With the Hurricanes returning to the Metropolitan Division this season, we’re taking a look at each of the team’s seven divisional foes, six of whom they did not play last season, what they did in the offseason and their outlook for the 2021-22 season.
Carolina Hurricanes: 80 Points (36-12-8) First in the Central
In: Ethan Bear, Frederik Andersen, Antti Raanta, Tony DeAngelo, Ian Cole, Josh Leivo, Brendan Smith, Alex Lyon, Derek Stepan
Out: Dougie Hamilton, Alex Nedeljkovic, Petr Mrazek, James Reimer, Brock McGinn, Joni Hakanpaa, Cedric Paquette, Jake Bean, Warren Foegele, Morgan Geekie
The Carolina Hurricanes are used to hearing that they have questions in net, but what’s unique about this offseason is they have questions everywhere. They had a quarter of the roster turnover in just one offseason, including the entire goaltending battery.
Resident prospect expert @canesprospects is here with a profile on Scott Morrow, the first in a series about the Hurricanes’ 2021 draft class https://t.co/tLzeSxg7Oj— Canes Country (@CanesCountry) August 11, 2021
The front office has earned trust, but they may have well also galaxy brained themselves backwards. While the loss of Dougie Hamilton hurts, the deal he signed with the Devils is high risk and could come back looking bad sooner rather than later. However, your team will always get worse when you lose a Norris caliber defenseman. According to Evolving Hockey, the Canes have had the second-worst offseason by losing six wins.
The Canes brought in a ton of veterans who can fill in the bottom six and kept Jordan Martinook for the locker room. However, one of their biggest needs this offseason, a top-six winger, has not been addressed. They struggled to score in the postseason and have done nothing to address it even with $12 million in cap space. They now return to the Metropolitan Division with tougher competition and more questions than they have had in three years. They will have a critical start to the season where 10 players will need to gel and form into a new team. If they get off to a slow start, they may have too big of a deficit to overcome.
Columbus Blue Jackets: 48 Points (18-26-12) Last in the Central
In: Jake Bean, Jakub Voracek, Adam Boqvist, Sean Kuraly
Out: Seth Jones, Cam Atkinson, Zac Dalpe, Michael Del Zotto, Riley Nash
The Columbus Blue Jackets have had a very eventful offseason that has permanently changed the makeup of their organization and roster. They parted ways with head coach John Tortorella, who had been at the helm for the last six seasons, and promoted long-time assistant coach Brad Larsen to head coach.
The Blue Jackets continued their all-out rebuild that started at the trade deadline. They traded Seth Jones to the Chicago Blackhawks and, in doing so, moved up in this year’s first-round, added a first-round pick and a second-round pick in 2022. The moves at the deadline and the deals around the draft meant they were able to make three first-round picks (2, 12, and 25 overall). With those picks, they were able to take two centers and a defenseman and flipped that second-round pick for Jake Bean, an NHL-ready young defenseman. They are also actively shopping Max Domi to get more assets, which are unlikely to make the team better this season but hope to help accelerate the rebuild.
Blue Jackets announced they've signed defenseman Jake Bean to a three-year, $7 million contract.— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) July 29, 2021
He was an RFA after being acquired from Carolina last week.
The Blue Jackets also made some high-visibility re-signings. They tendered Patrik Laine, which means he will have a one-year, $7.5-million deal. They have also added eight more years of Zach Werenski with an eight-year deal with a $9.58 million cap hit. This is a massive deal for the Blue Jackets, who needed to keep Werenski at all costs. At just 24 years old, he has plenty of good years ahead of him. The team has also had a really hard time keeping its own good players, this can help end that narrative.
New Jersey Devils: 45 Points (19-30-7) Seventh in the East
In: Dougie Hamilton, Tomas Tartar, Jonathan Bernier, Ryan Graves
Out: Conner Carrick, Aaron Dell, Ryan Murray, Will Butcher, Aaron Dell
The New Jersey Devils had the offseason that many Carolina Hurricanes fans wish the Canes had. The Devils made the marquee free agent signing by getting Dougie Hamilton on a seven-year, $63-million contract. Hamilton has been one of the best complete defenders over the past three seasons playing with Jaccob Slavin, and has played on the top pairing with the Canes and the Calgary Flames. At just 28 he should be good for the majority of this contract that doesn’t end until he’s 35. The question was never if Dougie is worth $9 million, it’s how long will he be able to play at that level?
Locked up. #NEWS: We have re-signed Janne Kuokkanen to a two-year deal. Check the link for the details. ⬇️— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) August 9, 2021
Welcome back, Janne! https://t.co/D7E5cPwd9x
The Devils also signed another Carolina Hurricanes target in Tomas Tartar. Tartar signed for two years at $4.5 million per season. He has spent the last three years with the Montreal Canadiens but has been proven that he can score 20 goals and 50 points in a normal length season. Also, at 30 years old he will be the oldest forward on the roster by a couple of years. He will be a good mentor and example for the young players on the team.
