Anaheim Ducks 2019-20 Season Preview

Anaheim Ducks

35-37-10, 80 points, 6th in the Pacific Division

Missed the postseason for the first time in seven years

Additions: F Andreas Martinsen, F Blake Pietila, F Andrew Poturalski, D Michael Del Zotto, D Jani Hakanpaa, D Chris Wideman, G Anthony Stolarz

Subtractions: F Adam Cracknell (KHL), F Kalle Kossila (signed with TOR), F Corey Perry (bought out, signed with DAL), F Kevin Roy (signed with FLA), F Ben Street (signed with NJD), D Jake Dotchin (signed with STL), D Jaycob Megna (signed with VGK), D Trevor Murphy (KHL), D Andrej Sustr (KHL), D Andy Welinski (signed with PHI)

Still Unsigned: D Keaton Thompson, G Chad Johnson

Re-signed: F Chase De Leo, F Justin Kloos

Offseason Analysis: The Anaheim Ducks have about $8.500 million in cap space currently with no restricted free agents unsigned and not a worry in the world.

Well, except for the fact that their core is aging, Ryan Kesler may be shelved on the long-term injured reserve for the season and there’s a new head coach in town to try to spur a bounce back after the team missed the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

After Corey Perry’s offense dried up, injuries piled up and a dismal season carried on, General Manager Bob Murray made the difficult decision to return to his front office post only and leave the double duties as GM and head coach in the past.

Dallas Eakins returns to the NHL head coaching scene after posting a 29-44-9 record in 2013-14 with the Edmonton Oilers, prior to a 7-19-5 start in 31 games the following season before being fired.

The Oilers were 6th in the Pacific Standings at the time of Eakins’ dismissal in the 2014-15 season, which was technically better than their 7th place finish in the Pacific a season prior.

Eakins turned his career around enough to earn this second chance behind the bench of an NHL team after coaching the San Diego Gulls (Anaheim’s AHL affiliate) since the 2015-16 season– leading them to a 36-24-5-3 record last season and an appearance in the Calder Cup Playoffs’ Western Conference Final against the Chicago Wolves.

Though the Gulls lost in six games to the eventual runners up to the Calder Cup champion, Charlotte Checkers, Eakins carries the deep postseason run coaching experience and much of the same young players with him to the big show on the Ducks roster.

Anaheim is at a crossroads.

John Gibson is too good of a goaltender to go through a rebuild, while the rest of the roster screams “wild card at best”.

Cam Fowler, Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm are all that remains from the days of one of the most underrated defenses from year-to-year, while Anaheim’s offense is going through growing pains.

This team will either exist in mediocrity as they did last season or be worse until it gets better. There doesn’t see to be much indication otherwise, based on the lack of moves made in just one offseason.

The Ducks acquired Nicolas Deslauriers– a bottom-six forward that’s probably better suited in the top-six in San Diego– in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens that saw Anaheim sending a 2020 4th round pick to the Habs in return.

Perry’s buyout costs Anaheim $2.625 million against the salary cap this season, $6.625 million next season and $2.000 million from 2021-22 through 2022-23.

At least if things get tight and Kesler isn’t good to go the LTIR will eat up Kesler’s $6.875 million cap hit through 2021-22 (if his career is in jeopardy as it very well might be).

For now, the Ducks are hoping for Troy Terry to have the breakout season everyone’s waiting for, as well as the emergence of Max Jones, Sam Steel and Maxime Comtois as NHL regulars (hopefully) sooner rather than later.

Anaheim needs more speed, skill and most importantly more goals for and fewer goals against.

Offseason Grade: D+

There’s really no pressure heading into this season for the Ducks. They won the Cup in 2007, became dominant in the regular season from 2012-15 (and, as a result, a Cup contender) and have been cooling ever since (with the exception of their 2017 Western Conference Final run– losing in six games to the Nashville Predators).

Since then, Murray hasn’t done anything to stop nature in its course as age has caught up to the big and burly roster Anaheim crafted to (almost) perfection. That said, there were no major additions or subtractions this offseason– even with the loss of Perry (who’s cap hit left him un-tradable).

Edmonton Oilers 2019-20 Season Preview

Edmonton Oilers

35-38-9, 79 points, 7th in the Pacific Division

Have made the postseason once in the last 13 years

Additions: F Josh Archibald, F Markus Granlund, F Tomas Jurco, F James Neal (acquired from CGY), F Riley Sheahan, G Mike Smith

Subtractions: F Mitch Callahan (DEL), F Milan Lucic (traded to CGY), F Ty Rattie (KHL), F Tobias Rieder (signed to a PTO with CGY), D Kevin Gravel (signed with TOR), D John Marino (traded to PIT), D Robin Norell (SHL), D Alexander Petrovic (signed a PTO with BOS), D Ryan Stanton (signed with Ontario, AHL), G Anthony Stolarz (signed with ANA)

Still Unsigned: F Colin Larkin, F Jesse Puljujarvi (has an agreement with a Liiga team, if not traded by EDM), F Tyler Vesel, G Al Montoya

Re-signed: F Alex Chiasson, F Jujhar Khaira

Offseason Analysis: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Edmonton Oilers have a new head coach and a new General Manager.

Dave Tippett brings his expertise behind the bench in place of Ken Hitchcock’s short tenure as head coach of the Oilers (after replacing Todd McLellan about a quarter of the way into last season), while Ken Holland is large and in charge of the reigns in Edmonton’s front office.

Tippett is fresh off of a few years without an NHL head coaching job, since being relieved of his duties from the Arizona Coyotes after the 2016-17 season.

On May 7th, Holland left the Detroit Red Wings for the Oilers after being “promoted” to a senior advisor role a couple of weeks prior– coinciding with Detroit’s hiring of Steve Yzerman as GM on April 19th.

