Winners and Losers of the 2022 NHL Offseason So Far
The 2022 NHL draft is now history while the flurry of activity earlier this month in the trade and free-agent markets has slowed down. It's a good opportunity to examine which franchises can be considered offseason winners or losers.
Several teams made significant moves between the end of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs on June 26 and the first day of the free-agent frenzy on July 13.
The Columbus Blue Jackets made headlines by signing free-agent winger Johnny Gaudreau. The Ottawa Senators acquired 40-goal scorer Alex DeBrincat from the Chicago Blackhawks and signed free-agent forward Claude Giroux, while the Carolina Hurricanes traded for Brent Burns and Max Pacioretty.
The following lists five clubs that did well thus far during the offseason and five that fared poorly. We'll examine their notable moves and explain how they improved or weakened their respective rosters.
Is there a team you feel belongs among the winners and losers? Please let us know in the comments section below.
Winner: Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell bid center Vincent Trocheck and winger Nino Niederreiter farewell via free agency and traded defenseman Tony DeAngelo to the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2022 draft for three picks. However, he stole some of the thunder from the opening day of free agency by swinging two major trades.
The first saw him acquire defenseman Brent Burns from the San Jose Sharks. A former winner of the James Norris Memorial Trophy, the 37-year-old Burns remains among the NHL's top-scoring defensemen. The Sharks also agreed to retain 33 percent of his $8 million cap hit through 2024-25.
Waddell's next move saw him bring in left winger Max Pacioretty and defenseman Dylan Coghlan from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for future considerations. The 33-year-old Pacioretty was limited to just 39 games last season by injury but still managed 37 points. He has a year remaining on his contract with a salary-cap hit of $7 million.
In both moves, Waddell targeted two clubs with limited salary-cap space looking to move an expensive asset without taking back a significant salary in return. Pacioretty could be a one-year playoff rental player, but Burns will be part of the Hurricanes' plans beyond next season.
By acquiring two skilled veterans in Burns and Pacioretty, Waddell is signaling the Hurricanes are going for it in the coming season. Bolstering their offense from the blue line and at left wing should make them a serious Stanley Cup contender in 2022-23.
Loser: Calgary Flames
Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving spent the past season trying to convince Johnny Gaudreau to sign a new contract. Sportsnet's Eric Francis reported that Treliving proposed an eight-year, $84 million deal ($10.5 million average annual value) to keep the 28-year-old left winger in the Stampede City.
However, Gaudreau accepted a lesser deal to join the Columbus Blue Jackets for family reasons. It's a major blow to the Flames offense. From 2014-15 to 2021-22, he was their leader in points with 608, including his career-best 115-point performance last season.
Losing Gaudreau was bad enough, but now they also face the departure of his former linemate Matthew Tkachuk. The 24-year-old restricted free agent is coming off a career-best 104-point season. He's also a year away from unrestricted free agency unless the Flames sign him to a long-term contract.
On July 18, the Flames filed for club-elected salary arbitration with Tkachuk. It was a shrewd move on Treliving's part as it made the winger ineligible to receive an offer sheet from a rival club. Two days later, however, Tkachuk informed management he wouldn't sign a long-term deal, sparking reports claiming that he'll soon be traded.
Had Gaudreau stayed in Calgary, perhaps Tkachuk would've been more receptive to a lengthy deal with the Flames. Instead, the Flames lost one of their top scorers with another on the way out. Depending on the return for Tkachuk, it could take several seasons to recover from their departures. It also sets back their hopes of building upon last season's 111-point performance.
Winner: Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets aren't renowned as a prime destination for unrestricted free agents. The departures of Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene in 2019 gave the team and the city a reputation as a place that NHL free agents tended to avoid.
That's why the Jackets signing Johnny Gaudreau to a seven-year, $68.25 million contract stunned the hockey world on the opening day of the 2022 free-agent market. The 28-year-old winger was the top player in the market, coming off a career-best 115-point performance with the Calgary Flames that left him second among all scorers in 2021-22.
Gaudreau left money on the table in Calgary to join Columbus. Before he joined the Jackets, Sportsnet's Jonathan Brazeau reported the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers were considered the front-runners for his services. Newsday's Andrew Gross reported the New York Islanders were also believed to be among his suitors.
The Blue Jackets, however, were the perfect fit, according to Gaudreau. He indicated that he and his wife felt the city was the perfect place to raise their family after speaking with current and former members of the team. The winger was also impressed with the potential of the Blue Jackets' young players.
This was the biggest signing of the summer and the most important in Blue Jackets history. Adding a high-scoring star in his prime should provide a significant boost to their offense and turn them into a playoff contender within a year or two. It could also make future trade and free-agent candidates consider Columbus as a destination.
