A few months ago, I looked at all of the moves each team had made over the offseason with the goal of figuring out which trades and signings were good and bad, and what each teams goals were and whether or not they did a good job of making personnel changes to achieve them. Now, since an adequate amount of time has passed, I’m going to pull those assessments up, throw on my hindsight goggles, and look back on the good and the bad moves from the 2015 offseason.
The Ducks tried to be conservative with their spending, but cancelled it out by overpaying to become the 2011 Vancouver Canucks. Speaking of the Canucks, I’m not sure why anybody thought it was a good idea to sign Luca Sbisa to three more years. The Kings kept it cool despite all of the wild stuff happening around them, and as a result, they’re back on top of the Pacific. And the Oilers, after a summer filled with enormous amounts of luck in which their franchise was turned around at the snap of a finger (or at the drop of a lottery ball), have been thrown through a chopping block. Let’s get into it.
- OFFSEASON MOVES:
- Signed Ryan Kesler to a six-year contract extension with a $6.875 million cap hit.
- Signed Chris Stewart to a one-year, $1.7 million contract.
- Signed Shawn Horcoff to a one-year, $1.75 million contract.
- Signed Brian McGrattan to a one-year, $0.600 million contract.
- Bought out Mark Fistric, $0.517 million cap hit for four years.
- Traded a 2016 second round draft pick to the Canucks for Kevin Bieksa, then gave him a two year extension with a $4 million cap hit.
- Traded Kyle Palmeri to the Devils for a 2015 second round pick and a 2016 third round pick.
- Traded Emerson Etem and a 2015 second round pick from New Jersey to the Rangers for Carl Hagelin and a 2015 second round pick and sixth round pick.
- Traded James Wisniewski to the Hurricanes for Anton Khudobin.
- A few minor signings: Harry Zolnierczyk, Korbinian Holzer, Chris Mueller, Joe Piskula, and Matt Hackett.
- REGULAR SEASON MOVES:
- Traded Max Friberg to the Montreal Canadiens for Dustin Tokarski.
Traded Carl Hagelin to the Pittsburgh Penguins for David Perron and Adam Clendening.
Traded Jiri Sekac to the Chicago Blackhawks for Ryan Garbutt.
- IN: Chris Stewart, Shawn Horcoff, Kevin Bieksa, Carl Hagelin, Anton Khudobin, Dustin Tokarski, Ryan Garbutt, David Perron, and Adam Clendening.
- OUT: Francois Beauchemin, Mark Fistric, Emerson Etem, Kyle Palmieri, Matt Beleskey, Sheldon Souray, James Wisniewski, Jason LaBarbera, Carl Hagelin, Jiri Sekac, and Max Friberg.
So much has happened with the Ducks in the last little while I don’t even know where to begin. I think the best way to summarize everything is that the big theme for the Ducks recently, in my opinion, has been improving their roster, but also not going too nuts with their spending considering the quantity and quality of payers they’re going to need to re-sign at the end of the season. Simon Despres and John Gibson have already been given extensions, but Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, and Freddy Andersen will all be in need of new RFA deals come July.
They dumped James Wisniewski’s contract by sending him to the Hurricanes for Anton Khudobin, who’s spent most of the year in the AHL as a buried contract. They also sent Kyle Palmieri to the Devils for a couple of draft picks, and of course, they let Francois Beauchemin and Matt Beleskey walk as unrestricted free agents. That theme has carried into the season, as the Ducks quickly moved on from Carl Hagelin and his $4 million cap hit, who they acquired in a deal with the Rangers in June, sending him to the Penguins for soon-to-be UFA David Perron and Adam Clendening. Then they traded 2016 RFA Jiri Sekac to the Blackhawks for const-controlled Ryan Garbutt, who carries a cap hit of $800K this season and next.
