Some firsts, 100s, broken fingers and pointing fingers– who should be concerned about their job security behind the bench? Plus Cap’n and Pete are back.
49-24-9, 107 points, 2nd in the Atlantic Division
Eliminated in the Stanley Cup Final by St. Louis
Additions: F Brendan Gaunce, F Pär Lindholm, F Brett Ritchie, G Maxime Lagacé
Subtractions: F Noel Acciari (signed with FLA), F Marcus Johansson (signed with BUF), F Mark McNeill (EBEL), F Gemel Smith (signed with TBL), F Jordan Szwarz (signed with OTT), G Zane McIntyre (signed with VAN)
Still Unsigned: F Lee Stempniak
Re-signed: F Peter Cehlarik, F Ryan Fitzgerald, F Danton Heinen, D Brandon Carlo, D Charlie McAvoy
Offseason Analysis: After losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on home ice, the Boston Bruins quickly turned the page to the 2019-20 season. Rookie camp was less than a month away and with it meant free agency for the veteran players of the game.
General Manager, Don Sweeney, followed suit with his business as usual masterplan– stay the course. Don’t overspend on any bottom-six talent and don’t rock the boat.
Boston’s impeccable leadership group of Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and David Backes has everyone in the dressing room in a collective mindset.
The Bruins remain focused on an unaccomplished goal from last season– winning the Cup.
The tight-knit roster witnessed the departure of fourth liner, Noel Acciari, and third-line trade deadline acquisition, Marcus Johansson.
Acciari, 27, brought his talents to the Florida Panthers on a three-year contract worth $1.667 million per season, while Johansson, 28, signed a two-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres worth $4.500 million per season.
Since Sweeney was named GM in May 2015, he’s adopted a new policy for the organization whereby bottom-six forwards– especially on the fourth line– are usually expendable.
Though Acciari’s physical game will be missed by the Bruins, it’s a next-player up mentality combined with the signing of Brett Ritchie to a one-year, $1.000 million contract, that will hold the B’s over for the 2019-20 season.
Excess spending in a salary cap world can get teams into cap hell and more often than not, getting too attached to players that are outside of your top line, top defensive pairing or top goaltender is more costly in the long run.
A little more here and there will hurt a team when the time comes to sign a younger, better, player to a new– more expensive– contract.
In other words, saving $667,000 on Ritchie’s services for the same role as Acciari, should yield the same result on the fourth line (in theory) and save just enough money to utilize elsewhere– like on Par Lindholm’s two-year deal worth $850,000 per season.
Lindholm and Ritchie provide more depth to Boston’s roster than Acciari alone in the simple sense that two players are more than one (especially if one gets hurt).
The Bruins weren’t going to be able to retain Johansson at a $4.500 million cap hit while having to re-sign Danton Heinen, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo.
Though Johansson was a good fit for the B’s with Charlie Coyle and Heinen on the third line, signing Heinen to a two-year, $5.600 million ($2.800 million cap hit) deal and negotiating a bridge deal that was fair for both sides in McAvoy and Carlo’s case was more important for the future of the franchise.
Sweeney might be playing with fire as McAvoy’s three-year deal bears a $4.900 million cap hit and a surefire significant raise for the 21-year-old defender in three years from now when he’s even further into his prime, but for now, the contract is just another example of Sweeney’s mastery at keeping his team under the cap ceiling.
Carlo’s two-year extension is worth $2.850 million per season and is less likely to cause a ruckus when the defender is in the $4.000 million range depending on how Sweeney’s newest challenge plays out.
With McAvoy and Carlo under contract, Sweeney’s attention can shift to figuring out Torey Krug’s future with the franchise.
While Chara and Kevan Miller are pending-unrestricted free agents at season’s end on the blue line, Matt Grzelcyk will be a restricted free agent and a shoe-in for an extension.
Chara, 42, may retire at season’s end and Miller, 31, might be in his final days as a Bruin this season.
The oft-injured defender (Miller) won’t start the season with Boston as he’s out with a knee injury and has been replaced in his bottom-pairing role by younger and cheaper options in Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton– who signed a three-year extension carrying a $1.000 million cap hit that will kick in starting next season.
