The NHL offseason has featured impactful trades, surprising contracts and a few genuinely shocking moments like the biggest free agent available choosing to sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Some teams aced the offseason test. Other teams … didn’t.
Here are the report cards for all 32 NHL teams through the first wave of signings, based on the moves they made, the moves they wanted to make and their needs entering the summer.
Note: Kristen Shilton graded teams of the Atlantic and Central divisions, while Greg Wyshynski appraised the Metro and Pacific clubs. Thanks to 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.
Coach status: DJ Smith is going into his third season with the Senators, a term as first-time head coach that has gone well despite its ups and downs. The former Maple Leafs assistant is 48-62-17 thus far in Canada’s capital, and although he has yet to guide Ottawa to a playoff berth, this very well could be the season it finally happens.
Overall grade: A+
A round of applause for general manager Pierre Dorion. He has done some incredible work.
Let’s start with the DeBrincat trade from Chicago. We’d call it a fleecing by Dorion to take DeBrincat, a dynamic 41-goal scorer and linchpin in the Blackhawks’ offense, for just three draft picks (including the No. 7 selection in 2022, used by Chicago to select Kevin Korchinski). DeBrincat has only one year left on his deal before becoming an RFA, but who cares? DeBrincat makes the Senators instantly better, and Dorion didn’t sacrifice any sure thing NHL players in return. An excellent coup.
Then there’s Giroux. This player from the Ottawa area was lured home on a three-year, $19.5 million contract that could go down as one of the Senators’ finest free agent signings ever. The longtime Flyers captain brings 1,018 games of experience with him, can plug into a top-six or checking-line role, will be a help on the power play and will be a critical voice in Ottawa’s dressing room. Whether or not Giroux is around to see a long playoff run with the Senators, his presence alone could leave a mark on this group for years to come.
Before Dorion got that free agent deal done, he was working the trade board again. That’s how Murray ended up in Toronto, with Ottawa retaining only 25% of his salary in the swap. Murray’s tenure with the Senators was a roller coaster that included a COVID-19 absence, an upper-body injury and starting last season 0-5-0. The veteran was waived after that, assigned to the AHL, then eventually recalled to NHL action. Murray went 5-12-2 before a season-ending injury removed him from the crease in March.
By Dorion shedding most of that salary, he was able to trade for Talbot instead. Talbot had been the incumbent starter for Minnesota and was 32-12-4 with a .911 save percentage last regular season. Now he’ll play in tandem with Anton Forsberg, a terrific young talent. Ottawa’s goaltending has been reshaped nicely.
The Senators also took care of their own in a big way when Josh Norris signed an eight-year, $63.6 million extension. Norris was the Senators’ second-leading goal scorer the past two seasons, with 52 goals and 90 points. Making commitments of that magnitude sends a signal about where Ottawa wants to go — and who’s driving the bus to get there.
A masterful offseason for Dorion, to say the least.
Key players added: F Max Pacioretty, D Brent Burns, F Ondrej Kase, D Dylan Coghlan
Key players lost: D Tony DeAngelo, F Steven Lorentz, F Vincent Trocheck, C Max Domi, D Ian Cole, Brendan Smith
Remaining cap space: $4,083,083
Coach status: The Hurricanes are the personification of a Rod Brind’Amour team. They try to win the game at both ends of the ice with a tireless, grinding brand of hockey. There are no off nights against them. Brind’Amour, who won the Jack Adams in 2020-21, is signed through the 2023-24 season, and the Hurricanes have made the playoffs in each of his four seasons. Even if they fail to break through the second round again next season, we imagine Rod the Bod won’t be the one taking the fall for it. And if he does, he’ll be out of work for about as long as it takes him to do 10 reps of curls.
Overall grade: A
The Hurricanes acquired Burns from the San Jose Sharks with a salary retained cap hit of $5.28 million for the next three seasons, or $280,000 more than the cap number the Flyers have on DeAngelo for the next two seasons before he hits unrestricted free agency. Burns is an older player, obviously; but if he’s reenergized by playing on a Cup contender, we’d argue he’s a better player, especially as a power-play quarterback.
Burns cost the Hurricanes Lorentz, goalie prospect Eetu Mäkiniemi and a conditional third-rounder. Pacioretty and Coghlan cost them … nothing, as it was the latest in a series of salary sacrifices by the Vegas Golden Knights. Burns replaces something they already had. Pacioretty provides something they desperately needed: a pure finisher who excels offensively in the playoffs. In the last three seasons the Golden Knights made the postseason, only Brad Marchand had a higher goals per 60 minutes average than Pacioretty among left wings.
Pacioretty is 33. That’s around the same age as Ray Whitney when he showed up in Raleigh and contributed to the Canes’ Stanley Cup win in 2006. That’s the kind of impact they’re looking for from the winger.
Kase remains one of the NHL’s great “if healthy, then…” players. At $1.5 million for one year, it’s fine.
Three points of concern or intrigue for the Hurricanes. The first is whether they can tempt Nino Niederreiter back to the team, as the unrestricted free agent tests the waters. The second is their third pairing on defense, which will likely feature Coghlan, maybe Ethan Bear or Jalen Chatfield, after Cole and Smith departed. The third is perhaps the most important: With Trocheck gone, the second-line center is Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Fingers crossed.
Key players added: D Ben Chiarot, C Andrew Copp, G Ville Husso, F Dominik Kubalik, F David Perron, D Olli Maatta
Key players lost: G Thomas Greiss, G Calvin Pickard, D Marc Staal
Remaining cap space: $10,296,111
Coach status: The Red Wings moved on from Jeff Blashill in April, ending his seven-year tenure as head coach. Detroit has since named former Tampa Bay assistant Derek Lalonde as Blashill’s replacement. Lalonde has never run his own NHL bench, but as part of Jon Cooper’s staff since 2018 he has helped to guide the Lightning to consecutive Stanley Cup championships. It’s a winning pedigree that would give most general managers confidence in Lalonde — including Steve Yzerman.
Overall grade: A
Yzerman has not messed around in free agency. Detroit had cap space to use, and he has given this group a great chance to be in the playoff mix this season.
Going after the rights to Husso was a good start. Yzerman traded for him from St. Louis and then got a three-year extension done. The Red Wings should have a terrific tandem now in Husso and sophomore Alex Nedeljkovic.
Getting Perron on a two-year, $9.5 million pact was nice work by Yzerman, too. Perron hit his highest goal total (27) in eight years last season and was a force in the postseason (13 points in 12 games). That’s a savvy veteran who, at 34, is also playing excellent hockey. Perron will be huge for Detroit on the ice and in the dressing room.
Copp signed a five-year, $28.125 million deal to bolster Detroit’s top six. He was a 20-goal scorer between New York and Winnipeg last season and drew ample interest ahead of free agency. Copp is from Detroit and wanted to play at home; Yzerman was happy to oblige.
The Red Wings’ also have a solid middle-six option in Kubalik, a former 30-goal scorer clocking in on a two-year, $5 million deal.
To punch up the Red Wings’ beleaguered blue line, Yzerman added free agents Chiarot and Maatta. Detroit needed an upgrade on D after giving up the second most goals in the league a year ago (3.78 per game). Offering Chiarot a four-year term at age 31 might not age well, but in the short term Chiarot should play his role well.
This has been the type of offseason that sets Detroit up for long-term success. Yzerman knows Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi are UFAs after this season. Enticing them to stick around requires a clear plan forward, and that’s what he is unfolding. Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider were already in the Red Wings’ ranks for years to come too. Putting all these new pieces around them — plus a fresh voice behind the bench — and Yzerman has knocked this offseason out of the park.
Coach status: After the Oilers fired Dave Tippett in February, Jay Woodcroft was elevated from coaching the team’s AHL affiliate to be the interim bench boss. He got the team back on track and took Edmonton all the way to the Western Conference finals (including a series win over the rival Flames). The team rewarded him with a three-year contract extension that runs through the 2024-25 season.
