A Look Around the NHL: Summer 2019 Edition
Most of the big dates of the 2019 NHL offseason have come and gone. The draft, and most recently free agency, are now in the past. There are still a few notable names on the market, and plenty of players still on the trade block. But for the most part, we now have a good idea of what most teams will look like on opening night 2019.
With most of the noise in the rearview mirror, now seems like a good time to take a look around the NHL. I did this last summer, and (spoiler alert) a lot has changed since then. The amount of parity set up for this year is insane. There are only a couple of teams that I’m ruling out of a playoff spot for good right now. But last year, one of those teams was the Islanders, so who even knows anymore?
Who They Got: Dallas Eakins (Coach)
Who They Lost: Corey Perry
Who They Kept: Ryan Miller
It’s the changing of the guard for the Not-So Mighty Ducks these days. Corey Perry rides off into the California sunset with a Rocket Richard and a Cup Ring via buyout. Ryan Kesler, part of the Ducks’ all-in push a few years ago, will likely spend the rest of his career on LTIR.
The good news for the Ducks if they’ve got some talented youth (Rakell, Steel, Terry, Larsson, and Guhle, to name a few) to help make the transition. They don’t look very intimidating on paper, but who knows how far John Gibson and a new head coach can take them? Gibson kept Anaheim in a playoff spot near single-handedly until February, when injuries pushed him out of the crease.
Who They Got: Phil Kessel, Carl Soderberg, Alex Meruelo (Owner)
Who They Lost: Alex Galchenyuk, Richard Pánik, Pierre-Oliver Joseph
Who They Kept: An empty seat or two (thousand) just for you
Despite a plethora of injuries that plagued every part of the lineup, last year was the Coyotes’ closest finish to a playoff birth since their last appearance… in 2012. Arizona now holds the second-longest active playoff drought, but to their credit, their making moves to end that streak. Scoring was the biggest weakness for the Coyotes last year, and that’s all Phil Kessel does. Losing Galchenyuk hurts their depth, but he’s worth it for Kessel, a sure-fire 30-goal scorer.
Off the ice, the Coyotes are improving. They have a new owner in billionaire Alex Meruelo, the next man in line to find a stable arena for the Yotes. This is a critical year in their development - after coming oh-so-close last year, there’s no reason they can’t make noise in a wide open Pacific.
Who They Got: Cam Talbot
Who They Lost: Mike Smith, James Neal's Ability
Who They Kept: The giant question mark between the pipes
It has been a quiet offseason for Brad Treviling and company, whose main focus is dealing with their current RFAs, headlined by Matthew Tkachuk. The only notable change for the defending Western Conference regular season champs is replacing temporary sieve Mike Smith with temporary sieve Cam Talbot, coming off the worst season of his career. Talbot’s an intriguing bounce-back candidate, but I still think they’d be better off handing Rittich the keys to the crease for a full year.
Who They Got: Dave Tipett (Coach), Markus Granlund, Mike Smith
Who They Lost: Anthony Stolarz
Who They Kept: Alex Chiasson, Jujhar Khaira
Hockey fans as a whole should be raging at the Edmonton Oilers right now. They are well on their way of turning Connor McDavid into hockey’s Mike Trout. They seem poised to bring back the same disappointing depth options as last year. The only guy probably not back is Jesse Puljujarvi, who has become so disgruntled he has repeatedly asked to be traded or he will play overseas (hopefully on the same team as Nail Yakupov, for comedy’s sake).
Los Angeles Kings
Who They Got: Todd McClellan (Coach), Joakim Ryan
Who They Lost: Dion Phaneuf
Who They Kept: Senior Discount at the Movies
Last year was a cold dose of reality for the Kings, who may have seen their contending window close sooner than they were expecting. LA has won just one playoff game over the last five years, and there’s nothing new to get excited about. Drew Doughty’s massive extension kicks in this year, joining Quick, Brown, Carter, Kovalchuk, and Martinez as 30+ players with massive, borderline unmovable contracts. Maybe they turn back the clock again, but it's far more likely that their glory days are squarely behind them.
