A Look Into NHL Teams Post 2020 Offseason Part 3: Metropolitan Division
Written by Tyler Jones
Edited by Brandon Caputo
Photo Credit: Jon Sorensen & novacapsfans.com
With light now shining through the tunnel and a start date of January 13th announced, we are already seeing teams make moves. As soon as we put up the Central blog, the Preds re-signed Mikael Granlund, signed Erik Haula, and signed Mike Hoffman to a Professional Tryout.
Now that things look set, we will continue our look into what teams are looking like and if they need any more help!
*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 & Central Division done, let’s continue on to the 3rd division in our lineup: the Metropolitan Division.
*Contracts: 42/50 Projected Cap Hit: $80,567,739 Projected Cap Space: $932,261
- In my opinion Carolina has the best forward group up and down their line-up. They have top line scorers and incredible depth in every forward position. Last season,
the entire top line was over 60 points each. Sebastian Aho had an incredible 38 goals and 66 points in 68 games to lead the club. I really like the addition of Jesper Fast to the 3rd line. He is a very good 2 way player who can move up and down the lines. I don’t see any need for the Hurricanes to make any moves up front.
- Much like their forwards, I’m also a huge fan of the defense on the Canes. Dougie Hamilton is one of the best 2 way defenseman in the game today and playing with maybe the most underrated D-man in the NHL in Jacob Slavin helps allow him to do more offensively. Another very underrated player in this group is Brett Pesce.
Honestly the Hurricanes have 2 defense pairs that could be top pairs on a lot of other teams. Even their 3rd pairing is pretty darn good. Fleury is young and trending upwards. It is going to be interesting to see what Carolina does after this season to try to keep as many of their guys as possible.
- For a few years I lived in the Grand Rapids, MI area and during that time Mrazek was coming through the Detroit organization after that incredible World Juniors run. Every time I saw him, he got better and better. When he went up to Detroit I thought it was too fast and might stunt his development. Of course that is exactly what happened and he wasn’t the goalie I saw for the Griffins.
We are now starting to see the goalie I saw coming up. Mrazek posted a .905 SV% and a GAA of 2.69, which aren’t great stats, but the Canes were dealing with some injuries last season. With the team he has in front of him, I see Mrazek having a breakout year and helping get this team to the Cup Final.
Columbus Blue Jackets:
Contracts: 40/50 Projected Cap Hit: $72,274,125 Projected Cap Space: $9,225,875
Photo Credit: The Associated Press
- The additions down the middle of Max Domi and Mikko Koivu make this an intriguing squad. I’m a big fan of Cam Atkinson and Boone Jenner, who are underrated forwards who bring a lot of skill. Add those four with Dubois (who is still unsigned), a young Liam Foudy, and Gustav Nyquist getting healthy I can see the Blue Jackets making a surprise run. The mixture of youth and veteran presence could lead them at least to a play-off spot.
With as much cap space as they have I do think some additions could help this club greatly. There isn’t much left on the free agent market in terms of forwards, so trade looks like the only real option to improve this club. With names like Pacioretty, Marchessault, and Johnson being thrown around; Columbus has the pieces to make a trade or two.
- Seth Jones is my favorite player in the NHL outside of the Predators and Ovechkin, so this is a little bias, but the Jackets have the best top pair in the league to me. Jones and Zach Werenski were both in the running for the Norris trophy at seasons end and will continue to be for a long time. The bottom 4 on the defense isn’t too shabby either. Savard is a veteran who is more of a defensive minded player who is
undervalued. Gabe Carlsson will be a name people will be hearing soon and for a long time as well.
- Personally, I believe that Elvis will end up being the starting goalie over Korpisalo after the end of the season he had. Merzlikins ended up with a 13-9-8 record and a .923 SV%. He also ended up finishing 5th in both the Vezina and Calder trophy votes. I think the Blue Jackets will ride with what they have in net until they see a reason to change it.