Overall grade: A
Ken Holland getting an A on an offseason report card in 2022 is not something we anticipated, but here we are.
The chaotic reign of Mike Smith in goal ends with the addition of Campbell, who signed for five years at $5 million annually to bring some predictability and stability in goal. The Oilers added Calvin Pickard on a one-year deal as well, adding to Campbell and Stuart Skinner for next season. Overall, an upgrade in goal.
Holland played the Evander Kane situation perfectly. Kane was headed to market. Holland wagered that the grass wasn’t going to be greener for the forward than it was in Edmonton. Holland won, signing Kane to a four-year deal with a $5.13 million annual cap hit. Kane scored 22 goals in 43 regular-season games, and 13 goals in 15 postseason games, giving Connor McDavid the top-line scoring winger he craved.
The downside is that Kane has a full no-move clause for the first three seasons. Another downside, potentially, is that no one is sure how his contract grievance with the Sharks will play out. But the ultimate risk is that this is Evander Kane, who has been sued for assault, had accusations of match-fixing and domestic violence made against him — which the NHL investigated, clearing him on the former and failing to substantiate the latter — and had his contract in San Jose terminated for violation of COVID-19 protocols. From a hockey perspective, he’s a tremendous offensive talent. But the perspective isn’t always focused on hockey when it comes to Kane’s relationship with a team.
To make some of this happen, Holland let Kassian go to the Coyotes, flipping first-rounders and attaching lower-round picks to him. With so many teams hesitant to move picks to get rid of contracts, the Oilers weren’t.
There’s still work to be done, as RFAs Kailer Yamamoto and Ryan McLeod need new contracts while the Oilers still seek a trade for Jesse Puljujarvi. But for the work Holland accomplished — and for the cap management from a general manager who hasn’t always been the most frugal — it was a strong offseason for Edmonton.
Coach status: Todd McLellan has been with the Kings since April 2019. Los Angeles made its return to the postseason after a three-year absence, and has found the sweet spot between its veteran core and the next wave of prospects that have been ripening in the system. The stakes will continue to get higher for the Kings as those prospects age, but McLellan is signed for at least the next two seasons.
Overall grade: A
The Kings were dealing from a position of strength when they acquired Fiala from the Minnesota Wild, dealing away the 19th overall pick in the draft (used on Liam Ohgren) and NCAA defenseman Brock Faber from their deep prospect pool. More importantly, GM Rob Blake had the cap space to hand Fiala a seven-year contract worth $7.875 million annually while the Wild were in a self-inflicted salary cap mess following the Ryan Suter and Zach Parise buyouts.
Fiala turns 26 on July 22. The Kings were 20th in goals-per-game average last season (2.87). Fiala scored 33 goals himself and assisted on 52 others for a stellar 3.5 points per 60 minutes average last season in 82 games. He also had 17 points on the power play, which will no doubt be a boon to the Kings, who were 27th in power-play conversion rate (16.1%) last season. His goal output wasn’t the result of some unexpected spike ahead of a restricted free-agent contract: In fact, his 12.6% shooting percentage was in line with recent seasons. If he’s healthy, he’s scoring.
It’s not a perfect acquisition. Questions about Fiala’s defense and especially about his lack of postseason impact are salient. But from a cost-benefit standpoint, Blake made one of the best moves of the offseason in acquiring Fiala, provided that Ohgren and Faber don’t both become NHLers whose success reframes this trade in a few seasons.
Otherwise, Blake secured the services of his RFA first-line winger Adrian Kempe for four years ($5.5 million AAV), didn’t qualify Brendan Lemieux before bringing him back on a one-year deal ($1.35 million) and got Alexander Edler back on a $750,000 incentive-laden deal.
Coach status: Only Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning has a longer tenure with his team than Sullivan has with the Penguins, having been hired by Pittsburgh in December 2015. His current deal runs through the 2023-24 season. At some point, he’ll no longer be the head coach of the Penguins. But for now, he’s one of the NHL’s top bench bosses and the stabilizing factor through the team’s seemingly annual string of injuries.
Overall grade: A
There’s no category above for “players retained,” but that’s the story of the Penguins this summer. Franchise icons Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin were both free agents. It appeared one or both could leave. Letang was the first one to sign back on, as the 35-year-old defenseman signed a six-year, $36.6-million deal. All eyes turned to Malkin. There was a very public discourse between the center and Penguins management regarding what he felt he was worth and what they were allegedly offering. It was declared he was going to the free agent market. But on the eve of free agency, Malkin and the Penguins shocked the hockey world with a four-year, $24.4 million deal to keep him in Pittsburgh.
It’s possible neither of these deals will age well. Malkin in particular could be headed to his “latter-day Joe Thornton” years, given his skating, defensive and health declines. But for next season, the Penguins have these two at a combined $12.2 million in cap space compared to $16.75 million last season. And they should be viable, important players in 2022-23 if they’re healthy. Admittedly, a big if.
Along with those two, the Penguins retained forward Bryan Rust ($5.125 million AAV), forward Rickard Rakell ($5 million) and goalie Casey DeSmith ($1.8 million). But they aren’t just running it back with last year’s squad.
The Penguins made aggressive upgrades to their defensive corps. They brought in Petry, who had requested a trade from the Canadiens, and Poehling for Matheson and a fourth-rounder. Assuming last season was an anomaly, Petry gives the Penguins a solid second offensive option behind Letang — although he is 34 and signed through 2025. They brought in Rutta from the Lightning, where he won two Stanley Cups. They had to trade Marino for salary-cap purposes, but we’d like to see what assistant coach Todd Reirden will do with Smith, a defenseman who still has some upside.
The Penguins believe their window to deliver Sidney Crosby a fourth Stanley Cup remains open. Assuming that it is, Pittsburgh went beyond keeping the band together to make its overall lineup stronger. We’ll give the Penguins an A for that effort, at least in the short term.
Coach status: Brad Larsen took over for John Tortorella last season and got the Jackets to play tough, competitive hockey in a season that saw them flirt with a .500 record. Columbus was a young team, and it played like it at times last season: We’ll assume the Jackets’ .714 winning percentage when leading after two periods, third lowest in the NHL, was a product of that inexperience. But Larsen squeezed enough out of this team despite some significant absences from his lineup (including Alexandre Texier) to make his first season an encouraging one. He is signed through 2023-24.
Overall grade: A-
“Shocking” doesn’t come close to describing Gaudreau’s decision to take his talents to Columbus. He was the rare franchise player who hit the open market in free agency. The Blue Jackets are a team that missed the playoffs for two straight seasons and have advanced past the first round only once in franchise history. It’s like if the star of “The Bachelorette” decided to give her final rose to the guy running the craft services table instead of to one of her tuxedoed suitors.
Gaudreau wasn’t the first star player to choose Columbus. That would be defenseman Zach Werenski, who committed to the franchise right as it said goodbye to Seth Jones. But Gaudreau is the most important one to do so, signing his 7-year, $68.25 million contract while extolling the virtues of the market and the franchise. His arrival puts a 115-point MVP-level winger on the team’s top line, giving Columbus its best offensive player since Artemi Panarin and its first true face of the franchise since Rick Nash. Gaudreau joins an underrated offensive team (3.15 goals per game) and elevates it.
Johnny Hockey isn’t known for his defense, and neither are the Blue Jackets, who were fifth worst in the NHL last season in goals against average (3.62). Signing Gudbranson gives them an element of toughness but arguably makes them worse defensively. Better goaltending and more maturity could help tighten the defense, but the personnel has to be upgraded. Draft picks Jiricek and Mateychuk will help, but when?
What does Patrik Laine‘s contract look like in a post-Gaudreau world? That’s another lingering question about this offseason.
