The 2021-22 season is well underway, so let’s bring back our 6th Annual Participation Trophies After One Game awards ceremony!
It is time. The 2021-22 season is upon us.
Technically it already started, but we’ll ignore the fact that the Pittsburgh Penguins spoiled the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2021 Stanley Cup champion banner night with a, 6-2, victory on the road before the Vegas Golden Knights held off a Seattle Kraken comeback in a, 4-3, win at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday night.
And then Wednesday’s games happened too.
Let’s hit the “reset” button for a second and pretend the 2021-22 is about to get underway. All 32 National Hockey League teams have a chance at clinching 16 available playoff berths.
Any of the 16 teams that make the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs could etch 52 names from their roster, front office and organization on the Stanley Cup next June.
The usual divisions– Atlantic, Central, Metropolitan and Pacific– have returned as have the Eastern Conference and Western Conference. The regular playoff format is back (three teams per division, two wild cards per conference qualify, plus the Conference Finals round returns in place of the Stanley Cup Semfinals in 2021).
A full 82-game regular season schedule is slated from October through the end of April with a three-week break in February for the 2022 All Star Game in Las Vegas and the 2022 Winter Games taking precedence before a return to NHL action down the stretch with the postseason kicking off in May like last year and the 2022-23 season likely returning to the pre-pandemic timeline (2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs starting in April).
The 2022 NHL Entry Draft will be in Montréal on July 7th and 8th, while free agency begins on July 13th, but between now and then, we’ve got the 2021-22 regular season to enjoy.
Using last season’s team goals for and team goals against, plus some other “magic numbers” as part of an expected points model, we’re able to project what 2021-22 could be for all 32 teams (yes, even the Seattle Kraken, despite this year being their first season)– though you’ll have to pretend there were no transactions made in the offseason.
In other words, don’t think that any of what you’re about to see is set in stone– view it more as a suggestion for a possible outcome.
Also, please remember my degree is in communication, so any math beyond figuring out “goals + assists = season point totals” doesn’t exist.
In a normal year (like from 2017-18 to 2018-19, for example), you just take all the data from the 82-game schedule for each team plug it into a formula in a spreadsheet, then line things up accordingly in each division.
However, just like how the shortened 2019-20 season disrupted the regular process for projecting a 2020-21 standings outlook, going from last season’s stats in a 56-game schedule to projecting a regular 82-game season in 2021-22 necessitated the use of forecasting point pace as part of the formula.
As for Seattle, a simple means of taking the NHL stats from last season for every player on their roster and plugging it in for a 2021-22 result is exactly what I did.
We’re all just making it up as we go along, folks. These are projections. They are not absolutes.
For the sake of keeping it simple, here’s a look at how things could go (but probably not) in each division for the upcoming 2021-22 season.
The overall vibe of the Central Division for 2021-22 is that it’s just more of exactly what you’d expect. The Colorado Avalanche are lightyears ahead of everyone else, while Kirill Kaprizov and the Minnesota Wild continue to be on the rise and everyone else fights for what they can earn.
Meanwhile, the jury is still out on whether or not the Winnipeg Jets can breakthrough as Canada’s team and break the Canadian curse (become the first Canadian club to win the Cup since 1993).
Will Colorado finally break through the Second Round and win the Cup?
Are the Avalanche just the Toronto Maple Leafs but with a little more success? My column:
No, but really, it’s worth asking if the Avs making it back to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2002, is more like Toronto’s struggle to make it out of the First Round for the first time since 2004, or is Colorado’s struggle more like the Washington Capitals pre-2018?
The Caps won three Presidents’ Trophies in 2009-10, 2015-16 and 2016-17, but couldn’t make it past the Second Round– let alone the Pittsburgh Penguins– until they finally did and ended up surging in momentum all the way to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Colorado, on the other hand, has already won the Cup twice (1996 and 2001) and also has three Presidents’ Trophies to their name in 1996-97, 2000-01 and 2020-21, so if recent history has anything to tell us it’s that yet another team with high expectations for at least a few seasons now only to come up short could very well go on to win it all after winning the Presidents’ Trophy the previous year.
Either that or they’ll have to win it in back-to-back seasons like Washington did before they won the Cup in 2018.
Then again, the Tampa Bay Lightning tied the Detroit Red Wings’ record for most wins in the regular season (62), securing the Presidents’ Trophy in the process in 2018-19, then got swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2019 First Round.
The very next year, however, Tampa kicked off back-to-back Cup rings in 2020 and 2021, to be where they are now as the two-time defending champions likely standing in the path as the only other favorites outside of the Avalanche this season.
Anyway, the Avs mostly kept things the same from last season to this season, losing Joonas Donskoi to the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, Brandon Saad to the St. Louis Blues in free agency and making minor swaps among replacement level bottom-six forwards and bottom-pairing defenders.
Oh, then there’s this whole thing about how Philipp Grubauer left for Seattle in free agency too, so Colorado acquired Darcy Kuemper from the Arizona Coyotes.
Between Dallas, Nashville and St. Louis, who will realistically make the playoffs?
The Stars are projected to finish with about 94 points, the Predators sit at 92 points and the Blues are around 91 points in this one projection, but don’t let the points alone be your deciding factor.
Given the strength of the Central Division compared to the Pacific Division, you can bet on five teams making out of the Central among Western Conference playoff berths.
As such, the spread is the difference maker between these three teams expected to be in the wild card hunt– it’s going to come down to the wire one way or another.
Dallas bolstered their goaltending depth by signing Braden Holtby, Nashville traded Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers and St. Louis is… …better than last season on paper?
I mean, the Blues signed Saad, acquired Pavel Buchnevich from the New York Rangers in exchange for Sammy Blais, let Seattle claim Vince Dunn at the expansion draft and let Mike Hoffman walk to the Montréal Canadiens in July.
You could say they took a hit here or there, but those aren’t “nobody names” by any means, however.
If Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso can stabilize things in the crease, then St. Louis has a better situation than the Predators.
The Stars, meanwhile, should benefit from a longer season where more of their core guys– like Tyler Seguin, for example– are healthy. Last season’s COVID-19 outbreak to kick things off in January really killed Dallas’ momentum as a team on the verge of being in the 2021 postseason.
Dallas should get back into the swing of things and St. Louis should be able to stay relevant for at least another year, but how hard the Preds rely on Juuse Saros as their starting goaltender will dictate whether or not they’re able to play spoiler with David Rittich as their backup since Pekka Rinne retired.
Can Arizona avoid the basement?
Anything is possible at this point. Loui Eriksson and Andrew Ladd were scoring goals in the postseason, so a fresh start could be just what both players needed for the last few years at least.
That said, Coyotes General Manager, Bill Armstrong, gave a Masterclass™️ in how to go about rebuilding by selling everything over the summer and taking on “bad” contracts with only one or two years remaining in hopes of playing just well enough to be bad enough without making it look obvious that you’re aiming to win the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery.
The Pacific Division is the new Scotia NHL North Division from last season. In other words, it’s the worst– which is great news for the Seattle Kraken as the league’s schedule allots more division play than any other opponents (though the Kraken will play every other team in the league at least twice).
Seattle’s riding the waves of new-age expansion, while the Vegas Golden Knights lead the charge for the Presidents’ Trophy campaign in 2021-22.
Wait, Seattle in 2nd in the Pacific, really?
The Kraken have a great front office that goes beyond just Ron Francis as General Manager and have done their due diligence in scouting the best talent available to try to replicate the success of the Vegas Golden Knights’ inaugural season in 2017-18, as well as grow beyond just 2021-22.
That said, Seattle probably isn’t going to make it out of the First Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, even if they have to face the Edmonton Oilers according to this projection.
It’s a best case scenario for the NHL’s newest expansion team to be in the weakest division, but aside from having recent Stanley Cup champions Yanni Gourde, Philipp Grubauer, Jaden Schwartz and Dunn on their roster, the Kraken have a plethora of players that are relatively inexperienced with deep postseason runs.
Head coach, Dave Hakstol, also hasn’t had the consistency of making the playoffs and making it out of the First Round in his NHL coaching days, but as a team that, again, is looking to develop long-term success, these are mere growing pains Francis and Co. are willing to accept as the fan base grows.
Why aren’t the Kings making the cut this year when everyone else says they’ll be the most improved?
The simple answer is that everyone’s overrating Los Angeles when it comes to the “ready now” factor.
Sure, Kings General Manager, Rob Blake, did a good thing by getting Viktor Arvidsson in a trade with Nashville this summer to solidify his top-six forward group and signed Alex Edler to fortify his defense, but Los Angeles’ goaltending leaves something to be desired.
Here’s hoping Jonathan Quick can find a little resurgence at this point in his career, while Cal Petersen continues to come into his own.
If Los Angeles has any injuries– and they already have with Arvidsson likely missing some time due to an injury in the last preseason game– they’re already close enough to the bubble that they’ll only fall further behind.
That said, if the Kings don’t make it back to the postseason hunt in 2022, there’s a good chance they make it in 2023.
Los Angeles is improving, but by how much remains to be seen.
