B/R NHL Staff Roundtable: Which Team Has Won the Offseason?

Bleacher Report NHL StaffFeatured Columnist IJuly 23, 2022

B/R NHL Staff Roundtable: Which Team Has Won the Offseason?

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    CALGARY, AB - MAY 26: Johnny Gaudreau #13 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Edmonton Oilers during Game Five of the Second Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome on May 26, 2022 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Oilers defeated the Flames 5-4 in overtime to win the series four games to one. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
    Derek Leung/Getty Images

    The Stanley Cup is the ultimate prize in the NHL, but there's another prestigious award that needs to be given out before we all head out for our summer vacations: winner of the offseason.

    There are plenty of good contenders for the title. You have the Columbus Blue Jackets, who stunned the hockey world by signing prized free agent Johnny Gaudreau out of nowhere. The Ottawa Senators decided to become a serious player in the league by trading for Alex DeBrincat and Cam Talbot and landing Claude Giroux in free agency. Meanwhile, in Motown, general manager Steve Yzerman accelerated the rebuild by opening up the wallet and signing free agents such as Andrew Copp, David Perron and Ben Chiarot.

    Before we head out on our summer breaks, the B/R NHL staff got together for one more roundtable to discuss which team won the offseason.

    Don't agree with our selections? Sound off in the comments below and state your case for the team you think won the offseason!

The Carolina Hurricanes Are at the Head of the Class

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    NEW YORK, NY - MAY 28:  Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind'Amour behind the bench against the New York Rangers during Game 6 of round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs on May 28, 2022 at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York.   (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Hurricanes are among the elite teams in the NHL when it comes to roster depth and tactics. Head coach Rod Brind'Amour has put together a forechecking system that creates a plethora of scoring chances and also swallows up space, preventing the opposition from being able to advance the puck. Per Money Puck, the Hurricanes were third in expected goals in 2021-22. And the tandem of Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta appears to have finally addressed prior goaltending deficiencies.

    So why did they fail to advance past the second round for the third straight season? A lack of finishing. They struggled to convert on the opportunities they generated.

    General manager Don Waddell made improving in that regard a priority this summer. Brent Burns had 10 goals and 44 assists last season. He'll be a major difference-maker, particularly on the Hurricanes' power play that did not crack the top 10 last season.

    Max Pacioretty will give Andrei Svechnikov some needed help on the wings. The Connecticut-born winger has scored 30-plus goals six times in his NHL career, and although he's dealt with injuries recently, he still has 43 goals in 87 games over the last two seasons.

    The best part? Carolina acquired both former All-Stars for virtually nothing. Burns cost all of fourth-liner Steven Lorentz, a depth goaltending prospect and a 2022 third-round pick. Plus, San Jose retained 33 percent of Burns' $8M cap hit through 2025.

    Pacioretty, meanwhile, was acquired from Vegas alongside young third-pairing defenseman Dylan Coghlan for literally nothing. Or, as the NHL deems it, "future considerations." The Golden Knights' salary-cap crisis became an opportunity for the Hurricanes.

    These two moves give the Hurricanes the ability to put more pucks in the net. With the rest of the team already staunch, it could be what finally pushes Carolina over the hump and into the Stanley Cup Final.

    - Adam Herman

The Ottawa Senators Are This Offseason's Surprise Winners

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 29:  Brady Tkachuk #7 of the Ottawa Senators stretches during warm-ups prior to his game against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on April 29, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
    Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

    After several seasons of patient and sometimes painful rebuilding, the Ottawa Senators made several key moves that should turn them into legitimate playoff contenders in 2022-23.

    From the first day of the 2022 NHL draft on July 7 through the opening of the free-agent market on July 13, general manager Pierre Dorion improved his club's scoring punch, added a reliable starting goaltender and brought in a respected, versatile leader.

    Dorion got things rolling by packaging three draft picks (including the seventh overall selection) to the Chicago Blackhawks for Alex DeBrincat. A two-time 40-goal scorer, the 26-year-old winger should be a fine addition to the Senators' second line alongside rising star Tim Stützle.

    On July 11, Dorion shipped the oft-injured Matt Murray and 75 percent of his $6.3 million annual salary-cap hit to the Toronto Maple Leafs for future considerations. The following day, he sent goalie Filip Gustavsson to the Minnesota Wild for 35-year-old Cam Talbot, an experienced starter who should bring stability between the pipes to the Senators.

