Some NHL GMs still have a major player to get under contract (Los Angeles Kings), while others are already dealing with injuries and the cap space that brings (Boston Bruins). For the most part though, managers are able to sit back at this point and ask themselves a simple question:
"Well, how'd we do?"
Managers around the league suddenly found that they had a bolstered checkbook, either brought on by new ownership or the significant raise in the salary cap floor. And the shortage of free agents didn't exactly make for a buyer's market.
That certainly didn't keep some squads from spending however.
So how did they do?
In all aspects of managing the cap—that's what I am going to try and determine by looking at several different aspects of the offseason.
If the team filled a need, that's a plus. If they overspent to do it, then maybe not so much. Are they considering the players they need to sign to contracts in the future while shelling out these deals? Or is there a win-now attitude that could pay off?
It's a tough thing to quantify, but I'm going to try.
What constitutes an A for the Oilers doesn't mean that the same moves would mean an A in Boston. I'm trying to consider the long-term plan of each team here, and identify how well they improved upon weaknesses from the year before.
Picking up an All-Star netminder doesn't mean the same thing to Vancouver as it would to say, the Panthers.
So let's get started.
As always, I'd love to hear from you in the comments down below if you agree or disagree, or just want to talk about what led to a particular grade. It's just like high school all over again, but I am not taking calls from any parents.
The grading scale is as follows: 100-90 is an A, 89-80 is a B, 79-70 is a C, 69-60 is a D, 59 and below is a fail.
Notable Additions: Andrew Cogliano, Mathieu Carle, Jeff Deslauriers
Notable Departures: Andreas Lilja, Andy Sutton, Todd Marchant
Notable Re-signings: Dan Sexton
How'd They Do?
Not a whole lot has changed in Anaheim. This could be a good or bad thing depending on your viewpoint.
This was the fourth-best team in the West last season, and that isn't too shabby considering how competitive the conference is. The RPG line that features Bobby Ryan, Hart Trophy Winner Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf is still intact and terrifying.
But the fact remains that Perry almost willed this team to a top-four finish by himself, and that secondary scoring is a bit of an issue. How Anaheim can view their offseason rests on the shoulders of Teemu Selanne, who still hasn't decided on his future.
Standing pat is one thing, but it's hard to not notice that two other teams in the Pacific made some drastic personal changes. The Kings and Sharks both addressed weaknesses, and Anaheim stood idly by.
This could cost them at the end of the season, or they could have plans for their $10 million in cap space.
The teams around them did too much to bolster their lineups, and while it's a good thing Anaheim didn't overpay it can't be considered a huge summer when Andrew Cogliano is the prize acquisition.
Offseason Grade: 74 percent/C, for checking when they could have raised along with the rest of the division.
Notable Additions: Joe Corvo, Benoit Pouliot
Notable Departures: Michael Ryder, Tomas Kaberle
Notable Re-Signings: Brad Marchand (whenever this deal finally gets done)
How'd They Do?
Chicago had it a lot worse.
As the whirlwind of free agency and the draft swirled around, notably absent from the headlines were phrases like "Cup Champion Boston Forced To Deal (insert player here)." There were no slideshows highlighting the top five players that the champs had to let go of or trade.
The team is largely intact, and whenever a Cup-winner can keep not only their core, but most of their role players as well while working under the cap, I consider it a win.
With Marc Savard's long-time IR listing upon us the Bruins will have around $11 million in space to work with. Brad Marchand will eat a bit of that room up, but that's a lot of wiggle room for a team that just won the whole damn thing.
Joe Corvo was a good, under-the-radar signing that gives Boston another solid body on the blue line. No one will notice that Tomas Kaberle bolted for Carolina after getting his Cup ring, and losing Michael Ryder to Dallas isn't devastating.
Boston is a team set up to win now, and in the future. This summer did nothing to change that.
Offseason Grade: 95 percent/A, for keeping a championship team intact.
Notable Additions: Christian Ehrhoff, Robyn Regehr, Ville Leino
Notable Departures: Tim Connolly
Notable Re-Signings: Matt Ellis, Nathan Gerbe, Cody McCormick, Jhonas Enroth
How'd They Do?
Talk about a quick turnaround. The Buffalo Sabres went from a middle-of-the-pack team spending wisely, to actually being more than $3 million over heading into training camp.
Anyone can just throw around money when there is an open checkbook though. While the Sabres are definitely better than they were a year ago some feel that the Sabres overpaid a bit for both Christian Ehrhoff and Villie Leino.
I'm not among those detractors.
Landing Ehrhoff for $4 million just days before the market inflated due to scarcity looks like a stroke of genius in hindsight. Ehrhoff is young, capable of playing big minutes and is the puck-moving blueliner you always hear managers babbling about in interviews when asked what they'd like to add.
Robyn Regehr was also a great addition. While the underproducing Ales Kotalik also came over in the same deal the Sabres netted themselves a solid stay-at-home defender for a second-round pick and some change.
Villie Leino's $4.5 million contract raised some eyebrows, but with the cap increasing like it has been over the years his deal will level itself out by 2017-2018 no matter what his production is. But multiple 50- or 60-point campaigns out of Leino are not out of the question.
