The 2019-20 season has begun, so naturally we handed out awards in our 4th Annual Participation Trophies After One Game ceremony.
St. Louis Blues
45-28-9, 99 points, 3rd in the Central Division
Defeated Boston in the Stanley Cup Final
Additions: F Dakota Joshua (acquired from TOR), F Nick Lappin, F Evan Polei, F Michael Vecchione, F Nathan Walker, D Andreas Borgman (acquired from TOR), D Jake Dotchin, D Justin Faulk (acquired from CAR), D Derrick Pouliot
Subtractions: F Conner Bleackley (signed with Idaho, ECHL), F Dominik Bokk (traded to CAR), F Pat Maroon (signed with TBL), F Nikita Soshnikov (KHL), D Chris Butler (retired), D Michael Del Zotto (signed with ANA), D Joel Edmundson (re-signed, then traded to CAR), D Jani Hakanpaa (signed with ANA), D Jakub Jerabek (KHL), D Jordan Schmaltz (traded to TOR), D Tyler Wotherspoon (signed with PHI), G Jared Coreau (signed with NYI)
Still Unsigned: F Chris Thorburn
Re-signed: F Ivan Barbashev, F Sammy Blais, F Robby Fabbri, F Zach Sanford, F Oskar Sundqvist, D Carl Gunnarsson, G Jordan Binnington, G Ville Husso
Offseason Analysis: Winning the Stanley Cup cures everything. Nobody’s asking when and if the St. Louis Blues will ever a) make another appearance in the Stanley Cup Final or b) winning the Cup.
The Blues crossed off the top item from their bucket list and hoisted the Stanley Cup over their heads in Boston after winning Game 7 against the Bruins in June.
General Manager, Doug Armstrong, has been building and retooling the organization since assuming his current role in 2010. A finalist for the NHL General Manager of the Year Award last season, Armstrong landed a key piece of St. Louis’ Cup-winning roster (and Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs MVP) in Ryan O’Reilly last offseason in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres.
St. Louis won the Cup, so now Armstrong’s task of winning one is taken care of. He– along with the rest of the Blues– will have a bit of a grace period until fans are fed up again with whatever behooves them next.
Of course, the goal of winning the Cup for any GM ultimately isn’t to just win it once, but rather to win it as many times as possible in your career.
Armstrong took care of a delicate balance in re-signed a plethora of restricted free agent members of the Blues.
Rather than making Jordan Binnington the surefire franchise goaltender, Armstrong was able to negotiate a solid two-year bridge deal worth $4.400 million per season.
The 26-year-old goaltender took over St. Louis’ starting role at the dawn of the new year in January and– even though he set a National Hockey League rookie record for most wins in the postseason with 16– has yet to solidify his legitimacy as a starting goaltender in the NHL.
Binnington and 29-year-old, Jake Allen, each have two years on their respective contracts. This season, one will rise above the other as the starter (likely Binnington), but for the next couple of seasons each are competing for a long-term role with the organization.
Glue guys, Ivan Barbashev, Sammy Blais, Robby Fabbri, Zach Sanford, Oskar Sundqvist and Carl Gunnarsson are all sticking around in St. Louis for the near future, with Sundqvist extended for the longest tenure on a new four-year deal worth $2.750 million per season.
The Blues can sit back for a season or two and see if Craig Berube and Co. can recreate the magic of their 52nd season in franchise history.
Whether or not this team has what it takes to formulate a dynasty remains to be seen, but Armstrong bolstered their chances after trading Joel Edmundson, Dominik Bokk and a 2021 7th round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes for veteran defender, Justin Faulk, and a 2020 5th round pick on Sept. 24th.
Carolina retained 14% of Faulk’s salary ($676,667), which means he will carry a $4.157 million cap hit for the Blues this season.
Upon his acquisition, Armstrong locked up the defender to a seven-year extension with St. Louis worth $45.500 million ($6.500 million per season). Faulk’s extension goes into effect next season and carries a no-trade clause for the first five years, then a modified no-trade clause for the remainder.
A full no-trade clause was added by the Blues to the final year of his current deal.
If nothing else, this trade covers Armstrong’s back in case he is unable to sign Blues captain, Alex Pietrangelo, to an extension.
The 29-year-old defender is a pending-unrestricted free agent at season’s end and likely to see a pay raise from his current $6.500 million cap hit (especially considering, 1) his role in St. Louis’ turnaround, 2) his Stanley Cup ring and 3) the fact that Faulk’s extension carries Pietrangelo’s current cap hit).
In short, Pietrangelo is better than Faulk and best while the two of them are on the same blue line.
