Which NHL teams improved the most this summer? Ranking the work of all 32 GMs

Which NHL teams improved the most this summer? Ranking the work of all 32 GMs

Three weeks after free agency opened up, the dust has mostly settled and the majority of impact players have found a home — with one major exception. That gives us a decent idea of where teams are at for next season, giving us a good time to analyze which teams improved or declined most based on their offseason transactions.

When it comes to projecting how a team will do next season there are many factors beyond who’s new in the locker room. Internal breakouts/declines, team-wide regression and different usage all play a role, as do rookies, coaching and plain old luck. It goes beyond who’s in and who’s out, but for the purposes of this article that’s all we’ll be looking at: Which teams got better or worse on paper.

This is all about how many wins each team added or subtracted from their bottom line, while also looking at how much salary was added or subtracted too based on said players. Win value is determined via projected GSVA, the model we always use around these parts.

Here’s how much each team has changed this offseason, from most value added to most value subtracted.


1. Detroit Red Wings

Wins Added: 6.0 wins

Salary Added: $24.2 million

In: Ville Husso, David Perron, Andrew Copp, Dominik Kubalik, Mark Pysyk, Austin Czarnik, Olli Maatta, Matt Luff, Ben Chiarot

Out: Olli Juolevi, Thomas Greiss, Marc Staal

The Detroit Red Wings balled out this summer spending big money in hopes of clawing out of the league’s basement and forging a path toward contention. No team saw a bigger increase in spending and it looks like it should be worth it because no team added more value either. With a 1.9-win gap between first and second, it wasn’t even close either.

The Red Wings didn’t lose much with three players who offered minimal value … if that. In their place, there are nine new notable faces who will inject some life into the lineup. Detroit’s issue has long been its depth and that should be alleviated heavily after a busy offseason.


David Perron (Stephen R. Sylvanie / USA Today)

Up front, David Perron and Andrew Copp are legitimate top-six talents that should immediately provide some depth scoring beyond the top line. Detroit has long depended on Dylan Larkin and his linemates to do it all. Now it doesn’t have to. Perron and Copp aren’t stars, but they move the needle and provide strong support. Add Dominik Kubalik to the mix and the top nine looks the scariest it has in a long time. 

On defense, the changes aren’t as exciting but there’s hope. Mark Pysyk is an analytics darling that should do just fine on the team’s third pair, while Olli Maatta bounced back well last season. He has top-four potential if he can keep that up. Considering the money they’re giving him, the Red Wings are likely hoping Ben Chiarot is the big top-four piece needed to take this team to a higher level. The model is incredibly skeptical of that, but it’s nice knowing the team added six wins anyway despite Chiarot’s projected value dragging it down. If he can be as good as some suggest he is, that’s another win or so in Detroit’s ledger.

The team’s biggest add though comes in net with Ville Husso. Detroit took a calculated risk last offseason with Alex Nedeljkovic and it’s doing something similar with Husso. It’s another young goalie who got hot and showed starter potential. The duo has tremendous upside, but the small sample risk remains real for both. As long as one of them hits it’s a good bet though, giving Detroit some stability in net for the first time since the last time Jimmy Howard was good. Incidentally, that was the last time the team was any good. It’s been a long time coming, but the Red Wings are back on the rise.

2. Seattle Kraken

Wins Added: 4.1 wins

Salary Added: $15.1 million

In: Andre Burakovsky, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Justin Schultz, Martin Jones, Michal Kempny

Out: Austin Czarnik, Haydn Fleury

Ah yes, a summer article praising the Seattle Kraken. It feels like 2021 again, folks. On paper, they look like savvy bets, but I’m sure we’ll be back in one year’s time, confused at how Andre Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand only scored 14 goals combined all season.

For a team that struggled to score last season, Burakovsky and Bjorkstrand were incredibly smart additions. Burakovsky is one of a handful of players who have scored over 2.5 points-per-60 in each of the last three seasons and he’s been a remarkably consistent point producer as a member of the Avalanche. Bjorkstrand had a bit of a down year at even strength, dropping to 1.74 points-per-60, but has a history of being an efficient scorer, too. Both players also have a decent ability to drive play and come in at roughly the same win valuation: around 1.8 wins. The duo is not enough to save Seattle from the basement, but it gives the Kraken stronger depth up front. 

The rest of the players listed don’t move the needle all too much. The signing of Martin Jones feels like a major misstep for a team whose biggest problem was goaltending last year. Chris Driedger better recover quickly.

