A Look Into NHL Teams Post 2020 Offseason Part 1: Atlantic Division
Written by Tyler Jones
Edited by Brandon Caputo
Photo Credit: buffalohockeycentral.com
Hello! My name is Tyler Jones and I am going to be doing some blog posts and contributing for Armchair GM’s Sports Network!
First is my series on what teams look like post offseason to see if they can make any more moves or if they even need to?
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.
*I will go by Divisions in alphabetical order. So therefore, let’s start off with the Atlantic division!
*Contracts: 46/50 Projected Cap Hit: $78,517,314 Projected Cap Space: $2,982,686
- With Pastrnak undergoing multiple surgeries, we know this won’t be the combos to start the season (depending on when we start), but this to me is one of the best looking forward corps I’ve seen when doing my research for this upcoming season. The addition of Craig Smith will bring some great depth scoring from the 3rd line. If the 2nd line can pull its weight, this team could be potting goals at a pretty good rate. I don’t see a need to add any forwards at this point, and with only having less than $3 million in cap space, they really can’t right now.
- Krug leaving and Chara not having decided what his future is yet, has certainly left this corp depleted. Matt Grzelcyk on my 1st defense pair would have me a little scared. I’ve heard good things about Jeremy Lauzon, but can he handle the load of a 2nd line defenseman? That is up in the air at this point. Bruins fans LOVE Carlo, and I can see why, hopefully he can take another step up in his game with Chara possibly being gone. Like mentioned earlier, Boston has limited room on cap space. I think they will have to wait out to find a bargain guy to help bolster the back end. I could see a guy like Ben Hutton being someone you could get for under 2.5 million and could certainly help at the very least give you better depth on defense. He’s still in the prime of his career at only 27. He can be another defensive minded guy to help protect Rask, while allowing the offense to do their thing. His Corsi for % was 53.2, so his team had control more times with him on the ice than not. Having more guys like that, will help shore up some of the gaps left open by jetting players.
- With Tukka Rask opting out of the bubble last season, Halak had a heavy load to bear. Halak at his age is still a competent goalie, but not for long stretches of time. For the moment, the goaltending looks good for the upcoming year as long as Rask doesn’t opt out again. Reportedly, he opted out the last time due to his daughter having a medical emergency. Anyone can understand why he would do that and should be commended for it. Family comes first, and always should. If he feels comfortable coming back this season, the situation in net will be fine. If he decides to give it the no go again it becomes much more complex.
*Contracts: 42/50 Projected Cap Hit: $78,004,167 Projected Cap Space: $3,495,833
Photo Credit: Jen Fuller | Getty Images
- The shock of the free agency period certainly had to be Taylor Hall going to the Sabres. When you look at it, I honestly think it is great for both him and the team. Hall will be playing with arguably the best center in the NHL. Last season was less than stellar for the 29 year old winger, for his standards at least. Playing with Jack will boost his stock and give the Skinner effect into his next contract. Which I do believe playing with Jack might convince him to stay depending on what the team does with the rest of the group as well. This might be the best depth Buffalo has had in a long time. Adding Staal to the center group gives a huge boost down the middle which Buffalo desperately needed.
I don’t agree with Daily Faceoffs selection of Cozens on the 2nd line right wing, but it is a possibility he makes the squad out of camp. Even if Cozens doesn’t stay on the big club, this team is poised to be the best offensively it has been in a very long time. With Buffalo doing most of their damage early in the free agency period, I don’t see them doing much more in terms of forwards.
- I am personally a big fan of this defense corp. Dahlin is an absolute gem of a player with multiple Norris trophies in his future. Montour and Jokiharju are players I see elevating their game this upcoming season. Miller is a very solid guy who brings a lot to the table, and Ristolainen has had his ups and downs, but has that potential to be another top defenseman. Much like with Buffalo’s forwards, this group has the tools to be great this season. I don’t think there is much need to look outside the organization for help on the backend.
- Here is where things become interesting for the Sabres. Carter Hutton has proven he is not much more than a backup. I’m a huge fan of Hutton, but he is just not a starting goalie. Now Linus Ullmark is an intriguing case. He went 17-14-3 last season with a .915 SV% and a GAA of 2.69. According to Hockey Reference, the average Save Percentage was .910 and Goals Against Average was 2.82. Ullmark surpassed both those averages with a team not scoring at the rate they will be this season. Buffalo had some injuries last season as well to take account for as well. IF Ullmark can help carry his share of the load like he did last year, I could see this Buffalo team going to at least the Conference Semi-Finals.
Detroit Red Wings:
*Contracts: 45/50 Projected Cap Hit: $71,961,389 Projected Cap Space: $9,538,611
- This team looks like a first line and three 3rd or 4th lines for most clubs. Larkin is a great player and Mantha has his moments of greatness, but they come in flashes. Bertuzzi is trying his hardest to be the new Brad Marchand, and he’s not doing a bad job of it. As for the rest of the guys, I just don’t know. Could they surprise us? Sure! But, I see the Red Wings finishing near the bottom of the Goals For category. If they could talk Anthony Duclair or Mikael Granlund to give them a shot it would be a HUGE grab for this club. Although, I don’t really see Detroit doing much as it isn’t in their nature to go outside the organization.
- Much like the forward group, the Red Wings defense looks absolutely brutal. The addition of Stecher certainly helped a little bit as he is an underrated D-man, but it’s almost evened out by Marc Staal. Staal has lost so many steps in his game, he will never find again. It was a salary dump trade that netted them a 2021 2nd round pick from the Rangers, so for their sake, I hope that 2nd becomes something good. Getting a player like Sami Vatanen would be someone I would look into if I was Detroit. Vatanen ate up 21:45 of Average Time on Ice for New Jersey last year and was only a minus -12 on a team allowing the 6th most goals in the NHL in 19-20. Granted, Detroit was last, so it is certainly a gamble.
- Getting Thomas Greiss in net will be an astronomical jump in talent level from what they had last season. Greiss, along, with Lehner won the William M. Jennings trophy for least amount of goals allowed as a team in 18-19. He is also 5th in wins and appearances, along with being 1st in save percentage in Islanders history. He’s not in his prime, but he is an upgrade over the combination of Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Bernier that the Wings used last season. He has a lot of work ahead of him with the defense and forward groups he has, so will he be able to keep up those kinds of numbers? Time will tell.
*Contracts 41/50 Projected Cap Hit: $73,186,288 Projected Cap Space: $8,313,712
- The Panthers are going through a bit of a change-up in the bottom 9 of the lineup. As Mike Hoffman looks like he is headed elsewhere, the Panthers are looking for a combination of in house youth and veterans to help close that gap left by the goal scorer. Florida was 6th in the NHL in goals for with 228 and look to improve upon that. Hornqvist could be a huge get for the Panthers as he can drive the net and pick up those always important greasy goals. Wennberg could be a wild card for this group. If he can get back to the production he had in 16-17 when he had 46 assists and 59 points with Columbus, this could really put a jump in offense for this club. It looks as though Florida is going to stay put after the moves they have already made to the forward group, but things could change depending on what happens in training camp after seeing how the youth looks.
- Signing Radko Gudas to a 3 year deal raised some eyebrows at the start of Free Agency. Gudas can certainly help Florida with their penalty kill which was 12th worst in the league. A lot of people within the organization are high on MacKenzie Weegar and they hope he takes another jump in his development this season. Trading Cliff Pu for Markus Nutivaara was another solid move to help shore up the back end. With them already making a couple moves for the defense, I don’t see the Panthers touching the back end for the time being.
- I think the Bobrovsky deal is really going to hurt the Panthers in the long run, but for the time being, he is still an elite goaltender. Last season was certainly a down one for him though. Only putting up a .900 save percentage is pretty brutal. The management in Florida obviously tried to make them a better defensive team with the moves made already. I’m sure they had Bob in mind while making these deals to help make his job just a little easier.
*Contracts: 46/50 Projected Cap Hit: $81,116,309 Projected Cap Space: $383,691
Photo Credit: Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
- The Habs made some changes to the top 6 in their forward ranks this offseason. Swapping Domi for Josh Anderson was a little bit of a surprise, but you can tell Montreal wants to be a tougher team to play against. The addition of Anderson definitely helps that, while Toffoli helps bring in some much needed offense to the club. If those 2 can build some chemistry with whoever their center ends up being, it would be huge for Montreal. They’re still waiting on Kotkaniemi to be the guy they hoped he could be, but he is very young so there is plenty of time for him to develop. With no cap space, I don’t see the Habs making anything else. There have been rumors of Kovalchuk going back to the Canadiens, but as of right now, they would need to make a trade or buy-out to facilitate that move.
- Montreal went out and traded a 5th rounder for Joel Edmundson early in the offseason. That was a sign to me they wanted to get tougher. Edmundson is a solid defenseman and can help bring stability to the back-end. It appears that Romanov is coming over from the KHL this season to join the big club. The 2nd round pick in 2018 is coming off a 43 game season for CSKA Moscow. He had a very good 2020 U-20 World Junior run, putting up 6 points in 7 games. The Habs want to see that version of Romanov come out more often.
To be completely honest, there’s only one thing I can say here. If Price can stay healthy, he can carry this team very far.
*Contracts: 44/50 Projected Cap Hit: $68,997,499 Projected Cap Space: $12,502,501
Photo Credit: Sean Kilpatrick/CP
- Ottawa is in rebuild mode, but by their moves made so far this offseason, it appears to not be a full rebuild. Signing Dadonov to a 3 year deal could be a great signing for them as he will produce a lot of the offense for this club. They signed Galchenyuk to a low risk, high reward one year deal to see if he can get his career restarted. I do believe they would like to bring Duclair back, but he apparently is just asking for too much. Stützle is still signed to Mannheim at the moment and is coming off an injury. It is still unknown if Ottawa will be able to get him over from Germany at this point, but if they do, he will be a contender for rookie of the year. Trading for Austin Watson is a good depth move for the bottom 6 and is a good penalty killer. The Sens were 4th worst in the NHL on the PK so any help on that front was needed. If this ends up being the end of their offseason for the forwards, it will be a pretty good mixture of youth and veteran leadership.
- Ottawa made a couple trades on the back-end which has been a problem for this club. They acquired Josh Brown from Florida, and not shown on the lines from Daily Faceoff, Erik Gudbranson from Anaheim. Both of these men are over 6’4in tall, so you can see the Sens wanted to get more physical on defense. Chabot has been stellar the past couple years and looks poised to be a contender for Norris trophies in the future. Brannstrom is a highly rated prospect acquired in the Mark Stone trade who looks to fill the void left by Erik Karlsson, but he will need time. Unless something comes along that catches their eye, I don’t see Ottawa doing more to the D.
- Signing Matt Murray to a 4 year contract immediately after acquiring him was a little shocking to me. Murray is a good goalie and they didn’t want the chance of him leaving, but 4 years is a lot for a guy who just lost his job to Tristan Jarry not long ago. He also has a history of injuries in his career so far. Four years just seems like a lot to give someone with that kind of background. Nilsson is a capable backup, but he should not be allowed to be in for long stretches.
Tampa Bay Lightning:
*Contracts: 39/50 Projected Cap Hit: $83,404,166 Projected Cap Hit: $-1,904,166
- This is where things get real interesting. The defending Stanley Cup champs have some work cut out for them figuring out who to keep, and who to ship out. With Cirelli still unsigned, the obvious move is to get Tyler Johnson out of town. If Seattle was in the league now, I could see them going hard for him as he is from Spokane, Washington. Alas, that is at least a year away, so they need to find another suiter. He is certainly worth acquiring, but with Tampa in the cap situation their in, teams are going to try to get more for acquiring his 5 million dollar cap hit. A couple options going around the rumor mill to trade are Alex Killorn and Ondřej Palát. I don’t think Tampa wants to trade Palát, but they might not have a choice. They made a good move in re-signing Pat Maroon, who seems to be the new Lighting fan favorite after his offseason antics. Giving up the 1st for Coleman looks a little better considering he has a great cap hit and this team is in cap hell.
- With Tampa Bay re-signing Sergachev to a 3 year, 4.8 million per year deal leaves them with just Erik Cernak to re-sign. Rumors have been going around the hockey community that the Lighting are shopping Ryan McDonagh. He’s a good player, but his contract will make that very hard if that is indeed a plan of theirs. I really like the top 4 of this defense corps if it stays as is, but that 3rd pair might be the slowest in the league. Both are good penalty killers, but I have a feeling those first 4 guys are going to get a lot of minutes.
- I was so happy for Grandpa Curt to get his Cup this past season. Of course the real story in net was the incredible play of Andrei Vasilevsky. He won 18 of 25 playoff games while posting an unreal .927 SV% and 1.90 GAA. Tampa will have no issues in net with him manning the pipes.
Toronto Maple Leafs:
*Contracts: 46/50 Projected Cap Hit: $82,549,325 Projected Cap Space: $-1,049,325
- Toronto definitely has one of the best forward groups in the NHL. Matthews, Tavares, Marner, and Nylander are all highly skilled players. The trade rumors about Nylander will not go away, and with them being over a million over the cap at this moment, they may have to seriously look into it. The addition of Joe Thornton will certainly add leadership that this team needs more of with all the youth on the roster. Vesey and Simmonds are solid wingers that will bring some size and depth to the bottom 6. With the Leafs still needing help on defense and them being over the cap, it is almost a certainty someone from the forward ranks will be traded away.
Photo Credit:Toronto Star/Tony Bock
- The addition of T.J. Brodie was a huge get for the Leafs in my opinion. Brodie is a very strong skater who plays well in his own end, and like Thornton, will help bring more leadership. I’m a big fan of Travis Dermott and think he takes a big jump in development this season. Muzzin was huge for this team and when he had his injury you could see how much he helped when in there. Toronto still needs another guy in the top 4 to make this team a Stanley Cup winner. If they can clear the space and get him to sign cheap, Sami Vatanen would be a great addition to this club. He had a so-so run with New Jersey, but playing with the caliber of players in Toronto, I could see him having a huge year.
- Freddie Andersen had a below average year for his standards last season posting a .909 SV% and 2.85 GAA. I do believe not having a great defense hurt him last season and it could be an issue again. Andersen is in his final season and is looking for an extension in Toronto. If he has another year like the last, I just don’t see the Leafs putting the money it will take to keep him. So this becomes a make or break year for Anderson. They hope the signing Jack Campbell will help shore up the goaltending as the back-up position has been a problem for this team the last couple seasons. Michael Hutchinson put up some abysmal numbers last season, so it can’t get much worse.