Over the course of a generation’s time, Holland is known for making small, but deliberate, moves in the offseason to build his roster.

The additions of Markus Granlund and Tomas Jurco reflect the need for flexible top-nine depth.

While scouring the market, Holland found a perfect suitor for Milan Lucic’s massive contract and subsequently dealt Lucic to the Calgary Flames along with a conditional 2020 3rd round pick in exchange for James Neal.

Neal, 32, is a year older than Lucic and signed through the 2022-23 season, which is… just as long as Lucic is under contract for, but now with Calgary.

Oh, and the Oilers retained 12.5 percent of Lucic’s salary ($750,000 per season), because of course.

To top things off, the conditional 2020 3rd round pick becomes property of the Flames if Neal scores 21 goals and Lucic scores 10 or fewer goals than Neal in 2019-20.

Neal had seven goals and 12 assists (19 points) in 63 games with the Flames last season (down from 25-19–44 totals in 71 games with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-18).

Lucic had six goals and 14 assists (20 points) in 79 games with the Oilers last season (down from 10-24–34 totals in 82 games in 2017-18). The new No. 17 for Calgary had been in decline each season while in Edmonton.

Looks like it’s business as usual in Edmonton so far.

What’s more, Holland faces an increasingly difficult 2020 offseason with 14 pending free agents, including 24-year-old defender (and pending-restricted free agent at season’s end), Darnell Nurse.

Nurse is looking to have a breakout year to translate into a big payday thereafter.

Meanwhile, it’d almost be better for the Oilers to just not re-sign any of their pending free agents, but then again teams still have to be cap compliant in order to participate in the league, so…

Holland also traded defensive prospect John Marino to the Pittsburgh Penguins in hopes of landing a touchdown in a conditional 2021 6th round pick.

The “Hail Mary” pass went incomplete as Marino signed his entry-level contract with the Penguins and the Oilers missed out on the draft pick.

At least there’s some stability in the crease with 31-year-old, Mikko Koskinen (25-21-6 record in 55 games played last season, 2.93 goals against average, .906 save percentage and 4 shutouts), and 37-year-old, two-time All Star, Mike Smith (23-16-2 record in 42 games with Calgary last season, 2.73 GAA, .898 SV% and 2 SO).

The average age of Edmonton’s goaltenders? 34.

Koskinen took over the starting role, while Smith was brought in as the backup in the post-Cam Talbot Era (Talbot was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers last season and signed with the Flames this offseason).

At least the Oilers have Connor McDavid (a career-high 41-75–116 totals in 78 games played last season) and Leon Draisaitl (a career-high 50-55–102 totals in 82 games last season).

Offseason Grade: F

The whole point of trying to trade Lucic was to save money and in the end, the result was not a gain, but a loss in salary cap space. At least the only players with no-trade or no-movement clauses (for now) are Kris Russell, Koskinen and Smith.

Nothing is overnight, but for an organization to have fallen so far* while having one of the best players in the world (McDavid) on their roster is about as bad as intentionally running things into the ground while still hoping the public will pay for a new arena and threatening to move the team if your demands aren’t met in the meantime.

*Relatively speaking from that one postseason appearance in 2017.

New York Rangers 2019-20 Season Preview

New York Rangers

32-36-14, 78 points, 7th in the Metropolitan Division

Missed the postseason for the second straight year

Additions: F Phil Di Giuseppe, F Michael Haley (signed to a PTO), F Greg McKegg, F Danny O’Regan, F Artemi Panarin, D Adam Fox (acquired from CAR), D Jacob Trouba (acquired from WPG, then re-signed)

Subtractions: D Julius Bergman (SHL), D Chris Bigras (signed with PHI), D John Gilmour (signed with BUF), D Neal Pionk (traded to WPG), D Rob O’Gara (signed with San Antonio, AHL), G Dustin Tokarski (signed with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, AHL)

Still Unsigned: F Connor Brickley, F Brendan Lemieux, D Fredrik Claesson, D Tony DeAngelo, G Brandon Halverson, G Chris Nell

Re-signed: F Pavel Buchnevich, F Vinni Lettieri

Offseason Analysis: New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton thought he won the lottery when he landed the 2nd overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and selected Kaapo Kakko, but he actually won the lottery twice this offseason.

Gorton signed the biggest prize in free agency to the biggest contract among unrestricted free agents and nabbed Artemi Panarin for the next seven years at $11.643 million per season.

Panarin and Kakko are lightly to be centered on the same first line by the legendary DJ, Mika Zibanejad.

Head coach, David Quinn, has no shortage of options when it comes to testing out the new faces in The Big Apple, as Jacob Trouba and Adam Fox were box acquired by the club in addition to Panarin’s signing.

Trouba’s restricted free agency rights were acquired from the Winnipeg Jets and shortly thereafter re-signed in exchange for Neal Pionk and a 2019 1st round pick that originally belonged to Winnipeg and was previously acquired by New York in the Kevin Hayes transaction at the trade deadline.

The 25-year-old defender brings his skillset in its prime to stabilize the blue line for a team that is retooling on the fly and looking to shortened the lifespan on its rebuild. Trouba now carries an $8.000 million cap hit through 2025-26 with a no-movement clause set to kick in after this season and a modified no-trade clause for the final two years of the deal.

Fox, the 21-year-old protege from Harvard University, was originally sent to the Carolina Hurricanes by the Calgary Flames in the Dougie Hamilton and Micheal Ferland for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin trade.

After declining to sign with the Canes, Carolina sent Fox to the Rangers for a 2019 2nd round pick and a conditional 2020 3rd round pick that may become a 2020 2nd round pick if he plays in 30 or more games this season.

What’s more, Gorton was still active in the trade market, making a minor move with the Buffalo Sabres, shipping Jimmy Vesey off to Buffalo for a 2021 3rd round pick.

