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.
48-26-8, 104 points, 1st in the Metropolitan Division
Eliminated in the First Round by Carolina
Additions: F Garnet Hathaway, F Brendan Leipsic, F Philippe Maillet, F Richard Panik, D Radko Gudas (acquired from PHI)
Subtractions: F Riley Barber (signed with MTL), F Mathias Bau (EBEL), F Andre Burakovsky (traded to COL), F Brett Connolly (signed with FLA), F Hampus Gustafsson (SHL), F Dmitrij Jaskin (KHL), F Jayson Megna (signed with COL), F Mason Mitchell (signed with Rochester, AHL), F Devante Smith-Pelly (signed to a PTO with CGY), F Nathan Walker (signed with STL), D Aaron Ness (signed with ARI), D Matt Niskanen (traded to PHI), D Brooks Orpik (retired), G Parker Milner (signed with Hershey, AHL)
Still Unsigned: F Scott Kosmachuk (rights acquired from COL)
Re-signed: F Chandler Stephenson, F Jakub Vrana, D Christian Djoos, D Colby Williams, G Vitek Vanecek
Offseason Analysis: The Washington Capitals have earned themselves a little grace period after winning the Cup in 2018, but don’t let that fool you from some of the poor choices they made this offseason.
Whether or not they would’ve had the money to keep Brett Connolly from joining the Florida Panthers in free agency after posting a career year with 22-24–46 totals in 81 games is besides the point.
The Caps made a lot of odd decisions.
For starters, they signed Garnet Hathaway (19 points in 76 games for Calgary last season), Brendan Leipsic (23 points in 62 games with Vancouver and Los Angeles) and Richard Panik (33 points in 75 gamed for Arizona).
Sure, Hathaway and Panik are durable top-nine forwards that are likely to see an increase in their offensive numbers by virtue of being on the same team as Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, but to have them for four years as your mid-range forwards with Carl Hagelin and Lars Eller might just catch up to you at some point.
At least Leipsic has always been in demand on waivers and is a good option to plug somewhere in the lineup or send down to the Hershey Bears (AHL).
Meanwhile, Capitals General Manager, Brian MacLellan, worked the phones this summer to trade Matt Niskanen to the Philadelphia Flyers for Radko Gudas in a one-for-one swap and dealt Andre Burakovsky to the Colorado Avalanche for Scott Kosmachuk (unsigned), a 2020 2nd round pick and a 2020 3rd round pick.
It might seem like an overpay for Avalanche GM, Joe Sakic, but Burakovsky’s looking to prove himself in the biggest role he’s ever had and it wouldn’t hurt Washington to restock their prospect pool as a result.
In the meantime, Gudas is almost assured of doing something to yield a suspension, which may or may not hurt the Capitals more than Evgeny Kuznetsov’s three-game suspension to start the regular season may already do.
Kuznetsov was suspended by the league for “inappropriate conduct”, in which he failed a drug test and was banned from international competition by the International Ice Hockey Federation for four years.
The NHL, on the other hand, doesn’t have a policy for testing positive for cocaine.
Washington’s head coach, Todd Reirden, is entering his second season at the reigns behind the bench and has plenty of fresh faces to utilize in effort to avoid another seven-game First Round elimination at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Don’t get too comfortable in Washington as Braden Holtby is due for an extension by season’s end or else he may walk in free agency.
Offseason Grade: D+
The Capitals could contend for another Cup in the next few years or they could continue to slide towards irrelevancy faster than the current trend the Pittsburgh Penguins are on.
Neither fan base wants to hear that, let alone be compared to one another in such a similar manner, but it’s true. None of their free agent additions even remotely scream “decent depth signing” or anything.