With all that considered, two moves the Ducks made last summer have been counterintuitive to their strategy. The six-year, $41.25 million contract extension handed out to Ryan Kelser and the acquisition and extending of Kevin Bieksa to a two-year, $8 million deal that kicks in next year are still very, very puzzling moves. Kesler is going to be 32 years old at the beginning of next season, and it’s hard to imagine him being worth a $6.875 million cap hit as his games continues to decline with age. I mean, right now I’m not even sure if you can say he’s worth the money he’s going to be paid. While he’s put up good possession numbers and he’s been solid in a defensive role, his 0.42 points-per-game isn’t good enough for somebody who’s going to be paid to play a two-way game (which also involves producing a solid level of offence).
So the Ducks did a pretty good job last summer opening up some room in their bank account to sign important, young players. Unfortunately, they basically cancelled it all out by handing out contracts to Bieksa and Kelser that really weren’t worth it.
- OFFSEASON MOVES:
- Traded Sam Ganger and a conditional pick in 2016 to the Flyers for Chris Pronger’s contract and Nicklas Grossmann.
- Traded Lauri Korpikoski to the Oilers for Boyd Gordon.
- Signed Brad Richardson to a three-year contract with a $2.083 million cap hit.
- Signed Steve Downie to a one-year, $1.75 million contract.
- Signed John Scott to a one-year, $0.575 million contract.
- Signed Zbynek Michalek to a two-year contract with a $3.2 million cap hit. They traded him to St. Louis at last year’s deadline.
- Signed Antoine Vermette to a two-year contract with a $3.75 million cap hit. They traded him to Chicago at last year’s deadline.
- Signed Anders Lindback to a one-year, $0.875 million cap hit.
- Traded Brandon Gormley to the Colorado Avalanche for Stefan Elliott.
- REGULAR SEASON MOVES:
- Claimed Viktor Tikhonov off waivers from the Chicago Blackhawks.
Traded Stefan Elliott to the Nashville Predators for Victor Barley. Traded Victor Bartley and John Scott to the Montreal Canadiens for Jarred Tinordi and Stefan Fournier.
Claimed Kevin Connauton off waivers from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
- IN: Dylan Strome, Antoine Vermette, Boyd Gordon, Brad Richardson, Brandon Gormley, Steve Downie, Chris Pronger’s contract, Zbynek Michalek, Nicklas Grossmann, Anders Lindback, Viktor Tikhonov, Kevin Connauton, Jarred Tinordi, and Stefan Fournier.
- OUT: Mark Arcobello, Sam Gagner, Lauri Korpikoski, David Moss, Tye McGinn, Martin Erat, B.J. Crombeen, John Moore, John Scott, Brandon Gormley, and Stefan Elliott.
The Coyotes have performed pretty much exactly as you would expect. Well, they’re overachieving in the standings, as right now they’re hanging on to a playoff spot in the decrepit Pacific Division despite owning some pretty ugly underlying numbers.
Judging by the moves Arizona made in the offseason, it was hard to imagine them being much better than they were last year. They brought in Boyd Gordon, Brad Richardson, Steve Downie, Zbynek Michalek, and Antoine Vermette as veterans who could help insulate a collection of highly-touted prospects that represented the future of the Coyotes’ franchise. Anthony Duclair and Max Domi have had strong rookie seasons, and it’s certainly helped that guys like Boyd Gordon and Antoine Vermette are making heavy defensive zone starts and absorbing the difficult opposing competition so the youngsters can get their feet wet in the shallow water rather than drowning in the deep end.
This is a good thing, though. It suggests that Arizona’s young core is improving and they’re helping carry the team in the right direction, but they’re still in a reasonable position to cash in on the Auston Matthews sweepstakes in June. Even if they do miss out on drafting Matthews first overall, I’m sure they would be thrilled to add somebody like Matthew Tkachuk, Patrick Laine, or Jesse Puljujarvi after the way they performed at this year’s World Junior Championship.
So looking back on last offseason, I think it’s fair to say that the Coyotes have accomplished exactly what they set out to do. The future of the team is looking pretty bright right now.
- OFFSEASON MOVES:
- Signed Mikael Backlund to a three-year contract with a $3.575 million cap hit.
