The NHL free-agency frenzy of 2021 started 27 days later than the usual opening day of July 1, but it was as wild as any in recent memory, with more than $500 million spent on deals on the first day alone.
A number of valuable players remain who have yet to make their decisions — and potential franchise-altering trades for Jack Eichel and Vladimir Tarasenko are still possible as well. But after the first big wave, here is where things stand for all 32 teams.
Note: Thanks as always to our friends at CapFriendly for salary and contract data. Advanced stats are from Hockey Reference, Natural Stat Trick and Evolving Hockey. Teams are arrayed alphabetically within each grade level.
Key additions: D Conor Timmins, D Shayne Gostisbehere, LW Andrew Ladd, LW Antoine Roussel, LW Loui Eriksson, C Jay Beagle, C Travis Boyd, G Carter Hutton, D Ben Hutton, LW Dmitrij Jaskin, LW Ryan Dzingel, D Anton Stralman
Key losses: G Darcy Kuemper, D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, RW Conor Garland, D Niklas Hjalmarsson, D Alex Goligoski, G Antti Raanta, LW Michael Bunting, C Frederik Gauthier, C Michael Chaput, LW Dryden Hunt, C John Hayden, D Jordan Oesterle, D Tyler Pitlick (expansion draft)
Grade: A+. Now this is how you tank. GM Bill Armstrong was hired in 2020 thanks in part to his prowess as a draft guru in St. Louis. But when he arrived in Arizona, he found a roster that was nudging the cap ceiling as well as an empty cupboard of draft picks — including ones the NHL took away thanks to the previous regime’s draft combine rule violations.
Fast forward a year, and Armstrong managed to move Ekman-Larsson and his onerous contract (although it did cost promising Conor Garland), trade Kuemper for a solid prospect in Timmins and a first-rounder, and build a treasure trove of picks that includes five (!) in next year’s second round.
Meanwhile, the Coyotes have more than $8 million in cap space and just seven players under contract for 2022-23. Arizona has had a top-three pick twice in its existence; a goaltending battery of Hutton and Josef Korenar goes a long way toward rectifying that.
Remaining hole: After being one of the busiest teams throughout free agency, through trades and signing, the Blackhawks may just be done for now — unless they find someone who wants to trade for goalies Malcolm Subban or Collin Delia, who lost valuable playing time now that Marc-Andre Fleury is on board.
Grade: A. The Blackhawks acquired the reigning Vezina Trophy winner for nothing. The price was significantly higher for Jones — a swap of 2021 first-rounders, another conditional first-rounder and young defenseman Adam Boqvist — but the Blackhawks landed a true No. 1 defenseman not too far removed from Norris Trophy hype. His $5.4 million cap hit is a bargain this season; the jury’s out on that $9.5 million AAV, eight-year, full no-movement commitment they made beyond that.
McCabe was one of the offseason’s best low-key signings. Johnson still has something to offer, and they snagged a second-rounder from Tampa Bay while saving some real dollars by offloading Brent Seabrook’s contract. The work done this offseason, plus the return of Jonathan Toews, plus the relative weakness of much of the Western Conference, equals a team that could challenge for a playoff spot this season.
Remaining hole: The Red Wings have the cap space (over $25 million) to pluck some of the contracts that teams might need to shed later in the summer. They also have to do deals with restricted free agent forward Jakub Vrana and defenseman Filip Hronek.
Grade: A. The Red Wings took advantage of a couple of odd decisions by other teams on restricted free agents. The Hurricanes weren’t convinced that Nedeljkovic, a Calder Trophy finalist, had the stuff of a true starting goalie, and they traded him to Detroit. The Blackhawks said there “wasn’t really a match” in contract talks with Suter, walked away and saw the Red Wings snatch him up. Leddy was a salary dump from the Islanders who’ll help their young defensemen.
They also got better by virtue of who left their lineup. It’s still a knee-deep rebuild for Detroit, but it’s very much on the right track. This grade is erring on the side of GM Steve Yzerman (still) being the smartest guy in the room.
Remaining hole: The rebuild is nearing an end in Los Angeles. Now it’s all about when young hotshot prospects like Quinton Byfield will be able to become lineup regulars.
