Breaking Down Summer 2016: Atlantic 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.  

For the first time ever, the Atlantic Division is The Battle of Florida. 

Much to the surprise of everybody who knows what hockey is, the Florida Panthers finished the 2015-16 as the Atlantic champs. And now, after an excellent offseason, it looks like they aren’t just going to be an anomaly, they’re going to be there to stay. The Lightning also managed to do the impossible and extend the Steven Stamkos era in Tampa, but  they still aren’t safe from difficult cap decisions. 


Boston Bruins

  • Signed David Backes to a five-year contract with a $6 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Anton Khudobin to a two-year contract with a $1.2 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Riley Nash to a two-year contract with a $900k cap hit. 
  • Signed Dominic Moore to a one-year, $900k contract. 
  • Minor signings: Tyler Randall, Tim Schaller, Alex Grant. 
  • Re-signed Kevan Miller to a four-year contract with a $2.5 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Torey Krug to a four-year contract with a $5.25 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed John-Michael Liles to a one-year, $2 million contract. 
  • Minor re-signings: Tommy Cross, Joe Morrow, Colin Miller, Chris Casto, Brian Ferlin, Seth Griffith. 
  • Signed Brad Marchand to an eight-year contract extension with a $6 million cap hit. 
  • Entry-level contracts: Matthew Grzelyck, Danton Heinen, Daniel Vladar, Peter Cehlarik. 
  • Bought out the contract of Dennis Seidenberg. He’ll carry a $1.167 million cap hit in 2016-17, 2018-19, and 2019-20, and a $2.167 million cap hit in 2017-18. 
  • IN: David Backes, Anton Khudobin, Riley Nash, Tyler Randall, Tim Schaller, Alex Grant, Matthew Grzelyck, Danton Heinen, Daniel Vladar, Peter Cehlarik. 
  • OUT: Dennis Seidenberg, Loui Eriksson, Jonas Gustavsson, Zach Trotman, Matt Irwin, Lee Stempniak, Brett Connolly, Jeremy Smith, Landon Ferraro, Chris Kelly, Brandon DeFazio, Joonas Kemppainen, Max Talbot, Chris Breen, Ben Sexton, Brian Ferlin, Alexander Khokhlachev. 

The Boston Bruins have been a puzzling team to follow over the past year. 

Last summer, they fired general manager Peter Chiarelli and replaced him with Don Sweeney, who dealt soon-to-be free agent Milan Lucic and unsigned restricted free agent Dougie Hamilton for draft picks, which suggested that the team was moving into a period of rebuilding. And that made a lot of sense, considering the fact they had a lot of aging key players and bad contracts. Oddly enough, though, Sweeney handed out a four-year contract to underwhelming defenceman Adam McQuaid and was also active in free agency, signing Matt Beleskey to a five-year, $19 million contract. 

This confusing trend continued at last season’s trade deadline, where Sweeney deviated from the organization’s apparent plan of looking to the future by trading draft picks for John-Michael Liles and Lee Stempniak to help aide the team in a playoff push. Worst of all, though, he also opted not to deal impending UFA Loui Eriksson, which, again, contradicted the mantra he appeared to be going for just six months earlier. 

Now, here we are again this summer, and it’s difficult to tell exactly what the Bruins have going on. They let Eriksson walk, which makes not moving him at the deadline more bizarre, then went ahead and signed 32-year-old-with-declining-production David Backes to a five-year, $30 million contract. Also, just like with McQuaid, Sweeney handed Kevan Miller, a solidly mediocre defenceman, a four-year deal. The one difference this summer was that they didn’t jettison their key RFA defenceman, as they signed Torey Krug to a four-year deal. 

So they sold on Lucic and got assets for him because they didn’t want a declining player on a long-term deal, but didn’t do the same with Eriksson, then they ultimately went ahead and did the exact thing they were trying to avoid with Backes. And, of course, they sold on Hamilton rather than giving into his contract demands, but opted to sign McQuaid and Miller who combine to cost them very close to the same price. 

Verdict: It’s difficult to say exactly where the Bruins are right now. They put a lot of effort into clearing contracts and building for the future, but then immediately changed the course and went into a win-now mode by adding new long-term contracts for different players. It seems for every good move that Don Sweeney has, there’s an equally poor, puzzling misstep to make up for it. 