3. Washington Capitals

Wins Added: 4.1 wins

Salary Added: $5.0 million

In: Darcy Kuemper, Dylan Strome, Connor Brown, Erik Gustafsson, Gabriel Carlsson

Out: Vitek Vanecek, Justin Schultz, Ilya Samsonov, Michal Kempny

Finally, some praise for the Washington Capitals. The Capitals and our model have been at odds for years in what has turned into a bitter rivalry. Washington is undefeated in the regular season head-to-head matchup, while the playoffs have been the opposite with several first-round exits in a row. 

But for once, the model is a fan of what the Capitals are doing. This has been a strong offseason for Washington, one that positions an aging core well for another crack at possibly contending. The Capitals added some strong pieces without losing anyone of much significance. 

The big get is in goal. Darcy Kuemper was by far the best goaltender available, a substantial upgrade over Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov, and the biggest reason the team comes in at third. Kuemper is projected to deliver 2.9 wins of value, the ninth highest mark in the league. He’s the kind of starter that Washington has desperately needed since Braden Holtby’s decline and Philipp Grubauer’s exodus. Injuries are always an issue with him and he isn’t young by any means, but last year he was a beast during the regular season. Kuemper was one of the league’s top goalies in goals saved above expected and has been for much of his career — when healthy. His playoff output left a bit to be desired, yes, but he was also dealing with an eye injury. Goalies generally need those working at 100 percent capacity to function well, so he deserves a bit of benefit of the doubt there. Kuemper is a solid add.

Dylan Strome and Connor Brown add strong forward depth on top of that, with the former being an especially savvy addition. Strome was the third pick in 2015 and last year looked like he was finally living up to his promise, scoring 48 points in 69 games. Much of that was in the season’s second half when finally paired with Chicago’s skilled players. In Washington, he can thrive.

4. New Jersey Devils

Wins Added: 4.1 wins

Salary Added: $16.2 million

In: Ondrej Palat, Erik Haula, Vitek Vanecek, John Marino

Out: Pavel Zacha, Ty Smith

Please, dear God, make it stop. Every summer, the Devils come in somewhere near the top of these offseason rankings. They’re perennial summer champions. But then, every year they disappoint. I’m tired. 

The Devils made three trades and, according to the model, won them all. Erik Haula grades out better than Pavel Zacha. John Marino grades out better than Ty Smith. And Vitek Vanecek grades out better than a couple of draft picks. Win, win, win. We will see how it actually plays out. For now, I agree with all of that. Maybe not to the extent the model suggests, but the Devils did improve across all three trades.

On top of that, they added Ondrej Palat to the fold, a versatile winger with plenty of playoff pedigree. He looks to be an incredible fit on the top line and should greatly bolster the team’s top six as a high-end second-line caliber forward. Palat is on the wrong side of the age curve and is a bit overpaid. In the short term, however, he makes the Devils better. On paper anyway. We know how this usually goes with the Devils.

5. Ottawa Senators

Wins Added: 3.7 wins

Salary Added: $4.5 million

In: Alex DeBrincat, Claude Giroux, Cam Talbot

Out: Matt Murray, Connor Brown, Michael Del Zotto, Filip Gustavsson, Chris Tierney, Adam Gaudette, Victor Mete

No team had a louder offseason than the Ottawa Senators who made a big statement about their direction: up is the only way. It’s an extremely exciting time to be a Senators fan as the young core already in place is ready to explode, and the team has some new weapons to support it.

Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux are two massive pieces that put Ottawa directly on a path toward potential playoff contention. The Senators aren’t quite a playoff team yet, they still have a lot to prove and holes on defense, but they’re significantly closer now with these two on the team. DeBrincat is a pure sniper who can fill the net at an elite rate, while Giroux is an effective playmaker who can still play at a top-line level. Those two, plus Cam Talbot, give Ottawa 5.8 wins coming in.

The actual net value is a little lower though because the team lost some decent contributors in the process. The model views Talbot as a downgrade from Matt Murray — though it’s probably a moot point as Anton Forsberg looks like the best of the three anyway. Connor Brown eats a ton of minutes, while Michael Del Zotto was decent in a sheltered role. No big needle-movers, but the three add up. Ottawa was right there with Detroit and Washington in terms of value-added, but what the team lost is a bit more than the other two which is why the Senators come in at number five.


