Breaking Down Summer 2016: Metropolitan Division

This article is part of a four-part series that lists all of the transactions made by each NHL team and discusses what each team’s offseason means in the context of their division. Information and data was taken from: NHL Numbers, Hockey Reference, General Fanager, Hockey Analysis, Corsica, TSN, and Rotowire. Also, a special thanks to Sean Tierney who provided data visualization for the series. 

There isn’t much you can really do to improve your chances at success when you play in the same division as the defending Stanley Cup Champions and Presidents Trophy winner. 

It’s hard to imagine anybody getting past either the Capitals or Penguins at the top of the Metropolitan Division standings, but with the Rangers and Islanders seemingly poised to take a step backwards, one of the rebuilding teams could take an opportunity to trend upwards. 


Carolina Hurricanes 

  • Traded a 2016 second round pick and a 2017 third round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen. 
  • Signed Lee Stempniak to a two-year contract with a $2.5 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Viktor Stalberg to a one-year, $1.5 million contract. 
  • Minor signings: Michael Leighton, Andrew Miller, Matt Tennyson. 
  • Re-signed Viktor Rask to a six-year contract with a $4 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Joakim Nordstrom to a two-year contract with a $1.275 million cap hit.
  • Re-signed Cam Ward to a two-year contract with a $3.3 million cap hit. 
  • Minor re-signings: Jake Chelios, Derek Ryan, Patrick Brown, Keegan Lowe, Dennis Robertson, Brendan Woods, Brody Sutter. 
  • Entry-level contracts: Josh Wesley, Aleksi Saarela, Sebastian Aho, Jake Bean, Julien Gauthier. 
  • Bought out the contract of James Wisniewski. He’ll carry a $3.5 million cap hit in 2016-17 and a $1 million cap hit in 2017-18. 
  • IN: Bryan Bickell, Teuvo Teravainen, Lee Stempniak, Viktor Stalberg, Andrew Miller, Matt Tennyson, Josh Wesley, Aleksi Saarela, Sebastian Aho, Jake Bean, Julien Gauthier, Michael Leighton.
  • OUT: Nathan Gerbe, Riley Nash, James Wisniewski, Chris Terry, Justin Shugg, Carter Sandlak, Evgenii Dadnov, T.J. Hensick, Zach Boychuk, Danny Biega, Rasmus Tirronen, Dane Fox, Anthony Camara, Michal Jordan, Brad Malone. 

Though he was traded a few days before the 2015 trade deadline, it’s finally starting to set in that the Eric Staal days in Carolina are over. I think there was some amount of thought that Staal might return to the Hurricanes in the offseason after taking a run at winning with the New York Rangers, seeing as how he had spent his entire career with the franchise, but it didn’t happen, and now the team is moving forward around a new core of players.

The Canes acquired cap casualties Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell from the Chicago Blackhawks and added Lee Stempniak and Victor Stalberg in free agency to improve the team’s depth up front. Obviously none of these players will fill the hole that Staal leaves — which is a very noticeable one, seeing as how the team went from sort of challenging for a wild card seed to falling off a cliff after sending him to New York — but you can’t expect to replace a player like that with minor free agency moves. 

Instead, Staal’s eventual replacement in Carolina will have to come internally. Maybe it’ll be Victor Rask or Elias Lindholm, maybe somebody they draft in the next couple of years. Maybe they’ll never have a dominant power forward franchise player like Staal again, and instead the team’s success will be due to the strength of their blue line, which overflowing with young talent.

Verdict: The Canes are one of those in-limbo sort-of-rebuilding sort-of-not teams that are difficult to analyze. Last year, they boasted some very strong underlying numbers and didn’t see much success in the standings because of poor goaltending and a lack of skill up front that resulted in a low shooting percentage. Regardless, they’ve done a nice job adding some depth up front that should help them score goals, meaning they could be a surprising team in the East this year. 