Armstrong will also have to balance the books next season by deciding whether or not to re-sign Brayden Schenn, Fabbri, Blais, Dunn, Jay Bouwmeester and Mackenzie MacEachern.
For now, bars across St. Louis will keep playing “Gloria” even as the team on the ice must turn the page on last season and focus on what looms this season and beyond.
Offseason Grade: B-
Considering the number of RFAs Armstrong had to re-sign, the Blues GM managed to do a decent job tidying things up for the time being, but most of the extensions were short term, one or two year deals.
St. Louis has about $138,740 in cap space available, leaving them with little to no room for any major extensions for next season without having to unload some larger contracts from the books.
At the very least, the only major loss from last season’s Cup winning roster to this season was Pat Maroon, who signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning due to St. Louis’ cap constraints.
46-29-7, 99 points, 4th in the Metropolitan Division
Eliminated in the Eastern Conference Final by Boston
Additions: F Dominik Bokk (acquired from STL), F Ryan Dzingel, F Brian Gibbons, F Erik Haula (acquired from VGK), F Alex Lintuniemi, D Fredrik Claesson, D Joel Edmundson (acquired from STL), D Gustav Forsling (acquired from CHI), D Jake Gardiner, D Chase Priskie, D Kyle Wood (acquired from SJS), G Anton Forsberg (acquired from CHI), G James Reimer (acquired from FLA)
Subtractions: F Patrick Brown (signed with VGK), F Micheal Ferland (signed with VAN), F Patrick Marleau (bought out), F Greg McKegg (signed with NYR), F Andrew Poturalski (signed with ANA), F Nicolas Roy (traded to VGK), F Aleksi Saarela (traded to CHI), D Trevor Carrick (traded to SJS), D Calvin de Haan (traded to CHI), D Justin Faulk (traded to STL), D Adam Fox (traded to NYR), D Dan Renouf (signed with COL), D Josh Wesley (signed with San Antonio, AHL), G Scott Darling (traded to FLA), G Curtis McElhinney (signed with TBL)
Still Unsigned: F Saku Maenalanen (KHL, CAR reserve list), F Justin Williams
Re-signed: F Sebastian Aho, F Clark Bishop, F Brock McGinn, D Hadyn Fleury, D Roland McKeown, G Petr Mrazek
Offseason Analysis: While some teams have signed the biggest names in free agency and improved in one particular aspect, one team has made all the right moves in multiple areas.
Already stocked with plenty of strength, depth and youth, the Carolina Hurricanes added in every category.
Canes GM, Don Waddell, was busy this summer making nine trades since the end of the regular season– seven of which involved players– and signing key pieces of the 2019-20 roster to new deals.
First and foremost, Carolina’s priority this offseason resided in Sebastian Aho’s next contract.
Aho originally signed an offer sheet with the Montreal Canadiens at the dawn of free agency on July 1st, but the Hurricanes matched the deal about a week later and retained his services.
Montreal thought a five-year, $8.454 million per season, offer with a little more than $21 million in signing bonuses owed in the first year of the contract would unnerve Carolina.
It’s just a drop in the bucket for Canes owner, Tom Dundon, who is investing more than just a better on-ice product around the organization.
Though the Hurricanes couldn’t convince Adam Fox to sign with the team after acquiring the defender from the Calgary Flames as part of the Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm for Dougie Hamilton and Micheal Ferland trade, Carolina sent Fox to the New York Rangers for a 2019 2nd round pick and a conditional 2020 3rd round pick.
If Fox plays at least 30 games this season for the Rangers, then the 2020 3rd round pick is upgraded to a 2020 2nd round pick.
At the Draft in June, Waddell worked a deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs acquiring Patrick Marleau, a conditional 2020 1st round pick and a 2020 7th round pick in exchange for a 2020 6th round pick.
If the 2020 1st round pick from Toronto is a top-10 pick, then Carolina will receive a 2021 1st round pick instead.
Marleau was bought out by the Hurricanes and will cost Carolina $6.250 million against the cap this season.
The Canes have $8.583 million tied up in buyout penalties as Alexander Semin’s $2.333 million penalty expires at the conclusion of the 2020-21 season, which means Waddell has plenty of salary to work with in the coming years.
Two days after the Draft, Carolina sent Calvin de Haan and Aleksi Saarela to the Chicago Blackhawks for Gustav Forsling and Anton Forsberg on June 24th.
Forsling, 23, is a suitable option for a top-six defender role with room for growth– given he’s on the upswing in his prime (defenders generally aren’t considered “peak” until their early 30s).
Forsberg, 26, has some experience as an NHL backup, but will supplement Alex Nedeljokvic’s workload with the Charlotte Checkers (AHL) for the foreseeable future.
