With the World Cup of Hockey set to begin in 11 days and NHL training camps opening in less than three weeks, summer is essentially over. While there is certainly some unfinished business for a few teams to take care of in the player personnel department, the NHL offseason is well on its way to transitioning to the preseason.
It’s been a long summer in the NHL, but if you can remember way back to June and early July, it was incredibly eventful. Who could forget the insane scramble that was June 29 with two blockbuster trades, one of seismic proportions, and Steven Stamkos re-signing with Tampa? Everything that came before and after that day seems to be a blur.
With that in mind, we decided to take a look at the offseason as a whole to recap some of the more notable moves of each team and grade each club on how they did. Few teams were able to make dramatic improvements, which is reflected in the middling grades for a lot of teams.
Keep in mind, there are multiple teams that still have restricted free agents — big ones — to re-sign before the summer ends. That has been noted below, but only has a minimal effect on the grades as most are probably going to get done in due time.
Other things that factor into grades include trades, free agent signings and coaching changes. Here’s a look at how all 30 teams fared this offseason
* – Denotes team still has a notable unsigned restricted free agent.
Offseason breakdown: Of the coaches available on the open market, going back to Randy Carlyle was a somewhat unexpected choice and looks to be a lateral move. The Ducks also have not yet worked out new contracts with Hampus Lindholm, arguably their best defenseman right now, and Rickard Rakell who is coming off of a breakout season. Adding Antoine Vermette, Jonathan Bernier and re-signing Sami Vatanen were among the other notable moves of the summer.
Offseason breakdown: Rookie GM John Chayka has been a busy young man. The Coyotes improved their blue line with an aggressive play for Alex Goligoski. Chayka also got creative in taking on dead contracts with live cap hits to add prospects while leaving roster spots open for their young players to get NHL reps. Other notable moves of the summer include re-signing Connor Murphy, Michael Stone, Shane Doan and bringing back Radim Vrbata, the latter two of whom are stop-gap options as the team starts pulling out of its rebuild.
Offseason breakdown: Losing Loui Eriksson to free agency, while bringing in David Backes on a risky long-term deal with a $6 million cap hit could be a bad trade-off. The defense remains a trouble spot that went unaddressed aside from buying out Dennis Seidenberg. After missing the playoffs two years in a row, Boston looks no closer to ending the streak.
Offseason breakdown: GM Tim Murray addressed key needs for the team, including adding a left-shot defenseman and more scoring. Kyle Okposo was one of the best UFA forwards available and makes Buffalo’s top-six better, while Dmitry Kulikov brings some affordable experience to the blue line. The Sabres still need to work out a deal with RFA Rasmus Ristolainen, who is trending towards being this team’s long-term No. 1 defenseman.
Offseason breakdown: The Flames are a better team now than they were going into the summer. They filled their biggest need by trading for goalie Brian Elliott, added depth with Troy Brouwer and re-signed Sean Monahan to a long-term deal. However, their most important forward of the present and future, Johnny Gaudreau, is inexplicably still waiting on a new deal. Other notable offseason moves include replacing Bob Hartley with Glen Gulutzan at head coach and acquiring Alex Chiasson.
Offseason breakdown: The Hurricanes didn’t disrupt their rebuild, by adding cheap veterans like Lee Stempniak and Viktor Stalberg as stop-gaps in free agency. They also managed to add Teuvo Teravainen, who along with draftee Sebastian Aho could make an immediate impact on Carolina’s scoring attack. The most questionable move of Ron Francis’ otherwise strong offseason was re-upping Cam Ward on a two-year deal despite his declining numbers in net.
Offseason breakdown: For the most part, it was another season of subtraction for Chicago. They traded away Teuvo Teravainen and Andrew Shaw, depleting a forward group that has gotten much shallower since the Cup win in 2015. The big addition, however, was a good one in defenseman Brian Campbell who remains a possession driver and fills a big hole in Chicago’s top four at a discount price. Other offseason moves include re-signing Richard Panik, while bringing in UFA Jordin Tootoo and Czech defenseman Michal Kempny.
