NHL Offseason Analysis: Pacific Division

Pacific Division

NHL Offseason Analysis

Pacific Division

In many eyes, the Pacific Division is the considerably weaker division in the Western Conference, paling in comparison to the Central Division in today’s NHL. However, there are three consistent playoff contenders in the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, along with several clubs on the rise. Throw in a few rebuilds and some significant offseason adjustments and you have a group of seven teams that could very well surprise the masses in the 2016-2017 campaign.

Here is an overview of the offseasons of the seven teams that make up the Pacific Division: the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks.

2015-2016 Pacific Division Standings

  1. Anaheim — 103 pts
  2. Los Angeles — 102 pts
  3. San Jose — 98pts
  4. Arizona — 78 pts (missed playoffs)
  5. Calgary — 77 pts (missed playoffs)
  6. Vancouver — 75 pts (missed playoffs)
  7. Edmonton — 70 pts (missed playoffs)

 

Anaheim Ducks

2015-2016 By the Numbers

Overall Record: 46-25-11-103
Playoff Result: Eliminated by Nashville Predators in Quarterfinals (series: 4-3 NSH)
Standings: Pacific Division: 1, Western Conference: 4, League: 6
Goals For: 215 (NHL rank: 17)
Goals Against: 188 (NHL rank: 30)
Power Play Percentage: 23.1 percent (NHL rank: 1)
Penalty Kill Percentage: percent 87.2 (NHL rank: 1)
Leading Scorer: Ryan Getzlaf (13-50-63)

Pacific Division

Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf knees in front of an empty net after the Ducks’ 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators during Game 7 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs first-round series in Anaheim, Calif., Wednesday, April 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Summary of 2015-2016 Season Results

The Regular Season

After heading into the season as one of the clear Stanley Cup favorites, Anaheim got off to a disastrous start, so awful it is difficult to understand how it even occurred in the first place. A faulty game-plan with inadequate effort and inconsistent play led to the early stumble. The Ducks finished October with an abysmal 1-7-2 record. But the team turned things around, eventually leading to an impressive first-place finish in the Pacific Division despite all of the dramatic woes of the regular-season grind.

In fact, the Ducks scored 100+ points for the third straight season, making them one of only three teams (St. Louis, Chicago) in the NHL to do so. Despite getting off to a cringe-worthy start, the Ducks finished the season 6-2-2 in the final 10 games and 21-6-4 in the last 31 games. The team went on an incredible 34-10-5 stretch in the final 49 games of the season, winning the Pacific Division for the fourth consecutive year.

The team produced four 20-goal scorers, including Corey Perry (34), Ryan Kesler (21), Rickard Rakell (20) and Jakob Silfverberg (20). At the end of the season, the Ducks finished first overall in the league in power-play percentage (23.1 percent) and first overall in penalty-kill percentage (87.2), the first team to do so since the 1984-1985 New York Islanders. Special teams kept the Ducks in the hunt, and the entire comeback effort was a miraculous display of determination and an unwillingness to go away quietly.

The Postseason

The end of the 2015-2016 story, however, was an all-too-familiar sting. Yet again, Anaheim’s season ended over a Game 7 loss at home after blowing a 3-2 series lead. It was one upset too many, leading to a swift firing of head coach Bruce Boudreau. After all, it was the fourth consecutive year in which the team lost in a game 7 at home, and the fourth consecutive season in which that happened after blowing a 3-2 series lead. Four times was the charm for the Ducks’ organization, which fired Boudreau two days after the Game 7 defeat.

The Offseason

Ironically, Boudreau has been replaced by the same coach Boudreau himself replaced five years ago: Randy Carlyle. Carlyle won a Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007, the only Cup in franchise history.

Pacific Division

Debora Robinson-NHLI via Getty Images

“I don’t think you could come into a better hockey club, on ice or off,” Carlyle said after he was hired. “It’s hard to find teams of this quality, and I feel very fortunate that I’m the guy they trusted and are showing confidence in to coach this group.”

This will be Carlyle’s second stint with the club and second stint with the team’s leaders, Ryan Getzlaf and Perry, the only remaining players from the 2006-2007 Cup team.

Carlyle certainly is stepping into a positive situation with a talented Anaheim roster at his fingertips. It remains to be seen how Carlyle will affect the team’s play, but it was all-too-obvious that Boudreau was holding this team back.
 

Most Significant Offseason Moves

Behind the Bench

The Ducks absolutely needed to fire head coach Bruce Boudreau. That was the right decision, and the timeliness of the decision to fire him makes it very clear that the organization was adamant about moving on. This team is way too good to be going out like that year after year, and the Ducks’ organization took care of a major part of the problem. It’s unclear how Carlyle will run things, but Boudreau had to go.

In the Crease
The Options

In anticipation of the Vegas expansion draft, which stipulates that teams can protect only one goalie, Ducks general manager Bob Murray had an important decision to make about his two goalies in Frederik Andersen and John Gibson. The two have shared starting duties over the past few seasons and have done an excellent job.

Pacific Division

Frederik Andersen; Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Andersen finished 22-9-7 with a 2.30 goals-against average, a .919 save percentage and three shutouts. Gibson finished 21-13-4 with a 2.07 goals-against average, a .920 save percentage and four shutouts. Andersen started five of the team’s seven playoff games, going 3-2 with a 1.41 goals-against average, a .947 save percentage and one shutout; Gibson played the other two and went 0-2 with a 3.08 goals-against average, a .900 save percentage and zero shutouts.

The Decision
Pacific Division

John Gibson; Gary A.Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In the end, Murray decided to go with Gibson as the team’s goalie of the future and therefore traded Andersen to Toronto. Murray received a strong return in the deal, including a 1st-round pick and a 2nd-round pick. The Maple Leafs proceeded to sign Andersen to a five-year contract with an average annual value of $5 million.

Later in the offseason, the Ducks acquired Maple Leafs’ goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who has one year remaining on his contract. Bernier struggled in Toronto, winning only one third of his starts last season. However, he will have a drastically better team in front of him in Anaheim; he should be a great backup this season.

Pacific Division

Jonathan Bernier; Chris Young-Canadian Press

Though Andersen is a very talented goalie and was the more impressive of the two in this past postseason, if the Ducks wanted to go with Gibson, it seems as though Murray could not have played his hand any better. Getting a 1st and a 2nd along with a very solid backup without having to give up assets is a tremendous accomplishment.

Free Agency

The Ducks recently signed unrestricted free agent Antoine Vermette to a reasonable two-year deal with an average annual value of $1.75 million. Vermette was bought out by the Coyotes, therefore making him eligible as a free agent. This is an excellent signing by Murray and the Ducks. Vermette is a talented forward who can move around in the lineup. He is excellent on faceoffs, finishing last season with a 55.8 faceoff percentage, according to Puckbase. Vermette can provide tremendous depth up the middle if Anaheim decides to use him as a center. Otherwise, he is an effective winger who plays a two-way game and can contribute offensively; he should put up 30-40 points this season. This is one of the most underrated moves of the offseason by any team.
 

Main Offseason Transactions

  • Re-Sign: D Sami Vatanen to 4-year deal with AAV of $4.875 million
  • Trade: G Frederik Andersen to Toronto for 2016 1st-round pick (30) and 2017 2nd-round pick
  • FA signing: G Dustin Tokarski to 1-year contract at $600,000
  • FA Signing: D Nate Guenin to 1-year contract at $600,000
  • FA Signing: F Mason Raymond to 1-year contract at $675,000
  • FA Signing: F Jared Boll to 2-year deal with AAV of $900,000
  • Trade: Conditional 2017 draft pick to Toronto for G Jonathan Bernier
  • Re-Sign: D Korbinian Holzer to 1-year contract at $700,000
  • FA Signing: F Antoine Vermette to 2-year deal with AAV of $1.75 million
Vatanen Extension

Defenseman Sami Vatanen has become a very important part of this Ducks team. In his second full season with the club, Vatanen tallied nine goals and 38 points, 19 of which came on the man-advantage. He set career highs in assists (29) and points (38). Anaheim rewarded him by signing him to a four-year extension with an average annual value of $4.875 million. This was a necessary and reasonable deal by the Ducks. A few comparable contracts handed out to similar players include T.J. Brodie’s 5-year, $23.252 million deal and Torey Krug’s 4-year, $21 million deal.

Blueline Rumors

However, there have been plenty of rumors surrounding the Ducks’ defense all summer. After Vatanen signed, defensemen Hampus Lindholm and especially Cam Fowler became the main subjects of frequent trade speculation. Lindholm remains a restricted free agent, which is something that needs to be a top priority for Murray moving forward. Fowler’s name has been the most widely-circulated, though, as he continues to be linked to teams like Detroit, Boston, New Jersey, etc. The Ducks have a very young and very talented defense corps, so the theory behind these rumors is that Anaheim will use someone of Fowler’s caliber to acquire at least one strong top-six forward, if not additional assets. The 24-year-old blueliner is signed through the end of 2017-2018 on a reasonable deal with a $4 million cap hit. Fowler is a very valuable commodity, but no offer has tempted Murray thus far.

Pacific Division

Cam Fowler; Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As valuable as Fowler is, the Ducks could use some additional help on offense. Though the top few lines are very strong, the team’s depth has dwindled over the past few seasons, with players like Matt Beleskey, Patrick Maroon, Kyle Palmieri, Mathieu Perreault, Nick Bonino, Emerson Etem and others leaving via trade or free agency. Vermette is a key addition, but the team is in greater need of additional offensive support than it is of another strong young defenseman. That being said, Fowler is too talented to trade away for just a “decent” offer; Murray’s patience is commendable.
 