New York Islanders
48-27-7, 103 points, 2nd in the Metropolitan Division
Eliminated in the Second Round by Carolina
Additions: F Derick Brassard, D Luca Sbisa (signed to a PTO), G Semyon Varlamov
Subtractions: F Steve Bernier (signed with Bridgeport, AHL), F Valtteri Filppula (signed with DET), F Stephen Gionta (retired), F Mike Sislo (DEL), F John Steven (signed with Bridgeport, AHL), G Robin Lehner (signed with CHI), G Jeremy Smith (KHL)
Still Unsigned: D Dennis Seidenberg
Re-signed: F Anthony Beauvillier, F Michael Dal Colle, F Josh Ho-Sang, F Tom Kuhnhackl, F Anders Lee
Offseason Analysis: The New York Islanders turned heads last season after losing a franchise player in free agency. Head coach, Barry Trotz, is always capable of making something out of nothing– even if that something only gets you to the Second Round.
New York swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games in the First Round, then were swept by the Carolina Hurricanes in the Second Round– just as everyone expected heading into 2018-19, right?
Isles GM Lou Lamoriello followed up last season’s forward progress with a mixed result in the offseason.
While he signed Anders Lee to a long-term, seven-year extension worth $7.000 million per season, Lamoriello also kicked out one of last season’s heroes.
Robin Lehner wanted to get a deal done with New York, but when Lamoriello thought he was getting Artemi Panarin at a long-term deal with a lot of money, plans didn’t include Lehner into the equation.
Then Panarin signed with the New York Rangers and Lehner was ready to go back to the Islanders, but Lamoriello had already moved on and locked up Semyon Varlamov to a four-year, $20.000 million contract.
For the same price Lehner got paid by the Chicago Blackhawks, Lamoriello got an additional three years out of Varlamov.
One of these things, however, just isn’t like the other.
Lehner, 28, won the William M. Jennings Trophy with Thomas Greiss last season and nabbed the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy with a bounce-back performance in the crease, amassing a 2.13 goals against average and a .930 save percentage in 46 games for New York last season, while battling addiction and mental health issues.
Varlamov, 31, had a 2.87 GAA and a .909 SV% in 49 games with the Colorado Avalanche last season and has not had a sub-2.50 GAA since the 2013-14 season, in which he recorded a 2.41 GAA in 63 games for the Avs.
Aside from that, the Islanders are getting older without utilizing all of their youth options and they haven’t made a trade since July 2018.
Offseason Grade: C
It was an average offseason for New York as the Islanders continue to be praised for their future visions at Belmont Park, the fact that an additional seven games were switched from Barclays Center to NYCB Live/Nassau Coliseum and the fact that Lamoriello did next to nothing out of the ordinary.
One goaltender in, one goaltender out. The rest of the moves were par for the course. Nothing flashy– just like how they’ll keep playing this season.
Brayden Point re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a bunch of other RFAs signed extensions, the Boston Pride were sold, Dan Girardi retired and DTFR’s season previews continued with the Atlantic Division.
47-29-6, 100 points, 1st in the Central Division
Eliminated in the First Round by Dallas
Additions: F Daniel Carr, F Matt Duchene, D Jeremy Davies (acquired from NJD), D Steven Santini (acquired from NJD), G Connor Ingram (acquired from TBL)
Subtractions: F Phillip Di Giuseppe (signed with NYR), F Tyler Gaudet (signed with TOR), F Adam Helewka (traded to NJD), F Justin Kirkland (signed with CGY), F Cody McLeod (signed with Iowa, AHL), F Zac Rinaldo (signed to a PTO with CGY), F Cole Schneider (signed with Milwaukee, AHL), F Wayne Simmonds (signed with NJD), D Taylor Aronson (DEL), D P.K. Subban (traded to NJD), G Tom McCollum (signed with Hartford, AHL)
Still Unsigned: F Brian Boyle
Re-signed: F Rocco Grimaldi, F Colton Sissons
Offseason Analysis: The longest currently active general manager in the National Hockey League remained active this offseason as the Nashville Predators’ only GM in franchise history, David Poile, was wheeling and dealing.