After winning their first Calder Cup championship in franchise history, a significant portion of the Checkers’ core was utilized as trade bait or pushed out of the Hurricanes organization by incoming youth are ready for their AHL debuts.
There are seven newcomers to the Checkers roster from within the Hurricanes system from last season to this season, including three players under the age of 22.
Out of the 33 players listed on their 2019 Calder Cup Playoff roster, 15 of them have moved on from Charlotte to another team in professional hockey (NHL, AHL, ECHL, Europe, Russia, etc.) and even Mike Vellucci left the Checkers to join the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins as their new head coach.
In his place, former assistant coach turned current Checkers head coach, Ryan Warsofsky, will take the task of running things from behind the bench as the AHL’s youngest head coach at 31-years-old.
Nicolas Roy and a conditional 2021 5th round pick were flipped to the Vegas Golden Knights for Erik Haula on June 27th.
Haula, 28, only managed to play 15 games last season for the Golden Knights before suffering a knee injury, but the veteran forward had a career-high 55 points (29 goals, 26 assists) in 76 games with Vegas in 2017-18.
He should fit in well within a top-nine forward role, either as a second line or third line center/left wing and is a cheaper replacement for Ferland’s breakout year that led to a new four-year deal worth $3.500 million per season with the Vancouver Canucks in free agency.
If Haula is still on Carolina’s roster after this season or if the Canes trade Haula for a player, multiple draft picks or a draft pick in rounds 1-5, then Vegas receives the conditional 2021 5th round pick. If no condition is met, then the Hurricanes will not have to forfeit their draft pick to the Golden Knights.
Three days after adding Haula, Waddell found a new backup goaltender in a trade with the Florida Panthers.
Carolina traded Scott Darling and a 2020 6th round pick (originally belonging to the Buffalo Sabres) to Florida in exchange for James Reimer on June 30th.
Reimer, 31, had a disappointing 3.09 goals against average and a dismal .900 save percentage in 36 games with the Panthers and is looking to rebound with the Hurricanes in a backup role after seeing his GAA climb for the last three seasons with Florida while trying to take on more games in light of Roberto Luongo’s waning years.
Luongo is now retired (as of this offseason) and didn’t win a Stanley Cup championship in his 19 NHL seasons, unlike Justin Williams, who won the Cup three times in 20 seasons.
Williams, 37, hasn’t officially retired, but is “stepping away” from the game for the time being.
The 2014 Conn Smythe Trophy winner won two Cups with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014 and played a role in Carolina’s 2006 Stanley Cup championship.
His presence in the Hurricanes dressing room over the last two seasons was pivotal in the transition among ownership, the front office and with the players on the ice.
Finally, after a minor swap with the San Jose Sharks, which saw Trevor Carrick depart the organization for Kyle Wood on August 6th, Waddell finished (for now) his busy offseason trades with one more major move.
Longtime anchor on Carolina’s power play and top-four defender, Justin Faulk, was packaged with a 2020 5th round pick and traded to the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in exchange for Joel Edmundson, Dominik Bokk and a 2021 7th round pick on Sept. 24th.
The Canes retained 14% of Faulk’s salary ($676,667) in the transaction, while adding a solid top-six defender (Edmundson) and a top German prospect (Bokk) to the fold.
And that’s not even covering Waddell’s brilliance in free agency.
Carolina signed Ryan Dzingel to a two-year contract worth $3.375 million per season on July 12th– adding to the Hurricanes’ plethora of forwards with 20 or more goals last season.
Dzingel recorded 22-22–44 totals in 57 games with the Ottawa Senators last season before being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline.
Though he only managed 4-8–12 totals in 21 games with Columbus, Dzingel fell victim to Blue Jackets head coach, John Tortorella’s, coaching style– whereby nothing is changed until it has to change.
Columbus didn’t find the right fit for the 27-year-old forward in their lineup and Dzingel didn’t take to Tortorella’s scheme and thus, signed with the Hurricanes, where Rod Brind’Amour is saving the team once more.
Seriously, Brind’Amour is the perfect person behind the bench for the organization, if last season didn’t already prove that enough.
Not only did the Hurricanes make the Eastern Conference Final, but Brind’Amour brought back the glow of Carolina’s glory days.
He was the face of the franchise at the dawn of the millennium and he is the face of efficient coaching– with a high compete level– in the contemporary NHL.
And one more thing…
If you’re worried about what Faulk’s departure means for Carolina’s power play, don’t be.
That’s why Jake Gardiner signed a four-year contract worth $4.050 million per season on Sept. 6th.
The durable 29-year-old defender is in his prime, effective on special teams and looking to turn over a new leaf after breaking into the league with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2011-12 season.