Will winning the Presidents’ Trophy hurt Vegas?
Eh, it’s hard to say.
The Golden Knights have packed in just about every type of heartbreak since their inception in 2017, that fans of other franchises have only experienced over the course of at least 50 years, so if Vegas pulls out the Presidents’ Trophy win in 2021-22, don’t be surprised when the inevitable happens and they win the Cup instead of doing what most other Presidents’ Trophy winners in the salary cap era have done.
Only the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings and Chicago in 2012-13, have been able to win the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup since the salary cap was introduced ahead of the 2005-06 season.
Vegas would probably join Detroit and Chicago in doing so just so the Hockey Gods can spite us again.
It’s not easy to be in the Metropolitan Division these days because, well, let’s save that for the three questions below.
Is this the toughest division to project?
The Carolina Hurricanes decided to just get rid of a few parts and pieces that helped make them good for the last few seasons, so they’re bound to regress even with Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teräväinen and Martin Necas still existing.
The Pittsburgh Penguins since 2009, have always found a way to be near the top of the division standings by the end of the regular season no matter whether or not you believe they’ll inevitably miss the playoffs for the first time since 2006, so anything could happen there.
The New York Islanders have made back-to-back appearances in the Eastern Conference Final, so I’d expect them to be good.
The Washington Capitals are better than the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, at least, but are probably the only team on the bubble if the New Jersey Devils can come out of nowhere and be competitive this season after signing Dougie Hamilton, Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Bernier in the offseason.
Meanwhile, it’s time for a short rebuild in Columbus as the Blue Jackets would be quite pleased with a top draft pick in 2022.
What if Chris Drury never was promoted as General Manager of the Rangers?
They’d still fire David Quinn and hire Gerard Gallant. I don’t think that’s such a bad idea, but they’d definitely reconsider about 90% of the roster decisions made this summer.
There’s no reason why the Rangers have to go down this path and yet, here they are, fumbling at the one-yard line and possibly plunging their franchise back into the Dark Ages of another rebuild. Or is it the same ongoing rebuild?
What about a team to watch like New Jersey, for example?
I’m big on the Devils this season for some strange reason.
Maybe it’s because a part of me deep down misses the trap game of the 1990s and 2000s that led to Stanley Cups for New Jersey in 1995, 2000 and 2003.
Maybe it’s because they signed Hamilton, Tatar, Bernier and acquired Ryan Graves from the Colorado Avalanche as a supporting cast for Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha, Yegor Sharangovich, Ty Smith and friends.
Seriously, the Devils should be good in the next few seasons, but this year could be the biggest stride forward in terms of their improvement from the basement to their development as a playoff contender.
First, pour one out for Jack Eichel. Now, let’s move on and talk about everyone else.
What does this mean for the Leafs?
Just like how the Stars, Preds and Blues are all right on top of one another in the Central Division standings, the Atlantic Division is stacked from 1st through 4th, so though Toronto leads the way in this projection, I wouldn’t feel too comfortable as a Leafs fan.
The Maple Leafs played in the worst of the four divisions last year in the temporarily realigned divisions in wake of the ongoing pandemic.
No, it’s not just because they played all the other Canadian teams across 56 games, but rather it’s due to the fact that they haven’t been able to matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and even the Boston Bruins since the 2019-20 season.
A lot and not a lot has changed since then.
Tampa is still dominant as ever, Florida has emerged as a team that’s on the rise and Boston is unpredictable in that– much like the Penguins– it could really go either way with the Bruins this season.
So now Toronto has to take on better competition within their own division and square off with teams like the Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders and others that emerge towards the top of the standings outside of the Canadian teams that the Leafs are all too familiar with at this point.
That said, Toronto still has a great chance at winning the Atlantic Division regular season title or finishing 2nd and having home ice advantage in the First Round for the second-straight postseason.
Can anyone other than Toronto, Florida, Tampa or Boston make it out of the Atlantic this year?
No. Let’s be realistic here.
The Montréal Canadiens made it to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final despite being below .500 in the standings because every division produced four playoff berths and intra-divisional play through two rounds.
In 2020, they upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Qualifier despite finishing right at .500.
In any other non-pandemic timeline, the Canadiens would still be looking for their first playoff appearance since they lost to the New York Rangers in six games in the 2017 First Round.
That’s not to say that Nick Suzuki can’t lead the Habs back to glory, but rather that they need to improve all-around in the regular season and peaking in performance in the playoffs.
Though the Ottawa Senators promised unprecedented success from 2021-25, it’s looking like it’ll realistically be anytime between 2024-25 as in the 2024-25 season itself at this point.
Ottawa’s goaltending needs to improve, their defense could use some tweaks and the Sens are banking on their offense getting their feet underneath them and bursting in production in the coming years.
A little more patience won’t hurt them.
The same can be said for the Detroit Red Wings in that Red Wings fans already know– trust in General Manager, Steve Yzerman, is paramount. He’ll work his magic.
It just takes a little time to build a solid foundation and the first floor is almost ready to start going up.
As for the Buffalo Sabres, well…
At least they’ll hopefully give Rick Jeanneret a proper send-off before he retires as their play-by-play announcer for the last 51 years on television.
Will Tampa win three consecutive Stanley Cup championships?
I’m not ruling it out entirely, but the Lightning have a better chance of winning three Cups in four years than they do three Cups in as many years as things stand currently.
The loss of their entire third line (Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde and Barclay Goodrow) from last season to this season is sure to leave a mark on the development and restructuring of their bottom-six forwards.
That said, Tampa’s top-six forwards still exist and, if you haven’t already noticed, they’re very good on their own, but the best teams in the playoffs have four lines that can roll without a doubt and the Bolts might just be off the ball for a year in terms of depth.
Alright, if you’ve made it this far, thanks for your patience. By now the season’s already going on a few days into the 2021-22 calendar, so the two of us (or more if you’re reading this to a group) should probably get back to watching games.
Stay tuned for more forecasts for both standings and assorted teams throughout the season.
2020-21 record 24-21-11, 59 points
4th in the Scotia NHL North Division
Eliminated in the Stanley Cup Final by Tampa
Additions: F Jean-Sébastien Dea, F Christian Dvorak (acquired from ARI), F Mike Hoffman, F Cedric Paquette, F Mathieu Perreault, D Louis Belpedio, D Sami Niku, D David Savard, D Chris Wideman, G Sam Montembeault (claimed off waivers from FLA)
Subtractions: F Phillip Danault (signed with LAK), F Charles Hudon (signed with TBL), F Jesperi Kotkaniemi (offer sheet signed with CAR, not matched), F Jake Lucchini (signed with Laval Rocket, AHL), F Corey Perry (signed with TBL), F Tomas Tatar (signed with NJD), F Jordan Weal (KHL), D Cale Fleury (expansion, SEA), D Erik Gustafsson (signed with CHI), D Otto Leskinen (Liiga), D Jon Merrill (signed with MIN), D Gustav Olofsson (signed with SEA), G Vasili Demchenko (KHL), G Charlie Lindgren (signed with STL)
Still Unsigned: F Joseph Blandisi, F Michael Frolik, F Eric Staal
Re-signed: F Joel Armia, F Brandon Baddock, F Alex Belzile, F Laurent Dauphin, F Artturi Lehkonen, F Michael Pezzetta, F Ryan Poehling, F Lukas Vejdemo, G Michael McNiven
Offseason Analysis: After back-to-back miracle runs to the postseason aided by the circumstances of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Montréal Canadiens are expected to fall back to Earth in 2021-22.
The Canadiens were a .500 team that upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, then Montréal was a below .500 team that benefitted from the four teams per division playoff format in 2021.
Any of the 16 teams that make the playoffs can win the Cup and the Canadiens almost bested the 2012 Los Angeles Kings in terms of being a long shot to do so, but the Tampa Bay Lightning had other plans in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.
Instead, the Bolts repeated as back-to-back Stanley Cup champions while Montréal was eliminated in five games in a Game 5 that was decided by one goal– the only goal, scored by Ross Colton a little past the midpoint of the second period, as the Lightning emerged victorious with a, 1-0, win on home ice to secure their third Stanley Cup ring in franchise history.
Corey Perry lost to Tampa in back-to-back years and, as such, as taken the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mantra to heart in the offseason, signing a two-year contract worth $1.000 million per season with the Lightning.
Fear not, Habs fans, unlike when Marian Hossa bounced from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Detroit Red Wings before landing in Chicago ahead of the 2009-10 season, Perry’s already won a Cup ring. He’s just in search of his second before the twilight of his career reaches sunset.
Montréal’s cast of characters in Perry, Eric Staal and others that joined the leadership of captain, Shea Weber– whether via free agency ahead of the 2020-21 season or prior to the 2021 trade deadline– has mostly disbanded.
Whether or not Canadiens General Manager, Marc Bergevin, planned on making an appearance in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final or not as the 56-game regular season approached last season, it’s hard to say that he didn’t give the Habs their best roster in recent years.
They replaced Claude Julien with Dominique Ducharme behind the bench after a shaky start and rode the waves of change into a fourth-place finish in the one-off Scotia NHL North Division to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2021 First Round.