John Klingberg (Sergei Belski / USA TODAY)

6. Anaheim Ducks

Wins Added: 3.7 wins

Salary Added: $24.2 million

In: Ryan Strome, John Klingberg, Frank Vatrano, Olli Juolevi

Out: Gerald Mayhew

The Ducks made waves in the first half of last season as their young future stars began to blossom — but the ducklings need support. It’s part of the reason the team fell apart in the second half. Anaheim did well to achieve that goal during free agency by signing three key pieces. Ryan Strome is a legitimate top-six center who should do well behind Trevor Zegras. John Klingberg is a strong puck-mover and elite power-play quarterback that should help get the most out of the team’s fleet of young forwards. And Frank Vatrano is a decent middle-six scorer that bolsters the team’s depth, taking some of the pressure off the kids. The trio alone isn’t enough to move the needle and make the Ducks a playoff team, but they do add a lot of intrigue to the lineup. If the ducklings keep blossoming and John Gibson stays steady, the Ducks can be competitive. 

7. Nashville Predators

Wins Added: 3.0 wins

Salary Added: $6.4 million

In: Nino Niederreiter, Ryan McDonagh, Zach Sanford, John Leonard, Kevin Lankinen, Kiefer Sherwood

Out: Philippe Myers, Matt Luff, Luke Kunin, David Rittich, Matt Benning

From a cap perspective, the Ryan McDonagh trade was an awful one for Nashville. From an on-ice perspective though it makes the Predators a better team than they were at the end of the season, bolstering their defensive depth with a strong shutdown option. Add Nino Niederreiter to the mix at a very cost-effective price and the Predators added two real difference-makers to the team without losing anyone of importance. That should extend the team’s playoff contention window, even if it isn’t enough to make the team a real contender. To a small market, that kind of thing matters. With the elite talent this team has, Nashville can find a way to surprise if it just gets in — something the team has a pretty high chance of doing.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets

Wins Added: 2.2 wins

Salary Added: $6.9 million

In: Johnny Gaudreau, Erik Gudbranson

Out: Oliver Bjorkstrand, Gabriel Carlsson, Kevin Stenlund

The biggest fish in free agency was reeled in by Columbus, a signing that still elicits a bit of shock. A cap-strapped team that overachieved to 81 points last year wouldn’t have been my first choice, but kudos to Columbus for making it happen. Johnny Gaudreau is projected to be a 4.3-win player and adds a lot of value on his own to Columbus’ baseline.

On his own, it’s not enough to make the Blue Jackets a playoff team. Frankly, it’s not even close. But because the team was over the salary cap the new deal also meant moving a player out of the current lineup. I’m not sure why that player had to be Oliver Bjorkstrand, the team’s next best forward, but that cuts into how much value Columbus added this summer. That’s 1.8 wins out the window. Perhaps signing Erik Gudbranson for $4 million to bring in minus-0.1 wins wasn’t the best idea.

9. Montreal Canadiens

Wins Added: 2.1 wins

Salary Added: $3.6 million

In: Mike Matheson, Evgenii Dadonov, Kirby Dach

Out: Jeff Petry, Alexander Romanov

Montreal shows up shockingly high and that has a lot to do with the Ducharme Disposition (every player on last year’s team projecting to be worse than they actually are). The Jeff Petry for Mike Matheson swap appears as a win for the Canadiens according to the model, though I imagine the majority of people would prefer Petry. Alexander Romanov’s loss is viewed as addition by subtraction, though his age and potential make that feel like a stretch. Still, I’d much rather have Kirby Dach’s potential over Romanov’s — so call that one a win. 

In a vacuum, those two deals should probably be a wash, which leaves Evgenii Dadonov as the main needle-mover in Montreal’s offseason. He’s currently projected to be worth 1.1 wins, a solid middle-six talent. That’s one win less than actually projected, so we will see if the model is on to something with Matheson and Dach over Petry and Romanov. 


Kevin Fiala (David Berding / USA Today)

10. Los Angeles Kings

Wins Added: 1.7 wins

Salary Added: $1.4 million

In: Kevin Fiala

Out: Andreas Athanasiou, Troy Stecher, Olli Maatta

The Kings only added one player this offseason, but it was a big one. Kevin Fiala was one of the biggest fish on the trade market, coming off a breakthrough year where he scored 85 points. The dynamic winger is a rare three-win winger, one who adds an incredible offensive punch, and he couldn’t have found a better fit than the Kings. This team needed a Fiala-type badly. Los Angeles is a team on the rise and the addition of Fiala takes the team up a notch where a playoff berth becomes much more certain. 

Fiala didn’t come cheap in terms of salary, but losing Andreas Athanasiou, Troy Stecher and Olli Maatta nearly make it an even trade-off in terms of money. Fiala brings far more to the table than those three combined and the Kings have plenty of prospects ready to take up any open spots. Los Angeles is a team to watch this season.