Offseason breakdown: The bombshell Patrick Roy dropped on the team when he resigned in August was the most significant offseason move for the Avs. It could also be a positive as the Avs were going nowhere fast. Jared Bednar, fresh off winning the Calder Cup in the AHL, was hired as Roy’s replacement. The team also got long-term deals done with Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie, while adding affordable UFAs like Joe Colborne and Patrick Wiercioch.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Offseason breakdown: Aside from signing Seth Jones to a reasonable extension, there wasn’t much going on in Columbus. They’ve got a tough salary cap situation and will enter next season with largely the same roster they had for a 27th-place finish. Sam Gagner was the only outside addition of note, but the team will be looking for contributions from No. 3 pick Pierre-Luc Dubois and members of their AHL Calder Cup-winning affiliate in Cleveland next season.
Offseason breakdown: Getting Jamie Benn’s extension done now was a key move heading into the season as they won’t have to worry about a Stamkos-like circus. Meanwhile, the team added Dan Hamhuis to help offset a big loss of experience on the blue line and landed Jiri Hudler as a late-summer UFA to boost one of the most potent scoring attacks in the NHL. The goaltending situation went unaddressed, however, despite it being the weak spot for the team last season. (Still unsigned: Valeri Nichushkin)
Detroit Red Wings
Offseason breakdown: Ken Holland didn’t have a good situation with Pavel Datsyuk leaving with a year remaining on his contract. The veteran GM managed to move the cap hit for a reasonable price (moving down in the draft), but then seemed to use the extra cap space inefficiently. Hefty extensions for Darren Helm and Danny DeKeyser while going the bridge route with goalie Petr Mrazek stand out. A positive addition, albeit an expensive one, was Frans Nielsen. Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott also signed on cheaper one-year deals. Detroit was dealt a bad hand to begin with, got out of it and then put themselves right back up against the cap.
Offseason breakdown: The Taylor Hall trade stands out as one of the more puzzling moves of the entire offseason. Adam Larsson makes the Edmonton blue line better, but enough to trade away one of the best young wingers in the game straight up? Milan Lucic should fit in fine in Edmonton in the short term, but his contract could become burdensome a few years down the road. The best offseason move probably was being in position to draft Jesse Puljujarvi, who could be on the roster as soon as next season.
Offseason breakdown: After a surprising front office shuffle, the Panthers were one of the most aggressive teams of the summer. Keith Yandle, Jason Demers, Mark Pysyk, James Reimer and Jared McCann are all new. Meanwhile, Aaron Ekblad, Reilly Smith and Vince Trocheck signed long-term extensions and Jagr is back for another year. They have solidified their core for the long-term while maintaining immediate competitiveness.
Los Angeles Kings
Offseason breakdown: There wasn’t a whole lot the Kings could do. They’re tight to the cap and could only afford to add bit pieces like Tom Gilbert, Teddy Purcell and Michael Latta. The post-Stanley Cup cap situation for the Kings is going to remain challenging for a few years.
Offseason breakdown: So much of this grade has to do with adding Bruce Boudreau as coach. His postseason failings are well known, but he’s also had a habit of turning teams around, too. Minnesota has been running in place a bit. Boudreau can bring a new identity to the team. Other offseason moves of note include adding Eric Staal, Chris Stewart, re-signing Matt Dumba and buying out Thomas Vanek.
Offseason breakdown: In the short-term the P.K. Subban-Shea Weber trade could be a wash, but the long-term implications should be concerning. Montreal also made risky plays adding Andrew Shaw on an expensive deal for a depth player, and Alexander Radulov, whose last stint in the NHL ended in dismay. The coach and GM have the team they want now, but are they any closer to taking the burden off of Carey Price? Probably not.
Offseason breakdown: Losing Shea Weber, the face of the franchise, is hard, but they gain a defenseman in Subban who is definitely a better fit with the up-tempo style this team plays under Peter Laviolette. The Preds also locked up offensive catalyst Filip Forsberg with a long-term deal. They appear poised to be even more dangerous offensively and could be in for a special season (and maybe a few more after that).
New Jersey Devils
Offseason breakdown: Adding Taylor Hall massively improves a forward group that was missing that go-to weapon. Hall joining recently re-signed 30-goal man Kyle Palmieri and others like Adam Henrique and Mike Cammalleri makes the Devils look a bit more threatening. The club also brought in recent Cup winner Ben Lovejoy on defense. This is still a team in transition and playoffs may not be a realistic expectation, but they’re much better today than they were heading into summer.
