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Sunday Speculation: Offseason Moves By the Eastern Conference

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I originally planned to do an article and poll on which Eastern Conference team had improved the most so far this offseason. But after looking through the additions and subtractions of each team, the Hurricanes really seemed to stand out above the rest of the Eastern Conference. This doesn't mean Carolina is the best team in the East or still doesn't have plenty of questions, but in terms of "paper improvement" over last year squads, the Hurricanes have definitely taken the biggest step forward in the Eastern Conference.

So I thought I would adjust my article to give a breakdown of each Eastern Conference team. I would list the additions, subtractions, key contributors, and a brief summary of how I believe these teams offseason has gone so far. The additions come from free agent signings, players acquired through trades, and draft picks in the first 2 rounds of the NHL Draft. Subtractions would come from free agents lost, players lost through trades, and players that retired. My definition of "key contributors" for each team is based solely on the amount of NHL time each player saw last season. While they might not be big point producers, even 4th liners are vital to each team's performance. So if a player played in 25+ games last season, I considered them to be "key contributors". And last, I will give a brief description of each teams offseason moves. Whether I believe they upgraded, downgraded, or mostly stay the same.

So give this a read, let me know if you agree or disagree. Please feel free to share your thoughts and point out anything I might have missed. Hope you enjoy.

Note: Players that I have deemed "key contributors" are in bold. Draft picks will be listed in Italics.

Boston Bruins

Additions - A. Johnson (CBJ), G. Exelby (DET), C. Hanson (WSH), C. Bourque (WSH), M. Subban-G,

Subtractions - G. Zanon (COL), J. Corvo (CAR), B. Pouliot (TBL), Z. Hamill (WSH), T. Thomas (retired)

Boston won the Northeast Division last year and continue to look like the class of that division. While Tuukka Rask should do just fine as their starting goaltender, Tim Thomas' loss is the greatest on team. If Rask goes through any slump or gets injured, the Bruins could be in for a rough time. They also have lost of good amount of depth without really replacing it with anything of value. While Zanon, Corvo, and Pouliot weren't key members of their core, those players did account for 59 points (21 goals, 38 assists) and a combined +32 rating. Johnson & Exelby will provide some depth, but both are really fringe NHLers, having played most of their time in the past 2 seasons in the AHL. Boston still has a VERY good team and I think you can almost lock them into a playoff spot in 2013, but their are some depth questions now. My Take: Slight Downgrade

Buffalo Sabres

Additions - M. Mancari (VAN), K. Porter (COL), J. Scott (NYR), S. Ott (DAL), A. Pardy (DAL), M. Grigorenko-C, Z. Girgensons-C, J. McCabe-D

Subtractions - B. Boyes (NYI), D. Roy (DAL)

Buffalo spent over $69 million in actual salaries last season (2nd in the NHL behind Philadelphia) and missed the playoffs. This season they will be spending over $70 million, so you have to think there is a lot of pressure there to get into the playoffs. So far this offseason, they have removed a little skill, but they have really increased their size and physicality. Ott is a guy that has both a little skill and a lot of physicality. He's not going to put up big numbers, but he should be a really good team player for the Sabres. Scott is a fighter, pure and simple. He probably will only dress for half the games, but when he is out there, everybody knows what he is looking to do. The wild card addition is Grigorenko. This young guy has tremendous skill and there is a good chance he will be playing in the NHL this upcoming season. He should become Buffalo's future 1st line center, but it's tough to judge how a rookie will make the transition to the NHL. Their subtractions, while few, could be significant. Boyes really underperformed last season, but he is a very skilled player. But the loss of Roy is the most impactful. Roy definitely was not a fan favorite, but the guy has been one of Buffalo's top 5 scorers in 4 of the past 5 seasons. The only time he wasn't in the top 5 was due to an injury and in that season he put up 35 points in 35 games. Replacing his production and chemistry with certain linemates could be difficult. Overall, Buffalo has become a tougher team to play against and they are still a good team. I would expect them to compete for one of the final playoff spots in the East. My Take: Slight Upgrade

Carolina Hurricanes

Additions - A. Semin (WSH), T. Wallace (TBL), M. Gragnani (VAN), J. Corvo (BOS), J. Staal (PIT), P. Di Giuseppe-LW, B. McGinn-LW

Subtractions - D. Joslin (VAN), B. Allen (ANA), B. Sutter (PIT), B. Dumoulin (PIT), J. Spacek (?)