They didn’t surrender when they trailed in the series 3-1, as Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi followed the examples of Perry, Staal, Joel Armia, Tyler Toffoli and other veterans that led the charge.
Montréal beat Toronto in seven games. They swept the Winnipeg Jets in the Second Round and upset the Vegas Golden Knights in six games in the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals.
Then David faced Goliath, but Goliath won.
Because of the nature of the salary cap era, Bergevin couldn’t hold onto all of his puzzle pieces.
Perry, Staal, Jordan Weal, Phillip Danault, Charlie Lindgren, Jon Merrill, Tomas Tatar, Kotkaniemi and Erik Gustafsson are all gone for one reason or another, while Mike Hoffman, Cedric Paquette, David Savard, Chris Wideman, Mathieu Perreault, Sami Niku and Sam Montembeault have all been signed to take their place on the depth chart.
The heart of the Canadiens– however recently formed– is changing. The identity of the team last season– forged with the additions of Perry and Staal to the already existent tenures of Danault, Weber, Price and Co. is in transition.
Whereas Suzuki was already leading the charge in Montréal’s new core, this offseason has solidified the inevitable. It may not be a rebuild, but it may be a few more stagnant years in-between before long term success and growth.
It’s crazy to write about how the Habs– a team that made the 2021 Stanley Cup Final– are not going to be as “good” as they were good enough to reach the Final, but it also makes the most sense.
Again, in a normal 82-game season without the pandemic, the Canadiens likely wouldn’t have even made the playoffs in the last two years.
The fact that they have has provided valuable experience for Suzuki, Jake Evans, Ryan Poehling and more, but the veteran turnover from last season to this season is palpable.
The additions of Hoffman, Paquette, Savard, Wideman and Perreault signal a distinct shift in character.
Heart and grit be damned– Montréal is wholly embracing the speed and skill era. Sort of.
Hoffman joined the St. Louis Blues on a one-year deal last season after amassing five consecutive seasons with at least 55 points or more dating back to the 2015-16 season. His play in an Ottawa Senators uniform was consistent, but his dressing room presence earned him a ticket to the San Jose Sharks in a trade before being flipped to the Florida Panthers ahead of the 2018-19 season.
After amassing 70 points in 82 games with the Panthers in his first season in Florida, Hoffman had 59 points in 69 games in the 2019-20 regular season that was cut short by the ongoing pandemic.
Then he had 17-19–36 totals in 52 games with the Blues last season after a slow start.
As a top-nine forward, Hoffman’s one-dimensional game as a sniper isn’t that bad as long as he scores.
Since being traded by the Lightning, Paquette had a little bit of a journey on his way to Montréal. First, in nine games with the Senators last season he had one goal. Then in 38 games with the Carolina Hurricanes, he amassed seven points (three goals, four assists) for a grand total of 4-4–8 totals in 47 games combined between his Sens and Canes tenure.
As a fourth liner, it’s a low-risk, high-reward move for the Habs, but that’s assuming he’ll be in the lineup from night-to-night as the Canadiens have a backlog of bottom-six talent looking to earn a regular role.
Savard might just be the best value signing this summer by Bergevin. The 30-year-old defender was signed to a four-year contract worth $3.500 million per season and had six points (one goal, five assists) from the blue line in 54 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Lightning last season en route to winning his first Stanley Cup ring.
Don’t let his offensive shortfalls fool you, Savard is a quality shutdown defender of the top-four variety.
Seriously, it’s a good signing by the Canadiens.
Wideman hasn’t made an appearance in the NHL since the 2018-19 season, when he played for the Senators until the infamous Uber ride, then was traded to the Edmonton Oilers and finally traded again to the Panthers.
In 181 career NHL games, he’s had 16-29–45 totals from the point and spent 2019-20 in the American Hockey League with the San Diego Gulls after signing with the Anaheim Ducks and missing out on the roster after training camp and spending last season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in Russia.
While in the KHL, Wideman reinvented his game– compiling 9-32–41 totals in 59 games with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod.
With Niku on the injured reserve to start the season and Weber’s career in doubt, Wideman is a welcome addition to the bottom pairing as Montréal looks to hold things together in their own end with Carey Price out indefinitely (Price entered the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program last Thursday) and Jake Allen as their last resort as the de facto starting goaltender.
Meanwhile, Perreault’s arrival shores up the fourth line and Montembeault should provide an added cushion as a backup option to Allen in the crease.
By now, you’ve read almost 1,300 words on Montréal’s summer and we haven’t even gotten around to talking about the ongoing feud with the Hurricanes as a result of the Kotkaniemi offer sheet, as well as the Christian Dvorak acquisition.
Let’s try to keep this brief, O.K.?
Carolina signing Kotkaniemi wasn’t revenge (allegedly) for Montréal signing Sebastian Aho to an offer sheet, but it was an offer that was too good to refuse (for Kotkaniemi, anyway).
A one-year deal worth about $6.100 million with a $20 signing bonus (symbolism!) means that Kotkaniemi will be due for a decent payday if he’s tendered a qualifying offer next summer.
The Canadiens didn’t have the cap space and even the Hurricanes had to make a move to finagle his salary on the books. The Habs will gladly take Carolina’s 2022 1st round and 2022 3rd round draft picks, despite losing one of their better centers for the future.
It was hard enough to let Danault walk to the Los Angeles Kings in free agency, surely things only got harder for Montréal to find a replacement after Kotkaniemi left too– oh.
After swapping draft picks on the second day of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft in three separate trades, Bergevin made his only trade that resulted in a change to Montréal’s roster this offseason on Sept. 4th.
The Canadiens dealt a conditional 2022 1st round pick and a 2024 2nd round pick to the Arizona Coyotes for Dvorak and with that brought in his 17-14–31 totals in 56 games from last season to their top-six forward group.
Since making his league debut in 2016-17, Dvorak has never reached the 40-point plateau, but with teammates like Toffoli, Hoffman, Jonathan Drouin, Josh Anderson, Caufield and anyone else that might bounced around inside the top two lines on any given night– Dvorak is sure to have a more consistent supporting cast around him than in his Coyotes days.
Offseason Grade: C
It’s not a great look to have mismanaged Kotkaniemi over the years– culminating in the loss of his talent via an offer sheet, but what’s more concerning for the Canadiens is just how much of what made them pernicious in their Cinderella run to the Final last year that they lost.
It wasn’t just one or two minor moves that were made to improve from last season to this season– Bergevin made some sweeping changes, by necessity or otherwise.
The top-six forward group should be fine, but do the Habs have the same level of depth that they had last season? That’s another question entirely.
At the very least, they’re not getting caught up having an overstayed welcome with replacement level talent, yet their window in the Price era may be coming to a close.
Hopefully Price gets the help that he needs most as there’s a lot more to life than just hockey. In the meantime, time marches on as the 34-year-old goaltender is susceptible to the inevitable fallout from a goaltender’s prime.
Montréal may very well win another Cup someday soon, but Price might be in a more limited role as the club’s backup by then, if all things go according to plan with this ideally seamless transition from a team that lucked into postseason runs.
The Habs need to improve in the regular season in a division that’s already tough enough to compete in with Tampa, Toronto, Florida and Boston expected to be in the playoff hunt in the Atlantic Division.
2020-21 record 40-14-2, 82 points
2nd in the Honda NHL West Division
Eliminated in the Stanley Cup Semifinal by Montréal
Additions: F Sven Baertschi, F Evgenii Dadonov (acquired from OTT), F Brett Howden (acquired from NYR), F Nolan Patrick (acquired from NSH, re-signed), G Laurent Brossoit
Subtractions: F Reid Duke (signed with Henderson Silver Knights, AHL), F Cody Glass (traded to NSH), F Tyrell Goulbourne (signed with Belleville Senators, AHL), F Mikael Hakkarainen (acquired from VGK, signed with TPS, Liiga),F Tomas Nosek (signed with BOS), F Danny O’Regan (signed with ANA), F Ryan Reaves (traded to NYR), F Dylan Sikura (signed with COL), D Carl Dahlström (signed with TOR), D Nick DeSimone (traded to NYR), D Nick Holden (traded to OTT), D Jimmy Schuldt (signed with Rochester Americans, AHL), G Oscar Dansk (KHL), G Marc-Andre Fleury (traded to CHI)
Still Unsigned: F Tomas Jurco
Re-signed: F Patrick Brown, F Mattias Janmark, F Gage Quinney, D Dylan Coghlan, D Alec Martinez
Offseason Analysis: Well, at least Vegas didn’t try to sign the market’s best free agent to a long-term deal this summer and instead chose to do some introspection.
Looks like that didn’t last too long (on a technicality, of course).
Sure, the Golden Knights didn’t sign anyone to a massive contract this summer, but they did dump quite a hefty salary in an otherwise inexplicable trade this offseason.
Rather than lose out on recent acquisitions and stay the course with Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner as a goaltending tandem, Golden Knights General Manager, Kelly McCrimmon, did the one thing Vegas’ majority owner, Bill Foley, promised would never be done– McCrimmon traded Fleury.
