Red Wings, Devils, Jets highlight winners of NHL off season

Detroit News

Detroit — There was a lot of mystery attached to this NHL offseason.

Nobody really knew, for sure, how active it was going to be.

A lot of teams were hamstrung by the salary cap, and not a lot of teams had ample space to add salary (the Red Wings being one of those lucky teams).

But in the two-week span that included the expansion and entry drafts, and the start of free agency —  and numerous trades in between —  this has been a whirlwind of activity that has had fans checking their phones by the second.

Teams spent more than was expected in free agency (and not often wisely), and trades keep coming at a frenetic pace as organizations attempt to get under and around a flat salary cap.

General manager Steve Yzerman appears to have navigated through another offseason successfully, steadily reshaping the Wings’ organization with young players and draft picks.

Around the NHL, some teams have positioned themselves well for the 2021-22 regular season. Others, though, look weaker or stable.

Here is a look at the winners and losers – and flat lines —  of the NHL offseason:


►New Jersey — Adding defensemen Dougie Hamilton (free agency) and Ryan Graves (trade) makes this as deep a blue line as any in the NHL, while drafting Luke Hughes (MIchigan) solidifies their future on defense. Goaltender Jonathan Bernier showed with the Red Wings how good he can be, and should complement young Mackenzie Blackwood in Jersey.  If the young forwards keep progressing, this could be a playoff team very soon.

►Winnipeg — The Jets showed they weren’t far away from Stanley Cup status last season, and adding defensemen Brenden Dillon and Nate Schmidt fills gaps on the blue line, and makes for a real strong position group. Being able to re-sign forward Paul Stasny keeps one of the NHL’s best top-six forward groups entirely together Winnipeg appears ready to take that final step next season.

►Dallas — GM Jim Nill was able to attract some character veterans who’ll simply make this team that much more difficult to play against. Defenseman Ryan Suter has slowed a bit, but he’s far from done. Forward Luke Glendening adds grit and tenaciousness, and goaltender Braden Holtby is fine insurance. Getting some key returnees back to health will help mightily, too.

►Boston — Friday’s news about forward David Krejci finishing his career in the Czech Republic doesn’t help, and it’s a second-line center hole that will need to be filled. But the Bruins added their type of players in gritty forwards Nick Foligno, Erik Haula and Tomas Nosek, and a promising, big-time goaltender in Linus Ullmark, and re-signing forward Taylor Hall. But Krejici, ouch.

►Colorado — Getting defenseman Cale Makar and forward Gabriel Landeskog locked up to long-term contracts was huge. It didn’t look promising with Landeskog, at all, so that keeps the Avalanche window for Stanley Cup contention wide open. Trading for goaltender Darcy Kuemper could be a shrewd, upgrading move. And Darren Helm, though Wings fans may disagree, will help Colorado’s bottom-six forwards.

►Chicago — The Blackhawks acquired an elite defenseman in Seth Jones, though the price, salary and trade package was steep. Acquiring goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury will be great, if he wants to play in Chicago (rumors of retirement). Chicago is better than it was to begin the off-season, for sure.

►Florida — A Winnipeg-Florida Stanley Cup Final? Doubtful that ESPN/ABC would love it, but it’s entirely possible. The Panthers are going to win a lot of games this season. They’re better than last season, adding forward Sam Reinhart, and re-signing forwards Sam Bennett and Carter Verhaeghe. This team is good, no glaring holes.

►Detroit — The Wings aren’t going to be playoff contenders — yet. And who knows how good goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic and forward Pius Suter will turn out to be. But the potential of those two, the immediate help of defenseman Nick Leddy, and two quality first-round draft picks (defenseman Simon Edvinsson, goaltender Sebastian Cossa), make for another step forward.

►Philadelphia — The Flyers needed a makeover and they got one. In acquiring forward Cam Atkinson (for Jakub Voracek) and defenseman Ryan Ellis, and signing defenseman Keith Yandle, they added players who should wake-up what was becoming a bland lineup.  Goaltender Martin Jones is a question mark backing Carter Hart, but if Hart returns to his elite form, this is a good team.

►Los Angeles — The Kings’ prospect pool is as deep as any, so adding class veterans forward Phillip Danault and defenseman Alex Edler are subtle moves that make the Kings deeper. In a weak Pacific Division, the Kings could be able to sneak into the playoffs.

Flat line

►Tampa Bay — The Lightning could be in the winners’ column by the way the front office navigated through a salary cap mess. And adding veterans like forward Corey Perry and defenseman Zach Bogosian on low-cost deals was shrewd. But the Lightning lost their entire dominant third-line and forward Tyler Johnson, so that stings. Still, yes, this might be the best team on paper heading into next season.

