Zdeno Chara surpassed 1,500 career games, Claude Julien reached 1,200 games behind the bench, the Toronto Maple Leafs are facing injuries and backup goaltender struggles, Taylor Hall reportedly won’t sign an extension with the New Jersey Devils, the 2019 NHL Global Series happened and the 2020 NHL Global Series was announced.
Brayden Point re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a bunch of other RFAs signed extensions, the Boston Pride were sold, Dan Girardi retired and DTFR’s season previews continued with the Atlantic Division.
47-29-6, 100 points, 1st in the Central Division
Eliminated in the First Round by Dallas
Additions: F Daniel Carr, F Matt Duchene, D Jeremy Davies (acquired from NJD), D Steven Santini (acquired from NJD), G Connor Ingram (acquired from TBL)
Subtractions: F Phillip Di Giuseppe (signed with NYR), F Tyler Gaudet (signed with TOR), F Adam Helewka (traded to NJD), F Justin Kirkland (signed with CGY), F Cody McLeod (signed with Iowa, AHL), F Zac Rinaldo (signed to a PTO with CGY), F Cole Schneider (signed with Milwaukee, AHL), F Wayne Simmonds (signed with NJD), D Taylor Aronson (DEL), D P.K. Subban (traded to NJD), G Tom McCollum (signed with Hartford, AHL)
Still Unsigned: F Brian Boyle
Re-signed: F Rocco Grimaldi, F Colton Sissons
Offseason Analysis: The longest currently active general manager in the National Hockey League remained active this offseason as the Nashville Predators’ only GM in franchise history, David Poile, was wheeling and dealing.
At this year’s draft, Poile traded veteran defender, P.K. Subban, to the New Jersey Devils for a small package in Steven Santini, Jeremy Davies, a 2019 2nd round pick and a 2020 2nd round pick.
The trade cleared the Preds of Subban’s $9.000 million cap hit and remained in true Poile transaction fashion, whereby the Nashville GM flipped a defender in his prime for more, younger, assets.
With more cap room to work with heading into free agency, Poile set his sights on securing a second line center to help give the Predators stability down the middle.
Matt Duchene fit the bill perfectly for Nashville– both in his seven-year contract worth $56 million ($8.000 million per season) and due to the fact that he’s a big country music fan and was already building a house in the Music City.
In a way, it was Duchene’s dream to play for the Predators (even if that dream of playing hockey for Nashville is second to living year-round in Nashville– it’s a win-win).
Duchene emerged as a prominent player for the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Preds are hoping he’ll do just the same for them in their quest for another Stanley Cup Final run for the first time since their only appearance in the Final in 2017, when they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
On top of identifying and filling a need, Poile also acquired goaltending prospect Connor Ingram from the Tampa Bay Lightning in June, giving Nashville a future outlook in the crease that may very well be a dynamic duo of Juuse Saros and Ingram.
For now, Pekka Rinne remains the starter for the foreseeable future as both Rinne and Saros have two years remaining on their current contracts.
Offseason Grade: B+
Adding Duchene boosts Nashville’s presence as a playoff contender that could emerge as a deep postseason run performer. He wasn’t the best player available in the free agent market, but he was the best fit available for Poile’s roster.
It very well might be Nashville’s last chance at a Cup with their current roster as 10 players are pending-unrestricted free agents at season’s end– ranging from core members to key depth contributors. It’s now or never for these Predators.
Columbus Blue Jackets
47-31-4, 98 points, 5th in the Metropolitan Division
Eliminated in the Second Round by Boston
Additions: F Marko Dano, F Gustav Nyquist
Subtractions: F Matt Duchene (signed with NSH), F Ryan Dzingel
(signed with CAR), F Mark Letestu (signed with WPG), F Artemi Panarin (signed with NYR), F Lukas Sedlak (KHL), F Sam Vigneault (signed with Cleveland, AHL), D Tommy Cross (signed with FLA), G Jean-Francois Berube (signed with PHI), G Sergei Bobrovsky (signed with FLA), G Keith Kinkaid (signed with MTL)
Still Unsigned: D Adam McQuaid
Re-signed: F Ryan MacInnis, F Sonny Milano, F Justin Scott, D Scott Harrington, D Ryan Murray, D Zach Werenski, G Joonas Korpisalo
Offseason Analysis: After going all-in at the trade deadline, the Columbus Blue Jackets went all-out on trying to keep their recently acquired talent in town– as well as their biggest stars Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky from leaving altogether.