The move stunned the goaltender and nearly made the Sorel, Québec native retire, but after a quick tour of Chicago, Fleury decided to play out the remainder of his contract as a pending-unrestricted free agent after the 2021-22 season.
With an additional $7.000 million to spend towards the cap ceiling, McCrimmon was able to keep Mattias Janmark and Alec Martinez in Vegas– despite likely angering some locals with the loss of Fleury.
Before we discuss the extensions for Janmark and Martinez, let’s talk goaltending.
Whereas Fleury had a 26-10-0 record in 36 games last season with six shutouts, as well as a 1.98 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage en route to his first Vezina Trophy in his 17-year NHL career, Lehner had a 13-4-2 record with one shutout, a 2.29 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage in 19 games last season.
If you want a starting goaltender to be around 2.00 in goals-against average and about .920 in save percentage, while your backup is pegged around a 2.50 in goals-against average and .910 or so in save percentage, then the dynamic duo did just that last season for the Golden Knights.
For the first time since his time with the New York Islanders in the 2018-19 season, Lehner is back to being a starting netminder. Back then, he went 25-13-5 in 46 games with six shutouts, a 2.13 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage.
Now, he’ll be tasked with handling anywhere from four additional games to about a dozen more (give or take a few), since McCrimmon signed Laurent Brossoit on a two-year deal worth $2.325 million per season as Vegas’ backup.
Last season, the Golden Knights spent about $12 million on goaltenders. This season, they’re spending a little more than Fleury’s cap hit alone– $7.325 million for Lehner and Brossoit, compared to Fleury’s $7.000 million price tag against the cap.
Brossoit hasn’t been able to maintain consistency from year-to-year, but he’s a durable backup coming off of a solid performance with the Winnipeg Jets in 2020-21, amassing a 6-6-0 record in 14 games with a 2.42 goals-against average, one shutout and a .918 save percentage.
Vegas was always going to transition from Fleury to Lehner once Lehner became a part of the equation for the future. Doing so now may look bad in the manner that they did it, but it was always going to be inevitable as long as the Golden Knights were spending close to the salary cap.
Anyway, Janmark and Martinez are staying in town– Janmark on a one-year extension worth $2.000 million and Martinez on a three-year deal with a $5.250 million cap hit.
In 56 games last season, Janmark had 11-13–24 totals between Chicago and Vegas, where he went on to contribute eight points (four goals, four assists) in 16 playoff games as the Golden Knights advanced to the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinal before being eliminated by the Montréal Canadiens in six games.
Martinez, meanwhile, amassed 9-23–32 totals in 53 games in his first full season with the Golden Knights since Vegas acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings ahead of the 2020 trade deadline.
He had twice the points in 2020-21 than he had in 2019-20 in roughly the same number of games and chipped in six points (four goals, two assists) from the blue line in 19 playoff games in 2021 for Vegas.
At 34-years-old, signing Martinez until he’s nearly 37 is both a risk and an assurance that he pretty much won’t be playing anywhere else for the rest of his career (unless Vegas flips him later on or he decides to sign elsewhere in the summer of 2024.
For now, the extensions bolster Vegas’ vital depth for both regular season play and postseason clutch performances when you need it most from players you might otherwise least expect down the lineup.
Among other choices made this offseason, McCrimmon was busy working the phones for trade calls and landed a pair of reclamation projects for the 2021-22 season and beyond in Nolan Patrick and Evgenii Dadonov, but first a quick recap of all the trades Vegas made this summer.
On July 17th, the Golden Knights dealt defender, Nick DeSimone, and a 2022 4th round pick to the New York Rangers for forward, Brett Howden.
That same day, Vegas completed a transaction with the Nashville Predators, acquiring Patrick in exchange for Cody Glass and sealed the door on trading all three of their 2017 1st round picks (Glass, Nick Suzuki and Erik Brännström) for other assets.
At the second day of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, McCrimmon got in touch with Detroit Red Wings General Manager, Steve Yzerman, and swapped draft picks all day– sending 2021 2nd round pick (36th overall) to Detroit for a 2021 2nd round pick (38th overall) and a 2021 4th round pick (128th overall) in one trade, as well as dealing a 2021 4th round pick (114th overall) and a 2021 5th round pick (155th overall) to the Red Wings for a 2021 4th round pick (102nd overall).
A few days later on July 27th, the Golden Knights traded Fleury to Chicago for forward, Mikael Hakkarainen, who went unsigned and joined a team in Finland instead.
The next day, Vegas traded defender, Nick Holden, and a 2022 3rd round pick to the Ottawa Senators for Dadonov.
Then on July 29th, McCrimmon shipped fourth line forward, Ryan Reaves, to the Rangers for a 2022 3rd round pick.
Alright, back to Patrick and Dadonov for a second.
Last season, Patrick amassed 4-5–9 totals in 52 games with the Philadelphia Flyers in his first season back since missing all of 2019-20 due to migraines stemming from post concussion syndrome. The 23-year-old is feeling refreshed and looking for a career rejuvenation in the desert with the Golden Knights.
Meanwhile, Dadonov is coming off a down year in which he recorded 20 points (13 goals, seven assists) in 55 games with the Ottawa Senators after amassing 25-22–47 totals in 69 games with the Florida Panthers in 2019-20 after back-to-back seasons with at least 65 points.
The 32-year-old forward is looking to avoid further decline as he is soon to enter the twilight of his prime– approaching his mid-30s having yet to reach the 30-goal plateau or live up to his $5.000 million cap hit through 2022-23.
Time will tell if Vegas can help right the ship.
Offseason Grade: C-
Trading Fleury in the way that they did is hard to swallow– especially since it broke up one of the better goaltending tandems in the league from last season to this season.
At the very least, moving on from Fleury allowed Vegas to hold onto Janmark and Martinez in the manner that they did rather than court this summer’s top free agent, thereby forcing their own hand by trading another “core” player due to salary cap restraints and possibly disrupting the chemistry in the dressing room.
Overall, McCrimmon’s moves this summer seem like lateral transactions for a team that has $0 in salary cap space and should be contending for a Cup ring, but always seems to fall short for one reason or another.
Entering their fifth season of existence, the Golden Knights have this two more years to beat or match the Flyers’ record for the fastest expansion team to win their first Stanley Cup championship in league history.
Though their offseason may be unconvincing on paper, let’s hope they’ll prove us wrong and surprise the hockey world like they did when they made the 2018 Stanley Cup Final in their first season, but with a different outcome.
2020-21 record 35-19-2, 72 points
2nd in the Scotia NHL North Division
Eliminated in the First Round by Winnipeg
Additions: F Warren Foegele (acquired from CAR), F Zach Hyman, F Brendan Perlini, F Derek Ryan, F Colton Sceviour (signed to a PTO), F Tim Soderlund (acquired from CHI), D Cody Ceci, D Duncan Keith (acquired from CHI)
Subtractions: F Adam Cracknell (signed with Bakersfield Condors, AHL), F Tyler Ennis (signed to a PTO with OTT), F Joseph Gambardella (signed with Utica Comets, AHL), F Gaëtan Haas (NL), F Dominik Kahun (NL), F Jujhar Khaira (signed with CHI), F James Neal (buyout), F Joakim Nygård (SHL), F Alan Quine (signed with Henderson Silver Knights, AHL), F Patrick Russell (SHL), F Anton Slepyshev (KHL), D Ethan Bear (traded to CAR), D Caleb Jones (traded to CHI), D Dmitry Kulikov (signed with MIN), D Adam Larsson (expansion, SEA), D Theodor Lennström (KHL), G Dylan Wells (traded to CAR)
Still Unsigned: F Alex Chiasson
Re-signed: F Tyler Benson, F Cooper Marody, F Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, F Devin Shore, F Kailer Yamamoto, D Tyson Barrie, D Slater Koekkoek, G Stuart Skinner, G Mike Smith
Offseason Analysis: The second-best team in the Scotia NHL North Division would’ve been the fourth-best team in the other three divisions last season.
No matter what, the Oilers would’ve been a playoff team in 2020-21, but it’s the embarrassment that came with being swept in the 2021 First Round by the Winnipeg Jets and subsequent offseason moves that have left many scratching their heads.
Instead of overreacting and making big, sweeping, changes, Edmonton went for a big piece and a few smaller moves that still ate up their valuable cap space in the midst of a flat salary cap due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
So really it’s just more of the same from the Oilers.
Let’s start with the good news…
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kailer Yamamoto and Tyson Barrie are back and solidify some semblance of depth for Edmonton with Nugent-Hopkins on an affordable eight-year extension worth $5.125 million per season– the Oilers will have a surefire center on the second or third line for years to come.
The 28-year-old was Edmonton’s 1st overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft and had 35 points (16 goals, 19 assists) in 52 games last season after reaching the 60-point plateau in back-to-back seasons from 2018-19 through 2019-20.
Had there been an 82-game schedule in 2020-21, Nugent-Hopkins likely would’ve at least eclipsed the 50-point mark.