11. Edmonton Oilers

Wins Added: 1.7 wins

Salary Added: $3.1 million

In: Jack Campbell, Mattias Janmark

Out: Zack Kassian

Edmonton’s biggest question mark was in net. Did the Oilers answer it? It’s tough to really say because of how fickle goalies can be — and Jack Campbell fits that billing more than most. His extreme highs and lows make him a somewhat chaotic choice to steer the ship for Edmonton. What the Oilers are getting likely isn’t that much different from what they already have in Mike Smith. 

Still, it’s an upgrade over Mikko Koskinen and gives Edmonton a relatively strong tandem between the pipes. Campbell, as the team’s starter, adds 1.7 wins to Edmonton’s bottom line which puts the team into a pretty high league-wide standing. 

12. Dallas Stars

Wins Added: 1.5 wins

Salary Added: -$2.4 million

In: Mason Marchment, Colin Miller, Will Butcher

Out: John Klingberg, Vladislav Namestnikov

How good is Mason Marchment going to be outside of Florida’s system? That’s the big question for Dallas here. The model believes he’s a strong bet after the extremely efficient season he had last year with the Panthers, even after regressing from his tiny sample size. I’m a bit skeptical, but Marchment’s impact is the main reason Dallas comes in at 12th as he’s projected to provide over two wins of value on his own. That offsets the loss of John Klingberg who is half of that after a few trying seasons where his defensive game has struggled. It’s a smart reshuffling of value for the Stars as forward depth was the team’s biggest issue. Sacrifice a little on the back end to get it and the team should be alright. Especially with Miro Heiskanen ready to take on a bigger offensive role in Klingberg’s absence. 

Also interesting here: The Stars are the only team that added wins, but cut salary at the same time. That’s some tidy business right there.

13. Vancouver Canucks

Wins Added: 1.3 wins

Salary Added: $4.3 million

In: Ilya Mikheyev, Dakota Joshua, Collin Delia, Curtis Lazar

Out: Brad Hunt, Jaroslav Halak, Matthew Highmore

Over the last three years, here’s how Vancouver ranks in suppressing chances on the penalty kill: 31st, 25th, 26th. In two of those years the Canucks were able to mask some deficiencies with strong goaltending, but not last year. It’s a constant source of stress for the team which is what made this year’s big signing so intriguing. Ilya Mikheyev was one of Toronto’s best penalty killers last season, especially from a ‘power-kill’ perspective, being on the ice for 4.1 goals-per-60 and 2.5 expected goals-per-60. For reference, the Canucks generated 2.4 expected goals-per-60 at five-on-five last year.

Mikheyev himself is worth around 1.5 wins so he’s the whole reason Vancouver ranks this high. On top of his penalty-killing ability, he showed a decent scoring touch last year while also providing strong defense. A really strong addition for the Canucks that really bolsters its top nine.

14. Buffalo Sabres

Wins Added: 0.9 wins

Salary Added: $0.3 million

In: Eric Comrie, Ilya Lyubushkin

Out: Mark Pysyk, Colin Miller, Will Butcher

Of all the goalie bets to make, Eric Comrie is definitely among the most intriguing. He carried a very high pedigree at one point but struggled to break into the league until last season — a season where he put up some very strong numbers. Comrie’s NHL sample size is tiny, so there’s a lot of risk involved in hoping for his excellent numbers to continue. But at $1.8 million it’s a decent flier for a team that has struggled to find competent goaltending during the majority of their rebuild. Comrie turning into the next Jack Campbell isn’t out of the question.

As for the defensive swaps, it’s not much to write home about in either direction. Buffalo loses three replaceable guys and adds one. Ilya Lyubushkin adds size and snarl at least, which could be a welcome addition to the Sabres’ blue line.


Tony DeAngelo (Brad Penner / USA Today)

15. Philadelphia Flyers

Wins Added: 0.9 wins

Salary Added: $3.3 million

In: Tony DeAngelo, Justin Braun, Nicolas Deslauriers 

Out: Martin Jones, Oskar Lindblom

The Flyers “improved” in the sense that the model really loves Tony DeAngelo. He was an offensive force for the Hurricanes, but it likely doesn’t account enough for how much support he had in that system. That’s both offensively (elite power play) and defensively (playing with Jaccob Slavin or on the third pair). In any sense, his positive value added is mostly undone anyway by the team bringing back Justin Braun and adding Nicolas Deslauriers. Those are two signings meant to maintain the whole Broad St. Bullies ethos — the exact type of decision this franchise continues to make for the sake of actual on-ice value. Braun and Deslauriers are both worth minus-0.5 wins. Each. At least they didn’t lose anyone of real consequence. 