Keeping Nathan Gerbe on board along with goaltending savior Jhonas Enroth rounded out a highly productive offseason for Buffalo.
Offseason Grade: 92 percent/A, for vastly improving on their team and addressing their weakness on defense.
Notable Additions: Chris Butler, Scott Hannan, Lee Stempniak
Notable Departures: Robyn Regehr, Daymond Langkow
Notable Re-Signings: Curtis Glencross, Brendan Morrison, Alex Tanguay, Anton Babchuck
How'd They Do?
Calgary surprised me by managing to lock up all of their important free-agent forwards. I was almost certain that they'd either have to choose between keeping just Alex Tanguay while losing Curtis Glencross and Brendan Morrison, or losing Tanguay while hanging onto Glencross and Morrison.
But they hung onto their all of their own important pieces.
They didn't improve upon the team that barely missed the playoffs however. They may actually be a bit worse with the loss of Robyn Regehr to Buffalo via trade. Scott Hannan will do his best to ease the pain of that loss, but Regehr was an important part of Calgary's blue line.
The Flames didn't have the cap room to make any big additions this summer, so sticking with what they had was really the best option for the team. Dealing Daymond Langkow to the Coyotes for Lee Stempniak was a slick deal though.
This was an eighth- to 12th-place team at the beginning of the offseason, and they still are heading into training camp.
Offseason Grade: 76 percent/C, for somehow hanging onto the pieces they needed to keep to compete for a playoff spot.
Notable Additions: Brian Boucher, Tim Brent, Tomas Kaberle, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Anthony Stewart
Notable Departures: Eric Cole, Joe Corvo, Sergei Samsonov
Notable Re-Signings: Jussi Jokinen, Chad LaRose, Joni Pitkanen, Brandon Sutter
How'd They Do?
Carolina didn't miss the playoffs by much last season. One more shutout by apparent-machine Cam Ward and one more shootout win off the stick of ace Jussi Jokinen, and the Hurricanes would have found their way to a first-round date with the Capitals.
The 'Canes seemed to approach this summer with more of a "what if that had happened" attitude, as opposed to a "we need to get over the hump" approach.
They brought in mildly maligned blueliner Tomas Kaberle, who not even six months ago was the talk of the trade-rumor circuit. He had been considered one of the best available defenders at the deadline but tanked with the Bruins en route to a Cup.
The recipe for a bounce-back is there as Kaberle should come out much better with Carolina after having more time to adjust. Adding another Cup ring to the room never hurts anything either.
Brian Boucher will give Ward more time to rest during the season, and this signing could pay off in a big way should the Hurricanes find their way back to the postseason.
Anthony Stewart is a big body, and it was very odd to see Winnipeg allow him to walk via free agency. He's been slow to develop, but he'll be worth every penny of his bargain-basement $900,000 contract.
Keeping Jokinen, Brandon Sutter and blue-line stud Joni Pitkanen on board are also huge pluses for the team.
The Hurricanes made improvements without breaking their bank, as they are still one of the lowest-spending teams in the league. With $14 million in cap space they could still shake the roster up a bit if they wanted to.
They went from a team that barely missed the playoffs to what should be a sixth- or seventh-place finish in the East if these moves pan out.
Offseason Grade: 90 percent/A, for putting together one of the best, but most quiet free-agency periods for any team in the league.
Notable Additions: Andrew Brunette, Dan Carcillo, Jamal Mayers, Steve Montador
Notable Departures: Brian Campbell, Tomas Kopecky, Troy Brouwer
Notable Re-Signings: Patrick Sharp, Corey Crawford, Michael Frolik, Viktor Stalberg
How'd They Do?
The Blackhawks deserve an A just for offloading Brian Campbell and one of the worst contracts in the league to Florida. But the team made some serious moves that may appear minor on paper.
Chicago really struggled for an identity last year after losing a lot of their sandpaper players to trades and free agency—moves that were forced because of the cap. They stumbled out of the gate last season, the Marty Turco experiment couldn't have gone any worse and they barely made the playoffs while defending their Cup.
It's the big dance that matters though, and this team was only one goal away from eliminating the eventual Western Conference champions.
Adding Dan Carcillo, Jamal Mayers and Andrew Brunette makes this team a hell of a lot harder to play against. I think this grit addressed the biggest need for Chicago in the offseason. They didn't need another big name as their core is intact for the foreseeable future.
Brunette is a monster on the power play and in front of the net, and everyone knows what a guy like Carcillo brings to the table. These guys play with the edge and attitude that the 'Hawks seemed to be missing last year.
The also re-upped Patrick Shark and Corey Crawford while retaining over $3 million in cap space. In my eyes, this summer has launched Chicago right back to the top of Stanley Cup favorites. Carcillo isn't Brad Richards, but he is exactly what this team needed.
Offseason Grade: 94 percent/A, for bringing the grit and toughness back that the team missed so dearly last season.
Notable Additions: J.S. Giguere, Jan Hejda, Semyon Varlamov, Chuck Kobasew
Notable Departures: First- and second-round picks in 2012 and 2013
Notable Re-Signings: T.J. Galiardi, Milan Hejduk, David Jones
How'd They Do?