By the same metric that the Hurricanes had the worst offseason, the Devils have had the best by adding more than four wins this season. These are the smart moves that teams need to make at the end of rebuilds to get to the next level. This is reminiscent of the Rangers when they signed Artemi Panarin to take them from the bottom of the division to fighting for a playoff spot. Combine these moves with developing their top draft pick prospects and they will be poised to be in the hunt in the next few seasons.
New York Islanders: 71 Points (32-17-7) Fourth in the East
In: Richard Panik
Out: Andrew Ladd, Nick Leddy, Jordan Eberle
The New York Islanders are coming off their second straight loss in the third round of the playoffs at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning. They have had a consistent roster over the past few seasons so there has been reason to keep the team together as much as possible. However, with Adam Pelech, Anthony Beauvillier and Ilya Sorokin as restricted free agents, they needed to make moves to clear cap space. First, they exposed and lost Jordan Eberle to the Seattle Kraken. Eberle was the third-highest goal scorer for the Isles but also cost them $5.5 million.
The Islanders paid a hefty price of two second-round picks and a conditional third-round pick to the Coyotes to take Andrew Ladd. Ladd’s contract still had a hefty $4.425 million cap hit even when buried in the AHL. The Isles also swapped Nick Leddy for Richard Panik and a second-round pick from the Detroit Red Wings. The move freed up another $4.125 million in cap space.
Random, yet cool Kraken stat of the day: Jordan Eberle ranks 19th on the all-time NHL goals scored list of players born in Saskatchewan with 241. Betcha didn't know that! #SeaKraken pic.twitter.com/9APwrJQRpw— Dano The Kraken Fan (@LoveTheKraken) August 5, 2021
They did re-sign Adam Pelech to an eight-year, $46-million contract with a $5.75 million AAV. The Islanders only have Anthony Beauvillier and Ilya Sorokin as their remaining unsigned restricted free agents with almost $12 million in space. Beauvillier would be around a $5-million contract if he signed longer-term and Sorokin could be around $3 million as a younger backup goalie that could be the future starter. This leaves them with around four million to sign forwards Casey Cizikas and Kyle Palmieri.
New York Rangers: 60 Points (27-23-6) Fifth in the East
In: Ryan Reaves, Barclay Goodrow, Samuel Blais, Jarred Tinordi, Patrick Nemeth
Out: Pavel Buchnevich, Brett Howden, Phillip Di Giuseppe, Brendan Smith, Colin Blackwell, Tony DeAngelo
The biggest news for the Rangers could be the lack of trading for Jack Eichel. Eichel, who demanded a trade from the Buffalo Sabres has been linked to the Rangers ever since. The longer the talks go, the more of a discount the Rangers could get on the center. The Rangers technically have the cap space to make it work but do have to keep in mind that Adam Fox is a restricted free agent after this season and will get a large raise.
The Rangers proved that their statement after the Tom Wilson incident was serious. They have made multiple moves to acquire more toughness. They signed Jarred Tinordi to a two-year contract and traded for Ryan Reaves and signed him to a one-year contract extension that will kick in next season. The Rangers also traded for Barclay Goodrow and signed him to an eight-year contract with a $3.64-million cap hit. Goodrow was likely overpaid in this contract as a bottom-six forward, but the Rangers value his multiple Stanley Cups.
Hearing Igor Shesterkin's new deal with #NYR is 4 years, $22.666 million. AAV of $5.65 million.— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) August 9, 2021
That is the most money ever handed out - in AAV and total dollars - to an NHL goaltender on his second contract.
These three deals sealed the Rangers having to ship out Pavel Buchnevich, who was a pending restricted free agent. Buchnevich ended up signing a four-year deal with a $5.8-million cap hit after coming off his most successful season that saw him score 20 goals and 28 assists in 54 games played. The Rangers will miss his offensive abilities. This did more to exacerbate the Rangers' issues of being a top-heavy team. Now with less skill in the top six, they will continue to struggle with teams that have a more complete lineup, which most of the Metro does.
Philadelphia Flyers: 58 Points (25-23-8) Sixth in the East
In: Cam Atkinson, Rasmus Ristolainen, Ryan Ellis, Keith Yandle, Martin Jones, Nate Thompson
Out: Jakub Voracek, Robert Hagg, Shayne Gostisbehere, Nolan Patrick, Phillipe Myers, Brian Elliott
The 2020-2021 season can only be described as a disappointment to the Flyers. The Flyers made the decision over the last few seasons that they would not be rebuilding and now they are forcing deals to try to make the next step. They traded a second-round pick to the Arizona Coyotes to take Shayne Gostisbehere. Gostisbehere fell out of favor with fans and the organization due to the perceived lack of defensive play.