- Traded a 2015 first round pick, second round pick, and a 2016 second round pick to the Bruins for Dougie Hamilton, then they signed him to a six year contract with a $5.75 million cap hit.
- Signed Karri Ramo to a one-year, $3.8 million contract.
- Traded Max Reinhart to the Predators for a conditional fourth round pick.
- Signed Michael Frolik to a five-year contract with a $4.3 million cap hit.
- Signed Lance Bouma to a three-year contract with a $2.2 million cap hit.
- Signed Josh Jooris to a one-year, $0.975 million contract.
- Signed Paul Byron to a one-year, $0.900 million contract.
- Signed Michael Ferland to a two-year contract with a $0.825 million cap hit.
- Signed Mark Giordano to a six-year extension with a $6.75 million cap hit.
- REGULAR SEASON MOVES:
- Traded a conditional seventh round pick in 2016 to the Colorado Avalanche for Freddie Hamilton.
Acquired Kevin Poluin from the Tampa Bay Lightning for future considerations.
- IN: Michael Frolik, Dougie Hamilton, Kevin Poulin, and Freddie Hamilton.
- OUT: Raphael Diaz, Corey Potter, and David Schlemko.
The Flames didn’t have a busy offseason last summer, but the two acquisitions that they did make were certainly significant. First, they traded a collection of draft picks to the Bruins for RFA Dougie Hamilton, who was quickly signed to a six-year deal, then when free agency began, the Flames inked analytics darling Michael Frolik to a three-year contract. It looked like the Flames were doing the best they could to save themselves from the inevitable crash that everybody was expecting after their magical, overachieving 2014-15 season.
Michael Frolik has been virtually the exact same Michael Frolik that made him a prized free agent after two strong seasons in Winnipeg. His 0.55 points-per-game is right around where it was during in his time with the Jets, and while his possession numbers have dipped slightly, he’s making more starts than usual in the defensive zone, which suggests his role has changed from what it has been in the past. And after having a pretty miserable start to the season, Hamilton is starting to hit his stride. He still hasn’t been as good as he was last year, when he posted an incredibly impressive 55.5 Corsi For percentage and 0.55 points-per-game with the Bruins, but he certainly doesn’t look out of place in a Flames uniform anymore.
Overall, the results have been pretty positive for the Flames. Their underlying numbers suggest that they’re a better team than they were last season, and despite getting off to a really rough start and being anchored down by some horrible goaltending, they’re right in the thick of the playoff race in the Pacific Division. So I would definitely say that the moves Calgary made last summer were good ones, seeing as how they’ve helped make the Flames better right now, and they haven’t handcuffed themselves moving forward or anything.
Another thing I mentioned when I looked at the Flames in late July was how their upcoming offseason situation was going to be difficult. They’ve already dealt with one key free agent in Mark Giordano, but they still have a lot of holes that need to be filled and players that need to be re-signed. They don’t have any goalies signed into next season, Jiri Hudler, David Jones, and Kris Russell are all set to become UFAs, and both Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan’s entry-level deals are about to expire. Like I said, though, they aren’t handcuffed with too many horrible contracts, so they should be able to get all of their core guys signed. But if they want to improve their roster through free agency, they’ll likely need to dump guys like Ladislav Smid and Mason Raymond to free up some dollars.
- OFFSEASON MOVES:
- Traded Pittsburgh’s 2015 first round pick and a 2015 second round pick to the Islanders for Griffin Reinhart.
- Traded Montreal’s 2015 second round pick, a 2015 third round pick, a seventh round pick to the Rangers for Cam Talbot and a 2015 seventh round pick.
- Traded Martin Marincin to the Maple Leafs for Brad Ross and a 2015 fourth round pick, then flipped the pick and Travis Ewanyk to the Senators for Eric Gryba.
- Traded Boyd Gordon to the Coyotes for Lauri Korpikoski.
- Traded Liam Coughlin to the Blackhawks for Anders Nilsson.
- Signed Mark Letestu to a three-year contract with a $1.8 million cap hit.
- Signed Andrej Sekera to a six-year contract with a $5.5 million cap hit.
