Not every team can improve its roster in the offseason. Sometimes teams have to shed salary, other teams intentionally try to get worse in order to rebuild. But for most teams, the offseason is about putting together the best roster possible. Some teams managed that better than others.
Andrew Gillis and JJ Regan discuss which team in the Metropolitan Division they feel improved the most.
Andrew: New Jersey Devils
With all due respect to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who I thought had a nice little offseason, this one goes to the Devils, who catapulted themselves directly into the playoff conversation.
They brought in Dougie Hamilton, my pick as the Metro Division’s best move, to give them a true No. 1 defenseman at a relatively reasonable price on free agency day.
They added Jonathan Bernier, who somehow put up respectable numbers with the Red Wings last season, in net. He’ll likely replace Mackenzie Blackwood, who posted a .902 save percentage last season.
They added Tomas Tatar to their top six, and with the team desperate for wingers to play with centers Pavel Zacha, Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, Tatar will add a nice offensive burst and play-driving style to the Devils. With New Jersey, he’s got true 20-goal upside.
The Devils certainly didn’t catapult themselves to the top of the division in just a few weeks, but they made themselves a playoff contender in a Metro Division that should be wildly entertaining outside of the Blue Jackets.
JJ: New Jersey Devils
As much as I want to give a different answer, I can't. New Jersey is obviously the most improved team for all the reasons Andrew laid out above. Instead of repeating everything he said, let's go over the other teams in the Metro and why they did not improve as much as the Devils.
Columbus had a bizarre offseason in which they lost significant pieces, brought in significant pieces, ended up shedding no salary and look about as good as before which...wasn't great. Instead of committing to a rebuild which the departure of John Tortorella seemed to signify, they may be treading water for a while. No one will criticize them for having no direction, however, because we all have to applaud GM Jarmo Kekalainen for being bold, even when those bold moves don't pan out.
The New York Rangers got undeniably worse, deciding to sabotage their own rebuild in order to get tougher. Maybe, like Montreal in 2021, a more physical team will find playoff success, but you have to get to the playoffs first and the Rangers look worse than last year's team that didn't make it.
Carolina lost Dougie Hamilton, traded away Alex Nedeljkovic and brought in Tony DeAngelo which were some of the worst moves in the entire NHL in the offseason.
Philadelphia brought in Ryan Ellis, that's good. It also overpaid for Rasmus Ristolainen, that's bad. It shipped out Jakub Voracek who needed a change for Cam Atkinson, that's good. It also signed Martin Jones -- who has been horrible the last few years -- to back up Carter Hart who is coming off a really tough season, that's bad.
Overall, the Flyers look better, but it all hinges on whether Hart can rebound, and signing Jones means there is virtually no safety net.
Both the Caps and Penguins were handcuffed by the salary cap and had to shed salary. Neither team improved and both are hoping the pieces they lost won't be significant.
And the Islanders won't tell anyone anything about what they are doing so it's hard to judge.
New Jersey is really the only team that undeniably improved and by a significant degree. I will caution, however, that many felt the same way about the Devils in 2019 when they added P.K. Subban, Nikita Gusev, Wayne Simmonds and drafted Jack Hughes. Things did not work the way many thought, so don't pencil New Jersey into the playoffs just yet. We have to see how all the pieces fit together first.