The offseason is a long and dreadful time for hockey fans, especially with the entry draft and big free agents already gone. But the question remains: Which teams are the winners and losers this offseason?
This summer has been great for the Florida Panthers. Last season they finished 1st in the Atlantic division and had the best season in Panthers history (47-26-9, 103 points). They are becoming a contending team and many hockey fans seem to be taking them lightly. The Panthers just resigned defensive stud Aaron Ekblad to an 8 year deal worth $60 million. They also resigned Vincent Trocheck after his breakout season as well as Rielly Smith and ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr. Their biggest move was acquiring Keith Yandle via free agency; the 29 year old puck moving defenseman signed a contract worth $44.45 million over 7 years. In addition to Yandle, the Panthers signed goaltender James Reimer as well as defensemen Jason Demers and Mark Pysyk. They also brought in Jonathan Marchessault, Colton Sceviour and Jared McCann to improve their depth. During this entire process, their biggest loss was Erik Gudbranson. Watch out for the Panthers again this season.
Tampa Bay Lightning
It is safe to say that patience paid off for Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman. After the continuous rumours of Stamkos and Drouin leaving the Lightning, he managed to keep his current captain and future star. Stamkos signed an 8 year deal worth $68 million. Yzerman also managed to lock up Victor Hedman for 8 years. In a couple of days, he managed to resign his best forward and best defenseman to long-term contracts, a huge win for the Bolts. Alex Killorn was also resigned a few days ago, his contract has a value of $31.15 million over 7 seasons. Yzerman still needs to resign RFAs Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov. The Lightning will have the exact same lineup as last season with the exception of Matt Carle (buyout) and Jonathan Marchessault, who will play in Florida next season.
Toronto Maple Leafs
For the longest time, the Leafs have been the laughing stock of the NHL. It could change this season. With the #1 pick in the NHL entry draft they selected Auston Matthews, who is arguably going to be the biggest factor in their rebuild. They have needed a #1 center for a long time and they finally got one. They also acquired Frederik Andersen from Anaheim and managed to trade away Jonathan Bernier. They still have a question mark when it comes to a backup goalie, but they have a few youngsters who could potentially manage the position. The Leafs also brought back Roman Polak, who is decent in a top-6 role. Nikita Zaitsev was a familiar name in the KHL and the Leafs managed to rope him in. The 24-year-old defenseman could be a great addition on the blue line if he is able to adapt to the North-American ice. The Leafs also added NHL hit king Matt Martin, he will be a nice physical addition to the squad and will have opponents think twice before taking a run at their young stars.
After loading up their team for another run at the Cup, the Blackhawks weren’t able to lift the prestigious trophy. Despite bringing in Brian Campbell and Jordin Tootoo, they have lost a few key pieces that could have helped their depth. The Hawks have lost promising forward Teuvo Teravainen and former playoff performer Bryan Bickell in a trade to Carolina, where they only received a 2nd and 3rd round pick in return. It did allow them to free up some cap space (Which they desperately needed), but they gave up a hopeful player in the process. The Blackhawks also traded away gritty forward Andrew Shaw in exchange for two 2nd round picks. Chicago is going to lack depth this season and unless other players can step up and make a difference, they are going to rely on their core heavily.
The Bruins have been going downhill for a couple of seasons now. After stringing together successful seasons and being a contender year after year, the Bruins have failed to reach the postseason for two consecutive seasons. This offseason, they haven’t done much to improve their team; general manager Don Sweeney has yet to find a suitable replacement for Dougie Hamilton and resigned Kevan Miller for 4 years at an AAV of $2.5 million. During free agency, he signed former St. Louis Blues captain David Backes to a 5 year, $30 million dollar contract, which could really hurt them in a few years. Backes is the right fit for Boston, but not the right price. Not to mention they already have Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci clogging up the 1st and 2nd line center positions, which leaves Backes potentially playing the wing. The Bruins also failed to resign Loui Eriksson, who is coming off a great season which saw him score 30 goals and notch 63 points. It seems as if Boston has hit the panic button.
The Islanders have lost Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin this offseason. This could have been a great opportunity to see if their youngsters like Dal Colle, Ho-Sang or even Barzal were ready to take it to the next level. Instead, the Islanders rewarded Andrew Ladd with a 7 year deal after a season in which he put up a weak 46 points in 78 games. While Ladd is a good leader, physical player and can put the puck in the net, his contract will expire when he is 37 years old. They also added Jason Chimera, another 37 year old. Chimera brings speed and a better scoring touch than Matt Martin, but the loss of Martin severely impacts the 4th line, which was arguably the best one in the NHL.