Buffalo Sabres

  • Traded a 2017 fourth round pick to the St. Louis Blues for Anders Nilsson. 
  • Traded Mark Pysyk and a 2016 second and third round pick to the Florida Panthers for Dmitry Kulikov and a 2016 second round pick. 
  • Traded a 2016 third round pick to the Nashville Predators for Jimmy Vesey. 
  • Signed Kyle Okposo to a seven-year contract with a $6 million cap hit. 
  • Minor signings: Justin Falk, Taylor Fedun, Derek Grant, Erik Burgdoerfer. 
  • Re-signed Nicolas Deslauriers to a two-year contract with a $775k cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Jake McCabe to a three-year contract with a $1.6 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Marcus Foligno to a one-year, $2.25 million contract. 
  • Re-signed Anders Nilsson to a one-year, $1 million contract. 
  • Re-signed Zemgus Girgensons to a one-year, $1.15 million contract. 
  • Minor re-signings: Casey Nelson, Cole Schneider, Daniel Catenacci, Jason Kasdorf. 
  • Entry-level contracts: Brycen Martin, Vaclav Karabacek, Alexander Nylander.
  • IN: Kyle Okposo, Dmitry Kulikov, Justin Falk, Taylor Fedun, Derek Grant, Erik Burgdoerfer, Anders Nilsson, Brycen Martin, Vaclav Karabacek, Alexander Nylander.
  • OUT: Mark Pysyk, David Legwand, Carlo Colaiacovo, Chad Johnson, Chad Ruhwedel, Tim Schaller, Matt Donovan, Nathan Lieuwen, Andrey Makarov, Eric O’Dell, Bobby Sanguinetti,  Jerry D’Amigo, Colin Jacobs, Jack Nevins. 
  • UNSIGNED: Rasmus Ristolainen. 

After taking a massive step forward last season, improving in the standings by eight wins and 27 points, the Buffalo Sabres are gearing up for another lunge in 2016-17. 

They made a major free agent splash by signing Kyle Okposo, one of the best offensive producers on the market, to a seven-year, $42 million contract. Obviously that’s a pretty major investment to be making, but Okposo just turned 28 years old in April, and over the past three seasons, ranks 62nd among forwards in goals scored per hour at even strength. 

The Sabres also dealt Mark Pysyk to the Florida Panthers for Dmitry Kulikov and a swap of second round picks, which is somewhat odd, considering Kulikov is one year away from hitting free agency, and arguably isn’t much of an upgrade on Pysyk. Over the past three seasons, Kulikov has been a black hole in terms of producing offence and has consistently been a negative possession player. Of course, that could partially be due to him playing most of his minutes alongside shutdown defenceman Willie Mitchell, so we’ll have to wait and see how he plays in a new environment before judging the trade. 

The final piece to Buffalo’s offseason will be figuring out a new deal for young defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen. He’s certainly a difficult player to analyze, as his boxcars show a defenceman who logs huge minutes and produces offensively, the eye test appears to show a dynamic and creative blue liner with skill and speed, but his underlying numbers are terrible. The Sabres get absolutely demolished when he’s on the ice, as he’s ranked towards the bottom of the league in relative Corsi For percentage the past two seasons. 

Verdict: The Sabres will certainly take another step forward next season thanks to the addition of Kyle Okposo and continued development from Ristolainen and young forwards Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. That said, when you’re a team loaded with young talent like Buffalo is, you need to start considering how you’re going to squeeze everyone in long-term, as they currently have roughly $30 million committed to five players beyond 2017-18, and that doesn’t include Ristolainen, Eichel, Reinhart, Robin Lehner, or much of a D-core. 