Again, it’s hard to shade the Blue Jackets for one of the biggest free agent coups of all time. That alone should warrant an outstanding grade. But it’s not a signing made in a vacuum, and there’s more work to be done for GM Jarmo Kekalainen & Co. To wit: Wouldn’t you feel better about the Jackets had they landed defenseman Ryan McDonagh from the Lightning, a player they were chasing before his trade to Nashville?
Coach status: Sources told ESPN at the end of last season that there was a 50-50 chance Lindy Ruff would return as Devils head coach, despite many believing it was time for a change. But the veteran bench boss has a good relationship with star forward Jack Hughes and the Devils feel as if he hasn’t gotten a chance to coach a season without some catastrophic flaw in their goaltending. He has one more year on his deal with an option for a fourth. The most interesting coaching news of the offseason for the Devils was the addition of former Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette as an assistant, thankfully taking over power-play duties from Mark Recchi. One assumes he’d be a top option if Ruff is turfed.
Overall grade: A-
The Devils are tricky to grade because it’s hard to ignore The One That Got Away. GM Tom Fitzgerald confirmed to me that they were convinced Johnny Gaudreau would be a Devil during the free agency process. The money was there. The opportunity was there. The geography, above all, was there. Gaudreau had personal ties to Fitzgerald. But he chose Columbus instead, and one gets the feeling that the decision staggered New Jersey a bit this offseason.
Palat is a very good player and one with the kind of playoff experience (and Stanley Cup bling) the Devils’ roster needed. The $6 million annually for five seasons felt a little overcompensatory after Gaudreau fell through, but it was actually in line with contract projections. If the Devils break through and become a playoff team again soon, then obviously this investment looks a lot different — Palat is one of the league’s better postseason performers in all facets. As it stands, they have a winger who can play a variety of roles well and excels as a passer.
Where the offseason recovered nicely for the Devils is on the back end. Marino has a cost-controlled deal ($4.4 million AAV through 2027) and gives the team one of the deepest right sides for any blue line in the NHL with Dougie Hamilton and Damon Severson. Giving up Ty Smith to the Penguins was a high cost for Marino, but potentially worth it. Brendan Smith brings some low-cost versatility. Nemec, a puck-moving marvel who was the second overall pick in the NHL draft, could help immediately too.
Vanecek wasn’t the best option available (-0.63 goals saved above average over the past two seasons) but also was far from the worst. After Corey Crawford and Jonathan Bernier, the bar for veteran offseason goalie acquisitions for the Devils is set at “play more than 12 games,” and he should be able to clear that. But the trade for Vanecek was more about a vote of confidence for Mackenzie Blackwood than anything else, and that’s the real gamble.
Coach status: Dallas Eakins is in an interesting spot. He has the eighth-longest tenure of any coach in the NHL, having been hired in June 2019 to help the influx of young players that would soon populate the Ducks’ roster. Understandably, Anaheim hasn’t made the playoffs during his tenure, but it ticked up to a .463 points percentage last season and was a very fun — if very flawed — team to watch. That was enough for new GM Pat Verbeek to pick up Eakins’ option for 2022-23. But let’s put the emphasis on “new GM”; Verbeek came in from outside the organization. It’s possible, like most general managers who didn’t hire an incumbent coach, he’ll want “his guy” in there. If the Ducks miss the playoffs again, that could be sooner rather than later.
Overall grade: B+
Verbeek opened some eyes when he opted not to qualify Milano (25) and Steel (23), two players who contributed to the Ducks last season. He didn’t see a role for them on Anaheim’s roster that would justify the arbitration reward they’d receive. It’s the kind of unfeeling decision that a team wants from a new general manager who’s there to essentially audit the roster. We’d also expect nothing less from the man called “The Little Ball of Hate” when he played.
The Ducks have obvious needs in their lineup, but they’re in that “no man’s land,” like the Kings were over the past couple of seasons; they don’t want to bring in veterans who are going to block the growth of younger players. Strome’s signing (five years, $5 million AAV) is one that avoids that obstacle. Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish are poised to be the top two centers on this team. Strome can play in the middle as they grow, and he can slide to the wing when they’re ready. He also adds a little defensive competence to a team that can use it.
Vatrano might end up as one of the summer’s best sleeper signings. His $3.65 million annual cap hit for three seasons gives the Ducks a winger with a 0.91 goals per 60 minutes average over the past three campaigns. Vatrano got valuable experience playing on the Rangers’ top line last season and in the playoffs. This was a lineup deficiency that Verbeek might have solved without breaking the bank.
This grade is a little incomplete in the sense that the Ducks are still on the hunt for another forward and specifically for a defenseman, as the team parted ways with Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson at the trade deadline. But for the work that Verbeek did in adding and subtracting players, it was a solid debut offseason for him.
Coach status: Jared Bednar is going into his seventh season with Colorado after he took over from Patrick Roy in 2016. The 50-year-old successfully guided the Avalanche through seasons of disappointment to finally reach the Stanley Cup Final this past season, and win the franchise’s first championship since 2001.
Overall grade: B+
Colorado and Tampa Bay clashed on the ice for Stanley Cup supremacy. Off the ice, Avalanche president of hockey operations Joe Sakic has adopted a similar approach to this offseason as Lightning GM Julien BriseBois: Take care of your own.
Sakic started with Valeri Nichushkin, the one-time reclamation project who blossomed so beautifully in Colorado it earned him an eight-year, $49 million extension. Nichushkin was a force for the Avalanche in the 2021-22 regular season and playoffs, adding nine goals and 15 points in 20 postseason tilts. The 27-year-old winger rightly earned Conn Smythe Trophy buzz for his remarkable play.
After Nichushkin, Sakic handed out big extensions to veteran defender Josh Manson (four years, $18 million) and versatile forward Artturi Lehkonen (five years, $22.5 million), while also securing depth pieces in Andrew Cogliano and Darren Helm on one-year, $1.25 million contracts. Each player had a role in Colorado’s Cup run, and Sakic’s decision to retain them as opposed to bringing in outside help prioritizes consistency, and shows Sakic has been paying attention to how the Lightning were built into a two-time Cup-winning juggernaut.
Sakic couldn’t keep everyone, though. Burakovsky leaving for Seattle hurts, especially after his excellent postseason. Kadri didn’t immediately sign elsewhere after becoming an unrestricted free agent, but the chances Colorado could make the money work on a long-term deal are slim. And there was the loss of starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who moved on to Washington.
Colorado knew Kuemper wasn’t coming back, so Sakic acquired Georgiev’s negotiating rights from New York and then signed him to a three-year deal. The 26-year-old had a down season in 2021-22 (15-10-2, .898 SV%) backing up Igor Shesterkin, and Georgiev was vocally unhappy about his standing with the Rangers. Sakic believes Georgiev was stronger previously, and that he will be again for the Avalanche, in tandem with Pavel Francouz. They’ll find out soon enough if that’s true.
Key players added: F Kirby Dach, F Evgenii Dadonov, D Mike Matheson, F Rem Pitlick, F Juraj Slafkovsky, F Mitchell Stephens
Key players lost: D Alexander Romanov, F Cedric Paquette, D Jeff Petry, F Tyler Pitlick, F Ryan Poehling
Remaining cap space: $248,337
Coach status: Montreal did the right thing by removing Martin St. Louis‘ interim head coach tag and making the appointment official with a three-year extension signed in June. Since St. Louis replaced the fired Dominique Ducharme in February, the Canadiens have rallied around the first-time NHL bench boss in a big way, and there’s no reason to think St. Louis won’t continue to have a positive effect on the Canadiens. His own illustrious playing history allows St. Louis to lead Montreal differently than other coaches, might and that style has translated nicely to a team chock full of young talent.
Overall grade: B+
General manager Kent Hughes had one major assignment this offseason: trade Jeff Petry.
