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Metropolitan Division 2020 Offseason Roundup

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The offseason isn’t quite over yet, but teams have already gone through the draft and free agent frenzy. How have they faired?

NHL: NHL Awards Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

With the dust mostly settled following the draft and free agency, there’s been a lot of new faces added and subtracted in the Metropolitan Division. Let’s take a look at what each team has done so far:

Washington Capitals

The Capitals have to be happy with their offseason. Heading into the draft the Caps needed to figure out a backup goalie and shore up their defense and they were able to do just that. First they landed Henrik Lundqvist, who had many suitors, for just $1.5 million. He will be a great addition for Washington and will help mentor young goalie Ilya Samsonov in his first year of being the starter. On the defensive side they signed Justin Shultz to a two-year, $8-million contract and Trevor van Riemsdyk to a one-year, $800,000 contract.

The Caps also re-signed Brendan Dillon to a four-year, $15.6-million contract. This combined with the Justin Shultz deal will have Washington in a bit of a cap crunch. They still have a restricted free agent in defenseman Joonas Siegenthaler with no cap space left. They can now let him walk by signing two free agents but could miss out on a cheap defensive option. It is important to note that they will have long-term injured reserve cap relief with Michal Kempny, who is out six to eight months with a ruptured Achilles.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins have had a very perplexing offseason. Just two years after signing Jack Johnson to a five-year, $16.250=million contract, he was bought out of his contract. He will have around a $1-million cap hit through the 2025-2026 season. Just after doing that they signed Cody Ceci, who struggles just as much on the ice as Johnson. The other addition to the blue line was Michael Matheson, who was acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers for Patric Hornqvist. Matheson is in the third year of an 8-year, $39-million contract that looked untradeable coming into the offseason.

The biggest offseason trade for the Penguins was trading restricted free-agent goalie Matt Murray to the Ottawa Senators for a second-round pick and Jonathan Gruden. The second-round pick was their only in the 2020 draft and was used to select Joel Blomqvist 52nd overall. The Penguins will still roll into the season with a hodgepodge at the blue line and a younger, but worse forward corps than last season. They might have extended a playoff streak, but they haven’t made any moves that would lead you to believe they will get out of the first round.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets made moves to clear out cap space. They shipped out Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara to open $8.3 million. It was speculated that they were in on Taylor Hall or Alex Pietrangelo but were unable to land either in free agency. However, there is still a bright side that the cap space protects them from an offer sheet to Pierre-Luc Dubois and gives them plenty of space to re-sign him and others on the team. They currently have $12.9 million in cap space with three unsigned RFAs remaining.

The Blue Jackets did still upgrade their forward group even without landing Hall. They traded Josh Anderson to the Montreal Canadiens for Max Domi. Domi then signed a two-year, $10.9-million contract which ended up being a better deal for the Blue Jackets than what Anderson signed with Montreal. They bring on Domi, who is capable of scoring 50 points in a normal length season. He adds skill to Columbus, which had only three players with over 40 points last season. The Blue Jackets also signed veteran Mikko Koivu, who will bring leadership and has still proven to be an effective bottom-six center.

New York Islanders

The Islanders have been quiet this offseason. They only made one signing in Austin Czarnik who is mainly an AHL player. They made two trades, both with the Colorado avalanche. They traded Kyle Burroughs and Devon Toews for a 2021 second-round pick and a 2022 second-round pick. The Toews trade was a shocker from the Islanders. The young defenseman was an impact player from the minute he came to the NHL roster. Toews ranks fourth on the roster in Corsi at 50% with a 5.3% relative Corsi. Toews played on the second pairing and averages 20:31 of ice time and played on the top powerplay play unit.

Toews will be a big loss for the Islanders and was traded as a cap crunch casualty. The Isles have $8.9 million in cap space to re-sign Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock, both big contributors to the team. There could be another trade to make to be able to get both guys signed. This highlights the importance of UFA signings. The Islanders made a terrible one in Andrew Ladd in 2016 and his $5.5 million cap hit is still on the books for three more seasons. His contract is also why they do not have cap space for these restricted free agents.