San Jose Sharks
Who They Got: Therapy after another WFC loss
Who They Lost: Joe Pavelski, Justin Braun, Joakim Ryan
Who They Kept: Erik Karlsson, Timo Meier
Out with the old, in with the new in the Shark Tank. Joe Pavelski has left San Jose after well over a decade of consistent goal-scoring and playoff disappointment. He is the Doug Wilson’s sacrifice to the cap gods necessary to keep Erik Karlsson around. His injury history is concerning, but when on, he’s the best defenseman in the NHL and a nightmare to defend. If the Sharks can get 3-4 years of peak EK65, they’ve got to consider that gamble a win.
On the RFA front, San Jose inked Meier, a 30-goal scorer, to a team-friendly 4-year pact at just $6 million per season. Their depth looks pretty bad right now, especially with Kevin Lebanc still waiting on a new deal. But there’s a good chance Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau come back on cheap 1-year deals to solve that problem.
Who They Got: J.T. Miller, Tyler Myers, Jordie Benn, Michael Ferland
Who They Lost: Ben Hutton
Who They Kept: Alex Edler
The J.T. Miller trade told everyone what the Canucks think of themselves. In it, they surrendered their 2020 1st round pick, which gets pushed back to 2021 if they don’t make the playoffs next year. It’s clear that the clock is ticking for Jim Benning, who strengthened the defense with Tyler Myers. Myers is not a perfect player, especially by advanced metrics. However, he should be at least serviceable in a top-four role going forward, and he came at less than the $8 million everyone was asking.
Michael Ferland was also signed recently and should provide physicality to sure out the top-six. There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered before Vancouver can return to the playoffs. Their defense isn’t great, Brock Boeser needs a new deal, and it will be interesting to see how Jacob Markström and Thatcher Demko split the Canucks’ crease going forward. And their cap situation is a bit precarious, with several forwards (Sutter, Ericsson, Beagle, Roussel). But Vancouver is going in the right direction.
Vegas Golden Knights
Who They Got: Cap Compliant
Who They Lost: Erik Haula, Colin Miller, Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare
Who They Kept: Tomas Nosek, Brandon Pirri
After a year and half of nothing but win-now moves, the Knights found themselves not just near the cap ceiling, but shooting through it. As a result, newly minted GM Kelly McCrimmon had to make some tough decisions to become cap compliant. Erik Haula and Colin Miller were shipped off for pennies on the dollar. And with backup goalie Malcom Subban needing a new deal, talented forward Nikita Gusev could be the next to go.
The Knights still possess an elite top-6 and a solid although aging starrer in Marc-Andre Fleury. But next season could be critical in determining their future, for better or for worse.
Who They Got: Andrew Shaw, Robin Lehner, Ryan Carpenter, Olli Määttä, Calvin De Hann, Alex Nylander
Who They Lost: Henri Jokiharju, Dominik Kahun, Cam Ward, Gustav Forsling
Who They Kept: Everyone - they are the Blackhawks, after all
After consecutive playoff misses for the first time in over a decade, Stan Bowman decided to shake things up. Of course, that means brining in at least one familiar face, this time in the former of gritty bottom-sixer Andrew Shaw. Actual new faces include depth forward Ryan Carpenter, respectable but slightly overpaid defenseman Olli Määttä, and slightly more respectable but maybe a tinge overpaid defenseman Calvin De Hann. To top it all off, Bowman acquired underwhelming but skilled Alexander Nylander for budding defenseman Henri Jokiharju. Nylander has some talent, but unless he becomes the next Strome, this seems like a loss for the Hawks.