Grade: A. Just a tremendous offseason for GM Rob Blake, as he starts to really put the veteran pieces in place to supplement the prospect pool he’s amassed. There’s a lot to love about the Danault signing, as the Kings sign a center who can play up on the lineup until Byfield or Alex Turcotte are ready, and then settle in as the key to an effective checking line.
Arvidsson and Edler will help the team’s young Swedes, and if Arvidsson can regain the form he had before a couple of injurious years, he’ll be an asset. He already makes a good penalty kill better. If the youngsters are ripened, the Kings could make noise in the Pacific. If they’re not, this offseason sets the table for their eventuality as a contender.
Remaining holes: The Devils still need to re-sign RFA forward Janne Kuokkanen, but could use more forwards for next season. Tatar helps, but they’d do well to give Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier some other veteran scorers to skate with next season.
Grade: A. The Devils landed the best defensive free agent on the open market. Sure, the money talks, but they also had to convince Hamilton to come to New Jersey and to join a team that’s a few years away from real contention. He’s going to immediately make them better in all facets, including their moribund power play (28th last season, 14.2% conversion rate). What this signing looks like three years from now is contingent on how the Devils build around him.
Meanwhile, Graves is a low-cost defenseman who shoots the puck a ton and is better than what they had on the blue line in 2021. Tatar, inexplicably scratched during the Canadiens’ run to the Stanley Cup Final, is a perfect signing in annual cap hit ($4.5 million) and term (two years) as long as he’s still a play driver at 5-on-5. Bernier was good on a bad team last season and is a nice partner for Mackenzie Blackwood. He’s not worth $4.125 million AAV, but it’s not like the Devils are a cap team right now.
Remaining holes: The Blue Jackets dangled center Max Domi in the expansion draft and didn’t find a taker. With a $5.3 million cap hit, one year left before unrestricted free agency and coming off his worst offensive season (1.8 points per 60 minutes) in his first season in Columbus, he could still be on the move.
Grade: A-. Jones was the next in a seemingly unending parade of high-profile players who wanted to leave Columbus — Zach Werenski and his new $9,583,333 annual cap hit excepted — which is to say that GM Jarmo Kekalainen has gotten pretty good at maximizing these returns. He pulled two first-round picks and Boqvist from Chicago for Jones, which is a phenomenal return give the limited scope of the teams with whom he’d sign an extension. They traded Atkinson for Voracek, who has one fewer year left on his contract, could be a great setup man for Patrik Laine and most importantly likes Columbus. Kuraly was a nice depth addition at center, too.
It goes without saying that their offseason plans were impacted by the shocking death of goalie Matiss Kivlenieks in a fireworks accident last month, specifically when it came to trading either Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo. But that’s trivial compared to the magnitude of this tragedy.
Key additions: F Sam Reinhart
Remaining hole: While the Panthers have some young players who could fill out the lineup, they could use a couple more veteran hands in their bottom six. They also have to settle on a new contract with Reinhart.
Grade: A-. On the surface, it looks like the Panthers let too much go in the offseason. But as they say, context is king. Driedger and goalie Devon Levi were from a goalie surplus behind Sergei Bobrovsky (who isn’t going anywhere, contractually) and Spencer Knight (who is the future). They weren’t giving Wennberg $4.5 million per year, term and trade protection like Seattle did. Yandle was on the outs and they bought him out. Reinhart is a legit scoring option for them at center or on the wing, and the first they gave up for him was top-10 protected for next season.
If Sam Bennett repeats his performance from last season, his four-year extension is worth it; ditto the three years they gave Carter Verhaeghe and Brandon Montour. Florida has really built something interesting here — for how long that “something interesting” lasts will depend on a contract extension for Aleksander Barkov, who goes UFA next summer.
Remaining hole: The main piece of business left for the Flyers is a new contract for goalie Carter Hart, who is coming off his worst season as a pro. While a contract of around six seasons is possible, Hart’s just as likely to sign something in the three- to four-year range.
Grade: A-. GM Chuck Fletcher was a busy man this offseason, and most of the work was good. Ellis more than fills the hole that Matt Niskanen left with his surprising retirement before last season. The price for Ristolainen was high (2021 first-rounder, 2023 second-rounder), but a change in scenery and defensive partner could make this a coup, which is the word we’d use for signing Yandle for $900,000 on a post-buyout contract. The swap of Voracek for Atkinson gives the Flyers a player with one more contract year (through 2024-25) but more goal-scoring upside.
