When the Toronto Maple Leafs did the sort of unexpected and signed big time free agent John Tavares long term, the NHL off-season officially kicked off.
The dominoes, as they were, soon started to fall, with former Leaf James van Riemsdyk signing with Philadelphia, Paul Stastny inking a deal in Vegas and James Neal going to Calgary.
The draft, which preceded the free agent signing period, wasn’t quite as dramatic as other years, but did provide the Buffalo Sabres — who traded Ryan O’Reilly to St. Louis for a nice package and acquire Conor Sheary from Pittsburgh — with a franchise defenceman in Rasmus Dahlin to build around.
Buffalo, for the first time in ages, might be relevant.
There has been plenty of off-season movement, with draft picks, trades and free agent contracts galore. We have analyzed all the moves so far and have given each team a label: winner, loser and incomplete. Here they are, in that order.
31. Washington Capitals – Winner
Might as well start with the Stanley Cup champs — that still sounds weird — who have done well to keep the pieces of a championship club together, without losing much. They did deal aging defenceman Brooks Orpik (along with back-up goalie Philipp Grubauer) to Colorado, but were able to use the saved money from the Orpik — who was brought back on a more affordable one year deal anyway — trade to re-sign John Carlson. The NHL’s leading scorer among defencemen was inked to an eight-year, $64 million contract, solidifying a defensive corps that will also have surprise competitor Michal Kempny in the fold for two more seasons. The Capitals were also able to secure the services of playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly for the affordable sum of $1 million for one year. As an added bonus, the Capitals had three draft picks in the top 50 to help re-stock the farm.
30. Tampa Bay Lightning – Winner
The Lightning are winners because they didn’t have any of their premier players raided in unrestricted free agency and were able to lock up 2018 trade deadline acquisition J.T. Miller for five years and $26.25 million. His presence down the middle makes the Lightning one of the deepest teams at that position. As well, they may still be in on the Erik Karlsson sweepstakes, though recent scuttlebutt suggests that interested clubs like the Bolts have cooled on any huge package that a trade for Karlsson would have to include. In another small move to provide stability, Tampa re-signed back-up netminder Louis Domingue to an affordable two-year, $2.3 million contract. He was 7-3-1 in a reserve role, with a .914 save percentage.
29. Toronto Maple Leafs – Winner
It may not mean an immediate end to a 51-year-old Stanley Cup drought, but the signing of John Tavares signals a sea change in Toronto that will make the Leafs a true contender down the road. With Tavares, Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri, the Buds now have one of the best top-three center combos in the NHL. Now, the team did lose 30-goal scorer James van Riemsdyk and longtime center Tyler Bozak, however, their departures open the doors for youngsters like Connor Brown, Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson and Josh Leivo to step up and fill the void. There is much to like with this young, dynamic squad that also signed journeyman forward Tyler Ennis to the league minimum, as well as role players like Josh Jooris, Adam Cracknell and Jordan Subban to affordable deals too.
28. Florida Panthers – Winner
The Cats got a guy who has averaged 26 goals and 58 points in the last four seasons and all it cost them were two second round picks and a third rounder. That’s right, the Florida Panthers significantly boosted their offence by acquiring former Senator Mike Hoffman from San Jose, where he was a Shark for all of three minutes after being dealt there. Now, there is some baggage from the whole alleged cyber-bullying affair between his fiance and Erik Karlsson’s wife, but if he can put that tawdry affair behind him, Florida is the better for it. Florida finished one point out of a playoff spot this past season and retain a good young core fronted by Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad. The team did add some insurance in goal by signing free agent Michael Hutchinson.
27. Carolina Hurricanes – Winner
The ‘Canes, who have one of the better young defensive corps in hockey, drafted a solution to the problem that plagued them in another season out of the playoffs. The problem was scoring and with the second pick in the entry draft Carolina surprised no one by junior hockey scoring sensation Andrei Svechnikov. He had 45 goals and 83 total points in 52 regular season and playoff games with the Barrie Colts. While the lanky Russian was the big acquisition at the draft, the ‘Canes also made two significant moves to boost their back end. First, they raided a depleted New York Islanders team by signing free agent D Calvin de Haan to a four-year deal. Then, they gambled on former Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers’ goalie Petr Mrazek, signing him to a team friendly one-year, $1.5 million contract (replacing departed vet Cam Ward).