With an additional $4.500 million to work with, Sweeney could pay Krug upwards of $9.000 million per season– except Jake DeBrusk will also be Boston’s biggest pending-RFA next July and he’ll need some of that money.
So Krug could sign an extension and have to deal with Sweeney’s money saving ways, be traded while he carries enough trade value before the trade deadline or walk away in free agency, leaving the Bruins with nothing.
At any rate, Boston locked down their biggest component in keeping everything together on the ice this offseason as head coach, Bruce Cassidy, signed a multi-year extension that will begin next season after his current deal expires at the end of the 2019-20 season.
Offseason Grade: B
The reigning GM of the Year had his work cutout for him this offseason in keeping all of his RFAs on the same team without overpaying. Sweeney also managed to avoid handing out any large contracts to free agents and continued to opt for cheap, expendable, replacements to fill lower-ranked roles on the roster.
They didn’t hit it out of the park with a big name star, but they quietly went about their business signing better than average deals (for the advantage of the franchise) and still have enough of their core (despite the age factor) to remain competitive on the ice this season.
Tampa Bay Lightning
62-16-4, 128 points, 1st in the Atlantic Division
Eliminated in the First Round by Columbus
Additions: F Pat Maroon, F Chris Mueller, F Gemel Smith, D Kevin Shattenkirk, D Luke Schenn, D Luke Witkowski, G Mike Condon (acquired from OTT), G Spencer Martin, G Curtis McElhinney, G Scott Wedgewood
Subtractions: F Andy Andreoff (signed with PHI), F Michael Bournival (retired), F Ryan Callahan (traded to OTT), F Gabriel Dumont (signed with MIN) F Adam Erne (traded to DET), F Mitch Hults (signed with Stockton, AHL), F Kevin Lynch (signed with Laval, AHL), F J.T. Miller (traded to VAN), D Dan Girardi (retired), D Anton Stralman (signed with FLA), G Connor Ingram (traded to NSH), G Edward Pasquale (KHL)
Still Unsigned: G Marek Mazanec (ELH, TBL reserve list)
Re-signed: F Danick Martel, F Cedric Paquette, F Brayden Point, F Carter Verhaeghe, D Dominik Masin, D Ben Thomas
Offseason Analysis: Despite tying the NHL record for the most wins in the regular season, the Tampa Bay Lightning couldn’t even win a playoff game and were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the First Round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Every year, a lot of people pick the Lightning to win the Stanley Cup and every year, a lot of people are disappointed.
On paper, this team is like the San Jose Sharks– really good and should win every season. In reality, this team is nothing like the San Jose Sharks, because Tampa has at least won the Cup before in 2004.
Bolts GM, Julien BriseBois, had one primary focus this offseason– re-signing Brayden Point.
Everything else was just excess.
Anton Stralman became expendable at his high cost and Dan Girardi aged out of Tampa’s system.
In their place– veteran defenders in their prime and on one-year contracts– Kevin Shattenkirk and Luke Schenn are fully capable of taking on top-six defensive roles with the Lightning. Shattenkirk is yet another former New York Ranger to head join Tampa– this time on a one-year, $1.750 million deal– and Schenn costs the Bolts a league minimum, $700,000.
BriseBois also brought in a revolving door of backup goaltenders with Curtis McElhinney as the main course behind Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Tampa’s starter himself (Vasilevskiy), signed an eight-year extension worth $76.000 million ($9.500 million cap hit) that goes into effect next season.
BriseBois negotiated a team-friendly bridge deal with Point, keeping the 23-year-old center in a Lightning sweater for three more years at $6.750 million per season (the same cap hit as Patrik Laine’s new deal with the Winnipeg Jets, but with an extra year).
In the third season of his current contract, however, Point’s salary will be $9.000 million, which means Tampa will have to tender a qualifying offer of at least $9.000 million to re-sign him three years from now.
Point’s going to get paid big money on his next deal and the Bolts are banking on the salary cap to go up with increased league revenue thanks to a new U.S. TV broadcasting rights deal that will have to be signed by then too.
For now, head coach, Jon Cooper can continue to relax and coach his casual style for the regular season, at least.
Come playoff time, he’ll have to tighten the reigns a bit in hopes of driving Tampa’s compete level to an all time high for what’s expected to be a deeper run than a First Round embarrassment.
