put off contract extension talks until the 2021-22 season is over, so for any Bruins fans that have gone through the pain of watching Zdeno Chara play in a different uniform last season with the Washington Capitals and again this upcoming season with the New York Islanders, as well as watching Krejci return to Czechia this year, well… …it happens. Time waits for no one.

All good things must come to an end and a new era dawns. Just hope it’s a good one.

Oh, and, Tuukka Rask is currently unsigned after offseason hip surgery, though the 34-year-old goaltender has expressed a desire to only play for the Bruins if he’s healthy enough to go for the 2021-22 season by the time December rolls around.

He’ll even sign for league minimum and “tons of Bud Lights”, which a certain podcast would love, even if it isn’t their preferred light beer (shameless plug for some Twitter pals).

Anyway, Sweeney’s saved about $1.089 million in cap space to sign Rask to a low, one-year, deal if he’s good enough to return to action, which wouldn’t complicate matters in the crease with the arrival of Linus Ullmark via free agency and the development of Jeremy Swayman.

Rask and Swayman were always going to share the spotlight as Swayman comes into his own. Rask’s injury, however, slightly changes matters in the handoff.

Ullmark joins the Bruins on a four-year contract worth $5.000 million per season through 2024-25. He was the winningest goaltender for the Buffalo Sabres last season with a 9-6-3 record in 20 games, a 2.63 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in that span.

Given the workload that he faced in Buffalo compared to Boston’s more structured defense, Ullmark’s numbers should improve as he’s had moments of brilliance in his short spurts thus far– only really coming into the league as a starter or backup goaltender in the last two seasons.

At 28-years-old, he’s right on track for goaltender development and if things head south, the Bruins can use 2021-22 as a write off, plus 2022-23 as a means of giving Swayman full-time starter duties at the earliest.

Swayman, at 22-years-old, has already played 10 National Hockey League games and amassed a 7-3-0 record with a 1.50 goals-against average, a .945 save percentage and two shutouts, but that kind of luck is unheard of for a goaltender.

Eventually, given his unconventional style, his stats will come back to Earth and you don’t want to let reality cut down a goaltender’s confidence so soon while they’re young (see, Philadelphia Flyers goaltender, Carter Hart’s 2020-21 season, for example).

It’s nice to have Swayman as a future ace, but that’s just it– the future. Though the future is now in transition, it’s not quite the time to make the jump in the crease– especially while there’s more pressing matters like replacing Krejci.

Charlie Coyle is, ideally, Boston’s second line center entering this season, but if things go south with Coyle centering Taylor Hall and Craig Smith, then that’s where Nick Foligno or Erik Haula come in handy, if Jack Studnicka can’t make the jump from the Providence Bruins (AHL) to Boston.

Krejci finally could’ve had wingers in Hall and Smith for a full season, but the 35-year-old has always wanted to play in front of his parents and brother in the Czech Republic– especially after leaving for North America in his teens to play hockey for a living.

It’ll also help introduce his kids to his Czech native tongue, so they’ll be able to communicate with their grandparents.

Having spent his entire career with Boston through 962 regular season games since breaking into the league in the 2006-07 season, he’s earned every right to do as he pleases.

He might be back for the 2022-23 season, but absolutely do not hold him to it.

Hall, meanwhile, signed a four-year extension worth $6.000 million per season in the offseason, so Boston at least still only has one hole to fill on the second line if Coyle can’t return to form.

Foligno signed a two-year deal with a $3.800 million cap hit and Haula signed a two-year deal worth $2.375 million per season.

In 957 career NHL games, Foligno’s had 203-283–486 totals for the Ottawa Senators, Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs. He had been Columbus’ captain until the deadline when he was dealt to Toronto to add some punch to their lineup, only to blow a 3-1 series lead over the Montréal Canadiens in the 2021 First Round.

Foligno had 7-13–20 totals in 49 games with the Blue Jackets and Maple Leafs in 2020-21.

If nothing else, Foligno adds valuable leadership in the absence of Krejci and should hold things over as someone that gives it their all on a night-to-night basis. Bruins fans should warm up to him quickly if they haven’t already.

Haula, on the other hand, spent last season with the Nashville Predators, where he had 9-12–21 totals in 51 games last season, which was about the same production he had with the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers in 2019-20.

He hasn’t been able to find his breakout scoring touch that he had with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-18, when he had 55 points (29 goals, 26 assists) in 76 games, but he should be fine as a third liner flanked by Jake DeBrusk and Foligno.

Boston needs to get a consistent offense going and they at least seem to have the right level of talent for each line this season.

As long as everyone stays healthy it’s a good thing with an overhauled defense due to the Seattle Kraken taking Jeremy Lauzon in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, Kevan Miller retiring and the uneasiness of delegating more time to Jakub Zboril after his– at times– lackluster 2020-21 season.

Speaking of the revamped bottom-six, however, Tomas Nosek is new in town on a two-year deal worth $1.750 million per season, joining Trent Frederic– fresh off of an extension this offseason for two years and a $1.050 million cap hit– and Chris Wagner on the fourth line.

He’s been a fun player to watch come into his own with the Golden Knights since Vegas took him from the Detroit Red Wings in their expansion draft in 2017, and just had a career-year with 8-10–18 totals in 38 games last season.

Anything at or above 15 points from a fourth line center is a job well done for less than a $2.000 million cap hit.

Sean Kuraly’s gone home to Columbus, but after dropping from 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) in 69 games in 2019-20, to just nine points (four goals, five assists) in 47 games last season, needing a change of scenery was a welcome excuse for Boston to let him go.

Meanwhile, Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie also departed in the offseason for Toronto, though Kase’s future is shrouded by the ever-looming cloud of concussions and Ritchie outperformed expectations last season in the first half of the season before regressing to his ways.

Jaroslav Halak also left for the Vancouver Canucks, though that was inevitable with the long line for Boston’s backup goaltender being cut by Swayman’s emergence.

Even Dan Vladar was traded to the Calgary Flames for a 2022 3rd round pick as a result.

A couple of days prior, on July 26th, Boston acquired the rights to James Greenway from the Maple Leafs for future considerations. He’ll need a little more time in the system, for now.

With Miller retired, Steven Kampfer off to the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in Russia and Jarred Tinordi gone to the New York Rangers in free agency, Sweeney signed Derek Forbort to a three-year contract worth $3.000 million per season.

Mike Reilly also played well enough after being acquired at the trade deadline to earn a three-year extension with a $3.000 million cap hit as well.

Additionally, Brandon Carlo signed a six-year extension worth $4.100 million per season, so the Bruins have a defensive core with Carlo, Forbort, Matt Grzelcyk and Reilly under contract after 2021-22.

Charlie McAvoy, meanwhile is a pending-restricted free agent by the time July 1, 2022, rolls around (unless he’s signed to an extension before then).

Forbort, meanwhile, joins Boston after spending last season with the Winnipeg Jets where he had 2-10–12 totals in 56 games from the blue line. At 6-foot-4, 219-pounds, he adds much needed size to Boston’s defense.

In the meantime, John Moore, remains under contract and likely on the long term injured reserve to start the season, leaving his $2.750 million cap hit mostly off the books until the Bruins come to some sort of a resolution on that one.

Time will tell if the B’s will sink or swim, but you can’t say they didn’t try to put something together on paper this offseason.

Offseason Grade: B

In Boston, you either like or hate Sweeney. There’s no such thing as love unless you win championship rings these days.

While Sweeney’s made some blunders along the way, his overall approach as the Bruins’ GM has established a foundation of being in the room– being in consideration and among the conversation from year-to-year for attracting talent and making trades.

Sometimes it’s panned out, like the acquisition of Hall. Sometimes it’s fallen short, like when Sweeney paid a hefty price for Rick Nash (though only Ryan Lindgren remains a threat on the Rangers and Nash’s career-ending concussion couldn’t have been accounted for at the time of the trade).

Boston was stuck in the mud when he replaced Peter Chiarelli and Sweeney’s hands were tied in 2015, but he’s always been an active general manager and is tactical in his approach of replacing expendable assets.

At the same time, that very process irks Bruins fans because it comes across as overthinking or not trying hard enough to sign the player instead of a (better fit be damned) player.

Well, that and every guy these days isn’t Tim Thomas or Bobby Orr.

