A Look Into NHL Teams Post 2020 Offseason Part 2: Central Division
Written by Tyler Jones
Edited by Brandon Caputo
Photo Credit: respectthenote.com
Until the NHL can see some light at the end of the tunnel on what the financial situation will look like, I doubt we see many free agents signing with teams. These guys want to get the best deals they can, and with teams not knowing how much they can spend, this becomes difficult to get the best offers. While most of the top guys have signed, there is still a TON of talent available at the right price. I thought it would be great to take a look at each team’s potential line combinations and see if they need anything else with what is left on the Free Agent list.
*Most of the line combinations will be taken from dailyfaceoff.com to get the most accurate look at potential combinations.
Cap space statistics will be gathered from capfriendly.com.
Free Agent list can also be found at Cap Friendly here: at capfriendly.com/browse/free-agents.
We know there will be re-alignments this season with the shortened COVID season. However, as far as these articles go, we will continue on by going Division-by-Division in alphabetical order.
With the Atlantic Division done, let’s move on to the 2nd division in our lineup and the one that is closest to my heart, the Central Division!
*Contracts: 45/50 Projected Cap Hit: $76,286,313 Projected Cap Space: $5,213,687
- Chicago is in a weird position at the moment in terms of their forward group. With guys like Kane and Toews still around, it isn’t a complete rebuild, but there is a lot of youth on this roster. Kubalik is coming off a 30 goal rookie season that put him in contention for the Calder trophy. Kane, even with the team being towards the bottom of the standings, was still 8th in points. Alex DeBrincat came down from earth a bit only putting up 45 points after a 76 point campaign in 18-19.
They swapped out Brandon Saad, sending him to Colorado, for Mattias Janmark from Dallas. Strome was banged up a bit, only playing 58 games, so they hope a healthy season for him results in big gains. Kirby Dach looks to continue his development into a top center in the league. There are rumblings out there that the Blackhawks are listening to offers on Kane and Toews. If this is the case, look for Chicago to go into complete rebuild mode.
- The old guard of Keith and Seabrook are still hanging around with those huge contracts. Keith can still play in the top 4, but Seabrook has lost a lot of his game. The additions of Calvin De Haan and Zadorov will certainly make the D-core a tougher one to play against. If they do end up putting Murphy and Zadorov together, that could be a very good shutdown pair. Adam Boqvist is coming off his rookie season, only going a -3 on a team towards the bottom of the standings. A name I could see coming up from the minors is 21 year old Nicolas Beaudin. The young, speedy defenseman is coming off his first pro season and is knocking on the door of the big club.
- With long time keeper of the crease Corey Crawford off to New Jersey, the Hawks net is the murkiest it has looked in a long time. Colin Delia has started 16 games in his NHL career and Malcolm Subban has really only ever been a backup. I would assume that they hope for Delia to be the guy as he put up a .912 SV% and 2.66 GAA for Rockford last season, while Subban has a career SV% of .899 and GAA of 2.97.
*Contracts: 42/50 Projected Cap Hit: $79,676,386 Projected Cap Space: $1,828,614
Photo Credit: by Bill Smith/NHL via Getty Images
- The NHL’s 4th highest scoring team will look to improve upon that spot this season. The 1st line on Colorado is arguably the best line in the hockey world at the moment and can honestly only get better. The addition of Saad will be a huge boost to the 2nd line and can hopefully get his career back to where it was at a couple seasons ago. Not much change in this group of forwards, but there really wasn’t any necessary. With less than 2 million in space left, I don’t see a need to touch to forwards at this point.
- Much like the forwards on the Avalanche, the defense didn’t need much adjusting. Swapping Devon Toews for Zadorov is a huge upgrade. I personally think giving up two 2nd round picks for a guy you are possibly exposing in the upcoming entry draft, might turn out to be a bad deal. Until that point though, it is a great move and Toews will be a great addition to an already stacked defense. Ryan Graves led the NHL in plus/minus with a plus 40 in 69 games. Cale Makar is the next top defenseman in the world. I don’t think I have seen anyone in all my years of watching this great sport come in and be as good as he has been on the back-end and on offense. Coming off a 50 point Calder winning season, Cale looks to continue to take the league by storm.
- With Phillip Grubauer only starting 36 games last season due to a couple lower body injuries, Pavel Francouz stepped up to the plate big time. Playing 34 games last season, Francouz posted a .923 SV% and 2.41 GAA. I do believe they want to see what Grubauer looks like coming off those series of injuries, but if they feel he isn’t there anymore, they have to feel pretty confident if they have to throw Francouz in the net.