Final Thoughts

Unsigned RFA’s

Lindholm and forward Rickard Rakell remain unsigned restricted free agents on the Ducks’ roster. This is something that must be addressed by Murray as soon as possible. Rakell was forced to leave the World Cup and undergo surgery to remove scar tissue resulting from an appendectomy, and Lindholm has seen zero game action as he remains a healthy scratch for Team Sweden. However, it can’t be too soon for Murray to strike some deals to keep both talented players in the Ducks’ lineup. Signing these two players should be priority no. 1.

State of the Roster

At this point, the Ducks have around $7.5 million in cap space with 11 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies signed, according to General Fanager. Though the Ducks have the cap room to make other deals, Anaheim has always been a team with a budget rather than a team that spends to the max. Most of the top-tier free agents have been signed already, though Vermette was a great pick-up. Even if the Ducks could spend more money to bolster the forward lines, it’s unclear if the organization would allow Murray to do so given its strict internal cap limitations.

Signing Mason Raymond to a 1-year deal at a very reasonable $675,000 is a solid depth signing, but the Ducks will need more than the current crop of forwards if they are to make a deep playoff run. There are simply too many other teams in the Western Conference that have more depth and are better suited for a strong playoff push.

Looking Ahead

There will be growing pains with a new coach after five seasons under Boudreau, but this Ducks team should not have too much trouble competing for the Pacific Division title once again. Losing Carl Hagelin in a trade and then David Perron to free agency hurt the team’s depth. Hagelin showed what he is capable of in the playoffs as he helped lead Pittsburgh to a Stanley Cup victory, so that trade by Murray was shortsighted and premature. Murray was able to make some strong moves at last year’s trade deadline, though, so he’s always capable of pulling some strings down the road if need be. Murray knows that it may require losing someone of Fowler’s ability and value to land the right combination of players for this team to succeed in reaching the late rounds of the playoffs and competing for the Stanley Cup.

But if this team is to make a serious run at the Cup, there are still changes that need to be made. Anaheim remains a strong contender this year, but Murray still has his work cut out for him.
 
 

Arizona Coyotes

2015-2016 By the Numbers

Overall Record: 35-39-8-78
Playoff Result: Did not make playoffs
Standings: Pacific Division: 4, Western Conference: 10, League: 24
Goals For: 208 (NHL rank: 24)
Goals Against: 244 (NHL rank: 3)
Power Play Percentage: 17.7 percent (NHL rank: 20)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 77.3 percent (NHL rank: 28)
Leading Scorer: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (21-34-55)

Pacific Division

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Summary of 2015-2016 Season Results

The 2015-2016 season for the Arizona Coyotes was a mixed bag. There were some disappointing aspects to the season, but there were also some exciting and encouraging elements as well.

The Regular Season

The year started off with a bang, as the Coyotes started the season 3-0, beating the Kings, Penguins and Ducks in the first three games of the year. Unfortunately, that pace was not sustainable.

The Coyotes went through stretches of inconsistent play and lackluster efforts, often conceding ground they had built up in previous weeks. For example, after winning three of four games in mid-February, the team lost the next seven games in a row. Part of that can be attributed to the loss of goaltender Mike Smith to an injury in December, keeping him out of the lineup until mid-March. But it was that sort of seesaw performance that kept Arizona out of the postseason. Even though Arizona was able to beat the Kings and Ducks on multiple occasions, as well as teams like the Sharks, Stars and Capitals, the team was too inconsistent in the long run to remain relevant at the end of the year.

That being said, the team did remain competitive for the entire season, serving as tough competition for every team in the league, especially playoff and bubble teams. That is a testament to the will of the players and to the effectiveness of the coaching staff, led by head coach Dave Tippett.

New Opportunities
In Net
Pacific Division

Christian Petersen-Getty Images North America

Losing Smith in December dealt a huge blow to the team, but it allowed for backup Louis Domingue, 24, to show that he is more than just a serviceable backup. Domingue took his opportunity and ran with it. He finished the year 15-18-5 with a 2.75 goals-against average, .912 save percentage and two shutouts in 35 games last season. While those are not flashy numbers, he did play extremely well for the Coyotes down the stretch. Interestingly, his numbers are pretty similar to Smith’s from last season; Smith finished 15-13-2 with a 2.63 goals-against average, a .916 save percentage and three shutouts.

Plus, Domingue finished in the top five in all four major goalie categories among rookies last season. Specifically, he finished fourth in wins, fifth in goals-against average, third in save percentage and second in shutouts.

In the Office
Pacific Division

Matt York-AP Photo

The biggest change for the Coyotes was the hiring of general manager John Chayka, who was the youngest GM in NHL history when he was hired at only 26 years of age. Chayka, now 27, served as assistant general manager last season under Don Maloney, who was fired this offseason after nine years with the Coyotes. Chayka’s focus last year was on analytics, though he was involved with hockey operations and player development as well. The torch has been handed to Chayka, and he has done a brilliant job with the team so far. He has been aggressive and creative in improving this team to be more competitive in the Pacific Division race. He has made several noteworthy moves, which will be discussed in the “Most Significant Offseason Moves” section below.

The Silver Lining

Last season marked the beginning of a new era in Arizona, with several young superstars starting their NHL careers. The two most prominent players were Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, who both had impressive rookie campaigns. In his first NHL season, Domi scored 18 goals and 52 points, finishing second on the team in points. Domi finished third in points and second in assists (34) among all rookies. Duclair, who was acquired in a trade-deadline deal for Keith Yandle two seasons ago, put up 20 goals and 44 points in his first full NHL season, finishing fourth on the team in points. He finished fifth in goals and second in plus/minus (+12) among rookies.

Pacific Division

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The season also saw the team’s long-time captain, Shane Doan, score the most goals he has scored in a season since his 2007-2008 campaign. His 28-goal resurgence along with the energy of the young talent on the team made for an explosive combination for the Coyotes. The 39-year-old signed a one-year extension this offseason and will have even more talent around him this year, with players like Dylan Strome, Brendan Perlini, Christian Dvorak and Lawson Crouse competing for roster spots.

Though the Coyotes failed to make the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year, the team saw an incredible 22-point improvement in the standings (35-39-8-78) after going 24-50-8-56 in the 2014-2015 season. To do that during a rebuild without your starting goalie truly is an impressive feat. The team also improved its goal-scoring pace, scoring 2.54 goals per game compared to the 2.01 goals-per-game rate in 2014-2015.

There is still a lot of work to be done, but the future for the Arizona Coyotes is shining mighty bright.
 

Most Significant Offseason Moves

John Chayka has been aggressive in an effort to improve the Arizona Coyotes ever since taking over as general manager of the team.

Veteran D

First, Chayka acquired the rights of D Alex Goligoski in mid-June and signed him to a five-year contract less than a week later.

Draft-Day Dealing

At the 2016 NHL Entry Draft (Chayka’s first as general manager), he made a bold move in a trade with the Red Wings. The deal involved Detroit sending the final year of Pavel Datsyuk’s contract, as he is finishing his career in Russia, along with the number 16 overall pick to Arizona in exchange for a roster player (Joe Vitale), the 20th overall pick and a 2nd-round pick (53). Though the contract comes with a $7.5 million cap hit and a $5.5 million salary, Arizona has cap room to spare; Chayka took advantage of the opportunity and made the deal, a strong move and the right move for the team. Arizona ended up taking defenseman Jakob Chychrun with the 16th overall pick, a selection that was considered a steal by many.

Chayka then went on to trade a 2nd-round pick (37) to Tampa Bay in exchange for defensive prospect Anthony DeAngelo. DeAngelo, 20, was drafted in the first round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft (19th overall). He struggled with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL last season and was even a healthy scratch for eight games; however, he has tremendous upside, so it’s yet another young talented prospect Chayka can add to the already-overwhelming pool of prospects Arizona is building.

But Chayka wasn’t finished.

FA Additions
Pacific Division

Radim Vrbata; Norm Hall-NHLI via Getty Images

He made several free-agent signings, including wingers Jamie McGinn and Radim Vrbata. Both players are excellent in different ways, but this should add a lot of depth and experience to the team. This will allow a lot of the young prospects to play with veterans. These signings in particular will also improve the team’s overall offense. Vrbata is returning to Arizona on an inexpensive deal after a two-year gig in Vancouver, so it would appear he truly wants to be back with the ‘Yotes. The Coyotes bought out the final year of Antoine Vermette’s contract, which was a bit surprising given his versatility. However, the team needed some flexibility to sign Vrbata, and there are several young centers that should get into the lineup in his stead. Perhaps Vermette did not fit as well as in years past.

Chayka made some more minor signings, like defenseman Luke Schenn and forward Ryan White. These players will add physicality and grit to a young lineup with a lot of skill. Plus, he signed defenseman Connor Murphy to a six-year extension. It was more difficult to negotiate, but Chayka also re-signed defenseman Michael Stone, who had a career year last season.

Another Bold Move

Most recently, Chayka pulled off a trade with the Florida Panthers that involved taking on yet another costly contract. In this case, Arizona acquired forward Dave Bolland, who has three years remaining on a deal with a $5.5 million cap hit. As seen with the Bryan Bickell trade to Carolina earlier in the summer, in order to trade a player with such a bad contract/cap hit, teams must now give up a strong asset in return. In this case, the Coyotes acquired 6-4, 215 lb. winger Lawson Crouse, also a former first-round pick (11).

If you throw in some housecleaning and a few other small signings here and there, you have quite an offseason for a 27-year-old general manager. It’s clear that Chayka is not intimidated by the stature of his position; that’s a very good thing for Arizona moving forward.
 