Detroit Red Wings

  • Traded a 2017 third round pick to the San Jose Sharks for Dylan Sadowy. 
  • Traded Pavel Datsyuk’s contract and a 2016 first round pick (No. 16) to the Arizona Coyotes for Joe Vitale, a 2016 first round pick (No. 20), and a 2016 second round pick (No. 53). 
  • Signed Thomas Vanek to a one-year, $2.6 million contract. 
  • Signed Steve Ott to a one-year, $800k contract. 
  • Signed Frans Nielsen to a six-year contract with a $5.25 million cap hit. 
  • Minor signings: Matt Lorito, Ben Street, Eddie Pasquale. 
  • Re-signed Riley Sheahan to a two-year contract with a $2.075 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Drew Miller to a one-year, $1.025 million contract. 
  • Re-signed Alexey Marchenko to a two-year contract with a $1.45 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Darren Helm to a five-year contract with a $3.85 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Teemu Pulkkinen to a one-year, $812k contract. 
  • Re-signed Luke Glendening to a four-year contract extension with a $1.8 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Petr Mrazek to a two-year contract with a $4 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Dany DeKeyser to a six-year contract with a $5 million cap hit. 
  • Minor re-signings: Tomas Nosek, Brian Lashoff, Jared Coreau, Mitch Callahan, Ryan Sproul. 
  • Entry-level contracts: Dylan Sadowy, Filip Hronek.
  • IN: Joe Vitale, Thomas Vanek, Frans Nielsen, Steve Ott, Matt Lorito, Ben Street, Eddie Pasquale,  Dylan Sadowy, Filip Hronek.
  • OUT: Joakim Andersson, Tom McCollum, Daniel Cleary, Andy Miele, Kyle Quincey, Brad Richards. 

Could this be the end of the never-ending Detroit Red Wings dynasty? The Wings have made the playoffs every single year since 1990, but based on the way the team looked last season and the summer they just had, there’s a very good chance that this streak is going to come to an end. 

The team’s most prominent departure came when Pavel Datsyuk informed the team that he was going to be heading home to Russia for family reasons. Datsyuk, as we all know, has been Detroit’s best player for years, and that was no different last season when he finished first on the team in points-per-game and even strength Corsi For percentage. They managed to get themselves out from under the $7.5 million cap hit by dealing it to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for moving up in the draft, but the loss of Datsyuk is going to be a massive one for the Wings. 

In terms of additions, the Wings replaced Datsyuk’s roster spot with the 32-year-old Frans Nielsen, who signed a six-year deal that isn’t terrible in the short-term, but more than likely won’t look very good in a few years. Nielsen is a good player, of course, as he consistently produces at a solid level, can play a two-way game, and boasts good possession numbers, but, again, isn’t good enough to replace Datsyuk on the roster and will be under contract until he’s 39, which isn’t good. 

The Wings also took a gamble on Thomas Vanek, who was bought out after two years of underperforming with the the Minnesota Wild. Though Vanek’s last two years have been two of the worst of his career in terms of production, this is the Wild we’re talking about, where offence goes to die, so $2.6 million for one year isn’t a terrible gamble on a player who could turn out a nice bounce back season. 

Otherwise, Detroit’s offseason pretty much came down to handing out new contracts to damn near half of their roster. Riley Sheahan, Drew Miller, Alexey Marchenko, Darren Helm, Luke Glendening, Danny DeKeyser, and Petr Mrazek were all given new contracts, and save for Mrazek who was given a bridge deal, all have the common theme of having okay term but being slightly overpaid. 

Verdict: The Wings did their best to replace Pavel Datsyuk’s spot on the roster, but obviously there’s only so much you can do when your best player retires. That said, this was really just yet another signal that the team should move into some kind of long-term rebuild, as the core of players they have now simply isn’t good enough to compete at this point. 