The impact of the deal for starting netminder Semyon Varlamov remains to be seen. If the picks Colorado dealt don't pan out elsewhere then this one goes off without a hitch. But the cost could be a little steep for a goaltender who wasn't exactly on his A-game last season and was ready to bolt to the KHL if a starting job wasn't apparent in the NHL.
He was stellar in a backup role, sure. But the Avalanche have had plenty of those goalies in recent memory. A first- and a second-spell "game-breaker" to me, and Varlamov may not be that guy. Colorado still addressed their most outstanding weakness by adding two netminders.
Gone is Craig Anderson and Peter Budaj is an afterthought. They were arguably one of the worst duos in net across the entire league. That shouldn't be the case in Colorado this year.
The addition of Chuck Kobasew is a good one as his youth and energy will fit in with the Avalanche and their baby-faced squad. The Avs didn't make any other noteworthy moves, and are banking on their youth to continue to develop into All-Stars moving forward.
Offseason Grade: 85 percent/B, for their aggressiveness in attacking the team's biggest issue, which was netminding.
Notable Additions: Vaclav Prospal, James Wisniewski, Jeff Carter, Mark Dekanich
Notable Departures: Jan Hejda, Jakub Voracek, Nikita Filatov
Notable Re-Signings: Grant Clitsome, Marc Methot
How'd They Do?
Columbus had to be very assertive to do so, but they managed the biggest offseason in the club's short history this summer. The Jeff Carter deal was massive, and automatically lends some credibility to a team that had mostly been known for awful drafting and a guy named Rick Nash who always seemed to make the All-Star team.
The goal for the Jackets had been to land a No. 1 center for Nash since he was drafted, you know, in the team's first year as a franchise. They finally have that in Carter.
While some argue that Carter and Nash will bump heads a bit because they both love to shoot, they are forgetting that there will be another winger out on the ice to help set the two gunmen up. If the trio clicks (you better believe there will be some fierce competition for the right side on the top line) then the Blue Jackets could have one of the most dangerous first lines in the NHL.
The other long-standing desire of Columbus has been to acquire a top puck-moving defender. James Wisniewski fits the bill. Some find his contract too rich, but that was the name of the game across the board this summer.
The Jackets filled two long-standing needs over the offseason.
They also managed to ditch two of the worst top draft picks in recent memory by dealing Jakub Voracek to the Flyers in the Carter deal, and getting rid of the cancerous Nikita Filatov by shipping him far, far away to Ottawa.
Addition by subtraction to some degree in Columbus this summer.
Offseason Grade: 95 percent/A, because it's hard to see how the offseason could have gone better for a team that needed to add some fireworks to the lineup.
Notable Additions: Radek Dvorak, Vernon Fiddler, Eric Godard, Michael Ryder, Sheldon Souray
Notable Departures: Brad Richards
Notable Re-Signings: Not Brad Richards
How'd They Do?
Imagine you're playing NHL 2011 (2012 here in a few days) or fantasy hockey and this trade comes across your figurative desk:
You'll receive Radek Dvorak, Vernon Fiddler, Eric Godard, Michael Ryder and Sheldon Souray for Brad Richards.
I'll wait a few seconds for you to stop laughing.
That is essentially what the try-hard Dallas Stars did this offseason by losing All-Star center and heart-and-soul guy Brad Richards to free agency because of ownership issues and replacing him with whoever would sign.
This one hurts, and the Stars weren't able to shore up that top-line talent hole because the best free agent available was the player they'd just lost.
That sting will take a long time to numb out, and watching second- and third-line players like Ryder and Fiddler isn't going to do a whole lot to stop the swelling.
The Stars tried their best this offseason to not stand in the corner and pout like a kid who had just lost his favorite Matchbox car in a for-keeps race on a whim while on the playground, but it just won't be enough.
The rebuild is sadly underway in Dallas.
Offseason Grade: 59 percent/F, for losing their best player because of infighting.
Notable Additions: Ian White, Mike Commodore, Ty Conklin
Notable Departures: Brian Rafalski, Ruslan Salei, Kris Draper, Chris Osgood
Notable Re-Signings: Nicklas Lidstrom, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller, Jonathan Ericsson
How'd They Do?
After blue-line anchor Brian Rafalski unexpectedly retired at the end of the season some expected Detroit to hit free agency in a big way—I was certainly among those people. The team had money to burn for the first time in recent memory, and there were several solid free-agent defenders set to hit the free-agent market.
The cost to get in on this action was an inflated one, and Kenny Holland quickly gave the larger free agents the "thanks, but no thanks" treatment. They were one of the last teams in the running for the services of Jaromir Jagr, but even his asking price was too steep for the conservative Wings.
They instead settled on Mike Commodore and Ian White to help piece together a blue line after Rafalski walked.
Detroit decided to sign mostly from within as the market took off for free agents after the cap floor and ceiling increased a substantial amount. The contract extension for Jonathan Ericsson garnered some negative attention, but given the market for blueliners this summer, this was the best that Holland could have done for that money.