To keep the band together for the time being, BriseBois shipped J.T. Miller to the Vancouver Canucks for Marek Mazanec (since signed with a team in the Czech Republic), a 2019 3rd round pick and a conditional 2020 1st round pick in June, dumped Ryan Callahan’s contract and a 2020 5th round pick in Ottawa for now former Senators backup, Mike Condon, and a 2020 6th round pick in July and traded Adam Erne to the Detroit Red Wings for a 2020 4th round pick in August.
In the end, Point signed a team friendly cap hit, but with the long-term cost of having to rebalance the books in 2022.
Offseason Grade: C+
For a team that didn’t meet their high expectations, the Lightning met their goals for this offseason– don’t overreact and re-sign Point.
They made some minor moves and understand the core of the roster still has enough in it for at least a few more years together until bigger philosophical questions must come into consideration.
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.
Toronto Maple Leafs
46-28-8, 100 points, 3rd in the Atlantic Division
Eliminated in the First Round by Boston
Additions: F Pontus Aberg, F Kenny Agostino, F David Clarkson (acquired from VGK), F Tyler Gaudet, F Alexander Kerfoot (acquired from COL), F Kalle Kossila, F Aaron Luchuk (acquired from OTT), F Nick Shore, F Jason Spezza, F Garrett Wilson, D Tyson Barrie (acquired from COL), D Cody Ceci (acquired from OTT), D Kevin Gravel, D Ben Harpur (acquired from OTT), D Jordan Schmaltz (acquired from STL)
Subtractions: F Nick Baptiste (signed with Toronto, AHL), F Connor Brown (traded to OTT), F Michael Carcone (traded to OTT), F Tyler Ennis (signed with OTT), F Gabriel Gagne (signed with Allen, ECHL), F Josh Jooris (NLA), F Dakota Joshua (traded to STL), F Nazem Kadri (traded to COL), F Patrick Marleau (traded to CAR), F Chris Mueller (signed with TBL), D Andreas Borgman (traded to STL), D Jake Gardiner (signed with CAR), D Fedor Gordeev (traded to MIN), D Ron Hainsey (signed with OTT), D Vincent LoVerde (signed with Hartford, AHL), D Igor Ozhiganov (KHL), D Calle Rosen (traded to COL), D Jordan Subban (EBEL), D Nikita Zaitsev (traded to OTT), G Eamon McAdam (signed with Binghamton, AHL), G Garret Sparks (traded to VGK)
Still Unsigned: D Steve Oleksy
Re-signed: F Mitch Marner, D Martin Marincin, G Michael Hutchinson
Offseason Analysis: Kyle Dubas had a busy offseason as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. His main priority was re-signing Mitch Marner, which finally wrapped up on Sept. 13th.
Marner signed a six-year extension worth $10.893 million per season. Whether or not he’s actually worth that much money is a different question, but the fact of the matter is it didn’t help the Maple Leafs.
Together with Auston Matthews, John Tavares and William Nylander, Marner and the other three make up $40,489,366 of Toronto’s salary cap.
This season’s salary cap ceiling is $81.500 million.
Three of the seven highest paid players in the league are on the Leafs and the four highest paid Leafs eat up almost half of Toronto’s salary cap.
At the time of Marner’s signing, the Maple Leafs were $13,365,199 over the salary cap.
Granted, Pontus Aberg and Frederik Gauthier were assigned to the Toronto Marlies (AHL), while Nathan Horton, David Clarkson, Zach Hyman and Travis Dermott are all expected to be placed on the long-term injured reserve to allow the Leafs to remain cap compliant.
Things should get interesting, however, once Hyman and Dermott return from injury, not that their salaries are that expensive, but rather the day-to-day cap operations and paper transactions necessary to make things work should be a lot of fun for Toronto’s front office to balance.
Mike Babcock is still behind the bench in Toronto after three straight seasons of First Round exits– including back-to-back Game 7 losses on the road against the Boston Bruins in 2018 and last season.
Dubas was active in the trade market to 1) free up expendable salary to re-sign Marner and 2) improve his roster from last season to this season.
He may have unintentionally 3) stunted the team’s growth in the process.
Toronto seven trades involving players this offseason, including three pretty big deals for the Maple Leafs.