Shaw and Määttä both cost a pretty penny to acquire, though De Hann was acquired (relatively) on the cheap. However, it’s the Robin Lehner signing that raises the most eyeballs. Lehner is coming off a Vezina nomination and has a save percentage over .920% in three of the last four years. Is he here to challenge Corey Crawford for the starter’s spot, or are the Hawks unsure of Crawford’s health? Either way, the Chicago net will be an interesting story to watch.
Who They Got: Nazem Kadri, Callé Rosen, Andre Burakovsky, Joonas Donskoi, Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare
Who They Lost: Tyson Barrie, Alex Kerfoot, Seymon Varlamov
Who They Kept: Colin Wilson
Up until about 6 PM on July 1, Joe Sakic was making nothing but shrewd depth deals. Andre Burakovsky will have a chance to deliver the breakout he could never put together in D.C. Donskoi is a play-driving beast with a decent scoring record. And Bellemare could help solidify the penalty kill. No game breakers, but also no dealbreakers either.
I’ll be blunt - I didn’t love the Barrie trade. Granted, taking Byram at number four makes him a bit more expendable, and he’s a pending UFA after this year. The problem is that he is worth more than the gap between Kadri and Kerfoot, which may not be as big as you think, especially since the Ads retained 50% of Barrie. Losing Seymon Varlamov was inevitable, but it’s far from the end of the world - Philip Grubauer looks ready to take control of the Colorado crease.
Who They Got: Joe Pavelski, Corey Perry, Andrej Sekera, Ryan Hartman
Who They Lost: Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Hartman (?), Tyler Pitlick, Brett Ritchie
Who They Kept: Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, whether Jim Lites likes it or not
A lot of people are thrilled with the Stars offseason thus far. Jim Nill handed out contracts to three veterans, including one borderline star in Pavelski, without breaking the bank or going long-term. That sounds like a win, and even if it isn’t, it’s definitely not a loss for the Stars.
But how much better are the Stars compared to last year? Mats Zuccarello was a great fit in Dallas, and while I understand letting him go to retain their 2020 1st, it still stings. Pavelski is great now, but he’s 34 and about to play for a team not named the Sharks for the first time in his career. Perry is as likely to find himself in the AHL this year as he is to score 20 goals. And Sekera is coming off a torn Achilles - who knows if he’s close to what he was before?
And why trade a solid fourth-liner making $1 million for 1 year (Pitlick) for Hartman, an RFA they didn’t even bother qualifying who then left for nothing? There’s not a ton of risk with any of these signings, but none of them are slam dunks either.
Who They Got: Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Hartman
Who They Lost: Apparently that tall lizard Paul Fenton was trying to sign
Who They Kept: Jason Zucker
Paul Fenton deserves a lot of criticism. The Niederriter trade was god-awful, the Granlund-Fiala swap may not end well, and he seems way to concerned on size to build a good team (did you see his draft day quotes?) However, his July 1st was just fine. Hartman at 2 years and under $2 million is a good depth bet. Five years is maybe one too many for Mats Zuccarello, but he has plenty of skill and speed and should solidify the top six.
To be honest, the Wild aren’t much different from where they’ve been the last few years, even with these additions. Their top-four on defense is very strong, though Jared Spurgeon could be dealt at some point before the deadline. If Devan Dubnyk is great, they could challenge for a playoff spot. But it still seems unlikely the Wild are going to be able to make a big push with their current core.
Who They Got: Matt Duchene, Steven Santini
Who They Lost: P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, Brian Boyle
Who They Kept: Kyle Turris
David Poile chose to balance out his roster this year. Letting deadline rentals Wayne Simmonds and Brian Boyle leave (though Boyle could wind up returning) was predictable. Trading P.K. Subban was a little bit less so, but it wasn't completely unforeseen. Nashville received nowhere close to fair value back for Subban, but they did get what they desired the most - cap space.
With the space freed up, the Preds went out and got Matt Duchene, the best center on the market. 7 x $8 million is a lot, but not nearly as much as we all thought he would get a week ago. Dante Fabbro should be able to take over P.K.'s role (to an extent), and the Preds forward depth is still strong. They just needed some firepower, which Duchene brings. No reason why Smashville won't be near the top of the Central again.