Only Brendan Lemieux and Tony DeAngelo are still unsigned-RFAs with about $1.000 million in cap space available before New York makes any other transactions– with or without another team involved– to save a little more money.

The Rangers have eight contracts expiring at the end of this season, including backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev’s current deal which runs a $792,500 cap hit.

With 37-year-old Henrik Lundqvist expected to retire in two-years time when his seven-year extension carrying an $8.500 million cap hit that he signed in December 2013 expires, Gorton may have to get creative to assure Georgiev of the starting role– and a starter’s salary– in the meantime for one more season of overlap with Lundqvist.

It’s not feasible for New York to keep Lundqvist past due as Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin could almost run the crease by themselves as things are today.

By season’s end, if the Rangers aren’t in a wild card spot, they will have at least significantly improved from their standing in 2018-19 and reduced their minus-45 goal differential from last season with a new-found defense.

At the very least, New York is improving and adapting to the game, while their counterpart on Long Island may be getting worse.

Offseason Grade: A

Things are tight with the salary cap for Gorton and Co., but the good news is Chris Kreider and Vladislav Namestnikov are both pending-UFAs at the end of the season. If the Rangers keep one (Kreider) over the other or let both of them go– via a trade or free agency– some much need cap room will open up for the younger players that are projected to be or currently part of New York’s core.

Also, signing the biggest name in free agency, while fleecing another team in need of cap relief from one of their top-two defenders for next to nothing generally gets a GM high marks for an offseason’s worth of moves. The rebuild is right on track and on schedule.

Buffalo Sabres 2019-20 Season Preview

Buffalo Sabres

33-39-10, 76 points, 6th in the Atlantic Division

Longest active playoff drought, last playoff appearance was 2011

Additions: F Jean-Sebastien Dea, F Marcus Johansson, F Curtis Lazar, F Jimmy Vesey (acquired from NYR), D John Gilmour, D Henri Jokiharju (acquired from CHI), D Colin Miller (acquired from VGK), G Andrew Hammond

Subtractions: F Eric Cornel (signed with Rochester, AHL), F Kyle Criscuolo (signed with PHI), F Taylor Leier (signed with Rochester, AHL), F Sean Malone (signed with Rochester, AHL), F Matt Moulson (signed with Hershey, AHL), F Alexander Nylander (traded to CHI), F Danny O’Regan (signed with NYR), F Kevin Porter (signed with Rochester, AHL), D Jack Dougherty (signed with Belleville, AHL), D Brycen Martin (signed with Fort Wayne, ECHL), D Matt Tennyson (signed with NJD), G Scott Wedgewood (signed with TBL), G Adam Wilcox (signed with San Antonio, AHL)

Still Unsigned: F Jason Pominville

Re-signed: F Remi Elie, F Zemgus Girgensons, F Johan Larsson, F Evan Rodrigues, F C.J. Smith, D Jake McCabe, G Linus Ullmark

Offseason Analysis: The Buffalo Sabres are looking to be last season’s Carolina Hurricanes for the 2019-20 season and, in the process, end the current longest active playoff drought in the NHL.

Buffalo hasn’t been back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs since being ousted by the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games in their 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup.

The Sabres only have four forwards under contract after this season.

Of the remaining nine forwards currently under contract, three are pending-restricted free agents (Sam Reinhart, Evan Rodrigues and Casey Mittelstadt) and six are pending-unrestricted free agents (Vladimir Sobotka, Conor Sheary, Jimmy Vesey, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson and Scott Wilson).

Thankfully, new addition to their top-nine forwards– and likely to start the season on the first or second line– Marcus Johansson (13-17–30 totals in 58 games played) signed a two-year, $9.000 million ($4.500 million cap hit) contract in free agency after spending last season with the New Jersey Devils prior to being traded to the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline.

Sabres General Manager, Jason Botterill, reworked the defense through the acquisition of Colin Miller from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for a 2021 2nd round pick (originally belonging to the St. Louis Blues) and a 2022 5th round pick.

Miller has three-years left at $3.875 million per season and is a quality top-six defender addition to the team facing the uncertainty after this season, whereby half of the current defenders on the roster are set to become free agents.

Buffalo has three pending-UFA defenders (Zach Bogosian, Marco Scandella and Casey Nelson) and one pending-RFA blue liner (Brandon Montour– acquired around last season’s deadline from the Anaheim Ducks).

With no cap room available currently and a tighter wallet thanks to Jeff Skinner’s eight-year, $72 million extension ($9.000 million cap hit), the Sabres are going to be hard pressed to try to keep the band together.

Thankfully, a little relief will come via the long-term injured reserve at the likely career-ending expense of Matt Hunwick and his ongoing neck condition that Hunwick sustained last season, missed the first two months because of and was limited to 14 games.

The 34-year-old defender’s $2.250 million cap hit will be relieved thanks to the LTIR option, but still Botterill will have to press on to utilize his best penny pinching calculator when it comes time to ice a full-time roster by puck drop next month.

Oh yeah and Linus Ullmark only has a year on his contract, so before anyone can get comfortable with what’s likely the foreseeable future in the crease for the Sabres…

While Botterill also brought in the likes of Vesey (17-18–35 totals in 81 games played) in a trade with the New York Rangers that saw Buffalo give up a 2021 3rd round pick and trading Alexander Nylander to the Chicago Blackhawks for Henri Jokiharju, there’s yet another new face behind the bench in upstate New York.

Ralph Krueger, the Edmonton Oilers’ head coach in the 48-game lockout shortened 2012-13 season, is in charge of Jack Eichel and crew.

Nobody fully knows what to expect out of the coach that went 19-22-7 with Edmonton before being replaced by Oilers management after one season.

On paper, this is Buffalo’s best chance in at least the last few seasons– if not more– to contend for a wild card spot or better in the Atlantic Division.