The only misstep was Jones as safety net for Hart; even at one year and $2 million post-buyout, he’s a goalie who has given up 6.7 goals below average over the past three seasons. Otherwise, the Flyers are trying to be this season’s Canadiens: a team remade and revitalized by veteran additions to key areas in the offseason.
Remaining hole: They don’t have much cap space ($1.089 million), but would the Bruins seek to bolster the middle of their lineup with Krejci leaving, or will they seek solutions from within?
Grade: B+. Much of this grade is based on their re-signing of winger Taylor Hall, as well as defensemen Brandon Carlo and Mike Reilly to sensible and smart contracts. Tuukka Rask is out for the first part of next season due to hip surgery and could still return to Boston as a free agent when he’s healed up. But if this is the end for the Bruins and Rask, getting Ullmark at four years ($5 million AAV) was solid — he’s improved every year he’s been an NHL starter.
The toughest call here is Foligno. Three years ago, he would have been a quintessential Bruin. But while he’s physical and can play solid defense, his offensive game has disappeared. As a depth add, he’s fine. As a potential solution at No. 2 center, not so much. (Although that’s most assuredly Charlie Coyle‘s job to lose.) Overall, a solid offseason for a team that’s trying to keep that championship window propped open — something that, admittedly, will be harder with “Playoff Krejci” back in the Czech Republic.
Remaining hole: The Oilers are capped out, but if there’s some way to add a little depth on the left side of the defense, that could be the target.
Grade: B+. The Oilers’ offseason had some moves that are going to make this team potentially better in the short term and other moves that were, for lack of a better description, very Oilers.
Hyman is an effective power forward with experience playing with high-end talent in Toronto. An early Christmas present for Connor McDavid. Foegele, who slots onto their third line, plays the same way. Ryan improves their center depth.
Obviously, the defense corps is where the most radical change occurred. Keith needs to prove that his terrible previous season, where he was a liability defensively, wasn’t a harbinger of doom. The Kraken ruined the Oilers’ plan to have him skate with Larsson, but the addition of Ceci is a decent fix. Bringing back Barrie at $4.5 million AAV was a strong move.
They were flirting with an A-minus here if they didn’t run back Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen as their average-at-best goaltending duo, and hand Darnell Nurse a $9.25 million AAV on an eight-year term with significant trade protection, which was a very “won’t be my problem” contract from GM Ken Holland.
Speaking of that: Trading Caleb Jones for what’s left of Keith so the Blackhawks can then acquire Seth Jones, hand him a contract that resets the market and jacks up Nurse’s price tag? Very Oilers.
Remaining hole: There’s a lot of uncertainty around Evander Kane, who is currently being investigated by the NHL for claims made by his estranged wife that he bet on games. The Athletic reported that some teammates don’t want Kane back in San Jose regardless. It’s a tricky situation for GM Doug Wilson to navigate.
Grade: B+. Simply removing Jones from the narrative earns this team a good grade, even if we’re not exactly sold on that Reimer/Hill battery either. The Sharks did some good things beyond the goalie swap, including solid veteran depth additions in Bonino and Cogliano.
We’re still not exactly sure what the long-term plan here is. The Sharks are anchored to immovable contracts, but they also aren’t trading players like Tomas Hertl who are one year away from free agency and could yield a solid return. In the end, you could argue they’re a better team now than they were a year ago.
Remaining hole: Robert Thomas (RFA) needs a new deal, but other than that, GM Doug Armstrong’s focus should be on moving Vladimir Tarasenko. It’s not an easy trade request to navigate (and leverage isn’t on the Blues’ side), but there appear to be several teams still interested in the winger.
Grade: B+. The Rangers’ loss is the Blues’ gain in Buchnevich, a talented winger that they quickly inked to a four-year deal. Saad more than makes up for the loss of Schwartz up front. They were never enamored by either Hoffman or Dunn, the latter of whom was claimed by the Kraken. They’ll miss him on the blue line, but the biggest key for that group is Colton Parayko returning to form.
Obviously a lot is yet to be settled in the lineup depending on what Tarasenko ultimately brings back, but with just two significant moves the Blues did well for themselves.
Remaining hole: The Maple Leafs are looking a little thin at center in their bottom six, but have a little cap space available to address it.