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Edmonton Oilers 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 35-19-2, 72 points

2nd in the Scotia NHL North Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Winnipeg

Additions: F Warren Foegele (acquired from CAR), F Zach Hyman, F Brendan Perlini, F Derek Ryan, F Colton Sceviour (signed to a PTO), F Tim Soderlund (acquired from CHI), D Cody Ceci, D Duncan Keith (acquired from CHI)

Subtractions: F Adam Cracknell (signed with Bakersfield Condors, AHL), F Tyler Ennis (signed to a PTO with OTT), F Joseph Gambardella (signed with Utica Comets, AHL), F Gaëtan Haas (NL), F Dominik Kahun (NL), F Jujhar Khaira (signed with CHI), F James Neal (buyout), F Joakim Nygård (SHL), F Alan Quine (signed with Henderson Silver Knights, AHL), F Patrick Russell (SHL), F Anton Slepyshev (KHL), D Ethan Bear (traded to CAR), D Caleb Jones (traded to CHI), D Dmitry Kulikov (signed with MIN), D Theodor Lennström (KHL), G Dylan Wells (traded to CAR)

Still Unsigned: F Alex Chiasson

Re-signed: F Tyler Benson, F Cooper Marody, F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, F Devin Shore, F Kailer Yamamoto, D Tyson Barrie, D Slater Koekkoek, G Stuart Skinner, G Mike Smith

Offseason Analysis: The second-best team in the Scotia NHL North Division would’ve been the fourth-best team in the other three divisions last season.

No matter what, the Oilers would’ve been a playoff team in 2020-21, but it’s the embarrassment that came with being swept in the 2021 First Round by the Winnipeg Jets and subsequent offseason moves that have left many scratching their heads.

Instead of overreacting and making big, sweeping, changes, Edmonton went for a big piece and a few smaller moves that still ate up their valuable cap space in the midst of a flat salary cap due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

So really it’s just more of the same from the Oilers.

Let’s start with the good news…

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kailer Yamamoto and Tyson Barrie are back and solidify some semblance of depth for Edmonton with Nugent-Hopkins on an affordable eight-year extension worth $5.125 million per season– the Oilers will have a surefire center on the second or third line for years to come.

The 28-year-old was Edmonton’s 1st overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft and had 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 52 games last season after reaching the 60-point plateau in back-to-back seasons from 2018-19 through 2019-20.

Had there been an 82-game schedule in 2020-21, Nugent-Hopkins likely would’ve at least eclipsed the 50-point mark.

At 5-foot-8, 135-pounds, Yamamoto has a lot in common with guys like Martin St. Louis in his stature and– like St. Louis– is better off developing on his own as he had 8-13–21 totals in 52 games in his first full season run with the Oilers last season.

Though he made his league debut in 2017-18, Yamamoto has only been utilized by Edmonton sparingly in parts of three seasons leading up to his full-time status in 2020-21.

His game should be fine in due time, though offering him a supporting cast (a theme for the Oilers in general) would be fine.

After he had 59 points in 78 games with the Colorado Avalanche in 2018-19, Barrie was shipped as part of a package to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a trade that, well, didn’t exactly live up to the high expectations in Toronto.

Barrie’s production from the point plummeted to 39 points (five goals, 34 assists) in 70 games with the Maple Leafs in 2019-20.

He joined the Oilers on a one-year deal last October and bounced back with an admirable 48 points (eight goals, 40 assists) in 56 games.

He had 25 points on the power play in his last season in Colorado, then just 12 points as a quarterback on Toronto’s power play unit before rebounding with 23 points from the blue line while on the skater advantage last season for Edmonton.

For his efforts, Barrie was rewarded with a sweet three-year deal worth $4.500 million per season and at 29-years-old that’s about right for a defender on the cusp of beginning the eventual decline from a defensive prime.

Zach Hyman joins the Oilers on a seven-year contract worth $5.500 million per season, which isn’t completely terrible for a 29-year-old forward in his prime that had 15-18–33 totals in 43 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season and has reached the 40-point plateau twice before.

As a top-six forward, Hyman is a welcome addition to Edmonton’s Art Ross Trophy-winning powerhouse offense (Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl).

An additional positive from this offseason?

Edmonton’s rid themselves of James Neal via a buyout. Granted, he’ll still be on the books through the 2024-25 season at about a $1.917 million cap penalty, but after parts of two seasons with the Oilers since being acquired for Milan Lucic, at least that branch of franchise history has come to a close.

Neal had five goals and five assists (10 points) in 29 games last season after bouncing back from 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in 63 games with the Calgary Flames in 2018-19 to 31 points (19 goals, 12 assists) in 55 games for Edmonton in 2019-20.

He’s a shell of his former self, but on a low-risk contract, he could fit in fine just about anywhere else that needs a touch of veteran experience.

Now for the bad stuff that… …isn’t necessarily that bad, it’s just disappointing from the Oilers (who seemingly have chosen to make the Buffalo Sabres look good for at least being salary cap smart this offseason and that’s about it).

At 39-years-old, Mike Smith could’ve called it a career, but when Jimmy Howard turned down Oilers General Manager, Ken Holland, Smith was rewarded with two-year (not just one-year!) extension worth $2.200 million per season.

The cap hit is fine, considering he recored a goals-against average under 2.50 for the first time since the 2011-12 season with the Phoenix Coyotes.

Back then, in 67 games with Phoenix, Smith had a 38-18-10 record, a 2.21 goals-against average, a .930 save percentage and eight shutouts en route to backstopping the Coyotes to the 2012 Western Conference Final, where the Los Angeles Kings eliminated Phoenix in five games.

Last season with the Oilers, Smith went 21-6-2 in 32 games, had three shutouts and amassed a 2.31 goals-against average as well as a .923 save percentage.

In 2019-20, he had a 19-12-6 record in 39 games, one shutout, a .902 save percentage and a whopping 2.95 goals-against average.

Whether it’s the introduction of Barrie to Edmonton’s defense that helped singlehandedly reduce the workload Smith faced or not– Smith had a fantastic season in 2020-21.

However, time stops for nobody and with an average age of 35.3 between Smith, Mikko Koskinen and Alex Stalock as reliable options in the crease under contract at the NHL level, well, it’s easy to feel uneasy about Edmonton’s chances at stopping the puck from night-to-night as their bodies collectively wear down through an 82-game schedule.

Then again, they are athletes and you and I are not.

Yet, it’s worth noting since unlike Smith, Koskinen went from an 18-13-3 record in 38 games with a 2.75 goals-against average, a .917 save percentage and one shutout in 2019-20 with the Oilers to a dismal 13-13-0 record in 26 games with a 3.17 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage in 2020-21.

For all the good that Barrie and Co. on Edmonton’s blue line have done, there’s two new additions that, uh, might undo some of the forward progress.

Connor McDavid (ever heard of him?) vouched for Holland to acquire Duncan Keith from Chicago and then Holland went along and signed Cody Ceci in free agency.

Though Keith recorded 6-34–40 totals in 82 games in 2018-19 with Chicago, he’s been in decline, notching 27 points (three goals, 24 assists) in 61 games in 2019-20 and just 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 54 games last season.

The 38-year-old defender would’ve accepted any trade to a team close to the pacific northwest as he expressed a desire to be closer to family, having been isolated playing hockey for a living for most of the time during the ongoing pandemic and spending roughly five months combined with his son prior to being traded to Edmonton.

In 1,192 career NHL games, he’s won three Stanley Cup rings, was named playoff MVP in 2015, and has 105-520–625 totals in the regular season.

With two years left on his contract, Keith’s $5.538 million cap hit is a bit steep for what could be a defensive liability as the aging process continues and– turns out– Holland could’ve done better by waiting another day and signing Keith Yandle for much less after the Florida Panthers bought him out. Who knew?!

Though the Internet likes to make fun of Ceci, the 27-year-old defender really hasn’t been all that bad.

Sure 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in 53 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season isn’t great, but he’s not expected to be a top-four defender– or at least he shouldn’t be.

Mistakes and weird things will happen. Sometimes you’re just unlucky like that.

Wait, Holland gave him four-years at $3.250 million per season? Yikes.

And to put the icing on the cake, Holland traded Ethan Bear to the Carolina Hurricanes for Warren Foegele. Not that Foegele’s bad, but for a team that could use a better defense, Bear fit in pretty well.

