NHL Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stands After the 1st Wave of Free Agency

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistOctober 13, 2020

NHL Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stands After the 1st Wave of Free Agency

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Just when the vault seemed impenetrable...boom, the cash began to flow.

    Though the flat salary cap may have had a chilling effect in terms of contract lengths and dollar values, more than 140 signings surpassed $500 million in value through Monday evening, including deals worth $8 million or more annually for Alex Pietrangelo and Taylor Hall.

    And while uncertainty surely remains as teams construct rosters for the 2020-21 season, those initial puzzle pieces have provided jolts of optimism for some fanbases while others are lamenting inaction.

    The B/R ice hockey team kept its finger on the pulse of the league throughout the playoffs and the draft process, and we continued to do so as the free-agent dominoes began to fall. The result is a new bottom-to-top ranking of all 31 teams with updates based on the changes each has or hasn't made.

    Read on to see what we think of what your team has done, and we invite you to head to the comments section to let us know your thoughts—and to provide some feedback on where we got things right.


    All salary-cap information courtesy of Cap Friendly.

Nos. 31-26: Red Wings, Senators, Ducks, Kings, Sharks, Devils

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    31. Detroit Red Wings (31st in point standings in 2019-20)

    The Red Wings didn't come away with hometown blueliner Torey Krug or any of the truly big names out there, but veteran Bobby Ryan, the league's reigning Masterton Trophy winner, arrived on a one-year, $1 million deal. Goaltending was addressed in the former of former New York Islander Thomas Greiss (two years, $7.2 million), and Detroit got a worthwhile forward, too, in Vladislav Namestnikov (two years, $4 million), who scored 17 goals in 65 games with three teams last season.


    30. Ottawa Senators (30th)

    Just days after a draft haul that featured three picks in the first round, the Senators engineered a swap with the Pittsburgh Penguins to bring over Stanley Cup champion goaltender Matt Murray. Murray then signed a four-year deal worth $25 million. Ottawa also retained the services of Matthew Peca and picked up Logan Shaw, but the Murray deal is what will get it a step closer to relevance.


    29. Anaheim Ducks (27th)

    Forward Derek Grant returned to the West Coast on a three-year deal worth $4.5 million, but another three-year signing—defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, fresh off a Stanley Cup raise with the Tampa Bay Lightning—drew the most attention for the Ducks. One season after he was bought out of a contract by the New York Rangers, Shattenkirk signed for three years and $11.7 million. He'll provide veteran leadership and boost a poor power play.


    28. Los Angeles Kings (28th)

    The Kings made their news at the draft by grabbing center Quinton Byfield with the No. 2 overall pick and haven't made a peep on the free-agent front, with their only moves coming in securing two players—Troy Grosenick and Mark Alt—who've played a combined 20 games in the NHL. Both signed two-way contracts worth less than $1 million per season.


    27. San Jose Sharks (29th)

    The Sharks didn't do much to move the needle, but they held on to one of their own with a four-year, $18.9 million deal for 24-year-old winger Kevin Labanc, who has scored double-digit goals in each of the last three seasons.


    26. New Jersey Devils (26th)

    It was a good weekend to be a free-agent goaltender, and the Devils took a dip in the pool with the signing of Stanley Cup championship veteran Corey Crawford, who left the Chicago Blackhawks for a two-year deal worth $3.9 million per season. He will give them an established presence in the net and provide a tandem-mate for youngster Mackenzie Blackwood, who had a 2.77 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 47 games last season.

Nos. 25-21: Coyotes, Blackhawks, Wild, Sabres, Canadiens

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    25. Arizona Coyotes (22nd)

    The Coyotes dropped out of the Taylor Hall sweepstakes just before the signing period began, which means their trade for him during the regular season appears to have been a failed experiment. In the absence of the 2017-18 MVP, it'll be up to the Arizona brass to entice the fanbase after the budget signings of veteran winger Tyler Pitlick (two years, $3.5 million) and forward Johan Larsson (two years, $2.8 million).


    24. Chicago Blackhawks (23rd)

    The Blackhawks did themselves a big favor by shelling out $7.4 million over two years to retain phenom Dominik Kubalik, who scored 30 goals in his inaugural season and added eight points in nine playoff games. Offsetting that win, however, was the loss of veteran goaltender Corey Crawford. That left the net in the unproven hands of Malcolm Subban, who's played 66 games across five seasons with three teams.


    23. Minnesota Wild (21st)

    General Manager Bill Guerin continued his campaign for wholesale change with the Wild by bringing in one of the more coveted free-agent goaltenders, Cam Talbot, on a three-year deal worth $11 million. Elsewhere, the news wasn't so riveting, but winger Jordan Greenway and goalie Kaapo Kahkonen will stay put thanks to pacts worth $4.2 million and $1.5 million.