Grade: B+. The Leafs’ offseason losses got the most attention, as top-line forward Hyman left for Edmonton, the Kraken selected newly acquired McCann (as the Leafs chose to protect defenseman Justin Holl) and the Andersen era ended with his signing in Carolina. But GM Kyle Dubas did some really interesting work to fill those holes, get a little younger and play some wild cards.
Ritchie and Bunting could vie for time in the top six; the pesky Bunting is especially interesting, as he had 11 goals in 26 games in two seasons with Arizona. Kase has seen his career basically put on hold due to concussion symptoms; if he can go, and that remains a huge “if,” he was a top-line talent in Anaheim a few years ago. Mrazek, meanwhile, is a statement of faith in Jack Campbell more than anything else. He’s a great tandem goalie, and has been better than Andersen in the last few seasons.
On paper, it all looks good, aka the unofficial slogan of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Remaining hole: The Jets did a lot of work this offseason and improved their defense (a high-priority item), but still need to figure out new contracts for Andrew Copp and Neal Pionk. Winnipeg has about $6 million in cap space.
Grade: B+. Huzzah! The Jets addressed their defensive shortcomings after two seasons of the blue line being a detriment. Dillon is worth the pair of second-rounders they sent to Washington, especially since the defensive defenseman has three more years left at a reasonable annual cap hit ($3.9 million).
Schmidt’s decision to waive his no-trade clause for the Jets gives them a good puck-moving option. Adding them to what was already there, and with a couple of solid prospects on the way, and things are looking good on the back end.
They’ll miss Perreault at forward and Brossoit as Connor Hellebuyck‘s reliable backup, but the Jets did well here overall — including some addition by subtraction.
Remaining holes: Obviously, the future of the Sabres is directly tied to what they do with Jack Eichel, their 24-year-old star center whose agents have anticipated a trade following a disagreement over treatment of his neck injury. But beyond that franchise-altering decision, they need to give new contracts to restricted free-agent center Casey Mittelstadt, defenseman Rasmus Dahlin and defenseman Henri Jokiharju.
Grade: B. The Sabres made two significant trades and did well in both of them. Ristolainen, one year away from free agency, earned them the 14th overall pick in this summer’s draft and a 2023 second-rounder from Philly. Reinhart netted them a top 10-protected first-rounder in 2022 and Levi, a promising young goalie, from the Florida Panthers.
Watching Ullmark leave for nothing as a free agent is rough asset management, but they’ll be able to be worse without him, which has to be the plan at this point. Why else coax Anderson out of near-retirement to be your goalie unless you’re planning to, um, “not contend”?
Key additions: F Richard Panik
Remaining hole: The Islanders need to add a veteran defenseman on the left side, where they currently have Adam Pelech, Andy Greene (who turns 39 in October) and Sebastian Aho (the other one); getting Pelech locked in for eight seasons is a solid investment, given that he’s 26 years old. Replacing the offense that left with Eberle being plucked by the Kraken would also seem paramount … although that help is on the way, allegedly.
Grade: B. As of this writing, the Islanders’ cone of silence has mostly yet to be lifted on their offseason signings and re-signings. It’s been reported that trade deadline additions Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac have been re-signed; that Casey Cizikas is back to center the Islanders’ checking line, which they defiantly protected in the expansion draft; and that Zach Parise will finally reunite with Lamoriello after taking a buyout from the Wild. One assumes they see Parise as a thrifty replacement for Eberle.
If all of that happens … well, they still need another defenseman. But clearing Ladd’s remaining two years to Arizona without sacrificing a first-rounder was admirable. The Islanders track to have another roster much like their new UBS Arena: high floor, low ceiling.
Remaining hole: The Kraken remain thin at center and have more than $9 million in cap space available should they choose to address it.
Grade: B. The success of the Kraken in their first offseason depends on how one feels about Grubauer being signed to a six-year deal with a $5.9 million cap hit. If he’s their Marc-Andre Fleury, then this grade will look perilously low. If it turns out his success in Denver had more to do with the Avalanche than his own abilities, perhaps it’s properly graded. He’s a very good goalie, in either case, but this still felt like a deviation from Seattle’s plan just because he unexpectedly hit the market.
As for the rest of the non-expansion draft additions, Wennberg and Johansson have been better in theory than on the ice. The Kraken did pick up three draft picks after failing to leverage any out of the expansion draft protected lists.