26. Buffalo Sabres – Winner
This team is poised to make the biggest leap in the standings, considering the plethora of off-season moves they have made — and owning the first pick in the draft. Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin, the first pick, along with established star Jack Eichel, now give the Sabres two players to truly build around. Not done there, the Sabres did some wheeling and dealing to add significant depth. They got Pittsburgh sparkplug Conor Sheary and defenceman Matt Hunwick, all for the low price of a fourth round pick in the 2019 draft. Then, they sent Ryan O’Reilly to St. Louis and in return acquired forwards Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka and Tage Thompson, along with a second rounder in 2021 and a first round selection in either 2019 or 2020. They also potentially solved a contentious goaltending problem by signing veteran free agent Carter Hutton to a three-year, $8.75 million contract.
25. Winnipeg Jets – Winner
The Jets played some addition by subtraction this off-season after making a deep run in the playoffs. Now, it would have been great to retain deadline pick-up Paul Stastny, but he signed with Vegas. There is no reason to believe, though, that they don’t have the offensive horses to fill that temporary void. They were able to off-load the expensive and disappointing Steve Mason, along with Joel Armia, to Montreal, along with late draft picks, for young defenceman Simon Bourque. That move freed up the money to re-sign emerging superstar goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who inked a fairly friendly six-year deal worth $6.167 million annually. And, Winnipeg will also have defenceman Jacob Trouba in the fold for at least one more year after arbitration awarded him $5.5 million for the upcoming season. With goalies Mason and Michael Hutchinson gone, former Edmonton back-up Laurent Brossoit was brought in for the league minimum ($650,000).
24. San Jose Sharks – Winner
The Sharks, an aging team with a still formidable core, were able to spin something out of nothing by allowing Mike Hoffman to pass through in a whirlwind trade. First they acquired a defenceman (Cody Donaghey) and a 2018 fifth round pick (to add to the one they had) with Hoffman (for Mikkel Boedker, Julius Bergman and a sixth rounder). Right after that, San Jose turned Hoffman and a seventh rounder in this year’s draft for a fourth and fifth round pick in this year’s draft and a second round selection in 2019. That, folks, was some spectacular trading to help ensure the immediate future of the franchise. The Sharks also locked up scoring forward Tomas Hertl for four years at $5.625 million and veteran leader Joe Thornton for one year at $5 million. This was on top of the May re-signing of a rejuvenated Evander Kane to a seven-year, $49 million contract. In the draft, the Sharks may have got a steal in the 21st pick in Guelph Storm defenceman Ryan Merkley.
23. Los Angeles Kings – Winner
Los Angeles didn’t get any younger in free agency, but by adding still effective superstar Ilya Kovalchuk for three years at $6.25 million a season, they may make some noise in 2018-19. Add to that the impending return of Jeff Carter, who was limited to just 27 games last year and the Kings offence suddenly looks very dangerous. Even at 35, Kovalchuk will be a force on the wing for L.A. In five seasons with KHL powerhouse St. Petersburg SKA, Kovalchuk piled up 285 points in 262 games. That production mirrors his elite NHL compilation of 816 points in 816 games. At the draft, the Kings made the most of their pick at no. 20, selecting Finnish speedster Rasmus Kupari, who had 14 points in 39 games for Karpat playing against men in the Finnish League.
22. Dallas Stars – Winner
There really is no way to describe the Stars 2017-18 season, other than “extremely disappointing.” Expected to contend, Dallas instead finished three points out of a playoff spot, held by a team thought to be inferior, the Colorado Avalanche. However, new year, new team. They welcomed back 2013 first round pick Valeri Nichushkin after a two-year hiatus with CSKA Moscow. After scoring 29 points in 79 games with Dallas in 2015-16, Nichushkin bolted for his homeland and in two seasons scored 65 points in 114 total games for CSKA. The Stars inked him to a two-year, $5.9 million pact in hopes he fulfills his considerable potential. In other moves, Dallas more than made up for the departure of back-up goalie Kari Lehtonen with the signing of Boston super-sub Anton Khudobin to a two-year, $5 million contract. The team also signed former Leafs stay-at-home D Roman Polak and veteran depth forward Blake Comeau.
