Around the LeagueOffseason

Recapping the offseason for each Metro Division rival

Is Brian Elliott the answer in goal for Philadelphia?

Washington Capitals

The Caps experienced the most significant turnover of any Metro team, and not for the better. Washington lost Kevin Shattenkirk, Justin Williams, Nate Schmidt, Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson. They did lock up Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Dmitry Orlov, but any way you slice it this team took a giant step back. To his credit, GM Brian MacLellan admitted that the salary cap had simply caught up to him and after going for it the last two seasons the writing was on the wall. Washington still has a ton of talent and will absolutely be in the playoff hunt, but the Caps don’t look like the bona fide contender they’ve been for the last decade.

New Jersey Devils

New Jersey might be the Metro club that made the biggest improvements this offseason. The Devils added Johansson, top pick Nico Hischier and free agent Brian Boyle to aid an anemic offense that’s been waiting patiently for youngsters to emerge. With Pavel Zacha already a regular and Michael McLeod on the way, New Jersey is finally turning the corner and ready to put some pucks in the net. The defense looks like the weak link even after the Devils snatched Mirco Mueller from San Jose. But after several years of irrelevance, the Devils are about ready to be a factor in the division once again.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh’s biggest acquisition was the head-scratching trade for Ryan Reaves, but when you’ve won back-to-back Cups, you get the benefit of the doubt. Losing Marc-Andre Fleury was expected but will put more pressure on Matt Murray – although there’s no reason to think he isn’t up for the challenge after securing two rings before technically completing his rookie season. Losing Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Ron Hainsey, Chris Kunitz and Trevor Daley will test Pittsburgh’s depth, but the core remains intact and the Penguins should enter the season as the overwhelming favorite for a three-peat.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Brandon Saad for Artemi Panarin stunner was a major shakeup for a team that might not have needed it. It will be fascinating to see how Panarin plugs into this group, but there’s no denying his pure talent. Outside of that swap, the Blue Jackets were pretty quiet. They dumped Scott Hartnell’s contract and lost Sam Gagner and William Karlsson, but by and large the same group remains that took the league by storm last year. The big key for Columbus will be getting another great season from Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky – whose career arc has been a bit of a rollercoaster. Health has certainly been a factor, but if Columbus is to continue its rise than elite goaltending will be a must.

Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes did well to secure their stud young blueliners, Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin, while both players are still on the rise. Carolina boasts perhaps the best young defense in the league and is in great position to keep it together while the ‘Canes figure out their offense. Adding Williams and Marcus Kruger will provide some veteran leadership and supplementary scoring, but Carolina is still looking for a gamebreaker. Perhaps Teuvo Teravainen can still become that player. The biggest move for Carolina was the deal for Scott Darling. Cam Ward is a shell of himself and the Eddie Lack experiment went horribly, so the Hurricanes are looking for a full reset in net. Behind Carolina’s tough D, Darling could have a similar impact on Carolina to what Cam Talbot did for Edmonton.

Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers have steadily been executing their plan to build from the back-end out over the last few years and they’re on the cusp of seeing the positive results of their patience. Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov are already established as stars-in-the-making and the next wave of young blueliners is about to join them. Landing Nolan Patrick at the draft should inject new life into the offense, where Jordan Weal and Travis Konecny provided a boost last year. Still, I’ll admit I’m puzzled by the Brayden Schenn trade. The Flyers’ biggest question is in goal, where they let Steve Mason walk and replaced him with Brian Elliott. “Moose” is coming off a miserable season and is certainly no sure thing – which can also be said about incumbent Michal Neuvirth. Philadelphia has top young goalie prospects closing in, but until they arrive the Flyers will have a hard time completing their turnaround.

New York Islanders

The Isles’ big acquisition of Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome should give John Tavares a terrific running mate – but was it enough? All that matters for the Islanders right now is Tavares’ future and thus far they haven’t gotten a commitment from the 26-year-old. Snagging Eberle was a nice move to show Tavares New York is focused on icing a competitive team, but it seemed like more dramatic dominoes were going to follow, potentially in the form of Matt Duchene. Instead, the Isles sent Travis Hamonic to Calgary for future draft picks, which seems like a bit of a contradictory message. Obviously all eyes are on Tavares, but the Isles will also be watching top prospects Matthew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier closely. Both look like future stars and could transform New York’s fortunes quickly.

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  • There is nothing in any of those thumbnails that makes me believe any of the teams who didn’t make the playoffs last year will suddenly break into the top 8 of the conference this year.

