Detroit — It’s been a crazy, busy summer around the NHL, as was expected.
Now, maybe it hasn’t reached the levels that some predicted. The movement has been steady, although maybe not as intense as some expected.
But many big names have switched teams — and some still may this summer — as general managers continue to tweak and modify and attempt to improve their rosters.
It’s always risky to project which teams had the best summers. This is only looking on paper, and until the product is viewed on the ice, who can tell, really?
But, it’s always fun to analyze and spur conversation.
So, let’s take a look at the winners and losers thus far during the NHL’s summer (in alphabetical order):
Anaheim: Now, the contract was a bit rich ($6.25 million annual value for the next four years), but forward Alex Killorn should provide the type of leadership and production this young core of Ducks players needs. GM Pat Verbeek’s scouts also secured what could be a nice draft. It’s still going to be a long process, but the Ducks are on a good path.
Arizona: The Coyotes didn’t make any bold, headline-creating moves, but they added some decent pieces who will help. What Arizona has done well this summer started with a potentially great draft, along with convincing forward Logan Cooley to turn pro. Cooley is a potential Rookie of the Year candidate.
Buffalo: The Sabres tweaked a few spots in their lineup, but with the young core they have, they’re just being patient and letting them grow. The Sabres already have one of the best young talent pools in the NHL, and they may have added to it with another outstanding draft.
Carolina: Already one of the NHL’s best teams, the Hurricanes have had a wonderful offseason. Maximizing their cap space, they were able to sign defenseman Dmitry Orlov, arguably the best defenseman on the market and added a touch of grit by signing Michael Bunting. And they’ve extended star forward Sebastian Aho. GM Don Waddell has done a nice piece of work.
Chicago: It helps when you win the draft lottery and get to select Connor Bedard, who could become a generational talent. There’s a great prospect pool for the Blackhawks, and GM Kyle Davidson did a great job adding veteran forwards Taylor Hall, Nick Foligno and Corey Perry. The Blackhawks will be improved.
Columbus: The Blue Jackets haven’t sat still. New coach Mike Babcock will be motivated and will push the Jackets, who have gotten stronger on defense (Damon Severson, Ivan Provorov) and had a great draft, highlighted by getting Michigan’s Adam Fantilli. After a terrible season, the Jackets are showing signs of progress.
Dallas: GM Jim Nill didn’t have a lot of cap space but was able to sign forward Matt Duchene, who was bought out in Nashville. Duchene could be a great fit with the Stars, along with forward Sam Steel, who didn’t receive a qualifying offer and will be motivated to show he’s still a promising talent. As usual, it seems Nill found good pieces to fit what Dallas has.
Detroit: GM Steve Yzerman did a good job on July 1, filling glaring holes in the Wings’ lineup. But Yzerman’s best work was acquiring forward Alex DeBrincat from Ottawa for a relatively meager price. The Wings finally have the proven goal-scorer they’ve lacked in recent years and didn’t have to give up much.
Los Angeles: The Kings continue to get steadily better. Acquiring forward Pierre-Luc Dubois makes the Kings as deep and talented as any team at center, and he fits the age group the Kings have right now. The Kings could be ready to make a significant move upward this season.
Nashville: Not everyone liked what new GM Barry Trotz did. But when you can add established, quality veterans like Ryan O’Reilly and Gustav Nyquist to stabilize what may have been too young of a lineup, now you’ve got a better balance. On and off the ice, you’re a better team with classy veterans like that.
New Jersey: The key piece of work here by GM Tom Fitzgerald was re-signing forward Timo Meier, after already having acquired forward Tyler Toffoli, deepening an already impressive position group that could be dangerous for a lot of years. The Devils, on paper, might be the team to beat in the East.
New York Rangers: GM Chris Drury didn’t have a lot of money to work with, but made some shrewd moves to add quality veteran depth, notably forward Blake Wheeler and goaltender Jonathan Quick. The veterans Drury signed could mix just right with the young players the Rangers expect to grow and become impact players.
Ottawa: Signing free-agent goaltender Joonas Korpisalo should finally solidify and stabilize a problematic position. And though the Senators got little in return for trading DeBrincat to the Wings, GM Pierre Dorion did a nice job signing Vladimir Tarasenko to replace DeBrincat and fortify an already impressive forward group.