Columbus Blue Jackets 

  • Traded Kerby Rychel to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Scott Harrington and a conditional draft pick. 
  • Signed Sam Gagner to a one-year, $650k contract. 
  • Re-signed Seth Jones to a six-year contract with a $5.4 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed William Karlsson to a two-year contract with a $1 million cap hit. 
  • Minor re-signings: Anton Forsberg, Lukas Sedlak, Alex Broadhurst, Scott Harrington, T.J. Tynan. 
  • Entry-level contracts: Pierre Luc-Dubois, Jacob Graves, Gabriel Carlsson, Justin Scott, Markus Nutivaara.
  • Bought out the contract of Fedor Tyutin. He’ll carry a $1.208 million cap hit in 2016-17, a $1.958 million cap hit in 2017-18, and a $1.485 million cap hit in 2018-19 and 2019-20. 
  • Bought out the contract of Jared Boll. He’ll carry a $567k cap hit for one year. 
  • IN: Pierre-Luc Dubious, Gabriel Carlsson, Justin Scott, Markus Nutivaara, Jacob Graves, Sam Gagner. 
  • OUT: Fedor Tyutin, Rene Bourque, Jared Boll, Michael Paliotta, Justin Falk, Maxim Mayorov, Ilari Melart, Dante Salituro, Michael Chaput. 

There isn’t really much to talk about with the Columbus Blue Jackets. So much of their team from 2015-16 was already signed into next season that they didn’t have much capacity to alter their team over the offseason. There was some thinking that they might have tried to fire off some assets or bad contracts, but other than buying out the contract of Fedor Tyutin, they ultimately opted to give this group another kick at the can. 

They went a little off the board and chose to draft Pierre-Luc Dubois with the third overall pick instead of consensus choice Jesse Puljujarvi, which nicely fills an organizational need at centre for the team. Other than that, they got Seth Jones signed to a nice long-term contract and plucked Sam Gagner from the here’s-your-chance-to-save-your-career bargain bin in order to add a little bit of punch to the their top six. 

Verdict: What is there to say, really? The Blue Jackets were a bad and disappointing team last season and they weren’t able to do much about it this summer because they have a lot of bad contracts weighing them down. So 2016-17 will be much like 2014-15 and 2015-16 where the Jackets try to build on what appeared to be a breakout season in 2013-14. If it doesn’t work this year, though, it might be time to consider moving in a different direction. 


New Jersey Devils

  • Traded Adam Larsson to the Edmonton Oilers for Taylor Hall. 
  • Traded a 2016 third round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Beau Bennett. 
  • Traded Graham Black and Paul Thompson to the Florida Panthers for Marc Savard’s contract and a 2018 second round pick. 
  • Signed Ben Lovejoy to a three-year contract with a $2.667 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Vernon Fiddler to a one-year, $1.25 million contract. 
  • Signed Brandon Gormley to a one-year, $650k contract. 
  • Signed Kyle Quincey to a one-year, $1.25 million contract. 
  • Minor signings: Yohann Auvitu, Karl Stollery, Carter Camper, Andrew MacWilliam, Luke Gazdic.
  • Re-signed Kyle Palmieri to a five-year contract with a $4.65 million contract. 
  • Re-signed Devante Smith-Pelly to a two-year contract with a $1.3 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Jon Merrill to a two-year contract with a $1.137 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Jacob Josefson to a one-year, $1.1 million contract. 
  • Re-signed Sergey Kalinin to a one-year, $800k contract. 
  • Re-signed Reid Boucher to a one-year, $715k contract. 
  • Entry-level contracts: Brandon Baddock, Blake Speers, Colton White. 
  • IN: Taylor Hall, Beau Bennett, Marc Savard’s contract, Ben Lovejoy, Vernon Fiddler, Brandon Gormley, Yohann Auvitu, Karl Stollery, Carter Camper, Andrew MacWilliam, Luke Gazdic, Brandon Baddock, Blake Speers, Colton White.. 
  • OUT: Yann Danis, Patrik Elias, Ryane Clowe, David Warsofsky, David Schlemko, Jordin Tootoo, Jiri Tlusty, Mike Sislo, Tuomo Ruutu, Harri Pesonen, Brian O’Neill, Jim O’Brien, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Tyler Kennedy, Dan Kelly, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Stephen Gionta, Bobby Farnham. 