21. Vegas Golden Knights – Winner
It was a magical run to the Stanley Cup final for the Golden Knights and even though it didn’t work out the way they wanted, the future still looks bright for this young-ish band of misfits. Not content to rest on its first-year laurels, Vegas set out to improve the core, signing top free agent center Paul Stastny to a three-year, $19.5 million contract. The veteran followed up a 53-point season with Winnipeg and St. Louis with 15 points in 17 playoff games for the Jets and adds great veteran depth down the middle. The Golden Knights also picked up offensive defenceman Nick Holden via free agency, signing him to a two-year, $4.4 million deal. The team didn’t have a first round pick (a low one traded away to Detroit for Tomas Tatar) but they it did hold eight picks in the last six rounds to beef up the talent pipeline.
20. Arizona Coyotes – Winner
After this active off-season, it’s a safe bet the Coyotes won’t be one of the worst teams in the NHL anymore. The ‘Yotes started a make-over before the draft by sending Max Domi to Montreal for dynamic top-six center Alex Galchenyuk. It should be a win-win for both teams, but we give Arizona the edge in that transaction. Galchenyuk escapes the fish bowl that is Montreal to concentrate on his considerable game in the desert. In a separate deal earlier in July, the Coyotes picked up promising young pivot Vinnie Hinostroza and D Jordan Oesterle, as well as the contract of Marian Hossa for Marcus Kruger and spare parts. On the free agent front, the ‘Yotes did themselves a solid by signing “Cy Young” winger and premier penalty killer Michael Grabner to a three-year deal. He scored 27 goals and added nine assists in 80 games last season. The team also had a solid nine picks in the draft, highlighted by playmaking center Barrett Hayton from Sault Ste. Marie at fifth overall.
19. New York Islanders – Loser
That sound you heard in Brooklyn on July 1 was the air being let out of the New York Islanders balloon when superstar John Tavares signed with Toronto. It seemed the only team he knew was barely in the running and since then the Isles have not measurably made up for it. They did re-sign reliable defenceman Thomas Hickey to a four-year, $10 million but lost equally reliable Calvin de Haan to Carolina. They raided Toronto for spare part wingers Leo Komarov (a too long four-year, $12 million contract) as well as Matt Martin (reacquired for minor league goalie Eamon McAdam). Elsewhere, Brock Nelson re-signed for one year and G Robin Lehner signed a free agent pact for one year at $1.5 million. This team is noticeably weaker without its leader.
18. Montreal Canadiens – Loser
What in the name of Jaroslav Spacek is going on in Montreal? A team woefully thin down the middle swapped talented pivot Alex Galchenyuk for Arizona’s Max Domi, while also re-signing over-the-hill Tomas Plekanec. Then, they acquired disappointing goalie Steve Mason and his albatross of a contract, along with low-scoring winger Joel Armia in a trade with Winnipeg. Besides retaining the services of Philip Danault, Antti Niemi and Jacob De La Rose, the Habs also took it on the chin from booing fans by drafting Finnish center Jesperi Kotkaniemi third overall, when Brady Tkachuk was still available. Kotkaniemi may yet turn out to be a very serviceable NHLer, but he just turned 18 and needs to bulk up. What will likely happen is the Canadiens will have to rush him into service, considering how thin they are offensively down the middle. That might be a bit much for him to handle, what with unreal expectations among the faithful.
17. Ottawa Senators – Loser
Even more so than any other loser here, the Senators are more than a tire fire this off-season. They lost scoring forward Mike Hoffman for virtually nothing after that alleged bullying scandal involving his fiancee came out and will most likely lose Erik Karlsson — possibly for nothing in free agency next year if they can’t get a deal done to re-coup some assets. This team is in dire need of bounce back seasons from Bobby Ryan (whose rich contract was rumored to be offloaded as part of a Karlsson trade) and Matt Duchene if they have any hope of not being a lottery team in 2019. The only free agent names they added were the uninspiring Magnus Paajarvi and bottom pair defender Chris Wideman. The saving grace to a season — and off-season — gone awry was their selection of Brady Tkachuk at no. 4. But, he may be at least a year away from being NHL ready.
16. Nashville Predators – Loser
A year after going all the way to the Stanley Cup finals and then following it up with a Presidents Trophy as the NHL’s top point-getters, the Nashville Predators took a major step back by losing in the second round of this year’s playoffs to Winnipeg. So, what has a team with exposed scoring woes down the wing done to make sure they remain at the top of the heat? Not a whole heck of a lot. Unless signing tough guy winger Zac Rinaldo or third/fourth line winger Ryan Hartman are considered coups. Not likely. The Preds are fairly solid down the middle and more-than-adequate on defence, but they also have an aging asset in goal in Pekka Rinne (though they did sign capable no. 2 Juuse Saros to an affordable three-year deal). Status quo for the Predators, who also only had four draft picks, none in the first three rounds, won’t cut it in 2018-19.