    Then Dorion signed Claude Giroux to a three-year, $19.5 million contract. A talented, versatile player and a former captain of the Philadelphia Flyers, the 34-year-old will bring invaluable leadership and two-way skills to the Senators' forward lines.

    Thanks to Dorion's moves, the Senators have already won the offseason. However, he's not done looking at upgrading his improved roster. On July 18, the Ottawa Sun's Ken Warren reported he's in the market for a top-four defenseman.

    - Lyle Richardson

The Edmonton Oilers Have Addressed Their Needs...and They Have Connor McDavid

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    EDMONTON, AB - JUNE 6: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers warms up prior to Game Four of the Western Conference Finals of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Colorado Avalanche on June 6, 2022 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
    Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

    From the moment he hit Edmonton ice, it was clear.

    The Oilers without Evander Kane were a talented but maddeningly inconsistent team. But the Oilers with Kane were lethal.

    His arrival ultimately allowed new coach Jay Woodcroft to roll three lines of credible offense, and Kane flourished on Connor McDavid's wing to the tune of 22 goals in 43 games.

    The mojo continued through playoff defeats of Los Angeles and Calgary—providing McDavid the longest postseason run of his career—and didn't end until the Oilers were no longer able to outscore mistakes against eventual champ Colorado in the Western Conference Final.

    In fact, McDavid and Leon Draisaitl ended the tournament first and second in points and Kane tied for the lead in goals.

    Keeping Kane, who was headed to free agency, was instantly a priority for Oilers fans alongside shoring up the defense and finding a goalie less prone to allowing gut-punching goals.

    Within 24 hours of free agency's start, GM Ken Holland had checked all three boxes.

    Signing Kane for four years guarantees he'll be at McDavid's side for the rest of No. 97's existing contract, and snatching goalie Jack Campbell from Toronto for five years assures a reliable presence in the net for that stretch as well.

    Holland also managed to keep blueliner Brett Kulak in house, which means the Oilers are tangibly better than they were last season. And given the likely drop-offs in Calgary and Las Vegas, they're well positioned for a run at least as long come next spring.

    Ottawa and Detroit had more volume and Carolina did a fine job mitigating losses. But when it comes to which team is now closest to the promised land based on where it ended this spring, none compares to Edmonton.

    - Lyle Fitzsimmons

Detroit Red Wings

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    MONTREAL, QUEBEC - JULY 07: Steve Yzerman of the Detroit Red Wings attends the 2022 NHL Draft at the Bell Centre on July 07, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    When the Detroit Red Wings decided to move on from coach Jeff Blashill, it indicated a willingness to move forward with the rebuild. No offense to Blashill who was never actually given a winning roster, but a change was needed in order for the team to take the next step.

    A big step may forward—maybe even a leap—may be taken next season based on the moves that Steve Yzerman made this summer.

    Before we start with the roster, let's start with Blashill's replacement, Derek Lalonde. Yzerman has a clear eye for new talent, having hired Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper. Lalonde has been Cooper's assistant since the 2018-19 season. While he may not have any experience running his own NHL bench, being an assistant on a team that made three straight Stanley Cup Final rounds and won the championship in 2020 and 2021 is invaluable experience. Prior to going to Tampa Bay, he was a head coach in the AHL and ECHL.

    He might not be well-known commodity, but if he's even half as good as Cooper than he'll be household name in Hockeytown before long.

    Yzerman was particularly aggressive in free agency, signing veteran winger and 2019 Stanley Cup winner David Perron to a two-year deal, center Andrew Copp to a long-term contract, added a 30-goal scorer in Dominik Kubalik and bolstered the blueline with veterans Ben Chiarot and Olli Maata. He also added goalie Ville Husso, grabbing a sought-after goaltender during a period in which there weren't very many goalies to go around.

    This doesn't just set up the Wings for next season, it sets them up to succeed beyond 2023.

    These were significant additions made to supplement building blocks like Calder Trophy-winning defenseman Moritz Seider, winger Lucas Raymond, who is coming off of a breakout rookie season and goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, who will tandem with Husso.

    Is the rebuild over? You can't say that until they're holding the Stanley Cup, but this club got better in every single facet, so to me, they're the offseason winners.

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