Last season, the New Jersey Devils had a very difficult time scoring goals. They could suppress the other team’s ability to generate scoring chances and (thanks to excellent goaltending for Cory Schneider) keep the puck out of the net, but they ranked dead last in both even strength goals and shots for per hour.

To address this problem, the Devils acquired one of the league’s best offensive production drivers in Taylor Hall from Edmonton, and all they had to give up was Adam Larsson. Well, I mean, it’s not like Larsson is some random throw-in scrub or anything, but getting Taylor Hall for him in a one-for-one deal is a pretty incredible feat for the Devils. 

Hall will immediately jump in and become New Jersey’s best offensive threat, which is partially a testament to him as a player, but also to the fact that the Devils don’t have much in the way of elite talent up front, as Kyle Palmieri led the team in scoring with 57 points last season. That said, while Hall will vastly improve New Jersey’s ability to score, they still lack depth outside of their top-six, which is something that wasn’t addressed this summer. 

Last season, Palmieri and Adam Henrique each scored 30 goals, but after that, only three players had more than 10 goals, and one of them, Lee Stempniak, was dealt at the trade deadline. Ideally some production will come from Devante Smith-Pelly in his first full season with the club, or rookie Pavel Zacha, but the Devils certainly could have used some veteran depth up front to improve their offensive depth. 

Verdict: The Devils pulled off a trade this summer that they could realistically only have ever dreamed of. While Adam Larsson is an excellent talent and a valuable player, a defensive defenceman doesn’t have the same individual value as an offensive driver. But regardless, they managed to pull the deal off one-for-one, and they’re a better team now than they were last year because of it. Good enough to make the playoffs? Unlikely, unless everything goes right — Hall can carry the offence, Schneider stands on his head, and they get some breakout performances — but still, this offseason was a success just due to this trade alone. 


New York Islanders

  • Signed Andrew Ladd to a seven-year contract with a $5.5 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Jason Chimera to a two-year contract with a $2.25 million cap hit. 
  • Signed P.A. Parenteau to a one-year, $1.25 million contract. 
  • Signed Dennis Seidenberg to a one-year, $1 million contract. 
  • Minor signings: Tom Nilsson. 
  • Re-signed Casey Cizikas to a five-year contract with a $3.35 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Ryan Strome to a two-year contract with a $2.5 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Shane Prince to a two-year contract with a $850k cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Eric Boulton to a one-year, $575k contract. 
  • Minor re-signings: J-F Berube, Ben Holmstrom, Scott Mayfield, Alan Quine.
  • Entry-level contracts: Parker Wotherspoon. 
  • IN: Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera, P.A. Parenteau, Tom Nilsson, Parker Wotherspoon. 
  • OUT: Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, Matt Martin, Brian Strait, Matt Carkner, Joe Whitney, Mike Halmo, Mark Katic, Mikko Koskinen, David Ullstrom, Marc-Andre Cliche, Steve Bernier, Marek Zidlicky, Kevin Czuczman, Justin Vaive, James Wright, Justin Florek, Justin DiBenedetto. 

The New York Islanders enjoyed their most successful season in over two decades last year, as they won their first playoff series since 1993, but just a few weeks later, they lost two of their top three scorers in free agency. Kyle Okposo left to sign a seven-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres and Frans Nielsen joined the Detroit Red Wings on a six-year deal leaving the Islanders with a massive hole on their roster.

Okposo was sort of replaced in free agency by Andrew Ladd, who was inked to a seven-year contract with a $5.5 million cap hit. Obviously this seems a little curious, considering the deal is one year longer than the one handed out to Okposo in Buffalo, and Ladd is three years older and a less productive player. That said, the Islanders also signed Jason Chimera and P.A. Parenteau, which will help improve their scoring depth. 