The only problem is that everyone else is getting better just the same, even as Rasmus Dahlin continues to emerge as a puck moving, gifted two-way defender.

Offseason Grade: B+

The wild card factor of Krueger behind the bench takes off a few points until proven otherwise, but the Sabres did a really nice job of cleaning up guys who need a second (or third) chance (Miller) and what was better of the more affordable free agents (Johansson) to help fill out a fuller roster than ever before.

Buffalo took a gamble with Skinner’s extension, but knows they finally have a winger locked up for Eichel. Now they just have to win.

Detroit Red Wings 2019-20 Season Preview

Detroit Red Wings

32-40-10, 74 points, 7th in the Atlantic Division

Missed the playoffs for the third straight season

Additions: F Adam Erne (acquired from TBL), F Valtteri Filppula, D Patrik Nemeth, G Calvin Pickard

Subtractions: F Louis-Marc Aubry (DEL), D Jake Chelios (KHL), F Martin Frk (signed with LAK), F Axel Holmstrom (SHL), F Wade Megan (retired), F Dylan Sadowy (signed with Utica, AHL), D Niklas Kronwall (retired), D Libor Sulak (KHL), D Luke Witkowski (signed with TBL), G Patrik Rybar (Liiga), G Harri Sateri (KHL)

Still unsigned: F Thomas Vanek

Re-signed: F Dominic Turgeon, D Joe Hicketts

Offseason Analysis: The Red Wings have a new General Manager in Steve Yzerman and with that, an entirely new outlook on their rebuild, as well as internal philosophy.

Yzerman is a proactive general manager, identifying and fixing holes before, during and after they occur, as well as assembling his own crew inside the front office and around the world in scouts.

Though Detroit isn’t expected to smash through the roof of annual Cup contenders this season, Yzerman is determined to bring the team he spent 22 seasons playing for back into relevancy.

Yes, that’s right, relevancy.

The Red Wings have missed the playoffs for the last three straight seasons and haven’t had an easy time adjusting to life in the salary cap era since winning the Cup in 2008 with a core largely built of players before the salary cap existed.

There have been a lot of smaller departures this offseason, but Yzerman’s brought in a familiar face from his days at the helm of the Tampa Bay Lightning, acquiring bottom-six forward, Adam Erne, from the Bolts in exchange for a 2020 4th round pick and the return of former Red Wing, turned Lightning, Philadelphia Flyer and most recently New York Islander, Valtteri Filppula via free agency.

Durable top-six defender, Patrik Nemeth was poached from the Colorado Avalanche in free agency and brings his up-and-down the defensive pairings style to an otherwise aging and oft-injured blue line.

Yzerman doesn’t get to lay claim to drafting Filip Zadina or Joseph Veleno, but he does get to reap the benefits of bringing them into the lineup.

One question that remains while the new regime in the front office continues to revaluate the situation and the long-term plan– what’s to become of current head coach, Jeff Blashill?

In four seasons with Detroit– albeit with a lackluster roster– Blashill has never led his team to higher than a 3rd place finish in the Atlantic Division and has a 1-4 record in the Stanley Cup Playoffs– dating back to his only appearance with the Red Wings in their First Round matchup with the Lightning in 2016.

There’s five pending-unrestricted free agents and seven pending-restricted free agents at season’s end, so things are very fluid in the Red Wings organization– especially with Yzerman in charge.

Offseason Grade: B

Detroit would have almost gotten an “A” grade for hiring Yzerman alone, but the fact that we have to consider the current roster and less than stellar free agent acquisitions– though still malleable and fitting for a team looking to speed up their transition from the basement back to the top– the Red Wings had a little bit of an “above average” offseason.

New Jersey Devils 2019-20 Season Preview

New Jersey Devils

31-41-10, 72 points, 8th in the Metropolitan Division

Missed the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven seasons

Additions: F Nikia Gusev (acquired from VGK), F John Hayden (acquired from CHI), F Wayne Simmonds, F Ben Street, D Dakota Mermis, D P.K. Subban (acquired from NSH), D Matt Tennyson

Subtractions: F Kenny Agostino (signed with TOR), F Kurtis Gabriel (signed with PHI), F Adam Helewka (KHL), F Nick Lappin (signed with STL), F Stefan Noesen (signed a PTO with DAL), F Blake Pietila (signed with ANA), F John Quenneville (traded to CHI), F Eric Tangradi (KHL), D Jeremy Davies (traded to NSH), D Ryan Murphy (KHL), D Steven Santini (traded to NSH), D John Ramage (KHL), D Egor Yakovlev (KHL), G Cam Johnson (signed with Milwaukee, AHL)

Still unsigned: F Drew Stafford, F Pavel Zacha, D Eric Gryba, G Eddie Lack

Re-signed: F Brandon Baddock, D Will Butcher, D Connor Carrick, D Josh Jacobs, D Mirco Mueller

Offseason Analysis: Ray Shero is an active General Manager and he was quite the active dealer this offseason– most recently acquiring Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for a 2020 3rd round pick and a 2021 2nd round pick, while also sending Steven Santini, Jeremy Davies, a 2019 2nd round pick and a 2020 2nd round pick to the Nashville Predators to acquire P.K. Subban in June.

Gusev signed a two-year deal worth $4.500 million per season to begin his NHL career at the age of 27, while Subban joins New Jersey with three years remaining on his eight-year, $72 million contract that he originally signed as an extension with the Montreal Canadiens on August 2, 2014 before being traded to Nashville in June 2016.

Shero then went on to sign Wayne Simmonds to a one-year, $5.000 million contract in free agency in an effort to bolster New Jersey’s top-six forwards.

Taylor Hall is a pending-unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

It’s not known whether or not the 2018 Hart Trophy winner has any desire to stay with the Devils or not, but Shero’s making every effort to keep his team relevant for what’s likely to be the rest of Hall’s prime.