Florida Panthers 

  • Traded Eric Gudbranson and a 2016 fifth round pick to the Vancouver Canucks for Jared McCann and a 2016 second round pick and a 2016 fourth round pick. 
  • Traded Marc Savard’s contract and a 2018 second round pick to the New Jersey Devils for Graham Black and Paul Thompson. 
  • Traded Dmitry Kulikov and a 2016 second round pick to the Buffalo Sabres for Mark Pysyk, a 2016 second and third round pick. 
  • Traded Rocco Grimaldi to the Colorado Avalanche for Reto Berra. 
  • Traded a 2016 sixth round pick and a conditional 2017 fourth round pick to the New York Rangers for the signing rights of Keith Yandle. 
  • Signed Keith Yandle to a seven-year contract with a $6.35 million cap hit. 
  • Signed James Reimer to a five-year contract with a $3.4 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Jason Demers to a five-year contract with a $4.5 million cap hit.
  • Signed Colton Sceviour to a $950k contract. 
  • Minor signings: Linus Hultstrom, Jonathan Marchessault. 
  • Re-signed Jaromir Jagr to a one-year, $5.5 million contract. 
  • Re-signed Vincent Trocheck to a six-year contract with a $4.75 million cap hit. 
  • Minor re-signings: Shane Harper, Connor Brickley, Sam Brittain, Greg McKegg, Logan Shaw, Jonathan Racine.
  • Signed Aaron Ekblad to an eight-year contract extension with a $7.5 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Reilly Smith to a five-year contract extension with a $5 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Derek MacKenzie to a two-year contract extension with a $1.375 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Jonathan Huberdeau to a six-year contract extension with a $5.9 million cap hit. 
  • Entry-level contracts: Samuel Montembeault, Ian McCoshen, Juho Lammikko. 
  • IN: Keith Yandle, Jason Demers, Colton Sceviour, James Reimer, Jonathan Marchessault, Linus Hultstrom, Mark Pysyk, Reto Berra, Jared McCann, Graham Black, Paul Thompson, Samuel Montembeault, Ian McCoshen, Juho Lammikko.
  • OUT: Dave Bolland, Lawson Crouse, Erik Gudbranson, Marc Savard’s contract, Dmitry Kulikov, Rocco Grimaldi, Quinton Howden, Jiri Hudler, Al Montoya, Michal Repik, Rob Flick, Cameron Gaunce, Brian Campbell, Willie Mitchell, Brett Olson, Teddy Purcell, Sena Acolaste, Dylan Olsen, John McFarland, Garrett Wilson, Corban Knight. 

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2016 offseason winners: The Florida Panthers!

Seriously, though. This team has been on a wave ever since last fall, and they’ve carried it into the offseason. They just put up their most successful season ever, winning the Atlantic Division for the first time since the realignment, and eclipsing the 100-point plateau for the first time in franchise history. Even though they got dropped in the first round of the playoffs, the Panthers have given their fans a legitimate reason to give a damn about the team for the first time ever. 

Something seemed a little fishy with this team, though. They boasted pretty forgettable possession numbers, reeking of a PDO bubble just waiting to slowly deflate, sputter around a bit, then fall back down to earth. But they just didn’t. And now, after an excellent offseason, the Panthers actually look like a legitimate contender rather than an overachiever that nobody actually really took seriously. 

They made massive improvements on their blue line, flipping Dmitry Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson, a couple of shut down defenders who get very bad grades on the advanced stats test, to Buffalo and Vancouver respectively for Jared McCann and Mark Pysyk, making themselves younger and cheaper in the process. They were then replaced on the depth chart when the Panthers inked Jason Demers and Keith Yandle, two defenders who fare much better on that aforementioned test, to long-term deals. 

These moves certainly aren’t surprising, as the Panthers, like the Coyotes, have made themselves trailblazers of the hockey analytics renaissance recently. Earlier in the summer, the organization made some major internal changes that singled an increasing focus on the use of data in team roster construction.

Beyond the improvements made to the roster, the Panthers also locked up their entire core of young talent to long-term contracts. Aleksander Barkov was signed to a six-year deal back in January, then came Aaron Ekblad, Vincent Trocheck, and Reilly Smith with eight-, six-, and five-year extensions on within three days of each other, and finally, Jonathan Huberdeau was given a six-year extension of his own in September to cap it all off. 

Now Florida has Barkov, Huberdeau, Trocheck, Smith, Nick Bjugstad, Yandle, Demers, and Ekblad all locked up until at least the beginning of the 2020 season at a combined cap hit of $44 million. They also managed to save themselves some money by sending Marc Savard and Dave Bolland’s contracts to New Jersey and Arizona (at the cost of them also giving away Lawson Crouse, Graham Black and Paul Thompson), making these big contracts much more palatable. 

Verdict: Damn, that was a lot to talk about. And I didn’t even get to all of it (sorry James Reimer). The Panthers enjoyed a breakout season last year and they did a fantastic job building on it, signing veteran talent to improve the roster, and getting their important players locked up for the long haul. Though they seemed like an easy regression candidate, the Panthers are starting to look like one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. 