16. Arizona Coyotes

Wins Added: 0.3 wins

Salary Added: $4.5 million

In: Troy Stecher, Zack Kassian

Out:

The Coyotes are of little interest until they move Jakob Chychrun. Adding Troy Stecher and Zack Kassian doesn’t move the needle at all. This team is still going to be putrid.

17. New York Islanders

Wins Added: -0.5 wins

Salary Added: $0.0 million

In: Alex Romanov

Out:

The Islanders, who missed the playoffs last year, were only able to add Alex Romanov this offseason. It is a move that makes them worse according to the model after a rough second season for Romanov. Perhaps he can reach his potential and bring positive value, but at this point it feels a bit unlikely.

18. Boston Bruins

Wins Added: -0.6 wins

Salary Added: -$3.4 million

In: Pavel Zacha

Out: Erik Haula, Curtis Lazar

The Bruins will rank a lot lower if Patrice Bergeron doesn’t come back, but that decision still seems to be up in the air. Their only real swap was adding Pavel Zacha in exchange for Erik Haula. Boston gets six years younger with the exchange, but over half a win worse. Haula was sneaky good last year once he was put in a top-six role. Maybe Zacha can emulate that with better linemates, but for now it’s a net-negative move. Especially once Zacha signs at a likely higher cap hit than Haula.

19. Pittsburgh Penguins

Wins Added: -0.6 wins

Salary Added: -$0.3 million

In: Jeff Petry, Jan Rutta, Ty Smith

Out: Mike Matheson, John Marino

The Penguins rearranged the deck chairs on defense with the primary goal being bringing in Jeff Petry, a more established presence than either Mike Matheson or John Marino. In terms of pedigree, Petry is a much safer bet. But Matheson was stronger last year, while Marino probably has the most upside. Ty Smith is young enough to provide that same upside, but his work in the NHL to date has been suspect. If the Penguins can fix him (like they always seem to do with defenders), they can come out on top with their defense corps reshuffling. If not, they need to hope Petry can regain his previous form. He showed some promise in that regard once Martin St. Louis took over as coach — a change the model likely doesn’t weigh heavily enough.

20. Winnipeg Jets

Wins Added: -1.4 wins

Salary Added: -$1.0 million

In: Kevin Stenlund, David Rittich

Out: Eric Comrie, Zach Sanford

A goalie swap and a depth forward swap. Not much to see here, though Eric Comrie to David Rittich is probably a bit of a downgrade. Comrie will get more starts in Buffalo which overrates how many wins Winnipeg actually loses here, but even on a per-start basis, he’s likely more reliable than Rittich. Thanks to a .920 save percentage, Comrie saved 9.9 goals above expected over 19 games last season. That’s a bigger loss than some might give credit for.


Brent Burns and Jordan Staal (Neville E. Guard / USA Today)

21. Carolina Hurricanes

Wins Added: -1.8 wins

Salary Added: -$7.1 million

In: Max Pacioretty, Brent Burns, Ondrej Kase, Dylan Coghlan, Ryan Dzingel

Out: Tony DeAngelo, Nino Niederreiter, Vincent Trocheck, Ian Cole, Max Domi, Josh Leivo, Steven Lorentz

The Hurricanes were largely seen as one of the biggest winners this offseason, so coming in 21st with a net loss in wins probably doesn’t add up. Really, it’s all relative as almost all the teams above them aren’t in the contending class or even close. As is the case every offseason in a salary cap world, all the best teams got worse and the Hurricanes arguably got the least bad.

For starters, the model sees Brent Burns as a downgrade from Tony DeAngelo. I can’t say I agree as Burns has an actual ability to play a top-four role and can probably provide the same offensive output as DeAngelo in this system. DeAngelo’s numbers were very likely inflated and it wouldn’t be a shock to see the script flip this season. Burns is a defensive liability too, but not to the same degree. That one caveat immediately changes the math in terms of wins added, probably in the neighborhood of one win in Carolina’s favor.

Max Pacioretty is the bigger addition though — if he stays healthy. That’s always the concern with him, but when he’s on, he’s the big goal-scoring threat that this team has always needed. It hurts to lose Nino Niederreiter, but Pacioretty is an upgrade. Ondrej Kase adds some depth to the mix and though he’s not on Vincent Trocheck’s level, that gap should be bridged by a promotion for Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

The model itself likes the current version of the Hurricanes team a lot and they rank very highly league-wide, even if this exercise sees what’s coming in as less than what’s going out.