- Signed Nail Yakupov to a two-year contract with a $2.5 million cap hit.
- Signed Justin Schultz to a one-year, $3.9 million contract.
- Signed Oscar Klefbom to a seven-year extension with a $4.167 million cap hit.
- REGULAR SEASON MOVES:
- Traded Ben Scrivens to the Montreal Canadiens for Zack Kassian.
- IN: Connor McDavid, Lauri Korpikoski, Mark Letestu, Andrej Sekera, Eric Gryba, Griffin Reinhart, Cam Talbot, Anders Nilsson, Zack Kassian.
- OUT: Viktor Fasth, Martin Marincin, Derek Roy, Ben Scrivens.
The Edmonton Oilers had some of the best luck in the world last summer. They won the NHL’s draft lottery, and with it, they were able to select Connor McDavid first overall (months later this combination of words still has a beautiful ring to it). Unfortunately for them, the hockey gods giveth and then the hockey gods taketh away. McDavid was injured back in early November in an awkward collision with Flyers defenceman Michael Del Zotto, and he’s been sidelined since. To add insult to injury, or, well, injury to injury, the Oilers have also lost Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oscar Klefbom, Nail Yakupov, and Benoit Pouliot for significant time thanks to various injuries suffered throughout the year.
Along with being granted the lord and saviour Connor McDavid, the Oilers had themselves a pretty nice summer. The franchise essentially had a complete overhaul, as Peter Chiarelli and Todd McLellan were brought in to finally give the organization some legitimacy in the general manager and head coach positions. Chiarelli quickly made his mark on the roster by drafting McDavid (duh), acquiring Lauri Korpikoski, Eric Gryba, Anders Nilsson, Cam Talbot, and Griffin Reinhart through trade and signing Andrej Sekera and Mark Letestu as free agents.
Both of the signings were solid as each player has come as advertised. Sekera has been pretty much the only Oilers defenceman who’s shown any ability to create offence consistently. Also, his 0.33 points-per-game is right on line with his career average in production despite the fact he’s been playing in more defensive zone situations than ever before in his career. And of course, Letestu has done a fine job filling into Boyd Gordon’s position as the team’s shutdown centre and primary penalty killing forward.
The trades, though, have been a little more hit and miss for Chiarelli. Trading Martin Marincin for a pick and then flipping the pick and Travis Ewanyk for Eric Gryba could probably be seen as a wash involving two average stay-at-home defencemen, but Gryba is a free agent at the end of the season while Marincin still has multiple years left of RFA control. Sending a second round and third round pick to the Rangers for Cam Talbot was a good move, as the Oilers now have the closest thing to a starting goaltender since Devan Dubnyk was around. But trading a first and a second round pick to the Islanders for Griffin Reinhart wasn’t good, as it gave the Oilers yet another prospect to compete on a blue line already loaded with young talent. Chiarelli would have been much better served using those assets to acquire a more established player than Reinhart, but of course, if he lives up to his fourth overall draft pick billing, I’ll be biting my tongue. Then finally, he sent Ben Scrivens to Montreal for Zack Kassian, which appeared to be a pointless move, but since Kassian joined the lineup, he’s been very effective, posting a 51.6 Corsi For percentage.
Anyways, it was expected that the Oilers would take a big step forward this year, and to be blunt, they haven’t. That said, there’s a lot of things to like about this group, and they certainly play with a lot more structure and life than we’ve witnessed over the past few years. Once they finally get healthy for an extended period of time we can give them a more fair assessment.
- OFFSEASON MOVES:
- Signed Tyler Toffoli to a two-year contract with a $3.25 million cap hit.
- Terminated the contract of Mike Richards.
- Traded Martin Jones, Colin Miller, and a 2015 first round pick to the Bruins for Milan Lucic.
- Signed Jhonas Enroth to a one-year, $1.25 million contract.
- Signed Jamie McBain to a one-year, $0.600 million contract.
- Signed Christian Ehrhoff to a one-year, $1.5 million contract.