Nicklas Lidstrom inking another one-year contract was the biggest positive news of the summer as the Wings would have lost their entire top pairing within a few short weeks had No. 5 decided to call it quits as well.
Heading into the season the Wings still have a lot of cap space to play with and could be players come the trade deadline. There are some questions across the lineup, but Detroit wisely decided not to roll the dice on millions of dollars to try and find the answers to those inquires.
That kind of spending just ins't in the DNA of the Wings.
Offseason Grade: 77 percent/C, for not improving the team, but for not overspending either.
Notable Additions: Cam Barker, Eric Belanger, Ben Eager
Notable Departures: No notable losses
Notable Re-Signings: Theo Peckham, Ladislav Smid
How'd They Do?
It's just a matter of time for Edmonton.
Management seems to understand that and didn't feel the need to shell out any major money to free agents this summer. They held the first overall pick in the draft again, and appear to be going the route of the Penguins, Capitals and Blackhawks by building through the draft while putting a miserable product out on the ice for a few seasons.
The future is another year closer for the Oilers, and that is certainly a positive thing.
Edmonton made moves to protect that future by signing on a little bit more sandpaper in Ben Eager and by keeping blueliner Theo Peckham. If you take a run at one of the kids then be prepared to pay a price.
This season may see a bit of an improvement in Edmonton, but not because of free-agent signings. These youngsters are bound to start blowing up scoreboards sooner or later. We could be in store for flashes of that this season.
Offseason Grade: 75 percent/C, for maintaining their pace and allowing their younger players to develop chemistry and jive.
Notable Additions: Tomas Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky, Sean Bergenheim, Brian Campbell, Ed Jovanovski, Jose Theodore
Notable Departures: Tomas Vokoun
Notable Re-Signings: Jack Skille
How'd They Do?
There are two ways to rebuild a hockey team: There is the way that Edmonton is going about it, and then there is the way Florida tried this summer. Sure, the Panthers have stockpiled plenty of draft picks, but bringing on five new forwards and two new blueliners isn't the way to get them good ice time.
The finished product isn't pretty—more of a buffet-style team instead of a three-course meal for the Panthers.
They found themselves in an odd position this summer with money to burn, and burn it they did. As the trades and signings rolled out over the wire I got the feeling that Dave Tallon was more pulling random names and numbers out of a hat as opposed to doing what was best for this squad moving forward.
You can chirp in my ear all night and you won't be able to convince me that bringing on Ed Jovanovski and Brian Campbell for a combined $11 million are good hockey moves.
Tomas Vokoun was so desperate to bolt to a contender that he took top-end AHL money to join the Capitals in Washington as a starter.
It's hard to look at this team and claim they aren't better. They added Cup rings and solid players up and down the lineup. But the cap hits of most of these guys are ridiculous and the on-ice product won't likely see the Panthers through to the playoffs.
I'm pulling for Jose Theodore to return to form. If he does, this could all could work. But I am pretty skeptical at this point. Losing Vokoun and replacing him with a guy who has been looking for his game for the last few years could be costly.
Offseason Grade: 72 percent/C, because I am having a hard time seeing how all of these pieces fit together into a winner.
Notable Additions: Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Ethan Moreau
Notable Departures: Michal Handzus, Wayne Simmonds, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Brayden Schenn
Notable Re-Signings: Brad Richardson
How'd They Do?
All the forward progress the Kings have made this season will be for nothing if they can't get cornerstone blueliner Drew Doughty locked up and prevent a nasty holdout. Doughty is their best player and he needs to be on the ice with this team at the beginning of training camp.
The two sides are reportedly back to the negotiating table after taking over a month off, and some kind of agreement needs to be reached. If that happens then the Kings will be poised for a deep playoff run, and the addition of Mike Richards over the summer makes that the case.
L.A. had to give up some serious futures to land the 26-year-old pivot, but this is a team ready to contend for a Cup right now. Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds are both going to be excellent players in this league and the Kings had to deal them to end up with this roster.
But Richards already is an excellent player in the NHL.
The Kings already have No. 1 center Anze Kopitar, and by adding Richards the team now boasts one of the strongest one-two punches down the middle in the league.
Lost in the commotion of the Richards deal were the signings of Simon Gagne and Ethan Moreau, which add depth to what had been a weak left-wing contingent in Los Angeles.
Offseason Grade: 90 percent/A, until Drew Doughty is re-signed. Then this number jumps significantly.
Notable Additions: Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle
Notable Departures: Martin Havlat, Cam Barker, Brent Burns, Andrew Brunette, Chuck Kobasew, Jose Theodore
Notable Re-Signings: Josh Harding
How'd They Do?
The Wild have been trying to shake the reputation and legacy as a defensive team for a few seasons now, claiming to have the desire to play a more exciting and up-tempo brand of hockey. But the pieces just haven't been there to make that offence happen.
Looking at the deals they made this summer I feel like it was a case of three steps forward, one step back in Minnesota. There is progress on the offensive side of things, but just how much is hard to determine.