Adding Jack Hughes with the 1st overall selection in the 2019 Draft is sure to help, while Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt come into their own among the forwards and Will Butcher (signed to a three-year extension this offseason worth $3.733 million per season) and Subban lead the new-age Devils blue line from the backend.

Pavel Zacha, the 22-year-old native of Brno, Czech Republic, scored 24 points in 70 games in his rookie season of 2016-17 and 25 points in each of the last two seasons (8-17–25 totals in 69 games in 2017-18 and 13-12–25 totals in 61 games in 2018-19).

Zacha is currently an unsigned-restricted free agent who should fit under New Jersey’s $8.712 million in currently available cap space, but shouldn’t be more than a one or two-year bridge deal as he has yet to prove himself of a larger role and the Devils are looking to avoid restricting themselves from next summer’s negotiations with Hall, Simmonds and others.

The one thing Shero hasn’t touched– mostly because he can’t– is goaltending.

Cory Schneider has a $6.000 million cap hit and three-years remaining on his contract and is coming off a career-worst, 3.06 goals against average and .903 save percentage in 26 games played as an NHL regular goaltender.

Mackenzie Blackwood emerged with a hot start to the season in 2018-19, but was limited both by the lack of protection in front of him, as well as injury, to just 23 games and a 2.61 GAA and a .918 SV% in his rookie campaign.

Blackwood’s .918 SV% is promising, but his 2.61 GAA is more endemic of an anemic defense the Devils are looking to get more out of– hence the addition of Subban.

Offseason Grade C+

New Jersey played it safe this offseason by not overpaying for a free agent (Simmonds), while keeping the term short and sweet– leaving the door open for further relations if it is mutually beneficial, but also at risk of being left for someone else if Simmonds looks to cash-in on a superb 2019-20 season elsewhere.

Shero bolstered his defense out of necessity, but might not have a playoff-ready roster without more work to be done. If the Devils were a yearly playoff contender, this offseason would look much better than it actually is. Sadly, it’s just a little above average for a team in transition from free-fall to “stable” rebuilder.

DTFR Podcast #167- And Now We Wait

Nick talks a little about the state of the league, plus retirements and other news around the league.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.

Los Angeles Kings 2019-20 Season Preview

Los Angeles Kings

31-42-9, 71 points, 8th in the Pacific Division

Missed the postseason for the third time in five years

Additions: F Martin Frk, F Mario Kempe, D Joakim Ryan

Subtractions: F Jonny Brodzinski (signed with SJS), F Pavel Jenys (signed ELH), F Brendan Leipsic (signed with WSH), F Zack Mitchell (KHL), F Nikita Scherbak (KHL), D Alex Lintuniemi (signed with CAR), D Dion Phaneuf (bought out), G Peter Budaj (retired)

Still unsigned: F Matheson Iacopelli, F Adrian Kempe,

Re-signed: F Michael Amadio, F Alex Iafallo, D Matt Roy, G Cal Petersen

Offseason Analysis: Los Angeles General Manager Rob Blake is entering his third season at the helm of the Kings and didn’t make the same mistake twice from last offseason to this offseason.

Ilya Kovalchuk (16-18–34 totals in 64 games last season) was signed last July, Dion Phaneuf– after being acquired in a trade with the Ottawa Senators in February 2018– had the final two years of his contract bought out this June.

Despite getting rid of Phaneuf (who’ll carry a $2.188 million cap penalty this season, $4.063 million next season and $1.063 million from 2021-22 to 2022-23), the Kings still have eight players age 30 or older on their roster– including Kovalchuk.

This isn’t 2012 or 2014, Los Angeles, it’s 2019.

Every member from the two Cups in three years core is older. Every draft pick between now and then should have either panned out by now or been traded in a bundle to get something that would’ve been proactive to counteract the aging curve.

Meanwhile, the Kovalchuk dilemma appears to be at ease for the time being. Willie Desjardins is out and Todd McLellan is in as the new head coach behind the bench at Staples Center.

Now it’s up to Kovalchuk to prove he’s worthy of his ice time– even as a 36-year-old veteran of the game. Last season was a wakeup call for him as the league has shifted drastically in many ways since his departure from the NHL in 2013.

Los Angeles’ expectations for this season? Get better. Period.

If not, trades must occur. Adapt or finish second-to-last in the overall standings for the second straight season.

There’s just one problem for Blake– Adrian Kempe is still unsigned as a restricted free agent and key to the Kings’ transition.

With about $8.740 million in cap space and only four no-trade or no-movement clauses on the books, Los Angeles should be an active seller if the old guard can’t dish out one last hurrah.

Offseason Grade: C-

Alex Turcotte was selected 5th overall by Los Angeles in the draft this year and there’s a plethora of youth in the system, but at some point, prospects have to be tested to see where they’re at and to evaluate the strength of the organization as a whole.

Despite not making any bad decisions this offseason, the Kings made no decisions to drastically alter an otherwise faltering team. At least the 1990s Heritage sweaters will look sweet coming out of the vault.

Ottawa Senators 2019-20 Season Preview

Ottawa Senators

29-47-6, 64 points, 8th in the Atlantic Division

Missed the postseason for the second straight year

Additions: F Artem Anisimov (acquired from CHI), F Ryan Callahan (acquired from TBL), F Tyler Ennis, F Jordan Szwarz, D Ron Hainsey, D Nikia Zaitsev (acquired from TOR)

Subtractions: F Chase Balisy (DEL), F Brian Gibbons (signed with CAR), F Oscar Lindberg (NLA), F Aaron Luchuk (traded to TOR), F Jim O’Brien (DEL), F Zack Smith (traded to CHI), D Cody Ceci (traded to TOR), D Stefan Elliott (KHL), D Ben Harpur (traded to TOR), G Mike Condon (traded to TBL)

Still unsigned: F Darren Archibald, F Magnus Paajarvi, F Adam Tambellini, D Erik Burgdoerfer, D Justin Falk

Re-signed: F Michael Carcone (rights acquired in a trade with TOR, then re-signed), F Nick Paul, F Brady Tkachuk, F Colin White, D Christian Wolanin

Offseason Analysis: Senators owner, Eugene Melnyk, promised roster turnover in that awkward video with defender, Mark Borowiecki, last season and boy what a turnover the Sens have had since last year.