Carolina Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes have had a cautious and smart offseason. If you look at their current contracts, they need to keep space open to re-sign Dougie Hamilton and Andrei Svechnikov. They also will have Vincent Trocheck, ad Martin Necas just a season later. Leaving some cap on the floor this season isn’t the worst idea in the world. The Canes just need to work on re-signing Haydn Fleury and Warren Foegele, both of whom filed for arbitration.

The Canes only made one real signing in Jesper Fast, who was signed to a three-year, $6-million contract. Fast was a beloved member of the Rangers and will be a great addition to the Hurricanes. He’ll be able to step in to the top nine and play on the second penalty killing unit. At 28 he is still in his prime, so you can think of him as a Brock McGinn or Warren Foegele but that can score 30 points a season.

The most clamored for move was for the Carolina Hurricanes to upgrade goaltending, but they decided to sit out on the goalie carousel at the start of free agency. That was a smart move for the Canes as a lot of the goalies went for term and length which is not something the Canes want to do with their upcoming signings that can change the entire organization.

Robin Lehner, who was the best goalie in the class, didn’t make it to free agency and was re-signed by Vegas before free agency started. The only move they could still make is a trade for Marc-Andre Fleury which would require a third team to take on cap. The Canes will still roll with their tandem and that’s OK.

New York Rangers

The Rangers might have had the most unique offseason in NHL history. They made the postseason and won the first overall pick, which they used to select Alexis Lafreniere. They now have $13 million of dead cap with the buyout of Henrik Lundqvist and his additional $1.5 million buy out cap hit. Along with the buyout cap space the Rangers are over the limit of performance bonuses that can be transferred to next season and will have to add a cushion of $3.1 million to ensure New York is cap compliant. The dead cap space also meant the Rangers had to let Jesper Fast walk in free agency.

New York traded long-time Ranger Marc Staal to the Detroit Red Wings for future considerations. To replace a slow, aging defenseman, they signed Jack Johnson to a one-year $1.15-million contract. Outside of Johnson they did not make any significant NHL signings, but mainly worked on re-signing their restricted free agents.

The Rangers signed goaltender Alexandar Gorgiev to a very respectable two-year, $4.85-million contract. When the contract ends, he will still be a restricted free agent but with arbitration rights. They also signed Tony Deangelo to a two-year, $9.6-million contract. While Deangelo ranked fourth on the team in points with 53 but struggles defensively.

They do have $10.9 million in cap space with Ryan Strome and Brendan Lemieux still yet to be signed and projected to be around $6.5 million AAV combined.

Philadelphia Flyers

The Matt Niskanen retirement threw a wrench into the Flyers’ plans. Sure, they were likely to only get one more year out of him, but his loss means the Flyers now must look for a first-pairing defenseman with Ivan Provorov. The Flyers were also reported to be shopping defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere at the time, but now can’t afford to lose another top-four defenseman. While they do have close to $5 million in cap space, they must be careful on how they spend it with Carter Hart, and Travis Sanheim contracts on the horizon next offseason.

The Flyers being quiet around free agency has been the smartest option. They can re-sign Philippe Myers, who is an RFA, without ruining their cap situation. They were able to sign Erik Gustafsson to a one-year, $3-million contract to shore up their defense. However, they will still have to figure out who can play top--pair minutes with Provorov, which could be a huge issue the longer it goes. They will also likely call up a forward, more likely than not Morgan Frost, to fill out their forwards if Nolan Patrick still needs time off. They Flyers drafted Zayde Wisdom, who has an awesome story.

New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils are in the depths of their rebuild. By waiting to trade players like Andy Greene and Taylor Hall, they pushed the start of their full rebuild out until now. They were a highly-watched team coming into the draft with three first round picks in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. The early ratings for the Devils’ draft were good and that they were successful picking two good NHL forward prospects. They are also ranked second in best young talent rankings by the Athletic, but that’s still a long way off from seeing how they translate to NHL talent.

The Devils also bought out goalie Cory Schneider, which will be a $2 million cap hit for the next four seasons. They still have Jesper Bratt and Mackenzie Blackwood to re-sign as RFAs but that would only bring them up to 10 forwards and five defensemen with $18 million in cap space. They could still make signings in free agency, and could possibly use someone like Erik Haula, but they already have center depth. The more fun thing to see would be an offer sheet for a player since they have the cap space to push the limit. The more realistic way they will fill out their roster is with rookies and a couple of veteran signings to help with leadership on a young team.