Nielsen’s role will have to be filled internally, possibly by Ryan Strome, who was inked to a pretty cheap two-year bridge deal as he hasn’t lived up to his high draft pedigree yet. Another potential fit for the hole Nielsen left behind is 2015 first round pick Mathew Barzal, who scored 88 points in 58 games last season with the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL. Of course, that’s a steep task to ask for from a 19-year-old rookie, but the Islanders have a handful of options for the role. 

Speaking of centres, the Islanders also inked Casey Cizikas to a five-year contract with a $3.35 million annual salary, which seems pretty high for a player of his calibre. Cizikas is 24 years old, and last season scored a career-high 30 points. While he thrives in a defensive game, he doesn’t really bring the kind of offence you would want from a player who you’ve invested that much for. 

Verdict: This was certainly an odd offseason for the Islanders. Skepticism about the direction of the team began at the trade deadline when they stood pat and didn’t either add to their group that featured some key soon-to-be free agents or sell some of their assets while they could. Then, this summer, they let both Nielsen and Okposo walk while opting to invest seven- and five-year contracts on Andrew Ladd and Casey Cizikas. So not only did the team not get better, they also put themselves into the same inflexible cap situation they were trying to avoid in the first place. 


New York Rangers

  • Traded Derick Brassard and a 2018 seventh round pick to the Ottawa Senators for Mika Zibanejad and a 2018 second round pick. 
  • Traded a 2017 fourth round pick to the Colorado Avalanche for Nick Holden. 
  • Traded Keith Yandle’s free agency rights to the Florida Panthers for a 2016 sixth round pick and a conditional 2017 fourth round pick. 
  • Signed Michael Grabner to a two-year contract with a $1.65 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Brandon Pirri to a one-year, $1 million contract. 
  • Signed Nathan Gerbe to a one-year, $600k contract. 
  • Signed Jimmy Vesey to a two-year, $3.775 million contract. 
  • Signed Adam Clendening to a one-year $600k contract. 
  • Signed Josh Jooris to a one-year, $600k contract.
  • Minor signings: Michael Paliotta, John Gilmour. 
  • Re-signed Antti Raanta to a two-year contract with a $1.1 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed J.T. Miller to a two-year contract with a $2.625 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Dylan McIlrath to a one-year, $800k contract. 
  • Re-signed Kevin Hayes to a two-year contract with a $2.6 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Chris Kreider to a four-year contract with a $4.625 million cap hit. 
  • Minor re-signings: Chris Summers, Nicklas Jensen, Mat Bodie, Tommy Hughes, Marek Hrivik. 
  • Entry-level contracts: Pavel Buchnevich, Robin Kovacs, Sergey Zborovskiy. 
  • IN: Jimmy Vesey, Brandon Pirri, Mika Zibanejad, Nick Holden, Michael Grabner, Nathan Gerbe, Adam Clendening, Josh Jooris, Michael Paliotta, Pavel Buchnevich, Robin Kovacs, Sergey Zborovskiy, John Gilmour. 
  • OUT: Derick Brassard, Keith Yandle, Eric Staal, Viktor Stalberg, Jayson Megna, Dominic Moore, Dan Boyle, Dan Paille, Luke Adam, Cedrick Desjardins, Raphael Diaz, Brian Gibbons, Carl Klingberg, Matt Lindblad, Chris McCarthy, Josh Nicholls, Samuel Noreau, Michael St. Croix, Nick Tarnasky. 

The New York Rangers entered the offseason with damn near half of their team on expiring contracts. They let the UFAs — Eric Staal, Keith Yandle, Dan Boyle, Dom Moore, and Viktor Stalberg — all walk in order to give themselves the most room possible to sign all of the RFAs. 

And that they did! Kevin Hayes and JT Miller were both given two-year bridge deals, while Chris Kreider was locked up to a four-year deal that begins to eat into his UFA years. With all of that finished, the Rangers made a new depth additions, signing Michael Grabner, Nathan Gerbe, Josh Jooris, and Adam Clendening to fill the roles of the veterans that went out the door this summer. 