►Edmonton — Former Wings’ GM Ken Holland is getting ridiculed in many quarters for his moves. Signing defensemen Cody Ceci and Tyson Barrie, and acquiring Duncan Keith, all with sizeable term and money, were questionable moves, for sure. But adding forward Zach Hyman (expensive, but extremely useful in the short term)  will help, as well as greatly strengthening the bottom six with Warren Foeegle and Derek Ryan.

►New York Islanders — The Islanders are expected to be making several big moves, but so far, it’s been rather quiet. Trading Leddy to the Red Wings was a cost-cutting move, and they need to re-sign forward Kyle Palmieri. But if they can acquire forward Vladimir Tarasenko in a trade, that would help significantly.

►Minnesota  — The Wild made bold, gutsy moves buying out Suter and forward Zach Parise. Those were done to likely make a bigger, bolder acquisition, but the Wild haven’t done it yet.

►San Jose — The Sharks are in salary cap limbo, so the best they did was add forward Nick Bonino, a good but not game-changing add. Look out for draft pick, forward William Eklund, though.

►Seattle — The expansion Kraken, on paper, don’t have the feel of what Vegas had four years ago. Offense could be a real issue, and giving forwards Alex Wennberg and Jaden Schwartz could be bothersome in the future. The defense, and goaltender Philipp Grubauer are respectable, though.

►Toronto — Signing goaltender Petr Mrazek appears to be a sideways move, and signing Michael Bunting to potentially replace Zach Hyman isn’t a clear upgrade either. The salary cap keeps the Leafs’ hands largely tied.

►Montreal —On the ice, the Canadiens kept their momentum going by signing defenseman David Savard and forwards Mike Hoffman and Matthieu Perreault. Savard isn’t Shea Weber, whose career might be over due to injuries, but he’ll be a reasonable shadow. The flip side to all this is the negative stench of drafting Logan Mallioux, who renounced himself from the entry draft after crimes in Sweden.

►Pittsburgh — Forward Brock McGinn addresses a need in the bottom-six, but the Penguins are keenly watching what’ll happen to Fleury in Chicago. Reacquiring the star goaltender could be a major boost in many ways.

►Washington — Forward Alex Ovechkin will retire a Captal, which isn’t surprising. But otherwise, the salary cap has kept them from doing much.

►Ottawa — Nothing notable for an organization awaiting the maturation of many talented prospects.

►Anaheim — The Ducks were able to re-sign franchise cornerstone Ryan Getzlaf to finish his career in Anaheim, and the entry draft was productive. Otherwise, it’s still waiting on the future for this organization.


►Carolina — Some strange, mystifying decisions. Not re-signing Nedeljkovic, replacing him and Mrazek with a largely equal tandem (Frederik Andersen, Antti Raanta), and losing defenseman Dougie Hamilton to free agency all hurt. But the signing of defenseman Tony DeAngelo, whose list of on- and off-ice transgressions are lengthy and team culture-busting, was baffling and could destroy a team chemistry that was so impressive.

►Vegas — The Golden Knights have traded away some popular and important locker room figures, notably goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. The organization suddenly has a negative perception, and the on-ice product is a bit weaker.

►New York Rangers —The Rangers have added grit and physicality, but at a cost, and on the whole, could they have used that money in other places?

►Columbus — There continues to be a negative perception of all star players leaving Columbus, with Seth Jones being the latest. Now, re-signing defenseman Zach Werenski (Grosse Pointe/Michigan) is key, but the climb back to playoff contending will take a while.

►St. Louis —The 2019 Stanley Cup winners have the look of a team getting stale and a bit older, and with Tarasenko asking to be traded, will need to replace that offense if he does get shipped.

►Vancouver — Acquiring forward Conor Garland in a trade with Arizona was a plus, but getting defenseman Oliver-Ekman Larsson in the deal was a questionable on-ice add, along with a terrible contract. The Canucks are also rolling the dice with other defensive signings. Not much cohesion to the roster.

►Arizona — The Coyotes appeared to be finally turning a corner a few years ago. Now, they’re rebuilding again, and looking to an always uncertain future.

►Nashville — The picture would have been brighter if the Predators could have ridden themselves of bad contracts, but instead they just added to them by re-signing forward Mikael Granlund.

►Calgary — Speaking of bad contracts, signing gritty forward Blake Coleman to a six-year contract worth $4.9 million per season was astounding (not in a good way). Losing captain Mark Giordano to Seattle in expansion was a gut-punch, too.

►Buffalo —The Sabres did add defenseman Owen Power (Michigan) in the entry draft, for long-term help. But in the short-term, this Sabres team is heading toward another great draft pick next year. They’re ridding themselves of some of the dead weight, but not the lineup isn’t much better.

Twitter: @tkulfan

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