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Metropolitan Division Offseason Round Up Part Two: What lies ahead

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What does the off season hold for the Carolina Hurricanes and each team in the Metropolitan Division?

Carolina Hurricanes v Boston Bruins - Game Five Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Washington Capitals

The Capitals are coming off two disappointing seasons trying to figure out how to get back to their championship ways. They made the smart coaching choice by hiring Stanley Cup winning head coach Peter Laviolette. He should prove to be the motivator that Todd Rierden could not be. Washington will also have to replace starting goaltender and former Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby. They believe they are set with backup Ilya Samsonov and last season’s backup, Phoenix Copley. While they come with a combined cap hit of $2 million, there will be questions on if they can carry a team for a full season.

The Caps will have $9 million in cap space without Holtby which will give them the ability to re-sign Jonas Siegenthaler and also sign another defenseman to shore up their blueline. They have struggled to put together a good top six over the past two seasons. They have looked to land their second Michal Kempny in a trade but have been unable to do so. They will also need to keep some cap space for Jakub Vrana’s contract next season and hope that Ovechkin will take a pay cut for his final contract next offseason.

Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers are an interesting team going into next season. They largely overperformed this season, but the Flyers believe this is where they should be and won’t be content with taking a step back. They have $7.8 million in cap space, with a couple of unrestricted free agents and shouldn’t have an issue re-signing them if that’s what they want to do. However, they will not have a ton of space to make a splash in free agency or with trades if they do re-sign their younger free agents in Robert Hagg, Philippe Meyers, and Tyler Pitlick. One interesting scenario could be trading James van Riemsdyk, who had a very underwhelming season and just 19 goals but has a $7 million cap hit. It should be very difficult to move that contract without retaining any salary.

Alain Vigneault coached teams tend to have their best season in his first year coaching. Now they will have to do something that has only been done once under Vigneault, get further in the playoffs than the year before. Looking into next season, most of their success will be tied to rookie goaltender Carter Hart who won 24 games for them last season. Overall, he has looked very strong, but has seen some blow up games. With Brian Elliot likely on the way out and Alex Lyon backing him up, there won’t be too much room for failure.

Pittsburgh Penguins

We are officially in the part of Jim Rutherford’s tenure where he attempts to trade bad contracts that he made for a questionable return. They have already made two trades since exiting the post-season. They traded a handful of replacement level players and a first-round pick for Kasperi Kapanen, Pontus Aberg and Jesper Lingren. They later traded Nick Bjugstad with 50% retained salary, $2 million, for a conditional seventh-round pick. This week they also traded forward Patric Hornqvist for Michael Matheson and Colton Sceviour. They traded an aging forward who was clearly slowing down for a defenseman who struggled and was healthy scratched at some points last season who has six years left at $4.875 million per season.

The Penguins may trade goaltender Matt Murray who is a restricted free agent. There is also a fun theory that they will land Marc-Andre Fleury after he is bought out by the Vegas Golden Knights. However, that is a pretty big IF. Currently they have $6 million in cap space but will have to re-sign restricted free agent goaltender Tristan Jarry. The remaining cap space will likely go to funding crazy Rutherford trades.

Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes have proven to be a busy team over the past two years, and I don’t expect that to slow down this offseason. They have their core in place but are always looking to improve their team. The most anticipated move for the Canes is to upgrade goaltending. There are options in both free agency and with a trade which we have explored in the past. The most intriguing addition would be a trade with the Arizona Coyotes for Darcy Kuemper, but would likely cost James Reimer and a pick.

The Canes have also been rumored to have inquired on both Patrick Laine and Jake Debrusk, so they are looking to upgrade the forward position. The addition of Brady Skjei at the deadline gives the Canes a real piece to dangle in front of teams as trade bait.

The Canes are always reported to trade away both Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce but neither are likely going anywhere; you can bet they will be in the lineup all season. The Canes were able to turn Joel Edmundson into a fifth-round pick from the Montreal Canadiens but won’t be the only defenseman to leave this offseason. Sami Vatanen will surely walk in free agency and with the emergence of Haydn Fleury in the post-season, they can afford to let Trevor van Riemsdyk walk as well. That gives them just under $8 million to re-sign Fleury, Warren Foegele and get a forward upgrade.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets can go into next season with the exact same roster as they had this season. They only have restricted free agents and $7million in cap space. The team doesn’t need a lot of tweaks right now; they made it to the playoffs despite being the most injured team in the league. Head coach John Tortorella has gotten the most out of his team year after year and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. They have one more season left of their current core with Brandon Dubinsky, Nick Foligno, Ryan Murray, Dennis Savard and three others will expire after next season. They have young players that are contributing so their window won’t slam closed like the Penguins’ will.

One interesting move the Blue Jackets could make is trading Joonas Korpisalo. With the emergence of Elvis Merzlikins, Korpisalo becomes redundant. They could call up Matiss Kivlenieks or Veini Vehvilanainen who were both in the bubble for Columbus. Either could serve as a competent backup. Korpisalo could bring a large return for Columbus that would be long-term.

New York Islanders

The Islanders over performed this year, but also proved to themselves that they aren’t that far off from vying for a championship. Now we will get to see how much management has bought in. Already trading for Jean-Gabriel Pageau for a first-round pick and a second-round pick showed that they have confidence in their current make up. Pageau gives the Islanders great depth up the middle along with Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelsen. This trade also means they can afford to let Derrick Brassard walk in free agency without taking a step back.

The Islanders have one huge contract to work out this off-season in Barzal. While he doesn’t have arbitration rights, restricted free agents have been getting their way with contracts lately. There is also the chance of an offer sheet. Their other restricted free agents are Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews who both played top four minutes throughout the playoffs. With these players being re-signed they are likely to let backup Thomas Greiss walk and bring up Ilya Sorokin for the 2021-2022 season.

New York Rangers

The Rangers’ outlook for the future is certainly a positive one. While they didn’t make the traditional playoffs, they participated in the bubble post-season and certainly weren’t as bad as one thought they could be this season. They now look forward with the first overall pick and the Carolina Hurricanes’ first round pick. Drafting Alexis Lafreniere will add a top six winger to their roster for the next 20 years. While one era is beginning, one is certainly ending with Henrik Lundqvist. There are reports that the Rangers may try to trade him, but with a full no move clause it is more likely that he could be bought out and more dead cap money will be added to the Rangers books. They have said they want to move forward with their two young goalies, Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Gorgiev.

The Rangers aren’t almost there; they still have to figure out a ton of questions when it comes to their depth and their defense. They have just two defensemen and four forwards signed for beyond next season. New York could see huge roster turnover and more prospects plugged in to see how they perform in the NHL but as we’ve seen that is a risky strategy. When a locker room is young and there aren’t enough veterans to provide a framework, the team can be streaky and player development can stall.

New Jersey Devils

The Devils are in a tough spot, just starting their full commitment rebuild. They only have two players signed after the 2021-2022 season in Nico Hischier and Damon Severson. They also have three first-round picks in the deep 2020 draft. They own their own pick (seventh) as well as the Arizona Coyotes’ first round pick (18th) and the Vancouver Canucks’ first-round pick (20th). They will also enter the season with a new head coach, Lindy Ruff. Ruff has been an assistant coach for the New York Rangers since 2017 but was previously a head coach with the Buffalo Sabres and the Dallas Stars.

The Devils have five restricted free agents to sign and have $26 million in cap space going into next season. They are going to be a top candidate to take bad contracts and buyouts for draft picks, like the Canes did with Patrick Marleau last season. With the flat cap, it looks like this will be even more valuable in the past. I would think that they could end up with another first round pick and get back into the second round.