15. Edmonton Oilers – Loser
If there is one near certainty in the former City of Champions, it’s that the Oilers are more likely to waste the immense talents of Connor McDavid than to build an adequate team around him and win a Stanley Cup. The Oilers, other than MVP candidate McD and Leon Draisaitl, were shockingly mediocre in 2017-18 and with the moves they have made so far in the off-season, it’s not looking like a turnaround is imminent. Like Ottawa, the Oil are pinning their hopes on better years from expensive players like Milan Lucic, Mike Cammalleri and especially no. 1 goal Cam Talbot, who regressed badly after two decent years in blue and orange. So far, under-the-gun GM Peter Chiarelli has brought in spare parts forwards in Tobias Rieder and Kyle Brodziak and D Kevin Gravel, none of who will make other teams quake when they hit the ice. Signing 30-year-old back-up Mikko Koskinen may have been astute, while drafting puck-moving D Evan Bouchard 10th overall was solid. But, that’s it.
14. Chicago Blackhawks – Loser
The signals out of the Windy City sure a mixed. First, they did a good thing by including the dead contract of Marian Hossa in a trade that saw Vinnie Hinostroza and D Jordan Oesterle got to Arizona in return for former Blackhawk Marcus Kruger and three others. But, in free agency, a team whose best players are all 30 or more (or will be soon in the case of Patrick Kane) and eating up a good chunk of salary, they signed oldsters Chris Kunitz and Cam Ward. It will be a long season in Chicago again in 2018-19, but, there is light at the end of the tunnel, since they had a top 10 pick for the first time in years and eight overall selections. With the no. 8 pick, the Blackhawks took elite puck-moving Swedish defenceman Adam Boqvist. Then with another first rounder obtained from Nashville, the Hawks took high-scoring Drummondville D Nicolas Beaudin at no. 27. With Brent Seabrook now 33 and Duncan Keith just turned 35, re-tooling the defence had to start now.
13. Vancouver Canucks – Loser
A team that didn’t score much in 2017-18, will also have to make up for the shortfall in offence created by the departure of the Sedin Twins. The two combined on roughly a third of the offence (they had 26 of the team’s 218 goals and Henrik had the higher of the two’s assists total at 47), which won’t be easy to replace. Gone, too, at last season’s deadline was veteran Thomas Vanek, who had 41 points in 61 games, which was still good for fifth highest on the team. In their stead, the team signed Washington plugger Jay Beagle, Dallas checker and pest Antoine Roussel and Boston third/fourth line Tim Schaller. Beagle and Schaller each had 22 points last year and Roussel 17. All serviceable NHLers, but none worthy of top six play. Draft-wise, the Canucks didn’t do too badly with the seventh overall pick, taking Michigan Wolverines star Quinn Hughes. All in all, though, it’s going to be another lost year in B.C.
12. Pittsburgh Penguins – Incomplete
The incomplete grades start with the Pens, who were (finally) owned by Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals in the playoffs and who may have a goaltending problem going forward. While Marc-Andre Fleury, who was allowed to leave in the expansion draft, starred for Vegas, previous savior Matt Murray struggled when his team needed him most this spring. Other than the usual suspects like Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel, many failed to make a post-season mark, like Phil Kessel, who had just one goal (but added eight assists, in his defence). Which means a shake-up should be in order. Well, they sort of did that, sending diminutive Conor Sheary and D Matt Hunwick to Buffalo for a fourth round pick. In free agency, they added some reliable veteran help in Matt Cullen and D Jack Johnson, but neither are spring chickens either. Just about every significant star on the roster is over 30, so adding more geezers (Cullen is 41) may not be the right answer.
11. Philadelphia Flyers – Incomplete
Other than Sean Couturier, the majority of the Philadelphia Flyers’ line-up folded like a cheap tent against hated rival Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs. The blame could be shared fairly equally, from the net out. There are good dynamic players in Couturier, Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Shayne Gostisbehere, but the goaltending was suspect and the team’s secondary scoring and defensive play need a lift. Well, they did very well swooping in to get Toronto sniper James van Riemsdyk for an expensive (five years, $35 million) second go around. And, they shored up the defence by signing L.A. rearguard Christian Folin to an $800,000 one-year pact. However, with a few available netminders out there, the Flyers have not as yet addressed their sorry goaltending situation, which is still manned by Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth. One step forward, two steps back, we say.