Hughes finally checked that off last week by sending Petry (and his $6.25 million cap hit) off to Pittsburgh in exchange for Matheson. Montreal retained none of Petry’s salary and added another (cheaper) veteran blueliner in Matheson. Hughes managed some fine work there.
The Petry trade was key to Montreal’s other major offseason goal: creating cap flexibility. In that respect, the Canadiens might not be finished.
Hughes was busy working the phones even before free agency opened. He traded the last four years of Shea Weber‘s contract (at $7.8 million per season) to Vegas in June and got winger Evgenii Dadonov back in the transaction. Dadonov had 20 goals and 43 points last season and could slide into the Canadiens’ top six. Montreal had only two skaters hit the 40-point plateau in 2021-22 (Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki), so targeting known commodities to improve the Canadiens offensively was important.
Slafkovsky will do that soon enough in Montreal, too. The Canadiens drafted their Slovakian winger No. 1 overall this month, and he’s projected to start either in the NHL or with the American Hockey League’s Laval Rocket come fall. Doesn’t matter, really. The Canadiens believe Slafkovsky will have a long career ahead of him in their ranks. No need to rush before he’s ready.
Also at the draft, Hughes acquired Dach from the Chicago Blackhawks in a three-team trade that included sending Romanov to the New York Islanders. Dach was the Blackhawks’ third overall pick in 2019 and has put up average numbers — 19 goals and 59 points — in 152 games. He’s still just 21, though, and the Canadiens could see a healthy return on their trade investment as Dach continues to establish himself at the NHL level.
Montreal might not rebound into a playoff team immediately. Hughes hasn’t made any significant free agent signings or gone after a big target. His decision-making is about the long game, though, and in that respect this offseason is going well for the Canadiens.
Key players added: F Luke Kunin, F Oskar Lindblom, F Steven Lorentz, F Nico Sturm, D Matt Benning, D Markus Nutivaara, G Aaron Dell, G Eetu Makiniemi
Key player lost: D Brent Burns
Remaining cap space: $1,331,666
Coach status: The Sharks do not currently have a head coach after firing Bob Boughner on July 1.
Overall grade: B+
Mike Grier was hired as the Sharks’ general manager — his first GM job in the NHL — on July 5. To say he had to hit the ground running would be an understatement. But he had Joe Will there with him, who had served as interim general manager when Doug Wilson stepped away from the team. Together, they put together a solid offseason with one massive change for the Sharks.
It would have taken a miracle to get Erik Karlsson or Marc-Edouard Vlasic off the Sharks’ salary cap. But there was some potential movement with Burns. Credit Grier with talking him through the process, and finding a team to which Burns would waive his trade protection in the Hurricanes.
The return for Burns was underwhelming, but it wasn’t going to be anything but underwhelming. Burns is 37. He makes $8 million per season. He has trade protection and had to accept a deal to Carolina. Maybe Makiniemi becomes something one day in goal. But this trade was about getting out from under all but 33% of an aging veteran’s contract, and kudos to Grier for doing so.
Otherwise, the Sharks made some nice signings for their back end (Benning and Nutivaara) and some additions up front who will play hard if not all that effectively.
What are they doing in goal, exactly? They signed Kaapo Kahkonen to a two-year deal and added old friend Dell to James Reimer and Adin Hill. Something has to give there. Reimer has some value in trade but also has a little protection on that front in his deal.
Key players added: F Connor Brown, C Dylan Strome, F Henrik Borgstrom, D Erik Gustafsson, G Darcy Kuemper, G Charlie Lindgren
Key players lost: D Justin Schultz, G Ilya Samsonov, G Vitek Vanecek
Remaining cap space: $0
Coach status: Peter Laviolette is entering the final year of his contract with the Capitals. GM Brian MacLellan praised his work last season during a rash of injuries to players such as Tom Wilson and Anthony Mantha. “He managed a difficult situation with the amount of injuries we had to our forwards,” MacLellan said. But if the Capitals don’t make a run this season, it could be Laviolette who takes the fall.
Overall grade: B+
The Capitals were 23rd in team save percentage last season (.898). Their response? Nuking their goaltending by shipping Vanecek to New Jersey and not qualifying Samsonov, who signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs. But it was in service of signing Kuemper, the Stanley Cup-winning goalie for the Colorado Avalanche ($5.25 million AAV, five seasons). He’s an established starter who adds instant stability to the Capitals’ crease and is an upgrade on both of the incumbents. As the Avalanche found out last season, he won’t always win you games but also won’t be the reason you lose them more often than not.
A little more concerning is the signing of Lindgren as a cost-effective ($1.1 million, three seasons) backup, but one with 29 games of NHL experience.
Overall, MacLellan did some nice moves to improve the Capitals’ depth. Strome is an all-offense player with a knack for playmaking. Brown will help their top six and plays a good puck possession game. Gustafsson is an all-offense option on defense. They brought back Marcus Johansson, a known commodity, at forward.
The Capitals were a bit hamstrung by the salary cap, given that Nicklas Backstrom is working his way back from a hip procedure. They expect him back this season, which means they couldn’t use the entirety of his $9.2 million salary-cap hold for free agency.
Like Pittsburgh, Washington is desperately making a last push with an aged core. Unlike Pittsburgh, Washington could almost hit the reset button around that core next summer if things don’t work out: The Capitals have just 10 players under contract for the 2023-24 season.
Coach status: Don Granato is entering his second full season as Buffalo’s head coach after taking over from Ralph Krueger in March 2021. By all accounts, Granato has done a fine job with the Sabres despite missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. Granato was optimistic about Buffalo’s future in May, when he stated the Sabres had to “respect the process” in pursuit of their ultimate goals.
Overall grade: B
Buffalo’s main offseason priority was goaltending. General manager Kevyn Adams addressed that by re-signing Anderson and Malcolm Subban, and bringing in UFA Comrie. Add Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to that mix and Buffalo’s organizational depth in the crease looks solid.
Early projections for next season put Anderson and Comrie as Buffalo’s starting tandem. The 41-year-old Anderson was an unexpected star for the Sabres late last season, going 11-5-2 through March and April. Comrie joins the Sabres from Winnipeg, where he went 10-5-1 with a .920 save percentage in 2021-22. Had Comrie played a couple more games for the Jets he’d have been a restricted free agent instead of a UFA (Group 6) who could sign anywhere. That he didn’t works out well for Buffalo.
After shoring up the Sabres’ goaltending, Adams’ key move has been locking in RFA Victor Olofsson on a two-year deal. The 27-year-old scored 20 goals and 49 points in 72 games last season and projects to continue playing a significant role in Buffalo’s top six. Adams also managed the Sabres’ offensive depth with a one-year extension for Vinnie Hinostroza after he potted 13 goals a year ago.
Targeting Lyubushkin on the open market adds some grit to Buffalo’s backend, and he’s a versatile asset for the second or third pairing.
This offseason has been effective, if nothing fancy, for the Sabres. The moves just reflect Adams’ continued commitment to a slow-and-steady build on Buffalo’s foundation.
Key players added: F Andreas Athanasiou, F Colin Blackwell, F Max Domi, G Petr Mrazek, G Alex Stalock
Key players lost: F Alex DeBrincat, F Kirby Dach, D Calvin de Haan, G Collin Delia, F Dominik Kubalik, F Dylan Strome
Remaining cap space: $10,590,704
Coach status: Chicago hired Luke Richardson in June as the franchise’s 40th head coach, following his four-year stint as an assistant in Montreal. Derek King had been the Blackhawks’ interim bench boss since Jeremy Colliton was fired last October; he remains on Richardson’s staff now as an assistant. While this is Richardson’s first official time running an NHL bench, he did fill in for former Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme for three games during Montreal’s postseason run in 2020-21 while Ducharme was in COVID-19 protocol.
Overall grade: B
The assumption here is to view all of Chicago’s moves through the lens of strategic tanking. That’s the best way to make sense of them, and in that sense, they did pretty well this summer.