22. San Jose Sharks

Wins Added: -2.1 wins

Salary Added: $3.5 million

In: Nico Sturm, Oskar Lindblom, Luke Kunin, Steven Lorentz, Markus Nutivaara, Matt Benning

Out: Brent Burns, Rudolfs Balcers, John Leonard, Ryan Dzingel

The Sharks’ offseason was just throwing a whole bunch of stuff at the wall and seeing what stuck. Nico Sturm was a quality depth add and Oskar Lindblom has potential, but most of the guys coming in were a mishmash of players who just won’t move the needle. Are any of them an improvement over Rudolfs Balcers — a player San Jose willingly bought out? Probably not, which is what made most of the team’s moves so puzzling.

Not puzzling was trading away Brent Burns. The team has way too many problem contracts on the books and it was nice to get out of at least one. Still, the salary retention made the deal a bit less palatable — especially with such a modest return the other way. 

23. Tampa Bay Lightning

Wins Added: -2.3 wins

Salary Added: -$6.7 million

In: Ian Cole, Vladislav Namestnikov, Haydn Fleury, Philippe Myers

Out: Ondrej Palat, Ryan McDonagh, Jan Rutta

The Lightning did amazing work to get out of the rest of Ryan McDonagh’s contract. Look around the league at the cost of sending money away and Tampa Bay didn’t have to pay a cent extra for McDonagh, one of the league’s lesser contracts. Losing him isn’t great, but Ian Cole is a strong depth add that allows Mikhail Sergachev to step into the top four. It’s still a net loss on paper, but one the team shouldn’t have trouble covering.

It’s a bigger issue up front where the loss of Ondrej Palat is palpable. He was a key cog in the team’s top six and a major reason why the Lightning lost 2.3 wins of value this offseason. The return of Vladislav Namestnikov won’t come close to covering that.

24. New York Rangers

Wins Added: -2.5 wins

Salary Added: -$12.9 million

In: Vincent Trocheck, Jaroslav Halak

Out: Ryan Strome, Alexandar Georgiev, Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano, Justin Braun, Kevin Rooney

Remember when the Rangers improved their depth at the deadline and saw a huge leap in their underlying numbers? Well, no Andrew Copp or Frank Vatrano takes away from that and brings the team down a peg. That’s the biggest reason the Rangers fall this low. Losing Justin Braun and Kevin Rooney is addition by subtraction at least, and a backup goaltending swap doesn’t matter too much. That leaves the swap at the second-line center position. 

The model believes Vincent Trocheck to be a slight downgrade from Ryan Strome, which makes some sense considering Strome has outscored Trocheck pretty handsomely over the last few seasons. Playing with Artemi Panarin helps, but it isn’t all quality of teammates — Strome has turned into a pretty nifty player in his own right who fit well next to the superstar winger. Will Trocheck be able to fit just as well? It’s tough to say, but the Rangers are obviously betting that he can. There’s a 0.3-win difference between the two right now. It’s not impossible for Trocheck to make up that ground.


Darcy Kuemper (Geoff Burke / USA Today)

25. Colorado Avalanche

Wins Added: -2.7 wins

Salary Added: -$10.3 million

In: Alexandar Georgiev, Brad Hunt

Out: Darcy Kuemper, Andre Burakovsky, Nico Sturm, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Kiefer Sherwood

Colorado’s spot on this list hinges on what we will call Schrodinger’s Kadri. Right now, he’s not in or out of the lineup, but at nearly three wins of expected value he’s the difference between Colorado being 25th on this list and Colorado being dead last with a bullet. He would represent a big hit to the team’s chances of repeating as champions.

The Avalanche have already lost a lot this offseason. While they were able to hold on to Valeri Nichushkin, they lost starting goalie Darcy Kuemper, sniper Andre Burakovsky and a few depth pieces. Alexandar Georgiev is an okay bet to take over at starter, especially considering the cost savings, but in the short term it still appears as a sizeable downgrade over Kuemper. Say what you will about Kuemper’s postseason performance — after an eye gouging — but he was stellar during the regular season. He’s rated as one of the league’s best goalies and has consistently put up strong numbers during his career. Maybe Georgiev can be as good, but the odds aren’t in his favor.

Goalies are notoriously hard to predict, so the bigger loss may just be Burakovsky who added an important scoring punch to the team’s middle six. He’s a bonafide top-six scorer who has produced at a 60-to-70-point pace in each of his three seasons with Colorado. And that’s with minimal power-play time. That’s 1.8 wins out of the lineup from him alone, something that will be very hard to replace. Add Kadri to that list, and the Avalanche forward group doesn’t look quite as imposing as it did over the last two seasons.