    Take Philly, for example. The much heralded Ghost was on ice for 42 5v5 goals for and 63 5v5 goals against. Yes, their power play is very good, but they will have to dramatically improve their 5v5 play to get closer to top 8. Not a chance they make the playoffs.

    The Devils….where to start? They would need to improve by 12 wins over last year to be in the conversation. They scored almost 1 goal per game LESS than the Rangers. Their goalie needs a HUGE rebound season. I think they will remain last in the conference.

    The Icelanders….they got rid of Travis Harmonic. But, before we go all crazy about that, a quick look shows that Dan Girardi had a better year than Travis! The specter of the contract will hang over them and I see the Icelanders BEHIND the Flyers this year.

  • The one team in the division that was not evaluated was OUR team.
    While our defense seemed to get better, by adding Shatty, our bottom pair still could be Staal and Holden, which could be a problem. Our PP should be better as our PP1 and PP2 on the blueline should be set.

    On the offensive side, I do not mind the departure of Stepan, but we need to assume that Zinbad can handle the full responsibility of the 1C. I think he can. My concern is more with Hayes at the 2C. Can he step up? As far as the 3C and 4C – we are putting a bunch of hope and expectations on Lias Andersson and a (also ran) Desharnais. I guess we can catch some lightning in a bottle with Andersson, if we give him some solid wingers, but Dasharnais should be a 5C. No real depth at the wing in my eyes.

    As far as the backup goalie is concerned, I think we took 2 steps back. As the team is currently constructed, I would say we are 4 – 6 points behind last year.

    • I agree Sal,
      I had a similar post and was called a pessimist.
      Though our defense is certainly better, I am also concerned at the lack of depth at center and wing. Miller is no center as proven so far, much better at wing. To expect a 19 year old Swedish European player, playing in a league equivalent to AHL, used to playing on bigger rink, with less physical play; to step into the NHL and be a very good player is a very long shot. Also, Desharnais hasn’t been that good in a couple of years. We need a proven center. Also, Loosing Raanta will sting us sometime during the year. He carried the Rangers when Hank was out and was probably one of the best backup goalies in the NHL.

      • We don’t need Andersson to be a very good player. We need him to be a competent checking line center. Since his game is two-way, I do think there is a chance of that. Not saying at all that I expect him to be that unconditionally by any means, or that I necessarily like that he may be in that position. I think Desharnais has a very high bust chance; he is not the bottom six center I would have pulled off the pile. Boo’s concussion concerns are very problematic to consider him in the role. Pavelec is not the backup goalie I would have pulled off the pile, either.

        That said – and as always, the asterisks here may as well be tiny little “AV”s – the defense *could* be very significantly better overall. McD having the 212 pound anchor removed from his right hip could be huge. AV’s system needs puck moving defensemen to thrive in theory, and if ADA can hang and AV uses him on the third pair, then there is one for every pair. If the Rangers can get the puck to the other end significantly better, I think we might be surprised at how dangerous the offense can be, as constituted.

        All of that said, I don’t know as I feel that the team is worse. Or better. More than most recent years, I feel like it is a huge question mark, and could range from “well, this is disappointing” to “holy crap, this works pretty well”. I do think the Rangers are still firmly a playoff team, however, and I do like that the rest of the Metro picked a good year to seemingly mostly lay low and allow us this grand experiment.

  • Lias Anderson scored a goal on the power play vs. Canada, giving him 3 for the tournament. Not bad! It is a big step up for a youngster, but he wouldn’t be the first 18 year-old to play in the NHL if the club gives him the chance.

  • So in other words, even though we have our roster issues, so does everyone else. Which means that we can contend as much as anyone else can.

    I would say that we are a better team today than last year, and that’s a good thing.

    • I would say that without center depth, injuries to Mika and Hayes like we had last year would cripple us. Even without the injuries, center is going to be a huge issue all year. Our back-up goalie will likely NOT be as good as Raanta. Yes our defense is better and our team is younger but that will only matter if these young players truly step up. Can they? Will they?

      I think we will likely see our streak of three consecutive 100+ point seasons come to an end and we will be battling all year for the last wild card spot (a la Torts most of his seasons). But, that is balanced out by the fact that Pit and Was should be much weaker. So once in the playoffs, yes, we can be a surprise team much like 2012 or 2014 and make a deep run IF the hockey gods are smiling on us.

      • Hey bro, hope you’re feeling good. I think Gorton addresses the center lack of depth at some point.

        • 100% now (except late day fatigue issues which is part of the healing). Thanks so much for asking!

          I suspect that will be true too. But this team, as of now, doesnt feel like a legit SC contender…yet.

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