Trading DeBrincat to Ottawa for essentially the No. 13 pick in the 2022 draft was a sure sign the Blackhawks aren’t looking to win now. DeBrincat scored 41 goals a season ago. He’s as electric and productive as forwards come. Instead, the Blackhawks drafted Kevin Korchinski (with the No. 7 pick that was part of the trade), Frank Nazar and Sam Rinzel with their three first-round choices. Chicago is stockpiling for the future.
It explains trading away Dach to Montreal when Dach was the third overall pick in 2019; despite hitting some recent bumps in his NHL path, he is just 21 years old.
General manager Kyle Davidson also didn’t issue qualifying offers to restricted free agents Strome or Kubalik. Their productivity doesn’t fit the Blackhawks’ current needs. Because if all goes well in this coming season’s free fall, Chicago might well win the draft lottery and have a shot at taking Connor Bedard at No. 1 in 2023.
Davidson was also busy at this year’s draft acquiring Chicago’s new starting goaltender Mrazek in a trade with Toronto. Mrazek was 12-6-0 with an .888 save percentage playing behind Jack Campbell last season, before a groin injury sidelined him late in the campaign. Mrazek will aim to recapture the form he had previously in Carolina, which could help — or hurt — the Blackhawks, depending on your perspective. Stalock, who spent nearly all of last season in the minors, tracks as Mrazek’s backup.
The signings of Athanasiou, Blackwell and Domi give Chicago some forward depth and potential trade pieces. Athanasiou and Domi especially will have a good opportunity to showcase themselves for prospective playoff teams come spring. It doesn’t seem likely Chicago will be among them.
Coach status: Jon Cooper maintains his mantle as the NHL’s longest-tenured coach. After a third consecutive run to the Stanley Cup Final (following consecutive Cup championships), it’s hard to imagine Cooper will be out of work any time soon.
Overall grade: B
Tampa Bay has gotten its house in order. General manager Julien BriseBois acknowledged the Lightning’s cap crunch. He wasn’t likely to be chasing top free agents.
Instead, BriseBois’ focus is retaining Tampa Bay’s own players. After the Lightning’s Cup Final loss to Colorado, BriseBois moved veteran blueliner McDonagh to Nashville in part to generate some cap flexibility. He had plans to secure the Lightning’s future.
BriseBois started by signing Nick Paul to a seven-year, $22 million extension. Paul was a trade deadline acquisition by the Lightning in March who was a consistent offensive threat in the regular season (14 points in 21 games) and a timely contributor throughout their postseason run (nine points in 23 games). The 27-year-old earned his raise.
While other teams busily scoured the open market on July 13, BriseBois committed to more of his own. The Lightning announced on that day eight-year extensions for all three of Mikhail Sergachev (at $68 million total), Anthony Cirelli ($50 million) and Erik Cernak ($41.6 million). Each had been key parts of Tampa Bay’s recent run of success. The large investments made to keep them shows what value the Lightning place on prioritizing consistency.
It could have been easy, after the Cup Final loss, for BriseBois to justify trades or switching things up. He did the opposite by doubling down on players who helped Tampa Bay become these lofty overachievers.
Achieving that required tough decisions elsewhere. Losing Palat in free agency was the biggest cut. From 2012-13 to 2021-22, Palat was Tampa Bay’s fourth-leading scorer (423 points in 628 games), and he was excellent in scoring 27 goals through 71 postseason games as the Lightning made those three straight trips to the Cup Final.
If BriseBois had kept Palat, this offseason is a home run. Without Palat, but with the other long-term pieces in place, it’s more like a solid double.
Key players added: F Vincent Trocheck, F Ryan Carpenter, G Jaroslav Halak
Key players lost: F Ryan Strome, F Andrew Copp, F Frank Vatrano, F Kevin Rooney, D Justin Braun, D Patrik Nemeth, G Alexandar Georgiev
Remaining cap space: $4,833,531
Coach status: Gerard Gallant finished third in the Jack Adams voting last season for turning the Rangers into a 110-point team in his first season in New York. Granted, Igor Shesterkin‘s Vezina-winning season in goal might have played a small part in that turnaround. But Turk did a solid job of getting buy-in from his players in a way that David Quinn couldn’t, and the results were the fourth-highest points percentage for a Rangers team (.671) in franchise history. For now, he’s cemented behind the bench.
Overall grade: B-
The Rangers had Strome or Copp as options at center. They could have theoretically gotten into the Nazem Kadri business as a free agent. They might have invested in a reunion with J.T. Miller of the Canucks via trade. Instead, they targeted and acquired center Trocheck of the Carolina Hurricanes as the center they wanted to add to their roster for the next seven seasons, including a full no-move clause for the first three.
Gallant knew him from their days in Florida, when Trocheck had his best offensive seasons. Artemi Panarin, who is expected to skate with Trocheck, can turn almost any center into an offensive force. To that end, one assumes the two will create a plethora of chances for the Rangers. But finishing chances isn’t Trocheck’s forte, and he’s a defensive downgrade from both Copp and Strome. That’s a lengthy contract for a solid if unspectacular second-line center, even if that term was essential for the $5.625 million cap hit that gives the Rangers a little more room for key RFAs now and next summer. And hey, signing Trocheck might have weakened the team the Rangers are chasing in the Metro, so there’s that.
Halak and Domingue are a downgrade at the backup goalie position, but the Rangers had to do something with Georgiev and traded him to Colorado. Carpenter is a nice addition to the bottom six.
Key players added: F Andre Burakovsky, F Shane Wright, D Justin Schultz, G Martin Jones
Key players lost: F Ryan Donato, F Victor Rask, F Riley Sheahan, F Daniel Sprong, D Haydn Fleury
Remaining cap space: $9,860,834
Coach status: Dave Hakstol was a surprise hire by the Kraken before their inaugural season, as his name wasn’t even linked to the team in the run-up to the coaching reveal. The surprises kept coming when the Kraken were a disappointment in their first season. While Hakstol’s team was undermined by terrible goaltending, it also had trouble establishing what “Seattle Kraken hockey” was — outside of not creating off the rush. Year 2 will be a critical one for Hakstol, especially in the eyes of the fan base.
Overall grade: B-
Burakovsky is a solid complementary player on a good team that could be asked to do too much during his five-year deal ($5.5 million AAV) with the Kraken. His streakiness has come to define him.
Schultz is a very nice addition on the right side of the blue line (two years, $3 million AAV), while Jones at least brings some experience and workload as a replacement for Chris Driedger as the latter recovers from a torn ACL in his right knee.
But the coup of the offseason, so far, is Wright. The presumed first overall pick dropped all the way to the Kraken at No. 4 in the draft. That gives Seattle a one-two punch of Matty Beniers and Wright to build around. And that’s a great start.
The Kraken still have the cap space and the want to make a splash in free agency, which obviously could improve this grade by summer’s end.
Key players added: F Nicolas Aube-Kubel, D Jordie Benn, F Calle Jarnkrok, D Victor Mete, G Matt Murray, G Ilya Samsonov
Key players lost: F Colin Blackwell, G Jack Campbell, F Ondrej Kase, D Ilya Lyubushkin, F Ilya Mikheyev, G Petr Mrazek
Remaining cap space: $0
Coach status: Sheldon Keefe heads into his third full season behind the Leafs’ bench. Keefe was promoted to first-time NHL head coach in November 2019 to replace the fired Mike Babcock, and has a 116-50-19 record to date. Toronto gave Keefe a two-year extension last year that runs through the 2023-24 season. The Leafs have qualified for the playoffs in each season under Keefe so far, but they have yet to advance past the first round.
Overall grade: B-
The Maple Leafs have been active since squandering another postseason opportunity. But whether Toronto is better now than it was falling in the first round to Tampa Bay remains unknown.