10. Boston Bruins – Incomplete
Looking at their performance in the 2018 playoffs, it’s not hard to see that the Bruins are pretty much a one-line team. Sure, guys like David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk had their moments, but any success the B’s had hinged on the scoring heroics of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. In the team’s five wins in two series, they were more than instrumental, but in seven losses, they were neutralized with no Cavalry to come in and save the day. Thus, the Bruins needed to address secondary scoring, which is clearly their Achilles Heel. Well, they didn’t offer anything to Rick Nash, so there is that. The forwards they did sign in free agency, Joakim Nordstrom (Carolina) and Chris Wagner (Islanders) had two and seven goals, respectively, last season. They did do OK in getting a back-up to replace Anton Khudobin, signing free agent Jaroslav Halak and some more depth on defence in John Moore, so all was not lost.
9. Columbus Blue Jackets – Incomplete
The Blue Jackets went down without much fight in last year’s playoffs and so far this off-season the reviews are mixed on how they have tried to re-tool. First, who they lost to free agency were Matt Calvert (Colorado), Jack Johnson (Pittsburgh) and Thomas Vanek (Detroit). Other than locking up Boone Jenner for four years, the replacements brought in to make up for the loss of Calvert and Vanek include much-maligned Anthony Duclair. However, they did get Boston’s Riley Nash for three years, which is a win where Duclair may be a loss. One area of concern, as far as the post-season goes, may be Sergei Bobrovsky. Yes, he did beat Washington back-to-back to open the first round, but surrendered seven goals in the process. Over the rest of the series, all defeats, Bob was on the hook for 17 goals against. Yet, the best they could do in the off-season was trading for so-so back-up J-F Berube from Chicago. Ruh-roh.
8. New Jersey Devils – Incomplete
New Jersey took some baby steps to being relevant again in 2017-18, making the playoffs for the first time in six years. However, the makeover of this team isn’t quite done and we’re not sure their off-season activity has addressed shortcomings. First, the state of their back-up goaltending is still in flux, especially post-playoffs. Regular seasons starter Cory Schneider was his usual solid self after taking over from Keith Kinkaid against Tampa in Round 1. Kinkaid, who was named starter before the seriesm floundered in Game 2 and was gone (five goals in 15 shots in a 5-3 loss). By then, the series was effectively over. Again, with some decent available back-ups on the free agent market, Jersey only re-signed up-and-down Eddie Lack. All in all, too, it has been a quiet off-season, maybe too quiet.
7. New York Rangers – Incomplete
A lost season in the Big Apple has given way to a youth movement, if the draft is any indication. The 2018-19 roster will look nothing like the one that opened the 2017-18 campaign. Gone are J.T. Miller, Michael Grabner, Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, David Desharnais and Nick Holden. Winning now is pretty important in this market, but for now the team is taking a cautious approach and thinking development. For that reason, they get an incomplete. The Rangers did very well at the draft, picking up two more first round selections to go with their ninth overall pick, Russian winger Vitali Kravtsov. At no. 22 (a pick obtained from Ottawa), they took up-and-coming D K’Andre Miller from the USNTDP program, and then at no. 28 (a selection they got in the Ryan McDonagh/J.T. Miller deal with Tampa) the Rangers tabbed Swedish D Nils Lundkvist. In all, the Blueshirts had a whopping 10 picks. Stay tuned.
6. Detroit Red Wings – Incomplete
It’s rare to question respected GM Ken Holland’s team-building process, but at this juncture, we will. When all signs point to a tear down and rebuild after a miserable 73-point season and 25th place finish overall, the team went out and signed oldster Thomas Vanek to a one-year, $3 million deal. They are already saddled with bad contracts on diminishing assets such as Frans Nielsen (four more years at $5.25 million per season), Darren Helm (three years at $3.85 million) and Justin Abdelkader (five years at $4.25 million). Dare we say it, too, that team captain Henrik Zetterberg is past his best before date and will have the team’s highest salary for the next three years. At the draft, the Red Wings were in the same boat as the Rangers with a solid 10 picks and with the sixth overall selection they may have hit the jackpot in Czech sniper Filip Zadina. The Wings also owned Vegas’ first rounder (from the Tomas Tatar trade) and with the 30th pick took playmaking center Joe Veleno (Drummondville Voltigeurs).