Montreal Canadiens 

  • Traded two 2016 second round picks to the Chicago Blackhawks for Andrew Shaw. 
  • Traded Lars Eller to the Washington Capitals for a 2017 and 2018 second round pick.
  • Traded P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber. 
  • Signed Alexander Radulov to a one-year, $5.75 million contract. 
  • Signed Al Montoya to a one-year, $950k contract. 
  • Minor signings: Philip Samuelsson, Chris Terry, Zach Redmond. 
  • Re-signed Andrew Shaw to a six-year contract with a $3.9 million cap hit. 
  • Minor re-signings: Joel Hanley, Daniel Carr, Philip Danault, Bobby Farnham. 
  • Entry-level contracts: Artturi Lehkonen, Martin Reway, Mikhail Sergachev. 
  • IN: Andrew Shaw, Shea Weber, Alex Radulov, Al Montoya, Philip Samuelsson, Chris Terry, Zach Redmond, Artturi Lehkonen, Martin Reway, Mikhail Sergachev.
  • OUT: Lars Eller, P.K. Subban, Tom Gilbert, Gabriel Dumont, Darren Dietz, Ben Scrivens, John Scott, Bud Holloway, Mike Brown, Victor Bartley, Michael Bournival, Morgan Ellis, Lucas Lessio. 

He wasn’t technically an offseason addition, but the return of Carey Price to Montreal’s net after missing most of 2015-16 with an injury is as big of an upgrade as you can make. Price willed the Canadiens to a first place finish in the Atlantic a couple years ago, posting a ridiculous .933 save percentage and 36.70 goals saved above average. Without him, Montreal slid five spots in the standings despite actually having stronger underlying numbers than they did the season before. 

Their big splash in free agency came when they inked KHL superstar Alexander Radulov to a one-year, $5.75 million deal for his third go-around in the NHL. Radulov initially broke into the league with the Nashville Predators in 2006, but only played for two seasons before returning to the KHL. He briefly returned for a Predator playoff run in 2012, but ended up going to back to Russia immediately after. 

The Habs also essentially swapped Lars Eller for Andrew Shaw, as Eller was dealt to Washington for a pair of second round picks in 2017 and 2018, and Shaw was acquired from Chicago for two 2016 second round picks. Shaw, an RFA cap casualty of the Hawks, was then quickly signed to a six-year contract worth $3.9 million annually, which is a quite rich for a player who’s never topped 40 points in his career. 

And yes, we have to talk about P.K. Subban and Shea Weber. The Canadiens, seemingly fed up with the star defenceman’s confident, exciting personality and high-risk, high-reward play style, dealt Subban to Nashville in a one-for-one swap for Weber, who exist on polar opposite ends of the paradigm. While this deal was supposed to give the Habs a tough, physical veteran presence capable of shifting whatever ails the team’s locker room, all it really did was downgrade the team’s blue line, especially in terms of offensive production, while adding a longer contract in the process. 

Maybe you can view it as Subban for Weber AND Radulov? It certainly isn’t more ridiculous than any of the other forms of mental gymnastics Habs fans have done in order to validate this deal. 

Verdict: The Habs are going to have a much better season than they did last year, and the credit is going to be misplaced. The moves they made in 2016 reek of grasping for the myth of grit and character rather than using quantifiable means to objectively make the team better. While the Radulov addition was a worthwhile risk, the Habs downgraded massively from Subban to Weber, which raises questions about the type of values their front office is focusing on. I’m not suggesting grit and leadership are meaningless qualities, but in a situation like this, they’re simply arbitrary buzzwords for trying to validate the superiority of a player past his prime over one of the best talents in the league. The reason Montreal will rebound begins and ends with Carey Price, not the moves the team made this summer. 