The Canes missed the playoffs for the 3rd year in a row and have decided to make some major moves to correct that this offseason. While they were an average team in Goals per Game (16th), the moves made this summer look to improve that significantly. Adding Staal and Semin provide the Canes 2 top 6 players that can produce some points. Corvo and Gragnani also add some more offensive punch to a blueline that has quite a bit. The subtractions definitely hurt the team in areas. Allen was the biggest Canes defender and blocked a ton of shots. Sutter was a tremendous 3rd line/shutdown center that could contribute some offensively. And Dumoulin was one of the Canes top prospects. But at least on paper, the Canes have improved their team by leaps and bounds. They have subtracted 25 goals, 62 points, and a combined -15 rating for 55 goals, 153 points, and a combined +9 rating. I honestly expect the Canes to be a very exciting team to watch this season and one that will challenge for the Southeast Division title. A lot will depend on Cam Ward, but it would be a complete failure if this team did not make the playoffs in 2013. My Take: Significant Upgrade

Florida Panthers

Additions - P. Mueller (COL), G. Parros (ANA), A. Deveaux (NYR), J. Jean-Francois (ANA), F. Kuba (OTT), C. Wellman (NYR), M. Matheson-D

Subtractions - W. Wolski (WSH), K. Barch (NJD), S. Sullivan (COL), J. Matsumoto (SJS), B. Kearns (SJS), J. Garrison (VAN), M. Samuelsson (DET)

Coming off their first ever Division Title, the Panthers have their work cut out for them if they hope to repeat. They lost a key piece of their defense in Garrison and a veteran presence in Samuelsson. They have a good number of kids that look to be on the verge of making an NHL impact, but there are always growing pains with rookies. Kuba was a solid add, but how much of his resurgence last season was due to a very effective Erik Karlsson? Mueller is another guy that has tremendous skill, but he's missed all but 32 games the past 2 seasons. Parros will add some toughness and fighting, but he probably won't even dress for 60 games, so his impact is limited. The Panthers "caught lightning in a bottle" last season and with the moves made this summer, it is going to be very difficult for them to repeat. They have a solid team and a good, young coach, but I see them falling back a little this season. My Take: Downgrade

Montreal Canadiens

Additions - C. Desjardins (COL), B. Prust (NYR), F. Bouillon (NSH), C. Armstrong (TOR), A. Galchenyuk-C, S. Collberg-RW, D. Thrower-D

Subtractions - N. Lawson (OTT), B. Staubitz (ANA)

Montreal had a bad year last season. No one expected them to struggle that much, but they did and it leaves plenty of questions going forward. They really didn't lose anybody of significance this offseason, but most of their free agent acquisitions are really only depth personnel also, so they didn't significantly gain there either. But I do believe they improved through the draft a lot. I would even say they had one of the better overall drafts this summer. The Habs have been looking for a big top line center for a while, I think they found it in Galchenyuk. I'm not saying he will be playing NHL hockey this season, but I sure wouldn't be surprised if he did. And their two 2nd round picks were very solid players that will help the team in a couple of years. But back to free agency. Here they gained two solid bottom 6 players in Prust and Armstrong. Both players will make the Habs a tougher team (if Armstrong can stay healthy) and they have some skill to compliment their toughness. They also added Bouillon, who despite his size is a very responsible defensive defenseman. He adds some reliable depth to a questionable blueline. I'm not sure what to make of this team. They have the pieces to compete, but something tells me they will struggle again and miss the playoffs for a 2nd year in a row. My Take: Very Slight Upgrade

New Jersey Devils

Additions - K. Barch (FLA), S. Matteau-C, D. Severson-D

Subtractions - M. Taormina (TBL), Z. Parise (MIN), E. Boulton (NYI), A. Ponikarovsky (WPG)

While the number of players really isn't there, the Stanley Cup runners-up have really lost a lot this offseason. It starts and mostly ends with Parise and the organization has done next to nothing to replace him so far. He was the captain and had scored over 400 points for the Devils franchise and the only addition outside of the draft was Barch, who's 6 years of NHL duty (304 games) doesn't even surpass Parise's career playoff performance (61 games, 41 points). Add to that Ponikarovsky, who added 18 points in 33 games for the Devils last season. With Brodeur & Elias getting another year older and the toll a long playoff run takes on the body, the Devils could be in for a pretty big drop next season. And while Adam Henrique looks to improve and Travis Zajac is fully healthy, the Devils just don't have much in their system to replace Parise. I don't think teams will walk all over them, but being tired and in the tough Atlantic Division, I don't think they'll see the playoffs next year. My Take: Significant Downgrade

