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Nashville Predators 2021-22 Season Preview

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

4th in the Discover NHL Central Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Carolina

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

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

Still Unsigned: D Luca Sbisa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offseason Grade: C

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

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

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

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Winnipeg Jets 2021-22 Season Preview

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

3rd in the Scotia NHL North Division

Eliminated in the Second Round by Montréal

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

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

Still Unsigned: D Luke Green, G Cole Kehler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offseason Grade: B-

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

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

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

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

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

St. Louis Blues 2021-22 Season Preview

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

4th in the Honda NHL West Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Colorado

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offseason Grade: C

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

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

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

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

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #228- Camalot

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

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

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

New York Rangers 2021-22 Season Preview

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

5th in the MassMutual NHL East Division

Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020

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

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

Still Unsigned: F Gabriel Fontaine, D Brandon Crawley

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

Offseason Analysis: Well, this offseason happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing makes sense anymore.

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

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

Somebody’s got to replace the scoring.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But hey, an eye for an eye, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offseason Grade: D

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

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

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

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

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Dallas Stars 2021-22 Season Preview

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

5th in the Discover NHL Central Division

Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offseason Grade: A

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

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

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

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

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

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Philadelphia Flyers 2021-22 Season Preview

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

6th in the MassMutual NHL East Division

Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hart, meanwhile, had a disastrous run.

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

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

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

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

Offseason Grade: B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Calgary Flames 2021-22 Season Preview

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

5th in the Scotia NHL North Division

Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020

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

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

Still Unsigned: G Artyom Zagidulin

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

Offseason Analysis: Calgary is facing an existential crisis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offseason Grade: A-

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

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

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

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

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

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Chicago Blackhawks 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 24-25-7, 55 points

6th in the Discover NHL Central Division

Missed the postseason for the first time since 2020

Additions: F Tyler Johnson (acquired from TBL), F Jujhar Khaira, D Caleb Jones (acquired from EDM), D Seth Jones (acquired from CBJ), D Jake McCabe, G Marc-Andre Fleury (acquired from VGK)

Subtractions: F Josh Dickinson (signed with Toledo Walleye, ECHL), F Mikael Hakkarainen (traded to VGK), F Vinnie Hinostroza (signed with BUF), F David Kampf (signed with TOR), F John Quenneville (expansion, SEA), F Tim Soderlund (traded to EDM), F Pius Suter (signed with DET), D Adam Boqvist (traded to CBJ), D Duncan Keith (traded to EDM), D Anton Lindholm (KHL), D Brent Seabrook (contract traded to TBL), D Nikita Zadorov (traded to CGY), G Matt Tomkins (SHL)

Still Unsigned: F Brandon Pirri, F Zack Smith

Re-signed: F Mackenzie Entwistle, F Adam Gaudette, F Brandon Hagel, F Mike Hardman, F Alex Nylander

Offseason Analysis: Stan Bowman has been busy this offseason, though he shouldn’t be able to carry out his duties as General Manager like normal these days and if you’ve been under a rock, TSN‘s Rick Westhead has lots more, and more, and so much more— in addition to another lawsuit against Chicago that’s been resolved over the use of facial recognition software at United Center.

There’s been a few changes to the roster as Chicago moves on from their near-dynasty (remember, the definition of a dynasty is three championships in a four-year span– Chicago won three Stanley Cups in five years, 2010, 2013 and 2015).

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook (his contract, anyway) both departed the organization this offseason– first with Keith and Tim Soderlund having been traded to the Edmonton Oilers for defender, Caleb Jones, and a conditional 2022 3rd round pick on July 12th, then Seabrook later that month.

If the Oilers make the 2022 Stanley Cup Final and Keith is in the top-four in postseason time on ice on the roster during the first three rounds, then Edmonton will give Chicago a 2022 2nd round pick instead of a 2022 3rd round pick.

Keith broke into the NHL with Chicago in the 2005-06 season and amassed 105-520–625 totals in 1,192 games since then. Now at 38-years-old, he’s about to embark on a new season with a new team– one that’s closer to home, as he’s desired to be nearer to family after spending most of the last 12 months isolated in accordance with NHL COVID-19 protocols– with two years remaining on his contract.

Caleb Jones, meanwhile, joins Chicago as the younger brother of Seth Jones, who was acquired ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets on July 23.

Seth was acquired with a 2021 1st round pick (originally belonging to the Tampa Bay Lightning– 32nd overall, Nolan Allan) and a 2022 6th round pick in exchange for young defender, Adam Boqvist, a 2021 1st round pick (12th overall, Cole Sillinger) and a 2021 2nd round pick (later traded by Columbus to the Carolina Hurricanes– 44th overall, Aleksi Heimosalmi).