New Jersey Devils:
Contracts: 41/50 Projected Cap Hit: $67,104,999 Projected Cap Space: $14,395,001
- If you look on paper, New Jersey’s top 6 forward group is pretty good. Then you see they were 25th in goals for and it tells a different story. Obviously, Hischier and Hughes are going to be very good players, but they are mainly playmakers who need wingers that can help them. The addition of Andreas Johnsson will help as he had 21 points in 43 games buried behind Toronto’s top guys.
I don’t know enough about their bottom 6 other than Zajac and Merkley to comment on them, but I do like those 2 guys. One coming up on the end of his career and the other juststarting his journey. Look for the Devils to build from within and hold on to that 14+ million cap space for now.
- The real problem with the Devils the last few years has mainly been the defense and goaltending. Both of which they addressed very heavily in this offseason. The addition of Ryan Murray will be huge for this team. Murray is a legit top 4 defenseman who can push the play and get back on defense quickly. He was pushed out of favor in Columbus due to the high amount of defense the Jackets already had.
Severson is another guy who if he played for a big market team, would be much more valued. Brining Kulikov in to help add veteran presence to play with Ty Smith who is an extremely good prospect, will help young Smith with his development. I don’t see New Jersey making anymore moves to the defense unless they can find a way to unload P.K.
- As I said earlier, the Devils biggest problems were on defense and goaltending. Corey Crawford will look to be the gap until Blackwood is really ready to take the reigns over. Crawford is not the goalie he used to be, but will be an instant upgrade over the last few goaltenders to pass through the crease in New Jersey.
He comes to town with a career .918 SV% and 2.45 GAA which isn’t too shabby. Granted a lot of those numbers are gassed from the great teams Chicago had for a few years. Regardless, Crawford will help get the Devils out of the basement.
New York Islanders:
Contracts: 40/50 Projected Cap Hit: $77,594,167 Projected Cap Space: $3,905,833
- With Matthew Barzal still left unsigned and only 3.9 million in cap space, the Islanders will certainly be making a move. I’m sure they would love to get rid of one of the inflated contracts they have like Andrew Ladd or Josh Bailey, but with the cap basically staying the same for this upcoming year other teams aren’t going to be willing to take on those types of contracts. I think Jordan Eberle might be their best trade chip at the moment, but he is also one of their better players.
New York has some pretty good depth if you take a look at the roster, they are just mostly overpaid and older. Wahlstrom is a young man to take a look into. The former 11th overall selection in 2018 is known as an incredible goal scorer. He has 8 points in 10 games right now while on loan to AIK in HockeyAllsvenskan. If the forward group can stay how it is, look for the Islanders to make some noise in the postseason.
- The Isles are looking at a mix of youth and veteran presence to carry the load on defense. Leddy and Hickey are the veterans hoping to help Noah Dobson and Ryan Pulock with their development while being the leaders of the team. I could see Hickey being shipped out if things get bad enough financially, but I don’t see that happening just yet.
- They have Varlamov listed as the starter for the moment, but I don’t see that staying that way for long. Ilya Sorokin is finally coming over to the NHL after 6 years in the KHL. The 25 year old Russian netminder has been one of the best goalie sin the country over the last few years. Last season with CSKA Moscow he had a 26-10-3 record with an incredible .935 SV% and 1.50 GAA. In the playoffs, he went 4-0 with an even more ridiculous .966 SV% and 0.73(!!!) GAA! I see Sorokin quickly battling Vasilevsky for the best goalie in the NHL.
New York Rangers:
Contracts: 43/50 Projected Cap Hit: $76,670,633 Projected Cap Space: $4,829,367
Photo Credit: New York Rangers
- The Rangers are a team who looks poised to take a giant step this upcoming year with all the talent they have accrued.
Young stars like Alexis Lafreniere and Kappo Kakko playing with guys at the top of their game like Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin makes this a very scary group to play against. The Rangers have some good depth and top talent which makes me think that this club will be in the top 5 in goal scoring come seasons end.
- The defense on this team is where I see some problems coming for the Rangers. They are putting a whole lot of hope in DeAngelo, Trouba, and Fox that they can carry the back end. I was a fan of getting rid of Marc Staal, but then to sign Jack Johnson right after was a very confusing move to me.
Brendan Smith was used a lot the last couple years as a forward, so how good is he really defensively?