Bobby Ryan’s $7.250 million cap hit is still the highest on the team, despite Melnyk’s well-known intention on trading his biggest contract remaining– even though General Manager, Pierre Dorion, can’t even find a team that’s looking to get to the salary cap floor to send him to.

Meanwhile, Ottawa has $15.325 million in dead cap space on the long-term injured reserve (Ryan Callahan, Marian Gaborik and Clarke MacArthur), though knowing Melnyk, he won’t bother to urge Dorion to place his assets on the long term injured reserve and would rather shelf the cap space for the sake of keeping the payroll down.

There’s nothing else to say about this organization.

It’s explicitly out there that they’re not even going to give a sniff of an effort until at least “2021” when they plan on being competitive for a period of about four years.

On the bright side, Colin White signed a six-year extension worth $4.750 million per season, which will take him right up to unrestricted free agency after the 2024-25 season.

If he’s not traded before then, he’s at least provided himself with just enough insurance to get through the first chapter of his career as a Senator.

Dorion traded Cody Ceci as part of a package to the Toronto Maple Leafs and is looking to recreate the Dion Phaneuf trade from the Leafs to Ottawa, in which Phaneuf’s career was rejuvenated before later being traded to the Los Angeles Kings.

This time around, Nikita Zaitsev is looking for a turnaround at 27-years-old, but he won’t be doing it without any familiar company as 38-year-old, Ron Hainsey, was not kept around in Toronto and joined the Sens this July.

Even D.J. Smith is jumping ship as a Maple Leafs assistant coach and taking up his first NHL head coaching job behind the bench for the Senators this season.

Ottawa’s defense is still hurting after trading away Erik Karlsson last September, however this season’s defensive pairings with Zaitsev and Hainsey joining Thomas Chabot, Christian Jaros and perhaps Erik Brannstrom throughout the full season will only help improve the younger blue liners in the long-run.

In the grand scope of things, the Senators are going to need to find Craig Anderson’s replacement as the 38-year-old starting goaltender intends to finish his career in Ottawa, but has one-year remaining on his current contract.

If there’s any positive takeaway from last season, it’s that despite finishing last in the overall league standings, the Sens managed to have only the second-worst goal differential with a minus-60.

They also were the only team without 30 or more wins last season.

Offseason Grade: D+

The defense is better than it was last season, but it’s not the greatest in the league. The addition of Artem Anisimov from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Zack Smith strengthens the Senators down the middle, but for how long (Anisimov is signed through 2020-21 and currently 31-years-old). Even with Brady Tkachuk and a plethora of youth in the system– good or bad– there’s still a general sense of existential dread in Ottawa.

Nonetheless, there’s no excuse for an intentionally drawn out rebuild with no legitimate end goal in sight. It’s like they’re trying to be the Detroit Lions of the NHL.

2019-20 Pacific Division Outlook

As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)

The projected standings below are only a forecast.

They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).

There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.

As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.

Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.

A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.

Projected Standings After ZERO Months

Pacific Division

  1. y-Vegas Golden Knights, 101 points
  2. x-San Jose Sharks, 100 points
  3. x-Anaheim Ducks, 96 points
  4. wc1- Calgary Flames, 93 points
  5. Los Angeles Kings, 89 points
  6. Vancouver Canucks, 83 points
  7. Arizona Coyotes, 78 points
  8. Edmonton Oilers, 77 points

Vegas Golden Knights: Pros and Cons

Despite a colossal collapse in Game 7 of their First Round matchup with the San Jose Sharks this spring, the Golden Knights are ready for what could be another deep playoff run in 2020.

A full season of Mark Stone– plus the rest of the original and supporting cast (Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty, Marc-Andre Fleury, etc.)– should provide Vegas with enough scoring power, while Nate Schmidt anchors the defense with Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, Jon Merrill and adopted Vegas son, Deryk Engelland.

Aside from working on the penalty kill and the peaceful transition of power from George McPhee to Kelly McCrimmon as General Manager of the organization (effective Sept. 1st), the Golden Knights have had a quiet offseason.

Sure, they traded Colin Miller to the Buffalo Sabres which hurts their blue line depth in the event of injuries, but Vegas has a few notable prospects with the Chicago Wolves (AHL) in Jake Bischoff, Nic Hague and Jimmy Schudlt that should be ready for a taste of NHL action if necessary.

Owner, Bill Foley, has his sights set on his original vision for the franchise– winning a Cup within the first three seasons of its existence.

The only downside for the Golden Knights heading into the 2019-20 season? Goaltending.

No, Fleury isn’t in decline from his status as one of the better goaltenders in the league, but his time in the crease has to be managed.

Though he was limited to 46 games in 2017-18 due to injury, Fleury amassed a 29-13-4 record with a 2.24 goals against average and a .927 save percentage. Vegas’ backup goaltender, Malcolm Subban, managed a 13-4-2 record in 22 games played that season with a 2.68 GAA and a .910 SV% in his rookie season.

Last season, Subban’s numbers took a turn for the worse.

He had an 8-10-2 record in 21 games played with a 2.93 GAA and a .902 SV%– all while Fleury was forced to carry a heavier schedule load, seeing his stat line slip to a 2.51 GAA and a .913 SV% in the process, but improving his overall record to 35-21-5 in 61 games.