While all of that housework was pretty predictable, the swap the Rangers made with the Ottawa Senators wasn’t. They sent Derick Brassard, who had just signed a six-year contract with the club two summers ago, to the Sens for Mika Zibanejad, making the team younger and cheaper in the process. That said, Zibanejad, though he carries just a $2.625 million cap hit right now, is an RFA at the end of the season, and will likely be looking for a longer-term contract, so the savings may not last very long.

And if you didn’t think the Rangers had enough skilled wingers to fool around with, they went ahead and convinced coveted college free agent Jimmy Vesey to ink a two-year entry-level deal with the team and signed underappreciated offensive producer Brandon Pirri to a one-year deal. So while the Rangers have been absent at the draft over the past few years, they managed to somewhat compensate for it by adding some young talent over free agency. 

Verdict: The Rangers did a good job locking up their core of young players and filling the holes of the veterans that left the team with cheap, bargain bin signings. In order for this to be have been a very successful offseason, though, it would have been ideal for the Rangers to dump one of their bad contracts, like Marc Staal or Dan Girardi, but obviously that’s easier said than done. It’s hard to say if they’re a better team than they were last year, but they likely did enough to maintain their position as a playoff team in the East. 


Philadelphia Flyers

  • Signed Dale Weise to a four-year contract with a $2.35 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Boyd Gordon to a one-year, $950k contract. 
  • Signed T.J. Brennan to a two-year contract with a $650k cap hit. 
  • Minor signings: Greg Carey, Andy Miele, Will O’Neill. 
  • Re-signed Radko Gudas to a four-year contract with a $3.35 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Brayden Schenn to a four-year contract with a $5.125 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Brandon Manning to a two-year contract with a $975k cap hit. 
  • Minor re-signings: Mark Alt, Jordan Weal, Nick Cousins, Petr Straka. 
  • Entry-level contracts: Pascal Laberge, Roman Lyubimov, Alex Lyon. 
  • Bought out the contract of R.J. Umberger. He’ll carry a $1.6 million cap hit in 2016-17 and a $1.5 million cap hit in 2017-18. 
  • IN: Dale Weise, Andy Miele, Boyd Gordon, Will O’Neill, T.J. Brennan, Greg Carey, Pascal Laberge, Roman Lyubimov, Alex Lyon. 
  • OUT: Evgeni Medvedev, R.J. Umberger, Sam Gagner, Ryan White, Jason LaBarbera, Ray Emery, Tim Brent, Maxim Lamarche, Derek Mathers, Jay Rosehill, Brandon Alderson, David Drewiske, Aaron Palushaj. 

After a miracle run in the second-half of the season propelled them into an unexpected playoff position, you’d think the Philadelphia Flyers would have gone all in this summer. I mean, the team achieved well beyond expectations last year, and it’s obviously hard for the organization not to quench the appetite of a fanbase hungry and excited for a winner. 

They added Dale Weise and Boyd Gordon to flesh out their bottom six and did some housekeeping, like signing Brayden Schenn and Radko Gudas to four-year contracts. But what the Flyers didn’t do was bite down hard on themselves and try to build on last season’s success. And at a quick glance, while that seems like a disappointing thing for them to do, it really isn’t at all. 

The Flyers are just now pulling themselves out of the deepest depths of cap hell. They’ve done an excellent job of shedding the terrible contracts that plagued the team over the past few seasons while also managing to retain all of their promising talent as it moves closer to free agency. With the young talent the team has ready to step into the league next season, it really wouldn’t have been worthwhile to overpay for free agents that might make the team better in the short-term, especially considering how it could put the team back in the same unenviable long-term situation they were in before.

Verdict: The Flyers that will head into the 2016-17 season are virtually identical to the team that surprised everyone and made the playoffs last season. Though it would have been nice for them to make a few major additions and take an even bigger step forward, the Flyers are invested in a long-term process and the last thing they need is to make a misstep or two and find themselves back in the salary cap swamp they just dug themselves out of. 


