The further one drifts from the traditional offseason months, the more it looks like the Dallas Stars are on the rise in the Pacific Division while the Phoenix Coyotes are bound to desperately howl up at them.
The former club figures to reap rewards from the front office’s productive summer studies of trade bait and unrestricted free agents. The latter could be languishing upon letting a multitude of key players escape the desert.
Those are just two teams worth grading on a series of individual transactions. The recipients of 50 new arrivals, and also a few teams trading or not bothering to renew a given player, have notably either brightened, complicated or even fogged their outlook for the coming campaign and maybe beyond.
Based on all of the trades since the Stanley Cup was clinched and all of the signings and re-signings since free agents were turned loose, the top 50 offseason transactions are chronologically recounted and evaluated.
Starting with the Washington Capitals perspective, this trade conveys no shortage of boldness as the veteran Vokoun has been cast off to implicitly make room for a still fairly unripe tandem of Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth.
Holtby turned heads with his 2012 postseason and the 24-year-old Neuvirth would not shock anybody if he proves his best years are ahead of him. In turn, while it would have been more prudent to keep a more seasoned stopper, the odds of one of two youngsters bring stability are sufficient.
Give the Caps a B-minus on this one. As for Pittsburgh, this is an easy A as franchise netminder Marc-Andre Fleury, who has hiccupped on occasion, has a certifiably competitive colleague and the team has a sound insurance policy.
While Lindback has but 38 NHL games on his transcript and has played no more than 22 in a season, competing for crease time with Pekka Rinne in Nashville could make him a hidden gem.
In a fairly limited market for goaltenders, Tampa picked up one of the better available candidates to clear away the slushy remnants of Dwayne Roloson. The Bolts get a B that could be subject to change in either direction depending on Lindback’s performance.
With this coming in the wake of Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement, the Detroit Red Wings brooked a heavy open wound, bleeding their defensive seasoning. Between Stuart and Lidstrom, they will have lost two blueliners with a combined 2,440 NHL games-played.
From a Detroit standpoint, if only for the fact that general manager Ken Holland and company have long fostered a bend-don’t-break outlook, this move warrants a C-plus.
For San Jose, bringing back Stuart for a second stint is a natural boon. They are adding an effective and experienced player who not only went to two Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009, but shared the 2008 homestretch and championship run with current Sharks head coach Todd McLellan, then a Detroit assistant.
Nothing short of an A can be doled out to the receiving party.
The 36-year-old playmaking point patroller should at least have enough in him to finish in the 20s, if not the 30s under the assists column. More importantly, Visnovsky can lend some veteran presence to an altogether youthful Islanders’ lineup and blue-line brigade.
For addressing that area, nothing lower than a B-plus does this move justice.
For all of their ill fortune, a little bit of it self-imposed, on defense, the Philadelphia Flyers’ at least shed a piece of their surplus offense to reel in Schenn. Leaving out all of the organization’s other offseason developments, they get a solid A on this draft-day trade.
For the Toronto Maple Leafs, the recipient of van Riemsdyk in exchange for Schenn, the primary question mark is their new winger’s health. But if van Riemsdyk can steer clear of injury and duplicate, let alone build upon his career year from 2010-11, he can be an appreciable top-six additive.
With all of those factors and potentialities, the acquisition of van Riemsdyk earns a B tinkering on a B-plus.
Despite missing 20 games in 2011-12, Staal tallied a career-high 50 points and his best goal count (25) since he was a rookie in 2006-07 (29). If his development is, in fact, on the rise and his chemistry with brother Eric Staal produces the forecasted formula, he will justify this author’s A grade to the Hurricanes for making this deal.
The relinquishing party, namely the Pittsburgh Penguins, did not exactly get an equivalent pivot in Brandon Sutter, although he could easily fulfill his third-line position with annual goals and assists in the 20s.
Furthermore, as part of the return package, they addressed a more pressing need by nabbing the eighth overall draft pick and using it to claim the rights to defenseman Derrick Pouliot. Their end of the deal sits along the A-minus/B-plus borderline.
Rome is not a spectacular addition to a team that is vying to rebound from a late-season collapse out of the playoff hunt. But he is an established blueliner who was on a President’s Trophy-winning team in each of his first two full NHL seasons and can bring in some valuable takeaways from losing postseason experiences.
Of his first three seasons spent exclusively in the NHL, Rask’s two best have been in the final year of his contract, those being 2009-10 and 2011-12. By re-signing the 25-year-old for a single season, the Bruins seem to be banking on Rask turning in another proficient season with something to prove.
If and when he does that and permanently grips the starting title, then a longer, more lucrative contract will be in order. For now, Boston has earned an A for signaling that they want Rask to stay and for him to earn his stay.