Has this McDavid guy ever tried watching the Oilers?

Offseason Grade: C+

For the Nugent-Hopkins extension, sensible new deal for Barrie and Yamamoto bridge contract, Holland deserves some praise for keeping the right pieces happy and on the roster heading into 2021-22.

That said, he also made some errors in judgment acquiring Keith at the price he paid, as well as handing out Ceci a contract with a steep cap hit and term for a guy that’s probably not that good.

In other words, it was just another normal offseason for the Oilers.

Edmonton made some smart moves, but then overreacted in other areas, while still searching for the second coming of Andy Moog in net or whatever.

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Nashville Predators 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 31-23-2, 64 points

4th in the Discover NHL Central Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Carolina

Additions: F Cody Glass (acquired from VGK), F Matt Luff, D Philippe Myers (acquired from PHI), G David Rittich

Subtractions: F Viktor Arvidsson (traded to LAK), F Michael Carcone (signed with Tucson Roadrunners, AHL), F Lukas Craggs (signed with Rochester Americans, AHL), F Erik Haula (signed with BOS), F Calle Järnkrok (expansion, SEA), F Sean Malone (signed with Rochester Americans, AHL), F Nolan Patrick (acquired from PHI, traded to VGK), F Brad Richardson (signed with CGY), F Josh Wilkins (HockeyAllsvenskan), D Erik Gudbranson (signed with CGY), D Josh Healey (signed with Milwaukee Admirals, AHL), D Tyler Lewington (signed with BOS), G Pekka Rinne (retired), G Kasimir Kaskisuo (SHL)

Still Unsigned: D Luca Sbisa

Re-signed: F Mikael Granlund, F Tanner Jeannot, F Michael McCarron, F Mathieu Olivier, F Rem Pitlick, F Anthony Richard, F Cole Smith, F Eeli Tolvanen, D Frédéric Allard, D Jeremy Davies, D Dante Fabbro, D Ben Harpur, D Matt Tennyson, G Juuse Saros

Offseason Analysis: The transition in the crease initiated last season as Juuse Saros took on the role of the starter from Pekka Rinne prior to Rinne’s final time around in 2020-21.

Rinne retired this offseason– wrapping up a National Hockey League career that spanned 15 seasons and garnered the Vezina Trophy in 2017-18 and King Clancy Memorial Trophy honors in 2020-21, as well as 60 shutouts to go with his 369-213-75 record in 683 career games.

The 38-year-old amassed a career 2.43 goals-against average and a .917 career save percentage since making his league debut in the 2005-06 season after the Predators drafted him in the 8th round (258th overall) of the 2004 NHL Draft.

Rinne exits his playing days as the leader in games played by a goalie (683), wins (369), losses (213), ties plus overtime/shootout losses (75), goals against (1,598), shots against (19,225), saves (17,627), goals-against average (2.43), shutouts (60) and minutes (39,413) in Preds franchise history.

Only Saros (.920) has a better save percentage in his Nashville tenure than Rinne (.917), while guys like Tomas Vokoun (.913), Dan Ellis (.912) and Chris Mason (.910) round out the top-five.

Rinne took the Predators to their only Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history thus far, where they faltered in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

Nashville hasn’t missed the playoffs since the 2013-14 season, but things are going to be different heading into 2021-22.

The Preds are in transition as they are about to embark on the new season after being eliminated by the Carolina Hurricanes in six games in the 2021 First Round.

Rinne is gone, Ryan Ellis was traded and General Manager, David Poile, didn’t hold onto much depth in the offseason.

Though it may feel like trying to convince Nashville or the Dallas Stars to make the playoffs down the stretch last season felt like pulling teeth, the Preds made it to the postseason and gained some experience for their young players in thrilling overtimes before bowing out.

Don’t expect it to be the same this season, despite a return to normal division alignments and a full 82-game schedule.

Viktor Arvidsson, Erik Haula, Calle Järnkrok and Brad Richardson are gone, love them or hate them.

John Hynes is still head coach. Poile made four trades– two of which involved players.

The depth departures might be a sign of things to come as the Predators look to restock their patented Poile system (draft a ton of defenders and pick from the best while trading the rest).

There is a promising sign in the last couple of entry drafts for Nashville to replenish their prospect pool quickly– not that it’s really dwindled, short of the players that have made and/or are currently making the jump to the NHL-level.

Anyway, on July 17th Poile made a pair of related trades. First, he dealt Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers for Philippe Myers and Nolan Patrick.

Patrick was then flipped to the Vegas Golden Knights for Cody Glass.

Ellis was limited to 35 games last season and had 5-13–18 totals in that span, while Myers produced 1-10–11 totals in 44 games. At 24-years-old, Myers is still entering his prime as a defender, while Ellis departs Nashville for Philadelphia as a grizzled 30-year-old veteran with a chance to take the Flyers’ defense to the next level.

Glass, meanwhile, had 4-6–10 totals in 27 games for Vegas after making his NHL debut over 39 games with the Golden Knights in 2019-20. As a result of trading Glass to Nashville, the Golden Knights have traded away all three of their first 1st round picks in franchise history from the 2017 NHL Draft.

Vegas is looking for a career revival for Patrick, who missed the entire 2019-20 season due to migraines as a result of post concussion syndrome. He had nine points (four goals, five assists) in 52 games with the Flyers last season and previously had 13-18–31 totals in 72 games with Philadelphia in 2018-19.

David Rittich joins the picture in Nashville as Saros’ backup netminder after spending last season with the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs.

In 134 career NHL games since breaking into the league with the Flames in the 2016-17 season, Rittich has a 64-40-16 record, as well as four shutouts, a 2.82 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage in that span.

Last season, he went 5-8-2 in 19 games played with a 2.86 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage. Rittich recorded one shutout in his time with Calgary in 2020-21 prior to being traded to Toronto at the trade deadline.

Don’t expect the 29-year-old goaltender to get too comfortable, however, as he only signed a one-year deal worth $1.250 million.

That said, the Preds have about $11.284 million in cap space to work with, so Poile could get quite creative down the line.

Offseason Grade: C

Nashville didn’t get better and (probably) didn’t get that much worse this offseason as Rinne retired and the team continues to transition from what was once a competitive team built for a deep postseason run to just a playoff contender looking to survive on scraps until they’re ready to strike again.

In short, the Predators could make the playoffs in 2022, but they likely won’t go much further than the Second Round.

Or they could miss the postseason entirely– ending a decent seven-year run of playing extra hockey– and be just fine with a little bit higher of a draft pick and whatever else might come with buying and selling.

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Winnipeg Jets 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 30-23-3, 63 points

3rd in the Scotia NHL North Division

Eliminated in the Second Round by Montréal

Additions: F Michael Eyssimont, F Luke Johnson, F Riley Nash, F Austin Poganski, D Brenden Dillon (acquired from WSH), D Nate Schmidt (acquired from VAN)

Subtractions: F Mason Appleton (expansion, SEA), F Marko Dano (ELH), F Trevor Lewis (signed with CGY), F Skyler McKenzie (HockeyAllsvenskan), F Mathieu Perreault (signed with MTL), F Nate Thompson (signed with PHI), D Jordie Benn (signed with MIN), D Derek Forbort (signed with BOS), D Tucker Poolman (signed with VAN), G Laurent Brossoit (signed with VGK)

Still Unsigned: D Luke Green, G Cole Kehler

Re-signed: F Andrew Copp, F Paul Stastny, F Dominic Toninato, D Jonathan Kovacevic, D Neal Pionk, D Logan Stanley, G Eric Comrie

Offseason Analysis: After sweeping the Edmonton Oilers in the First Round to the surprise of, well, the Oilers themselves, the Jets were promptly swept by the Montréal Canadiens in the Second Round to the surprise of everyone that thought the Montréal vs. Winnipeg matchup would be a little more competitive.

The Jets, however, beat Edmonton by one-goal in three out of their four games in the First Round– with the latter two in comeback fashion and all three one-goal victories needing at least one overtime period (the series finale, in fact, needed three overtime periods).

Winnipeg bet the Oilers, 4-1, in Game 1, 1-0 (OT), in Game 2, 5-4 (OT) in Game 3 and, 4-3 (3OT) in Game 4, then played Montréal about a week-and-a-half after eliminating Edmonton.