Dany Heatley gives the Wild their most potent offensive weapon since Marian Gaborik left town. Marty Havlat was a great offensive talent, but Heater brings a more dangerous set of weapons to the table on a more reliable basis. He'll skate on a very capable and underrated top line with captain Mikko Koivu and perhaps old teammate Devin Setoguchi.
Bringing Charlie Coyle in was a great move and the "rock-star prospect" should pay off somewhere down the road.
But the loss of Andrew Brunette to free agency is a bit of a tough one. He wasn't the center of the Wild's universe but he was great in front of the net and a power-play specialist. Those traits aren't easy to come by and Minnesota didn't address his loss in any way.
The trading of Brent Burns also makes the defense a little suspect. How it all levels out will be interesting for the Wild. They should be icing a more offensively capable hockey team, but I'm not sure how much better they will be.
Offseason Grade: 82 percent/B, for getting better in the offensive zone and delivering on their promise to be more exciting.
Notable Additions: Peter Budaj, Erik Cole
Notable Departures: Jeff Halpern, Roman Hamrlik, James Wisniewski
Notable Re-Signings: Andrei Markov, Hal Gill, Josh Gorges, Andrei Kostitsyn
How'd They Do?
The Canadians had a lot of internal choices to make this offseason as the team had a lot of players up for new contracts, and several important contracts due in 2012-2013.
This is a team that lost a sizable chunk of ice time on the back end during free agency. Jeff Halpern and Roman Hamrlik were capable veterans and their presences will be missed. James Wisniewski is a big loss, but at least they got a little something in return for him.
Re-signing the injury-prone Andrei Markov caused a few people to chuckle, but he is still a very offensively capable blueliner when healthy. The defense isn't as thin as it may appear to be, but it's impossible to say that the group is as deep as it was last season.
Montreal has long been plagued by the reputation of being small and speedy, and the addition of Erik Cole gives them a bigger body up front. But he too is an injury risk, and doesn't play a much different style than the guys already present.
Still, adding a player capable of 40 or 50 points is rarely a bad thing, and he'll slide in nicely on one of the top two lines in Montreal.
Offseason Grade: 76 percent/C, for losing a few contributing blueliners, but reserving the cap space needed to re-sign P.K. Subban and Carey Price.
Notable Additions: Niclas Bergfors, Kyle Wilson
Notable Departures: Marcel Goc, Shane O'Brien, Steve Sullivan, Joel Ward, Matthew Lombardi
Notable Re-Signings: Shea Weber
How'd They Do?
The existence of the Nashville Predators can be summed up by the loss of Joel Ward.
He scored all of 30 points during the regular season and then exploded at a point-per-game pace during the playoffs. Ward then hit free agency, where the Preds couldn't afford to keep a player who had been highly effective during the only playoff-round victory in the history of the franchise.
Or perhaps the existence of this team is better surmised by the debacle with superstar captain Shea Weber: $4.75 million? Really?
I understand the strategic significance of this number as the team and player headed to arbitration. But the very fact that this deal went to an arbitrator tells me that they still haven't figured out an important aspect of hockey in Nashville.
And that is you have to pay your best players to stay.
Weber is a Predator for another year, but the odds of this team finding the funds to keep him in town along with Pekka Rinne and Ryan Sutter are nonexistent. This offseason showed that. If they can't negotiate and come to terms with their cornerstone now then they won't be able to lock up three core players simultaneously.
There were no major additions to the squad, and several role players are gone. But the greatest loss may be confidence in management from the standpoint of the players and fans.
Offseason Grade: 64 percent/D, for shooting themselves in both feet during the Weber negotiations and hampering their ability to lock up the core of the team long-term.
Notable Additions: None
Notable Departures: Colin White, Jacques Lemaire
Notable Re-Signings: Andy Greene, Johan Hedberg, Zach Parise
How'd They Do?
New Jersey has a playoff-caliber hockey team based on how well the squad played during the second half of the season—one of the best second halves ever actually.
But there is one huge question lingering with the Devils: Can they find an identity and a way to win without coach Jacques Lemaire? That has been the haunting overtone to a quiet offseason. The team managed to sign Andy Greene, and to hold onto Zach Parise for at least one more season.
But there are three letters that will be attached to Parise's name at the end of the upcoming season: UFA.
Management absolutely must find a way to re-sign Parise to a long-term contract for this team to keep progressing up the standings in the East. They are still a few moves away from contending with the likes of Pittsburgh and Washington again, and that didn't change this summer.
Offseason Grade: 64 percent/D, for failing to lock up their most important player in Zach Parise for the long haul.
Notable Additions: Brian Rolston
Notable Departures: Zenon Konoka, The Lighthouse Project
Notable Re-Signings: Blake Comeau
How'd They Do?
Even if the Islanders had gone out and landed Brad Richards, this offseason could be considered a failure for the franchise. The Lighthouse Project seems to be buried for good, and the Islanders could very well be done on Long Island.
The product on the ice didn't take any major hits, and this young and dynamic team could eventually develop into one of the most exciting offensive squads in the league (stop laughing). Getting Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit back off of the IR will be two huge pluses for a team that could surprise some people with a run to the playoffs.