St. Louis Blues
Who They Got: The Stanley Cup
Who They Lost: Patrick Maroon
Who They Kept: Carl Gunnarsson
There's a decent chance Doug Armstrong and company were too busy partying with Brett Hull somewhere to realize that free agency even began. One overtime hero (Gunnarsson) returns, but it surprisingly seems like there may not be a reunion with hometown hero Patrick Maroon in the cards. It will be interesting to see what kind of contract Jordan Binnington receives, especially with key cogs Alex Pietrangelo and Brayden Schenn becoming UFAs next summer.
But let's be honest, you're Stanley Cup champions, you really don't care about free agency.
Who They Got: Neal Pionk
Who They Lost: Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers
Who They Kept: The Thrashers In Them
Winnipeg is also a team that is being forced to retool because of the cap. They have $22 million in space, but still must resign Patrik Laine, Kyle Connor, and Andrew Copp, which should eat well over half of that number. The Trouba trade wasn't great, but they didn't have much leverage. However, with him and Myers gone, their once vaunted defense is looking a little thin. If they have the space to fit in another player along with their RFAs, look for the Jets to add a defenseman. Shayne Gostisbehere might make some sense (one-for-one for Mark Scheifele seems like a good place to start).
Who They Got: Gustav Forsling, Erik Haula, Patrick Marleau, James Reimer
Who They Lost: Calvin De Hann, Scott Darling, Patrick Marleau (lol)
Who They Kept: Sebastian Aho, Petr Mrazek
Everybody's favorite Bunch of Jerks is only looking stronger heading into the fall. The younger half of their insane goalie tandem is returning in Mrazek, who could easily hold down the fort until Alex Nedeljovic is ready. Sebastian Aho is locked up, thanks to an offersheet from Montreal with a less than ideal 5-year term, but a perfectly reasonable AAV of just under $8.5 million.
Sure, they downgraded slightly on their stacked defense to clear up cap space. But unlike another team in their divison, they used their newfound cap space wisely, fleecing Erik Haula and 1st round pick via eating Patrick Marleau's contract from cap-strapped Vegas and Toronto, respectively. A lot of people will be looking for regression from the Canes, but there's a very good chance they're even stronger next year.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Who They Got: Gustav Nyquist
Who They Lost: Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Keith Kinkaid
Who They Kept: Joonas Korpisalo
No team lost talent on July 1 than Columbus, but we knew that was going to happen for a while. Even if their Hail Mary midnight offer to Panarin connected, that statement would still be true. The hard truth is that the Blue Jackets just lost their two best forwards and an elite goaltender. It's a devastating blow for a franchise that otherwise truly looked like they were turning the corner.
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel for CBJ. Last summer's biggest loser was the Islanders, who bounced back from missing the playoffs to make the second round. The Jackets still have plenty of young talent (Jones, Atkinson, Dubois, and Werenski - who needs a new deal - just to name a few). They're not a basement team by any stretch. But even with the addition of speedy scorer Nyquist, there's no denying the Jackets have lost something special.
New Jersey Devils
Who They Got: P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, Jack Hughes
Who They Lost: Steven Santini, 80% of the Reasons to Hate Them
Who They Kept: Taylor Hall
Not only did the Devils add a lot of talent to their lineup, they also got plenty of character. Both Subban and Simmonds are the type of players that can become fan-favorites, albeit for different reasons. Subban packs a special punch that few can match. He possesses an elite shot and can quarterback a power play with the best of them. Yes, $9 million is a lot to pay him. But three years is manageable, and the cap space Ray Shero built up allowed him to acquire Subban for a fraction of his worth.
On the other hand, Wayne Simmonds is still a very viable power play option as an elite net-front presence. At 31, there is a serious chance that Simmonds is in full decline. However, giving him just a one-year deal is a low-risk, high-reward bet that Devils fans should be happy that their team took.