The Canadiens beat the Jets, 5-3, in Game 1, 1-0, in Game 2, 5-1, in Game 3 and, 3-2 (OT), in Game 4 while Mark Scheifele sat on the sidelines for the majority of the series– serving a four-game suspension for his Game 1 charge that left Jake Evans with a concussion.

In addition to playing Connor Hellebuyck less and giving Eric Comrie more responsibility as the backup goaltender, Winnipeg could solve some of their problems by simply having a defense.

Whether or not head coach, Paul Maurice, has overextended his stay behind the bench with the Jets (he has), it’s getting closer and closer to “win-now or rebuild” time in Winnipeg.

Jets General Manager, Kevin Cheveldayoff, kept most of his forwards together– signing Andrew Copp and Paul Stastny to one-year extensions worth $3.640 million and $3.750 million, respectively– while adding Riley Nash and Austin Poganski to the mix on matching one-year $750,000 contracts.

Nash reached a career-high 41 points in 76 games with the Boston Bruins in 2017-18, before signing a three-year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets where his production dropped to 12 points in 78 games in his first season with the Blue Jackets in 2018-19, then 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 64 games and seven points (two goals, five assists) in 37 games last season prior to being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the deadline while injured.

The 32-year-old forward was drafted in the 1st round (21st overall) by the Oilers in 2007, and made his league debut with the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2011-12 season.

Nash is a low-risk, high-reward signing for bottom-six depth– especially if he can reach about 20 points in a full 82-game season with the Jets, but he’s not winning the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy in 2021-22 (or anytime soon, for that matter).

Copp had a breakout year last season with 15-24–39 totals in 55 games, which was good news for the Jets in the wake of trading Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic to Columbus for Pierre-Luc Dubois early in the 2020-21 season.

Though Copp may be a late bloomer, at 27-years-old, he is still in the midst of his prime and can only have an upward projection over the course of a regular 82-game schedule.

Dubois managed 20 points in 41 games with Winnipeg last season after scoring one goal in five games with the Blue Jackets prior to the trade.

Compared to Laine’s 12-12–24 totals in 46 games with Winnipeg and Columbus last season, the trade didn’t really spark either player in fresh change of scenery.

Roslovic, meanwhile, produced his best results– 34 points (12 goals, 22 assists)– in 48 games with the Blue Jackets, versus his 12-17–29 totals in 71 games with the Jets in 2019-20.

There shouldn’t be any distractions entering the season or disruptions during the season for Dubois to get back on track, however.

As for Stastny, the 35-year-old center is still in search of his first Stanley Cup ring after passing 1,000 career games in 2020-21.

In 1,001 career NHL games with the Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues, Jets, Vegas Golden Knights and Jets again, Stastny has 263-492–755 totals, including 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 56 games last season in his first year back in his second stint with Winnipeg.

He’s usually good enough for about 40 points every season, so that should help solidify the Jets’ center depth as long as he’s healthy.

Despite a plus-16 goal differential in the regular season, when it mattered most, Winnipeg couldn’t keep the puck out of their own net in the Second Round.

That’s not just something for Hellebuyck to work on by himself, but rather a defensive strategy issue in and of itself.

Luckily for the Jets, they worked the phones to acquire Brenden Dillon from the Washington Capitals and Nate Schmidt from the Vancouver Canucks in separate trades a day after one another in July.

On July 26th, Winnipeg sent a 2022 2nd round pick and a 2023 2nd round pick to Washington for Dillon and on July 27th, the Jets dealt a 2022 3rd round pick to Vancouver for Schmidt.

Dillon had a quietly productive season as a top-four defender with 2-17–19 totals in 56 games with the Capitals, while Schmidt’s production dropped from 31 points (seven goals, 24 assists) in 59 games in 2019-20 with Vegas to 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 54 games with the Canucks.

It’s a risk, but the Jets are hoping that Schmidt can bounce back to being a 30-point scoring defender in the mix with with Neal Pionk and Josh Morrissey, as well as Dillon.

Speaking of Pionk, he signed a four-year extension worth $5.875 million per season this offseason after amassing 3-29–32 totals in 54 games in 2020-21.

It seems like a fair deal all around for a productive defender that plays a leading role as a power play specialist at only 26-years-old.

Offseason Grade: B-

The Jets addressed a need (improving their defense), but weren’t able to be as aggressive in either the free agent or trade market, despite remaining a piece or two away from being able to be a Stanley Cup contender.

At the very least, Winnipeg could see forward progress in the postseason with better asset management, but the problem remains the same from year-to-year– over-reliance on Hellebuyck and an unwillingness to move on from Maurice’s system.

If Cheveldayoff isn’t getting frustrated by the same results over the years, then True North Sports & Entertainment better start putting the pressure on the Jets’ front office to succeed or face the consequences of insanity (trying the same thing and expecting different results).

They’re in better shape than other teams in the Central Division, but are they as good as the Avalanche or Golden Knights on paper if they’re able to get to the Western Conference Final and have to play one of the league’s more dominant teams?

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

St. Louis Blues 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 27-20-9, 63 points

4th in the Honda NHL West Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Colorado

Additions: F Pavel Buchnevich (acquired from NYR), F Matthew Peca, F Brandon Saad, F Nathan Todd, D Tommy Cross, D Calle Rosén, G Charlie Lindgren

Subtractions: F Sammy Blais (traded to NYR), F Mike Hoffman (signed with MTL), F Curtis McKenzie (signed with Texas Stars, AHL), F Jaden Schwartz (signed with SEA), F Alexander Steen (retired), D Vince Dunn (expansion, SEA), D Carl Gunnarsson (retired), D Petteri Lindbohm (KHL)

Still Unsigned: F Robert Thomas (RFA), G Jon Gillies

Re-signed: F Ivan Barbashev, F Tyler Bozak, F Dakota Joshua, F Tanner Kaspick, F Jordan Kyrou, F Zach Sanford, F Nolan Stevens, F Nathan Walker

Offseason Analysis: Winning the Cup comes with a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing to win it (especially as the Blues had never won prior to 2019, since their inception in 1967) and it’s a curse because it sets an expectation for success.

St. Louis might have had a short window to win their second Cup in franchise history.

After being swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, their face of the franchise before Ryan O’Reilly’s arrival, Vladimir Tarasenko, requested a trade.

Blues General Manager, Doug Armstrong, has yet to fulfill that request and has indicated that he’s in no rush to do so– after all, he’s in control of the cards at hand and like when Avs General Manager, Joe Sakic, ultimately traded Matt Duchene, Armstrong can command a steep price for Tarasenko if he’s patient enough.

Injuries have limited Tarasenko to 34 games in the last two seasons, including 3-7–10 totals in 10 games in 2019-20 and 4-10–14 totals in 24 games in 2020-21.

From 2014-15 through the 2018-19 season Tarasenko recorded five consecutive seasons with at least 65 points– including his career-high 75 points in 82 games in 2016-17, as well as a 40-goal season in 80 games in 2015-16.

Tarasenko’s situation isn’t the only concern in St. Louis, however, as the depth of the Blues that made them Cup contenders turned champions in 2019, has withered away– leaving Armstrong with the difficult task of overhauling both the top-six forward group and experimenting with the right mixture of replacement players.

Jake Allen, Sammy Blais, Jay Bouwmeester, Vince Dunn, Joel Edmundson, Robby Fabbri, Carl Gunnarsson, Patrick Maroon, Alex Pietrangelo, Jaden Schwartz and Alexander Steen have all left one way or another since winning the Cup in St. Louis.

In their place, guys like Ivan Barbashev, Klim Kostin, Jordan Kyrou and Mackenzie MacEachern have climbed the development ladder, while Torey Krug, Justin Faulk and Marco Scandella were acquired by other means.

Some will rise and exceed expectations. Others will be gifted contracts through their prime– though their use may be time limited and the chemistry pulled apart.

At the very least, Barbashev and Kyrou’s extensions this summer lead the youth movement for the Blues in an ever-changing league.

Meanwhile, the introduction of Brandon Saad on a five-year deal worth $4.500 million per season– only a smidge more than what Mike Hoffman was making on a one-year contract that wasn’t renewed– and Pavel Buchnevich via trade and subsequent four-year, $23.200 million extension has solidified St. Louis’ top-six forward group for the foreseeable future.