Since coming to Boston from Ottawa in a February 2011 trade, Kelly has proven himself a quintessentially reliable third-liner on a team that depends on depth. In turn, his contract was hardly expired for 24 hours before it was replenished for another four seasons.
There is no way of knowing how productive he will be by the time he is 35 in the 2015-16 season, but the outlook is good enough for this move to garner a B-plus.
Replacing Roloson in net was Priority No. 1A for the Lightning. Rebuilding the defensive corps, especially with the not-so-promising outlook on Mattias Ohlund after he missed the whole 2011-12 campaign, was Priority 1B.
Despite the notion that he may be on the decline, Salo is worth rolling the dice on for at least one season. The fact that Tampa is tacking him on for two years rather than one is the chief reason this move goes into the upper “C” range.
Fortunately for Bolts buffs, they did not stop their extreme defensive makeover there. More on that in a later slide.
While there is no jutting reason for the Predators to not hang onto their 2012 trade deadline acquisition for a while, Gaustad is somehow inflicting the team’s fourth-highest cap hit among forwards. He also trails only Rinne, Shea Weber and Kevin Klein in the contract length department.
All of this despite being a fourth-line caliber center, albeit one who routinely breaks double digits in the goal and assist column. His pact to remain in Nashville earns a B-minus.
Garrison bolted out to a career campaign with 16 goals and 17 assists on an offensively-challenged Florida team. Letting him get away, to phrase things simply and gently, does not look good on the Panthers’ progress report.
For the Canucks, taking Garrison on for six years and a swollen salary amounting to a $4.6 million cap hit may seem a little overeager. But bringing him in amplifies their offensive threat from the blue line well enough to give this transaction a B-plus.
After a full season in the AHL, Souray re-emerged to tally an altogether respectable 21 points and a plus-11 rating with Dallas. Although that does not necessarily warrant a three-year deal paying more than twice per year what he made with the Stars, the Ducks’ defense can still use his veteran presence.
If Souray lends the solid bottom-tier “D” that ought to be expected of him, the solid B in this move’s grade slot should either stay put or move up a level.
His return to the Predators, for whom he played the majority of the 2007-08 schedule just as he did the following two years in St. Louis, gets an A-minus, primarily because it is hard to be perfect in a move like this.
The raid of the Pacific Division champion and Western Conference finalist Coyotes entails, in part, the departure of the veteran Aucoin to the Blue Jackets. On a team with nowhere to go but up and a defense with no one else outside of their 30s, Aucoin can spend his single contract year demonstrating exemplary leadership and possibly earning an additional year.
On Columbus’ end, there is hardly anything to nitpick in this A-caliber move and signing. The Coyotes' failure to retain him was just that.
If his first two full NHL seasons with the New York Islanders are any indication, it would only be a mild-to-moderate exaggeration to anoint Parenteau a steal on Colorado’s part. If he can link up with the likes of Gabriel Landeskog and start piloting a prolific Avalanche resurgence, he will verify the transaction’s borderline A-minus/A grade.
The defending champions helped to ensure they keep their Cup-winning roster intact by extending Penner for at least one more year with a modest paycut. That is all but impeccable (we'll call it an A-minus) for both parties as the Kings shall wait to see if Penner can get somewhere closer to his Anaheim/Edmonton form in his second full year in Los Angeles.
His rights snatched from Winnipeg so soon after he was traded there from Toronto, Gustavsson should be in upgrade in the Red Wings’ backup slot behind the All-Star Jimmy Howard. He has twice played more than half of a regular-season schedule with the Maple Leafs and his unspectacular stats could be partially blamed on a collectively unreliable band of praetorian guards.
That said, it would have been nearly impossible to cultivate a perfectly proven second-string stopper, so the Wings should be content with an A-minus/B-plus on this move.
He should at least be banked on to statistically and inspirationally elevate the Stars back into the playoff picture and eventually retire with a winning foundation still on the rise and owed in part to him.
The first of a handful of free-agent additives to the retooling Wild, Mitchell can be a gratifyingly useful fourth-liner, as evidenced by his three full nine- or 10-goal campaigns in San Jose. If he transfers that production rate to Minnesota and does his part in the defensive zone in his relatively limited ice time, the bottom six will have at least one stable cornerstone.
With all of their losses, many of them mentioned within this slideshow, the Coyotes need to restock their depth chart somehow.
But when it comes to Moss, who is a dependable depth forward when healthy, Phoenix will have to bank on some big “ifs.” In his six-year NHL career, Moss has thrice finished between 10 and 20 goals, but has also missed substantial time due to injuries in four different seasons, including the last two.