Unfortunately for Columbus, that “high-end” talent had “high-rise” on the mind and then some.
Bobrovsky informed General Manager, Jarmo Kekalainen, that he didn’t intend to re-sign with the club early in the season, Panarin turned down more money for The Big Apple, Matt Duchene was building a house in Nashville anyway and Ryan Dzingel fell victim to coaching decisions that limited his playing time.
All of them left the Blue Jackets.
Whether you believe in their core (Pierre-Luc Dubois for Leader of the Free Universe!) or not, Columbus is going to face a setback this season.
Head coach, John Tortorella, is right in his analysis of the team in that the roster had something going en route to their playoff run that was cut short in the Second Round by the Boston Bruins.
Columbus was shaping up for something special– their first playoff series win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, at least– if not more this season and in the coming years.
As much as fans like Tortorella’s approach to speak his mind about everything, there are times when it backfires.
Dzingel didn’t betray the Blue Jackets organization by signing with the Carolina Hurricanes when he wasn’t getting ice time in the first place. Plus, he didn’t technically leave a “winning” team to go elsewhere to win if the team that he signed with (Carolina) made it further in the postseason than Columbus did.
The Hurricanes made the Eastern Conference Final. The Blue Jackets did not.
Sure, Panarin joined the New York Rangers and Bobrovsky joined the Florida Panthers, but both of those teams missed the playoffs altogether last season. Tortorella has a point to be made about those two players, however, his point is that of a TV analyst’s mindset.
When the Blue Jackets broadcast approaches Bobrovsky’s exit, they can talk about how he betrayed a “culture that was committed to Columbus/winning the Cup this season” or whatever.
They get paid to do that– to please the watchful eyes in Columbus’ ownership box.
When the mantra comes from Tortorella, he is seen as out of touch with his players– that he couldn’t get them to “buy-in” and win, not that he couldn’t communicate with them and coach them effectively for better or worse.
It’s bulletin board material that makes sports fans tune in to ESPN for other sports and NBC between periods.
What did Stephen A. Smith say now? Why does Mike Milbury look like he wants to punch Jeremy Roenick in the face?
Because of their opinions, their “hot takes” and their ability to sway fan bases to and from narratives driven by ratings, owners and us and them mentality.
Tortorella had a stint with NHL Network before becoming head coach in Columbus. He’s a quintessential analyst that’s deserving of respect for his musings.
But sometimes his coaching style intersects with his analytical mind.
Sometimes his brash statements don’t translate well with his message, the medium it’s on (TV, Twitter or the like) and sometimes we forget how Toe Blake, Scotty Bowman, Punch Imlach or Art Ross utilized their power to drum up the local media, verbally abuse their players, etc. from a different era.
Because it’s Tortorella, because he has a fire to win, because he’s already won it before and wants to win it again– there’s a whole host of reasons why people often react with such strong visceral opinions the way they do to Tortorella, Mike Babcock and others in the league.
Columbus has one thing on their mind from this offseason– moving forward.
Offseason Grade: F
Last season might have been one last hurrah for the Blue Jackets’ current setup. Kekalainen gave Tortorella all the pieces to push for a deep run, Tortorella botched the lineup at times, certain players couldn’t elevate their game at other times– it was all too soon for an organization and fans that have been yearning for playoff success for almost 20 years.
They didn’t make any changes behind the bench and Kekalainen still has his job. It was a risk worth taking, but now there’s consequences to pay at this season’s end if ownership doesn’t see growth in what’s left behind. Columbus failed to retain what could’ve been this offseason and their consolation prize was Gustav Nyquist.
A one-year setback won’t hurt them. Two years might.