26. Minnesota Wild

Wins Added: -3.0 wins

Salary Added: -$12.5 million

In: Filip Gustavsson

Out: Kevin Fiala, Cam Talbot, Nicolas Deslauriers

One loss is all it takes if it’s a player like Kevin Fiala. He’s an electrifying talent and one of the better players to be moved in what has been a chaotic offseason. The rest cancels itself out — the goalie downgrade is offset by the loss of a negative-win player — but Fiala’s value obviously isn’t easy to replace. That’s three wins out the window for the Wild and no one new coming in to even attempt to salvage that. The Wild have incredible depth and high-end prospect Marco Rossi coming in, so the team itself should be fine. But they definitely lose some pop without Fiala’s offensive flair.

27. Calgary Flames

Wins Added: -3.2 wins

Salary Added: -$14.9 million

In: Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, Kevin Rooney

Out: Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Calle Jarnkrok, Erik Gudbranson

If not for Florida paying a short-term king’s ransom for Matthew Tkachuk, this really could’ve been so much worse. Losing two franchise players in one summer is far from ideal, but the Flames did well to get back an elite playmaking winger and a stud defenseman for one of them. 

Tkachuk and Gaudreau are both projected to be worth the same amount next season: 4.3 wins. That’s 8.6 wins off the ledger right there and enough to sink most teams’ chances of making the playoffs. Gaudreau walking was the initial sting and it seems there was nothing for the team to do to stop that. Tkachuk’s domino fell shortly after and some of the proposed deals to acquire him were truly baffling given his caliber of play and the uniqueness of his game. The Flames’ window looked like it would shut close.

Acquiring Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar for Tkachuk allowed the team to keep that window open for at least one more season, softening the blow of losing two cornerstone pieces. Huberdeau is an elite winger in his own right and a capable enough replacement for Gaudreau. It’s a half-win downgrade due to Huberdeau’s defensive inability, but hey, maybe in Darryl Sutter’s system the Flames can see real improvement there. He’ll have a strong partner in Elias Lindholm to find some magic. There’s no one to replace Tkachuk, but Calgary does see a huge upgrade in Weegar. The defender had a huge gaffe in the playoffs that is likely still fresh on everyone’s minds, but he remains one of the league’s better all-around defencemen, one who should fit perfectly with the Flames.

Calgary was able to swing that because both players are on expiring deals, but even if the focus is short-term, it’s a nice shot in the arm for a team that otherwise looked doomed. The Flames aren’t dead yet.

28. Chicago Blackhawks

Wins Added: -3.5 wins

Salary Added: -$4.5 million

In: Andreas Athanasiou, Petr Mrazek, Colin Blackwell, Max Domi

Out: Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalik, Erik Gustafsson, Kirby Dach, Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen

The Blackhawks had exactly one goal in mind this offseason: Get as bad as possible as quickly as possible. With Connor Bedard entering the draft next summer, it’s a worthy plan and it meant shipping off star scorer Alex DeBrincat and 2019 No. 3 pick Kirby Dach. Two somewhat strange deals for a rebuilding team given the age of the duo, but necessary ones considering the goal. The team can’t be as bad as it needs to be with those two on the roster, especially DeBrincat. They weren’t done there. The Blackhawks also didn’t extend qualifying offers to Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik, two effective forwards who probably would’ve been qualified under normal circumstances. Again: one goal.

The Blackhawks lost nearly six wins of value from their big exodus, a big step toward the level they need to be at. An absolutely shameless tank that I have nothing but respect for. The team added Andreas Athanasiou and Max Domi on one-year deals, essentially buying future draft picks at the deadline. A savvy move, but one that bites into the planned sucking the team has for itself. Between those two, Petr Mrazek and Colin Blackwell, the Blackhawks added 2.4 wins, giving them a net total of minus-3.5 wins. 

I guess we’ll have to wait for the inevitable Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews trades to see this team land 32nd, where they want to be.

29. Vegas Golden Knights

Wins Added: -4.0 wins

Salary Added: -$14.0 million

In:

Out: Max Pacioretty, Evgenii Dadonov, Dylan Coghlan, Mattias Janmark

Vegas remains the most hilarious franchise, acquiring star players with the deft touch of a cursed monkey’s paw. 

For the past two summers, the franchise has had to come to terms with the fact that the salary cap is indeed real and there would be consequences to their actions. Last year it meant giving away Vezina winner and franchise icon Marc-André Fleury for free. This year it meant giving away a near point-per-game winger, Max Pacioretty, also for free. Something tells me giving away high-end players for free isn’t the soundest investment strategy from an asset acquisition perspective, but hey, I’m just a guy who writes stuff on the internet. 