At 5-foot-8, 135-pounds, Yamamoto has a lot in common with guys like Martin St. Louis in his stature and– like St. Louis– is better off developing on his own as he had 8-13–21 totals in 52 games in his first full season run with the Oilers last season.
Though he made his league debut in 2017-18, Yamamoto has only been utilized by Edmonton sparingly in parts of three seasons leading up to his full-time status in 2020-21.
His game should be fine in due time, though offering him a supporting cast (a theme for the Oilers in general) would be fine.
After he had 59 points in 78 games with the Colorado Avalanche in 2018-19, Barrie was shipped as part of a package to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a trade that, well, didn’t exactly live up to the high expectations in Toronto.
Barrie’s production from the point plummeted to 39 points (five goals, 34 assists) in 70 games with the Maple Leafs in 2019-20.
He joined the Oilers on a one-year deal last October and bounced back with an admirable 48 points (eight goals, 40 assists) in 56 games.
He had 25 points on the power play in his last season in Colorado, then just 12 points as a quarterback on Toronto’s power play unit before rebounding with 23 points from the blue line while on the skater advantage last season for Edmonton.
For his efforts, Barrie was rewarded with a sweet three-year deal worth $4.500 million per season and at 29-years-old that’s about right for a defender on the cusp of beginning the eventual decline from a defensive prime.
Zach Hyman joins the Oilers on a seven-year contract worth $5.500 million per season, which isn’t completely terrible for a 29-year-old forward in his prime that had 15-18–33 totals in 43 games with the Maple Leafs last season and has reached the 40-point plateau twice before.
As a top-six forward, Hyman is a welcome addition to Edmonton’s Art Ross Trophy-winning powerhouse offense (Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl).
An additional positive from this offseason?
Edmonton’s rid themselves of James Neal via a buyout. Granted, he’ll still be on the books through the 2024-25 season at about a $1.917 million cap penalty, but after parts of two seasons with the Oilers since being acquired for Milan Lucic, at least that branch of franchise history has come to a close.
Neal had five goals and five assists (10 points) in 29 games last season after bouncing back from 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in 63 games with the Calgary Flames in 2018-19 to 31 points (19 goals, 12 assists) in 55 games for Edmonton in 2019-20.
He’s a shell of his former self, but on a low-risk contract, he could fit in fine just about anywhere else that needs a touch of veteran experience.
Now for the bad stuff that… …isn’t necessarily that bad, it’s just disappointing from the Oilers (who seemingly have chosen to make the Buffalo Sabres look good for at least being salary cap smart this offseason and that’s about it).
At 39-years-old, Mike Smith could’ve called it a career, but when Jimmy Howard turned down Oilers General Manager, Ken Holland, Smith was rewarded with two-year (not just one-year!) extension worth $2.200 million per season.
The cap hit is fine, considering he recored a goals-against average under 2.50 for the first time since the 2011-12 season with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Back then, in 67 games with Phoenix, Smith had a 38-18-10 record, a 2.21 goals-against average, a .930 save percentage and eight shutouts en route to backstopping the Coyotes to the 2012 Western Conference Final, where the Los Angeles Kings eliminated Phoenix in five games.
Last season with the Oilers, Smith went 21-6-2 in 32 games, had three shutouts and amassed a 2.31 goals-against average as well as a .923 save percentage.
In 2019-20, he had a 19-12-6 record in 39 games, one shutout, a .902 save percentage and a whopping 2.95 goals-against average.
Whether it’s the introduction of Barrie to Edmonton’s defense that helped singlehandedly reduce the workload Smith faced or not– Smith had a fantastic season in 2020-21.
However, time stops for nobody and with an average age of 35.3 between Smith, Mikko Koskinen and Alex Stalock as reliable options in the crease under contract at the NHL level, well, it’s easy to feel uneasy about Edmonton’s chances at stopping the puck from night-to-night as their bodies collectively wear down through an 82-game schedule.
Then again, they are athletes and you and I are not.
Yet, it’s worth noting since unlike Smith, Koskinen went from an 18-13-3 record in 38 games with a 2.75 goals-against average, a .917 save percentage and one shutout in 2019-20 with the Oilers to a dismal 13-13-0 record in 26 games with a 3.17 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage in 2020-21.
For all the good that Barrie and Co. on Edmonton’s blue line have done, there’s two new additions that, uh, might undo some of the forward progress.
Connor McDavid (ever heard of him?) vouched for Holland to acquire Duncan Keith from Chicago and then Holland went along and signed Cody Ceci in free agency.
Though Keith recorded 6-34–40 totals in 82 games in 2018-19 with Chicago, he’s been in decline, notching 27 points (three goals, 24 assists) in 61 games in 2019-20 and just 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 54 games last season.
The 38-year-old defender would’ve accepted any trade to a team close to the pacific northwest as he expressed a desire to be closer to family, having been isolated playing hockey for a living for most of the time during the ongoing pandemic and spending roughly five months combined with his son prior to being traded to Edmonton.
In 1,192 career NHL games, he’s won three Stanley Cup rings, was named playoff MVP in 2015, and has 105-520–625 totals in the regular season.
With two years left on his contract, Keith’s $5.538 million cap hit is a bit steep for what could be a defensive liability as the aging process continues and– turns out– Holland could’ve done better by waiting another day and signing Keith Yandle for much less after the Florida Panthers bought him out. Who knew?!
Though the Internet likes to make fun of Ceci, the 27-year-old defender really hasn’t been all that bad.
Sure 17 points (four goals, 13 assists) in 53 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season isn’t great, but he’s not expected to be a top-four defender– or at least he shouldn’t be.
Mistakes and weird things will happen. Sometimes you’re just unlucky like that.
Wait, Holland gave him four-years at $3.250 million per season? Yikes.
And to put the icing on the cake, Holland traded Ethan Bear to the Carolina Hurricanes for Warren Foegele. Not that Foegele’s bad, but for a team that could use a better defense, Bear fit in pretty well.
Has this McDavid guy ever tried watching the Oilers?
Offseason Grade: C+
For the Nugent-Hopkins extension, sensible new deal for Barrie and Yamamoto bridge contract, Holland deserves some praise for keeping the right pieces happy and on the roster heading into 2021-22.
That said, he also made some errors in judgment acquiring Keith at the price he paid, as well as handing out Ceci a contract with a steep cap hit and term for a guy that’s probably not that good.
In other words, it was just another normal offseason for the Oilers.
Edmonton made some smart moves, but then overreacted in other areas, while still searching for the second coming of Andy Moog in net or whatever.
2020-21 record 31-23-2, 64 points
4th in the Discover NHL Central Division
Eliminated in the First Round by Carolina
Additions: F Cody Glass (acquired from VGK), F Matt Luff, D Philippe Myers (acquired from PHI), G David Rittich
Subtractions: F Viktor Arvidsson (traded to LAK), F Michael Carcone (signed with Tucson Roadrunners, AHL), F Lukas Craggs (signed with Rochester Americans, AHL), F Erik Haula (signed with BOS), F Calle Järnkrok (expansion, SEA), F Sean Malone (signed with Rochester Americans, AHL), F Nolan Patrick (acquired from PHI, traded to VGK), F Brad Richardson (signed with CGY), F Josh Wilkins (HockeyAllsvenskan), D Erik Gudbranson (signed with CGY), D Josh Healey (signed with Milwaukee Admirals, AHL), D Tyler Lewington (signed with BOS), G Pekka Rinne (retired), G Kasimir Kaskisuo (SHL)
Still Unsigned: D Luca Sbisa
Re-signed: F Mikael Granlund, F Tanner Jeannot, F Michael McCarron, F Mathieu Olivier, F Rem Pitlick, F Anthony Richard, F Cole Smith, F Eeli Tolvanen, D Frédéric Allard, D Jeremy Davies, D Dante Fabbro, D Ben Harpur, D Matt Tennyson, G Juuse Saros
Offseason Analysis: The transition in the crease initiated last season as Juuse Saros took on the role of the starter from Pekka Rinne prior to Rinne’s final time around in 2020-21.
Rinne retired this offseason– wrapping up a National Hockey League career that spanned 15 seasons and garnered the Vezina Trophy in 2017-18 and King Clancy Memorial Trophy honors in 2020-21, as well as 60 shutouts to go with his 369-213-75 record in 683 career games.
The 38-year-old amassed a career 2.43 goals-against average and a .917 career save percentage since making his league debut in the 2005-06 season after the Predators drafted him in the 8th round (258th overall) of the 2004 NHL Draft.
Rinne exits his playing days as the leader in games played by a goalie (683), wins (369), losses (213), ties plus overtime/shootout losses (75), goals against (1,598), shots against (19,225), saves (17,627), goals-against average (2.43), shutouts (60) and minutes (39,413) in Preds franchise history.
Only Saros (.920) has a better save percentage in his Nashville tenure than Rinne (.917), while guys like Tomas Vokoun (.913), Dan Ellis (.912) and Chris Mason (.910) round out the top-five.
Rinne took the Predators to their only Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history thus far, where they faltered in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.
Nashville hasn’t missed the playoffs since the 2013-14 season, but things are going to be different heading into 2021-22.