- Minor Signings: Vincent LoVerde, Nic Dowd, Andrew Crescenzi, and Jordan Weal.
- REGULAR SEASON MOVES:
- Traded Brian O’Neill to the New Jersey Devils for a conditional seventh round pick.
- Traded Jordan Weal and a third round pick in 2016 to the Philadelphia Flyers for Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn.
- Signed Anze Kopitar to an eight-year contract extension with a $10 million cap hit.
- IN: Milan Lucic, Jhonas Enroth, Christian Enrhoff, Vincent Lecavalier, and Luke Schenn.
- OUT: Mike Richards, Slava Voynov, Jarret Stoll, Justin Williams, Robyn Regehr, Jordan Weal and Martin Jones.
The key to the Kings’ offseason came down to what they didn’t do, which was panic. After winning two Stanley Cups in three years, the Kings missed the playoffs last season for the first time since the 2008-09 campaign. It kind of looked like their reign at the top was coming to an end. Their record was a massive underachievement considering their underlying numbers, they had some drama with head coach Darryl Sutter, Jonathan Quick wasn’t all that good, Dustin Brown and Mike Richards both fell off a cliff, their ugly cap problems were likely going to result in them losing Justin Williams to free agency, and then they were going to have to start thinking about a new contract for Anze Kopitar. It was looking really, really ugly.
When summer rolled around, they signed Tyler Toffoli to a really nice, team friendly contract, and they grabbed Christian Ehrhoff and Jhonas Enroth from the bargain bin and signed them both to one-year deals. The only big move they made over the summer was one that nobody really saw coming, which was the acquisition of Milan Lucic. I guess terminating Mike Richards’ contract and losing Slava Voynov due to legal issues were pretty big circumstances, but I won’t dive too deep into either of those issues.
Like I said, they didn’t panic. They didn’t blow the team up, they kept it together, and realized that their poor record was largely indicative of tough luck rather than a team past its prime. Now, they’re back to owning the best record in the Pacific Division, they have the highest Corsi For percentage on any team in the NHL, and they look like the same legit Cup contenders that we know and love and love to hate. Also, they have Anze Kopitar locked up for almost a decade. I mean, yeah, they haven’t fixed their cap situation, but they’re in a position to win for the next few years, so they can worry about all that junk down the road when they hopefully have a few more rings to shove in their ears.
- OFFSEASON MOVES:
- Bought out Adam Burish, $0.617 cap hit over two years.
- Traded UFA rights of Antti Niemi to the Stars for a 2015 seventh round pick.
- Traded a 2015 seventh round pick to the Canucks for Patrick McNally.
- Traded a 2015 first round pick and Sean Kuraly to the Bruins for Martin Jones, then they signed him to a three year contract with a $3 million cap hit.
- Signed Paul Martin to a four-year contract with a $4.85 million cap hit.
- Signed Joel Ward to a three-year contract with a $3.275 million cap hit.
- Signed Brenden Dillon to a five-year deal with a $3.8 million cap hit.
- REGULAR SEASON MOVES:
- Signed Dainius Zubrus to a one-year, $0.600 million contract.
- IN: Martin Jones, Paul Martin, Joel Ward, and Dainius Zubrus.
- OUT: Antti Niemi, Adam Burish, Scott Hannan, John Scott, Matt Irwin.
I could honestly copy and paste what I said about the Sharks over the summer and it’ll still be pretty relevant right now. Overall, they had a nice summer. They let Antti Niemi walk (well, they traded his UFA rights to Dallas for a pick) and replaced him by trading their first round pick to Boston for Martin Jones after the Bruins had acquired him from L.A. in a deal involving Milan Lucic. Then when free agency opened up, they signed two pretty nice veteran commodities in Joel Ward and Paul Martin.