Key additions: G Vitek Vanecek
Remaining hole: Finding a hockey trade for center Evgeny Kuznetsov. The Capitals would very much like to move on from their troubling star, who has four more seasons at $7.8 million against the cap per year. Problem No. 1: His stock is low. Problem No. 2: The Capitals don’t want to trade him just to trade him. “I think [GM Brian] MacLellan is hesitant to trade him for nothing, and then he puts up massive numbers somewhere else, and then he looks like an idiot,” said one NHL source.
Grade: B. The Capitals had one mission this offseason, and that was re-signing Alex Ovechkin. His new contract pays him $9.5 million against the cap for the next five seasons, making up for his stagnant salary for the past 13 seasons. As an over-35 deal, it’s a potentially risky one as the Russian Machine grows older. That said: It’s a no-brainer. Ovechkin was going to get what he wanted as a player who remains a premier goal-scorer and franchise icon.
It came at the price of trading Dillon, one of their better defensemen, to Winnipeg for two second-rounders. Vanecek is listed twice here because the Capitals lost him in the Seattle expansion draft and then reacquired him for one of the second-rounders they got for Dillon. So, essentially, the Capitals lose Dillon for salary space (like they hoped they would in the expansion draft) and pull a 2022 second-round pick out of it, while keeping their young goalie they had to expose to Seattle. Not a bad bit of business. They’re still cap-strapped and have an old roster in a young league. But hey, Ovi’s back to provide a nice distraction if the decline suddenly hits.
Remaining holes: Restricted free agent Brady Tkachuk needs his next contract. Beyond that, the Senators have more than $28 million in cap space in case there are any late-summer veteran pickups worth adding to their still-rebuilding team — specifically a top-six center.
Grade: B-. Not a heck of a lot happening with the Senators this offseason outside of correcting an error. Dadonov was supposed to be a free-agent coup last offseason, but he never clicked. They offloaded the full freight of his last two contract years to Vegas, getting a third-rounder in 2022 and Holden in the process. Everyone else was an acceptable loss, although perhaps they would have preferred to lose a veteran forward like Chris Tierney in the expansion draft instead of Daccord.
Grade: B-. One thing you can say about Benning: The man knows how to erase his own mistakes.
He flipped Schmidt to the Jets (after that signing didn’t work) for a 2022 third-round pick, which is what he sent to Vegas to get him last offseason. He bought out the last year of Holtby’s deal after the Kraken passed on him. He traded free-agent mistakes Roussel, Eriksson and Beagle to the Coyotes for Ekman-Larsson and his massive contract — which itself was a mistake, although one that Benning might not be around to witness at its worst. He also acquired Garland in that trade, shipping out the ninth overall pick in the process.
Halak and Dickinson are solid additions. Poolman is the defensive version of the deals he handed out to Roussel and Beagle at forward. But beyond all of this was the fact that the Canucks scared up enough cap space for Pettersson and Hughes. Another thing you can say about Benning: His offseasons are never boring.
Remaining hole: The Flames have more than $12 million available in cap space. They still need to get contracts for RFAs like Dillon Dube and Nikita Zadorov, but GM Brad Treliving may still have flexibility to engineer a big trade — perhaps for a certain disgruntled center from Buffalo.
Grade: C+. The Coleman signing was a pleasant surprise. While he played a defensive role with Tampa Bay, he’s a former 20-goal scorer who can slide into their top six and immediately helps a middling penalty kill (15th last season). His wheels will hold up for most of that six-year deal.
Of greater concern is that the Flames haven’t replaced the point production and nearly 23 minutes per game of quality ice time that the Kraken got in Mark Giordano. One assumes that’s where some of that cap space will be earmarked. And not for nothing, but they still haven’t traded Johnny Gaudreau, one year away from unrestricted free agency?
Remaining hole: The only bit of business left for the Hurricanes is signing restricted free agent winger Andrei Svechnikov, and they have considerable salary cap space to do so (over $12 million, per CapFriendly).
Grade: C+. The Hurricanes were never going to hand Hamilton the $9 million annually that he received from the Devils. They hoped he wouldn’t find the grass was greener elsewhere, but he ended up finding that meadow from “The Sound of Music,” and Carolina lost its elite offensive defenseman. But if they’re going to lose anyone, let it be from the deepest part of their team that got even deeper in the offseason — although that spree included the repellent, bargain-basement addition of DeAngelo, aka how to squander the goodwill of fans with one signing.