Offseason Grade: A
In short, this team is legit. Waddell added to the roster without subtracting anything major that he hadn’t already planned to replace and Martin Necas could land a job on the team this season.
Of the 22 skaters on the team currently, the average age is 25.3, which makes last season’s run to the Eastern Conference Final even more impressive– even with the ever increasing presence of younger and younger players league-wide.
Carolina is the last team to receive an “A” grade for their offseason work and is looking to make a jump in the Metropolitan Division standings in the regular season from wild card team to division title contender.
Toronto Maple Leafs
46-28-8, 100 points, 3rd in the Atlantic Division
Eliminated in the First Round by Boston
Additions: F Pontus Aberg, F Kenny Agostino, F David Clarkson (acquired from VGK), F Tyler Gaudet, F Alexander Kerfoot (acquired from COL), F Kalle Kossila, F Aaron Luchuk (acquired from OTT), F Nick Shore, F Jason Spezza, F Garrett Wilson, D Tyson Barrie (acquired from COL), D Cody Ceci (acquired from OTT), D Kevin Gravel, D Ben Harpur (acquired from OTT), D Jordan Schmaltz (acquired from STL)
Subtractions: F Nick Baptiste (signed with Toronto, AHL), F Connor Brown (traded to OTT), F Michael Carcone (traded to OTT), F Tyler Ennis (signed with OTT), F Gabriel Gagne (signed with Allen, ECHL), F Josh Jooris (NLA), F Dakota Joshua (traded to STL), F Nazem Kadri (traded to COL), F Patrick Marleau (traded to CAR), F Chris Mueller (signed with TBL), D Andreas Borgman (traded to STL), D Jake Gardiner (signed with CAR), D Fedor Gordeev (traded to MIN), D Ron Hainsey (signed with OTT), D Vincent LoVerde (signed with Hartford, AHL), D Igor Ozhiganov (KHL), D Calle Rosen (traded to COL), D Jordan Subban (EBEL), D Nikita Zaitsev (traded to OTT), G Eamon McAdam (signed with Binghamton, AHL), G Garret Sparks (traded to VGK)
Still Unsigned: D Steve Oleksy
Re-signed: F Mitch Marner, D Martin Marincin, G Michael Hutchinson
Offseason Analysis: Kyle Dubas had a busy offseason as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. His main priority was re-signing Mitch Marner, which finally wrapped up on Sept. 13th.
Marner signed a six-year extension worth $10.893 million per season. Whether or not he’s actually worth that much money is a different question, but the fact of the matter is it didn’t help the Maple Leafs.
Together with Auston Matthews, John Tavares and William Nylander, Marner and the other three make up $40,489,366 of Toronto’s salary cap.
This season’s salary cap ceiling is $81.500 million.
Three of the seven highest paid players in the league are on the Leafs and the four highest paid Leafs eat up almost half of Toronto’s salary cap.
At the time of Marner’s signing, the Maple Leafs were $13,365,199 over the salary cap.
Granted, Pontus Aberg and Frederik Gauthier were assigned to the Toronto Marlies (AHL), while Nathan Horton, David Clarkson, Zach Hyman and Travis Dermott are all expected to be placed on the long-term injured reserve to allow the Leafs to remain cap compliant.
Things should get interesting, however, once Hyman and Dermott return from injury, not that their salaries are that expensive, but rather the day-to-day cap operations and paper transactions necessary to make things work should be a lot of fun for Toronto’s front office to balance.
Mike Babcock is still behind the bench in Toronto after three straight seasons of First Round exits– including back-to-back Game 7 losses on the road against the Boston Bruins in 2018 and last season.
Dubas was active in the trade market to 1) free up expendable salary to re-sign Marner and 2) improve his roster from last season to this season.
He may have unintentionally 3) stunted the team’s growth in the process.
Toronto seven trades involving players this offseason, including three pretty big deals for the Maple Leafs.
Patrick Marleau, a conditional 2020 1st round pick and a 2020 7th round pick were shipped to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a 2020 6th round pick at the 2019 NHL Draft on June 22nd.
Rather than buyout Marleau’s contract and face cap penalty, Toronto was able to convince Carolina to take on his salary and offer him the chance to play for the Hurricanes or buy him out. Marleau refused to play for the Canes, so now Carolina is saddled with his buyout penalty.
In the process, if the Maple Leafs yield a top-10 pick in the 2020 Draft, the conditional 1st rounder in the trade becomes a 2021 1st round pick.
In place of Marleau, the Leafs signed Jason Spezza to a league-minimum, one-year, $700,000 contract. Spezza will likely play on the fourth line in a limited role as Marleau would have begun to see less and less time on ice at this stage of his career.