Pittsburgh: The Penguins may not be done yet, as new GM Kyle Dubas is angling on acquiring Norris Trophy-winner Erik Karlsson, which would really be a dramatic, bold move. But acquiring established veterans such as forward Reilly Smith and defenseman Ryan Graves and getting what could be an extremely motivated goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic looks to have improved the Penguins.
Tampa Bay: The Lightning have their hands tied for salary-cap reasons, but they did the best they could. They weren’t able to re-sign forward Alex Killorn but considering the price Anaheim paid him, the Lightning are better off. Signing forwards Conor Sheary and Luke Glendening creates more depth, and they’re the type of veterans that fit well within this group.
Winnipeg: Give GM Kevin Cheveldayoff credit. He was patient, got a great return while trading star forward Pierre-Luc Dubois, and has been patient while forward Mark Scheifele and goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (Commerce Township) head into the final year of their contracts.
Boston: What a bummer of a summer. After a historically great regular season, the Bruins were upset in the first round, then had to watch a parade of talented players leave because of salary-cap restrictions. And watched classy veteran Patrice Bergeron retire this week. It’s been one gut punch after another, and it’s debatable as to whether the Bruins have enough left to absorb all the body blows next season.
Calgary: Tough summer for new GM Craig Conroy, as several key players who can be free agents next summer apparently don’t want to stay with the Flames. This roster could be pretty bad in a year or two, unless Conroy gets good pieces in return in some of these likely trades.
Colorado: Now, these gambles could work out just fine. But forwards Ryan Johansen, Miles Wood and Jonathan Drouin must prove that their regression over the last several seasons can be turned around. If they can help, the Avalanche already have a championship-caliber roster.
Edmonton: The Oilers did most of their work at the trade deadline and have done little tweaks during the summer. GM Ken Holland will be on the lookout again, likely, come the trade deadline.
Florida: The Panthers made an incredible run to the Stanley Cup Finals, but suffered some major injuries that will sideline several key players. Whether they’ve done enough to keep them afloat while those players are sidelined remains to be seen.
Montreal: The Canadiens took a gamble on acquiring forward Alex Newhook, whose best days could still be ahead of him. What people will be focusing on from this summer was Montreal making some gutsy, bold draft picks when other potentially appealing options were available.
Minnesota: The Wild have salary-cap issues, so it was going to be difficult to make significant changes. And they haven’t, though forward Pat Maroon will add veteran leadership to a young roster.
New York Islanders: The Islanders were rumored to be in the mix to acquire DeBrincat, but that obviously didn’t work out. They could have used another infusion of young, offensive talent. The Islanders did a decent job retaining some of their free agents, but this roster isn’t getting any younger.
Toronto: Signing forwards Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi on one-year contracts were nice moves that make the Leafs tough to play against. But overall, the Leafs today don’t look as formidable as they did at the end of last season. And there are significant potential free-agent issues (Auston Matthews, William Nylander) to address.
Philadelphia: The Flyers are building for the future and look to be in good shape to have a lot of ping-pong balls for the 2024 Entry Draft lottery.
St. Louis: Acquiring forwards Kevin Hayes and Oskar Sundqvist helps a little, but it’s difficult to imagine the Blues being significantly improved, as they’re another team hampered by salary-cap issues.
San Jose: The Sharks are in a massive rebuild and are looking to unload Norris Trophy- winner Erik Karlsson, which kind of tells you what kind of shape they’re in. And signing Filip Zadina is considered hope-worthy news.
Seattle: People were waiting, maybe expecting, the Kraken to make a bold move like acquiring DeBrincat or Erik Karlsson, but nothing of that magnitude yet. A proven veteran like that could put Seattle into Stanley Cup-contending status.
Vancouver: The Canucks are up against the salary cap and don’t have much room to add players. They’ve done some minor tweaking, but are hoping their young core continues to grow and improve.
Vegas: Look, the Golden Knights haven’t gotten much better this summer, but there is a caveat here. They’re the Stanley Cup champions, and the roster looks awfully strong for next season, so they’re likely fine with how the summer has gone.
Washington: Forward Max Pacioretty could be a shrewd acquisition if he returns from Achilles surgery successfully. But it’s a longshot. The draft appears good, but those players won’t be able to help for a while. The Capitals missed the playoffs last spring and could be drifting further away this season.