Pittsburgh Penguins 

  • Traded Beau Bennett to the New Jersey Devils for a 2016 third round pick. 
  • Minor signings: Chad Ruhwedel, Stuart Percy, Cameron Gaunce, David Warsofsky, Garrett Wilson. 
  • Re-signed Justin Schultz to a one-year, $1.4 million contract. 
  • Re-signed Matt Cullen to a one-year, $1 million contract. 
  • Minor re-signings: Kevin Porter, Tim Erixon, Steven Olesky, Tom Sestito, 
  • Entry-level contracts: Jake Guentzel. 
  • IN: Chad Ruhwedel, Stuart Percy, Cameron Gaunce, David Warsofsky, Garrett Wilson, Jake Guentzel.
  • OUT: Beau Bennett, Ben Lovejoy, Jeff Zatkoff, Will O’Neill. 

Don’t mess with success, right?! 

The Pittsburgh Penguins are certainly living by that motto, as they have a virtually identical team heading into next season as they did when they won the Stanley Cup this spring. 

The only players who won’t be back are Beau Bennett, who was dealt to New Jersey, Ben Lovejoy, who joined his pal Beau in New Jersey, and third-string goalie Jeff Zatkoff. Their only other free agent was Justin Schultz, who wasn’t qualified, but was then signed to a one-year, $1.95 million deal, which is half as much as he would have cost them if he had been qualified. 

Verdict: The Penguins came into the summer with nearly their entire team under contract, and since they won the Stanley Cup last year, they opted not to jettison anybody in order to free up space to make any moves. I mean, hell, this is the group they won it all with, so fair enough! 


Washington Capitals

  • Traded a 2017 and 2018 second round pick to the Montreal Canadiens for Lars Eller. 
  • Signed Brett Connolly to a one-year, $850k contract. 
  • Minor signings: Darren Dietz, Christian Thomas, Joe Cannata, Brad Malone.
  • Re-signed Tom Wilson to a two-year contract with a $2 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Marcus Johansson to a three-year contract with a $4.583 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Dmitry Orlov to a one-year, $2.57 million contract. 
  • Minor re-signings: Aaron Ness, Paul Carey, Zach Sill. 
  • Entry-level contracts: Connor Hobbs, Zachary Sanford.
  • IN: Lars Eller, Brett Connolly, Darren Dietz, Christian Thomas, Joe Cannata, Brad Malone, Connor Hobbs, Zachary Sanford.
  • OUT: Jason Chimera, Ryan Stanton, Michael Latta, Justin Peters, Carter Camper, Mike Richards, Mike Weber, Ryan Bourque, Sean Collins, Caleb Herbert, Mike Moore, Dan Ellis. 

When you go 56-18-8 in the regular season but have the misfortune of playing the eventual Stanley Cup Champions in the second round, it puts you in a weird position. I mean, your team is really, really good. Probably the best in the league, really, as you had success over a large sample size. But it’s also very, very hard to get better. 

The Washington Capitals managed to get better this summer. Like I said, that isn’t really an easy thing to do, considering the team didn’t have very many holes or cap space to play with. 

Their major move of the summer was trading a couple of second round picks to the Montreal Canadiens for Lars Eller. He’ll slot in on the third line behind Evgeny Kuznetsov and Niklas Backstrom in a position that was filled last year by a revolving door of, Brooks Laich, Mike Richards, and Michael Latta — none of whom played the role particularly well. 

While Eller doesn’t pack much of an offensive punch to his game, he can play in defensive situations and still manage to drive possession. Last year, while making more defensive zone starts then offensive zone starts, Eller posted a 53.3 Corsi For percentage at even strength, which is impressive considering the team he played for. 

Verdict: The Capitals were a very good team last year, and they’ve managed to keep it all together for another go next season. They filled one of their biggest holes with a relatively inexpensive young player and they didn’t have to sacrifice anything off of their roster to do so. That said, this year might be their best chance to win, as Evgeny Kuznetsov’s contract comes to an end at the end of the season, and he’s going to be looking for a pretty massive pay raise. 

Previously in this series:

Pacific Division

Central Division