Dubas knew Toronto wasn’t going to be able to keep Jake Gardiner and maintain a happy relationship with Nikita Zaitsev as Zaitsev had already requested a trade.
As such, Dubas packaged Zaitsev with Connor Brown and Michael Carcone in a trade with the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur, Aaron Luchuk and a 2020 3rd round pick on July 1st.
Ceci then signed a one-year extension– worth $4.500 million– as a restricted free agent with the Leafs.
For that same price and eight points less than Ceci had last season, Zaitsev is at least signed through 2023-24 at the fixed rate of $4.500 million.
Zaitsev has broken the 30-point plateau before as a defender, while Ceci never has– though he did record 26 points with Ottawa last season.
The fact of the matter is that if Toronto was trying to save money this season on a defender, they didn’t.
And if they were thinking “maybe we can find a cheaper replacement in Ceci”, the fact that they’re already paying the defender in his prime what Zaitsev was already making doesn’t do them any long-term favors as Ceci’s cap hit is expected to go up– especially if the current ceiling remains about the same until the next collective bargaining agreement is negotiated in 2022.
But for all that the loss of Gardiner did to the special teams in Toronto, at least Dubas was able to find a sweet deal with the Colorado Avalanche.
The Maple Leafs traded Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen and a 2020 3rd round pick to Colorado for Tyson Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot and a 2020 6th round pick on July 1st.
The Avs retained some salary on Barrie’s contract, which– you guessed it– also expires at the end of this season, but at least Toronto can afford $2.750 million right now as opposed to a more significant cap hit.
To their credit, the Maple Leafs negotiated a four-year extension with Kerfoot worth $3.500 million per season, which is $1.000 million less than Kadri’s cap hit.
Barrie is a versatile defender that excels on the power play and fills the void left behind by Gardiner’s departure.
Clearly, while Dubas has, in fact, made improvements to the team, he’s also made minor tweaks and delayed the inevitable headaches that he or the next general manager of the Maple Leafs is sure to face.
But at least this time around Toronto is convinced they have the team that they’ve been planning for the last five years to “win now”.
The younger players are more experienced, the salary spent is at the ceiling and Babcock– a Stanley Cup winning coach who last won the Cup 11 years ago with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008 (a rather different era and style of the game than what it is today)– are all ready for the challenge of making it out of the First Round to show they’ve at least made some progress.
One definition of insanity is “doing the same thing and expecting a different result” and if something doesn’t change the end result in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs for Toronto, then…
At the very least, last season’s backup, Garret Sparks, was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights for Clarkson’s contract and a 2020 4th round pick and nobody can blame Marner for being a “greedy holdout” anymore.
Offseason Grade: B-
The Marner contract is not great, but the other moves made by the Leafs this offseason mean that they’re actually trying. There is a plan in place that they remain committed to– constantly evaluating and re-evaluating talent for the overall intended improvement of the organization.
Whether or not Toronto is sure to win the Cup this season remains to be seen. Every year there’s always Cup front runners on paper, but the on-ice product and results vary. This team is capable of winning the Cup, but they still have a lot of work to do to earn it.
Vegas Golden Knights
43-32-7, 93 points, 3rd in the Pacific Division
Eliminated in the First Round by San Jose
Additions: F Patrick Brown, F Tyrell Goulbourne, F Nicolas Roy (acquired from CAR), D Brett Lernout, D Jaycob Megna, G Garret Sparks (acquired from TOR)
Subtractions: F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (signed with COL), F Ryan Carpenter (signed with CHI), F Daniel Carr (signed with NSH), F David Clarkson (traded to TOR), F Alex Gallant (signed with Stockton, AHL), F Nikita Gusev (traded to NJD), F Erik Haula (traded to CAR), F Tomas Hyka (KHL), F Tobias Lindberg (SHL), F Brooks Macek (KHL), F Stefan Matteau (signed with Cleveland, AHL), F Teemu Pulkkinen (KHL), F T.J. Tynan (signed with COL), D Philip Holm (signed with CHI), D Zachary Leslie (signed with Stockton, AHL), D Colin Miller (traded to BUF), G Zach Fucale (signed with TBL), G Maxime Lagace (signed with BOS)
Still Unsigned: D Griffin Reinhart
Re-signed: F Tomas Nosek, F Brandon Pirri, D Jake Bischoff, D Deryk Engelland, G Malcolm Subban
Offseason Analysis: Entering their third season in existence, the Vegas Golden Knights are looking to avenge a colossal collapse in Game 7 of their First Round matchup with San Jose Sharks.
To do so, Vegas needed to improve their special teams and ensure fans that their penalty kill won’t allow four unanswered goals on a major penalty this time around.
Whether or not they actually did remains to be seen.