Man, it's gonna be awkward to see the Wayne Train in a Devils sweater... *sobs uncontrollably* NO, YOU'RE CRYING!
Both moves make it much more probable that Taylor Hall signs a long-term extension next summer. Hopefully, he doesn't defect to the KHL two years in like the last guy.
New York Islanders
Who They Got: Seymon Varlamov
Who They Kept: Robin Lehner, Valtteri Filppula
Who They Kept: Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle
The Islanders were (pinches fingers) this close to losing their captain for the second straight year in a row. With three of their top forwards heading into unrestricted free agency, Lou was able to save face by bringing all of them back. Better yet, none of them got completely unreasonable deals.
However, there is a big change between the pipes. Robin Lehner is surprisingly gone after the best season of his career, bolting to Chicago on a one-year prove-it deal. Seymon Varlamov was projected to be the second best goalie on the market in the fall. But he's coming off a rough season, and his acquistion puts Thomas Greiss' future (.927 save percentage a year ago) in question.
New York Rangers
Who They Got: Artemi Panarin, Kappo Kakko, Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox
Who They Lost: Neal Pionk
Who They Kept: The key to the heart of every decent NCAA player
It seems like a lot longer than sixteen months between today and when the Rangers sent a letter to their fans telling them they were rebuilding. Thanks to their location and a little bit of luck, the Rangers are poised to be one the most exciting teams in 2019-20 and beyond. They secured the prize of free agency in Panarin to join another top-flight winger in second overall pick Kappo Kakko. If they don't trade Chris Kreider, then the Rangers are very close to icing a forward core on par with that of their 2014 runner-up squad.
In terms of keeping the puck out of the net, Jacob Trouba is a massive upgrade over Neal Pionk, although he still needs a new contract. They still have two albatross contracts on the backend in Marc Staal and Brendan Smith, but now have the talent to overshadow them if Adam Fox is ready to make the jump to the NHL straight out of Harvard. Maybe there is still hope that King Henrik gets his rightful ring after all.
Who They Got: Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun, Tyler Pitlick, Alain Vigneault (Coach), Nick Schultz (only as a coach, unfortunately) Who They Lost: Ryan Hartman, Radko Gudas, Andrew MacDonald
Who They Kept: Brian Elliott, Travis Sanheim
In following a tradition that many Philadelphia squads have passed down over the years, the Flyers got better, albeit not in the most efficient matter possible. They gave up too much to acquire aging right-handed defenseman Niskanen and Braun, and then spent too much money on a need-filling center Kevin Hayes, causing their fans complain. You know, the same fans who complained the Flyers weren't doing enough to improve the team just a few months ago.
The theme of the Flyers offseason has been beggars can't be choosers. I may be a little too bullish on my hometown team here, but I think the Flyers have done just fine. They may be in a tight cap situation, but looking at how things are scheduled to play out they should be fine going forward long-term. Unlike years prior, the Flyers are not dependent on their youth for improvement. If the kids (especially Carter Hart) can simply do their jobs, not necessarily carry the load, the Flyers could be on the rise this year.
Pittsburgh Penguins Who They Got: Brandon Tanev, Alex Galchenyuk, Dominik Kahun, Pierre-Oliver Joseph
Who They Lost: Phil Kessel, Olli Määttä, Their Sanity
Who They Kept: Jack Johnson (much to the delight of the rest of the Metro)
Regardless of my biases, I think it's safe to say that the appropriate reaction to Jim Rutherford post-2017 Cup win is just laughter. The Penguins cleared cap space by trading an elite goal-scorer for an inconsistent one, then used said money to lock up a bottom-six forward on a SIX YEAR contract? Come on, JR. You better hope the Hockey Hall of Fame doesn't have a return policy at this point.