The Leafs entered the offseason without a defined starter in net. General manager Kyle Dubas answered for that when instead of extending UFA (and incumbent No. 1) Campbell, he traded with Ottawa for Murray before free agency began. Toronto got Ottawa to retain 25% of Murray’s cap hit, but it still took on two years of Murray at $4.687 million each. Campbell signed with Edmonton for five years at $5 million each. That’s a significant term for the 30-year-old goalie, but Campbell has played his best hockey over these past two seasons in Toronto (48-12-8, .916 SV%). Meanwhile, Murray is 15-25-3 with a .899 save percentage over the same span. Can Murray — a two-time Stanley Cup champion with Pittsburgh — rebound playing behind a better defense in Toronto? We’ll see.
Dubas did pull off a solid trade shipping Mrazek to Chicago for a 2022 draft pick swap that amounted to the Leafs moving back just 13 spots. Ilya Samsonov is coming off a solid season with Washington (23-12-5, .896 SV%) and should be an upgrade for Toronto over Mrazek as Murray’s backup. But no doubt all eyes will be on Murray, and the inevitable comparisons of his play to Campbell’s in Edmonton are sure to follow.
After Dubas settled on a new goalie tandem, he began accounting for the team’s other free agent losses. Toronto didn’t qualify RFA Kase, and did not re-sign Mikheyev or Blackwell. Instead Dubas targeted Jarnkrok on a four-year, $8.4 million contract to be a prospective middle-six option. Jarnkrok doesn’t produce much offensively — his career high in points is 35 — but he’ll boost the Leafs’ center depth. In Aube-Kubel, fresh off his Stanley Cup win with Colorado, Toronto has a bottom-six skater with some scoring upside. Benn and Mete will create competition for third-pairing jobs on defense.
Speaking of defensemen, Rasmus Sandin remains an unsigned RFA. The 22-year-old averaged 16:57 of ice time per game for Toronto last season while popping in five goals and 16 points in 51 games. Sandin won’t settle for a contract like the two-year, $2.8 million pact his counterpart Timothy Liljegren recently signed. Dubas will have to find a different middle ground with Sandin.
It’s all fine. But is it enough? Toronto will find out when we all do, once the puck drops on a new season.
Coach status: Peter DeBoer joins Dallas’ bench after the Stars opted not to re-up with former coach Rick Bowness. Dallas instead targeted DeBoer, fresh from being fired by Vegas. This will be DeBoer’s fifth NHL head-coaching job following stops in Florida, New Jersey, San Jose and Vegas. He led the Devils and Sharks to Stanley Cup Final appearances during his first season with each club.
Overall grade: C+
There’s some unknown here, given that John Klingberg remains unsigned. The possibility of him returning to the Stars can’t be totally ruled out, although it seems unlikely.
As present, Dallas’ best offseason move has been signing Marchment to a four-year, $18 million deal. The 27-year-old winger is just entering his prime after a career season, scoring 18 goals and 47 points in 54 games with Florida. He plays a hard game with skill to match, and will be a versatile piece of the Stars’ lineup.
Miller is a solid depth addition for the back end, but he certainly can’t replace Klingberg. General manager Jim Nill will conceivably have to address the Stars’ blue line further before next season begins.
Nill also has work to do signing two key restricted free agents in Jason Robertson and Jake Oettinger. Robertson clocked in as the Stars’ second-leading scorer last season with 41 goals and 79 points in 74 games, while Oettinger was brilliant backstopping Dallas in net with a 30-15-1 record and .914 save percentage. The 23-year-old goaltender emerged as the Stars’ best player late last season in their push for a playoff berth. In the postseason, Oettinger’s spectacular showing (.954 SV%, 1.81 GAA) gave Dallas every chance to advance past Calgary into the second round.
The Stars did fall short on that attempt. If Dallas wants another crack at playoff success, then having Robertson and Oettinger is imperative. How those deals get over the line will present a stronger point of evaluation for the Stars’ overall offseason.
Coach status: John Hynes goes into his third full season with the Predators. He came on for the fired Peter Laviolette in January 2020, and has led Nashville to the playoffs in each season thus far. Hynes boasts a 92-64-10 record with the club.
Overall grade: C+
Nashville retained Filip Forsberg‘s services with an eight-year, $68 million extension signed earlier this month. General manager David Poile worked a long time to get Forsberg’s deal finalized, and that commitment is the Predators’ biggest offseason win.
Since Forsberg became an NHL regular in 2014-15, he has been Nashville’s second-leading scorer behind Roman Josi, tallying 219 goals and 463 points in 548 games. If Forsberg had reached unrestricted free agency and signed elsewhere, the crater his absence left behind would be catastrophic. Crisis averted.
The Predators turned to the trade market for their other significant addition, pulling defenseman McDonagh from Tampa Bay for Philippe Myers and Grant Mismash. McDonagh comes with a winning history from his role patrolling the Lightning blue line during two Cup championships and one Cup Final appearance. He’ll provide some heft to Nashville’s back end and be an experienced voice in the locker room.
Poile was mostly silent once free agency got rolling. He opted not to re-sign Rittch as Juuse Saros‘ backup and targeted Lankinen on a one-year deal for the spot. Lankinen was most recently with the Blackhawks and should be a solid option at No. 2 behind Saros.
Is Nashville in a better position now, all things considered, than three months ago? It has been an average offseason at best, even with the Forsberg extension coming through.
Coach status: Craig Berube heads into his fifth season manning St. Louis’ bench. He has been at it since replacing Mike Yeo in November 2018, and Berube guided the Blues from there to a Stanley Cup championship that spring. He has amassed a 156-80-36 record overall in St. Louis.
Overall grade: C+
St. Louis gets docked points off the top for not re-signing Perron. That stings, big time.
Perron was the Blues’ top unrestricted free agent, and there was no deal to be done, so the veteran walked off to sign a new one in Detroit. That’s a tough blow to the Blues. Perron scored 27 goals and 57 points in 67 games last season, and added nine goals and 13 points in 12 playoff games. Both sides expressed interest in the 34-year-old sticking around but couldn’t find a deal to be made.
St. Louis will need someone else to account for Perron’s previous contributions. General manager Doug Armstrong hasn’t signed anyone yet to do the job. Acciari is a serviceable center who inked a team-friendly one-year, $1.25 million deal. He’ll slide onto the Blues’ fourth line along with another depth forward acquisition in Josh Leivo. The Blues could use more firepower than that.
Armstrong also had to target a new backup netminder for Jordan Binnington. Having invested $6 million per season in his starter, Armstrong didn’t have the capital to keep breakout star Ville Husso too. The Blues traded Husso’s negotiating rights to Detroit at the 2022 draft for a third-round pick, and Armstrong subsequently signed veteran Greiss on a one-year, $1.25 million pact to be Binnington’s No. 2.
At 36, Greiss won’t provide the same support Husso did last season (25-7-6, .919 SV%). But the Blues will rightly be counting on Binnington to bounce back from a tough regular season and channel the excellent play he provided going 4-0-1 with a .949 save percentage in the postseason.
Nick Leddy returning on a four-year, $16 million contract seemed a bit rich for the stay-at-home defender, but he had a strong playoffs for the Blues and fits their system well. Armstrong did secure a critical piece of St. Louis’ future by committing Robert Thomas to an eight-year, $65 million extension that kicks in next season.
For this coming season, St. Louis falls to that category of team that doesn’t seem to be much improved over where it was. If anything, the losses of Perron and Husso have arguably made the Blues’ worse. Armstrong might not — and probably shouldn’t — be done filling in the blanks.
Coach status: Bruce Boudreau will return for the 2022-23 season, despite both the coach and the team having opt-out clauses in his contract and despite the Canucks refusing to give him an extension beyond next season. Boudreau led Vancouver to a 32-15-10 record in the 57 games he coached after being hired on Dec. 5, 2021. He’s one of the most successful regular-season coaches in recent NHL history. The Canucks are in good hands as long as he’s there. Bruce, there it is.