44-30-8, 96 points, 4th in the Atlantic Division
Missed the postseason for the second straight year
Additions: F Riley Barber, F Nick Cousins, F Phil Varone, D Ben Chiarot, G Keith Kinkaid
Subtractions: F Daniel Audette (signed with Springfield, AHL), F Nicolas Deslauriers (traded to ANA), F Andrew Shaw (traded to CHI), F Hunter Shinkaruk (signed with Charlotte, AHL), D Jordie Benn (signed with VAN), D Brett Lernout (signed with VGK), G Antti Niemi (KHL)
Still Unsigned: None
Re-signed: F Joel Armia, F Charles Hudon, F Artturi Lehkonen, F Michael McCarron
Offseason Analysis: The Montreal Canadiens didn’t even get a meeting with John Tavares last offseason and they tried to ask out a couple of potential suitors to the prom this offseason, but were ultimately rejected.
Before Habs fans try to claim that technically Sebastian Aho accepted their offer, but was then taken back by his… still current romantic partner (Carolina), let’s remember that this is only a terrible attempt at a metaphor or whatever.
The bottom line is Canadiens General Manager, Marc Bergevin, wanted to get Matt Duchene in free agency this offseason, but lost out to the Nashville Predators– which was inevitable given Duchene was building a house in Nashville anyway.
Then Bergevin turned to his next option– becoming the “villain” among his peers by submitting an offer sheet to another team’s restricted free agent.
That RFA happened to be Aho, the Carolina Hurricanes forward who remains a Carolina Hurricanes forward after signing a five-year, $8.454 million per season offer sheet from the Habs that was officially matched by the Canes about a week later.
If Bergevin was really comfortable with paying a steep compensation price, he likely offered more in cap hit, length of the deal and, well, just about everything else.
Instead, Carolina wasn’t fazed by the $8.454 million annual cap hit, despite a little more than $21 million front loaded in the deal in signing bonuses and Hurricanes owner, Tom Dundon, simply wrote a cheque for Aho to cash in and avoid a long offseason of “uncertainty” as many other RFAs faced around the league.
While Bergevin may have done the Hurricanes a favor, Tampa Bay Lightning center, Brayden Point is still unsigned, so…
Actually, on second thought, Montreal only has about $4.045 million in cap space now since missing out on Aho and signing defender, Ben Chiarot, to a consolation prize, three-year, $3.500 million per season contract.
It’s not that Chiarot isn’t a durable defender, but rather, that the Canadiens really could use a young, promising forward to shore up a legitimate top-six– especially with pending-RFA Max Domi in a contract year.
Montreal wants to get back into the postseason, but they don’t just want to make it– they want to make a splash and go on a deep run. Especially since they’re the most recent Canadian team to win the Cup, having done so in 1993, which seems like ages ago, right?
Seven teams have joined the league since a Canadian market last hoisted the Cup high above their heads in a celebratory skate.
Head coach, Claude Julien, transitioned his style from a more veteran dependent coaching style to a more contemporary “play the kids” approach last season and it got Montreal to finish two points outside of the playoffs thanks to the Columbus Blue Jackets’ defeat of the New York Rangers in the last weekend of the regular season.
The good news for Julien? His roster is about the same, so there’s a lot of familiarity in the room in their quest for progress.
Keith Kinkaid signed a one-year, $1.750 million deal to backup Carey Price this season and can be useful in offsetting Price’s workload, though Kinkaid’s looking to bounce back from a dismal year with the New Jersey Devils last season.
Kinkaid amassed a 3.36 goals against average and an .891 save percentage in 41 games played while New Jersey transitioned from Cory Schneider to Mackenzie Blackwood (when healthy) in the crease as their starter.
One thing’s for sure for the Habs this season– if they don’t make it back to the playoffs in 2020, there’s going to be some change coming.
There just has to be.
Offseason Grade: C
Nothing spectacular walked into Bell Centre in the offseason and nothing spectacular walked out. That’s not terrible, but might not be up to the expectations of a fanbase and front office that expects to win every season.
That said, Montreal is due for a resurgence in the standings sooner, rather than later. It’s just going to take a little more work than… whatever was done this offseason.
Mitch Marner finally re-signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins announced a couple key extensions, more RFA deals were signed and the NHLPA decided not to re-open the current collective bargaining agreement as DTFR’s season previews continued with the Metropolitan Division.
The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2019 was announced, a major shakeup in the Board of Governors may be ahead, extensions were signed, Jake Gardiner joined the Carolina Hurricanes and it’s time for our DTFR Podcast season previews (starting with the Pacific Division).