Main Offseason Transactions

  • Trade: 2016 5th-round pick to Dallas for rights of D Alex Goligoski
  • Re-Sign: D Alex Goligoski to 5-year deal with AAV of $5.475 million
  • Trade: F Joe Vitale, 2016 1st-round pick (20) and 2016 2nd-round pick (53) to Detroit for contract of Pavel Datsyuk ($7.5M cap hit) and 2016 1st-round pick (16)
  • Trade: 2016 2nd-round pick (37) to Tampa Bay for D Anthony DeAngelo
  • Re-Sign: G Louis Domingue to 2-year deal with AAV of $1.05 million
  • FA Signing: F Jamie McGinn to 3-year deal with AAV of $3.333 million
  • Re-Sign: D Klas Dahlbeck to 1-year contract at $750,000
  • Re-Sign: D Kevin Connauton to 2-year deal with AAV of $1 million
  • FA Signing: F Ryan White to 1-year contract at $1 million
  • Re-Sign: F Shane Doan to 1-year contract at $3.876 million
  • FA Signing: D Luke Schenn to 2-year deal with AAV of $1.25 million
  • Re-Sign: D Michael Stone to 1-year contract at $4 million
  • Re-Sign: D Connor Murphy to 6-year deal with AAV of $3.85 million
  • Buyout: F Antoine Vermette — 2016-2017 cap savings: $2,500,000
  • FA Signing: F Radim Vrbata to 1-year contract at $1 million
  • Trade: 2017 2nd-round pick and 2017 3rd-round pick to Florida for F Dave Bolland and F Lawson Crouse

The signing of forward Jamie McGinn should not be overlooked or undervalued. His career production is not indicative of the value he brings to a team. He is a strong power forward who can play up and down the lineup. He can take on some of the offensive load and should be able to build chemistry with some of the young, skilled players on the team.

The one important thing Chayka has not yet taken care of is the re-signing of restricted free agent Tobias Rieder. Rieder had a solid season last year with 37 points, setting career highs in goals (14), nearly tripling his assists total from the previous season and almost doubling his points total from the 2014-2015 season. The Coyotes have around $2.3 million in cap space available, according to General Fanager. Depending on who makes the team, there should be plenty of cap space to get a deal done. It’s unclear what the hold-up is, though Rieder is playing for Team Europe in the World Cup at the moment. But re-signing him is a matter that should be addressed as quickly as possible.

It says a lot about the organization’s faith in Chayka to allow him to make moves to acquire significant cap hits and, more importantly for a small-market team, significant salaries. The Coyotes are not generally a cap-ceiling team, but there are a lot of strong contracts in the system. Chayka has already completely remodeled the character of this team in a very short amount of time. There’s no telling what he and this organization can achieve in the near future.
 

Final Thoughts

The Arizona Coyotes most likely will miss the playoffs this season. However, there are a lot of things to be excited about for the 2016-2017 season. For one thing, Domi and Duclair will return with a full NHL season under their belts. Other talented rookie prospects in the system will have their chance to shine at training camp and potentially make the opening-night roster. The team will be able to put together some pretty outstanding forward lines with players like Domi, Duclair, Vrbata, Hanzal, McGinn, Strome, Doan, Rieder, etc. Bolland could be the team’s fourth-line center, and White significantly developed his offensive ability during his time in Philadelphia. The team does not have any holes on defense, with at least 4-5 solid defensemen plus strong bottom-pairing options in Schenn, Connauton, etc. The main area that needs some work is in net, but the Coyotes have a no. 1 goalie in Smith and a developing backup in Domingue. Though the playoffs may be out of reach, the Coyotes are set for an exciting year.
 
 

Calgary Flames

2015-2016 By the Numbers

Overall Record: 35-40-7-77
Playoff Result: Did not make playoffs
Standings: Pacific Division: 5, Western Conference: 12, League: 26
Goals For: 229 (NHL rank: 10)
Goals Against: 257 (NHL rank: 1)
Power Play Percentage: 17.0 percent (NHL rank: 22)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 75.5 percent (NHL rank: 30)
Leading Scorer: Johnny Gaudreau (30-48-78)

Pacific Division

Photo credit: Will Nault

Summary of 2015-2016 Season Results

Like the Arizona Coyotes, the Calgary Flames had an up-and-down season. The team experienced a natural regression from the unsustainable play from the 2014-2015 season. Calgary was too inconsistent to muster up enough wins to be a real threat. The team had a hot stretch in early December, winning seven in a row against teams like the Stars, Rangers, Sharks and Predators. However, in the middle of February the season crashed and burned as the team lost 9 of 10 games. But what really cost the Flames any hope of competing for a playoff berth was the goaltending. Simply put, the goaltending was horrific. This contributed to a league-worst 75.5-percent penalty-kill and a league-high 257 goals against.

Heading into the 2015-2016 season, there was a strong possibility that the walls would close in on the Flames. In fact, here are a few excerpts from last year’s HockeyFanLand offseason analysis piece on the Flames:

The thing that Calgary must strive to avoid this season is a second-year collapse, much like the Colorado Avalanche experienced after winning their division and having the third-best record in the league in 2013-2014 and then not making the playoffs and ending up with a top-10 draft pick a year later.

Much like Colorado in 2013-2014, Calgary seemed to play above the stats, above the odds, above the probabilities, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for the Flames’ upcoming season.

Unfortunately for the Flames, that is exactly what happened. Calgary finished fifth in the Pacific Division and was not the same team that surprised the league the year before. Of course, players like Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan still had fantastic seasons, but the effort, the chemistry and the overall performance, not to mention the success, did not compare. The Flames’ strong offseason moves last year did not translate throughout the season, and it was a disappointment every way you look at it.

The good news is that the Flames can put last season behind them and move on. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton is bound to have a stronger season in his second year with the club, and talented young players like Sam Bennett should see more consistent ice time. The Flames fired coach Bob Hartley and are moving forward with Glen Gulutzan. The biggest offseason change, however, is that the Flames addressed the team’s weakest link and traded for a true no. 1 netminder in Brian Elliott. The Flames’ goaltending has been holding the club back for several years; it was time for the crease to be addressed once and for all. Elliott should give Calgary a fresh start.
 

Most Significant Offseason Moves

The Black Hole in the Crease

Calgary went through a plethora of goalies throughout the season; not one of them finished with a record above .500, though Niklas Backstrom, who started in three games, finished 2-2. Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo started the season as the Flames’ goalies. However, Ramo was waived October 22 after going 0-3-0 in his first three starts (including the season opener) and posting a horrendous 4.37 goals-against average and .879 save percentage. Hiller sustained an injury that week, forcing the Flames to recall Ramo one week after sending him down. The goaltending situation seemed to play out for the rest of the year in similar fashion, with plenty of poor performances, no true no. 1 and no one to come in and win games for the Flames.

Calgary used four goaltenders throughout the season: Hiller, Ramo, Backstrom and Joni Ortio; Ramo received the most starts with 37. He finished the season 17-18-1 with a 2.63 goals-against average, a .909 save percentage and one shutout. He played well at times but was never able to sustain it.

Hiller set career lows in wins (9), goals-against average (3.51) and save percentage (.879) with a 9-11-1 record, including one shutout. The highest goals-against average of Hiller’s career before last season’s 3.51 was a 2.73 in the 2009-2010 season; he recorded 30 wins for the Ducks that year. He had never finished a season with a save percentage below .910 before last year. His 3.51 goals-against average and .879 save percentage were the worst in the league among goalies who played at least 10 games. Hiller was coming off two back-to-back seasons in which he recorded 25-30 wins, but last year was a disastrous one for the Swiss goalie. He is likely done in the NHL.

Ortio started in 19 games and finished 7-9-5 with a 2.76 goals-against average, a .902 save percentage and zero shutouts.

Collectively, these numbers are anything but pretty for the Flames. It was clear that something had to be done this offseason.

Enter Brian Elliott
Pacific Division

Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

There was ample speculation surrounding the Flames inquiring about several goaltenders on the draft floor in late June, especially regarding Blue Jackets’ goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. In the end, the Flames decided to trade for Blues goaltender Brian Elliott. This is a solid and overdue move for the team and organization.

Elliott has been outstanding for St. Louis over the past several seasons. Though he will not have the same team in front of him in Calgary, he has been one of the most consistent goalies in a very tight Central Division. His numbers are impressive with goals-against averages in the low 2’s and save percentages around .930. The one knock on Elliott, which may or may not prove to be an issue, is the fact that he has never carried the full load of a true no. 1 goalie. Elliott has always been involved in a timeshare in St. Louis. For a while it was Elliott and Jaroslav Halak, then Elliott and Jake Allen.

According to Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, Elliott is the one who asked for the trade, which means he is eager to have a true no. 1 role in the NHL. He is a solid, consistent and dependable goalie, which is exactly what Calgary needed.

The Flames also signed Chad Johnson to come in on a one-year, $1.7 million deal. Johnson, who has played for the Bruins, Islanders and Sabres, should be a steady backup for Elliott and the Flames.
 

Young Stars
Pacific Division

Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

The Flames have a lot of young talent on the roster and in the organization, but there are two true superstars in Calgary that stand above the rest: Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau.

Monahan and Gaudreau have accounted for 267 points over the past two seasons, and both seem to get better game after game. In 2013-2014, Monahan recorded 22 goals and 34 points in his rookie season, finishing fifth on the team in points and second in goals behind only Mike Cammalleri (26). The 2014-2015 season saw Monahan nearly double his production with 31 goals and 62 points on the year, finishing tied for first on the team in goals. Monahan put in another successful campaign this past year, scoring 27 goals and 63 points, trailing only Johnny Gaudreau for most goals (30) and points (78) on the team. In fact, Gaudreau’s 78-point campaign, a follow-up to a 64-point performance the year before, earned him a top-six finish in points in the league.