But the entire offseason comes down to the Hurricanes’ decision to nuke their entire goaltending group. They’re betting that Andersen can regain his form, that Raanta can have some semblance of good health, and that we aren’t talking about this Nedeljkovic trade to Detroit like the time Ottawa regretted sending Ben Bishop to the Lightning. Huh, now who was that general manager in Tampa Bay again …
Remaining hole: The Stars are crowded in net, though there’s still a big question mark about Ben Bishop‘s health and when he might be ready. Even still, GM Jim Nill may look to trade Anton Khudobin, who is looking like the odd man out.
Grade: C+. Bringing in Ryan Suter makes a ton of sense, as he slides right into Jamie Oleksiak’s old spot on the left side of Miro Heiskanen. Getting him at a post-buyout $3.65 million cap hit is also solid. But having to go four years on a plus-35 contract with a full no-movement clause to get there really isn’t optimal.
They’re going to miss Dickinson, while the signing of Glendening doesn’t really move the needle. Holtby’s one-year deal seems born out of concern of Bishop’s future and, perhaps, some concern about Jake Oettinger filling the role again. An average offseason for a team looking to make one last Stanley Cup push with this group.
Grade: C. Nothing gained, nothing significant lost. The Ducks continue to resist a full-on rebuild, despite three straight non-playoff seasons and an aging core that would undoubtedly draw interest on the trade market. It’s rumored they’re in the Jack Eichel derby — as long as it doesn’t cost them Trevor Zegras or Jamie Drysdale — which would certainly give their franchise a much-needed focal point.
But sparing that, Anaheim is a veteran team with a few brilliant young prospects, hoping it all miraculously gels together in a top-heavy division. Still, getting Ryan Getzlaf back at $3 million is a solid (and age-appropriate) signing.
Grade: C. One goal for the Wild this offseason was to scare up salary-cap space for this season, with Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala needing new contracts. To accomplish that, they bought out Parise, which was expected, and Suter, which very much was not. The loss of the latter, combined with the Kraken opting for Soucy over goalie Kaapo Kahkonen, meant that Minnesota had to go UFA shopping after sporting one of the deepest defense corps in the NHL for years.
Up front, the Wild could have top prospects Matt Boldy and Marco Rossi sliding in to fill some gaps. Everything the Wild are doing feels like it’s in preparation for bolder moves, but how bold can they be when they’re going to have over $14 million in dead cap space from the buyouts in 2023-24 and 2024-25?
Remaining hole: Figuring out how to replace one of the NHL’s top checking lines, which could be something that falls to Perry and returning center Ross Colton.
Grade: C. It’s great that the Lightning won their second straight Stanley Cup, as the afterglow helped numb the pain of this inevitable offseason. Protecting four forwards and four defensemen in the expansion draft, they were destined to lose a key forward, and that turned out to be Gourde. Coupled with Goodrow leaving for the Rangers and Coleman to the Flames, and the entire checking line from their championship runs has evaporated.
The Lightning made some good veteran depth additions to a team that very much as the potential to three-peat — did Perry really need two years, though? — and they finally found a way to offload Tyler Johnson’s contract, to the Blackhawks. But there was no loophole the Lightning could exploit to avoid this defection of talent in the offseason. The cap finally caught up to them.
Remaining hole: You’d think the Golden Knights made all of the moves they wanted to make.. But this is a team clearly in “go for it” mode. Even with no cap space, don’t be surprised if GM Kelly McCrimmon is still asking around about potential trades and upgrades to the roster.
Grade: C. What a truly bizarre offseason for the Knights. They gave away Fleury for nothing in order to clear the totality of his $7 million cap hit — bear in mind, this goalie just won the Vezina Trophy. They then used $5 million of that cap space to acquire Dadonov, whose underlying numbers have declined for three straight seasons. Even if you’re high on Dadonov, the fact remains that the Knights’ biggest lineup hole is at center.
Barring a move for Eichel — which you can’t count out — or another top center, it appears McCrimmon chose to address the hole by hoping his former Brandon Wheat Kings star Patrick can blossom in the desert.