The huge question is in between the pipes. If Evgeni Nabokov decides he wants to be an Islander then this could be a different story. But as it stands now, all the goals in the world won't save the Isles from the GAA destruction that is Rick DiPietro and the serviceable Al Montoya.
Offseason Grade: 74 percent/C, for not losing any key players and keeping their young core intact for the future (minus two percent for signing the boneheaded Trevor Gillies to an extension).
Notable Additions: Brad Richards, Michael Rupp
Notable Departures: Matt Gilroy, Vaclav Prospal
Notable Re-Signings: Artem Anisimov, Brandon Dubinsky, Michael Sauer
How'd They Do?
The New York Rangers were in a pass/fail class this offseason. Missing Brad Richards after all the talk and cap-clearing would have been a mild disaster for the club that was really only one piece away from being a dangerous playoff team.
And they got their man.
Richards will slot in on the top line and power-play unit and make this a much more dangerous Rangers team. Marian Gaborik has a setup man like he's never had before and he could be dark horse for the Rocket Richard.
Brandon Dubinsky was also inked to an extension—another key part of the Rangers' summer.
Outside of inking the top free agent on the market and locking up a very important restricted free agent, the Rangers had a pretty quiet summer. Vaclav Prospal left for Columbus but that loss is more than offset by what the Rangers locked up this offseason.
Offseason Grade: 93 percent/A, as the Rangers landed the guy they wanted and signed Dubinsky to a midterm deal.
Notable Additions: Zenon Konopka, Mark Parrish
Notable Departures: Curtis McElhinney
Notable Re-Signings: Bobby Butler, Erik Condra
How'd They Do?
Making no moves to improve on a team that failed to make the playoffs during the offseason can't be considered a success. They added netminder Craig Anderson via trade before the season ended, so he could be considered an addition to the team as they locked up him for the next few years.
But when the names that pop off of the list of acquired players are Zenon Konopka and Mark Parrish, you know it was a quiet summer.
I haven't been taking the draft into account for any other teams, so I won't give special treatment here. But worth of note is the fact that the rebuilding Senators had three first-round picks in the draft over the summer—that is a huge plus for a team that doesn't seem to have a bold plan or direction.
Giving new contracts to youngsters Bobby Butler and Erik Condra was important, but this team won't be much better next season—at least not because of moves made during the offseason.
Offseason Grade: 69 percent/D, because making zilch moves to even inch the team forward with this much cap space is tough to understand.
Notable Additions: Ilya Bryzgalov, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Jaromir Jagr, Maxime Talbot, Andreas Lilja
Notable Departures: Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Brian Boucher, Daniel Carcillo, Villie Leino, Nikolay Zherdev
Notable Re-Signings: James van Riemsdyk
How'd They Do?
The Flyers won't be quite as good as they were last year after dealing away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. This was a Cup-contending team that had perpetual issues in net. Ilya Bryzgalov is the best netminder Philly has had in recent memory and fixes those issues.
The immediate cost of landing their goalie and changing the culture on this team is high.
Long-term, these Flyers are more terrifying, talented and dangerous than ever. GM Paul Holmgren decided that he didn't like the DNA of this team and went about his work to extract the parts he didn't like while adding longevity and talent to the lineup.
Heading into the season it's hard to tell if this is a team that can keep up with the beasts of the East for the time being. The Flyers are without question a playoff team, but what can they do when they get there? Richards and Carter, regardless of their locker-room antics and partying, were important factors for Philadelphia on the ice.
Expecting the forwards that were brought in to totally fill that gap would be unfair. Yet this appears to be a squad that is ready to focus on a more even-keeled, defensive game.
Signing James van Riemsdyk to an excellent term and number were icing on the cake that has been the most eventful summer in Flyers history.
Offseason Grade: 97 percent/A, because the Flyers didn't stand pat with a team that was only an Eastern Conference champion. They added compelling pieces and assured that the window for a Cup would stay open for a long while.
Notable Additions: Mike Smith, Raffi Torres, Daymond Langkow, Boyd Gordon, Curtis McElhinney
Notable Departures: Ilya Bryzgalov, Lee Stempniak, Ed Jovanovski
Notable Re-Signings: Keith Yandle
How'd They Do?
Phoenix was allowed to play over their heads because of the outstanding goaltending of Ilya Brzgalov. That luxury is gone now and the Coyotes will begin showing their true colors come October.
And those colors won't get them into the playoffs in the tight West.
It's impossible to overstate how big of a downgrade Mike Smith and Jason Labarbera are for this hockey club. They are looking at winning 10 or 15 games fewer with their current tandem.
Also gone is blue-line mainstay Ed Jovanovski, for whom Christmas came earlier this year in Florida. Perhaps it was wise for the 'Yotes not to try and match the insane offer from the Panthers, but the guy still played a lot of minutes and wasn't replaced.
Keith Yandle was retained and was the only bright spot for Phoenix this offseason.
Dealing Lee Sempniak for Daymond Langkow only further assures that the cement around the feet of the Coyotes is drying and this is a team that will be sinking towards the bottom of the West. Until ownership and stability is found for this franchise, that won't change any time soon.
Offseason Grade: 55 percent/F, because at least Dallas tried to ease the loss of their All-Star.