The Preds are in transition as they are about to embark on the new season after being eliminated by the Carolina Hurricanes in six games in the 2021 First Round.
Rinne is gone, Ryan Ellis was traded and General Manager, David Poile, didn’t hold onto much depth in the offseason.
Though it may feel like trying to convince Nashville or the Dallas Stars to make the playoffs down the stretch last season felt like pulling teeth, the Preds made it to the postseason and gained some experience for their young players in thrilling overtimes before bowing out.
Don’t expect it to be the same this season, despite a return to normal division alignments and a full 82-game schedule.
Viktor Arvidsson, Erik Haula, Calle Järnkrok and Brad Richardson are gone, love them or hate them.
John Hynes is still head coach. Poile made four trades– two of which involved players.
The depth departures might be a sign of things to come as the Predators look to restock their patented Poile system (draft a ton of defenders and pick from the best while trading the rest).
There is a promising sign in the last couple of entry drafts for Nashville to replenish their prospect pool quickly– not that it’s really dwindled, short of the players that have made and/or are currently making the jump to the NHL-level.
Anyway, on July 17th Poile made a pair of related trades. First, he dealt Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers for Philippe Myers and Nolan Patrick.
Patrick was then flipped to the Vegas Golden Knights for Cody Glass.
Ellis was limited to 35 games last season and had 5-13–18 totals in that span, while Myers produced 1-10–11 totals in 44 games. At 24-years-old, Myers is still entering his prime as a defender, while Ellis departs Nashville for Philadelphia as a grizzled 30-year-old veteran with a chance to take the Flyers’ defense to the next level.
Glass, meanwhile, had 4-6–10 totals in 27 games for Vegas after making his NHL debut over 39 games with the Golden Knights in 2019-20. As a result of trading Glass to Nashville, the Golden Knights have traded away all three of their first 1st round picks in franchise history from the 2017 NHL Draft.
Vegas is looking for a career revival for Patrick, who missed the entire 2019-20 season due to migraines as a result of post concussion syndrome. He had nine points (four goals, five assists) in 52 games with the Flyers last season and previously had 13-18–31 totals in 72 games with Philadelphia in 2018-19.
David Rittich joins the picture in Nashville as Saros’ backup netminder after spending last season with the Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs.
In 134 career NHL games since breaking into the league with the Flames in the 2016-17 season, Rittich has a 64-40-16 record, as well as four shutouts, a 2.82 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage in that span.
Last season, he went 5-8-2 in 19 games played with a 2.86 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage. Rittich recorded one shutout in his time with Calgary in 2020-21 prior to being traded to Toronto at the trade deadline.
Don’t expect the 29-year-old goaltender to get too comfortable, however, as he only signed a one-year deal worth $1.250 million.
That said, the Preds have about $11.284 million in cap space to work with, so Poile could get quite creative down the line.
Offseason Grade: C
Nashville didn’t get better and (probably) didn’t get that much worse this offseason as Rinne retired and the team continues to transition from what was once a competitive team built for a deep postseason run to just a playoff contender looking to survive on scraps until they’re ready to strike again.
In short, the Predators could make the playoffs in 2022, but they likely won’t go much further than the Second Round.
Or they could miss the postseason entirely– ending a decent seven-year run of playing extra hockey– and be just fine with a little bit higher of a draft pick and whatever else might come with buying and selling.
2020-21 record 27-20-9, 63 points
4th in the Honda NHL West Division
Eliminated in the First Round by Colorado
Additions: F Pavel Buchnevich (acquired from NYR), F Matthew Peca, F Brandon Saad, F Nathan Todd, D Tommy Cross, D Calle Rosén, G Charlie Lindgren
Subtractions: F Sammy Blais (traded to NYR), F Mike Hoffman (signed with MTL), F Curtis McKenzie (signed with Texas Stars, AHL), F Jaden Schwartz (signed with SEA), F Alexander Steen (retired), D Vince Dunn (expansion, SEA), D Carl Gunnarsson (retired), D Petteri Lindbohm (KHL)
Still Unsigned: F Robert Thomas (RFA), G Jon Gillies
Re-signed: F Ivan Barbashev, F Tyler Bozak, F Dakota Joshua, F Tanner Kaspick, F Jordan Kyrou, F Zach Sanford, F Nolan Stevens, F Nathan Walker
Offseason Analysis: Winning the Cup comes with a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing to win it (especially as the Blues had never won prior to 2019, since their inception in 1967) and it’s a curse because it sets an expectation for success.
St. Louis might have had a short window to win their second Cup in franchise history.
After being swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, their face of the franchise before Ryan O’Reilly’s arrival, Vladimir Tarasenko, requested a trade.
Blues General Manager, Doug Armstrong, has yet to fulfill that request and has indicated that he’s in no rush to do so– after all, he’s in control of the cards at hand and like when Avs General Manager, Joe Sakic, ultimately traded Matt Duchene, Armstrong can command a steep price for Tarasenko if he’s patient enough.
Injuries have limited Tarasenko to 34 games in the last two seasons, including 3-7–10 totals in 10 games in 2019-20 and 4-10–14 totals in 24 games in 2020-21.
From 2014-15 through the 2018-19 season Tarasenko recorded five consecutive seasons with at least 65 points– including his career-high 75 points in 82 games in 2016-17, as well as a 40-goal season in 80 games in 2015-16.
Tarasenko’s situation isn’t the only concern in St. Louis, however, as the depth of the Blues that made them Cup contenders turned champions in 2019, has withered away– leaving Armstrong with the difficult task of overhauling both the top-six forward group and experimenting with the right mixture of replacement players.
Jake Allen, Sammy Blais, Jay Bouwmeester, Vince Dunn, Joel Edmundson, Robby Fabbri, Carl Gunnarsson, Patrick Maroon, Alex Pietrangelo, Jaden Schwartz and Alexander Steen have all left one way or another since winning the Cup in St. Louis.
In their place, guys like Ivan Barbashev, Klim Kostin, Jordan Kyrou and Mackenzie MacEachern have climbed the development ladder, while Torey Krug, Justin Faulk and Marco Scandella were acquired by other means.
Some will rise and exceed expectations. Others will be gifted contracts through their prime– though their use may be time limited and the chemistry pulled apart.
At the very least, Barbashev and Kyrou’s extensions this summer lead the youth movement for the Blues in an ever-changing league.
Meanwhile, the introduction of Brandon Saad on a five-year deal worth $4.500 million per season– only a smidge more than what Mike Hoffman was making on a one-year contract that wasn’t renewed– and Pavel Buchnevich via trade and subsequent four-year, $23.200 million extension has solidified St. Louis’ top-six forward group for the foreseeable future.
Saad spent last season with the Avalanche and had 15-9–24 totals in 44 regular season games before coming up clutch in the postseason– albeit at times the only goal scorer, it seemed, for Colorado– with 7-1–8 totals in 10 games.
At 28-years-old, the Blues should have him for what’s left of his prime in what’s been a respectable career thus far with 371 points (184 goals, 187 assists) in 632 career games since making his league debut in the 2011-12 season with Chicago, winning two Stanley Cup rings with the organization in 2013 and 2015, then spending time with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago again and Colorado.
Armstrong acquired Buchnevich from the New York Rangers in exchange for Blais and a 2022 2nd round pick on July 23rd in the only trade that involved roster players for St. Louis this offseason.
Blais leaves the Blues after breaking into the league in the 2017-18 season and amassing 17-18–35 totals in 119 games with St. Louis, including 8-7–15 totals in 36 games last season.
Buchnevich joins the Blues riding a productive season with the Rangers– notching 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists) in 54 games in 2020-21, as well as 79-116–195 totals in 301 career games with New York since making his league debut in the 2016-17 season.
After nine loyal seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tyler Bozak won the Cup in his first season with St. Louis in 2018-19.
Through three seasons with the Blues, Bozak’s amassed 31-53–84 totals in 170 games– despite injuries that kept him to 31 games out of the 56-game schedule in 2020-21.
At 35-years-old and in love with the St. Louis uniform, Bozak is ready to be part of the transitional plans from 2019 Stanley Cup champions to getting back to Cup contention for the Blues– signing a one-year extension worth $750,000 against the cap.
He’ll either be back to full health as a low-risk, high-reward gamble to hang onto or he’ll be trade bait for another team looking to add a touch of experience at the deadline.
It might have been a blessing in disguise for the Blues to have kept Bozak and lost Schwartz this offseason.
Schwartz’s five-year contract worth $5.500 million per season with the Seattle Kraken contains a no-movement clause in the first three seasons for a player that’s suffered from a recent decline in production at 29-years-old.
Contrasted with Phillip Danault’s two-way style that ultimately went to the Los Angeles Kings with an additional sixth-year in his contract– albeit their similar scoring totals– the Blues were never going to be able to afford to keep Schwartz and account for patching a couple of holes at the same time.
After skyrocketing to the top of the league standings and winning the Cup in 2019, Jordan Binnington’s looking to reinvent himself as a surefire starter in the National Hockey League.