Loser: Chicago Blackhawks
Kyle Davidson forewarned that a roster rebuild was coming when he was officially hired on March 1 as general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks. He got things rolling by shipping out Marc-Andre Fleury, Brandon Hagel and Ryan Carpenter before last March's trade deadline and carried on with that process into the offseason.
During the first day of the 2022 NHL draft, Davidson traded 40-goal winger Alex DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for first- and second-round picks. He sent promising center Kirby Dach to the Montreal Canadiens for first- and a third-round picks and then took goaltender Petr Mrazek off the Toronto Maple Leafs' hands along with their first-round pick.
Davidson began the draft with no picks in the first round but acquired three that he used to select promising prospects Kevin Korchinski, Frank Nazar and Sam Rinzel. For the short term, however, those moves left the Blackhawks without a top-line goal scorer and a middle-six center while adding an injury-plagued goalie coming off the worst season of his career.
The Blackhawks GM also decided not to extend qualifying offers to forwards Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik, enabling them to depart for nothing as unrestricted free agents. He used the savings to sign depth players such as Max Domi, Andreas Athanasiou, Colin Blackwell and Alex Stalock to affordable short-term contracts.
Davidson's moves could ensure the Blackhawks will finish with the league's worst record in the coming season. That would improve their odds of winning the 2023 draft lottery and selecting a potential franchise player like Connor Bedard. Bottoming out could pay dividends in the long run, but their incoming short-term struggles make the Blackhawks a loser.
Winner: Detroit Red Wings
Since becoming general manager of the Detroit Red Wings in April 2019, Steve Yzerman has rebuilt his roster with young players through the draft or via trades. This summer, however, he made several moves designed to accelerate the process and improve his club's chances at playoff contention.
Most of Yzerman's noteworthy additions occurred during the opening day of unrestricted free agency on July 13, as he signed forwards David Perron, Andrew Copp and Dominik Kubalik and defensemen Ben Chiarot and Olli Maatta. He also acquired goaltender Ville Husso on July 8 from the St. Louis Blues and signed him to a three-year contract with an annual salary-cap hit of $4.75 million.
Chiarot is a 6'3”, 234-pound physical stay-at-home blueliner signed to a four-year deal worth $4.75 million annually. Meanwhile, the puck-moving Maatta inked a one-year, $2.25 million contract. Both will provide experienced depth on the left side of the Wings' blue line alongside Calder Memorial Trophy winner Moritz Seider and Filip Hronek.
Perron, 34, is a top-six winger on a two-year contract worth an average annual value of $4.75 million. The 28-year-old Copp brings versatility and solid two-way play to their forward lines for the next five seasons at $5.625 million annually. A former 30-goal scorer, the 26-year-old Kubalik could provide secondary scoring at a reasonable $2.5 million annually through 2023-24.
The 27-year-old Husso outplayed Blues starter Jordan Binnington during the 2021-22 regular season. He and Alex Nedeljkovic should form a solid tandem that brings more stability between the pipes for the Red Wings.
Loser: Philadelphia Flyers
Coming off a disappointing performance in the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season, Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher acquired Cam Atkinson, Ryan Ellis and Rasmus Ristolanen last summer. Those moves, however, failed to improve the Flyers as they sunk to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division.
Rather than consider a roster rebuild, Fletcher opted to retool. He hired no-nonsense head coach John Tortorella, who vowed to bring a change in culture to the underperforming club. Fletcher also acquired Tony DeAngelo from the Carolina Hurricanes and signed the offensive-minded defenseman to a two-year contract.
DeAngelo garnered a reputation with the New York Rangers as a temperamental player leading to his contract termination. The 26-year-old enjoyed a bounce-back 51-point performance last season with the Hurricanes. However, Tortorella's defense-first system could limit DeAngelo's effectiveness.
The Flyers had an opportunity to sign Johnny Gaudreau when the free-agent market opened on July 13. ESPN.com's Emily Kaplan reported they were the high-scoring winger's top choice but they had to clear salary-cap space by trading James van Riemsdyk to do so. Gaudreau ultimately signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets as Fletcher told reporters his club wasn't in the bidding for his services.
Fletcher also told reporters that Ellis faces an uncertain timeline in his ongoing recovery from the pelvic injury that sidelined him for most of last season. With a roster filled with aging core players like Sean Couturier, Cam Atkinson and Kevin Hayes, the Flyers GM doesn't have much to show for his efforts to improve his roster this summer.
Winner: Edmonton Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers entered this offseason stuck with limited salary-cap space, hampering their efforts to rebuild their roster. Goaltender Mike Smith and defenseman Duncan Keith were past their prime and still under contract for the coming season. Scoring wing Evander Kane appeared headed to free agency.