    22. Buffalo Sabres (25th)

    Just when it looked like the Sabres' activity would be limited to the signing of journeyman center Cody Eakin (two years, $4.5 million), they jumped in with both feet and snagged Taylor Hall on a one-year deal worth $8 million. That reunited Hall with one of his Edmonton Oilers coaches, Ralph Krueger, and gave Buffalo another high-end talent to satisfy frustrated center Jack Eichel. Otherwise, the Sabres' biggest move was to hold on to 26-year-old defenseman Brandon Montour on a one-year, $3.9 million contract.


    21. Montreal Canadiens (24th)

    You can safely call it a winning week for the Canadiens, who dealt disgruntled center Max Domi and a third-round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for rugged winger Josh Anderson and then inked their new acquisition to a seven-year contract worth $5.5 million per season. They followed it up by grabbing one of the bigger fish in the pond, forward Tyler Toffoli, and locking him down for four years at $4.3 million apiece. Toffoli had 24 goals last season with the Kings and Vancouver Canucks and scored as many as 31 with the Kings in 2015-16.

Nos. 20-16: Blue Jackets, Panthers, Jets, Predators, Flames

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    Stacy Bengs/Associated Press

    20. Columbus Blue Jackets (13th)

    As mentioned earlier, the move that sent Josh Anderson to Les Habitants resulted in center Max Domi's coming to the Blue Jackets and signing a two-year, $10.6 million contract. Three days later, Columbus added another veteran presence with 37-year-old center Mikko Koivu, who got a one-year deal worth $1.8 million after he left the Wild.


    19. Florida Panthers (18th)

    The Panthers bolstered their defense with the signing of 6'0", 205-pound blueliner Radko Gudas (three years, $7.5 million) after he'd spent last season with the Washington Capitals. They also plucked forward Carter Verhaeghe from the cross-state Lightning with a two-year deal worth $1 million per season. But prolific forward Mike Hoffman, one of the league's most prized free agents still on the board, will be a big loss if Florida is unable to retain him.


    18. Winnipeg Jets (15th)

    It wasn't a free-agent deal, but the Jets reacquired some familiar firepower with a trade that brought veteran Paul Stastny from the Vegas Golden Knights for defenseman Carl Dahlstrom and a fourth-round draft pick in 2022. Stastny has scored double-digit goals in 13 seasons and played 19 games with the Jets in 2017-18.


    17. Nashville Predators (19th)

    Defense was the free-agency priority for Nashville, as evidenced by the signings of 31-year-old Mark Borowiecki (two years, $4 million) and 26-year-old Matt Benning (two years, $2 million) from Ottawa and Edmonton. Also arriving—to his fifth team—is forward Nick Cousins, who scored 10 goals in 65 games last season with the Canadiens and Golden Knights.


    16. Calgary Flames (17th)

    Goalie Cam Talbot walked away when the signing period began, but the Flames replaced him in short order with former Canucks starter Jacob Markstrom, who signed for six years and $36 million. Veteran defenseman Christopher Tanev is also heading over from Vancouver on a four-year deal worth $4.5 million per season. He'll fill a gap left by the exit of TJ Brodie to Toronto.

Nos. 15-11: Canucks, Oilers, Islanders, Hurricanes, Blues

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    15. Vancouver Canucks (20th)

    The goaltender carousel continued in the Canucks' direction when former Stanley Cup champion Braden Holtby arrived on a two-year contract worth $8.6 million. He will replace Jacob Markstrom and was joined in the seven-figure salary club by 25-year-old forward Tyler Motte, who re-signed on a two-year contract worth $1.2 per year.


    14. Edmonton Oilers (9th)

    Edmonton fans were pining for a big goalie move, but the Oilers brass augmented the lineup in other places instead. Defenseman Tyson Barrie arrived from Toronto with a one-year, $3.8 million deal and was joined by former Nashville center Kyle Turris, who was bought out by the Predators and signed a two-year contract worth $3.3 million. Forward Tyler Ennis stayed put with a one-year deal worth $1 million, as did goalie Mike Smith, for one year and $2 million.


    13. New York Islanders (14th)

    The biggest surprises in the Eastern Conference playoffs spent free agency taking care of their own, specifically by re-signing defenseman Sebastian Aho to a two-year, two-way contract worth $1.5 million. In terms of young talent, they're on the rise. In terms of big-splash draft and free-agency headlines, though, they're lagging behind the Rangers and Devils for metro attention.


    12. Carolina Hurricanes (11th)

    Another young team with a lot to look forward to, the Hurricanes didn't do much that registered beyond their base, but that did include a three-year, $6 million deal for Swedish winger Jesper Fast to leave the Rangers. Fast, 28, scored 12 goals and assisted on 17 in 69 games last season.


