Which NHL Team Had the Best Offseason?
From worst to first, we rank how every team has done this summer.
Photo by Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
This article originally appeared on VICE Sports Canada.
With July, it's time to assess every NHL team's offseason. Well, really, it's time to sit in a pool, drink a cold drink and do anything but think about hockey, but you can take a break from that to read this, can't you?
What this attempts to do is rank how every team has done this summer; it's not about ranking the overall quality of the team, just the transactions since that team's season ended. It's the type of fun reading that can get you through a plane ride and allows you to screenshot and tweet this back at me in a year when it's all wrong.
So here it is, from 30 to 0, the NHL offseason.
30) Vancouver Canucks: Nothing says, "We are totally unaware of the fact that we should be rebuilding" like giving Loui Eriksson six years and $36 million. Why either party wanted to do this is beyond me. They traded Jared McCann for Erik Gudbranson because, again, who knows? Jacob Markstrom, who has appeared in 52 NHL games since 2013-14, was given a three-year, $11 million deal that starts in 2017-18. He had a .915 save percentage last season. Does the NHL drug test GMs? It should.
29) Montreal Canadiens: They will write books about the Habs' moves this summer. They trade PK Subban for Shea Weber... let me do my Teddy KGB voice here... STRAIGHT UP. Then, after citing chemistry issues, sign Alexander Radulov to play with Weber when the two didn't get along in Nashville. Andrew Shaw is the team's fourth-highest paid forward and he's a third-line grinder. Al Montoya is the backup for a goaltender that gets hurt a lot and means everything to the team's success. And despite all this, the Habs will improve next season mainly because Carey Price is healthy, in theory.
28) Boston Bruins: As rudderless as ever. They couldn't meet Loui Eriksson's contract demands yet were willing to give David Backes, a 32-year-old with declining production, five years and $30 million. Torey Krug's deal is slightly excessive but fine and buying out Dennis Seidenberg was whatever. John-Michael Liles and Anton Khudobin are inconsequential. Don Sweeney is the The Joker, in that he doesn't look like a guy with a plan.
27) Detroit Red Wings: Not good. They lost Pavel Datsyuk to retirement but Ken Holland managed to rid himself of the $7.5 million cap hit at the draft. But besides that, yikes. Steve Ott. Thomas Vanek. Five years to Darren Helm, who is 29 and relies heavily on speed. Six years and $30 million to Danny DeKeyser, who is not worth anything close to that deal. Frans Nielsen should be good for a few years but that deal as a whole will be an anchor in a few years. All good things must come to an end, and this year figures to be the start of a decline in Detroit.
26) Arizona Coyotes: I don't know what this team is doing. They overpaid for Alex Goligoski—five years and $30 million—but then took on Datsyuk's $7.5 million cap hit that contains no salary to move up slightly in the draft. Three years and $10 million for Jamie McGinn is slightly excessive. Kevin Connauton could be a nice deal. At the end of the day, despite hiring John Chayka, the Coyotes are still a team that's mostly concerned with reaching the cap floor while spending as little as possible. You have to hope that they don't waste all the great young talent they have there.
25) New York Islanders: This was supposed to be the summer of Garth but instead the Islanders took a step backward. They landed Andrew Ladd, PA Parenteau and Jason Chimera but lost Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin. That's a downgrade in talent. When you're dreaming of Steven Stamkos and settle for Parenteau, that's rough. But surely the reason why Nielsen chose Detroit over the Islanders has nothing to do with Brooklyn or the organization. He just wants a new challenge! And paying your fourth-line center, Casey Cizikas, $3.35 million per year for five seasons is the definition of insanity.
24) Las Vegas McPhees: They hired George McPhee to be GM. 0-for-1, Las Vegas.
23) Anaheim Ducks: What a trainwreck. Fired Bruce Boudreau (they had to do it, though) and hired Randy Carlyle, a bald, heavy-set version of John Tortorella. They let Frederik Andersen go in a trade and got Jonathan Bernier back a couple weeks later. They have a glut of defensemen and one almost must be traded for a forward to both help the team now and avoid losing one in the expansion draft. Doing nothing in July is good unless your team is in dire need of improvement.
22) St. Louis Blues: David Perron as a Troy Brouwer replacement is terrific but everything else is suspect or disappointing. Brian Elliott wanted a trade but now you're left with Jake Allen, who has let the team down with poor performances and injuries the past two seasons, and perfectly fine backup Carter Hutton. No matter how you slice it, the goaltending tandem has been downgraded. Failing to trade Kevin Shattenkirk for forward help is mystifying.
21) Chicago Blackhawks: It's not a hockey offseason if Stan Bowman isn't ripping apart his roster. Trading Teuvo Teravainen to Carolina just to shed Bryan Bickell's bad contract is an immediate loss. Signing Brian Campbell gives the Blackhawks a very good top-four defense group. What Nick Schmaltz does as a rookie is anyone's guess but at least Chicago is still bringing in talent despite shipping so much of it out.
20) Minnesota Wild: Hired the best available head coach on the market in Bruce Boudreau. Signed Eric Staal, who very likely could be done, for a reasonable three years and $10.5 million. Bought out Thomas Vanek, who very likely could be done, to save $5 million this year. They also added Chris Stewart and Alex Stalock on the cheap although not much should be expected from either player. That's a whole lotta moves to keep an 87-point team going.
19) Columbus Blue Jackets: There's nothing negative about Seth Jones' six-year, $32.4 million contract. After that, they really didn't do anything else. That's what happens when you've murdered your roster with bad contracts for years and now you're stuck when the cap barely goes up. But since we're only critiquing this particular summer, not the worst.
18) Edmonton Oilers: Is Milan Lucic worth anything close to seven years and $42 million? Absolutely not. But you get why the Oilers would make the move, considering the position they occupy. Does it make sense to do it at the expense of trading Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson? Again, absolutely not. Failing to get another top-four defenseman hurts. This summer isn't as bad as it seems, but it's not great, either.
17) New York Rangers: They were always stuck this summer, and swapping Derick Brassard for Mika Zibanejad is a wash at best. No one wants to take Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. Michael Grabner and Nathan Gerbe are fast and should help improve the bottom-six. Nick Holden is a non-entity on defense. They got RFAs Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes to sign reasonable deals. Unless they make a trade, the Rangers are banking on the roster that played so poorly over the final 50 games last season.
16) Toronto Maple Leafs: You almost forgot Lou Lamoriello, who was incredibly overmatched as a GM in the salary cap era, was making decisions for the Leafs until this summer. Matt Martin isn't the criminal overpayment people are making it out to be but he serves no purpose there. The same can be said for Roman Polak, who will probably steal ice time from someone younger. Five years and $25 million for Frederik Andersen and his career .918 save percentage could go either way but seems an unnecessary expenditure for a team whose other offseason moves suggest they may tank for a second straight year. At least they gave Auston Matthews all the contract bonuses.
15) Philadelphia Flyers: Ron Hextall gave Brayden Schenn a bunch of money after Schenn finally realized that potential we'd been hearing about forever, but he also gave Radko Gudas and Dale Weise multi-year deals because very few GMs in this league are good. Buying out R.J. Umberger was smart. Hextall is trapped in salary-cap hell because of his predecessor so he's doing what he can inside a tight box.
14) Colorado Avalanche: Somebody talked the Avs' "brain" trust out of trading Tyson Barrie, so that makes this offseason better than it should have been. If it seems unfair that I'm grading on a curve because the Avs have no idea what they're doing and that's led me to set the bar low, sorry, these are my grades. See me after class. I love Nathan MacKinnon, but giving him $6.3 million per season through 2023 feels dangerous. That deal is either going to be the best in the NHL in two years or it gets everyone fired.
13) Ottawa Senators: They improved by swapping Mika Zibanejad for Derick Brassard but their big moves were cleaning out the bench by firing Dave Cameron and hiring Guy Boucher. Bryan Murray stepped aside as GM for Pierre Dorion, who hasn't done much. Mike Hoffman has an arbitration date Aug. 4 but if Dorion gets him signed for around five years at about $5 million per season, that's fine.
12) Washington Capitals: Signed Brett Connolly. That's it. When you're coming off a terrific regular season that ends in crushing fashion against a rival, you can either go the San Jose Sharks way and waste your summer trying to trade core players with no-move clauses or slightly tinker. It wouldn't have killed the Caps to get a better backup goaltender but it's not a big deal.
11) San Jose Sharks: Mikkel Boedker, huh? Well, he skates fast, that's for sure. But if you're looking at 2016-17 as the swan song for Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, get them all the help you can. David Schlemko is an upgrade on the bottom pairing. Considering their place on the NHL food chain at the moment, the Sharks did OK.
10) Pittsburgh Penguins: Jim Rutherford could have spent July taking rips from a bong for all we know. They may be bringing back Matt Cullen. They chose not to trade Marc-Andre Fleury, which seems like the wrong play but it's probably fine. Doing nothing in July is better than spending a bunch of money on overpriced things you don't need. This also applies to vacation plans.
9) Florida Panthers: A dizzying summer. A front-office shakeup just as Dale Tallon's years of work were bearing fruit. So many of their moves can go either way. All signs point to Aaron Ekblad being great but there was no rush to do such a massive contract. Keith Yandle is a huge overpayment. James Reimer as a potential successor to Roberto Luongo may work out. Maybe Vincent Trocheck is a 25-goal scorer or maybe he had a career year and shot 14.4 percent, so now seems like an odd time to commit six years and $4.75 million per season to him. The thing about all these moves is they could work out but maybe not. Jason Demers is a great addition, though.
8) Dallas Stars: They got the defenseman they should've gotten at last year's trade deadline in Dan Hamhuis and let possession drain Kris Russell walk away. Otherwise they re-signed Patrick Eaves for a million bucks and decided their goaltender and defense will improve on their own. If the Stars fall just short of a Cup over the next few years, the Antti Niemi signing last summer will be the No. 1 culprit. They gave Jamie Benn a big, fair contract, but that was an inevitability.
7) Buffalo Sabres: Of all the July 1 overpayments around the league, Kyle Okposo's contract has the chance of working out the best for the team. The Sabres swapped Mark Pysyk for Dmitry Kulikov, which is an even deal. Chad Johnson, who had a .920 save percentage in 45 games, was allowed to leave. Rasmus Ristolainen and Zemgus Girgensons are RFAs who still need new deals. The Sabres gave up a third-round pick for the rights to Jimmy Vesey, but he hasn't signed with the team and seems destined to be a UFA.
6) Los Angeles Kings: Stripping Dustin Brown of the 'C' to give to Anze Kopitar looks like one of those scapegoating moves, although it's better than terminating a bad contract because someone found drugs on a player and magically the GM found out about it despite it being an ongoing investigation. Anyway, Teddy Purcell is a great bargain signing. Jeff Zatkoff is a downgrade in net behind Jonathan Quick. They didn't re-sign Milan Lucic, which is by far their best move this summer.
5) New Jersey Devils: Getting Taylor Hall, one of the best left wings in the game, for Adam Larsson, a fine second-pairing defenseman, is a win no matter how it shakes out over the years. The more I think about it, the more I believe this isn't as one-sided as people say, but it's still great for the Devils now. Kyle Palmieri signing for five years at $4.65 million feels team-friendly, too. But a Get To The Cap Floor Move™ to get Marc Savard says the Devils don't see themselves as a playoff team next year. Ben Lovejoy is a perfectly decent defenseman but losing Larsson makes the back end look like a ghost town. Overall, a good summer, but it could have been better.
4) Carolina Hurricanes: On June 15, they added Teuvo Teravainen from the Blackhawks as a glorified bribe for taking on the final year of Bryan Bickell's contract. Genius. Two days later, they gave Cam Ward, one of the worst goaltenders in the league the past three seasons, not one but TWO years at $3.3 million PER SEASON. Win some, lose some. Six years and $24 million for Victor Rask should be a bargain. Lee Stempniak is a fine depth addition. Buying out James Wisniewski is costly this year—$3.5 million against the cap—but reasonable. Take away the inexplicable Ward deal and this is an A+ offseason.
3) Winnipeg Jets: If any other team signed Mark Scheifele to an eight-year, $49 million contract, I'd LOL throughout this writeup. But this is what the Jets have to do to compete—go really long on their own talent and hope they get great value. And really, Scheifele showed enough last year to warrant that risk. They will eventually do the same with Jacob Trouba, ideally. Mathieu Perreault's deal is solid and shows why Andrew Shaw's contract is so bad. Shawn Matthias is a sneaky good deal. Great job moving up to second in the draft lottery and taking Patrik Laine.
2) Calgary Flames: New contracts for Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan will determine the quality of this summer for Calgary. It's hard to grade a team that has Troy Brouwer as its highest-paid forward. The big move was acquiring a real-life NHL goaltender in Brian Elliott. Glen Gulutzan, no matter how bad you think he could be, is an upgrade over Bob Hartley. Unless Gaudreau or Monahan leak into training camp, this could be the summer that gets Calgary over the hump of mediocrity.
1) Nashville Predators: It's been a pretty decent summer for David Poile, who flipped Shea Weber for PK Subban in a trade that instantly makes the Predators better and faster. He also signed Filip Forsberg to a reasonable six-year, $36 million contract. Every other transaction is a minor one that doesn't matter because the Predators' summer will be defined by the Subban deal.
0) Tampa Bay Lightning: Steve Yzerman is magic. Steven Stamkos at $8.5 million and Victor Hedman for just $375K more than Ekblad? Getting Stamkos at that price to set an internal salary cap the rest of the team acknowledges is some sort of mind control tactic. Laying the foundation for Andrei Vasilevskiy's future and allowing yourself the flexibility to sign Nikita Kucherov (although it hasn't happened yet) and even retain Ben Bishop for one more year is witchcraft. Alex Killorn's deal is maybe a little too long. Of course, all this sorcery wouldn't be necessary if Yzerman didn't give Ryan Callahan six years and $34.8 million, but this is only about this offseason.
Wait, why is this list 30 to 0 instead of 31 to 1? Because every team gets bumped up one spot for not signing Kris Russell. Whichever team signs him, go back and knock them down five spots.
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