On the wings of a six-year extension worth $6.000 million per season, he better prove it.
A 30-13-7 record in 50 games played with a 2.56 goals-against average, a .912 save percentage and three shutouts in that span in 2019-20, was followed by an 18-14-8 record in 42 games played with a 2.65 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage.
That doesn’t exactly scream long-term option in net if it worsens.
In five postseason games in 2020, Binnington went 0-5 and had a 4.72 goals-against average, as well as an .851 save percentage.
In 2021, he went 0-4 with a 3.59 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage. While that is better than his 2020 performance, it also means that the two postseason wins since winning the Cup in 2019, were recorded by a goaltender not named “Binnington” (they were, in fact, recorded by current Montréal Canadiens backup and former Blues netminder, Jake Allen).
If St. Louis can’t get things tamed in the crease, then they might have even more issues to resolve than already planned.
Offseason Grade: C
While Saad and Buchnevich are quality pickups for the Blues, most teams in playoff contention make one or two moves and otherwise stand pat.
St. Louis got an upgrade over Hoffman’s departure, sure, but they are limited in spending power with about $782,000 left in cap space and burdened by lengthy contracts that haven’t really gone one way or another yet.
Armstrong knows how to build a team up over a period of time, but hasn’t encountered what it means to sustain that success over the years in the postseason, as well as through the course of developing a system to supplement it while talent comes and goes in the ebbs and flows of the salary cap era.
Whereas the Blues once mastered building the foundation for a team that could contend for a decade or more, it seems as though there are cracks starting to form and if they’re not careful, serious structural damage could affect their core.
2020-21 record 26-27-3, 55 points
5th in the Scotia NHL North Division
Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020
Additions: F Blake Coleman, F Alex Gallant (signed to a PTO), F Trevor Lewis, F Tyler Pitlick (acquired from SEA), F Brad Richardson, D Nick DeSimone, D Erik Gudbranson, D Kevin Gravel, D Andy Welinski, D Nikita Zadorov (acquired from CHI), G Adam Werner, G Dan Vladar (acquired from BOS)
Subtractions: F Spencer Foo (KHL), F Josh Leivo (signed with CAR), F Joakim Nordström (KHL), F Zac Rinaldo (signed with CBJ), F Buddy Robinson (signed with ANA), F Derek Ryan (signed with EDM), F Dominik Simon (signed with PIT), D Mark Giordano (expansion, SEA), D Carl-Johan Lerby (SHL), D Nikita Nesterov (KHL), D Alexander Petrovic (signed with DAL), D Alexander Yelesin (KHL), G Louis Domingue (signed with PIT)
Still Unsigned: G Artyom Zagidulin
Re-signed: F Dillon Dubé, F Glenn Gawdin, F Justin Kirkland, F Matthew Phillips, F Luke Philp, F Brett Ritchie, D Oliver Kylington, D Connor Mackey, D Colton Poolman, D Michael Stone, D Juuso Välimäki, G Tyler Parsons
Offseason Analysis: Calgary is facing an existential crisis.
They can either trust in their core players that they just might get it done if they’ve become frustrated by years of falling short (or not even making the playoffs at all, as they missed the postseason in 2021) or they can begin to move forward by hitting the “reset” button.
This offseason, Flames General Manager, Brad Treliving, chose to add without subtracting– to overhaul, rather than to rebuild (at least for now).
Joakim Nordström, Derek Ryan, Zac Rinaldo and more are gone. They’ve left for other professional leagues around the world, Edmonton and Columbus, respectively.
Mark Giordano was claimed by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft after breaking into the league with the Flames in the 2005-06 season. He spent 15 years in Calgary and amassed 143-366–509 totals in 949 games in a Flames uniform and had been captain in the “C of Red” since the 2013-14 season.
Though many fans in Calgary would like to belive the 37-year-old will spend one season in Seattle and return to the Flames, there are no guarantees.
Calgary’s already worked on developing a good-standing relationship with their new Pacific Division rivals as they got traded a 2022 4th round pick to the Kraken for forward, Tyler Pitlick, on July 22nd– a day after the expansion draft.
Pitlick slides in as a quality top-nine forward for the Flames and had 6-5–11 totals in 38 games for the Arizona Coyotes last season while battling injury.
He’s reached the 20-point plateau twice in his career in 2017-18 with Dallas (27 points in 80 games) and 2019-20 with Philadelphia (20 points in 63 games) and should be a low-risk high-reward depth move.
Treliving made a splash when free agency opened on July 28th, signing two-time defending Stanley Cup champion, Blake Coleman, to a six-year contract worth $4.900 million per season.
Coleman’s speed and skill solidifies Calgary’s middle-six as he should be on the second or third line at all times.
He’s had three consecutive seasons with at least 30 points since the 2018-19 season and notched 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 55 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020-21.
Coleman on a line with Andrew Mangiapane is a game-changer for Calgary’s offense– especially as they’ve re-signed Dillon Dubé and still have Sean Monahan down the middle to fill out the top-nine with Mikael Backlund, Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk on the roster.
The same day that free agency began, Treliving also made a pair of trades–first acquiring defender, Nikita Zadorov, from Chicago for a 2022 3rd round pick (originally belonging to the Toronto Maple Leafs) and later acquiring goaltender, Dan Vladar, from the Boston Bruins for Calgary’s own 2022 3rd round pick.
Zadorov, 26, signed a one-year deal worth $3.750 million with the Flames and had 1-7–8 totals in 55 games with Chicago last season, as well as 23-60–83 totals in 411 career NHL games with the Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche and Chicago.
The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Russian native isn’t an offensive powerhouse from the blue line, but rather a top-four shutdown defensive defender. At his best, Zadorov can make hit after hit and pummel an opposing team’s offense into submission in his own zone, though the occasional bad penalty may result.
Vladar, 24, made his regular season debut last season for the Bruins and went 2-2-1 in five games played with a 3.40 goals-against average and an .886 save percentage in that span.
Don’t let the stats fool you, though, as Boston allowed eight goals against in Vladar’s last start against the Washington Capitals on April 11th before the emergence of Jeremy Swayman and return from injury for Tuukka Rask forced B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy’s, hand down the stretch and through the postseason.
Vladar is capable of holding his own in the NHL and should be a decent backup behind Jacob Markström in net for Calgary.
In 2019-20, Vladar had a 1.79 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage in 25 games with the Providence Bruins (AHL). He followed that effort up with a 2.19 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage in 10 games with Providence last season.
Treliving signed unrestricted free agents, Brad Richardson, Trevor Lewis and Erik Gudbranson, to one-year contracts over the summer– adding Richardson on an $800,000 cap hit for depth, Lewis as a fourth liner with an $800,000 cap hit and Gudbranson ($1.950 million cap hit) as a defender that just might push Oliver Kylington or Juuso Välimäki out of regular ice time.
Richardson, 36, was limited to 17 games with the Nashville Predators last season and had 1-3–4 totals after spending 16 prior seasons with the Avalanche, Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks, Coyotes and Predators.
He won a Stanley Cup ring with then Los Angeles head coach, Darryl Sutter, in 2012, while Lewis won two Cups in his Kings tenure in 2012 and 2014.
Lewis joins the Flames after spending last season with the Winnipeg Jets– notching 5-5–10 totals in 56 games after spending 674 games in a Los Angeles uniform from parts of the 2008-09 season through 2019-20.
Gudbranson bounced from the Ottawa Senators to the Predators at the 2021 deadline after amassing 1-2–3 totals in 36 games with the Sens before contributing one assist in nine games with Nashville afterward.
With only four points in 45 games, Gudbranson isn’t much competition for Välimäki, who had 2-9–11 totals in 49 games for Calgary last season, but the clock is ticking on Kylington’s tenure in the “C of Red”.
Ranked 24th by TSN in the final draft rankings ahead of the 2015 NHL Draft, Kylington fell to the Flames in the 2nd round at 60th overall and has only appeared in 95 career games approaching seven years out of his draft year.
He had one assist in eight games last season and re-signed with Calgary on a one-year, two-way contract and has 16 points in his career, while Välimäki already has 14 points in 73 games in parts of two seasons since breaking into the NHL with the Flames in 2018-19.
Just like with Calgary’s core, time might be running out for a serious chance.
Offseason Grade: A-
If you were hoping for the Flames to tear things down this offseason, then they failed this summer.
If you’re looking at things from the perspective that adding without subtracting while still having enough of a core to make something happen, well, then signing Coleman alone is enough to laud Treliving praise for making a move instead of sticking to the script.
Of course, now the pressure is on for Calgary to succeed or risk fraying their relationship with Gaudreau and other Flames veterans, which would mean that Treliving would be forced to make some big trades by the deadline or next summer.
That said, the biggest detractor from the Flames this offseason might just be the Flames themselves as Sutter’s coaching style hasn’t adapted to the NHL in 2021.
If you don’t let your best players play their games and try to box them into a mold they don’t fit, then you’re only bringing yourself down in the league currently.