The Golden Knights are tight against the salary cap with $1,025,001 to work with after trading some key components to their roster depth this offseason.
While George McPhee was still in charge as General Manager, Vegas shipped Erik Haula to the Carolina Hurricanes on June 27th for Nicolas Roy and a conditional 2021 5th round pick.
If Haula is on Carolina’s roster past this season or if the Hurricanes trade him for a player, multiple draft picks or a draft pick in any of the rounds 1-5, then the Golden Knights receive the 5th round pick.
McPhee followed up his cap clearing maneuvers by sending defender, Colin Miller, to the Buffalo Sabres the following day for a 2021 2nd round pick (originally belonging to the St. Louis Blues) and a 2022 5th round pick.
Miller’s play in Vegas took a step backwards last season to the point that he was a non-factor. While he remains top-six NHL defender status in the league, the Sabres are the fourth organization that he’s been with since being drafted by the Los Angeles Kings 151st overall in the 5th round of the 2012 NHL Draft.
He’s in demand, but he’s also a commodity.
The Golden Knights helped the Toronto Maple Leafs make some much need cap space on July 23rd by sending the Leafs David Clarkson’s contract and a 2020 4th round pick in exchange for backup goaltender (who will likely start the season with the Chicago Wolves, AHL), Garret Sparks, on July 23rd.
Less than a week later, Vegas shipped Nikita Gusev’s signing rights to the New Jersey Devils for a 2020 3rd round pick and a 2021 2nd round pick on July 29th.
In the meantime, McPhee signed William Karlsson to an eight-year contract with a $5.900 million cap hit per season. Not bad, not bad at all.
Karlsson scored 43 goals in Vegas’ first season, but only had 24 goals last season.
As was announced in the spring, McPhee handed the GM reigns over to Kelly McCrimmon as both members of the Golden Knights’ front office were promoted effective Sept. 1st.
With much of the roster from last season back for another year, the question isn’t what can Gerard Gallant inspire his players to do this season, but rather, can Vegas’ goaltending provide enough of a balance in work load for Marc-Andre Fleury while the rest of the team prevents themselves from getting behind the eight-ball?
Owner Bill Foley hopes that the third time’s a charm as he laid out instructions– before the organization even had a name– to win the Stanley Cup in the franchise’s third season of existence.
Offseason Grade: C+
Signing Karlsson at an affordable price as long as he remains a 50-60 point player, while capitalizing on better than normal returns for expandable parts in the salary cap era have left the Golden Knights with a slightly above average offseason by all standards.
That said, if Vegas doesn’t make a deep playoff run in 2020, it’s important to note just how close they’ve set themselves up for being irrelevant one way or another as a playoff team or a bubble team until they sort their laundry (salary cap space).
39-35-8, 86 points, 4th in the Pacific Division
Missed the postseason for the seventh straight season
Additions: F Beau Bennett, F Andy Miele, D Aaron Ness
Subtractions: F Josh Archibald (signed with EDM), F Dave Bolland (retired), F Nick Cousins (signed with MTL), F Mario Kempe (signed with LAK), F Richard Panik (signed with WSH), F Emil Pettersson (SHL, reserve list), F David Ullstrom (KHL), D Dakota Mermis (signed with NJD), G Hunter Miska (signed with Colorado, AHL), G Calvin Pickard (signed with DET)
Still Unsigned: None
Re-signed: F Michael Bunting, F Lawson Crouse, F Hudson Fasching, D Dysin Mayo, G Adin Hill
Offseason Analysis: The acquisitions of Carl Soderberg and Phil Kessel turn the Arizona Coyotes from outsiders looking in to contenders in the playoff pack.
Arizona acquired Soderberg in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche on June 25th. The Coyotes dealt Kevin Connauton and a 2020 3rd round pick to the Avs in return.
The 33-year-old center brings some stability down the middle and is a pending-unrestricted free agent at season’s end.
Coyotes General Manager, John Chayka, made his biggest splash of the offseason four days after acquiring Soderberg when he traded Alex Galchenyuk and Pierre-Olivier Joseph to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Kessel, Dane Birks and a 2021 4th round pick on June 29th.
Arizona hasn’t been back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs since their defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings in five games in the 2012 Western Conference Final.
With Kessel’s boost in offseason incoming and a core group of players in Clayton Keller, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jakob Chychrun, Christian Dvorak, Nick Schmaltz and Lawson Crouse, the Coyotes are building off of a solid foundation.
Kessel had 82 points in 82 games last season for Pittsburgh and he hasn’t missed a game since 2010. He had 34 goals and 58 assists (92 points) in 2017-18.