Hoping Chuck Fletcher’s moves pay off with Rasmus Ristolainen finding his game now that he’s out of Buffalo, but this is not a good look right now. #Flyers (via @JFreshHockey) pic.twitter.com/EMGjohtGLr— Flyers Nation (@FlyersNation) July 23, 2021
To replace him they traded Robert Hagg, a first-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick for Rasmus Ristolainen in a universally panned trade. Ristolainen is another offensive-minded defenseman with terrible defense and possession numbers. His 43.49% Corsi and 34.72% goals for were both bottom three for the Buffalo Sabres, who were the worst team by a landslide last season. On top of that, they also signed Keith Yandle, who also fell out of favor with the Florida Panthers for a lack of defensive play.
They were able to trade for Ryan Ellis, who will give them a real top pairing with Ivan Proverov. The Flyers were caught off guard when Matt Niskanen retired right before last season. There are downsides to the deal. Ellis is more expensive than Gostisbehere and has a $6.25-million cap hit through the 2026-2027 season at 30 years old.
The Flyers also doubled down on goaltender Carter Hart by re-signing him and only signing Martin Jones, who struggled with the San Jose Sharks over the last few seasons. Hart was one of the worst goaltenders statistically last season. His .877 sv% and 3.67 GAA were both bottom three for all goaltenders that played 12 or more games and ranks dead last for all starters. His -8.55 Goals Saved Above Expectation also ranked 62nd out of 66 goaltenders in the league. Their hopes will rest on whether or not he can return to form, if he doesn’t, they will have massive problems.
Pittsburgh Penguins: 77 Points (27-16-3) First Place in the East
In: Brock McGinn, Dominik Simon, Danton Heinen
Out: Jarred McCann, Cody Ceci, Frederick Gaudreau, Maxime Legace, Brandon Tanev
The Penguins were worried they would lose Jarred McCann for nothing in the expansion draft, so they traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Filip Hallander and a seventh-round pick in the 2023 draft. The Maple Leafs then lost McCann for nothing. The Penguins did lose Brandon Tanev in expansion. Despite the good news of clearing his contract, they will still miss his physical presence. Overall, the Pens must have valued clearing cap over keeping Tanev, who would have stayed on the roster if the Kraken took McCann in the expansion draft.
The tough thing for the Penguins heading into next season will be replacing McCann, who scored the fourth-most goals on the team. To replace them, they signed noted goal scorer Brock McGinn. McGinn will likely slot into the third line, playing with Jeff Carter and other newcomer Danton Heinen. For years, the Penguins have been searching for a real third-line center, and it really looks like Carter has been the guy they have been looking for.
NEW COACH: Andy Chiodo has been named the new goaltending coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins. https://t.co/qHxaN1c2eq— KDKA (@KDKA) August 4, 2021
The Pens are still poised to have a great season. They still have Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and both of their goaltenders from last season. They didn’t lose many of their truly important players. They will face a tough cap situation all season with just $121,795 in projected space. They could run into issues like the Golden Knights did last season where they can’t start a full roster in a game or two because they don’t have the cap space.
Washington Capitals: 77 Points (26-15-5) Second in the East
In: Dylan McIlrath
Out: Brendan Dillon, Craig Anderson, Michael Raffl
The Washington Capitals' main goal this offseason was to sign Alexander Ovechkin and make sure that they could be cap compliant heading into next season. The signed Ovechkin to a five-year contract with a $9.5-million cap hit. The deal was much longer and a bit more expensive than many expected, but he deserves every single penny of the deal. If this is Ovi’s last contract, he will need to score 33 goals a season to catch Wayne Gretzky’s career goals record.
The Washington Capitals have re-signed goaltender Ilya Samsonov to a one-year, $2 million contract. https://t.co/M7MGfmMXOb— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) August 9, 2021
The Caps did lose Brendan Dillon to cap issues and sent him to Winnipeg for two second-round picks. Dillon had been a top-four defenseman for the Caps, but they wouldn’t be able to afford his $3.9 million cap hit with Nicklas Backstrom’s raise. They were the only team to end up making trades to not lose anyone in the expansion draft. They traded a 2023 second-round pick for Vitek Vanecek a week after he was selected in the draft. This was a key acquisition for the team, who would not have been able to call up Phoenix Copley and stay under the cap.
The quiet offseason was a smart decision for Washington, which performed well last season but ran into COVID issues throughout the season and goaltender issues in the playoffs. They ended up having to start third-string goaltender Craig Anderson in the first two games of their first-round series against the Boston Bruins. The Caps should be in a great position to make a good run this season.