2020-21 record 24-26-6, 54 points
5th in the Honda NHL West Division
Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020
Additions: F Jay Beagle (acquired from VAN), F Travis Boyd, F Ryan Dzingel, F Loui Eriksson (acquired from VAN), F Dmitrij Jaskin, F Bokondji Imama (acquired from LAK), F Andrew Ladd (acquired from NYI), F Liam O’Brien, F Antoine Roussel (acquired from VAN), D Shayne Gostisbehere (acquired from PHI), D Cole Hults (acquired from LAK), D Vladislav Kolyachonok (acquired from FLA), D Anton Strålman (acquired from FLA), D Conor Timmins (acquired from COL), G Carter Hutton, G Josef Korenar (acquired from SJS)
Subtractions: F Michael Bunting (signed with TOR), F Brayden Burke (traded to LAK), F Derick Brassard (signed with PHI), F Michael Chaput (signed with PIT), F Christian Dvorak (traded to MTL), F Conor Garland (traded to VAN), F John Hayden (signed with BUF), F Dryden Hunt (signed with NYR), F Tyler Pitlick (expansion, SEA), F Lane Pederson (rights traded to and signed with SJS), F Emil Pettersson (KHL), F Tyler Steenburgen (traded to LAK), F Nathan Sucese (signed with Iowa Wild, AHL), D Oliver Ekman-Larsson (traded to VAN), D Alex Goligoski (signed with MIN), D Jordan Gross (signed with COL), D Niklas Hjalmarsson (retired), D Jordan Oesterle (signed with DET), G Adin Hill (traded to SJS), G Darcy Kuemper (traded to COL), G Antti Raanta (signed with CAR)
Still Unsigned: F Frédérik Gauthier, F Marian Hossa (retired, contract expired), D Jason Demers, D Aaron Ness
Re-signed: F Hudson Fasching, F Blake Speers, D Cam Dineen, D Dysin Mayo
Offseason Analysis: Arizona took on a bunch of contracts this offseason, but still has about $11.946 million in cap space as Coyotes General Manager, Bill Armstrong, put on a masterclass of how to effectively clean house to rebuild.
The Coyotes are paying a combined $1.500 million this season for the services of Carter Hutton and Josef Korenar in the crease after signing Hutton in free agency and acquiring Korenar and a 2022 2nd round pick via a trade with the San Jose Sharks that sent Adin Hill in return.
Antti Raanta, meanwhile, left for the Carolina Hurricanes, seeking a career resurgence after a rocky, injury filled, tenure in Arizona, while Darcy Kuemper was traded the same day free agency began on July 28th to the Colorado Avalanche for defender, Conor Timmins, a 2022 1st round pick and a conditional 2024 3rd round pick.
Whereas the Buffalo Sabres viewed goaltending as an afterthought this offseason, the Coyotes, uhh, planned this?
Hutton had a 1-10-1 record in 13 games for the Sabres last season and recorded a 3.47 goals-against average and an .886 save percentage in that span, while Korenar made his NHL debut for the Sharks and went 3-5-0 in 10 games with a 3.17 goals-against average and an .899 save percentage.
But goaltending wasn’t the biggest focus for Arizona this offseason as they completely stripped down their roster and planned for a major reset between now and next summer.
Only 19 players throughout the organization are signed through the 2022-23 season, including six players currently on the NHL roster.
After trading Hill and a 2022 7th round pick to the Sharks for Korenar and a 2022 2nd round pick on July 17th, Armstrong made sure to add salary to work his way to the cap floor that same day by acquiring Andrew Ladd from the New York Islanders in addition to a 2021 2nd round pick that originally belonged to Colorado (60th overall, Janis Jerome Moser), as well as a conditional 2023 3rd round pick for future considerations.
Ladd’s been buried in the American Hockey League (AHL) in recent years with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (now Bridgeport Islanders) and last played at the NHL level in four games with New York in 2019-20– scoring one goal that season.
As crazy as it sounds, Arizona might use Ladd on their roster. At 35-years-old, he’s in his final run, but with two years remaining on his contract at a $5.500 million cap hit, he’s one of the few players left on the team entering 2022-23– unless he’s moved before then or retires.
Philadelphia saw what the Islanders did and said “hey, we can do that too” and traded defender, Shayne Gostisbehere, to the Coyotes with a 2022 2nd round pick and a 2022 7th round pick in exchange for future considerations.
Arizona takes on Gostisbehere’s remaining two years of his current contract at $4.500 million per season and looks to resurrect his offensive game from the blue line since his career-high 65 points in 78 games with the Flyers in 2017-18.
Last season, Gostisbehere bounced back from 12 points in 42 games in 2019-20 with a respectable 20 points in 41 games, but it’s not enough to justify his price tag amid a plethora of defenders looking to crack Philadelphia’s lineup on a regular basis, so the Coyotes are glad to give Gostisbehere a warm welcome.
A day after acquiring Gostisbehere, Arizona made waves when they traded their captain, Oliver Ekman-Larsson with the rights to then restricted-free agent forward, Conor Garland, to the Vancouver Canucks for Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, a 2021 1st round pick (9th overall, Dylan Guenther), a 2022 2nd round pick and a 2023 7th round pick in return on July 23rd.
Ekman-Larsson’s production has been in decline since recording 21-34–55 totals in 75 games with the Coyotes in 2015-16. He followed that season up with 39 points in 79 games in 2016-17, and 42 points in 82 games in 2017-18, before signing an eight-year extension with an $8.250 million cap hit on July 1, 2018, that would go into effect for the 2019-20 season.
In 2018-19, Ekman-Larsson had 14-30–44 totals. In 2019-20, he had 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) in 66 games and just last season, Ekman-Larsson had 24 points (three goals, 21 assists) in 46 games for Arizona.
So the Coyotes packaged him with Garland to a team that Ekman-Larsson had expressed a desire in being traded to entering last offseason (Ekman-Larsson would only accept a trade to the Boston Bruins or Vancouver, but Arizona held out and kept him for the 2020-21 season).
Garland signed an extension with the Canucks, while Arizona also retained 12% of Ekman-Larsson’s salary (about $990,000 per season through 2026-27) in the aftermath of the deal.
Meanwhile, Eriksson, Beagle and Roussel are looking for a fresh start in a new market– though they each have one-year remaining on their contracts, so they probably shouldn’t get too comfortable.
Eriksson managed to earn one assist in seven games last season for Vancouver, while Beagle was limited to 30 games due to injury and had 1-4–5 totals and Roussel chipped in four points (one goal, three assists) in 35 games.
So they’re not offensive powerhouses, but the Coyotes aren’t going for a Cup ring this season– they’re going for a complete reset as they continued to wheel and deal this offseason.
Arizona swapped minor leagues with the Los Angeles Kings in a trade on July 24th, then took July 25th off before acquiring defender, Anton Stålman, from the Florida Panthers for a 2023 7th round pick on July 26th.
Strålman fell out of favor in Florida after scoring 19 points from the blue line in 69 games in 2019-20 before dropping to nine points in 38 games last season with the Panthers.
Needing cap space, the Panthers moved on from Strålman, dropping him and his $5.500 million cap hit, along with defender, Vladislav Kolyachonok, off with the Coyotes for the 2021-22 season, where the 35-year-old defender is hungry to keep his playing days alive in the twilight of his career.
With a few new faces on defense, Arizona is ready for life in a post-Niklas Hjalmarsson world, since the 34-year-old native of Sweden retired after five points (all assists) in 41 games with the Coyotes last season.
On July 28th, Arizona executed the Kuemper trade, then the phone lines went silent for about a month until the Carolina Hurricanes signed Jesperi Kotkaniemi to an offer sheet that the Montréal Canadiens wouldn’t match.
Montréal inquired the Coyotes about the availability of Christian Dvorak on the trade market and he was shipped off the Habs on Sept. 4th for a conditional 2022 1st round pick (the worse of the Canadiens’ own or Carolina’s) and a 2024 2nd round pick.
By the way, Arizona hired a new head coach this offseason, naming André Tourigny as the designated leader to guide the rebuild down to the depths and back to the surface of playoff contention.
That should be fun.
At least Tourigny has a good repertoire among major junior players and can settle into the NHL level with whoever the Coyotes draft in 2022.
Offseason Grade: A-
Look, just because the offseason grade says “A-” doesn’t mean this team will actually be competitive.
Yes, the Coyotes are going to finish last in the Central Division– by the way, they’re new to the Central this season since the Seattle Kraken joined the league and took Arizona’s spot in the Pacific Division.
But it’s also true that Armstrong made most of the right moves that aligned with Arizona’s offseason philosophy– embrace the tank.
The Coyotes are loading up on draft picks, prospects and whatever scraps you can find with other teams’ bad contracts and should turn things around in the next few years.
Of course, there’s the fact that this seems to happen way too often in Arizona and the concern among the fanbase that things might not go as planned with their expected relocation from Glendale to Tempe, Arizona as the City of Glendale has booted the team out of their space at Gila River Arena after the 2021-22 season– opting out of their current lease agreement, as the city could in accordance with agreed upon clauses.
But for all things considered, the Coyotes have a plan. The same can’t be said for Buffalo.