This signing is much better than nothing, but still not worthy of anything above a C-plus until Moss’ health stabilizes.
The Canadiens did studious homework in pursuing Armstrong and concocting his contract with them.
On the one hand, his recent health history implicitly factored into the one-year length of the free-agent import’s deal. On the other, his history of playing for new head coach Michel Therrien and of producing gratifying numbers for a fourth-liner clearly enticed Montreal to make sure Armstrong was with them at all.
This is a somewhat surprising (until you delve into those details) A-grade move.
Like Armstrong, Prust is a reasonably seasoned veteran who fits in on the fourth line. Unlike Armstrong, he has had more stability, health-wise.
But unlike Armstrong, Prust has only once shown that he can he a head-turning fourth-liner who breaks double digits in the scoring columns. He has yet to verify that he can do that on a yearly basis, which amplifies the slight curiosity behind the fact that the ex-Rangers’ contract has him staying with his new team for four seasons.
That should be enough time to clear up a lot of gray air, but for now, the best grade this move can earn is a B-minus.
Based on his drop-off in production over the last three seasons, Boyes is not exactly guaranteed to help the Long Island fanbase forget about Parenteau. Even so, he can theoretically rebound at any time, so his transfer from Buffalo and one-year, $1 million deal with the Isles salvages a C-plus and barely brushes the B-minus border.
Coming to Dallas via trade on a day between the signings of two age-defying free agents, Roy will need to get back to his previous form circa 2007-2010. While that is not quite a foregone conclusion, a valiant bounce-back effort combined with the Stars returning to the playoffs will set a satisfying tone.
Both sides are tucked in the B-range on this deal with a lot yet to be seen and maybe more tweaks to be made.
With a multitude of promising prospects still sharpening their craft and raring to succeed the future Hall of Famer, the Devils were wise to renew Brodeur to keep the crease warm. Although, rather than lock him in for two seasons at a $4.5 million cap hit, it might have been wiser to convince him to see how one year went and base the future decision on that.
The biggest of the Flames’ new faces, Hudler is coming off a career campaign in Detroit and should now have a wider-open window of opportunity in Calgary.
Because he raised his personal bar to 25 goals and 50 points, his confidence should be stable, as should his hunger for more. The Flames picked him up in a timely fashion, which is worthy of a B-plus.
Granted, the veteran Salvador had a head-turning postseason where an all but never-before-seen two-way performer was unleashed from within.
His reliability in a run to the Stanley Cup Finals doubtlessly earned him an invitation back to the Devils, but maybe not quite for the three-year renewal and the slight salary raise he got. There is no way of knowing if he can or will sustain his skills throughout that whole time frame, let alone build upon that 2012 playoff performance.
Like his teammate Brodeur, due to a potentially precarious length of contract, Salvador has a B-minus caliber deal in hand.
In contrast to the likes of Salvador, Jagr has been signed by a team that delicately balances its appreciation for whatever he still has with caution. In turn, they have an ornate veteran who can co-pilot a balanced strike force.
Joining Whitney, Roy and the better part of Dallas’ returning core, Jagr should be in a position to confidently and comfortably tinker on the 20-goal plateau and then decide for himself if he wants more after 2012-13.
For continuing to take relentless action to improve, but not going overboard with the potentially declining winger’s contract, the Stars get an A-minus on the Jagr move.
He will now vie to lend some stable scoring to the Rangers’ third line, which ought to help them get away with John Tortorella’s defensive approach better in their next playoff run. More individual scoring threats and more goals should mean fewer games to a series and thus more energy in the later rounds.
For bringing Pyatt on as just one step towards a more reckonable strike force, the Blueshirts garner an A-minus.
They and their new teammates will need to endure some growing pains and a sound supporting cast will need to be honed and/or acquired. With that said, these joint Fourth of July free-agent pick-ups look like As and should continue to look that way for the indefinite future.
All around, this transaction is all but thoroughly akin to the Red Wings letting Stuart go back to San Jose. But for the receiving party, this is solid A material.
Back for a second term with Tampa, Carle figures to go from being the Flyers’ top minute-muncher to playing the same role with the Lightning. And coming off back-to-back years with assists in the 30s and having just turned 28, it is safe to assume he has yet to reach his peak.
Odds are heads will continue to be scratched over how Philadelphia allowed Carle to slip away rather than retain him to succeed the potentially finished Chris Pronger as their defensive anchor. But now, with a six-year pact, the Lightning can look forward to letting him do that for the aforementioned Ohlund.
Having gone from a 7-10-17 to a 16-12-28 scoring log in his first two full NHL seasons, Eller has yet to genuinely break out. The Habs, however, were wise to shore up their chances of seeing through that process by extending their alliance with him for two years at a low cost.
