After the Bruins hoisted Lord Stanley's Cup, it was now time to focus our attention on the NHL offseason and how the league would look after some big free agents were set to come on the market.
In an offseason with no shortage of big names in free agency and movement around the league, now is a good time to take a look back and see what some of the biggest moves were and how they affect the layout of the NHL going into 2011.
Tampa Bay is one of the most talented teams on the ice, but the center of their current and future roster was in the hands of Steven Stamkos. As a top-tier talent, the lightning could not afford to lose him to free agency, and his resigning has marked the continuation of an era in Tampa.
Inking a five-year, nearly $38 million contract, he will now be locked in with the likes of Vincent LeCavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Marc-Andre Bergeron for this year and the future, making the Lightning a heavy contender going into the season.
The Kings are one of my favorite young teams in the league, and they only got better with their signing of Mike Richards. He was another highly sought-after name, but the Kings were able to sign him.
When you combine his talent with a young and high-upside goaltender in Jonathon Quick (Watch out for him big time in 2011) and a strong, young core, I look for LA to be a team finishing at the top of their division for now and well into the future.
The Blackhawks want to get back to the Finals, and they will not let anyone push them around to get there. With the additions of Jamal Mayers, Daniel Carcillo, and Sean O”Donnell, Chicago immediately becomes one of the toughest teams in the entire NHL.
Look for the Blackhawks style of play to change with their new additions. They will become more of a grind it out team and look to be physical with any chance they get. I would be surprised if they are not in the top five in hits in the NHL, and credit GM Stan Bowman for the change in attitude and redesign to try and help the team perform.
After a strong late season showing without their two top players, the Pens are still facing a lot of question marks throughout the offseason. They lost a lot of talent and toughness in Maxime Talbot and Mike Rupp, but the talented duo of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby is the main concern that lingers throughout the offseason.
According to most reports, Malkin is progressing on schedule and should be ready to play a big role for Pittsburgh this season. With this said, no one knows how he will bounce back and play again from such a serious knee injury. Hopefully he can return to his former self and help the Penguins contend.
Crosby, on the other hand, still has a lot of doubts going into late August. Sidelined most of the year from concussions (which was most likely given during the brutal hit in the Winter Classic), Sid the Kid is still having a lot of problems in his recovery. Once thought to be retiring and once thought to have a possible return during the playoffs, Crosby is going to need to recover and regain a lot of his former self if the Penguins want to make a Stanley Cup run this year.
It seems like every offseason, Detroit signs a few players that help keep them in the hunt for the Stanley Cup year in and year out. This season is no different.
Although the Wings lost two strong veterans in Brian Rafalski and Kris Draper (and let Mike Modano walk), they brought in some young talent that will no doubt help energize the Motor City. Players such as Ian White and Mike Commodore will help propel this team and keep them where the Detroit faithful want them to be: making a deep run into the playoffs.
One of the biggest signings of the offseason was Brad Richards signing a nine-year deal with the Rangers. As one of the biggest names on the free agent market, Richards helps the offense big time, taking them from a mid-level team (ranking 16th in the NHL) and possibly propelling them into the top 10.
The Rangers are in a very strong division, and the addition of Richards will help them to contend and hopefully make a run into the playoffs. Without Richards, the Rangers would have probably ended up with the same fate as 2010, but he provides a lot of hope and energy for New York.