Overall grade: C
Landing Kuzmenko was superb, as the St. Petersburg SKA winger was the most sought-after European free agent this offseason. What he ends up being in the NHL is always the mystery when it comes to KHL imports like him, but at $950,000 and for one season, why not?
Mikheyev was also a solid signing at four years and $4.75 million annually. Was his jump to 21 goals in 53 games last season an anomaly or a sign that the 27-year-old is peaking? Hopefully the latter for the Canucks’ sake. Lazar is fine as a fourth-line depth addition.
Vancouver opted to re-sign Boeser, a restricted free agent, to a three-year contract carrying an average annual value of $6.65 million. The term seems to be about right for a scorer looking to regain his touch, a forward who doesn’t drive play on his line.
Miller, who is one season away from unrestricted free agency, isn’t likely to re-sign with the Canucks. A trade involving Miller has been anticipated around the league, but team president Jim Rutherford said the pressure to move Miller won’t be at its apex until the 2023 trade deadline. In other words, an offseason move might not materialize after all.
Key players added: F Nick Bjugstad, D Josh Brown, F Zack Kassian, D Patrik Nemeth, D Troy Stecher
Key players lost: D Jay Beagle, F Alex Galchenyuk, F Phil Kessel, F Antoine Roussel, G Harri Sateri
Remaining cap space: $23,056,624
Coach status: Andre Tourigny enters his second season behind Arizona’s bench. The 48-year-old accepted his first NHL head-coaching job with the Coyotes in July 2021, signing a three-year deal with their rebuilding club. Arizona went 25-50-7 under Tourigny last season.
Overall grade: C
Arizona has approached this offseason as expected based on its long-term trajectory.
The Coyotes added contracts other teams were looking to lose, trading for Kassian (who has two years remaining at $3.2 million per season) from Edmonton and Nemeth (two years remaining at $2.5 million each) from New York. Arizona wants players with term, so Kassian and Nemeth were appealing in that sense, and both veterans will provide some depth (and, in Kassian’s case, grit).
The rest of general manager Bill Armstrong’s work has focused on the fringes. Bjugstad signed for one year at $900,000 and can fill a fourth-line role; right-hand defender Brown inked a two-year deal worth $1.275 million per season; and fellow righty blueliner Stecher is in for one year at $1.25 million.
All of those contracts will help Arizona get to the cap floor, but it’s still about $1.5 million away, so there’s likely more action to come. Will any of it move the needle? Arizona knows the hockey world will be watching — and assessing its new digs — regardless.
The Coyotes will start their residency at Arizona State University’s campus rink this fall, while trying to finalize a more permanent housing plan in Tempe. The ASU venue can house fewer than 5,000 fans, and Arizona had to invest millions into making the space workable for an NHL product. The space itself is still under construction, and the Coyotes will have to be cognizant of ASU’s schedule now, too, so it’s no wonder Arizona plays 20 of its first 24 games next season on the road.
Then there’s the always-rumored Jakob Chychrun trade. Does that finally materialize? And if so, what will the return be for the Coyotes on their top-pairing defender? The hockey universe will be looking out for that, too, as the offseason barrels along.
Coach status: Dean Evason starts his third full season as Minnesota’s head coach. He began as the Wild’s interim bench boss in 2019-20 before securing that post officially the following season. Evanson has a 96-42-12 record with Minnesota.
Overall grade: C-
It’s true general manager Bill Guerin doesn’t have much cap space. But this has been a notably uneventful offseason for Minnesota.
To that end, Guerin knew the Wild wouldn’t be extending forward Fiala on a long-term deal. So he traded the restricted free agent’s rights to Los Angeles in June for prospect Brock Faber and the 19th overall pick in the 2022 draft, used on Swedish forward Liam Ohgren. Tidy work that should set up Minnesota in the future.
What Guerin has done for the here and now is re-sign Marc-Andre Fleury on a two-year, $7 million contract to be Minnesota’s starter. That decision didn’t go over well with previous No. 1 Talbot, so Guerin flipped Talbot to Ottawa for Gustavsson. There’s your new goalie tandem.
Minnesota’s other transactions were underwhelming. Guerin signed forwards Nic Petan, Steven Fogarty and Brandon Baddock, along with defensemen Andrej Sustr, to one-year, two-way contracts. Basically, Guerin hasn’t acquired a full-time NHLer for the Wild lineup next season. Perhaps he still can.
Coach status: The Bruins unexpectedly parted ways with Bruce Cassidy in June, ending his tenure behind the bench after six seasons. Jim Montgomery was announced three weeks later as Cassidy’s replacement. The appointment marks Montgomery’s return to a head-coaching role following two seasons as an assistant in St. Louis. Montgomery was Dallas’ bench boss from 2018 to mid-2020, when the Stars fired him for “unprofessional conduct”; the 53-year-old subsequently sought treatment for alcoholism. Now Montgomery will have another chance to steer the ship in Boston.
Overall grade: C
It’s hard to assign Boston a grade, to be honest. UFA Patrice Bergeron is reportedly coming back on a one-year deal, but that hasn’t materialized yet. David Krejci is also apparently eyeing a return to Boston on a one-year deal after spending last season in Czechia (the Czech Republic). If both of those contracts come through, then the Bruins’ offseason looks more productive. As of now, Boston has added only Zacha, an unsigned RFA headed for salary arbitration. The Bruins need more time for this free agency dust to settle.
What Boston does know is that Brad Marchand (hips), Charlie McAvoy (shoulder) and Matt Grzelcyk (shoulder) have each had extensive offseason surgeries with recoveries that will leak into the start of next year. Boston has to somehow account for those absences. Bergeron and Krejci would do the trick up front. Assessing the Bruins’ defensive depth — and potentially adding to it — should be on general manager Don Sweeney‘s summer to-do list. Boston can’t afford to enter training camp with the possibility of falling behind early in the Atlantic Division as those key pieces sit on the sidelines.
Coach status: Lane Lambert was just hired by the Islanders to replace Barry Trotz, under whom he served as an assistant coach for more than a decade. One assumes Lambert is safe and sound for a good while. But this is Lou Lamoriello we’re talking about here, who once fired a novice head coach 33 games into his first season.
Overall grade: C-
The Islanders were unable to create the necessary cap space to make a serious run at Johnny Gaudreau, despite being mentioned as one of the free agent winger’s most fervent suitors. It would have required giving away a good player to get an even better one, and that apparently wasn’t in the cards for Lamoriello. (That’s assuming Gaudreau would have agreed to be an Islander, which we don’t know.) It goes without saying that the 23rd-best offensive team in the NHL last season could have used a 115-point winger. As Mathew Barzal could have, too. As the UBS Arena could have, too.
As of this report card, the Islanders are the only team in the NHL yet to sign a free agent. Seriously, when one toggles to the Islanders on the TSN signing tracker, it spits out a message that reads: “The content you are looking for is unavailable at this time, please check soon for updates.” That’s bleak.
But the Islanders did make a trade, and it was potentially a good one: dealing the No. 13 overall pick (used on Frank Nazar) to the Canadiens for restricted free agent defenseman Romanov. He’s 22 years old, plays tough and has an offensive upside that has yet to be tapped. Not a bad addition and more immediate help than what would have been available at No. 13.
The Islanders were one of the NHL’s biggest disappointments last season. They haven’t done anything to really reshape the team yet. But it’s Lou we’re talking about here. You never know when inspiration will strike.
Coach status: Rick Bowness was hired July 3 to take over as Winnipeg’s head coach. Dave Lowry held the position on an interim basis since Paul Maurice resigned in December. Bowness was previously running Dallas’ bench, but the Stars decided not to renew his contract after last season. The veteran coach has history with the Jets from when he was an assistant from 1984-85 to 1987-88 and briefly took over as head coach to finish out the 1988-89 season. Bowness made stops from there with Boston, Ottawa, the Islanders, Phoenix and Dallas. He has a 212-351-48 head-coaching record.