Moving big money is becoming increasingly hard in a flat cap world and Vegas has become a pivotal example of that. The fact the return on Fleury and Pacioretty has been so underwhelming in back-to-back offseasons is a real testament to that. The Golden Knights have made their bed, now they have to lie in it — losing four wins of value off a team that didn’t even make the playoffs last year. Tough.

30. St. Louis Blues

Wins Added: -4.1 wins

Salary Added: -$6.3 million

In: Josh Leivo, Noel Acciari, Thomas Greiss, Matthew Highmore

Out: Ville Husso, David Perron, Dakota Joshua

Jordan Binnington won back the starting job in the playoffs after Ville Husso faltered. That makes it easy to forget who the better goalie was for the majority of the season and that Binnington lost the starting job in the first place. The Blues had the potential for a strong goaltending tandem, but Husso exiting means the team sees a major downgrade in that regard. Thomas Greiss is no longer a capable goaltender and will likely be a real liability for this team. He’s replacement level and that’s a big step down from Husso.

The Blues also, somehow, lost David Perron which puts a damper on the team’s attack. What made the Blues special last year was their depth, featuring wave after wave of offensively-gifted players. Perron was a vital part of that and his absence will be seriously felt. No one coming in even comes close to matching that level as they’re all fourth-line talents, if that. 

This has been a tough offseason for the Blues, losing those two guys and not adequately replacing them. It’ll be difficult to reach last year’s heights as a result.

31. Toronto Maple Leafs

Wins Added: -4.1 wins

Salary Added: -$7.9 million

In: Matt Murray, Ilya Samsonov, Calle Jarnkrok, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Adam Gaudette, Victor Mete

Out: Jack Campbell, Ilya Mikheyev, Petr Mrazek, Ondrej Kase, Colin Blackwell, Ilya Lyubushkin

I didn’t expect to see the Leafs this low, but several little things begin to add up. The biggest change is obviously in net where the team likely downgraded. The combo of Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek wasn’t elite by any means, but on paper, it’s probably more reliable than Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov. Again, goalies are weird beings, so maybe this bet pays off for Toronto, but for now it’s a net negative.

Individually, the biggest loss is Ilya Mikheyev, who comes in at around 1.5 wins on his own. The model loves his combination of goal-scoring ability and defensive prowess and he’ll be missed more than many might think, especially on the penalty kill. Ondrej Kase and Colin Blackwell are decent depth players too and losing them hurts the low end of Toronto’s roster. The top end is obviously good enough that it may not matter much, but the team definitely took a hit with its depth. Calle Jarnkrok and Nicolas Aube-Kubel are fine, but both are coming off down years and are unlikely to match the value of Mikheyev and Kase.

The model still loves the Leafs, don’t you worry — it just would’ve been to a bigger degree with a more sturdy plan between the pipes. The Leafs come into the season with the 28th best goaltending in the league. Ouch.

32. Florida Panthers

Wins Added: -4.9 wins

Salary Added: -$14.4 million

In: Matthew Tkachuk, Rudolfs Balcers, Michael Del Zotto, Gerald Mayhew, Chris Tierney, Marc Staal

Out: Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, Mason Marchment, Claude Giroux, Noel Acciari, Markus Nutivaara, Ben Chiarot

No team did more to change their look this offseason than the Florida Panthers. Part of that was simply born out of necessity because the team had a lot of free agents leaving. Deadline acquisitions Claude Giroux and Ben Chiarot obviously weren’t coming back, while Mason Marchment priced himself out of returning. That’s four wins lost right there and not adequately replaced, either. Rudolfs Balcers has potential and Michael Del Zotto had a nice comeback season, but those two obviously pale in comparison to those who departed. There was no doubt Florida would be a worse team than the one awarded last year’s Presidents’ Trophy.

And then the Panthers upped the ante with a blockbuster deal that completely changed their complexion. A deal that is incredible for the long-term vision of the franchise, but one with immediate short-term repercussions. 

Matthew Tkachuk is a fantastic player, but he alone cannot make up the value of both Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar. It’s an upgrade at forward that will create one of the most terrifying duos in the league — Tkachuk and Aleksander Barkov — but the team now has a giant hole on defense. Weegar is one of the league’s best defenders and his impact will be truly missed. The Panthers are two wins worse because of the deal. 

Florida still has an elite team, but reaching last year’s heights now gets significantly more challenging.

Data via Evolving Hockey and CapFriendly 

(Top photo of Claude Giroux: Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press via AP)


#NHL #teams #improved #summer #Ranking #work #GMs

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.