Let me answer that, not very good. New York needs to make a move for a defenseman and I think someone like Andy Greene or Ben Hutton would be a fit for this group.
- With King Henrik leaving town and now leaving the league (as a goalie myself, get well Hank), the reins will be firmly in the hands of the youth. Both goalies have an average age of 24.5 so this will be the youngest the Rangers have been in net since Hank was a young man. With Igor Shesterkin playing very good down the stretch, I see him being the starter on night one.
Contracts: 47/50 Projected Cap Hit: $79,238,852 Projected Cap Space: $2,261,148
- The Flyers have been a team stuck right there in the middle for a few years. Their first line is very good and will continue to be good for at least a couple more seasons. I think Kevin Hayes and his contract will haunt this team for many years, but for right now he can still contribute.
I’m a really big fan of Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee and think they will have good seasons. If reports that Nolan Patrick is getting healthy and could play this season are true, it would be great for this club.
- Philadelphia’s defense has been hit or miss over the last few years, but the emergence of Ivan Provorov has turned that tune. Philly has really built their defense from the inside and their picks are starting to produce at the NHL level. Sanheim and Morin (when he gets healthy) are 2 big guys who are tough to play against. I don’t know why Shayne Gostisbehere isn’t on the line-up from Daily Faceoff, but I would assume he will be in the lines unless there is a trade, which has been rumored for a long time.
- Another reason why the Flyers have been so up and down in the past is the problems they have had in net ever since Steve Mason left the team. It has been a carousel of goalies running through Philly, but they finally have their franchise tender in Carter Hart. Hart went 24-13-3 last season and will definitely build upon that and be in the running for the Vezina at seasons end.
Contracts: 46/50 Projected Cap Hit: $80,181,842 Projected Cap Space: $1,318,158
Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett
- Pittsburgh continues their build around the combo of Crosby and Malkin by adding some new wingers to the top 6. They added Kasperi Kapanen and re-signed Jason Zucker who they acquired as a rental last season, both of which will bring much needed speed to the Penguins lineup.
Trading Patric Hornqvist away might end up hurting them, but I believe they feel that Rust can pick up the net front slack. Their bottom 6 is nothing to go crazy over, but Pittsburgh is notorious for turning bottom 6 guys into very good players.
- The defense for the Pens have taken a drastic step back from what they used to look like. Letang is still a top defenseman in the NHL but outside of him, I see a lot of 4-6 defenseman. Matheson is what they received for Hornqvist and hope that he can be a big addition to this back end. Much
think Pittsburgh should take a look at a defenseman, IF they can find a way to make some cap space.
- With Tristan Jarry winning out the starting job and sending Matt Murray packing to Ottawa, the Penguins are once again doing a goalie swap. It started with Fleury and Murray, then went to Murray and Jarry.
Jarry went 20-12-1 to end the season and looks to make that record even better with a full year as a starter.
Contracts: 47/50 Projected Cap Hit: $85,129,877 Projected Cap Space: $-3,629,877
- The Capitals are pretty much riding with what they had last season with the exception of the addition of Connor Sheary. They ended last season in 4th place in terms of goals for and with the addition of Sheary will more than likely build upon that. Ovechkin will continue his climb to Gretzky’s goal scoring record this season and see him putting in at least another 45 goals in 2021.
Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
- As I write this blog, Chara has just signed with the Capitals in a surprising move. I think this is a huge get for Washington for their penalty kill and leadership in the locker room. Adding Justin Schultz as well to an already good D corp will help bring more offense from the back end.
With a defense like this, I see the Caps making a serious run to the Cup once again if…
- With the untimely news of Henrik Lundqvist’s heart problem, young Ilya Samsonov has been thrust into the starters crease. Samsonov had an incredible rookie season going 16-6-2 with a .913 SV%. If he can continue to put up those numbers, I firmly believe Washington will be one of the final 4 teams.
They have also signed veteran goaltender Craig Anderson to a Professional Tryout, which will be an interesting competition for the backup job this season with Copley, if they really want to go with the veteran goalie in that spot since they lost it when Lundqvist went down.