Saad spent last season with the Avalanche and had 15-9–24 totals in 44 regular season games before coming up clutch in the postseason– albeit at times the only goal scorer, it seemed, for Colorado– with 7-1–8 totals in 10 games.

At 28-years-old, the Blues should have him for what’s left of his prime in what’s been a respectable career thus far with 371 points (184 goals, 187 assists) in 632 career games since making his league debut in the 2011-12 season with Chicago, winning two Stanley Cup rings with the organization in 2013 and 2015, then spending time with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago again and Colorado.

Armstrong acquired Buchnevich from the New York Rangers in exchange for Blais and a 2022 2nd round pick on July 23rd in the only trade that involved roster players for St. Louis this offseason.

Blais leaves the Blues after breaking into the league in the 2017-18 season and amassing 17-18–35 totals in 119 games with St. Louis, including 8-7–15 totals in 36 games last season.

Buchnevich joins the Blues riding a productive season with the Rangers– notching 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists) in 54 games in 2020-21, as well as 79-116–195 totals in 301 career games with New York since making his league debut in the 2016-17 season.

After nine loyal seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tyler Bozak won the Cup in his first season with St. Louis in 2018-19.

Through three seasons with the Blues, Bozak’s amassed 31-53–84 totals in 170 games– despite injuries that kept him to 31 games out of the 56-game schedule in 2020-21.

At 35-years-old and in love with the St. Louis uniform, Bozak is ready to be part of the transitional plans from 2019 Stanley Cup champions to getting back to Cup contention for the Blues– signing a one-year extension worth $750,000 against the cap.

He’ll either be back to full health as a low-risk, high-reward gamble to hang onto or he’ll be trade bait for another team looking to add a touch of experience at the deadline.

It might have been a blessing in disguise for the Blues to have kept Bozak and lost Schwartz this offseason.

Schwartz’s five-year contract worth $5.500 million per season with the Seattle Kraken contains a no-movement clause in the first three seasons for a player that’s suffered from a recent decline in production at 29-years-old.

Contrasted with Phillip Danault’s two-way style that ultimately went to the Los Angeles Kings with an additional sixth-year in his contract– albeit their similar scoring totals– the Blues were never going to be able to afford to keep Schwartz and account for patching a couple of holes at the same time.

After skyrocketing to the top of the league standings and winning the Cup in 2019, Jordan Binnington’s looking to reinvent himself as a surefire starter in the National Hockey League.

On the wings of a six-year extension worth $6.000 million per season, he better prove it.

A 30-13-7 record in 50 games played with a 2.56 goals-against average, a .912 save percentage and three shutouts in that span in 2019-20, was followed by an 18-14-8 record in 42 games played with a 2.65 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage.

That doesn’t exactly scream long-term option in net if it worsens.

In five postseason games in 2020, Binnington went 0-5 and had a 4.72 goals-against average, as well as an .851 save percentage.

In 2021, he went 0-4 with a 3.59 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage. While that is better than his 2020 performance, it also means that the two postseason wins since winning the Cup in 2019, were recorded by a goaltender not named “Binnington” (they were, in fact, recorded by current Montréal Canadiens backup and former Blues netminder, Jake Allen).

If St. Louis can’t get things tamed in the crease, then they might have even more issues to resolve than already planned.

Offseason Grade: C

While Saad and Buchnevich are quality pickups for the Blues, most teams in playoff contention make one or two moves and otherwise stand pat.

St. Louis got an upgrade over Hoffman’s departure, sure, but they are limited in spending power with about $782,000 left in cap space and burdened by lengthy contracts that haven’t really gone one way or another yet.

Armstrong knows how to build a team up over a period of time, but hasn’t encountered what it means to sustain that success over the years in the postseason, as well as through the course of developing a system to supplement it while talent comes and goes in the ebbs and flows of the salary cap era.

Whereas the Blues once mastered building the foundation for a team that could contend for a decade or more, it seems as though there are cracks starting to form and if they’re not careful, serious structural damage could affect their core.

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #228- Camalot

Cam Davis joins the show as a new co-host and previews the Atlantic Division for the 2021-22 season. There’s also a lot of talk about Jeremy Swayman, because of course.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcherSpotify, Amazon Music and/or Audible.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

New York Rangers 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 27-23-6, 60 points

5th in the MassMutual NHL East Division

Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020

Additions: F Sammy Blais (acquired from STL), F Barclay Goodrow (acquired from TBL), F Dryden Hunt, F Greg McKegg, F Ryan Reaves (acquired from VGK), D Patrik Nemeth, D Jarred Tinordi

Subtractions: F Colin Blackwell (expansion, SEA), F Pavel Buchnevich (traded to STL), F Phillip Di Giuseppe (signed with VAN), F Brett Howden (traded to VGK), F Patrick Newell (Eliteserien), D Tony DeAngelo (buyout, signed with CAR), D Nick DeSimone (rights acquired from VGK, signed with CGY), D Jack Johnson (signed to a PTO with COL), D Darren Raddysh (signed with TBL), D Yegor Rykov (KHL), D Brendan Smith (signed with CAR)

Still Unsigned: F Gabriel Fontaine, D Brandon Crawley

Re-signed: F Filip Chytil, F Julien Gauthier, F Tim Gettinger, F Ty Ronning, D Libor Hajek, G Adam Huska, G Igor Shesterkin

Offseason Analysis: Well, this offseason happened.

Because nobody sought vengeance for Tom Wilson’s shenanigans, Rangers owner, James Dolan, arose from his desk and remembered that he owns more than just the New York Knicks.

Heads were rolling as Chris Drury was instated as New York’s General Manager before last season ended– leaving Jeff Gorton to take a role with NHL Network during the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Gerard Gallant replaced David Quinn behind the bench.

If the Rangers had a good thing going from the second-half of last season onward, well, they’ve surely burned it to the ground in a scorched-Earth search for guys that’ll punch other guys in the face for their 2021-22 roster.

Greg McKegg and Dryden Hunt are extra bodies to stockpile with the Hartford Wolf Pack (AHL) until somebody gets injured or booted out of the Rangers’ lineup because they’re suspended for trying to take Wilson’s head off or something.

New York was one or two pieces away from being a playoff contender and currently has about $8.872 million in cap space with almost $30 million to spend next summer when pending-restricted free agent, Kaapo Kakko, needs a new deal.

But for the time being, the Rangers decided to punt.

Sure, Jack Eichel is still available if the Buffalo Sabres ever decide to trade him one of these days (with or without letting him get his desired surgery done).

Drury’s logic, however, doesn’t necessarily see a fit for Eichel on the team– I mean, is he even tough enough?!?

Mika Zibanejad’s name is out there for some reason. He’s not too pleased by the rumor mill churning up whatever it can to excite Rangers fans about a team that took one step forward and two steps back on paper.

Pavel Buchnevich didn’t have to be traded. But he was.

Nothing makes sense anymore.

On July 17th, Drury traded a 2022 7th round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the rights to restricted free agent forward, Barclay Goodrow, then signed Goodrow to a six-year extension worth about $3.642 million per season.

The 28-year-old had 6-14–20 totals in 55 games last season en route to winning his second-straight Stanley Cup ring with the Lightning, but Buchnevich, 26, had 20-28–48 totals in 54 games.

Somebody’s got to replace the scoring.

That same day, Brett Howden was dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights for Nick DeSimone’s rights and a 2022 4th round pick, but DeSimone tested the waters of free agency and signed with the Calgary Flames.

On July 23rd, Buchnevich was traded to the St. Louis Blues for Sammy Blais and a 2022 2nd round pick.

Blais had 8-7–15 totals in 36 games for St. Louis last season while battling injury and bouts on the league’s COVID-19 protocol list.

There’s still 13 points to replace to makeup for trading Buchnevich.

On July 29th, Drury listened to Gallant’s preferences for a rougher style, if not a personal request for a familiar face as New York traded a 2022 3rd round pick to Vegas for Ryan Reaves, who, at 34-years-old had 1-4–5 totals in 37 games for the Golden Knights.

Though he kept his penalty minutes relatively low with only 27 minutes spent in the box in 2020-21, he was suspended for two games in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs for his intent to injure then Colorado Avalanche defender, Ryan Graves, on an unnecessary roughing incident in front of Colorado’s own net.