Vegas added Garret Sparks, who carries a career GAA (3.09) and SV% (.898) that’s worst than Subban in six fewer games played over two full-time seasons as a backup (Sparks appeared in 37 games with Toronto, while Subban’s played in 43 with Vegas since 2017-18).

Gerard Gallant can’t rely on a fallback plan if one of them doesn’t yield a significant turnaround at this point in their careers (because there isn’t one) and he also can’t overexert Fleury in the buildup to the postseason.

This is why you can never have too many goaltenders in the system.

How would the Golden Knights fail?

If an Uber driver records their players complaining about their special teams play and/or said Uber driver can’t do a better job at not allowing four power play goals against on a five-minute major penalty kill.

San Jose Sharks: Pros and Cons

San Jose has about $4.683 million in cap space and Joe Thornton is still unsigned. Are we really ready to live in a world where Thornton isn’t on the Sharks and it’s not 1997-2005 again?

Also, Patrick Marleau is still unsigned too, but that’s besides the point– plus he spent the last two years with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Anyway, the Sharks went all in on Erik Karlsson’s extension, shelling out $11.500 million per season for the next eight years through the 2026-27 season.

As long as Karlsson can remain healthy (and the rest of the roster for that matter, unlike in this spring’s Western Conference Final run), then San Jose’s blue line remains one of the most dynamic forces of offensive capabilities from an otherwise non-traditional source of scoring production.

Kevin Labanc is an emerging star in a Sharks uniform and will carry a bigger role this season with the departure of Joe Pavelski to the Dallas Stars via free agency.

Meanwhile, it’s officially the Logan Couture Era in Silicon Valley– if General Manager Doug Wilson is truly moving on from the days of Thornton and Marleau– with supporting roles from Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane.

While Karlsson’s cap hit tops the league on an otherwise unnerving contract if something goes wrong, Wilson managed to keep Timo Meier in teal for the next four seasons at an affordable $6.000 million cap hit.

Other than injuries, the only thing that could scare the Sharks out of the waters of contention is the inconsistency of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell in the crease.

Despite compiling 36 wins on the season in 62 games played, Jones had a career-worst GAA (2.94) and SV% (.896), while Dell also managed to have a career-worst performance as a backup with a 3.17 GAA and a .886 SV% in 25 games played (of which he won 10).

Yikes.

How would the Sharks fail?

San Jose has had everything imaginable happen to them in the postseason, so what seems irrational, inexplicable and/or unimaginable, because that’s probably how they’d lose (again).

Anaheim Ducks: Pros and Cons

The Ducks have about $8.500 million in cap space with a good mix of pending-unrestricted free agents and pending-restricted free agents next summer, which means they’ll only have more money to spend and reallocate to their better, younger players like Troy Terry and Daniel Sprong.

What’s the bad news?

It’s Anaheim. They’re suffering from buying out Corey Perry’s contract for the next four seasons ($2.625 million in 2019-20, $6.625 million in 2020-21 and $2.000 million from 2021-23), Ryan Getzlaf is signed through 2020-21 and has a no-movement clause, Ryan Kesler may never play again and is also signed through 2021-22 with a no-movement clause and finally, Adam Henrique has a modified no-trade clause and is signed through 2023-24.

Yes, Kesler can be place on long-term injured reserve and shelved for the remainder of his contract and/or traded elsewhere (after waiving his NMC) to free up cap space if he truly cannot return, but the fact of the matter is the Ducks are still too tied up to takeoff and fly.

The depth of prospects is sketchy with the Ducks, considering not much is known about their overall plan.

Are they overcooking some prospects for a better immediate impact in the NHL or should they just play the kids, wait around near the basement of the standings and rebuild?

Though this forecast has Anaheim tabbed for a divisional spot, they’re likely to be looking from outside the division with perhaps only the saving grace of a wild card spot thanks to John Gibson’s existence as one of the best goaltenders in the game (until the skaters in front of him let him down).

At the very least, Dallas Eakins is back as a head coach in the NHL, so all is right with the world (and he did a decent job resurrecting his career with a strong performance in San Diego (AHL) after his dismal days in Edmonton).

How would the Ducks fail?

General Manager Bob Murray holds onto his cards for too long, talent development stalls and/or Eakins turns out to not be one of those classic examples of a coach that just came into the league a little too early, then got a second chance and succeeded.

Calgary Flames: Pros and Cons

The Flames couldn’t win the Cup with two-time All Star goaltender, Mike Smith, on their roster, so they rolling with David Rittich and Cam Talbot– who joins Calgary from their intra-province rival Edmonton Oilers.

Speaking of the Oilers, that’s where Smith ended up. Goalie swap! But without any actual trading involved, since Talbot was most recently serving as a “Plan C” for the Philadelphia Flyers if Carter Hart, Brian Elliott and Co. weren’t ready to go down the stretch.

Anyway, back to the “C of Red”.

Calgary sent James Neal to Edmonton in exchange for Milan Lucic and ended up saving $500,000 per season for the remainder of Lucic’s contract (signed through 2022-23) in the process. The Oilers retained salary in the trade. You heard that right.

Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane are still unsigned RFAs and General Manager Brad Treliving has about $7.757 million to work with in cap space.

Get a deal done with Tkachuk and the Flames will go on without any interruption as a team that pleasantly turned a lot of heads in the regular season last year, then sputtered out in the First Round in five games to the Colorado Avalanche.

Bill Peters is ready for his second season behind the bench in Calgary and the roster looks set to remain in contention for a divisional berth, if not leading the Western Conference once again.

How would the Flames fail?

Simply put, if they flame out at the end of the regular season like they did last season– March was a bad month, which led to their demise in five games against Colorado in the First Round.