At this year’s draft, Poile traded veteran defender, P.K. Subban, to the New Jersey Devils for a small package in Steven Santini, Jeremy Davies, a 2019 2nd round pick and a 2020 2nd round pick.
The trade cleared the Preds of Subban’s $9.000 million cap hit and remained in true Poile transaction fashion, whereby the Nashville GM flipped a defender in his prime for more, younger, assets.
With more cap room to work with heading into free agency, Poile set his sights on securing a second line center to help give the Predators stability down the middle.
Matt Duchene fit the bill perfectly for Nashville– both in his seven-year contract worth $56 million ($8.000 million per season) and due to the fact that he’s a big country music fan and was already building a house in the Music City.
In a way, it was Duchene’s dream to play for the Predators (even if that dream of playing hockey for Nashville is second to living year-round in Nashville– it’s a win-win).
Duchene emerged as a prominent player for the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Preds are hoping he’ll do just the same for them in their quest for another Stanley Cup Final run for the first time since their only appearance in the Final in 2017, when they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.
On top of identifying and filling a need, Poile also acquired goaltending prospect Connor Ingram from the Tampa Bay Lightning in June, giving Nashville a future outlook in the crease that may very well be a dynamic duo of Juuse Saros and Ingram.
For now, Pekka Rinne remains the starter for the foreseeable future as both Rinne and Saros have two years remaining on their current contracts.
Offseason Grade: B+
Adding Duchene boosts Nashville’s presence as a playoff contender that could emerge as a deep postseason run performer. He wasn’t the best player available in the free agent market, but he was the best fit available for Poile’s roster.
It very well might be Nashville’s last chance at a Cup with their current roster as 10 players are pending-unrestricted free agents at season’s end– ranging from core members to key depth contributors. It’s now or never for these Predators.
44-26-12, 100 points, 3rd in the Metropolitan Division
Eliminated in the First Round by the N.Y. Islanders
Additions: F Andrew Agozzino, F Alex Galchenyuk (acquired from ARI), F Dominik Kahun (acquired from CHI), F Brandon Tanev, D Pierre-Olivier Joseph (acquired from ARI), D John Marino (acquired from EDM), D David Warsofsky
Subtractions: F Matt Cullen (retired), F Phil Kessel (traded to ARI), F Ben Sexton (signed with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, AHL), F Garrett Wilson (signed with TOR), D Dane Birks (traded to ARI), D Macoy Erkamps (signed with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, AHL), D Olli Maatta (traded to CHI), D Ethan Prow (signed with FLA), D Blake Siebenaler (signed with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, AHL), D Chris Summers (DEL), D Jeff Taylor (signed with Hartford, AHL), D Chris Wideman (signed with ANA)
Still Unsigned: F Jimmy Hayes, G John Muse
Re-signed: F Zach Aston-Reese, F Joseph Blandisi, F Teddy Blueger, F Adam Johnson, D Marcus Pettersson
Offseason Analysis: Pittsburgh, your job is simple, keep everyone happy and don’t press the “panic” button– oh.
Penguins General Manager, Jim Rutherford, made a splash last offseason in free agency by adding Jack Johnson to the blue line. It wasn’t the right kind of splash, but rather more of an anchor falling into the depths of a body of water.
Suddenly, Pittsburgh’s defense went from fluid and ever-dynamic with Kris Letang at the helm to a liability with Johnson at the tail-end of his prime locked up to a long-term deal.
This offseason, Rutherford had one mission– don’t sign another bad contract– and you know what he did?
Rutherford rewarded Brandon Tanev’s talents in Winnipeg with a six-year contract worth $3.500 million per season and a modified no-trade clause.
This isn’t to say Tanev won’t make a fine specimen for a season or two with the Pens, but rather that it’s careless spending and term thrown around like this that gets teams in a jam.
Speaking of jams, the Penguins are currently in one with no cap space available and a strained relationship with at least one of their current players.