If only because he is still short on seasoning and a bit of a dark horse, Eller warrants a B-plus in his new contract. That said, the Canadiens can return to relevance in the coming years if he blossoms as a reliable secondary/depth scorer.
Although his output is nowhere near where it once was and although Jason Arnott would have been a more productive veteran to retain, the Blues got it right with Langenbrunner on what could be one key count.
If nothing else, Langenbrunner and Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock can use their familiarity from working together on Dallas’ 1999 championship team to bring their current club to the next level. If that happens, it would be a year well spent and that potentiality salvages a B for St. Louis' one-year extension on Langenbrunner’s contract.
The prospective risks and rewards shall arm-wrestle one another as soon as Mueller debuts in a Panthers uniform. His health will naturally be an X-factor, though he has often, in full or partial seasons, mustered an average of one point every two games or better.
With everything yet to be seen, but Florida taking a step in an attempt to cultivate reliable scoring beyond the first line, the acquisition of Mueller earns a B-minus, close to a B.
Even at age 42, Selanne ought to have a sufficient supply of output remaining, especially considering he played in all 82 games last season and tallied 66 points on a non-playoff team.
One more season to try to bridge the franchise back to winning grounds cannot bear any harm, even if his $4.5 million salary proves a touch excessive. This deal is somewhere between an A-minus and B-plus.
The Blue Jackets could have gained more in return for Nash, but the perennial bottom-feeders and misfits of the otherwise competitive Central Division can at least start fresh with a new identity.
The actual return package may not even be as poor as one might think. Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky are both capable of producing goals in the upper teens or lower 20s and points snug in the 40s, which could lend more balance to the Blue Jackets’ depth chart.
Columbus gets a B on this, the Rangers a B-plus with the potential for extra credit if Nash can make like Ilya Kovalchuk and prove his dearth of playoff experience irrelevant upon joining a contender.
Like Kostitsyn, Wilson is a leaned-on scorer whom the Predators are still waiting to bloom. Once again, Nashville was shrewd to renew him after his entry-level deal expired, but not to go overboard on payment or length.
The only difference is Wilson is extended for three seasons rather than two, so as it stands right now, this is plain B material.
The Predators can worry about the length and the cap hit of their captain’s new contract later. For the immediate, near and foreseeable future, they are secure in the knowledge that their blue line was not outright depleted, even with the loss of Suter.
Plain and simple, keeping Weber would have warranted an A-plus, losing him would have warranted an F, regardless of any compensation they might have received if they didn’t match the Flyers’ offer sheet.
As it happened, the former came to fruition.
Only Semin knows for sure why he was inconsistent in Washington, though one viable theory may be that he was at times discouraged playing in Alexander Ovechkin’s media-magnet shadow.
He will now join the endeared Staal brothers in Carolina, where the fanbase and management will hope he is sparked by a change of scenery. There is nothing wrong with holding out hope or with exercising caution by at least starting the new partnership with a one-year contract.
Almost anybody pursuing Semin would be taking a chance, but not without any shortage of prospective rewards to accompany the risks. With him, the Hurricanes have a borderline A-minus/B-plus that could be modified depending on the on-ice results if and when this season begins.
Carlson spent two of his three entry-level years exclusively in the NHL with similar results on offense and all but polar opposite results in his day job on defense. It may have been nothing more than a simple sophomore slump that dropped him to a minus-15 last season from plus-21 the year prior.
Given all of that, the timing (although inevitable) and length of his new six-year deal is a bit iffy, but the deal will pay dividends if there are more seasons along the lines of 2010-11. In turn, this stands as a borderline B/B-plus.
At least one key holdover, and most likely the most important holdover, from 2011-12 is staying in Phoenix. The Coyotes re-signed their captain on the cusp of the lockout and after three-plus months of uncertainty and endless potentialities for Doan to go elsewhere.
Taking on a $5.3 million cap hit for four years may be a bit much for a player at this stage in his career, but it was a hard-fought struggle to retain the man who has been in this organization for the last 17 years. All things considered, it is hard not to stamp an A on this report.
Even after an injury-riddled sophomore season, Ennis still ought to have a promising future, as especially evidenced by his output of 34 points in 48 games.
The Sabres might have taken the health history into account and conservatively reached a two-year extension to replace Ennis’ expired entry-level contract. They probably could have gone for a slightly longer pact and not been blamed, but if nothing else, the one thing costing them points on their move to extend Ennis is its timing.
This gets a borderline B-plus/A-minus because it logically should have been reached sooner than Sept. 15. Ennis is not like the heavily seasoned and proven leader that Doan is―at least not yet.