As it happens, both players were due for contract extensions this summer.

Clearly, re-signing both players was a top priority for general manager Brad Treliving. At the time of this posting, however, only one player has signed on the dotted line.

In mid-August, the Flames signed Monahan to a massive seven-year extension with an average annual value of $6.375 million. Monahan now has the second highest cap hit on the team behind only captain Mark Giordano, who has an average annual value of $6.75 million. It may seem like a lot of money for a player who will be 22 at the start of this season, but the money and term are well-deserved. Performance often cannot be fully judged without the intangibles certain players bring to the game; however, with Monahan it’s not too difficult to notice how talented the former first-round pick (6) is and how significant he is to this organizaiton. All you have to do is look at the numbers.

The same can be said about Gaudreau, though his playing style is very different. The two players complement each other very well, and the duo makes for a lethal top line in Calgary. Gaudreau should command well north of $7 million, but an agreement has not yet been reached. There will not be further discussion regarding the extension until the conclusion of the World Cup, as Gaudreau made it clear he would not negotiate during the tournament. However, Treliving must reach a deal soon to have Gaudreau ready for training camp and the start of the season. Negotiation was tabled for the World Cup but should resume now that Gaudreau and Team North America have been eliminated.
 

Veteran Addition
Pacific Division

Jim Wells-Postmedia

In addition to bringing in backup goalie Chad Johnson, the Flames made one other signing on day one of free agency. The team signed veteran forward Troy Brouwer to a four-year deal with an average annual value of $4.5 million. This is an interesting move.

In many ways, the move makes sense.

Brouwer adds much-needed grit and size (6-3, 213) to the Flames’ roster. He has a lot of veteran experience, including a Stanley Cup win in 2010 with Chicago. Though he’s not top-line material, he could slot in nicely next to Monahan and Gaudreau on the Flames’ top unit. After all, veteran Jiri Hudler had the best season of his career two seasons ago playing on that line. But assuming it’s improbable that Brouwer will come in and score 76 points like Hudler, he should be able to add something to that line. He can go to the front of the net, he can create space for his linemates and he can also score. Brouwer may not be flashy but he is dependable for around 20 goals and 30-40 points a year. That is like clockwork for Brouwer.

Brouwer will be 31 at the start of the season, so the four-year term is still on the side of reasonable given his experience and steady play. Brouwer can play up and down the lineup, which will provide plenty of options for Gulutzan and the rest of the coaching staff.

Plus, he is coming off a long playoff run with St. Louis during which he scored eight goals (some of them very clutch) and 13 points in 20 games.

However, the signing is not without its flaws.

For one thing, the deal involves a full no-trade clause in the first two years and a modified no-trade clause in the second half of the contract. The modified clause enables Brouwer to provide a list of 15 teams to which he would not accept a trade. This also means that the Flames will have to protect Brouwer for the NHL Expansion Draft at the end of the season.

For another thing, the Flames don’t have a lot of cap space. At this point the team has just under $9 million in cap space, according to General Fanager; however, that does not include Gaudreau’s extension, which will eat up most of that. Also, several players will be up for extensions at the end of this year. Though not all of those players are significant to the team’s future, the Flames will be left with three defensemen and zero goalies at the conclusion of this season. Roster spots will have to be filled, which generally means making difficult deals or paying up on July 1.

For those reasons, this move is not a slam dunk. The $4.5 million cap hit is a lot for a 40-point guy. Even though there were many outlandish and irresponsible long-term, expensive contracts handed out July 1, this is still a risky signing. But as they say, anything can happen. The Flames obviously felt strongly about what Brouwer brings to the table.
 

Main Offseason Transactions

  • Trade: 2016 2nd-round pick (35) and conditional 2018 3rd-round pick (if CGY re-signs Elliott) to St. Louis for G Brian Elliott
  • Trade: D Patrick Sieloff to Ottawa for F Alex Chiasson
  • Re-Sign: F Alex Chiasson to 1-year contract at $800,000
  • Buyout: F Mason Raymond – 2016-2017 cap savings: $2 million
  • FA Signing: F Troy Brouwer to 4-year deal with AAV of $4.5 million
  • FA Signing: G Chad Johnson to 1-year contract at $1.7 million
  • FA Signing: F Linden Vey to 1-year contract at $700,000
  • Draft Pick Signing: F Matthew Tkachuk to 3-year ELC with AAV of $925,000
  • Re-Sign: F Sean Monahan to 7-year deal with AAV of $6.375 million

The team also signed defenseman Nicklas Grossmann and forwards Chris Higgins and Lauri Korpikoski to professional tryout contracts.
 

Final Thoughts

One story that might bring a black cloud over this team at the start of the year is the controversy surrounding Dennis Wideman’s cross check to linesman Don Henderson. Wideman was suspended 20 games after the late-January incident. Though disputes on the matter are ongoing, it’s unclear how it will affect Wideman’s game and whether he will be targeted by officials.

However, all in all, the Calgary Flames are headed in the right direction. This team does not seem like a playoff team, but that doesn’t mean the Flames can’t have a strong season. Right now, the elephant in the room for Calgary is Gaudreau’s extension. It will get done, but the sooner the better.

Now that the Flames are coming off a disappointing year and not a thrilling playoff push, the start of this season should be more forgiving should the Flames stumble out of the gate. There will be new faces in the locker room, new lines on the ice and new players behind the mask. Monahan and Gaudreau will have to live up to their lucrative contract extensions (assuming Gaudreau signs one). Defenseman Dougie Hamilton will be looked upon to have a stronger year in his second season with the team. The same can be said of forward Michael Frolik, who signed a five-year deal with an average annual value of $4.3 million last summer but managed only 15 goals and 32 points in 64 games last year.

But even if all of that happens, the most important area of focus heading into the regular season is the Flames’ goaltending. It has been a problem for the team for several years, and management went out this offseason and seemingly addressed the issue. It’s highly unlikely Elliott will match his stats from his time in St. Louis. He played behind a structured and sound defensive system under head coach Ken Hitchcock, and the Flames are an inferior team.

But that doesn’t mean Elliott won’t be the answer Calgary has been looking for. He doesn’t have to be perfect, though all eyes will be on him. If nothing else, the Flames have a year to evaluate his play before he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. It seems like a win-win for Calgary.
 
 

Edmonton Oilers

2015-2016 By the Numbers

Overall Record: 31-43-8-70
Playoff Result: Did not make playoffs
Standings: Pacific Division: 7, Western Conference: 14, League: 29
Goals For: 199 (NHL rank: 26)
Goals Against: 242 (NHL rank: 4)
Power Play Percentage: 18.1 percent (NHL rank: 18)
Penalty Kill Percentage: percent 81.1 (NHL rank: 18)
Leading Scorer: Taylor Hall (26-39-65)

Pacific Division

via New Jersey Devils

Summary of 2015-2016 Season Results

Though the Oilers’ season had a lot of life to it, the end result was a similar one the hockey world has grown accustomed to over the past decade. The Oilers failed to make a meaningful jump in the standings, finishing last in the Pacific Division and conference and 29th in the league. It was a significant season as the first of rookie sensation Connor McDavid, whom most believe is the best player in his generation and the best player since Sidney Crosby. McDavid’s season was cut in half because of a fluke injury sustained in a November match-up against Philadelphia. However, McDavid still managed to finish third in points per game (1.07) behind only Patrick Kane (1.29) and Jamie Benn (1.09); Pavel Zacha technically finished first but only competed in one game. McDavid’s 16 goals and 48 points in 45 games earned him a Calder nod as a finalist for rookie of the year.

It was also a significant year for goaltender Cam Talbot, his first as a no. 1 goalie in the NHL after serving as Henrik Lundqvist’s back-up in New York. Talbot had an inconsistent but decent year, going 21-27-5 with a 2.55 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. It was unlikely he would recreate his numbers from New York considering he would not be playing behind a strong defensive unit. Management signed Talbot to a three-year extension in January, a deal that carries a $4.166 million cap hit. He let in a few back-breaking goals in the early months of the season and was eventually replaced by backup Anders Nilsson for a six-week stretch. When Talbot returned after Nilsson’s hot streak came to an end, he battled and came away with a 47-save victory against the Bruins. From that point on, he finished the season with a .925 save percentage.

Pacific Division

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Talbot was streaky throughout the year, going 3-8-1 in one stretch and then 7-2-1 in the next; in fact, in March he earned first star of the week honors after going 3-0 with a 0.65 goals-against average, a .981 save percentage and one shutout. His season contained many ebbs and flows, but his play in the second half of the season was promising, especially for an Edmonton team so starved of good goaltending. When you consider the team in front of him, the fact that he maintained average stats is impressive.

The Oilers maintained the team’s unparalleled luck at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Despite losing out on one of the three draft lottery picks, the Oilers came away with the consensus no. 3 pick in Jesse Puljujarvi after Columbus surprisingly selected Pierre-Luc Dubois with the third overall pick. As Edmonton has made several drastic offseason moves, it’s anyone’s guess as to how things will shape up in Oil Country this season.
 

Most Significant Offseason Moves

The Trade
Pacific Division

via NHL.com

The biggest day of the offseason is generally July 1, day one of free agency. Draft day could be thrown in the mix, and for this year in particular, some would consider the day Jimmy Vesey made his announcement was the most dramatic moment of the offseason. However, there can be no discussion when it comes to the most significant, surprising and league-altering day of the 2016 offseason: June 29 takes the cake 100 times out of 100.

June 29 was marked by a shocking extension and two blockbuster trades. The extension was awarded to Steven Stamkos, who unpredictably settled his future before free agency. Perhaps the most unexpected move of the offseason involved Nashville and Montreal swapping franchise defensemen in Shea Weber and P.K. Subban.