The older Jones signed an eight-year extension through the 2029-30 season worth $9.500 million per season, despite his decline since setting career-highs in goals (16), assists (41) and points (57) in 78 games with Columbus in 2017-18.

Since then, Seth’s production dropped to 46 points (nine goals, 37 assists) in 75 games in 2018-19, then 30 points (six goals, 24 assists) in an injury filled 56-game 2019-20 season and 5-23–28 totals in 56 games last season.

Caleb, meanwhile, had four assists in 33 games with Edmonton last season and is signed through 2022-23.

On July 27th, Chicago acquired goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury, from the Vegas Golden Knights for forward, Mikael Hakkarainen.

At 36-years-old and not wanting to be traded from the Golden Knights, Fleury contemplated retiring, despite having one season left on his current contract with a $7.000 million cap hit.

After consulting with Chicago about the organization’s future plans and city life, Fleury is “refreshed and ready” to lead from the crease and mentor Kevin Lankinen, while Lankinen, Colin Delia and Malcolm Subban compete for the backup job.

Last season, Fleury went 26-10-0 in 36 games– recording a 1.98 goals-against average, a .928 save percentage and six shutouts in that span, en route to winning his first Vezina Trophy in his 17-year NHL career.

Since breaking into the league in the 2003-04 season with the Pittsburgh Penguins after he was the 1st overall pick for Pittsburgh in the 2003 NHL Draft, he’s amassed a 492-276-2-80 record in 883 career NHL games for the Penguins and Golden Knights.

Though he won the Vezina last season and posted a 2.04 goals-against average in 16 playoff games in 2021, Fleury had a goals-against average of 2.50 or more in three out of the four prior seasons, so it’d be wise to balance his workload with whoever wins the backup job.

As Chicago is hungry for one last run at the Cup with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in a Chicago uniform, you can’t risk running Fleury into the ground– especially if this is his last season.

Chicago also added Tyler Johnson and a 2023 2nd round pick in a separate trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning on July 27th in exchange for the Seabrook’s contract.

Seabrook’s career-ending hip injury will help Tampa utilize cap relief via the same long-term injured reserve clause in the collective bargaining agreement that drove some fans around the NHL nuts while the Lightning stockpiled their weapons for their back-to-back Cup championship run.

Meanwhile, Johnson carries a $5.000 million cap hit through 2023-24, and his 8-14–22 totals in 55 games as a 31-year-old last season into Chicago’s middle-six meat of the lineup.

A day later, Chicago traded the rights to Nikita Zadorov to the Calgary Flames for a 2022 3rd round pick after Zadorov spent one season in Chicago and had 1-7–8 totals in 55 games after reaching double-digit points in four out of five prior seasons with the Colorado Avalanche.

Zadorov was rewarded with a one-year deal in Calgary worth $3.750 million, which was $3.750 million more than Chicago wanted to spend on a primarily physical game– and physical game only– defender.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s forward, Andrew Shaw, is heading to the long-term injured reserve for salary cap relief of about $3.900 million in the final year of his contract– forced into retirement due to multiple concussions sustained over his 10-year career.


Offseason Grade: C

Johnson and Fleury bring name brand recognition to a lineup that’s remained mostly unchanged from last season to this season– even with the addition of Seth Jones to the defense in light of Keith’s planned departure.

Pius Suter put up 14-13–27 totals in 55 games in an impressive NHL debut for a 25-year-old last season and Chicago chose not to tender him a qualifying offer– allowing Suter to walk and sign with the Detroit Red Wings for a little more than half of what Chicago is paying Johnson for about the same results.

Chicago took a risk this offseason as they’re desperate for Toews and Kane to remain in good faith with the organization– with Toews returning to the lineup after missing all of the 2020-21 season due to a bout with a chronic illness– as both players could leave the organization for greener pastures after the 2022-23 season when their matching eight-year contracts with $10.500 million cap hits expire.

The fact of the matter is that Chicago took their foot off the gas after winning it all for the third time in five years in 2015.

There’s no clear “goaltender of the future” and the prospect pool is being restocked after years of sustained success depleted it.

After the Nashville Predators swept Chicago in the 2017 First Round, Bowman could’ve made sweeping moves to keep Chicago competitive– a la the Pittsburgh Penguins for the greater part of the last 15 years– but he didn’t having over-relied on what was familiar, like most NHL GMs.

Then again, inaction when the situation necessitates action seems like it’s on brand for Bowman and the organization.

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Arizona Coyotes 2021-22 Season Preview

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.