Evgeni Malkin apparently isn’t a fan of hot dogs and thought Phil Kessel was dragging the team down.
Therefore, the Russian forward presented Rutherford with an ultimatum– it was either Kessel or him.
As such, Rutherford relied on the cliché “Kessel is un-coachable” mantra and dealt the forward along with a prospect and a 2021 4th round pick to the Arizona Coyotes on June 29th for Alex Galchenyuk and Pierre-Olivier Joseph.
Galchenyuk was drafted by Montreal 3rd overall in 2012 and is a little familiar with the city, considering the 2012 NHL Entry Draft was held in Pittsburgh.
He also had half as many points (41) as Kessel (82) last season.
Now Kessel’s reunited with former Penguins assistant coach and current Coyotes head coach, Rick Tocchet. Meanwhile, Rutherford’s secretly hoping that trading away Kessel to please Malkin was enough.
If you’re worried about how the Penguins are going to makeup for Kessel’s offense, just remember that Pittsburgh also added Dominik Kahun (13-24–37 totals in 82 games last season) in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks that sent Olli Maatta to the Windy City.
Together, Kahun and Galchenyuk’s scoring totals mean the Penguins have a net loss of four-points from losing Kessel alone.
What’s that? We have to include Maatta’s totals too? In that case, Pittsburgh lost, let’s see here… 18 points by trading Maatta and Kessel for Kahun and Galchenyuk in the grand scheme, but hey the free agent addition of Tanev puts them at plus-15.
If this sounds like gambling to you, it’s because it is, probably.
Which is also another reason why the Pens supposedly shipped Kessel– known for his love of poker– to Arizona where Tocchet *puts sunglasses on* gambles.
None of this matters if the Penguins are playing craps with the standings by April and Mike Sullivan’s going to have to play the hand he was dealt.
Offseason Grade: F
Rutherford has fallen into the trap of rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship as Malkin’s relationship with the team frays, bad long-term contracts are signed and other players are overpaid.
Penguins fans have had about a dozen solid years of status as a Cup contending organization, it’s only inevitable that the growth would stall and things would start to fall apart with or without warning (in fairness, Pittsburgh should have really seen it coming though).
47-30-5, 99 points, 2nd in the Central Division
Eliminated in the First Round by St. Louis
Additions: F Mark Letestu, D Anthony Bitetto, D Neal Pionk (acquired from NYR)
Subtractions: F Alex Broadhurst (signed with San Diego, AHL), F Marko Dano (signed with CBJ), F Kevin Hayes (traded to PHI), F Matt Hendricks (retired), F Nicolas Kerdiles (signed with Manitoba, AHL), F Par Lindholm (signed with BOS), F Brandon Tanev (signed with PIT), D Ben Chiarot (signed with MTL), D Bogdan Kiselevich (KHL), D Joe Morrow (signed to a PTO with NYR), D Tyler Myers (signed with VAN), D Jimmy Oligny (signed with Manitoba, AHL), D Jacob Trouba (traded to NYR), G Ken Appleby (signed with Milwaukee, AHL)
Still Unsigned: F Kyle Connor, F Patrik Laine
Re-signed: F Andrew Copp, D Nathan Beaulieu, D Nelson Nogier, D Cameron Schilling, G Eric Comrie
Offseason Analysis: The Winnipeg Jets have $15,450,836 million in cap space currently and two prominent restricted free agents still unsigned.
Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine present a challenge for the Jets. Even worse, General Manager, Kevin Cheveldayoff, and head coach, Paul Maurice, aren’t exactly seeing eye-to-eye with their biggest star in Laine.
Regardless of whatever’s going on, the bottom line is we’ve seen this before and it led to one of Cheveldayoff’s trades this offseason.
No, not the Kevin Hayes trade with the Philadelphia Flyers that earned the Jets a 5th round pick in 2019, but rather the Jacob Trouba deal with the New York Rangers.