As long as Antti Raanta can stay healthy, the Coyotes are determined to move up in the standings– either landing themselves a divisional playoff berth or a wild card standing.
There’s really not much to it past that.
Arizona’s not rebuilding and not exactly retooling– they’re growing. They’re getting better and it’s only a matter of time as long as Chayka sticks to his plan(s).
Offseason Grade: B+
Even though Shane Doan spent his entire career with the Winnipeg Jets/Arizona Coyotes franchise, his later years were nothing spectacular and carried no true star power to the extent that Doan alone could win some games.
For the first time since Doan’s prime, Arizona has youth to kick things up a notch and a finisher in a big name. Whether or not Kessel returns to his goal scoring ways or continues to evolve as a playmaker remains to be seen, but Chayka had more than an average offseason in the Coyotes front office.
36-34-12, 84 points, 6th in the Central Division
Missed the postseason for the second straight year
Additions: F Ryan Carpenter, F Alexander Nylander (acquired from BUF), F John Quenneville (acquired from NJD), F Aleksi Saarela (acquired from CAR), F Andrew Shaw (acquired from MTL), F Zack Smith (acquired from OTT), D Calvin de Haan (acquired from CAR), D Philip Holm, D Olli Maatta (acquired from PIT), G Robin Lehner
Subtractions: F Artem Anisimov (traded to OTT), F Victor Ejdsell (SHL), F John Hayden (traded to NJD), F Peter Holland (KHL), F Dominik Kahun (traded to PIT), F Marcus Kruger (NLA), F Chris Kunitz (retired), F Luke Johnson (signed with MIN), F Anthony Louis (signed with Charlotte, AHL), F Andreas Martinsen (signed with ANA), F Jordan Schroeder (KHL), F Tyler Sikura (signed with Rockford, AHL), F Spencer Watson (signed with Indy, ECHL), D Brandon Davidson (signed with CGY), D Gustav Forsling (traded to CAR), D Blake Hillman (signed with Toledo, ECHL), D Henri Jokiharju (traded to BUF), G Anton Forsberg (traded to CAR), G Cam Ward (retired)
Still Unsigned: F Andrew Campbell
Re-signed: F David Kampf, F Brendan Perlini
Offseason Analysis: Chicago Blackhawks General Manager, Stan Bowman, had a busy offseason making six trades that involved players and navigating a transition period for the franchise that has won three Stanley Cup championships in the last decade, but found themselves outside of the playoffs for the last two seasons.
First, Bowman dealt forward, Dominik Kahun, and a 2019 5th round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for defender, Olli Maatta, on June 15th, then the Blackhawks GM followed things up with a minor swap with the New Jersey Devils a week later.
Acquiring Maatta wasn’t the only adjustment made to Chicago’s blue line as Bowman traded Gustav Forsling and Anton Forsberg to the Carolina Hurricanes for Calvin de Haan and Aleksi Saarela on June 24th.
By the end of the month, Bowman was reunited with former Blackhawk turned current Blackhawk once more– Andrew Shaw– in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens involving draft picks and Shaw.
Maatta brings a $4.083 million cap hit, de Haan carries a $4.550 million cap hit and Shaw costs $3.900 million per season. All three players are under contract through the 2021-22 season.
On July 1st, the Blackhawks strengthened their crease by signing Robin Lehner to a one-year, $5.000 million contract. The 28-year-old Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy winner is slated to backup 34-year-old, Corey Crawford, but could easily split time with the two-time Stanley Cup champion.
Lehner could also become a valuable option if Crawford misses any time due to injury.
Both goaltenders are in contract years.
One (Crawford) is getting older and may not be able to keep playing indefinitely and the other (Lehner) just signed his one-year deal with the possibility of cashing in if Crawford cannot continue to be the goaltender for Chicago, let alone an NHL starter.
Crawford managed a 14-18-5 record in 39 games played last season– while battling injuries– with a 2.93 goals against average and a .908 save percentage. In 2011-12, Crawford had a 2.72 GAA and a .903 SV% in 57 games as a starter.
Lehner amassed a 25-13-5 record in 46 games last season with a 2.13 GAA and a .930 SV% en route to splitting the William M. Jennings Trophy honors for 2018-19 with his backup on the New York Islanders, Thomas Greiss.
It’s no easy task to replace Crawford with the next goaltender in the post-Cup dynasty era, but Bowman’s already strategizing for the inevitable as time doesn’t wait for anyone.
On July 9th, Bowman continued his offseason moves and dealt Henri Jokiharju to the Buffalo Sabres for Alexander Nylander– a player who’s yet to make an impact at the NHL level and looking for a change in scenery (you know, like how Dylan Strome turned things around after the Arizona Coyotes sent him to Chicago).