Much like in Chicago, the seeds of fall-off are starting to grow. We may not be far away from the year where the Penguins finally begin to fall off the map, bringing joy to most of the league. There's still a good chance Crosby, Malkin, Letang, and Murray lead them to another playoff push, and maybe even a decent run. But I think we've finally reached the beginning of the end.
Who They Got: Richard Pánik, Garnet Hathaway
Who They Lost: Brett Connolly, Brooks Orpik
Who They Kept: Carl Hagelin
Apparently, the Capitals didn't learn from their rivals' mistake and also dolled out a little too much term on players not quite deserving of it. I actually like the Pánik signing - he's a good goal-scorer, albeit an inconsistent one, but he's only 28 and making a reasonable $2.5 million per season. He should replace Connolly just fine.
Hathaway is the bigger issue - $1.5 million is fine, but for four years? It feels like a deal that just didn't need to happen. Losing the veteran leadership of Orpik may hurt a little bit off the ice, but the Capitals have the depth to recover for his loss and then some. The real question is in the crease - with Braden Holtby set to be a UFA next summer, does Ilya Samsanov get a shot at the backup role at some point? And how much does his play determine Holtby's future?
Who They Got: What Their City Deserved
Who They Lost: Marcus Johansson
Who They Kept: Zdeno Chara
After coming up win one short of delivering another championship to Boston, the Bruins know they have to be quiet this offseason in order to maintain their roster going forward. This summer, Danton Heinen, Charlie McAvoy, and Brandon Carlo are all RFAs demaning a raise. Charlie Coyle and (more importantly) Torey Krug are UFAs next season and will require big paydays in order to keep around.
Regardless if they wish to shake things up or not, it seems like Zdeno Chara may be heading into his retirement tour this season. The Big Z is beginning to lose a step or two, and his injuries in the Cup Finals showed the danger of playing further. His one-year extension means he will be a UFA come next summer. It may be the end of an era in Beantown.
Who They Got: Colin Miller, Marcus Johansson
Who They Lost: The extra "l" on Buffalol (maybe)
Who They Kept: Jeff Skinner
No team in the NHL has missed the playoffs in more consecutive seasons that Buffalol (eight). However, they are closer than ever to shedding that second "l."The Colin Miller trade was very good from both the value they gave up (just a 2nd and a 5th) and his fit, which solidifies the Sabres defense. Adding Marcus Johansson is a nice boost to a forward core that will benefit with one more scoring option. If he can be half of what the Jeff Skinner addition last year was to this year's team, it's a major win for Buffalo.
Keeping Jeff Skinner around is a win, although it came at a very hefty price. He might be the next Cody Hodgson, but if he can play like Thomas Vanek for at least half the length of the deal, the Sabres probably won't regret it too much. So long as Carter Hutton can hold down the fort, the Sabres have a legit shot of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
Detroit Red Wings
Who They Got: Steve Yzerman (GM), Valtteri Filppula, Calvin Pickard
Who They Lost: Thomas Vanek
Who They Kept: Jimmy Howard
There isn't much to say about Hockeytown. The Red Wings are still paying for the sins of Ken Holland, who made several win-now moves that depleted the prospect pool and strapped the Wings with several terrible contracts. The good news is the Wings have their GM of choice in Steve Yzerman, and a deep prospect pool with plenty of great talent. Even with the surprising selection of Moritz Seider sixth overall, Detroit is getting the pieces to make their future bright. That doesn't mean the present is going to be fun, though.
Who They Got: Sergei Bobrovsky, Brett Connolly, Anton Strålman, Noel Acciari
Who They Lost: Roberto Luongo, James Reimer
Who They Kept: Approximately 20% of Roberto Luongo's Cap Hit
Taking a page out of the Phillies "stupid money" book, nobody spent more or acquired more than the Panthers on July 1st. With Roberto Luongo retired and James Reimer shipped out for equally struggling goalie Scott Darling (who was bought out), Sergei Bobrovsky was priority number one. He comes at a steep bill, but the Panthers hope he's more Carey Price and less Ilya Bryzgalov when it comes to big money goalies.