Notable Additions: Steve Sullivan, Jason Williams
Notable Departures: Eric Godard, Alexei Kovalev, Michael Rupp, Maxime Talbot
Notable Re-Signings: Tyler Kennedy, Pascal Dupuis, Dustin Jeffrey, Craig Adams
How'd They Do?
The Penguins aren't in the position to make any moves as they only have around $2 million in cap space. The biggest question this summer is obviously the healthy return of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin—I'll spare you any regurgitation on that front.
Adding Steve Sullivan could be a nice addition (especially if Sid isn't ready immediately), and he gives the Penguins yet another viable option at center. Losing Maxime Talbot to the cross-state rival Flyers hurts more for the act than for the player. He was a good personality player but is replaceable.
Re-signing Tyler Kennedy was important as he proved to be a damn good player in light of all the injuries the Penguins withstood last season.
Really nothing to report as far as player movement goes out of Pittsburgh this summer. And for this team there is nothing wrong with that.
Offseason Grade: 75 percent/C, for an average summer in Pittsburgh. If the trainers manage to get both Malkin and Crosby on the ice in October then this is easily an A-offseason for the Pens.
Notable Additions: Brent Burns, Marty Havlat, Michal Handzus
Notable Departures: Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle, Ian White, Ben Eager
Notable Re-Signings: Logan Couture
How'd They Do?
This could finally be the year for the San Jose Sharks.
They have at least quieted the ghosts of playoff failures gone by with two consecutive trips to the conference finals. But it was clear that just a little bit more was needed to put the team over the top.
Enter Brent Burns and Marty Havlat.
Burns is the key blueliner that San Jose has been aching for and rounds out a scary-good puck-moving contingent of defenders for the Sharks. Havlat isn't quite the finisher that Dan Heatley was, but he doesn't bring the same enigma to the ice every day either.
Overlooked, but an excellent addition, was the big-bodied Michal Handzus who makes San Jose that much tougher to play against. Add in the re-signed Logan Couture to the mix and the Sharks have had one of the most outstanding summers in their history.
San Jose is clearly done standing by the team that seemed to only get so far in the postseason and have shaken the team down to this core group of players. Anything less than a Stanley Cup Finals appearance will be disappointing for the deepest club in the NHL.
Offseason Grade: 97 percent/A, for seizing the Burns deal when it came across the table and addressing the few needs left to build a ridiculously strong team.
Notable Additions: Jason Arnott, Jonathan Cheechoo, Kent Huskins, Jamie Langenbrunner
Notable Departures: Ty Conklin
Notable Re-Signings: Patrick Berglund, Matt D'Agostini, Nikita Nikitin, T.J. Oshie, Roman Polak
How'd They Do?
For the second season in a row I think the Blues are in the position to catch some teams in the West sleeping, especially in the playoffs...if they can make it that far.
This young, super-talented squad was derailed by injuries last year and never found a way to recover. That string of bad luck isn't likely to strike again so St. Louis was only in the market for a few role players despite what the standings might say.
Adding Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner helps the "been there, done that" quota that was a bit low for the Blues, and that veteran presence will help this youthful team when times get a bit rough. The aging pair isn't just there for their rings though and will be good for a timely goal or two.
Picking up Chris Stewart last year is still my favorite trade of the year, and this is a team that has enough talent up front to surprise some people. They also have around $12 million in cap space so adjustments can be made if need be.
The key to this offseason for the Blues was locking up a lot of their own guys, and they didn't let anyone slip. Almost all the players they inked from within are important to the team's future, and management did a great job getting all the kids under contract at fair cap hits.
Offseason Grade: 86 percent/B, for keeping all their own youth while adding veterans to the mix.
Notable Additions: Matt Gilroy, Mathieu Garon, Alexandre Picard
Notable Departures: Mike Smith, Sean Bergenheim, Simon Gagne
Notable Re-Signings: Steven Stamkos, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Eric Brewer, Teddy Purcell, Dwayne Roloson
How'd They Do?
Not too long ago you were seeing Steven Stamkos in the same sentence as Shea Weber and Drew Doughty—I'd say they were part of the "They don't reaaalllyyy want to play in those markets, do they?!" club.
GM Steve Yzerman saw to it that those talks were quickly put to rest and signed his All-Star to a five-year deal while those same conversations are happening about Doughty and Weber to this day.
Outside of Stamkos, the Lightning had a lot of work to do in keeping their nucleus intact and ready for another run in the Eastern Conference. Losing any combination of Eric Brewer, Teddy Purcell and Dwayne Roloson could have been considered a small step back for Tampa.
They made some tough choices and allowed playoff star Sean Bergenheim and Simon Gagne to leave while retaining the aforementioned players.
Mike Smith for Mathieu Garon is a wash at worst, and an upgrade at best.
Tampa did exactly what they needed to this offseason, and are primed and ready to take a shot at a Cup run.
Offseason Grade: 90 percent/A, for retaining the players that made them surprisingly competitive in the East last year.