After back-to-back offseasons of uncertainty surrounding their RFA defender, Winnipeg dealt Trouba to the Rangers for Neal Pionk and a 2019 1st round pick– their own, that they originally sent to New York for Hayes at the trade deadline.
Trouba wanted a long-term deal with a significant pay raise in addition to a little job security.
The Rangers happily handed the 25-year-old a seven-year contract worth $8.000 million per season with a no-movement clause that goes into effect next season and becomes a modified no-trade clause in the final two years of the contract.
But it took a little drama in Winnipeg– without all the hype that surrounded William Nylander and Mitch Marner in Toronto over the last couple of summers– to get to the end result.
Laine has never scored fewer than 30 goals in a season and is sure to rebound from his 30-20–50 totals last season after reaching a career-high 44-26–70 totals in his sophomore season (2017-18).
He’s a goal-scorer, no doubt, and he might just be one of those players that exceeds expectations one year, then meets expectations the following year.
But since he’s of a higher caliber than others in the league, a “down” year might look like a tremendous drop-off.
It’s like saying Patrick Kane is a shell of his former self after posting a 76-point season in the midst of the last four seasons in which Kane has had 106 points in 2015-16, 89 points in 2016-17, 76 points in 2017-18 and 110 points last season.
Sure, Laine hasn’t reached the 60 or 70-point plateau as many times as Kane has in his career yet, but then again, Laine has only been around for three seasons to Kane’s 12 seasons entering 2019-20.
There’s a lot of potential left in the Finnish forward– just like there is or there was still a lot of potential in the Jets organization until the team that was three wins away from a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2018 had the wheels fall off.
Dustin Byfuglien– a huge part of their defense– was granted a personal leave of absence and is contemplating stepping away from the game with two-years left on his contract (worth $7.600 million per season).
If there’s no lingering injury that would enable Winnipeg to place Byfuglien on the long-term injured reserve, well, that leaves Cheveldayoff with an even tougher proposition.
If Byfuglien’s done there’s a chance his contract could be traded, freeing up enough cap space to fit both Laine and Connor comfortability under the ceiling.
Connor’s had back-to-back seasons of more than 30 goals. He’s been a pleasant surprise for the Jets in his consistent play, but it’d be premature to throw him a larger contract like what should be expected with Laine.
Though both were first round picks, only one of them (Laine) came immediately after Auston Matthews in their respective draft.
Contract negotiations, especially for quality RFAs, are infused with untapped potential and future performance expectations– both in signing bonuses and performance bonuses, as well as the cap hit itself.
Laine has every right to feel that he should be paid what he thinks he is worth based on his career projection. Connor might have to settle for a bridge deal to further supplement his own belief in himself if he is to aim for the kind of money Laine might be looking at.
The hardest part of this saga for Jets fans?
Nobody really knows where anyone stands. Laine could be asking for $8.000 million or he could be asking for $11.000 million.
If it’s only $8.000 million, why wouldn’t a deal be done already?
If it’s closer to $11.000 million, why haven’t we heard near constant updates for one of the game’s biggest young stars, a la Marner?
The fact of the matter is that it feels like something is brewing that could send yet another Finnish superstar out of Winnipeg reminiscent of when Teemu Selanne was traded to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 1996.
Otherwise, the Jets have already had a lot of departures from their depth that might just start to interfere with their forward progress in the standings as of the last few seasons.
Offseason Grade: F
If two of your RFAs still don’t have a contract by this point of the offseason, it can only be the result of improper management and poor planning– especially as the rest of the league’s RFAs are putting pens to paper.
Besides that, Winnipeg did some major subtraction without addition and is on the brink of returning to pedestrian performance in the regular season and playoffs (if they even make the postseason). If Laine and/or Connor isn’t on the roster by Dec. 1st, then the Jets are a lost cause for 2019-20.