Patrick Marleau, a conditional 2020 1st round pick and a 2020 7th round pick were shipped to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a 2020 6th round pick at the 2019 NHL Draft on June 22nd.
Rather than buyout Marleau’s contract and face cap penalty, Toronto was able to convince Carolina to take on his salary and offer him the chance to play for the Hurricanes or buy him out. Marleau refused to play for the Canes, so now Carolina is saddled with his buyout penalty.
In the process, if the Maple Leafs yield a top-10 pick in the 2020 Draft, the conditional 1st rounder in the trade becomes a 2021 1st round pick.
In place of Marleau, the Leafs signed Jason Spezza to a league-minimum, one-year, $700,000 contract. Spezza will likely play on the fourth line in a limited role as Marleau would have begun to see less and less time on ice at this stage of his career.
Dubas knew Toronto wasn’t going to be able to keep Jake Gardiner and maintain a happy relationship with Nikita Zaitsev as Zaitsev had already requested a trade.
As such, Dubas packaged Zaitsev with Connor Brown and Michael Carcone in a trade with the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur, Aaron Luchuk and a 2020 3rd round pick on July 1st.
Ceci then signed a one-year extension– worth $4.500 million– as a restricted free agent with the Leafs.
For that same price and eight points less than Ceci had last season, Zaitsev is at least signed through 2023-24 at the fixed rate of $4.500 million.
Zaitsev has broken the 30-point plateau before as a defender, while Ceci never has– though he did record 26 points with Ottawa last season.
The fact of the matter is that if Toronto was trying to save money this season on a defender, they didn’t.
And if they were thinking “maybe we can find a cheaper replacement in Ceci”, the fact that they’re already paying the defender in his prime what Zaitsev was already making doesn’t do them any long-term favors as Ceci’s cap hit is expected to go up– especially if the current ceiling remains about the same until the next collective bargaining agreement is negotiated in 2022.
But for all that the loss of Gardiner did to the special teams in Toronto, at least Dubas was able to find a sweet deal with the Colorado Avalanche.
The Maple Leafs traded Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen and a 2020 3rd round pick to Colorado for Tyson Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot and a 2020 6th round pick on July 1st.
The Avs retained some salary on Barrie’s contract, which– you guessed it– also expires at the end of this season, but at least Toronto can afford $2.750 million right now as opposed to a more significant cap hit.
To their credit, the Maple Leafs negotiated a four-year extension with Kerfoot worth $3.500 million per season, which is $1.000 million less than Kadri’s cap hit.
Barrie is a versatile defender that excels on the power play and fills the void left behind by Gardiner’s departure.
Clearly, while Dubas has, in fact, made improvements to the team, he’s also made minor tweaks and delayed the inevitable headaches that he or the next general manager of the Maple Leafs is sure to face.
But at least this time around Toronto is convinced they have the team that they’ve been planning for the last five years to “win now”.
The younger players are more experienced, the salary spent is at the ceiling and Babcock– a Stanley Cup winning coach who last won the Cup 11 years ago with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008 (a rather different era and style of the game than what it is today)– are all ready for the challenge of making it out of the First Round to show they’ve at least made some progress.
One definition of insanity is “doing the same thing and expecting a different result” and if something doesn’t change the end result in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs for Toronto, then…
At the very least, last season’s backup, Garret Sparks, was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights for Clarkson’s contract and a 2020 4th round pick and nobody can blame Marner for being a “greedy holdout” anymore.
Offseason Grade: B-
The Marner contract is not great, but the other moves made by the Leafs this offseason mean that they’re actually trying. There is a plan in place that they remain committed to– constantly evaluating and re-evaluating talent for the overall intended improvement of the organization.
Whether or not Toronto is sure to win the Cup this season remains to be seen. Every year there’s always Cup front runners on paper, but the on-ice product and results vary. This team is capable of winning the Cup, but they still have a lot of work to do to earn it.
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.