Notable Additions: Tim Connolly, Matthew Lombardi, John-Michael Liles
Notable Departures: Tim Brent, J.S. Giguere
Notable Re-Signings: Tyler Bozak, Clarke MacArthur, James Reimer
How'd They Do?
Slow and steady in Toronto, where the Leafs lost out on Brad Richards but landed a decent plan-B option in Tim Connolly. He's a great center when healthy, but based on history Brian Burke may need to hire a personal doctor just for Connolly in Toronto.
Matthew Lombardi adds more speed and depth to the top six, and John-Michael Liles can still supply some points from the backend.
The team is 2-for-3 so far in signing their trio of important free agents. Clarke MacArthur and James Reimer have both signed, but Burke still has a little more work to do to lock up Luke Schenn.
The Maple Leafs have managed to keep their own pieces while keep the salary cap space open to make one more major addition—something that could happen before the drop of the puck on opening night in October. But so far this offseason has been steady and decent in Toronto despite losing out on Richards.
Offseason Grade: 85 percent/B, for hanging onto their talent and not knee-jerking in response to losing the Brad Richards lottery. If the team fails to sign Schenn, this grade takes a substantial hit.
Notable Additions: Marco Sturm
Notable Departures: Raffi Torres, Tanner Glass, Christian Ehrhoff
Notable Re-Signings: Kevin Bieksa, Chris Higgins, Max Lapierre, Sami Salo
How'd They Do?
The gap between making adjustments after winning a Cup and doing the same after losing in the final can be large. Those are two totally different mindsets and two entirely different sentences.
The Canucks stayed frozen as the bulk of the preseason came and went. They lost Christian Ehrhoff to free agency—no surprise to anyone, really—but did nothing to try and replace him.
They re-signed Kevin Bieksa and Sami Salo to keep most of their defensive core intact, and brought in Marco Sturm to try and add some depth and size at forward. But a whole lot more could have been done to increase the overall toughness of this team.
The Canucks have their skill guys and one or two $1 million or $2 million deals could have added the sandpaper needed to correct what was an obvious weakness—that they were a bit easy to push around during the playoffs.
New Chicago agitator Dan Carcillo is already talking about how excited he is to play against Vancouver because of how out of line some of their players got during the playoffs, but couldn't back it up in the long run. No one fears playing this team despite them being finalists last year, and that didn't change this offseason.
They did well for themselves to hang onto the players that they did, but just a few small tweeks would have done this squad a world of good.
Offseason Grade: 74 percent/C, for failing to address much of anything besides locking up a few of their own players. I'm sorry, but Marco Sturm isn't going to put the Canucks over the top.
Notable Additions: Tomas Vokoun, Troy Brouwer, Jeff Halpern, Roman Hamrlik, Joel Ward
Notable Departures: Jason Arnott, Matt Bradley, Scott Hannan, Marco Sturm, Semyon Varlamov
Notable Re-Signings: Karl Alzner, Mike Knuble, Brooks Laich
How'd They Do?
The Philadelphia Flyers had to do some serious shuffling to fit in an All-Star netminder under their cap. All the Capitals had to do was ask.
There wasn't a bigger free-agent steal than Tomas Vokoun at $1.5 million and he gives Washington a stability between the pipes that they aren't used to. The Caps always scored enough goals to make their netminders look good, but Vokoun is a guy that can steal a game and really pull his weight.
Turning Semyon Varlamov into a first- and second-round pick when he was going to bolt to the KHL if he lost the starting job was highway robbery, and securing Brooks Laich when most thought he'd go looking for a payday was good for both player and team.
Roman Hamrlik and Jeff Halpern add substantial depth to the Capitals blue line, and Joel Ward adds some sandpaper and an outstanding postseason to Washington's forward core (and you won't see too many of those floating around there).
None of the offseason losses are major, and all departures were accounted for or improved upon during free agency. This seems to be the summer that the contenders that fail get serious about winning it all.
The rich got richer in Washington.
Offseason Grade: 98 percent/A, because they upgraded almost everywhere, replaced anyone who left with a comparable or better player and landed a possible lottery pick to boot.
Notable Additions: Eric Fehr, Tanner Glass, an entire hockey team
Notable Departures: Anthony Stewart
Notable Re-Signings: Andrew Ladd
How'd They Do?
It's been a fun-filled summer for the people of Winnipeg. They finally found out what their team will be named, what the logos will looks like and even what jerseys the team will be wearing out on the ice.
Now the Jets have to buckle down and play hockey come October just like everyone else. And the move from Atlanta to Winnipeg doesn't all of a sudden make this a playoff team. The Thrashers started out of the gate hot last year and fell off in a big way after the All-Star break.
The changes that management made don't change the fact that this is a bottom-third team in the NHL.
Winnipeg has a ton of cap space to play with, and the future is bright with plenty of youth to go around. But it's going to be a long season for the Jets unless they end up wheeling and dealing draft picks for players—which isn't generally the way to go in these situations.
Signing Andrew Ladd to a new contract was the right first move for the squad, but they have been quiet since. Letting Anthony Stewart walk puzzles me, but I suppose the team had their reasons to make that call.
Offseason Grade: 70 percent/C, for not doing anything to improve a relatively poor on-ice product.
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