Key losses: G Philipp Grubauer, LW Brandon Saad, C Carl Soderberg, LW Matt Calvert, RW Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, G Devan Dubnyk, D Patrik Nemeth, D Conor Timmins, D Ryan Graves, F Joonas Donskoi (expansion draft)
Remaining hole: The Avs sit with just $2 million in cap space, so if GM Joe Sakic wants to improve his roster (such as replacing Saad at left wing) he’ll likely need to trade a roster player.
Grade: C-. The Avalanche did some good things: Retaining Gabriel Landeskog at a $7 million AAV and Cale Makar at a $9 million AAV, which already looks like a bargain; plus Murray at one year and $2 million is a fine replacement for Graves, whom they traded before the Kraken had a chance to pluck him. Seattle instead took Donskoi and then signed away Grubauer when the Avalanche couldn’t reach an agreement with him.
The goalie carousel spun too fast and Colorado was left sending Timmins and a first-rounder it would have rather had on hand at the next trade deadline for Kuemper — on the last year of his deal and far less the known commodity that Vezina Trophy finalist Grubauer was for the Avalanche.
Their forward depth took a hit too, although an expanded role for Alex Newhook next season will help. Still, it feels like a team that took a step back from the precipice of a Stanley Cup championship upon which it had been perched.
Remaining hole: Restricted free-agent center Jesperi Kotkaniemi still needs a new contract, but otherwise it appears the cap-strapped Canadiens have the team they’ll roll with next season.
Grade: C-. Admittedly, we’re grading on a curve here. The loss of No. 1 defenseman Weber for next season — and probably for the rest of his contract — left the Canadiens with a gaping hole in their defense corps that the addition of Savard will only fill on an incomplete basis. The losses of Danault and Tatar mean the losses of two top-line players. Hoffman’s all-offense game can help supplant Tatar’s game and add something to a Weber-less power play, but Danault walking to L.A. really hurts their center depth.
Fleury being selected over Carey Price in the expansion draft either contributes to a downer of an offseason or helps redeem it, depending how one feels about the franchise goalie’s contract.
Remaining hole: The Predators said goodbye to a few longtime veteran stalwarts: Arvidsson, Ellis and — of course — Rinne. Going forward, Nashville wants Mattias Ekholm and Filip Forsberg to still be part of its core. GM David Poile should try to get both inked to extensions before training camp.
Grade: D. The bounty from the Ellis trade ended up being defenseman Philippe Myers, who brings size, and center Cody Glass, whom the Golden Knights clearly felt wasn’t going to blossom into a No. 1 center. They shipped out Arvidsson before they had to leave him exposed in the expansion draft.
Remaining hole: So, when does that Jack Eichel trade happen? The Rangers have the cap space, the players (young and experienced) and the draft picks to make a deal with the Sabres for their star center. Perhaps it’s his neck injury that gives them pause. Whatever the case, center Mika Zibanejad is one year away from free agency, and that situation greatly impacts this situation.
Grade: D+. This is what happens when you let Tom Wilson build your roster for you. Every player the Rangers added this offseason was intended to address a perceived lack of toughness that was “exposed” in the Wilson/Artemi Panarin incident last season, as well as back-to-back losses to the Islanders that preceded it.
We’ll see how it plays out on the ice, but on paper some of it is specious for new GM Chris Drury. Did he need to immediately extend a 34-year-old Reaves for another season? Didn’t the Canucks provide ample warning that you don’t give long-term deals or trade protection to bottom-six role players, like the Rangers gave six years and a modified no-trade to Goodrow? And they really didn’t want Buchnevich? All of this felt like a deviation from what’s been an otherwise solid plan.
Grade: D. It’s wild to think that the Penguins were a first-place team in the East Division last season (.688 points percentage) before being ousted by the Islanders in the first round. They weren’t great to begin with, and now they’ve gotten worse. Tanev and McCann were effective forwards that’ll be missed. Ceci defied expectations last season, and now he’s in Edmonton. The Penguins wanted to get more physical. They didn’t. They wanted to get more quality depth. They didn’t. Their goaltending is still suspect since they decided not to dabble in nostalgia with a run at Marc-Andre Fleury.
On top of everything, Evgeni Malkin is rehabbing after knee surgery and might miss the start of the season. GM Ron Hextall took over a team last year that had little in the way of cap flexibility or assets to move, and it shows.
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