But June 29 presented a second blockbuster trade, with the Oilers sending left winger Taylor Hall to the Devils in exchange for defenseman Adam Larsson, a move that completely changes the landscape of both teams involved.

Objectively speaking, there are positive and negative aspects to this deal for the Oilers.

For one thing, the Oilers were in dire need of a puck-moving defenseman, preferably a right-handed one. Adam Larsson checks both of those boxes.

Pacific Division

Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

For another thing, after taking advantage of top draft picks for years and years, the Oilers had enough young talent to be able to survive losing a piece of the core to acquire a much-needed defenseman. With Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Leon Draisaitl, etc. available, Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli had multiple options.

What made this deal shocking was the fact that Hall was the player involved. Aside from McDavid, Hall was the most talented player on the team. As such, he had the highest trade value. No matter how good Adam Larsson may turn out to be, this was a one-sided deal given Hall’s value and talent. It didn’t make sense at the time.

Hall, who will turn 25 in November, led the team in goals (26) and points (65) last season. He has twice hit the 27-goal mark and has scored 50+ points in four out of six seasons, scoring a career-high 80 points in 2013-2014. He was on pace for 88 points in 79 games during the lockout-shortened season in which he scored 50 points in 45 games. He has 328 points in 381 career regular-season games.

Pacific Division

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

In hindsight, one can infer that Chiarelli knew he was going to sign left winger Milan Lucic to a multi-year extension come July 1. Lucic would be capable of playing on the top line, and he, like Hall, is a left winger. It seems as if this is the main reason why Chairelli went ahead with this move. But even if Lucic is a great addition for the Oilers, that doesn’t mean Chiarelli made the right decision.

Larsson is a very talented player who is already signed to a reasonable multi-year deal and who has plenty of untapped potential. Even if other, more notable names were thrown around in rumors, like Colorado’s Tyson Barrie, St. Louis’ Kevin Shattenkirk and Anaheim’s Cam Fowler, that doesn’t mean Chiarelli had access to those players. But trading Hall for Larsson was a lopsided deal. Had the player going to New Jersey been Nugent-Hopkins, most people would not have questioned the move, or at least would not have been so adamantly against it. Perhaps New Jersey wasn’t interested in a center considering the team already has Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac and Pavel Zacha. But at the end of the day, Hall was and is more valuable than Larsson and more valuable to his team than other offensive players on the Oilers roster.

Some would speculate that Chiarelli moved Hall in part to make McDavid feel like this is “his” team. Hall has been a leader for this team for many years, and his play leads by example. Hall does not seem like that kind of player, though, so there’s not much reason behind this line of speculation.

At this point, the deal is done. Taylor Hall is a New Jersey Devil, and the Oilers got their right-handed, puck-moving defenseman. Both teams fill a need. It’s virtually impossible to compare value accurately between a forward and a defenseman. But on an unbiased scale, New Jersey still came out on top.

But at the same time, that doesn’t mean Edmonton isn’t excited about what Larsson will bring to the back end this season. Even if Lucic is not a replacement for Hall, he is more than capable of playing a top-line role for Edmonton. It may take Larsson a little while to adjust, but he has all the talent to become a great top-pairing dman. From Chiarelli’s perspective, he has someone to play with McDavid on the top line and also added a defenseman with the potential to become a no. 1 defenseman in this league. At the end of the day, it’s hard to argue with that.

The Signing
Pacific Division

Andy Devlin-Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club

As mentioned, the Oilers signed Milan Lucic to a multi-year extension on day one of free agency. More specifically, the team signed the power forward to a 7-year deal with an average annual value of $6 million.

Lucic, 28, is coming off a 20-goal, 55-point season with the Los Angeles Kings. He has scored at least 40 points in his past six seasons, assuming he was on pace for 46 points in 80 games in the lockout-shortened season. Last season marked the fourth time in his career that he reached the 20-goal mark; he scored a career-high 30 goals and 62 points in the 2010-2011 season, which ended with Lucic and the Bruins raising the Stanley Cup.

Chiarelli knows Lucic from their days in Boston. He brought Lucic in before July 1 to see the new facilities, as the Oilers will play in a brand new arena (Rogers Arena) this season. But beyond his prior relationship with Chiarelli and the appeal of the new facilities, when asked about the main reason for choosing Edmonton, Lucic needed only two words: Connor McDavid.

Pacific Division

via NHL.com

Lucic will have the chance to skate alongside the most exciting player in the league. Lucic will be a fan favorite in Edmonton and will add a lot to a skilled team that could use some more size and grit up front. Along with Patrick Maroon and Zack Kassian, the Oilers enter this season with a more physical lineup and mentality than in years past.
 

Main Offseason Transactions

  • Re-Sign: F Zack Kassian to 1-year contract at $1.5 million
  • Re-Sign: D Jordan Oesterle to 1-year contract at $585,000
  • Trade: F Taylor Hall to New Jersey for D Adam Larsson
  • Buyout: F Lauri Korpikoski — 2016-2017 cap savings: $2 million
  • FA Signing: F Milan Lucic to 7-year deal with AAV of $6 million
  • FA Signing: G Jonas Gustavsson to 1-year contract at $800,000
  • FA Signing: D Mark Fraser to 1-year contract at $575,000
  • FA Signing: F Taylor Beck to 1-year contract at $650,000
  • Draft Pick Signing: F Jesse Puljujarvi to 3-year ELC with AAV of $925,000

The Oilers re-signed Kassian to a one-year deal. He played well after being acquired by Edmonton last season. Though he only scored eight points in 36 games with the Oilers, Kassian showed some promise. He used to be a very highly-regarded prospect with a lot of potential but has bounced around from team to team and has been unable to develop into the scoring forward he was expected to be. Kassian should have a good opportunity to work towards that with Edmonton this season.

After trading backup goalie Anders Nilsson to St. Louis during the season, the Oilers signed a replacement backup for Cam Talbot in Jonas Gustavsson. Gustavsson, nicknamed “The Monster,” has shown some inconsistencies but has also proven he can be a reliable backup.

The team also signed veteran forward Kris Versteeg to a professional tryout contract. He could add even more depth on the wing as a middle-six forward.
 

Final Thoughts

Year after year, the Oilers make offseason adjustments and head into the season with reasonable expectations. But year after year, things have not worked out. The Oilers have not made the playoffs in a decade despite drafting four no. 1 picks and multiple other top draft picks over the past many years. McDavid is a game-changer for sure, but he will not be able to do it on his own. The Oilers will need better, more consistnet performances out of players like Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov, Benoit Pouliot and especially Andrej Sekera, who is due for a better year after a sub-par first season in Edmonton. Draisaitl had a strong rookie season and will look to put together an impressive sophomore campaign. He has been one of the strongest players in the entire World Cup of Hockey tournament thus far, though Nugent-Hopkins played some of his best hockey in a long time. Rookie Jesse Puljujarvi is supposed to make the roster out of camp and will likely slot in as a middle-six winger.

Even with the addition of Larsson, the defense is still shaky in Edmonton. However, there is a lot of talent on the back end. If everyone on the team does his part, this team is bound to make a steady improvement in the standings for years to come. Though the playoffs may be a tad out of reach for this upcoming year, Chiarelli has done a sound job tweaking this roster in his short time with organization. Things are definitely looking up.
 
 

Los Angeles Kings

2015-2016 By the Numbers

Overall Record: 48-28-6-102
Playoff Result: Eliminated by San Jose in Quarterfinals (series: 4-1 SJS)
Standings: Pacific Division: 2, Western Conference: 5, League: 8
Goals For: 223 (NHL rank: 14)
Goals Against: 192 (NHL rank: 28)
Power Play Percentage: 20.0 percent (NHL rank: 8)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 81.4 percent (NHL rank: 15)
Leading Scorer: Anze Kopitar (25-49-74)

Pacific Division

via kings.nhl.com

Summary of 2015-2016 Season Results

After losing the first three games of the season to Pacific Division rivals San Jose, Arizona and Vancouver, the Kings finished up an atypical October performance by winning seven games in a row. It’s not that the Kings don’t play well in October, but the team often struggles out of the gate and waits until the playoffs to heat up. That was not the case last year, however.

The team had a six-game winning streak in late November/early December and a five-game winning streak heading into January. As of December 31, the Kings held a 24-11-2 record. The team put together two more winning streaks of four games, and after defeating the Bruins on March 19 on an 11-2-1 run, the team seemed poised for a Pacific Division title and a top seed in the playoffs. But the team lost the next three, lost six of eight and finished the season on a 4-7 run, surrendering the Pacific Division lead to the Anaheim Ducks and ultimately going out quickly in round one of the playoffs.

Despite many exceptional individual performances in the regular season by players like Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty, the team was unable to make anything of it and hit the offseason after only five playoff contests.

Pacific Division

Quick, Doughty; Harry How-Getty Images

The Kings had a phenomenal regular season, though, which is something that can’t always be said. Doughty went on to win the Norris Trophy as defenseman of the year, and Kopitar was nominated for the Selke Trophy, annually awarded to the best defensive forward in the game, for the third straight season. Quick reached the 40-win mark for the first time in his career and finished with a 2.22 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage and five shutouts.

But there were some chinks in the Kings’ armor.

Marian Gaborik really started to show his age last year after recording only 12 goals and missing a third of the season with injuries. Dustin Brown had another disappointing season as his play continues to regress. The team traded for Luke Schenn and Vincent Lecavalier in January, and while Lecavalier played pretty well for the Kings, the team has since lost both players to free agency and retirement, respectively (note: Lecavalier agreed to retire at the end of the season as part of the trade out of Philadelphia). Lecavalier scored 10 goals and 17 points in 42 games with the Kings in his last hurrah, but players like Jordan Nolan scored zero goals in 52 games, and the buzz surrounding Nick Shore was for naught as he managed only three goals and 10 points in 68 games.