*Contracts: 43/50 Projected Cap Hit: $81,242,031 Projected Cap Space: $257,969
- With news coming out not long ago that Tyler Seguin will be out for about another 4 months according to the latest reports, the center depth on the Stars take a hit. Pavelski can certainly step up, but can the rest of the group? Hintz and Gurianov are two young up and comers looking to make a big impact next season. I like the depth Dallas has on the wings in the bottom 6 with Cogliano, Dikinson, and Kiviranta. Comeau provides that veteran presence who can pop a few greasy goals here and there. The Stars have the least amount of cap space without going over of any of other teams in the league, so they really don’t have the cap to add anyone from the free agent list to the team. Look for the Stars to make another run to the Cup this season.
- Dallas has a very stout defense group for this upcoming season. Heiskanen and Klingberg are two of the best young defensemen in the game today. Having the 6’7 Jamie Oleksiak brings massive size to a less physical group of D-men. Veterans Sekera and Pysyk round out the corps and will be needed to help with the penalty kill. I don’t see Dallas doing anything more to their defense as it is fairly stout already.
- The good news for Dallas on the injury front is that it appears as though Bishop will be ready for the start of the season. The Stars duo in net were the main reason they went as far as they did in the Playoffs. Khudobin stepped up big time and earned a new 3 year, 10 million dollar deal. As long as these two stay healthy, they will help Dallas back to the Cup Finals.
*Contracts: 45/50 Projected Cap Hit: $78,799,421 Projected Cap Space: $2,700,579
- Minnesota is going to be relying on a lot of youth this upcoming season. I do like the wings on this squad. Trading Granlund for Fiala has looked great for the Wild so far and he will look to build on his 23 goals last season. Kaprizov and Greenway are very young and will look to make their mark this season. Adding Bonino will be great for all this youth. He did a lot for Nashville’s young guys the last few years and was one of the Predators best players in terms of fancy stats. This team doesn’t have much room in terms of space (thanks Parise and Suter) so I don’t see them doing much to the squad.
- The Wild make up for the youth in the forward group by having a lot of veteran defensemen. Suter is still a top pairing D-man and has helped keep this team from being at the very bottom ever since signing in 2012. Spurgeon is a solid puck moving defenseman who is starting the first year of his new seven year extension. Jonas Brodin is another undervalued player around the league who plays a very solid game. Rumours are out there that Minnesota is going to trade Matt Dumba, with the upcoming expansion draft (Check Armchair GM next season for some things about that!) and the cap situation they are in, someone making big money has to go. Suter and Parise are ideally who they would like to get rid of, but those 13 year deals will hang on this organizations neck for a very long time.
Photo Credit: by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHL via Getty Images
- The goaltending in Minny will take a hit this season losing Dubnyk and gaining Cam Talbot. I’m a fan of Talbot (Go UAH Chargers), but he is not the goalie he used to be. I really think the goaltending will ultimately be the downfall of Minnesota’s upcoming season with this being the duo.
*Contracts: 41/50 Projected Cap Hit: $68,557,810 Projected Cap Space: $12,942,190
Photo Credit: Ross Bonander & thehockeywriters.com
- Ah, the team that loves to break my heart. David Poile has made a lot of moves the last few seasons to help out the forward group and many have not worked out. Trading Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen is looking like a brutal trade for the Preds, Duchene is not panning out like fans had hoped, and the trade for Turris then subsequent buy-out of same a couple years later has turned into one of the worst trades in NHL history. The team has the 3rd most cap space in the league at the moment (they still need to sign RFA Luke Kunin) and will more than likely look for trades to make upgrades. Eeli Tolvanen is going to have the pressure on him this season as fans look for he and Duchene to jumpstart each other.
The 30th overall pick in the 2017 draft fell to the Predators to fans surprise, as he was exactly the type of player they needed, a scoring winger. I think fans are now starting to see why he fell as his development has not been as quick as hoped. He did put up 21 goals and 36 points in 63 games for the Milwaukee Admirals last season, so he is getting better with the tougher competition. A player fans in the Niagara area will know and I can see making the team out of camp is Phillip Tomasino. From what I hear around the team, coach John Hynes LOVES this kid, and honestly, what’s not to love? He is a good kid who is also extremely skilled at playing hockey. With the Preds needing help with scoring, I could see a line of Tolvanen-Duchene-Tomasino being the 2nd line on opening night.