By mid-July, Smith and Keith were off the books while Zack Kassian was shipped to the Arizona Coyotes in a cost-cutting move. That enabled them to sign Kane and bring in former Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell as their new starting goalie via free agency.
General manager Ken Holland told reporters Smith wasn't expected to finish the final season of his contract owing to health issues. The 40-year-old goalie will go on long-term injury reserve for the season, enabling them if necessary to exceed the $82.5 million salary cap when they finally get their remaining free agents under contract.
Keith announced his retirement on July 12. That cleared his $5.5 million cap hit from the Oilers' payroll, providing them with the cap space for Kane and Campbell.
Kane's deal was the result of a nice piece of work on Holland's part, as Holland allowed the winger's agent to speak with other clubs before free agency. Whatever he was offered from other clubs obviously didn't entice him into testing the market. Campbell, meanwhile, should be a significant improvement over Smith as their starter.
Loser: Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs needed a new goalie tandem after letting Jack Campbell depart via free agency and trading Petr Mrazek to the Chicago Blackhawks. Rather than land an upgrade between the pipes, their acquisitions made their goaltending situation murkier.
On July 11, the Leafs acquired Matt Murray and two draft picks from the Ottawa Senators for future considerations. The Senators also agreed to retain 25 percent of Murray's $6.3 million annual salary-cap hit through 2023-24.
Landing a two-time Stanley Cup champion for nothing without being on the hook for his full cap hit would usually be regarded as a steal. Murray, however, has been plagued by injuries in recent years that hampered his performance and limited his playing time. During his two years with the Senators, he appeared in just 47 total games.
Two days later, the Leafs signed unrestricted free agent Ilya Samsonov to a one-year, $1.8 million contract. The 25-year-old netminder was cut loose by the Washington Capitals after struggling to establish himself as a reliable starter.
The Leafs' potent offense led by Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner ensures they'll be a playoff contender in 2022-23. However, their new goaltending tandem appears weaker than their previous one. A starter with injury concerns plus a backup cut loose by his former club doesn't seem like a duo capable of providing Stanley Cup-caliber performances.
Winner: Ottawa Senators
Last September, Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion boldly told reporters that his club's rebuild was done, anticipating they were ready to take the next step in 2021-22. However, the Senators once again finished near the bottom of the overall standings and out of the Stanley Cup playoff picture.
It appears Dorion may have been a year ahead of himself with his rosy prediction. The moves he's made thus far in this offseason should finally push the Senators toward playoff contention.
Dorion's first big splash occurred on July 7, as he shipped three draft picks (including the seventh overall selection in the 2022 draft) to the Chicago Blackhawks for winger Alex DeBrincat. Four days later, he improved his goaltending by peddling the oft-injured Matt Murray to the Toronto Maple Leafs and acquired Cam Talbot from the Minnesota Wild the following day.
The Senators GM wasn't done there. On July 13, he signed versatile forward Claude Giroux to a three-year, $19.5 million contract. The former captain of the Philadelphia Flyers will provide leadership and two-way experience to Dorion's young forward lines.
In less than a week, Dorion bolstered the Senators' starting goaltending, brought in a 40-goal winger in DeBrincat to skate alongside rising star Tim Stützle and added a respected veteran presence in Giroux. According to the Ottawa Sun's Ken Warren, he's not done yet as he continues to search for a top-four defenseman.
Loser: Vegas Golden Knights
In their quest for the Stanley Cup, the Vegas Golden Knights brought in expensive stars such as Max Pacioretty ($7 million average annual cap hit), Mark Stone ($9.5 million AAV), Alex Pietrangelo ($8.8 million) and Jack Eichel ($10 million). Their largesse, however, caught up with them this summer, forcing them to make two cost-cutting trades.
The first was shipping winger Evgeni Dadonov to the Montreal Canadiens on June 16 in exchange for Shea Weber. Dadonov, 33, tallied 43 points as a depth forward last season. Their attempt to send him and his $5 million cap hit to the Anaheim Ducks at last season's trade deadline was invalidated by the league.
Weber, 36, remains sidelined by injuries and is expected to be on long-term injury reserve for the remaining four seasons of his contract. The Golden Knights can exceed the $82.5 million cap for 2022-23 but they won't be able to accrue cap space over the course of the season.
Their next salary dump saw them ship Max Pacioretty on July 13 to the Carolina Hurricanes for future considerations. Limited to just 39 games last season, the 33-year-old winger has been plagued by injuries since 2017-18. Nevertheless, he was nearly a point-per-game player over the last three campaigns and a key component of the Golden Knights offense.
Both moves were necessary to ensure the Golden Knights were cap compliant for the coming season. Nevertheless, they traded away two productive veteran wingers for basically nothing in return. Coming off the worst season in their short history, those moves could make it difficult for the Golden Knights to rebound as a playoff contender in 2022-23.