Unfortunately, when all was said and done, the team was unable to capitalize when it mattered most.
 

Most Significant Offseason Moves

The Kings did not make many offseason moves. One of the most significant “moves” of the offseason was losing the services of forward Milan Lucic, who signed a seven-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers. Lucic came to Los Angeles last offseason in a trade with the Bruins. However, Lucic decided to reunite with former Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli in Edmonton, especially given the chance to play with Connor McDavid.

Offensive Addition
Pacific Division

Scott Audette-NHLI via Getty Images

The one significant transaction the Kings made was signing free-agent forward Teddy Purcell. Though this may seem like a minor move, this could be a make-or-break signing for Los Angeles. The Kings are in need of top-end offense, especially with the recent departures of Lucic and Justin Williams (Williams signed a two-year deal with Washington last offseason).

Purcell started his career in Los Angeles and will return after spending seven seasons with the Lightning, Oilers and Panthers. His most productive seasons came in 2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 when he scored 51, 65 and 36 points, respectively (he was on pace for 62 points in the lockout-shortened season when he scored 36 points in 48 games). Since then, Purcell has averaged 39.6 points per year. The Kings will need Purcell to put up 50-60 points this season to make up for Lucic’s lost production, but that’s not something out of reach for him. As a member of the Lightning, Purcell scored an impressive 203 points in 310 games, a 0.65 points-per-game rate. His production rate dropped to 0.46 as a member of the Oilers, even though he was playing with people like Taylor Hall, Leon Draisaitl, Nail Yakupov, etc. However, after being traded to Florida last season, Purcell scored 11 points in 15 regular-season games, which is promising for the Kings.

He clearly has more to give, and at 30 years of age this is a strong signing for Los Angeles. Purcell should be a helpful addition to the Kings’ top nine and could see a look on the top line with Kopitar and Gaborik. The Kings weren’t able to make too many moves this offseason, but signing Purcell to a one-year, $1.6 million deal could prove to be an offseason steal.

The “C”
Pacific Division

Jeff Roberson-Associated Press

The Kings’ most significant offseason adjustment, however, was not a transaction at all. The Kings stripped Dustin Brown of the captaincy and named Anze Kopitar the 14th captain in team history. This is not something that happens often in hockey, especially when the former captain is not involved in any off-ice controversy.

Brown had previously served as the team’s captain since 2008, a stretch that included two Stanley Cup victories. However, Brown’s play has deteriorated tremendously in recent years, and Kopitar has evolved into one of the best two-way forwards in the game.

“It’s time for Kopitar to take over,” Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said. “He’s been bred for it. He’s been trained for it. He’s one of our top players, and he’s moving into his prime. It’s his turn.”

Regardless of Brown’s diminished role, Kopitar more than deserves the promotion. He has the support of the entire organization behind him considering he signed an eight-year, $80 million contract extension in January. That puts him at number three for the highest cap hits in the league behind only Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane ($10.5 million). But Kopitar’s numbers more than speak for themselves.

Kopitar, 29, has led the Kings in scoring in each of the past nine seasons, scoring at least 60 points in all ten seasons of his NHL career (he was on pace for 73 points in the lockout-shortened season). He has reached the 70-point mark in seven out of ten seasons.

Kopitar scored 25 goals and 49 assists for a total of 74 points in 81 games last season; despite a first-round exit, Kopitar scored four points in five playoff games. He has 243 goals and 441 assists for a total of 684 points in 764 career regular-season games to go along with 20 goals and 64 points in 74 career playoff games. As mentioned earlier, he was a Selke finalist for the third year in a row.

Despite taking the “C” from Brown, the Kings supposedly do not intend to buy out his contract, which has six years remaining with a cap hit of $5.875 million. He and Lombardi, as well as head coach Darryl Sutter, have gone over his game this offseason to figure out what adjustments need to be made to help Brown return to his old form. He has scored just 11 goals in each of the past two seasons, the fewest since his 2006-2007 season. He was relegated to third- and fourth-line duties for most of last year. Brown’s future with the Kings is a little foggy. Perhaps he will be moved in the future in a deal similar to the Bickell/Teravainen and Bolland/Crouse deals in which a top prospect is included in the deal in order to move an undesirable contract.

The Kings may be taking a page out of the Sharks’ playbook, as the Sharks saw tremendous success after handing the leadership over to a new set of players last year. However, it’s more likely that Kopitar has emerged as the true leader of the team. Los Angeles is hopeful the Kings can return to being a perennial Cup favorite once again, and Kopitar will be a big part of that.
 

Main Offseason Transactions

  • Re-Sign: D Brayden McNabb to 2-year deal with AAV of $1.7 million
  • Re-Sign: F Trevor Lewis to 4-year deal with AAV of $2 million
  • Trade: D Nick Ebert to Dallas for G Jack Campbell
  • Buyout: D Matt Greene — 2016-2017 cap savings: $1,666,667
  • FA Signing: D Tom Gilbert to 1-year contract at $1.4 million
  • FA Signing: D Zach Trotman to 1-year contract at $650,000
  • FA Signing: G Jeff Zatkoff to 2-year deal with AAV of $900,000
  • FA Signing: F Michael Latta to 1-year contract at $600,000
  • FA Signing: F Teddy Purcell to 1-year contract at $1.6 million
  • Re-Sign: G Jack Campbell to 2-year deal with AAV of $612,500
  • Re-Sign: F Nic Dowd to 2-year deal with AAV of $640,000

Though the Kings initially put defenseman Matt Greene on waivers for the purposes of buying out his contract, the buyout did not go through. As reported by ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, once the Kings failed to re-sign forward Milan Lucic, the Greene buyout was no longer necessary. He passed through waivers but was not bought out.

Lewis Extension
Pacific Division

Billy Hurst-Associated Press

The Kings reached a four-year, $8 million agreement with forward Trevor Lewis. Lewis has been a consistent player for the Kings over the years, and this is a decent extension to lock up an important role player in the organization. That being said, Lewis’ on-ice statistics aren’t pretty. He has a 4.72% on-ice shooting percentage at even strength; that was towards the bottom of all NHL forwards who played at least 500 minutes last season.

Though he is a depth forward and not on the team to score, Lewis should be producing at a higher clip to chip in from time to time. Fourth-line players are not expected to make substantial offensive contributions, but Lewis’ numbers this past season (and in recent seasons) have been exceptionally low. Lewis had a 0.74 points per 60 minutes at even strength (5v5) this past season, which is well below the fourth-line ballpark goal of 1.00.

The thing that he brings to the table, however, is strong penalty killing. Aside from Kopitar, Brown and Jeff Carter, Lewis finished fourth among Kings forwards in shorthanded time on ice.

In the System

The team acquired goaltender prospect Jack Campbell. Campbell was once a highly-touted prospect with a bright future but was unable to make a name for himself with the Stars organization. The Kings are going to give him a second shot. He won’t get time with the big club unless there are multiple injuries to the Kings’ goalies, though. With former Penguin Jeff Zatkoff backing up Jonathan Quick, the Kings’ crease should be solid this season.
 

Final Thoughts

The Kings failed to make many offseason adjustments. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing, as there’s no sense changing a team for the sake of making changes. However, the team is now two seasons removed from its last Stanley Cup. The makeup of the roster is quite different, with players like Justin Williams, Mike Richards, Slava Voynov, Willie Mitchell and Jarret Stoll no longer around. The team is right against the cap limit, so it’s understandable why so few moves were made. However, in order to keep up with the other teams in the Pacific Division and especially in the Western Conference, Los Angeles will need to do something to avoid another early playoff exit.

It’s likely that players like Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson will continue to get better, and Teddy Purcell could play an important role in the team’s top six. Though the team had a strong regular season last year, many players, especially some of the young ones, had mediocre campaigns. If these performances cannot be cleaned up, the Kings could find themselves in a similar position this year heading into the playoffs. Hopefully internal adjustments will allow the Kings to be more competitive once the playoffs begin. It’s likely that handing the leadership to Kopitar will do wonders for the team, and it’s possible the Kings could make a trade-deadline move to push the team over the edge. No matter what, though, Los Angeles is in relatively good shape considering the team’s elite players at each position. Not many teams have a Kopitar, a Doughty AND a Quick, so that’s something.
 
 

San Jose Sharks

2015-2016 By the Numbers

Overall Record: 46-30-6-98
Playoff Result: Lost to Pittsburgh in Stanley Cup Final (series: 4-2 PIT)
Standings: Pacific Division: 3, Western Conference: 6, League: 11
Goals For: 237 (NHL rank: 4)
Goals Against: 207 (NHL rank: 20)
Power Play Percentage: 22.5 percent (NHL rank: 3)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 80.5 percent (NHL rank: 21)
Leading Scorer: Joe Thornton (19-63-82)

Pacific Division

Marcio Jose-Associated Press

Summary of 2015-2016 Season Results

San Jose had a busy offseason last year, acquiring Martin Jones, Joel Ward and Paul Martin and bringing in Pete DeBoer as the team’s new bench boss. Significantly, the leadership was turned over to a new group of players after years of controversy surrounding what had become a playoff-choking team. No one will ever know for sure how much the change in leadership helped the Sharks last year, but the fact that the team made its first Stanley Cup appearance in franchise history is indicative of something.

In hindsight, each of last offseason’s moves helped this Sharks team in its impressive journey to the Cup. Unfortunately, the team ran into a very hot Penguins team and had a disappointing Cup series, falling 4-2 to Pittsburgh.