Overall grade: C-
Winnipeg hasn’t done much of note this offseason, via trades or in free agency.
Granted, the team’s focus is probably still on its internal questions. Should they try to move captain Blake Wheeler before the season starts? Is there a deal out there for Wheeler that would make Winnipeg more competitive? Is it worth entertaining?
And what of RFA Pierre-Luc Dubois? Winnipeg gave Dubois a qualifying offer. But the forward didn’t opt to exercise his arbitration rights. That leaves Dubois the option of accepting another team’s offer sheet; moreover, Dubois has already indicated an interest in exploring the free-agent market next summer. Can the Jets risk Dubois leaving as a free agent for no return after this season? Would that be harder to swallow than possibly trading Dubois now and making Winnipeg worse in the short term?
It’s a lot to process. So perhaps general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff’s inaction elsewhere isn’t so surprising. But it’s not making the Jets better, either.
Winnipeg’s only real signing has been veteran goalie Rittich. He’ll replace Comrie as Connor Hellebuyck‘s backup following the latter’s departure to Buffalo as a free agent. Comrie would have been an RFA rather than a UFA, but Lowry didn’t play him enough last season to keep Comrie’s rights with the Jets. The 27-year-old did perform well when called upon (10-5-1, .920 SV%). Rittich went 6-3-4 with an .886 save percentage behind Juuse Saros last season in Nashville.
The Jets made some other minor league signings that don’t track toward having an impact. What will define this offseason for Winnipeg, though, has yet to be written. Where will the Jets land on Dubois and Wheeler for the future? And what ripple effects do those decisions have on Winnipeg’s future?
More questions. No answers.
Coach status: Darryl Sutter won the Jack Adams Award last season for turning the Flames into one of the best offensive and defensive teams in the NHL, amassing 111 points in the standings and winning the Pacific Division. But he’s signed only through this upcoming season. Sutter probably has this job as long as he wants this job. But if the Flames’ top two players are suddenly playing elsewhere by the end of next season, does a return to the farm look a little more appealing to Sutter?
Overall grade: D+
This isn’t on Brad Treliving. The Flames’ general manager did all he could to keep Gaudreau in Calgary, tabling a rich eight-year offer and staying with the negotiations until Gaudreau finally informed the Flames he was leaving for free agency. It’s not on Treliving that Gaudreau made a decision for his family. It’s not on Treliving that Gaudreau waited as long as he did to give the brush-off, despite the Calgary media asking why the Flames didn’t just trade a 115-point player they believed they could still sign. The situation stinks, and we all know why it happened. But it happened, and the Flames lost their best offensive player without compensation. Hence the grade.
It could get worse. The Flames elected for arbitration with Matthew Tkachuk to protect against an offer sheet but also to create some leverage in trying to secure the restricted free agent’s services beyond this season. But Tkachuk informed the Flames that he will not be signing a long-term deal with them, setting wheels in motion for him to depart as well.
In other moves, the Flames brought back Nikita Zadorov on a two-year deal worth $3.75 million annually against the cap and forward Trevor Lewis on a one-year, $800,000 contract. They added Rangers depth forward Kevin Rooney on a two-year deal ($1.3 million AAV). But all eyes are on what comes next after Gaudreau, with Tkachuk in limbo and the Flames’ window as a contender potentially shattered.
Coach status: Andrew Brunette did well taking over from Joel Quenneville early last season. Had the Panthers not flamed out — and had an atrocious power play — in the postseason, Brunette might still be around.
As it is, Florida opted to sign Paul Maurice as its new head coach, leaving Brunette to join New Jersey’s ranks as an assistant. Maurice has been out of the game since quitting the Winnipeg Jets last December. He comes to Florida boasting the fourth-most NHL games coached and the seventh-most wins. General manager Bill Zito said it was “overwhelming” how right a fit Maurice was for the post. Maurice said after what happened in Winnipeg, he was only going somewhere he “could make a difference.” Sounds like a match made in heaven.
Overall grade: D
It’s not Zito’s fault the Panthers have almost no cap space. Doesn’t change the fact Florida is worse off now than it was at season’s end.
The Panthers had a historic regular season in 2021-22, winning the franchise’s first Presidents’ Trophy title and leading the NHL in offense (with an average 4.11 goals per game). Florida went big at the trade deadline to reach another level in the playoffs. Zito reeled in Giroux and Chiarot so Florida could usurp Tampa Bay as the Stanley Cup champs. Instead, the Lightning sent Florida packing in a second-round sweep.
The short-term plan simply didn’t work, and as Aleksander Barkov‘s $10 million-per-year extension kicked in this month, Zito has no wiggle room to improve Florida long term (or short term) beyond a few fringe signings. Those can’t nearly replace the players Florida has lost. To borrow some sports lingo, it is what it is.
Coach status: It’s entirely possible that in short order John Tortorella will be working for a general manager who didn’t hire him, given the heat GM Chuck Fletcher is taking. Torts is signed through 2026. The Flyers are his team.
Overall grade: D-
It’s one thing to miss out on the biggest free agent of the summer. It’s another thing when that free agent (A) wants to sign with your team but (B) can’t do so because of the fiscal malpractice performed by a general manager in prior seasons and the inability of that general manager to remedy those mistakes in time to make an offer.
I have zero doubt Johnny Gaudreau wanted to become a Philadelphia Flyer. But that became an impossibility when the team was dedicating over $10 million annually to Rasmus Ristolainen and DeAngelo or $7 million to James van Riemsdyk next season. Fletcher made financial overcommitments to specious players and then couldn’t get the necessary freight cleared to sign Gaudreau. It’s an embarrassment on several levels, none the least being that Johnny Hockey signed with a division rival for the next seven seasons.
Yet I don’t think this is an F grade because I do think that DeAngelo at two years and $5 million annually will help the Flyers. Not in their pursuit of Gaudreau and not in the court of public opinion, which found everyone from Fletcher to Kevin Hayes having to rationalize adding one of the most divisive players in the NHL to their dressing room. But the Flyers can’t score (2.56 goals per game, 31st in the NHL) and their power play stinks (12.6%, 32nd in the NHL), and DeAngelo can help with both things. If his homecoming to Philly is a disaster, then it’s two years with no trade protection. They can get out of it.
Otherwise, the Flyers added Braun back to a defense that was bad with him last season and added Deslauriers to bring toughness to a team that already had a good amount of it.
Management vowed there would be an “aggressive retool.” This was neither aggressive nor indicative of a retool.
Coach status: The Golden Knights fired head coach Pete DeBoer after missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. They hired former Bruins bench boss Bruce Cassidy as the third head coach in franchise history. He takes over a veteran team whose bar is set at “winning the Stanley Cup,” like it has been set since the first season in franchise history, aka 2017-18.
Overall grade: D-
Vegas has many traditions. Great pregame fanfare, flashy gold uniforms and sacrificing veteran impact players for little to no return.
The Golden Knights gave away Pacioretty, their second-leading scorer in points per 60 minutes (2.49) over the past three seasons, and a serviceable defenseman in Coghlan in exchange for “future considerations,” aka nothing. As they did Marc-Andre Fleury and Evgenii Dadonov and Paul Stastny. Good asset management, this is not.
Please recall they traded first-, second- and third-round picks for Tomas Tatar; traded him, a second-rounder and Nick Suzuki (!) in a package for Pacioretty; and then just traded Pacioretty to Carolina for nothing.
Well, not entirely for nothing. Clearing out that salary-cap space was essential for re-signing forward Reilly Smith (three years, $5 million AAV) and eventually their restricted free agents. But what a price to pay in order to do so.