While the Sharks might have been hoping for more than 10 points in 42 games from Martin, he’s produced at virtually the exact same level he did last year with Pittsburgh, so there isn’t much to complain about there. Ward is on pace to have the best offensive season of his career, as he’s currently producing 0.65 points-per-game doing what he does best, which is scoring goals while having a hilariously high shooting percentage. The question mark I pointed out last time was Martin Jones, mainly because he had only played 34 games in his career before this season and we’ve seen a few other Kings backup goalies try, and fail, to become starters around the league. Though 37 games this season, Jones has been decent, posting a 0.915 save percentage and -2.45 goals saved above average, which isn’t bad for somebody who’s paid $3 million per year. Also, he’s been better than Niemi has been in Dallas. So thats something, too.
Anyways, it seems like San Jose’s offseason moves have ultimately been a plus. They didn’t lose anybody of consequence and the three players they acquired have all been pretty good. Like I said back in the summer, though, this certainly isn’t enough to make them a contender. That ship has sailed. And while the Sharks are definitely good find themselves back in the playoffs, it’s hard to imagine them doing any damage.
- OFFSEASON MOVES:
- Traded Eddie Lack to the Hurricanes for a 2015 third round pick and 2016 seventh round pick.
- Traded Patrick McNally to the Sharks for a 2015 seventh round pick.
- Traded Kevin Bieksa to the Ducks for a 2016 second round pick.
- Signed Yannick Weber to a one-year, $1.5 million contract.
- Signed Matt Bartowski to a one-year, $1.75 million contract.
- Traded Zack Kassian and a 2016 fifth round pick to the Canadiens for Brandon Prust.
- Traded Nick Bonino, Adam Clendening, and a 2016 second round pick to the Penguins for Brandon Sutter and a 2016 third round pick.
- REGULAR SEASON MOVES:
- Lost Frank Corrado on waivers to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
- Traded Nicklas Jensen and a sixth round pick in 2017 to the New York Rangers for Emerson Etem.
- Signed Michael Zalewski to a one-year, $0.575 million contract.
- IN: Brandon Sutter, Matt Bartowski, Taylor Fedun, Richard Bachman, Brandon Prust, Emerson Etem, and Michael Zalewski.
- OUT: Nick Bonino, Shawn Matthias, Zack Kassian, Brad Richardson, Kevin Bieksa, Eddie Lack, Nicklas Jensen, and Frank Corrado.
The Canucks look like this season’s version of the Calgary Flames. They have some of the worst underlying numbers in the league, yet here we are in late January and they’re tied for a playoff position. They’ve had decent goaltending, their shooting percentage isn’t all that high, but they still manage to win games. Well, actually their 20 wins are second lowest in the Western Conference, ahead of only the Edmonton Oilers, but their 11 overtime losses certainly help compensate for it.
Looking back, I wasn’t a big fan of anything Vancouver did last summer. I didn’t like them trading Eddie Lack to the Hurricanes for draft picks, but Jacob Markstrom has emerged as a really solid goaltender this season. I also didn’t like the Brandon Sutter trade or extension. I thought the Canucks gave up too much for a player who doesn’t really bring much offensively. Sutter has only appeared in 16 games this season, so it probably isn’t fair to give him a full assessment yet. But that said, he’s producing at a 0.50 point-per-game clip in that small sample size, which is the best of his career since his sophomore season in Carolina.
The one move they did make last summer that was objectively excellent was selling Kevin Bieksa to the Ducks for a second round pick without having to retain any salary on the final year of his contract. I was amazed they were able to offload a player who has so clearly past his prime, but then they went ahead and signed Luca Sbisa to a three-year deal with a $3.6 million cap hit to essentially offset it. Why? I have no idea. Everybody knew Sbisa a was terrible player, and he’s lived up to that billing this year with his new contract. Through 21 games this season, he’s managed a 40.9 Corsi For percentage and he only has four points. Again, why on earth would anybody figure this guy is worth $3.6 million?
Anyways, the Canucks offseason probably wasn’t as bad as I said it was last time I checked in. They’re hanging on to a playoff spot right now, but with the trade deadline approaching and Dan Hamhius and Radim Vrbata heading to free agency this summer, they’ll have to look long and hard as to whether they should be sellers or not.
Stats courtesy of Hockey Reference and War on ice.