New York Islanders

Additions - C. McDonald (PIT), E. Boulton (NJD), M. Carkner (OTT), B. Boyes (BUF), L. Visnovsky (ANA), G. Reinhart-D, V. Pokka-D

Subtractions - A. Montoya (WPG), P. Parenteau (COL), D. Reese (PIT), M. Haley (NYR)

The Isles looked to be a more competitive team last season, but they are still haven't cracked 80 points since the 07/08 season. John Tavares and Matt Moulson have the look of stars in the league, but there are still so many question marks everywhere else in the lineup. While they appear to have had plenty of cap space, they let their 3rd leading scorer walk for nothing. Same thing with their backup goaltender, maybe this is the year DiPietro stays healthy? What they brought in is interesting. Boyes has skill, but has to figure out how to put it all together again. Boulton & Carkner are some tough guys, but are limited in the talent department. Visnovsky could be a huge help out an already effective PP unit, but he is aging and I guess is trying to void the trade to Long Island? Throw all of this on the continuing issue of a new arena and it seems fair to say that the Islanders will be near the bottom of the league again next season. Eventually, they are going to have to make a move or Tavares is going to request out. My Take: Slight Downgrade

New York Rangers

Additions - S. Collins (WSH), B. Segal (TBL), J. Halpern (WSH), T. Pyatt (PHX), A. Asham (PIT), R. Nash (CBJ), S. Delisle (CBJ), B. Skjei-D, C. Nieves-C

Subtraction - A. Deveaux (FLA), R. Fedotenko (PHI), J. Woywitka (STL), J. Scott (BUF), B. Prust (MTL), C. Johnson (PHX), J. Mitchell (COL), A. Anisimov (CBJ), T. Exiron (CBJ), B. Dubinsky (CBJ)

The Rangers have been one of the more active teams this offseason. The were the top regular season team in East last season and tried to address their one concern by adding Nash through a trade. Nash should help the Rangers become even more dangerous offensively and on the PP. Halpern somewhat makes up for the loss of Prust, Asham for Mitchell, and Pyatt for Fedotenko. Add Chris Kreider to the mix all season along with Nash and the Rangers should more than make up for the offensive lost from Anisimov & Dubinsky. All in all, the Rangers have improved their offense while not completely hurting their defense. They also still have Henrik Lundqvist in the net and he can make up for a lot of defensive breakdowns. I don't know if New York will have the same success as last year, but they still should be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. My Take: Upgrade

Ottawa Senators

Additions - N. Lawson (MTL), T. Eckford (PHX), G. Latendresse (MIN), M. Lundin (MIN), M. Methot (CBJ), C. Ceci-D

Subtractions - R. Klinkhammer (PHX), F. Kuba (FLA), M. Carkner (NYI), Z. Konopka (MIN), N. Foligno (CBJ), Bobby Butler (?)

Ottawa had an awesome bounce-back season that saw them go from 29th in Goals For in 10/11 to 4th last year. Spezza, Alfredsson, Michalek, and Karlsson all saw their point totals increase by over 20 from the previous season. Is this what to expect from this group or were things just clicking for these guys last year? The Sens really didn't gain or lose anything of significant value. Methot is a tough, physical defender, but still needs some polishing off. Latendresse is a highly skilled player with some size, but he's struggled to stay healthy lately. I would probably consider him a project that could have a nice reward. They lost some physical, but not very skilled players in Konopka, Carkner and Klinkhammer. They also lost some skill with Kuba & Foligno. Butler was recently bought out to make some room for a couple of prospects that are expected to contribute. Overall, Ottawa gained a little and lost a little with the hope that young players can step up and fill some holes. I don't see all of their "star" players playing like they did last year, so I would expect a little drop off. I think they will be good and challenge for the 7th or 8th spot in the East. My Take: Stagnant

Philadelphia Flyers

Additions - B. Gervais (TBL), R. Fedotenko (NYR), D. Syvret (STL), L. Schenn (TOR), S. Laughton-C, A. Stolarz-G

Subtractions - M. Carle (TBL), J. Jagr (DAL), J. van Riemsdyk (TOR), S. Bobrovsky (CBJ), Chris Pronger (?)