But hey, an eye for an eye, right?

If you can’t beat them on the scoreboard– just beat them up instead.

It’s worked well for the Philadelphia Flyers since 1975.

Don’t want to fight Goodrow or Reaves? How about Jarred Tinordi on the defense? Maybe Patrik Nemeth?

Both were signed in free agency– Nemeth to a three-year contract worth $2.500 million per season and Tinordi on a two-year deal with a $900,000 cap hit.

Ryan Strome and Zibanejad are pending-unrestricted free agents and if Drury’s done enough to alienate them from whatever plan they bought into when the Rangers were on the rise coming out of their recent rebuild, then they’re the biggest pieces of trade bait for the team going into the deadline.

That’s not what you’d like to hear if you have aspirations of acquiring Eichel, since New York can’t guarantee that either player would want to stick around in Buffalo for longer than this season.

At the very least, Ryan Lindgren’s three-year extension with a $3.000 million cap hit looks pretty nice on the blue line and Igor Shesterkin’s four-year extension worth $5.667 million per season is good enough to foster healthy competition between Alexandar Georgiev and Shesterkin for the surefire starting goaltender role.

Offseason Grade: D

The Rangers didn’t have to do this to themselves and yet, here we are.

They were a team on the verge of something special with one or two more pieces to go and a little more experience to gain as the younger players learn and grow.

Instead, New York chose to go in the opposite direction– to overreact rather than react accordingly. A few irrational decisions means is the difference between middle of the road insanity and making the playoffs.

It seems like the Rangers are destined for the former once again in 2021-22.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Dallas Stars 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 23-19-14, 60 points

5th in the Discover NHL Central Division

Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020

Additions: F Luke Glendening, F Michael Raffl, D Jani Hakanpää, D Alexander Petrovic, D Ryan Suter, G Braden Holtby

Subtractions: F Andrew Cogliano (signed with SJS), F Jason Dickinson (traded to VAN), F Matej Stansky (NL), D Taylor Fedun (signed with PIT), D Julius Honka (SHL), D Stephen Johns (retired), D Jamie Oleksiak (expansion, SEA), D Mark Pysyk (signed with BUF), G Landon Bow (ELH)

Still Unsigned: F Adam Mascherin (SHL, DAL reserve list), D Sami Vatanen

Re-signed: F Nick Caamano, F Blake Comeau, F Rhett Gardner, F Tanner Kero, F Joel Kiviranta, D Joseph Cecconi, D Ben Gleason, D Miro Heiskanen, D Jerad Rosburg, G Colton Point

Offseason Analysis: When the Minnesota Wild decided to buyout Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the Stars saw a chance to make one of the best low-risk, high-reward moves of the offseason in signing Suter to a four-year contract worth $3.650 million per season.

Though there is a slight concern the 36-year-old defender will not be able to maintain his pace of play as the years go by in the deal, signing Suter to a cap hit under $4 million makes him easy to move in the later years and gives you the flexibility to keep guys like Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg on your roster at the same time.

At least for the 2021-22 season before Dallas General Manager, Jim Nill, gets to deal with the headache that is possibly signing the 29-year-old pending-unrestricted free agent, Klingberg, to an extension.

With Heiskanen earning an eight-year extension with an $8.450 million cap hit, it’s hard to imagine that Klingberg’s asking price won’t be at least $9.000 million per season.

At least the Stars are projected to have about $23.300 million in cap space next offseason, whereas there’s no wiggle room now that the 2021-22 roster is full with not even a penny to spend towards the ceiling.

Anyway, since the 2011-12 season, Suter has only missed the 40-point plateau from the blue line three times.

In 2012-13, Suter had 32 points in a 48-game lockout shortened season. In 2014-15, he had 38 points in 77 games.

But when the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic cut short the 2019-20 regular season, Suter had already amassed 48 points in 69 games for Minnesota.

He had 19 points in 56 games with the Wild last season, however.

Nevertheless, the Stars overhauled their defense in the offseason, so Suter should slide in as a top-four shutdown guy with years of experience having amassed 93-514–607 totals in 1,198 career games with the Nashville Predators and Wild since breaking into the league in the 2005-06 season after Nashville drafted him in the 1st round (7th overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

Veteran depth and replacement-level players were Nill’s primary focus this offseason as he extended younger guys like Heiskanen, Tanner Kero, Rhett Gardner, Nick Caamano and Joel Kiviranta.

Kiviranta had 6-5–11 totals in 26 games while battling a lower body injury in what otherwise would’ve likely been his first full season glance in a Stars uniform.

As a result, he’s on a two-year bridge deal worth $1.050 million per season having been a pleasant surprise for Dallas as a clutch-role player in the top-nine.

With Heiskanen’s cap hit set at $8.450 million per season on his eight-year extension and the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft in mind as the Seattle Kraken were four days away from taking a player from the Stars for nothing after Heiskanen signed his new deal on July 17th, Nill knew there’d be little he could do to keep Jamie Oleksiak around.

Dallas could’ve tried to convince Seattle to not select Oleksiak in an expansion draft day trade, but the Stars ultimately chose not to as Oleksiak was claimed and signed a steep five-year extension worth $4.600 million per season– a little out of Dallas’ price range for what they deemed a replaceable asset.

With Stephen Johns having retired, Oleksiak gone to Seattle and Julius Honka off to the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), Nills brought in Suter and Jani Hakanpää as a pair of durable defenders.

At 6-foot-5, 218-pounds, Hakanpää can pack a punch with his noted physical play– he finished third in the league in hits last season with 215, for the record.

In 57 games with the Anaheim Ducks and Carolina Hurricanes last season, Hakanpää might not be a name-brand player given his age (29) or totals (2-2–4), but he is sure to be a fan favorite among those that love quality, hard-hitting, third pairing defenders.

Luke Glendening and Michael Raffl are new to Dallas this season– replacing the likes of Andrew Cogliano and Jason Dickinson as Nill chose not to re-sign the former and traded the latter.

Cogliano joined the San Jose Sharks, while Dickinson was shipped to the Vancouver Canucks for a 2021 3rd round pick (Ayrton Martino).

It’s important to keep your bottom-six forwards fresh, inexpensive and producing and Nill felt it was about time for a little shakeup down in the depth of the roster.

Nill also made a move at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, trading his 2021 1st round pick (15th overall, Sebastian Cossa) down with the Detroit Red Wings for a 2021 1st round pick (originally belonging to the Washington Capitals– 23rd overall, Wyatt Johnston), a 2021 2nd round pick (originally belonging to the New York Rangers– 48th overall, Artyom Grushnikov) and a 2021 5th round pick (originally belonging to the Ottawa Senators via Montréal and Detroit– 138th overall, Jack Bar).

Outside of the crease, the plans for the 2021-22 season have come into existence.

But in the net, the Stars face the difficult task of juggling three goaltenders of varying quality.

Jake Oettinger is the future full-time starter if the future isn’t already now. Anton Khudobin played well enough to earn an extended stay as a result of his fill-in heroics leading to Dallas’ 2020 Stanley Cup Final appearance.

Meanwhile, Braden Holtby was bought out by Vancouver and joined the Stars for a career-resurgence.

Oh and Ben Bishop is still out due to injury, though sources close to the Stars seem to indicate his playing days may be over (as if signing Holtby wasn’t enough of a giveaway).

Oettinger went 11-8-7 in 29 games played last season with a 2.36 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage, as well as one shutout in that span as he made his regular season debut.

Khudobin regressed a little bit back to his norm after a rejuvenating 2019-20 season– posting a 12-11-7 record in 32 games with a 2.54 goals-against average, a .903 save percentage and three shutouts in 2020-21 after going 16-8-4 in 30 games with a 2.22 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage the season prior.

Both Stars goaltenders were fine as they were, then Holtby became part of the equation on a one-year, $2.000 million contract.

In his one season with Vancouver, the floor fell out. Holtby went 7-11-3 in 21 games with a 3.67 goals-against average and an .889 save percentage.

The good news, however, is that Dallas has a better defense on paper than the Canucks and the results should translate as such– no matter who’s in the crease.

Offseason Grade: A

Last season was a fluke. For starters, the Stars were rocked by COVID-19 early in the 2020-21 calendar, which delayed their start to the regular season.