I do think Nashville makes a move for a winger ahead of the start to the season. I’ve heard Mike Hoffman mentioned as a possible signing and the latest news is that Vegas is shopping Max Pacioretty with Nashville coming up as possible destination. I’m not a fan of the salary either of them would take unless Hoffman’s was short term, but I’m not David Poile.
- Nashville’s top 4 defenseman have been a top group in the league for many years with the Achilles heel being the bottom pairing. Adding Boro-Cop and Matt Benning might just be the remedy for that problem. Josi is coming off winning the Norris trophy and will be in contention for it again next year as well. Ryan Ellis had some injury problems to start last season, but he looks fully healthy and will be the Ellis of old. Ekholm and Fabbro look to build on their chemistry they built last season to help Fabbro’s development. The defense on Nashville will be a top 5 group next season.
- As much as I love Pekka Rinne and consider him a hero of mine being a goal tender for a large portion of my life, I don’t see him as the starter anymore. Juuse Saros will take the heavier load this season to continue the transition from Rinne. Saros looked much better as the season went on and I think he can be a solid starter in the NHL. With the Preds drafting Yaroslav Askarov with the 11th overall pick in this last draft, I think the front office is starting to think that maybe Saros isn’t the long term plan. Askarov is being considered the best goalie prospect since Carey Price and has played incredible since being drafted by the Preds. He still has two more years on his KHL contract, but when that ends, look for Askarov to be fighting for the starting net in Nashville.
St. Louis Blues:
*Contracts: 46/50 Projected Cap Hit: $82,675,515 Projected Cap Space: -$1,175,515
- With Tarasenko out for at least the first few weeks of the season and Perron who will probably miss the very start, Zach Sanford and Christian Thomas will be looked upon to step up. Schenn, Schwartz, Perron, and O’Reilly are all quality top 6 guys who should be able to help the kids get jump started. With a healthy lineup, I see St. Louis battling Dallas for the top spot in the Central (Until they change it all up). As of this moment, the Blues are over the cap, but news just hit that Steen will be retiring. Because of this, the Blues will be allowed to be over the cap by his 5.75m cap hit. I see St. Louis going after a free agent forward with this happening. Look for them to take a strong look at Granlund or Hoffman on a one year deal.
Photo Credit: bleedinblue.com
- I wasn’t a huge fan of letting Pietrangelo walk for Torrey Krug this offseason. Pietrangelo was a huge part of why the Blues were who they were. He was the heart of the team to go along with the soul in O’Reilly and that will be sorely missed. Krug is no doubt a good player, but in my opinion, he’s not as good as Alex. With the cap situation they put themselves in signing Faulk and Parayko, the extra 2 million in space created by signing Krug instead of AP27 might be the extra value needed to make the move feel better.
- Jordan Binnington was 3rd in the NHL last seasons in wins with 30 and will more than likely be around that same number if we end up with a season long enough. Binnington has been carrying the load pretty heavy in
St. Louis the last couple seasons and will continue that this season with a new back-up coming onto the team in Ville Husso. The 25 year old Finnish tendy will look to have better stats in the NHL than the AHL the last couple seasons.
*Contracts: 41/50 Projected Cap Hit: $82,197,856 Projected Cap Space: -$697,856
- Winnipeg is another team with a stacked top 6 who has drastically underachieved. Laine who everyone thought was the next great goal scorer got very cold and streaky this past season. The top line on the Jets carries the majority of the load on offense, but the Jets hope the re-acquisition of Paul Stastny helps bring Laine back to where he was. Ehlers is a guy I have heard a lot of rumor about and if he wasn’t in our division, I would LOVE to have him on the Predators. With the Jets being over the cap as well, look for them to make a move to add space as soon as things become clearer on next year.
- Since the Dustin Byfuglien situation, this defense group hasn’t been very good. Other than Josh Morrissey, I don’t see any player being more than a 2nd pairing guy. With most of the dollars allocated to forwards on this team, I fully believe the Jets will trade a forward for a defenseman before the season starts. If not I could see them moving some money out to try and sign Sami Vatanen. If no moves are made on defense, this could be a long year for Winnipeg.
- Connor Hellebuyck is one of the top young goaltenders in the game today and if the defense stays how it is, he will have a huge burden on him next season. Hellebuyck has carried Winnipeg since becoming the starter, but this year will be a much heavier load to shoulder in terms of what is going to be coming at him. Much like Binnington earlier, Connor was top 3 in games started and wins. If the Jets wish to make it any further, they need to help their young star netminder.