The Flyers are a very talented, deep team that continues to try to do whatever it takes to win. There defense has some questions, so they offer sheet Shea Weber. They didn't get him, but I have a feeling we haven't heard the last from Philly this offseason. But if you currently look at the moves that have been made, it's a little surprising from the always active Flyers. Carle wasn't the flashiest guy out there, but he was probably the most stable blueliner for Philly last season. Now he's gone and if Pronger doesn't return, like expected, the Flyers could be in a little trouble. They also ended up losing Jagr & van Riemsdyk, so while they have some forward depth, it is now a lot more shallow. Bobrovsky is a decent goaltender, but nothing spectacular, so his lose shouldn't hurt too much. The Flyers did add 2 defenders in Gervais & Schenn. Schenn is still a young guy that should develop into a top 4 shutdown guy, but he has a little way to go. Gervais has some abilities, but he is really inconsistent and is probably a depth guy for the Flyers. Fedotenko is a solid 3rd line winger, but nothing really special. For the most part, the Flyers will still be the Flyers. They are very talented and tough to play against, their weakness remains in goal. I would think they will still be fighting for a top spot in the East and at some point they will make some moves. My Take: Downgrade

Pittsburgh Penguins

Additions - B. Ferriero (SJS), P. Dupuis (TOR), T. Glass (WPG), T. Vokuon (WSH), B. Sutter (CAR), B. Dumoulin (CAR), J. Zatkoff (LAK), D. Reese (NYI), H. Ruopp (PHX), D. Pouliot-D, O. Maatta-D, T. Blueger-C

Subtractions - C. McDonald (NYI), S. Sullivan (PHX), A. Asham (NYR), Z. Michalek (PHX), J. Staal (CAR)

Pittsburgh gained the most players/prospects in the East this summer, but who they lost seems more impactful than who they gained. Staal was a key member of their team and could take over if Crosby or Malkin were injured. Sullivan had 17 goals and almost 50 points, so he provided the Pens with some offense. Asham provided some toughness and would contribute a little offensively. And while Michalek never seemed to work out as expected, his loss weakens what many believe is the Pens biggest problem, the defense. They did add a lot of blueline prospects, but most of those guys will take a couple of years to mature. Vokuon should be a top-notch backup for Fleury. And the NHL ready signings give the Pens a lot of depth in the bottom 6. Sutter is probably their biggest addition, as he can take over Staal's defensive role with the team. He's not going to be the offensive player Staal could be, but the Penguins do have 2 pretty good players that should provide more than enough offense down the middle. Really the biggest addition to Pittsburgh is a healthy Sidney Crosby. If he can play a whole season, the Pens are a different, more dangerous team. There is no reason to think Pittsburgh will not be one of the top teams in the East and they should return to the playoffs yet again. If some of their defensive prospects grow during the season, they could be favorite come playoff time. My Take: Slight Downgrade

Tampa Bay Lightning

Additions - M. Taormina (NJD), M. Carle (PHI), S. Salo (VAN), B. Crombeen (STL), B. Pouliot (BOS), A. Lindback (NSH), K. Wilson (NSH), S. Koekkoek-D, A. Vasilevski-G, D. Blujus-D, B. Hart-RW

Subtractions - T. Wallace (CAR), B. Gervais (PHI), B. Segal (NYR), M. Ouellet (?), S. Caron (?), D. Roloson (?)

Tampa also had a very busy offseason. Drafting 4 players in the first 2 rounds of the draft, signing 3 defenseman, and making 3 trades. The Lightning saw there issue as being the defense & goaltending and they tried to address their issues. Lindback should be an improvement over Roloson, but pretty much anything would have been an improvement there. Carle, Salo, and Taormina should help the defense, but all 3 are probably considered more offensive than defensive. Crombeen & Pouliot each add a little something to Tampa's bottom 6. Their losses are really negligible, as none were really significant pieces to the team. While their defense and goaltending still have plenty of questions, you should expect for the Lightning to be more solid in those areas with the additions they have made. I even expect the Lightning to compete with the Hurricanes for the Southeast Division title and I feel pretty confident they will return to postseason play in 2013. My Take: Significant Upgrade