New York Islanders*
Offseason breakdown: The Islanders let Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen walk. They were probably going to have to lose one, but shouldn’t have lost both. Andrew Ladd essentially replaces Okposo at $500,000 less per season, but Nielsen leaves a pretty big hole. The club also brought in UFAs Jason Chimera and P.A. Parenteau, while giving a lot of money to fourth-liner Casey Cizikas in an extension. They should still push for the playoffs, but don’t look as strong on paper as they did last year. (Still unsigned: Ryan Strome)
New York Rangers
Offseason breakdown: The defense remains a trouble spot, perhaps more so without Keith Yandle. However, GM Jeff Gorton started injecting more youth into the roster up front. The team signed coveted college UFA Jimmy Vesey, traded Derick Brassard for Mika Zibanejad and brought in Brandon Pirri on a cheap contract. Is the era of quick-fixes over for the Rangers? That might be a good thing.
Offseason breakdown: The team’s biggest move came via coaching change as new GM Pierre Dorion brought in former Lightning coach Guy Boucher to take over for Dave Cameron. Other than that, the Senators did very little. They save a little money by adding Derick Brassard, but lose the long-term upside of Mika Zibanejad who was just finding his game. The club also managed to work out an affordable extension with sniper Mike Hoffman.
Offseason breakdown: The Flyers have built up their prospect system enough to where they don’t have to rely on free agency as much. Their biggest moves were to add depth forwards Dale Weise and Boyd Gordon, and signing depth defenseman Radko Gudas to an extension. It wasn’t exactly an exciting offseason in Philly, but it didn’t need to be.
Offseason breakdown: The Penguins will return almost their entire roster from the Stanley Cup Final. They re-signed Matt Cullen and Justin Schultz, while losing only Beau Bennett, Ben Lovejoy and Jeff Zatkoff. It was a pretty nice, quiet offseason after all of the parades and Cup parties, that is.
San Jose Sharks
Offseason breakdown: The Sharks didn’t have to do a lot to its roster from the Cup finalist team. They did add some scoring depth with Mikkel Beodker, who could be a good fit in San Jose, and depth defenseman David Schlemko. On top of that, they signed Tomas Hertl and Matthew Nieto to short-term bridge deals. Doug Wilson is going to give this roster one more shot to make it happen, it appears.
St. Louis Blues
Offseason breakdown: After their deep playoff run, it was an offseason of losses for the Blues. Captain David Backes, playoff hero Troy Brouwer and top goalie Brian Elliott are all gone. They’ll be missed, but the Blues couldn’t afford to keep them all anyway. The team signed Jake Allen and Jaden Schwartz to long-term deals, and brought back David Perron. On paper, they may not be better heading into the season, but they can still compete and possibly even contend if Allen is up to the challenge as the sole No. 1.
Tampa Bay Lightning*
Offseason breakdown: This summer was all about making sure Steven Stamkos stayed, which he of course did. Then they got Victor Hedman locked up long term. Alex Killorn and Andrei Vasilevskiy also signed extensions. All that’s left is for the Lightning to find a way to re-sign Nikita Kucherov and this summer will go down as a huge success for Steve Yzerman. (Also still unsigned: Nikita Nesterov)
Toronto Maple Leafs
Offseason breakdown: The Maple Leafs managed to land their long-term No. 1 goalie and drafted the forward likely to be their cornerstone. Trading for and signing Frederik Andersen to be the starter was a bit risky as his body of work has been a bit inconsistent. He should still be an improvement. Meanwhile, this summer is all about No. 1 pick Auston Matthews, who the team “won” by being terrible last year. There’s still a lot more work to be done.
Offseason breakdown: Signing Loui Eriksson, a proven scorer, who can play alongside the Sedins makes the Canucks offensive attack more potent. However, that signing was preceded by a questionable trade as Vancouver added defenseman Erik Gudbranson and gave up promising Jared McCann to do it. It’s hard to see that move making a big impact on the blue line. This summer still doesn’t hint at what the vision of this team is.
Offseason breakdown: The Caps didn’t have to do much after winning the President’s Trophy last year. They traded for Lars Eller, who is a very nice addition to replace Jason Chimera in their bottom-six. They should make another run this year with largely the same group they had in 2015-16. (Still unsigned: Dmitry Orlov)
Offseason breakdown: No. 2 pick Patrick Laine could be a franchise-changing forward. The team also locked up core piece Mark Scheifele on a huge extension, signed a very affordable new deal with Mathieu Perreault and added some serviceable depth players. Getting RFA defenseman Jacob Trouba signed is the last loose end of this offseason.
Source: CBS Sports / NHL offseason grades: Lightning, Preds get high marks; Bruins, Red Wings earn D’s