5. Minnesota Wild – Incomplete
Another year, another early exit from the playoffs. In the last two seasons, Minnesota has amassed over 100 points, only to fall in five games to St. Louis in 2017 and Winnipeg this past spring. So, what did a team that has massive contracts tied to 33-year-old fading stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter do in free agency? Well, they went on a bargain basement hunt in what could be a futile bid to find the secret sauce to a championship. In no particular order, they signed veteran D Greg Pateryn (three years, $6.75 million total), back-up goalie Andrew Hammond (one year, $650K), reserve D Matt Bartkowski (one year, $650K), energy forward J.T. Brown (two years, $1.375M total), veteran F Eric Fehr (one year, $1M) and F Matt Hendricks (one year, $700K). It should be noted that Brown and Pateryn are the “youngsters” of the group at age 28. A total incomplete for Minny.
4. Anaheim Ducks – Incomplete
Something, some time soon, has to give in Anaheim. While their defence is solid and young and their starting goalie is still not in his prime, the Ducks core group of forwards — and from who they still derive much of their offence — isn’t getting any younger. And four of them, Corey Perry (33), Ryan Getzlaf (33), Ryan Kesler (33) and Andrew Cogliano are on the books for at least three more seasons at around $27 million a season, collectively. That doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room to sign a premier free agent any time soon. This team, which went about as far as it could go in 2017 (Western Conference finals), went out with barely a whimper in four straight to San Jose this year. Now, they did do the right thing in re-signing budding defensive star Brandon Montour to a new pact (two years, $6.775M) and 28-year-old C Adam Henrique (five years, $29.1M), but it may be another so-so year ahead.
3. Colorado Avalanche – Incomplete
While Nate MacKinnon isn’t quite in Connor McDavid’s league, the Avalanche could be wasting his considerable talents. The team did turn the corner from an awful 2016-17 campaign, recording nearly double the 48 points from that horrid season with 95 and a berth in the playoffs. But, they weren’t really a match for Nashville and went out in six. Back to MacKinnon, who was a MVP candidate during the regular season with 97 points and also recorded six points in six playoff games. Other than fellow playmakers Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, however, it seems that MacKinnon is alone out there most nights. The Avs didn’t do a whole lot in free agency to find fits for MacKinnon, choosing instead to add depth in D Ian Cole and F Matt Calvert. In a separate trade, Colorado dealt a second rounder for Washington’s back-up Philipp Grubauer and D Brooks Orpik (who was bought out and re-signed with Washington anyway). They get a win on that, but still an incomplete grade heading into the 18-19 season.
2. St. Louis Blues – Incomplete
The Blues have seemingly done very well in the off-season with trades and free agency. But note, we said “seemingly.” This team, which qualified for the post-season for six straight years, found itself on the outside looking in this spring. What we see with the moves they made is a kind of “let’s throw things at the wall to see if they stick” approach. They did get deeper down the middle with the signing of Tyler Bozak and a big trade for Buffalo’s Ryan O’Reilly. However, in Bozak they are getting a 32-year-old who Toronto didn’t think enough of to retain and needed his money to sign John Tavares. For O’Reilly, who is 27 and will certainly be first line, they mortgaged the farm. He cost the team forwards Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka and Tage Thompson, as well as a future second and first round pick. They did well to sign Patrick Maroon to an affordable one-year deal, but may have erred with a fairly rich four-year deal with David Perron. They lost in the back-up goalie sweepstakes, signing Buffalo’s Chad Johnson, while their fairly superb no. 2 Carter Hutton signed with the Sabres.
1. Calgary Flames – Incomplete
Another year, another round of mixed results from Team Jekyll and Hyde. The Flames, who have made the post-season just twice in the last nine seasons, followed up a fairly good 2016-17 campaign with a dud in 2017-18. What they have done in the off-season only qualifies them for incomplete status, though. They well in a trade that looks pretty much like a wash, adding budding star defenceman Noah Hanifin and Swedish third liner Elias Lindholm for veteran D Dougie Hamilton and Micheal Ferland. Yet, they overpaid for soon-to-be 31 forward James Neal. The Flames signed the past-his-prime, 44-point man to a lucrative five-year, $28.75 million contract. Add to that the fact they inked the considerably younger Lindholm to a six-year, $29.1 million contract and it’s not hard to foresee they may not have enough future money to keep both Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk, who are RFA at the end of the coming season. They did do well adding some depth in the signings of Carolina’s Derek Ryan and Boston’s Austin Czarnik.