Toronto Maple Leafs

Additions - K. Aucoin (WSH), J. McClement (COL), J. van Riemsdyk (PHI), M. Rielly-D, M. Finn-D

Subtractions - P. Dupuis (PIT), J. Crabb (WSH), C. Armstrong (MTL), J. Gustavsson (DET), L. Schenn (PHI)

Toronto keeps chugging along and everybody has to be getting restless. Their 2 main holes are in the 1st line center position and goaltending, yet their first 2 picks in the draft were defensemen. But they made a trade, shipping off a young defenseman for a young winger who they are going to give a try at, at center. The organization with more money than any other continues to make moves that leave you scratching your head. The additions they made are not bad. McClement should be a decent replace for Crabb. And van Riemsdyk is a nice player and given the Leafs depth at defense, trading Schenn for more offense makes sense. Rielly & Finn are very good defensive prospects, so the Leafs continue restocking their blueline. Their subtractions are not anything major either. Crabb, Armstrong and Gustavsson are nice players, but they can be replaced. Schenn was a good young defensive defenseman, but you have to give up something to get something. But the bottom line is that the Leafs really haven't addressed their 1st line center or goaltending need. As currently constructed, I just don't see them as a playoff team. Again, the moves made are not bad, but they don't help out significantly. My Take: Stagnant

Washington Capitals

Additions - W. Wolski (FLA), R. Stoa (COL), J. Hillen (NSH), J. Crabb (TOR), M. Ribeiro (DAL), Z. Hamill (BOS), F. Forsberg-LW, T. Wilson-RW

Subtractions - A. Semin (CAR), K. Aucoin (TOR), J. Halpern (NYR), J. Rechlicz (PHX), S. Collins (NYR), C. Hanson (BOS), J. Hendry (ANA), D. Wideman (CGY), C. Eakin (DAL), T. Vokoun (PIT), C. Bourque (BOS), M. Knuble (?)

The Caps lost more players/prospects than any other Eastern Conference team this offseason and they also lost a bit of quality to go with their quantity. Wideman was their biggest point producer from the backend last season and Semin was their 2nd leading scorer (despite a down year). While Vokoun never seemed to fit, he did win them 25 games last season. And then throw in all the depth they lost and you are looking at something considerable. They did add a quality 2nd line center in Ribeiro and they took on a project in Wolski. But Ribeiro is a playmaker and if Wolski doesn't come back to form, the Caps really don't have any scorers on the 2nd line for Ribeiro to feed the puck to. Hillen & Crabb are good bottom 6 guys, but the Caps already had a pretty decent group in their bottom 6. The additions of Forsberg & Wilson were great picks, but neither is expected to help the Caps out this season. So while I think the coaching change will be an improvement, the roster seems to have taken a step back. I think Washington will be fighting the Canes & Lightning for the Southeast Division, but I think they will lose out and finish 3rd. I do expect them to be in the race for the 8th playoff spot and this might be the first year 3 teams from the "Southleast" Division get into the playoffs. My Take: Downgrade

Winnipeg Jets

Additions - A. Montoya (NYI), O. Jokinen (CGY), A. Ponikarovsky (NJD), J. Trouba-D, L. Sutter-C

Subtractions - T. Glass (PIT), C. Mason (NSH), M. Flood (KHL)

The Jets really haven't seen too busy of an offseason so far, but the moves they have made have been solid. Losing Glass, Mason and Flood are not huge losses, as each is a depth player and can be easily replaced. The did go out and pick up a solid backup goalie in Montoya, who should be able to fill in with Pavelec needs a rest. Jokinen, while getting up there is age, should be an improvement to their 1st line center position. Ponikarovsky played well in New Jersey and it should help to be reunited with his former linemate Nik Antropov. Trouba & Sutter are 2 solid players that should become NHLers in a couple of years. Trouba has the potential to be a top 4 or top pairing defenseman. Sutter probably maxes out as a 3rd line center, but that family can play some hockey. I wouldn't necessarily say these moves get Winnipeg into the playoffs, but they should improve the team. The toughest thing for the Jets is that Carolina & Tampa look like they have improved their teams more than the Jets. I think Winnipeg will challenge for a time for the 8th spot, but fall short. My Take: Upgrade