    11. St. Louis Blues (2nd)

    The Blues said goodbye to Alex Pietrangelo by saying hello to a smaller, more offensive-minded defenseman in Torey Krug, who cashed in for seven years at $6.5 million per season after leaving the Boston Bruins. That was certainly the biggest news, though St. Louis also made the addition of depth forward Kyle Clifford from the Maple Leafs for two years and $2 million.

Nos. 10-6: Stars, Penguins, Bruins, Rangers, Maple Leafs

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    10. Dallas Stars (10th)

    Still stinging from a six-game loss in the Stanley Cup Final, the Stars rebounded by re-signing one of the most important players in that near-title run in goaltender Anton Khudobin. He'll stay with Dallas for three years on a pact that'll pay him $10 million. Also remaining in Texas was center Radek Faksa, who's scored 11 or more goals in four straight seasons and will make $16.3 million over the next five.


    9. Pittsburgh Penguins (7th)

    The Penguins goal crease has a new full-time inhabitant in Tristan Jarry, who signed on for three years and $10.5 million and is now the man after a trade sent Stanley Cup champion Matt Murray to the Senators. With a healthy Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, there's reason to believe Pittsburgh's championship window is still open, albeit perhaps barely.


    8. Boston Bruins (1st)

    There's no denying the Bruins' free-agency news was led by the departure of defenseman Torey Krug and the fact they missed out on forward Taylor Hall, but Boston did do a little adding with the signing of 31-year-old forward Craig Smith from Nashville. Smith has scored 20 or more goals five times and has three other seasons, including 2019-20, with 12 or more. Meanwhile, the jury remains out on 43-year-old defenseman Zdeno Chara.


    7. New York Rangers (16th)

    Veteran defenseman Jack Johnson will be a one-year reclamation project at $1.2 million after he was bought out of the final three years of a $16.3 million deal by the Penguins. A year ago, the Rangers bought out Kevin Shattenkirk, and he wound up winning the Stanley Cup on a one-year trial before bolting for a three-year deal with the Ducks. Most importantly, New York welcomed No. 1 overall pick Alexis Lafreniere with a three-year, entry-level deal worth $11.3 million.


    6. Toronto Maple Leafs (12th)

    Just as defenseman Tyson Barrie headed toward the exit, Toronto welcomed another blue liner in TJ Brodie, who arrives from Calgary on a four-year contract worth $20 million. The Maple Leafs filled in some grit gaps as well with deals that brought in Wayne Simmonds (one year, $1.5 million) and Zach Bogosian (one year, $1 million), and they re-signed Jason Spezza to a one-year deal worth $700,000.

Nos. 5-1: Flyers, Capitals, Lightning, Avalanche, Golden Knights

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    5. Philadelphia Flyers (6th)

    The Flyers were rumored to be in the running for a few players but hadn't made any moves of note before they signed veteran defenseman Erik Gustafsson to a one-year, $3 million pact after he'd split 2019-20 between the Blackhawks and Flames. The 28-year-old Swede was a 17-goal scorer for Chicago across 79 games in 2018-19. It wasn't an earth-shaker, but considering Philadelphia was the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, it was not as if the roster needed an overhaul.


    4. Washington Capitals (5th)

    The Capitals ended an era when they signed former Rangers goaltending stalwart Henrik Lundqvist to a one-year, $1.5 million deal after New York bought him out. Washington proceeded to add Justin Schultz to its defense on a two-year, $8 million contract and plucked Trevor van Riemsdyk for one year and $800,000 after he spent three seasons with Carolina.


    3. Tampa Bay Lightning (4th)

    Once the champagne was dry on the Lightning's Stanley Cup championship celebration, it was no secret several players would not return because of salary-cap concerns. Kevin Shattenkirk and Tyler Johnson were gone right away, and they were followed soon after by Carter Verhaeghe and Zach Bogosian. It wasn't enough to knock Tampa Bay from its perch as the best team in the Eastern Conference, but the champs are hardly an overwhelming favorite to repeat.


    2. Colorado Avalanche (3rd)

    Though they had been considered a major player for Taylor Hall, the Avalanche didn't land him or any of the other big-ticket free agents. Instead, they spread money around to keep their own players, including defenseman Ryan Graves (three years, $9.5 million), winger Valeri Nichushkin (two years, $5 million) and winger Andre Burakovsky (two years, $9.8 million). Fear not, Colorado fans, the young core is as good as anyone's in the league.


    1. Vegas Golden Knights (8th)

    When they headed into the Western Conference playoffs as the No. 1 seed, the Golden Knights thought this was the year they'd get their Stanley Cup. It didn't happen, but it's clear the team isn't content to stand pat. Instead, it re-signed goaltender Robin Lehner to a five-year, $25 million deal before he became an unrestricted free agent and then went out and signed the most expensive player on the market in defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. The ex-Blues captain is in the fold for seven years at $61.6 million, and Vegas is clearly back among the elite.