Winners and losers from the NHL offseason
There are still some moves to be made in the NHL this offseason (some trades and a lot of restricted free agent signings), but with the draft and most of the major free agents already made it is time to take a look at some of the biggest winners and losers of the offseason.
When we look at winners and losers we are not just limiting it to teams.
It can also be individual players or groups of players.
Who fits in where?
Let’s take a look.
Joe Sakic and the Colorado Avalanche. An already great team -- maybe the best in the West on paper -- managed to get even stronger by adding Brandon Saad (trade) and Devon Toews (trade) while only giving up Nikita Zadorov off of its NHL roster. That is a huge win.
Montreal Canadiens. Do not love everything the Canadiens did this offseason (the Joel Edmundson contract seems questionable, as is the Josh Anderson gamble) but getting Tyler Toffoli on that contract and the Jake Allen trade are very strong moves to improve the team’s depth. Carey Price and Allen can cover up a lot of issues defensively.
Josh Anderson. Speaking of the Canadiens, Anderson is a big winner for cashing in on a seven-year, $38.5 million contract. He is a good player when healthy, but he is coming off a major injury and scored just one goal in 26 games a year ago.
Kevin Shattenkirk. What a year for Shattenkirk. After being bought out by the New York Rangers he signs a cheap one-year deal in Tampa Bay, boosts his value again with a bounceback season, wins a Stanley Cup, and then gets a multi-year deal as a reward. Good for him.
Henrik Lundqvist and the Washington Capitals. It will be weird seeing him in a Capitals jersey instead of a Rangers jersey, but Lundqvist gets to play for a contender and gets another chance to win the Stanley Cup. The Capitals get a still-solid (and definitely motivated) veteran to pair alongside Ilya Samsonov in net for a cheap price against the cap. A win all around.
[Related: ProHockeyTalk’s Free Agent Tracker]
Torey Krug. He has some big shoes to fill replacing Alex Pietrangelo, but he scored a major long-term deal after he could not come to terms on a similar contract with the Bruins. And he still gets to play for a contender.
Edmonton Oilers. They did not make any huge splashes, but Dominik Kahun, Kyle Turris, and Tyson Barrie are all outstanding low-risk contracts. They already have two MVPs, now the depth is better.
Buffalo Sabres. There should be skepticism about whether or not the Sabres are good enough to compete for a playoff spot because they still have some big questions (looking at you, goalies). But they did get Taylor Hall and Eric Staal while only giving up Marcus Johansson in the process. That is a big improvement, even if it is a short-term one. The long-term outlook is still incomplete, but they are better. How much better remains to be seen.
Vegas Golden Knights and Alex Pietrangelo. The Golden Knights had to give up a lot (Paul Stastny, Nate Schmidt) to clear enough salary cap space to sign him, but getting Pietrangelo is a game-changer on defense for the Golden Knights. He is still one of the best all-around defenders in the league and gives them a dominant 1-2 punch alongside Shea Theodore. They also still have what should be the best goaltending duo in the league, even if it is expensive and has the potential to create some drama.
Matt Murray. Going from a Stanley Cup contender to a rebuilding team at the bottom of the standings may not be much of a win, but the offseason was a huge win for Murray financially. After a couple of inconsistent seasons he still managed to score one of the biggest goalie contracts of the offseason in a goalie market that was overflowing with talent.
Fans of offer sheets (again). The Sebastian Aho saga a year ago was a total outlier. What a shame! If no one seriously went after the Tampa Bay Lightning duo of Mikhail Sergachev and Anthony Cirelli given their salary cap situation then it is simply just not something that teams are going to seriously pursue.
The middle tier free agents. The pandemic and its impact on the salary cap situation seems to have hit the middle tier free agents the most. Players like Mike Hoffman and Mikael Granlund remain unsigned. Craig Smith, Evgenii Dadonov, and Toffolli all signed for probably far less than they would have in a normal offseason.
Blackhawks lost another Brandon Saad trade. The Blackhawks have been involved in three different Brandon Saad trades and have arguably lost all three of them. A stunning accomplishment. This latest trade saw them send Saad to Colorado for Zadorov in a move that did not really improve their defense or salary cap situation. This move coming just three years after they traded Artemi Panarin to reacquire Saad makes it sting even more.
[Related: ProHockeyTalk’s offseason trade tracker]
Panthers lost a lot of offense. This is a tough one because the Panthers’ offseason hasn’t really been bad. They have been busy -- again -- and did add some potentially useful players, but losing Dadonov and Hoffman is a significant hit to their offense. Are the defensive improvements they have made enough to offset that?
So did the Predators. The Predators were already a mediocre offensive team and said goodbye to three of their top-four goal scorers this offseason. They have done little to replace it or improve a power play unit that has been the league’s worst for two years now. There are some big questions here.
The Bruins defense. Krug is gone, Zdeno Chara (assuming he returns) is another year into his 40s, and they are relying almost entirely on improvements from within to replace all of that. Krug’s departure is the big one because that is a lot of production and a lot of minutes walking out the door.