Tyler Seguin missed a significant portion of the season (all but three games) after having surgery after the 2020 Stanley Cup Final and a long rehab for a torn labrum in his hip.

With only the top-four teams in each temporarily realigned division making the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, nobody is blaming Dallas for coming up short and missing out on what likely would’ve been a quick First Round exit.

This offseason, Nill’s made significant improvements in depth and signed affordable deals to continue to build around his core for the immediate future while the team is still competitive.

The Stars are on track to get back into the playoff picture in 2021-22 and maybe– just maybe– turn some heads again and make it back to the Stanley Cup Final if everything falls into place.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Philadelphia Flyers 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 25-23-8, 55 points

6th in the MassMutual NHL East Division

Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020

Additions: F Cam Atkinson (acquired from CBJ), F Derick Brassard, F Ryan Fitzgerald, F Gerry Mayhew, F Nate Thompson, D Adam Clendening, D Ryan Ellis (acquired from NSH), D Rasmus Ristolainen (acquired from BUF), D Nick Seeler, D Keith Yandle, D Cooper Zech, G Martin Jones

Subtractions: F David Kase (ELH), F Pascal Laberge (signed with Maine Mariners, ECHL), F Nolan Patrick (traded to NSH, flipped to VGK), F Carsen Twarynski (expansion, SEA), F Jakub Voracek (traded to CBJ), D Chris Bigras (signed with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, AHL), D Shayne Gostisbehere (traded to ARI), D Robert Hagg (traded to BUF), D Philippe Myers (traded to NSH), D Matt Niskanen (retired prior to 2020-21, contract officially expired), D Derrick Pouliot (signed with Henderson Silver Knights, AHL), G Brian Elliott (signed with TBL), G Alex Lyon (signed with CAR)

Still Unsigned: F Andy Andreoff, D Nate Prosser, D Tyler Wotherspoon

Re-signed: F Connor Bunnaman, F German Rubstov, F Linus Sandin, D Samuel Morin, D Travis Sanheim, G Carter Hart, G Felix Sandström

Offseason Analysis: Not satisfied with their disappointing 2020-21 performance, Flyers General Manager, Chuck Fletcher, knew something would have to change.

Jakub Voracek broke into the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2008-09 season after the Blue Jackets drafted him in the 1st round (7th overall) of the 2007 NHL Draft and spent three seasons in Columbus before being packaged with a 2011 1st round pick and a 2011 3rd round pick in a trade with Philadelphia for Jeff Carter on June 23, 2011.

In 968 career NHL games, Voracek has 214-520–734 totals, including 601 points (176 goals and 425 assists) in 727 games with the Flyers from 2011-21.

That 2011 1st round pick became Sean Couturier and the 3rd round pick was used to select Nick Cousins as Philadelphia was one-year removed from making the 2010 Stanley Cup Final.

Adding Voracek was to provide a spark for a player in need of a change of scenery and provide Philly’s top-six forward group with a better fit.

After serving primarily as a playmaker for a decade of waffling in and out of the playoffs, the Flyers dealt Voracek back to Columbus for Cam Atkinson, who proudly wore his wife’s Gritty t-shirt in his introductory Zoom with media members after the trade on July 24th.

Atkinson joins Philadelphia after amassing 213-189–402 totals in 627 games with the Blue Jackets since the 2011-12 season after Columbus drafted him in the 6th round (157th overall) of the 2008 NHL Draft.

But that’s not the only trade that Fletcher made to supplment his new-age core as Couturier, Travis Konecny, Claude Giroux, Joel Farabee, Kevin Hayes, Ivan Provorov and their teammates seek the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship since 1975.

Fletcher kicked the summer off by trading Philippe Myers and Nolan Patrick to the Nashville Predators for defender, Ryan Ellis, on July 17th.

Nashville flipped Patrick after the deal in a separate trade with the Vegas Golden Knights, while Philadelphia added Ellis to bolster their top-four defenders.

For the first time in his career this October, Ellis will don a uniform that isn’t Predators marigold, but rather Flyers orange.

After being drafted in the 1st round (11th overall) in 2009, by Nashville, Ellis emerged in the 2011-12 season, putting up 3-8–11 totals in 32 games as he broke into the league. Since then, he’s produced 270 points (75 goals, 195 assists) in 562 games from parts of the 2011-12 season through 2020-21.

Due to an upper body injury, Ellis was limited to 35 games last season and only had 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) from the blue line, but his ability to move the puck out of his own zone and start a rush is important as the Flyers try to balance out Provorov’s prowess with someone that can keep up on his pairing.

Five days after acquiring Ellis, Fletcher dumped Shayne Gostisbehere’s $4.500 million cap hit in the Arizona desert with a 2022 2nd round pick and a 2022 7th round pick also going to the Coyotes for future considerations to make room for Ellis’ $6.250 million cap hit through the 2026-27 season.

Then Fletcher did something unprompted and– depending if you’re a Flyers fan or not– unhinged as he made a deal with the Buffalo Sabres, though not for Jack Eichel as Philly fans can only dream of to compete with Couturier for the first line center job, while Hayes would likely be demoted to the third line.

Rather, the Flyers traded Robert Hagg’s $1.600 million cap hit, a 2021 1st round pick (14th overall, Isak Rosén) and a 2023 2nd round pick to the Sabres for Rasmus Ristolainen and his $5.400 million cap hit on July 23rd.

Hagg managed 2-3–5 totals and was a minus-3 in 34 games last season with Philadelphia, while Ristolainen had 4-14–18 totals in 49 games and, uh, was a minus-18 to match Buffalo’s 18-game losing streak at one point last season.

Some would argue the points are an upgrade, but at what cost when it seems to be live by the sword, die by the sword.

Then Fletcher acquired Atkinson and free agency began on July 28th.

Seeking veteran experience to aid the younger players in making a long run, Fletcher signed Keith Yandle, Derick Brassard and took a chance on Martin Jones, while also brining back Nate Thompson for another stint with the Flyers in the bottom-six.

Yandle was bought out by the Florida Panthers and can command a power-play unit while not having missed a game since the 2008-09 season.

He had 3-24–27 totals with the Panthers after Joel Quenneville utilized him as an afterthought and nearly scratched the 35-year-old defender.

Brassard earned a one-year, $825,000 contract late in the summer on Aug. 25th as a low-risk, high-reward move as a recent league-journeyman that had 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 53 games with Arizona last season after a career-resurgence with the New York Islanders (32 points in 66 games) in 2019-20.

At the very least, he’ll give Philadelphia depth down the middle in the top-nine.

Jones, meanwhile, was bought out by the San Jose Sharks and is looking to salvage whatever’s left of his career as the presumptive backup to Carter Hart on a one-year, $2.000 million contract.

The 31-year-old Canadian goaltender went 15-13-4 in 34 games last season and had a 3.28 goals-against average, as well as an .896 save percentage and one shutout in that span.

Meanwhile, Brian Elliott departed for the Tampa Bay Lightning– replacing Curtis McElhinney as the Bolts’ backup.

McElhinney went 4-6-2 in 12 games last season for Tampa and had a 3.09 goals-against average as well as an .875 save percentage and one shutout.

Elliott had a 15-9-2 record in 30 games last season and sustained a 3.06 goals-against average, an .889 save percentage and two shutouts in that span with the Flyers.

Hart, meanwhile, had a disastrous run.

In 27 games played, the 23-year-old netminder went 9-11-5, had one shutout and amassed a 3.67 goals-against average, as well as an .877 save percentage– one season removed from going 24-13-3 in 43 games with a 2.42 goals-against average, a .914 save percentage and one shutout in 2019-20.

He earned a three-year extension worth $3.979 per season as a bridge contract with a lot to prove to get back to his once promising form.

Finally, Fletcher locked down Couturier and Farabee with long-term extensions that won’t begin until the 2022-23 season.

Couturier’s earned an eight-year deal worth $7.750 million per season, while Farabee’s nailed a six-year contract with a $5.000 million cap hit– presenting the Flyers with their greatest challenge yet– being tight against the cap and having high expectations.

Offseason Grade: B

It kind of feels like a “make or break” year for Philadelphia, even though there’s no way of really knowing what’s in store for the Flyers.