Though they fell short of signing the other top prize in Artemi Panarin, the Panthers weren't done. They signed Brett Connolly, coming off first twenty-goal season, veteran defenseman Anton Strålman (who may be in decline mode), and bottom-sixer Noel Acciari. Strålman's deal is a bit concerning - three years for a 34-year old is a bit of a gamble. But the Panthers are better, and have a clear-cut expectation to win for the first time in a long time.
Who They Got: Keith Kinkaid, Phil Varone, Ben Chiarot
Who They Lost: Jordie Benn
Who They Kept: Everyone on Their Toes
After a stunning turn-around made possible by the shrewd moves of Marc Bergevin, the Habs made plenty of headlines despite not actually changing all that much. Bergevin tendered the first offer-sheet since 2013 to Carolina's Sebastian Aho - unfortunately, it was for under $8.5 million, an easy match for the Canes despite the front-loaded money of the deal.
Montreal is a unique position. They've got a lot of young talent, both on the roster and in the pipeline. However, Carey Price, their star goalie, is 31. Their best defenseman Shea Weber is 33. They combine to make over $17 million through 2026. It's going to be hard to win when those guys start to decline - might as well do it now.
Who They Got: Connor Brown, Nikita Zaitsev, Tyler Ennis, Ron Hainsey
Who They Lost: Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur
Who They Kept: Eugene Melnyk (unfortunately)
Only a few months after calling out the Toronto Maple Leafs for the defense, the Sens wound up acquiring two of the Leafs' most-used defenders to go along with two of their underused skilled forwards and old assistant coach. The good news for Ottawa is that they might actually have twenty NHL-caliber players to ice this year, a deeper prospect pool, a new head coach, and their own first round pick.
The bad news? Well, Melnyk's still here, isn't he? Actually, he's probably in Barbados right now. The Sens may have NHL caliber players this year, but that doesn't mean they have many of the good ones. Chris Tierney is still one of their three best forwards, which tells you everything you need to know.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Who They Got: Curtis McElhinney
Who They Lost: Anton Strålman, Dan Girardi, Ryan Callahan
Who They Kept: Braydon Coburn
The main focus of the Bolts offseason is to find a deal for Brayden Point. They've done a good job clearing up cap space by letting Strålman and Girardi grow, then got a little lucky by being able to put Ryan Callahan on LTIR thanks to a degenartive back issue (lucky seems like the wrong word, but life is tough in the cap world).
While Point is the main focus, there are still three other decent RFAs (led by Adam Erne) needing new deals, and it appears Louis Domingue might have lost his backup role with the signing of Curtis McElhinney (perhaps the former is a trade target). Tampa still looks stacked on paper, but that's what we all said last year, and look what happened. You figure that eventually, a group this talented will get the job done. But then you look over at San Jose. Another April (or even early May) letdown might lead to some serious changes.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Who They Got: Tyson Barrie, Alex Kerfoot, Jason Spezza, Cody Ceci
Who They Lost: See Senators, Ottawa: Who They Got (and Nazem Kadri)
Who They Kept: Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson
Like Tampa, Toronto is coming off a disappointing first round exit and has a massive RFA needing a huge pay raise in Mitch Marner. Though the Leafs appear far off from a deal with him, the good news is they've addressed just about everything else they needed to. Tyson Barrie sures up the right side on defense, and though it did cost mostly fan-favorite but sometimes frustrurating Nazem Kadri, they replaced him adaquetly by also acquiring Alex Kerfoot in the deal.
Elsewhere, the Leafs locked up their other two big RFAs (Johnsson and Kapanen), but still need to give new deals to Kerfoot and (if they choose) Cody Ceci. Backup goalie is a bit of question, with neither veteran Michael Hutchinson or the maligned Garrett Sparks appealing options.