Ottawa Senators 

  • Traded Alex Chiasson to the Flames for Patrick Sieloff.
  • Traded Mika Zibanejad and a 2018 second round pick to the New York Rangers for Derick Brassard and a 2018 seventh round pick. 
  • Signed Chris Kelly to a one-year, $900k contract. 
  • Minor signings: Tom Pyatt, Michael Kostka, Chad Nehring, Michael Blunden. 
  • Re-signed Mike Hoffman to a four-year contract with a $5.188 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Cody Ceci to a three-year contract with a $2.8 million cap hit. 
  • Minor re-signings: Buddy Robinson, Phil Varone, Casey Bailey, Max McCormick, Ryan Dzingel, Fredrik Claesson, Matt Puempel. 
  • Entry-level contracts: Andreas Englund, Francis Perron. 
  • IN: Derick Brassard, Chris Kelly, Patrick Seiloff, Tom Pyatt, Michael Kostka, Chad Nehring, Michael Blunden, Andreas Englund, Francis Perron. 
  • OUT: Alex Chiasson, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Phillips, Mark Fraser, Patrick Wiercioch, Scott Gomez, Jason Akeson, Matt Frattin, Troy Rutowski, Travis Ewanyk, Dave Dziurzynski, Danny Hobbs, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc. 

These are your Erik Karlsson years. Try your best to enjoy them, though the Senators front office and ownership isn’t making it very easy to do so. 

After finishing last season as a middling bubble team, the Sens relatively remained silent during the summer. They sent RFA Mika Zibanejad to New York in return for the older and currently slightly better Derick Brassard. This move is more about money than anything else for the Sens, who got a cost-controlled already-past his expensive, front-loaded contract years in Brassard rather than having to deal with Zibanejad, who’s approaching free agency and could command an expensive, long-term deal. 

Other than that, it was basically just housekeeping that grabbed headlines in Ottawa. Mike Hoffman, last year’s leading goal scorer, was locked up to a four-year deal worth $5.188 million annually, and Cody Ceci was handed a two-year bridge deal. 

Verdict: The Senators were an underwhelming team last year, and based off of what they did this summer, it’s hard to imagine things being much different this season. The Brassard for Zibanejad deal could improve the team immediately, but the upgrade is going to be marginal at best. At this point, you have to wonder exactly what the Sens are doing, as they have the best defenceman in the game locked up to a very team friendly deal yet they’re ever so far away from capitalizing on it. 


Tampa Bay Lightning

  • Minor signings: Michael Bournival, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Cory Conacher, Mike Halmo, Jeremy Morin. 
  • Re-signed Steven Stamkos to an eight-year contract with a $8.5 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Alex Killorn to a seven-year contract with a $4.45 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed J.T. Brown to a $1.25 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Cedric Paquette to a two-year contract with a $812k cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Victor Hedman to an eight-year contract extension with a $7.875 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Andrei Vasilevskiy to a three-year contract extension with a $3.5 million cap hit.
  • Bought out the contract of Matt Carle. He’ll carry a $1.833 million cap hit for three years.
  • Minor re-signings: Nikita Nesterov, Joel Vermin, Tanner Richard, Luke Witowski, Kristers Gudlevskis, 
  • Entry-level contracts: Dennis Yan, Anthony Cirelli, Mitchell Stephens, Jonne Tammela. 
  • IN: Michael Bournival, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Cory Conacher, Mike Halmo, Jeremy Morin, Dennis Yan, Anthony Cirelli, Mitchell Stephens, Jonne Tammela. 
  • OUT: Phillipe Paradis, Jonathan Marchessault, Mike Angelidis, Michael Blunden, Dmitry Korobov, Mattias Ohlund, Jeff Tambellini, David Broll, Carter Ashton. 
  • UNSIGNED: Nikita Kucherov. 

It was like we were literally watching the Steven Stamkos era in Tampa Bay come to an end in front of our eyes.

Since he was drafted first overall in 2008, we had just been counting down the days until he could hit free agency and return home to become the saviour that the Toronto Maple Leafs needed. The Lightning, like any contending team, had a lot more talent than they did cap space, and after the team played admirably without their captain in the lineup down the stretch and into the playoffs, it just made sense. 

But before July 1 rolled around, and Stamkos and the Lightning agreed to an eight-year deal worth only $8.5 million per year, significantly lower than what he was expected to command on the open market, and even less considering he won’t have a Canadian Tire endorsement now. Then, a few days later, the Lightning announced that they had signed defenceman Victor Hedman to an eight-year deal worth $7.875 million per year.