But there are a LOT of positive things to turn to from the 2015-2016 season as the team prepares for the upcoming campaign.

Positive Takeaways
Pacific Division

Thearon W. Henderson-Getty Images

For one thing, Martin Jones emerged as a true force in the crease for the Sharks. He finished with 37 wins, a 2.27 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage, along with six shutouts. But those numbers don’t convey the calming presence he brought to a Sharks team that could suddenly jump into the play and take risks knowing he was back there to bail them out if necessary.

For another, Joe Pavelski took the “C” and ran with it. He had a near-perfect season with 38 goals and 40 assists, his third straight season with 35+ goals and 70+ points. He has become Mr. Reliable for San Jose, especially considering he is a 200-foot player. Former captain Joe Thornton, who played on the top line with Pavelski, had an 82-point season, his best since 2009-2010. The 37-year-old thrived, even chipping in 21 points in 24 postseason games.

Pacific Division

Thearon W. Henderson-Getty Images

Additionally, defenseman Brent Burns had a career year. He set career highs in goals (27), assists (48) and points (75). He finished 11th overall in league scoring and second among defenseman behind only Erik Karlsson (82).

Aside from the performances of these four players, the team also witnessed a bounceback year from forward Tomas Hertl, who earned career highs in goals (21), assists (25) and points (46). It was also a solid rookie season for Joonas Donskoi, who chipped in 11 goals and 36 points. Even defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, known for his defensive play, set a career record in points with 39.

Pacific Division

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Lastly, though Logan Couture had a difficult regular season with multiple long-term injuries, he came back with a vengeance for a dominant playoff performance. After registering 36 points in 52 regular-season games, Couture led all players in assists (20) and points (30) in playoff scoring.

If you add up all of these compelling individual performances, it’s no surprise this team made it to the Stanley Cup. But the real reason for success, for defeating the Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues en route to the first Cup appearance in franchise history, is that these individuals came together. The locker room was united, and almost everyone in the lineup made meaningful contributions. That is the sign of a good team, and that is a good omen for this Sharks team headed into the 2016-2017 campaign.
 

Most Significant Offseason Moves

Value Move #1
Pacific Division

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

It could be argued that the Sharks made the best value move of the offseason by signing free-agent forward Mikkel Boedker to a 4-year deal with an average annual value of $4 million. For one thing, this is a very affordable deal, especially when compared to some of the outlandish deals handed out by other teams on July 1. The 26-year-old Danish forward was one of the best players available in free agency, especially given that he is entering his prime. A four-year contract has him on the books until only age 30, which is a remarkable feat for San Jose given what long-term and expensive, bonus-laden contracts other players older than Boedker received (i.e., David Backes, Frans Nielsen, Loui Eriksson, Andrew Ladd, etc.).

Boedker’s production over the years is not overly impressive on paper. His best season was the 2013-2014 season in which he scored career highs in goals (19), assists (32) and points (51). Fifty-one points is nothing to write home about. That being said, however, Boedker has never had the chance to play with top-end talent. Until he was traded to Colorado at the trade deadline last season, Boedker played his entire career in Arizona. The Coyotes have had very talented players, but Boedker really has never played with an elite NHL forward.

The ironic thing about this signing is that the Sharks already have a very deep forward corps, with talented prospects like Nikolay Goldobin and Timo Meier waiting in the wings. The top line of Hertl, Thornton and Pavelski was quite successful last season, and that doesn’t include players like Couture, Donskoi, Joel Ward, Patrick Marleau, etc. Then there are guys like Matt Nieto and Melker Karlsson, who have shown flashes. Even if the Sharks were not in desperate need of Boedker’s services, however, this is an excellent signing.

Boedker brings speed and flexibility to an already-strong group of top-six forwards. He could theoretically take Hertl’s spot on the top line, but could just as easily slot in next to Couture on the second line. Though Marleau is now 37, he did put up 25 goals last season and could be used in the 3C spot. Regardless of how lines shape up after training camp, the San Jose forwards are going to be fast, skilled and effective.

Lastly, perhaps the most telling thing about this contract is the fact that Boedker undoubtedly turned down more money and more term from other teams to sign with the Sharks. He wants to be in San Jose, he wants to be part of this club and he believes in this team’s chances of making another run at the Cup.

Value Move #2
Pacific Division

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Sharks also signed defenseman David Schlemko to a four-year deal with an average annual value of $2.1 million. Schlemko spent most of his career in Arizona but had a stand-out season last year with the Devils, which is the main reason San Jose felt comfortable targeting him in the offseason. Despite his minus-22 rating, Schlemko had a strong year defensively for New Jersey.

More importantly, however, Schlemko is the third-pairing dman the Sharks needed. His possession tendencies are much better than those of Roman Polak’s, who was exposed in the Cup round. Schlemko can also add some offense. He should be a strong third-pairing partner for defenseman Brenden Dillon, who had a less-than-ideal season last year. The Schlemko deal is another strong value signing by Sharks general manager Doug Wilson.
 

Main Offseason Transactions

  • Trade: Rights of F Dylan Sadowy to Detroit for 2017 3rd-round pick
  • Trade: 2016 4th-round pick and 2017 3rd-round pick to Arizona for rights of F Maxim Letunov and 2017 6th-round pick
  • Re-Sign: F Tomas Hertl to 2-year deal with AAV of $3 million
  • FA Signing: D David Schlemko to 4-year deal with AAV of $2.1 million
  • FA Signing: F Mikkel Boedker to 4-year deal with AAV of $4 million
  • Re-Sign: D Dylan Demelo to 2-year deal with AAV of $650,000
  • Re-Sign: F Matt Nieto to 1-year contract at $735,000

The team extended winger Tomas Hertl to a reasonable two-year deal. Many fans were hoping for more of a long-term deal in the five- to six-year range, but the $3 million average annual value is a solid value extension for an important player.
 

Final Thoughts

The San Jose Sharks are coming off the most successful season in franchise history. Though the season ended on a sour note of disappointment, the Sharks’ playoff performance to reach the Cup for the first time was admirable. Multiple players stepped up in the regular season and postseason, and essentially the entire roster will be back this year, with a few improvements.

The signing of Mikkel Boedker was and is a statement by Doug Wilson about this team’s desire and plan to contend for the Stanley Cup again this year. The loser of the Stanley Cup often struggles the following regular season, but San Jose has no intention of sitting back. Wilson made multiple intelligent value signings to make this team even more stable headed into the 2016-2017 season. Expect big things from the Sharks this year.
 
 

Vancouver Canucks

2015-2016 By the Numbers

Overall Record: 31-38-13-75
Playoff Result: Did not make playoffs
Standings: Pacific Division: 6, Western Conference: 13, League: 28
Goals For: 186 (NHL rank: 29)
Goals Against: 239 (NHL rank: 8)
Power Play Percentage: 15.8 percent (NHL rank: 27)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 81.1 percent (NHL rank: 17)
Leading Scorer: Daniel Sedin (28-33-61)

Pacific Division

Nicklas Thegerström-DN Sport

Summary of 2015-2016 Season Results

The Vancouver Canucks had a season not worth remembering. It was very dark at times, and a lot of organizational holes were exposed. Though the Canucks were within distance (albeit great distance) of a playoff spot late in the year, a nine-game losing streak from March 14- March 29 ensured their elimination from playoff contention, kissing their postseason hopes goodbye. The team won three consecutive games only once in the season, and that came at the end of March/beginning of April when the Canucks were already well out of the playoff picture.

The Canucks’ disastrous season can be attributed to many factors. But the most likely explanation is that many things went wrong at the same time, and the team was unable to adjust. Veteran players the team once depended on came up flat. For example, Radim Vrbata scored 13 goals after netting 30 the year before. Vrbata was misused by head coach Willie Desjardins and the coaching staff, but his drop in production was drastic nonetheless. Chris Higgins essentially disappeared; he scored three goals in 33 games, which must have factored into the team’s decision to buy out the remainder of his contract this offseason. Alex Burrows had another difficult season. His goal total was cut in half and his point total dropped 11 points from last year despite playing in nine more games. Though plus/minus is not a reliable statistic, Burrows’ minus-13 was the worst of his career.

There were players that did not meet expectations. Sven Baertschi was supposed to be a dependable player but had a insignificant year, scoring 15 goals and 28 points in 69 games while simultaneously failing to make much of an impact night in, night out.

Perhaps the biggest eyesore on the roster is Brandon Sutter. After signing a substantial five-year contract with an average annual value of $4.375 million, Sutter missed the majority of the season with injuries. Though the injuries were not his fault, the magnitude of his absence was jarring after such a terrible trade from last offseason.

Though the goalies kept the Canucks in many games the team did not deserve to be in, Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom had mediocre seasons. Miller, who started 51 games, finished with a 17-24-9 record with a 2.70 goals-against average, a .916 save percentage and one shutout. Markstrom, who started 30 games, finished 13-14-4 with a 2.73 goals-against average, a .915 save percentage and zero shutouts. Though Markstrom has developed into a solid netminder, Vancouver will need much stronger goaltending all-around if the team has a chance of success this season.

The State of the Roster

In 2011, the Canucks won the Presidents Trophy and made it to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. Now, five years later, the team finds itself in a difficult position.

In basic terms, Vancouver is at a crossroads. The team consists of veteran players on their way out of the game and young players not quite ready to take control of the team.

But if you dig deeper, you realize that the Vancouver organization has had an atrocious run of late. The team has traded many players without receiving enough in return, the organization has allowed finances to get in the way of team prosperity and the organization has given away talent. The mishandling of the Cory Schneider/Roberto Luongo situation was a complete disgrace. Since then, the team has completed multiple unfavorable trades, such as the Ryan Kesler trade and the Nick Bonino move. In fact, Vancouver has lost a lot of players that were once core members of this team.

