After the dust has settled from the NHL Draft and Free Agency, some teams have been able to improve and stabilize their roster with free agent signings and extensions. While others may have gotten sucked up into the moment.
Here are our winners and losers of the NHL offseason:
Winner: New York Rangers
It is widely regarded across the league that the Rangers signing Kevin Shattenkirk was a major win for the club. Shattenkirk agreed to a 4 year, $26.6 with the Rangers, the fact that New York was able to lock up the most coveted defenseman for only 4 years is a huge plus for the club. Most defenseman are getting 7-8 year contracts at the age of thirty, Shattenkirk is only 28 and his deal will be up when he’s only 33 years old.
The $6.65 million dollar cap hit is high for Shattenkirk, but for the amount of years he took of his deal there had to be some give on the part of the Rangers and that came as the dollar amount.
With Shattenkirk in the Rangers have greatly improved their defensive core with McDonagh, Smith, and Brendan Skjei as a their top four defenseman. This also allows their lesser defenseman like Staal and Klein to fall onto the third pairing. With Lundqvist in net the Rangers are hoping that their stout defense can mask the lack of talent that they possess up front.
The Rangers were also able to put themselves into a good cap position by buying out Dan Giradi and trading away Derek Stephan. Now this Rangers team goes from a mediocre hockey club to at least one with potential of making noise.
Loser: Washington Capitals
Staying in the Metropolitan division, unlike the Rangers, the Capitals were easily the biggest losers so far into the offseason.
Not only did Washington lose the aforementioned Shattenkirk (Rangers) they also lost Karl Alzner (Montreal Canadians) and Nate Schimdt (via expansion draft to the Las Vegas Knights). So saying that the Capitals defense took a hit this offseason would be a huge understatement. Defenseman weren’t the only ones skipping town on the Capitals: Veteran forward Justin Williams also left in free agency (Carolina) on a 2 year $9 million dollar contract.
Even the players the Capitals have been able to keep have been bad deals, and mainly the Oshie deal that is certain to cost a team that already seems backed into a corner. The championship window in Washington is closing and Caps fans should prepare for a humbling decline back to mediocrity.
Winner: Dallas Stars
After being the far and away most disappointing team in hockey last year the Dallas Stars and their GM Jim Nill are not hesitating to add to this roster. Nill hastily addressed the problem in net that has plagued the Stars for multiple seasons now by signing former Vezina candidate Ben Bishop to a 6 year $29.5 million dollar contract ($4.92 million annually). Bishop is the exact goaltender the Stars need. He’s a reliable net minder who won’t lose you games and has proven that he can certainly steal some. The Stars continued to address their obvious needs on defense by signing Marc Methot who is a stay at home defenseman which will certainly help out Bishop. Also, they added a big strong center in Martin Hanzal to add some size to their forward group while also maintaning the skill that makes this Stars team so dangerous.
All in all the Stars addressed just about everything that they needed to this offseason, however there is certainly still room to improve on defense. This Stars team should be a lock for the playoffs if nothing else.
Loser: Pittsburgh Penguins
Despite the fact that the Penguins are coming off back to back championships which is astronomically hard to do in the NHL, they have been bitter losers this offseason. Since the NHL expansion draft took place the Penguins have lost key players who were major factors in them winning their second straight Cup. From Marc-Andre Fleury who was great while filling in for the injured Murray, Nick Bonino who was great all around for the Penguins since arriving there. They also lost Chris Kunitz and Trevor Daley who was a major factor in replacing the production of Kris Letang and Ron Hainsey. Maybe even more important than the solid production that each of these players brought to the team, they were also all character guys and one of the most underrated groups in hockey team chemistry. So the Penguins team next season will certainly look different from the one that just won a cup to say the least.
However the Penguins ability to draft and develop players doesn’t receive nearly enough credit. So saying that the Penguins are not still one of the teams favored to win the Eastern Conference is foolish.
Winner: Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks best moves this offseason were made by other teams. Not losing Vatanin or Manson in the expansion draft was huge for this team. Also being able to resign their top defenseman in Cam Fowler to an 8 year contract which will pay him around $6.5 million yearly was a great move. They were also able to add a solid backup in Ryan Miller for a surprisingly low number (only 2 million a year) and extend Patrick Eaves who missed most of this years playoffs and will certainly help improve the scoring on this team.
Anaheim’s ability to keep their core together was critical and the additions they made sure provide some depth to their roster. Once again, there is more than enough talent on the Ducks roster. Now can they capitalize or will the window for a Cup continue to close on this team?