Fletcher made some admirable moves signing veterans that Philly could use in top-nine or specialty roles, but it’s also a risk to take on Jones while Hart is already on shaky ground heading into the 2021-22 season.

If the ghost of the revolving door of goaltenders in a Flyers uniform is to be kept out of Wells Fargo Center, then Philadelphia’s going to need to hope their goaltending coach is ready with a plan that’s different from whatever happened last season.

Flyers head coach, Alain Vigneault, can bring immediate success to an organization and make them hard to play against, but he tends to carry a time limit in the modern NHL as the game continues to evolve.

With about $381,500 left in cap space entering this season, Philadelphia had to move out at least one big contract in favor of something smaller– though they’ve taken on Ellis with term and Giroux is due for an extension unless he decides to walk in unrestricted free agency next summer.

The Flyers may have almost $15.6 million to spend next offseason, but they need to show forward progress, if not win now.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Calgary Flames 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 26-27-3, 55 points

5th in the Scotia NHL North Division

Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020

Additions: F Blake Coleman, F Alex Gallant (signed to a PTO), F Trevor Lewis, F Tyler Pitlick (acquired from SEA), F Brad Richardson, D Nick DeSimone, D Erik Gudbranson, D Kevin Gravel, D Andy Welinski, D Nikita Zadorov (acquired from CHI), G Adam Werner, G Dan Vladar (acquired from BOS)

Subtractions: F Spencer Foo (KHL), F Josh Leivo (signed with CAR), F Joakim Nordström (KHL), F Zac Rinaldo (signed with CBJ), F Buddy Robinson (signed with ANA), F Derek Ryan (signed with EDM), F Dominik Simon (signed with PIT), D Mark Giordano (expansion, SEA), D Carl-Johan Lerby (SHL), D Nikita Nesterov (KHL), D Alexander Petrovic (signed with DAL), D Alexander Yelesin (KHL), G Louis Domingue (signed with PIT)

Still Unsigned: G Artyom Zagidulin

Re-signed: F Dillon Dubé, F Glenn Gawdin, F Justin Kirkland, F Matthew Phillips, F Luke Philp, F Brett Ritchie, D Oliver Kylington, D Connor Mackey, D Colton Poolman, D Michael Stone, D Juuso Välimäki, G Tyler Parsons

Offseason Analysis: Calgary is facing an existential crisis.

They can either trust in their core players that they just might get it done if they’ve become frustrated by years of falling short (or not even making the playoffs at all, as they missed the postseason in 2021) or they can begin to move forward by hitting the “reset” button.

This offseason, Flames General Manager, Brad Treliving, chose to add without subtracting– to overhaul, rather than to rebuild (at least for now).

Joakim Nordström, Derek Ryan, Zac Rinaldo and more are gone. They’ve left for other professional leagues around the world, Edmonton and Columbus, respectively.

Mark Giordano was claimed by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft after breaking into the league with the Flames in the 2005-06 season. He spent 15 years in Calgary and amassed 143-366–509 totals in 949 games in a Flames uniform and had been captain in the “C of Red” since the 2013-14 season.

Though many fans in Calgary would like to belive the 37-year-old will spend one season in Seattle and return to the Flames, there are no guarantees.

Calgary’s already worked on developing a good-standing relationship with their new Pacific Division rivals as they got traded a 2022 4th round pick to the Kraken for forward, Tyler Pitlick, on July 22nd– a day after the expansion draft.

Pitlick slides in as a quality top-nine forward for the Flames and had 6-5–11 totals in 38 games for the Arizona Coyotes last season while battling injury.

He’s reached the 20-point plateau twice in his career in 2017-18 with Dallas (27 points in 80 games) and 2019-20 with Philadelphia (20 points in 63 games) and should be a low-risk high-reward depth move.

Treliving made a splash when free agency opened on July 28th, signing two-time defending Stanley Cup champion, Blake Coleman, to a six-year contract worth $4.900 million per season.

Coleman’s speed and skill solidifies Calgary’s middle-six as he should be on the second or third line at all times.

He’s had three consecutive seasons with at least 30 points since the 2018-19 season and notched 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 55 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020-21.

Coleman on a line with Andrew Mangiapane is a game-changer for Calgary’s offense– especially as they’ve re-signed Dillon Dubé and still have Sean Monahan down the middle to fill out the top-nine with Mikael Backlund, Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk on the roster.

The same day that free agency began, Treliving also made a pair of trades–first acquiring defender, Nikita Zadorov, from Chicago for a 2022 3rd round pick (originally belonging to the Toronto Maple Leafs) and later acquiring goaltender, Dan Vladar, from the Boston Bruins for Calgary’s own 2022 3rd round pick.

Zadorov, 26, signed a one-year deal worth $3.750 million with the Flames and had 1-7–8 totals in 55 games with Chicago last season, as well as 23-60–83 totals in 411 career NHL games with the Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche and Chicago.

The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Russian native isn’t an offensive powerhouse from the blue line, but rather a top-four shutdown defensive defender. At his best, Zadorov can make hit after hit and pummel an opposing team’s offense into submission in his own zone, though the occasional bad penalty may result.

Vladar, 24, made his regular season debut last season for the Bruins and went 2-2-1 in five games played with a 3.40 goals-against average and an .886 save percentage in that span.

Don’t let the stats fool you, though, as Boston allowed eight goals against in Vladar’s last start against the Washington Capitals on April 11th before the emergence of Jeremy Swayman and return from injury for Tuukka Rask forced B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy’s, hand down the stretch and through the postseason.

Vladar is capable of holding his own in the NHL and should be a decent backup behind Jacob Markström in net for Calgary.

In 2019-20, Vladar had a 1.79 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage in 25 games with the Providence Bruins (AHL). He followed that effort up with a 2.19 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage in 10 games with Providence last season.

Treliving signed unrestricted free agents, Brad Richardson, Trevor Lewis and Erik Gudbranson, to one-year contracts over the summer– adding Richardson on an $800,000 cap hit for depth, Lewis as a fourth liner with an $800,000 cap hit and Gudbranson ($1.950 million cap hit) as a defender that just might push Oliver Kylington or Juuso Välimäki out of regular ice time.

Richardson, 36, was limited to 17 games with the Nashville Predators last season and had 1-3–4 totals after spending 16 prior seasons with the Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks, Coyotes and Predators.

He won a Stanley Cup ring with then Los Angeles head coach, Darryl Sutter, in 2012, while Lewis won two Cups in his Kings tenure in 2012 and 2014.

Lewis joins the Flames after spending last season with the Winnipeg Jets– notching 5-5–10 totals in 56 games after spending 674 games in a Los Angeles uniform from parts of the 2008-09 season through 2019-20.

Gudbranson bounced from the Ottawa Senators to the Predators at the 2021 deadline after amassing 1-2–3 totals in 36 games with the Sens before contributing one assist in nine games with Nashville afterward.

With only four points in 45 games, Gudbranson isn’t much competition for Välimäki, who had 2-9–11 totals in 49 games for Calgary last season, but the clock is ticking on Kylington’s tenure in the “C of Red”.

Ranked 24th by TSN in the final draft rankings ahead of the 2015 NHL Draft, Kylington fell to the Flames in the 2nd round at 60th overall and has only appeared in 95 career games approaching seven years out of his draft year.

He had one assist in eight games last season and re-signed with Calgary on a one-year, two-way contract and has 16 points in his career, while Välimäki already has 14 points in 73 games in parts of two seasons since breaking into the NHL with the Flames in 2018-19.

Just like with Calgary’s core, time might be running out for a serious chance.

Offseason Grade: A-

If you were hoping for the Flames to tear things down this offseason, then they failed this summer.

If you’re looking at things from the perspective that adding without subtracting while still having enough of a core to make something happen, well, then signing Coleman alone is enough to laud Treliving praise for making a move instead of sticking to the script.

Of course, now the pressure is on for Calgary to succeed or risk fraying their relationship with Gaudreau and other Flames veterans, which would mean that Treliving would be forced to make some big trades by the deadline or next summer.

That said, the biggest detractor from the Flames this offseason might just be the Flames themselves as Sutter’s coaching style hasn’t adapted to the NHL in 2021.

If you don’t let your best players play their games and try to box them into a mold they don’t fit, then you’re only bringing yourself down in the league currently.