Los Angeles Kings: Pros and Cons

The good news for the Kings? Tyler Toffoli, Trevor Lewis, Kyle Clifford, Mario Kempe, Derek Forbort, Paul LaDue, Joakim Ryan and Jack Campbell are all pending-UFAs after next season and Carl Grundstrom, Austin Wagner, Sean Walker and Kurtis MacDermid are all pending-RFAs.

The bad news? Drew Doughty is signed through 2026-27 at $11.000 million per season, Anze Kopitar is making $10.000 million per season through 2023-24 and Adrian Kempe is currently an unsigned RFA.

General Manager Rob Blake has a lot to sort through this season, but he’s already made some corrections to his blunders in his first two seasons as an NHL GM.

For starters, he replaced Dion Phaneuf with Ryan in free agency, brought back his stable backup goaltender in Campbell on a one-year deal and didn’t give up on Ilya Kovalchuk, but rather hired an actual NHL head coach fit for the contemporary game in Todd McLellan.

Though Marco Sturm remains one of the best looking assistant coaches in the league, we’ll let this one slide, Los Angeles.

Are the Kings actually that much better than they were last season? Time will surely tell, but one thing’s for sure– they can’t possibly be much worse, right? Right!?!

If anything, the Kings are a wild card team at best or situated behind either Vancouver or Arizona at worst in the standings, but they should be lightyears from the basement in the division this season with some solid additions through the draft over the years in Alex Turcotte, Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Gabriel Vilardi.

Los Angeles should be able to (somewhat) bounce back from their regression last season, but at the same time, the year isn’t 2012 or 2014 anymore. It’s time to start cutting the chord with former “glue guys” turned placeholders on a roster that needs an influx of youth sooner rather than later.

How would the Kings fail?

If Jonathan Quick gets hurt in any fashion and Blake can’t get rid of at least one of the eight players on the 23-player roster over aged 30 or older.

Vancouver Canucks: Pros and Cons

The Canucks are looking to make it back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2015, but did General Manager, Jim Benning do enough this offseason to set Vancouver back on the right track for 2020?

Benning went out and acquired J.T. Miller from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Marek Mazanec, a 2019 3rd round pick and a conditional 2020 1st round pick in June, then signed 29-year-old defender, Tyler Myers to a five-year, $30.000 million contract.

Miller and Myers are two quality assets compared to previous transactions made in the offseason by the Canucks. For once, Benning didn’t overpay an aging veteran player, but he also hasn’t cleaned up what might be a costly (both in price and on ice) fourth line in a league that runs four lines deep.

There’s a very real chance that none of the players on Vancouver’s fourth line any given night are making less than $3.000 million per season.

That’s unfathomable in a salary cap driven sport and only speaks to the number of misguided happenings in asset management by the Canucks.

Come to think of it, Vancouver only has five players out of a possible 23-player roster making less than $1.000 million per season. Sure, nobody’s making $10.000 million, but all those $2.000 million-plus, $3.000 million-plus, $4.000 million-plus and $5.000 million-plus contracts add up.

At least Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser are worth watching night-in and night-out. Plus, Thatcher Demko should pan out to be one of the league’s better goaltenders.

There’s just one concern for Benning as the offseason continues– Boeser and Nikolay Goldobin are still unsigned RFAs.

And Boeser is certainly worth the four-year, $7.000 million cap hit he’s looking for. Too bad the Canucks only have $5.058 million in cap space though.

How would the Canucks fail?

By being close, but not close enough in yet another race for the playoffs. Things are heading in the right direction, however.

Arizona Coyotes: Pros and Cons

Mastermind GM John Chayka has landed this offseason’s biggest prize in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins– two-time Stanley Cup champion, Team USA representative and hot dog enthusiast, Phil “The Thrill” Kessel.

Kessel brings his goalscoring prowess to the Western Conference for the first time in his career, having been drafted by the Boston Bruins 5th overall in the 2006 NHL draft, then playing with Boston until being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2009 and then again the Pittsburgh in 2015.

No. 81 had 82 points in 82 games played last season, which was down from career-high 34-58–92 totals in 2017-18. Additionally, he hasn’t missed a game since 2010.

Along with Carl Soderberg– another offseason acquisition in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche– Kessel and the Coyotes are revamped and poised to make a run for the postseason.

Arizona’s only ranked low in this forecast because of nearly a decade of middle of the road rosters and missed opportunities since losing in the 2012 Western Conference Final in five games to Los Angeles.

The Coyotes haven’t been back to the playoffs since, but they’re trending upward.

With Nick Schmaltz, Jakob Chychrun and Oliver Ekman-Larsson locked up on long-term contracts, the core has really come into fruition while Chayka remains active in the draft and trade market.

Now they just need a little luck on their side to avoid losing Antti Raanta to the injury bug again.

How would the Coyotes fail?

If this forecast actually turns out to be true and Arizona finished 7th in the division, because otherwise who would actually want to see them fail?

Edmonton Oilers: Pros and Cons

Pro: New GM (Ken Holland) and a new head coach (Dave Tippett).

Con: Another new GM and a new head coach.

Pro: Connor McDavid!

Con: Plays for the Oilers.

Pro: They were able to trade Milan Lucic.

Con: While acquiring James Neal and retaining part of Lucic’s salary in the process, thereby spending more money than in the first place.

Pro: They should actually be better this year.

Con: We keep saying every year, even about a team that has the second-greatest player in the game behind Sidney Crosby on the roster.

Pro: There’s a lot of pending UFAs and RFAs on the roster.

Con: That means at least half of them are now going to have a career-year in a contract year and be overpaid either by Edmonton or other teams in the next offseason.

Pro: Two-time All Star Mike Smith signed a one-year deal to backup Mikko Koskinen.

Con: The average age of Edmonton’s goaltending duo is 34.

How would the Oilers fail?

How there’s any such thing as optimism besides having McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in Edmonton is incredible. If they make it to a wild card berth, it’d take McDavid playing every position, probably.

Down the Frozen River(.com!)