The team has lost Kesler, Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, Schneider, Luongo, Bonino, Zack Kassian, Hunter Shinkaruk, Jared McCann and Jordan Schroeder in just the past few years. The team’s momentum has been stripped away, and the remaining product is unacceptable for the Vancouver franchise.

At this point, what’s done is done. As ugly as it has been, there is no turning back. The team needs to pick up the remaining pieces and try to move forward.

The Canucks organization is having an identity crisis. Is this a team of declining talents or of emerging prospects? The problem here is that the veterans cannot carry this team alone, and neither can the up-and-coming talents. Not every team has to make a clear-cut decision. There are bubble teams in the process of a rebuild that are still contending for playoff spots. The reason the Canucks do need to make the distinction, however, is because of the moves the organization is making. Many of them are counterproductive for the current team and for the team’s future.

The good news, though, is that the Canucks have made minimal changes to the roster this offseason but have made some good deals, among them adding a top-line winger perfect for the Sedin twins, taking chances on young players with high upside and keeping several players within the organization.
 

Most Significant Offseason Moves

As previously stated, the Canucks have made minimal adjustments to the team’s roster so far this offseason.

Loui Louie
Pacific Division

Joel Marklund/Bildbryan

One significant move that was made, however, was signing winger Loui Eriksson to a six-year deal with an average annual value of $6 million. Taking only the player into consideration, this is an excellent signing for Vancouver. Not only has Eriksson been a productive, two-way winger for the Boston Bruins over the past few seasons, last year netting 30 goals, but he is familiar with Henrik and Daniel Sedin. Very familiar.

The three players are all natives of Sweden and have therefore played together in international tournaments for years. In fact, Eriksson is playing on a line with the Sedin’s right now in the World Cup of Hockey. The chemistry has looked fantastic in the World Cup; it’s looking like Eriksson could have another strong year if he can avoid injury.

However, when taking the contract and the entire organization into consideration, this deal becomes a little more complicated.

While Eriksson is a talented player and will rightly play on the Canucks’ top line, $6 million a year is a hefty contract. To be fair, most deals handed out July 1 were in this ballpark term-wise and money-wise. It’s still a substantial contract financially. Even more so than the financial aspect of it, the term on this contract is a little concerning. Eriksson is 31 years old, which will keep him under contract until he is 37. There are players that remain competitive into their late 30’s, but Eriksson will not be the same player five or six years down the line. At that point, the Sedin’s will be retired (unless they turn out to have Jaromir Jagr’s agelessness).

Taking that into consideration, one would look at this deal and assume it is a deal made for the here and now. Eriksson will slot right in on the top line and will be a perfect complement to Henrik’s and Daniel’s style of play. However, if the Canucks are serious about rebuilding the team and constructing a future powerhouse, this signing makes little sense for the long run. It is for these reasons that the Canucks need to decide how the next few years will play out.

Risky Business
Pacific Division

Marc Desrosiers- US Presswire

Just as the Eriksson move indicates that the team is not entering a rebuild mode, so does the trade Vancouver executed in May before the conclusion of the playoffs. The Canucks sent rookie forward Jared McCann along with a 2nd- and 4th-round pick to Florida and received defenseman Erik Gudbranson and a 5th-round pick. This trade sends a clear message from Canucks general manager Jim Benning that his team is going to continue to fight with the current roster rather than handing over the team to the players of the future.

Unfortunately for Benning, this was a terrible trade. At the very least, it’s extremely risky; Benning can’t afford to be taking such risks when talented players of the future are on the line.

Gudbranson, who is on a one-year contract with a cap hit of $3.5 million, is a tough, physical, stay-at-home defenseman who has played for the Panthers since getting drafted third overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. The Canucks are in need of defensemen, but Gudbranson is not a sure bet. Just because he is a “stay-at-home” defenseman doesn’t mean that he is going to make plays and reduce the amount of shots taken and goals scored against when he is on the ice. He has been unable to live up to expectations in Florida, and he struggled when paired with average defensemen.

Also, the risk is not only in the ability of Gudbranson, but also in the team’s ability to retain him at the end of the season. Gudbranson reportedly turned down an offer from Florida for four years at $4.5 million and instead opted to sign a one-year bridge deal. That is not a good sign for a Vancouver team that needs to create cap space over the next few years.

But there is also risk when considering what the Canucks gave up in the deal. McCann is also a former first-round pick, taken 24th in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. He is an esteemed prospect who didn’t really have a chance in Vancouver. On top of that, which is enough in and of itself, the Canucks gave up a 2nd and a 4th for a 5th. All in all, this is a very precarious deal at best and an ignorant, foolish and costly move at worst.

Additional Moves
Pacific Division

Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press

The Canucks re-upped goalie Jacob Markstrom to a three-year deal with an average annual value of $3.67 million. This may seem like a lot for a backup goalie, but Markstrom ended up splitting time with Ryan Miller down the stretch last season. He appears to be the goalie of the future, especially since Miller has played so poorly compared to earlier in his career.

Vancouver also re-signed Sven Baertschi to a two-year deal with an average annual value of $1.85 million. This seems high given what Baertschi has shown in a Canucks jersey, but it’s hard to argue with a value under $2 million considering his potential and upside.

 

Main Offseason Transactions

  • Trade: F Jared McCann, 2016 2nd-round pick and 2016 4th-round pick to Florida for D Erik Gudbranson and 2016 5th-round pick
  • Re-Sign: F Sven Baertschi to 2-year deal with AAV of $1.85 million
  • Buyout: Chris Higgins — 2016-2017 cap savings: $1.66 million
  • Re-Sign: F Emerson Etem to 1-year contract at $775,000
  • FA Signing: F Loui Eriksson to 6-year deal with AAV of $6 million
  • FA Signing: F Michael Chaput to 1-year contract at $600,000
  • FA Signing: D Philip Larsen to 1-year contract at $1.025 million
  • FA Signing: F Jayson Megna to 1-year contract at $600,000
  • FA Signing: F Borna Rendulic to 1-year contract at $575,000
  • Re-Sign: G Jacob Markstrom to 3-year deal with AAV of $3.67 million
  • Re-Sign: G Richard Bachman to 1-year contract at $575,000
  • FA Signing: F Michael Carcone to 3-year ELC with AAV of $675,000
  • Draft Pick Signing: D Olli Juolevi to 3-year ELC with AAV of $925,000

The Philip Larsen signing makes little sense. The team needs depth on defense, but Larsen spent last season in the KHL. The $1.025 million cap hit seems extreme for someone who hasn’t been in the league. If Larsen were to crack the lineup as the sixth defenseman, he most likely would pair with the highly-anticipated Nikita Tryamkin. One would think the Canucks could find a more suitable partner for Tryamkin in his first full NHL season. Players like Luca Sbisa and especially Andrey Pedan are sure to be in the rotation this season. This makes the $1.025 million a confusing signing.

On a posiitive note, Benning did make a few creative signings. For example, signing forward Borna Rendulic was a low-risk, high-reward move. Rendulic showed promise early on with the Avalanche but broke his leg and missed the rest of the 2014-2015 season. He then made the team the following year but was sent down after only three games. He put together an average season on a bad AHL team but showed he was a versatile player who could play up and down the lineup. He also demonstrated that he had a knack for scoring goals. Unfortunately for the Avalanche, Rendulic then signed a contract to play in the KHL. This is an under-the-radar move for Vancouver, as Rendulic could be a surprise in training camp given his hockey sense and goal-scoring ability.

The signing of undrafted forward Michael Carcone was also a heads-up move by the Canucks. Carcone will likely play for the team’s AHL affiliate, but he is a pure goal-scorer; you can never have too many of those in the system.

Finally, the team extended professional tryout contracts to forwards Tuomo Ruutu and Jack Skille.
 

Final Thoughts

Pacific Division

Arlen Redekop-PNG

In a way, the Vancouver organization is a complete mess. General manager Jim Benning has handled things poorly every step of the way, and he is taking risks without any sort of gameplan. After finishing 28th in the league standings last year, this team could be headed for a very similar outcome. Even with the addition of Loui Eriksson and the influx of young talent, this roster is all over the place. The organization has no direction, which is something that cannot be ignored. Based on Benning’s actions and decisions, however, it seems unlikely that the siatuion will be rectified any time soon.

The good news is that the Canucks have a tremendous amount of young talented players. Players like Jake Virtanen and Bo Horvat have another season under their belts; high-caliber prospects like Brendan Gaunce, Cole Cassels and Thatcher Demko are in the system, and defenseman Nikita Tryamkin is likely to spend the whole year with the big club. That alone is enough to be excited about, as the monstrous 6-7, 230 lb. defenseman will add a much-needed physical element and dynamic to this team.

Benning seems to be trying to win a Cup within the Sedin’s window. This makes a lot of sense for a team with two talented players like Henrik and Daniel. However, there is a difference between remaining competitive while building up the farm and making illogical and impulsive deals that are one-sided and take a toll on the future of the club. Based on the past few years, Benning arguably is the worst general manager in the league. It seems improbable that the Canucks will move up much in the standings this year when all is said and done.
 



 
Stay tuned for offseason analysis of all four divisions and all 30 NHL teams.
NHL Offseason Analysis: Central Division
NHL Offseason Analysis: Atlantic Division
 
Featured Image Credits: Getzlaf: via ducks.nhl.com; Domi/Duclair: Norm Hall via coyotes.nhl.com; Gaudreau/Monahan: Al Charest-Postmedia; McDavid: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports; Kopitar: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports; Couture/Pavelski: Christian Petersen-Getty Images; Eriksson: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports