Which NHL team is winning the offseason so far?
The 2022 NHL draft is behind us. We’ve seen a flurry of trades. Seemingly every team has a new goaltender. And most of the top unrestricted free agents are off the board, save for a couple big names.
That means it’s about time we appraised every franchise’s summer so far.
Roundtable members: which team is winning the NHL offseason?
MATT LARKIN: Obviously Detroit and especially Ottawa are having splashy offseasons, but in terms of which team’s summer might have the biggest implications next season, I think it’s the Edmonton Oilers. I can’t believe they re-signed Evander Kane and Brett Kulak AND found a new goalie in Jack Campbell AND got Duncan Keith and Mike Smith off the books in a span of a couple weeks.
Now, with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl still leading the charge, I feel like Edmonton has a chance to contend for the Stanley Cup next season. A couple weeks ago, I expressed concern over an extremely wide range of outcomes and wondered if the Oilers would take a step back. Now, I think they’re the class of the Pacific, especially after Calgary and Vegas got worse so far this offseason. And the Oil even got a win switching back to their traditional jerseys for 2022-23!
CHRIS GEAR: I can’t disagree with Matt’s pick of Edmonton as an early winner of the off-season, or his mention of Ottawa and Detroit in that category, but another team that caught my eye was the Carolina Hurricanes. Although they said goodbye to two solid performers in Tony DeAngelo and Vincent Trocheck, as well as deadline acquisition Max Domi, they brought in Brent Burns, Max Pacioretty, Ondrej Kase and Dylan Coghlan. By getting the San Jose Sharks to retain a third of the Burns deal, Carolina gets an excellent two-way defenseman who still has lots of gas in the tank at a number that is now below market value and a manageable three-year term. I see it as an upgrade over DeAngelo, who signed with the Flyers for close to the same money.
Swapping Pacioretty and Trocheck might be considered a draw, except that Trocheck required a seven-year deal in New York while Pacioretty has one year remaining and gives the Canes flexibility to see what kind of fit they have with him. The talented but injury-prone Kase could be an interesting pickup on a low risk one-year deal, and Coghlan is an up-and-comer at the always difficult to find RHD position. I think Carolina’s reshuffling of the deck chairs was sneaky good, and I look forward to seeing how the moves play out.
SCOTT BURNSIDE: Couple of caveats: agree totally on Detroit, Ottawa, Columbus and Carolina. All those teams boldly addressed roster needs. But I’m going to take a different tack. It has been customary for Stanley Cup champs to face a huge cap/roster squeeze that has forced almost immediate sell-offs from their Cup-winning roster. The Colorado Avalanche seem to be bucking that trend in a big way. Yes, Nazem Kadri will be difficult to return in 2022-23 (he’s the top UFA as I write this) but new GM Chris MacFarland, sliding seamlessly into Joe Sakic’s chair as Sakic takes a more senior role with the team’s hockey operations department, quickly inked important depth players Andrew Cogliano and Darren Helm to small-budget one-year deals, locked up trade deadline acquisitions Artturi Lehkonen and Josh Manson to five and four-year deals respectively and extended playoff breakout star Valeri Nichushkin to an eight-year deal. That’s a lot of heavy lifting done in a short period of time.
The one outside player brought in since the Avs’ Game 6 Cup win has the potential to set the Avs on a path to multiple Cups in the coming years and that is former Ranger backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev, whom the Avs signed to a very palatable three-year deal at $3.4 million AAV. I talked to an NHL executive who wonders what will become of Samuel Girard on the back end, but even if cap space is limited as next season moves along, MacFarland has an obvious asset he could move out if a need arose before the 2023 trade deadline. In short, the champs are still the champs a few days into free agency.
MIKE MCKENNA: In terms of which team instantly got better, I think the Detroit Red Wings are the best example. Trading for Ville Husso to compete with Alex Nedeljkovic was a shrewd move by GM Steve Yzerman – even though I’m wary of the $4.75 million cap hit Husso will carry over the next three seasons. Then Yzerman went out and landed Andrew Copp, David Perron, Dominik Kubalik, Ben Chiarot, Olli Maatta and Mark Pysyk via free agency. What a haul.
But no team changed its entire complexion more than the Ottawa Senators. For me, they win the 2022 offseason, hands down. It was necessary to get rid of the onerous Matt Murray and Colin White contracts. Trading for Alex DeBrincat and Cam Talbot addressed areas of need. And the extension of Josh Norris locked up another core piece well into the future. But for me, the biggest win for the Senators was landing Claude Giroux. A couple weeks ago, I wrote that my Christmas in July gift to the Senators was the former captain of the Philadelphia Flyers. Giroux lives in Ottawa during the offseason, but I don’t think there’s any way GM Pierre Dorion is able to land the star forward without going out and grabbing DeBrincat and Talbot. It sure seems like the Dorion is no longer handcuffed by ownership interference.
And now Ottawa isn’t just a team with prospects. The Sens have legitimate star players and a quality No. 1 goaltender. Senators fans have been through a lot. They’ve seen their favorite players walk out the door time and time again. But the tide appears to be turning. Ottawa may not be a playoff team next season – the Atlantic Division is no joke – but they’ll be in the mix. And the Senators are only going to get better.