Finally, Bowman completed his offseason trading with another one-for-one swap, sending Artem Anisimov to the Ottawa Senators for Zack Smith, saving the Blackhawks $1.300 million in the process for a durable third line center.
Head coach, Jeremy Colliton, has a lot of new puzzle pieces to play with and figure out what’s the best fit.
With an aging core, new acquisitions and plenty of fresh, young, faces emerging, Chicago is under no pressure to win it all in 2020, but they are hoping to make a serious dent in the regular season and make it back into the playoffs for the first time since 2017.
Offseason Grade: A-
The Blackhawks didn’t overpay anyone in free agency, but they did trade a 2020 2nd round pick, a 2020 7th round pick and a 2021 3rd round pick to the Canadiens for Shaw and a 2021 7th round pick. That’s… not ideal.
Drafting Kirby Dach 3rd overall in June is sure to help speed up Chicago’s transition and avoid a rebuild, plus Bowman is remaining active in his roster construction with the future in mind instead of getting too attached to components from their Cup winning days.
35-36-11, 81 points, 5th in the Pacific Division
Missed the postseason for the fifth straight season
Additions: F Justin Bailey, F Micheal Ferland, F Tyler Graovac, F J.T. Miller (acquired from TBL), F Francis Perron (acquired from SJS), D Jordie Benn, D Oscar Fantenberg, D Tyler Myers, G Zane McIntyre
Subtractions: F Derek Dorsett (retired), F Brendan Gaunce (signed with BOS), F Markus Granlund (signed with EDM), F Tanner Kero (signed with DAL), F Tom Pyatt (traded to SJS, signed in SHL), D Derrick Pouliot (signed with STL), D Luke Schenn (signed with TBL), G Marek Mazanec (traded to TBL)
Still Unsigned: F Yan-Pavel Laplante, D Ben Hutton, D Evan McEneny, G Michael Leighton
Re-signed: F Reid Boucher, F Nikolay Goldobin, F Josh Leivo, F Tyler Motte, D Brogan Rafferty, D Josh Teves
Offseason Analysis: The Vancouver Canucks didn’t sign overpay anyone on July 1st this offseason. Sure, signing Tyler Myers to a five-year deal worth $30.000 million may be a bit much, but then again, Myers is a 29-year-old defender still in his prime and brings a lot to cement the foundation of a blue line looking to improve.
Canucks General Manager, Jim Benning, did his homework and improved his team in a trade rather than overspending for another bottom-six forward in free agency.
Vancouver sent Marek Mazanec, a 2019 3rd round pick and a conditional 2020 1st round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a bonafide top-six forward in J.T. Miller.
Miller’s $5.250 million cap hit comes with four-years remaining on his contract at the young age of 26. In 75 games last season, Miller had 13 goals and 34 assists (45 points) with the Lightning, which was down from his 23-35–58 totals in 2017-18 with the New York Rangers and Tampa.
Still, 40-50 points or more a season is a huge improvement for the Canucks, where head coach Travis Green has been looking for another piece to the puzzle in his top-nine.
And speaking of Vancouver’s top-nine, they nabbed Micheal Ferland after an almost career-season with the Carolina Hurricanes, whereby Ferland’s first half of last season was off to a hot start, then cooled to one-point shy of his career-high with the Calgary Flames in 2017-18.
Ferland finished last season with 17-23–40 totals in 71 games for the Hurricanes and had 21-20–41 totals in 77 games for the Flames prior to being traded last offseason.
Versatility is finally in Vancouver’s lineup.
They’ve added a couple of glue guys that they’ve always wanted Loui Eriksson to be– and they still have Eriksson, 34, on the roster through the 2021-22 season!
Everything is pointing to wild card contention this season, except for the fact that Brock Boeser is still an unsigned restricted free agent.
Boeser reportedly wants a four-year, $28 million ($7.000 million cap hit) deal, but the Canucks currently lack the cap space to make that happen with roughly $4.158 million available.
Nevertheless, Benning’s job is simple this offseason– don’t mess up like in years past– and he’s actually done a good job making up for some past mistakes.
Offseason Grade: A-
Miller’s acquisition alone makes Vancouver more of a destination for players looking to agree to being traded to the Canucks leading up to the trade deadline as long as Vancouver’s in the playoff hunt– and that’s not even mentioning Quinn Hughes’ potential impact on the defense this season, while Bo Horvat likely takes on the “C”.
If they don’t make the playoffs in 2020, the conditional 1st round pick in the Miller trade becomes a 2021 1st round pick, so if they’re going to tank at all, it better be this season (the 2020 draft is deeper than 2019, at least). It’s the 50th season for the Canucks and they’re looking to make a splash in their golden anniversary.
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.