38-30-14, 90 points, 5th in the Central Division
Eliminated in the Second Round by San Jose
Additions: F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, F Andre Burakovsky (acquired from WSH, then re-signed), F Joonas Donskoi, F Nazem Kadri (acquired from TOR), F Jayson Megna, F Valeri Nichushkin, F T.J. Tynan, D Kevin Connauton (acquired from ARI), D Jacob MacDonald (acquired from FLA), D Dan Renouf, D Calle Rosen (acquired from TOR)
Subtractions: F Andrew Agozzino (signed with PIT), F Sven Andrighetto (KHL), F Gabriel Bourque (signed with WPG), F Derick Brassard (signed with NYI), F Alexander Kerfoot (traded to TOR), F Scott Kosmachuk (traded to WSH), F Max McCormick (signed with CAR), F Julien Nantel (signed with Colorado, AHL), F Carl Soderberg (traded to ARI), F Dominic Toninato (traded to FLA), D Tyson Barrie (traded to TOR), D Mason Geertsen (signed to a PTO with NYR), D Patrik Nemeth (signed with DET), D David Warsofsky (signed with PIT), G Joe Cannata (Sweden), G Spencer Martin (signed with TBL), G Semyon Varlamov (signed with NYI)
Still Unsigned: F Mikko Rantanen
Re-signed: F J.T. Compher, F Sheldon Dries, F A.J. Greer, F Vladislav Kamenev, F Colin Wilson, D Ryan Graves, D Anton Lindholm, D Nikita Zadorov
Offseason Analysis: Pencil in Joe Sakic for General Manager of the Year 2019-20, because the Colorado Avalanche are a legit team on paper.
Sakic still has about $15.615 million in cap space, but even that should be enough to satisfy– current restricted free agent– Mikko Rantanen’s needs and then some.
Regardless, Sakic went to work on improving a roster that was one win away from the franchise’s first Western Conference Final appearance since 2002.
First, Colorado traded Carl Soderberg to the Arizona Coyotes for Kevin Connauton and a 2020 3rd round pick on June 25th.
Then the Avs followed it up by acquiring Andre Burakovsky from the Washington Capitals in exchange for Scott Kosmachuk, a 2020 2nd round pick and the 2020 3rd round pick previously acquired in the Soderberg trade on June 28th.
Burakovsky was quickly signed to a one-year deal worth $3.250 million as a “prove it” contract. The 24-year-old winger is finally free from the shadows of Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Co., but now he can’t hide anymore.
It’s a make or break year as he’s never scored more than 38 points in a season.
Sakic made a minor move with the Florida Panthers a day after the Burakovsky trade, then made a big splash on July 1st and it wasn’t of the free agent variety.
Colorado shipped Tyson Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot and a 2020 6th round pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Nazem Kadri, Calle Rosen and a 2020 3rd round pick.
The Avalanche retained 50% of Barrie’s salary ($2.750 million) in the transaction, leaving Toronto with the uneasy task of balancing their checkbooks now that Mitch Marner is re-signed.
Barrie is a versatile defender that will give the Maple Leafs some added flavor to their special teams, but he’s a pending unrestricted free agent at season’s end. That’s not Sakic’s problem, however.
Instead, Sakic is focused on continuing to trust in Colorado’s head coach, Jared Bednar, and Bednar’s process.
Bednar has a plethora of new faces that he’ll have to get onboard with his plan.
For starters, Kadri won’t have to face the Boston Bruins in the First Round (assuming Colorado makes the playoffs in 2020, which is a pretty safe bet), so Bednar shouldn’t have too much of a problem reigning him in.
Overall the Avs are relying on their youth, a revamped defense and a stronger top-nine presence with Joonas Donskoi having signed a four-year deal at $3.900 million per season in addition to Sakic’s trade work.
Some experts are picking the Avalanche to win the Cup in 2020, but that might be too much of a stretch too soon.
Colorado is starting to open a championship window, however, so it’d be a major disappointment if they don’t at least get to the Stanley Cup Final in the coming years.
Offseason Grade: A
If there’s a team that’s a dark horse to win the Cup this season out of all the playoff teams from last season, it’s the Avalanche, for sure. That said, Sakic’s moves in the offseason may take a full year to gel (a la Erik Karlsson’s transition from Ottawa to San Jose– East to West), so it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Colorado’s knocked out before the Final.
But in terms of fixing holes and building off of what’s already on the roster, Sakic hit it out of the park. The Avs are good and should be good as long as they don’t have to rely solely on goaltending (Philipp Grubauer is one deep postseason run away from proving his legitimacy as a starting goaltender in the NHL).