But with that problem sorted out, another one is right on the horizon. The Lightning still haven’t figured out a new deal for last year’s leading scorer Nikita Kucherov, and next summer, Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Johnson, and Ondrej Palat will need new deals. With that in mind, it was curious that the Lightning opted to sign middle-six forward Alex Killorn to a seven-year deal worth $4.45 million per season, which is ridiculously rich for somebody who’s topped out at 40 points in a season. 

Verdict: It was a much better result than anybody realistically expected, but the Lighting aren’t out of the woods yet. They have a handful of young talent in need of new deals right away, and still, not a hell of a lot of cap space to deal with it. Obviously you can’t keep everyone around, and the cap world makes difficult decisions an unfortunate reality, but the Lightning have, at the very least, managed to secure two very important assets to the future of their franchise. 


Toronto Maple Leafs

  • Traded a 2016 first round pick and a 2017 second round pick to the Anaheim Ducks for Frederik Andersen. 
  • Traded Jonathan Bernier to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional pick. 
  • Traded Scott Harrington and a conditional pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Kerby Rychel. 
  • Signed Nikita Zaitsev to a one-year, $1.775 million contract. 
  • Signed Matt Martin to a four-year contract with a $2.5 million cap hit. 
  • Signed Roman Polak to a one-year, $2.25 million contract. 
  • Re-signed Nazem Kadri to a six-year contract with a $4.5 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Morgan Rielly to a six-year contract with a $5 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Frederik Anderson to a five-year contract with a $5 million cap hit. 
  • Re-signed Martin Marincin to a two-year contract with a $1.25 million cap hit. 
  • Minor re-signings: Garret Sparks, Josh Leivo, Connor Carrick, Frank Corrado, Peter Holland. 
  • Entry-level contracts: Auston Matthews, Trevor Moore, Justin Holl. 
  • IN: Frederik Andersen, Kerby Rychel, Nikita Zaitsev, Matt Martin, Roman Polak, Auston Matthews, Trevor Moore, Justin Holl. 
  • OUT: Brad Boyes, Scott Harrington, Mark Arcobello, T.J. Brennan, Rich Clune, Marcel Mueller,  P.A. Parenteau, Michael Grabner, Sam Carrick, Stuart Percy, Colin Smith, Ben Smith, Raffi Torres, Alex Stalock.

Don’t you love it when a good tank works? The Toronto Maple Leafs were the worst team in the league last season, and as a result, deservingly won the Auston Matthews sweepstakes, giving them a prospect who has the realistic potential of becoming the first elite centre the team has had since the Mats Sundin days. 

Auston Matthews? Check. Steven Stamkos? Nope. 

Though it was never actually a certainty, it was greatly speculated that Steven Stamkos would opt to sign with the Leafs for a chance to not only play in his home town, but become the face of the team’s rebuild. It didn’t happen, though, as we know, which isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. Singing Stamkos would have pushed the Leafs to be competitive during his prime years, which is something they’re still a ways from doing.

The only splash the Leafs made in free agency was a controversial one, as they inked glue guy Matt Martin to a four-year deal worth $2.5 million annually. Martin was part of a very likeable and effective fourth line in Brooklyn, but he produces virtually zero offence. This is a curious move for the Leafs who appeared to be one of the teams taking more of an analytical approach to their roster composition. 

The Leafs also got Nazem Kadri and Morgan Rielly locked up to team friendly six-year deals, and solved their goaltending issue by acquiring Frederik Andersen from the Ducks in exchange for two draft picks and kinda sorta Jonathan Bernier. 

Verdict: Everything went according to plan in Toronto this year. They went into last season with no intention of being competitive, fired off a good chunk of their assets at the trade deadline, finished last, won the draft lottery and got their guy. Though they’re still a year or two away from being competitive, the Leafs rebuild appears to be going very well. 

Previously in this series:

Pacific Division

Central Division  

Metro Division 


  • Boston and Philly. 2 teams that have GMs for decades that are complete garbage and STILL manage to be competitive. They put themselves into cap hell or trade great pieces for peanuts and manage to get out of it somehow.

  • Marty

    that ken holland is a cap lunatic. bergevin was trying to get lucic I think he was pissed it didn’t happen. and panthers not winners of this offseason. trading gudbranson was stupid, he meant more to that team than demers, overpayment on yandle the guys a liability 50% of the time. it’s clearly not talons team anymore Rowe sucks