It took a long time for the last major domino to fall during the NHL’s offseason. And when it did, the team that was already a major figure in the player movement this summer was once again the center of attention.
Nazem Kadri – the best UFA center available – signed a deal with Calgary more than a month after we all expected him to be signed three hours after the market opened on July 13. The only sports analogy I can find for the Flames In the past six weeks, they’re like a baseball team that took a one-run lead top of the ninth in a playoff game, gagged it, and then is came back in the bottom half and took the win.
Seriously, I’m the parent of two kids under four and I’m not sure the emotional swings in this house compare to what we saw in southern Alberta in July and August.
No team has had the highs and lows — in that order — that Calgary has had this summer.
That said, another Canadian team was a defining presence in the offseason, so with Kadri finally declared and training camps now, believe it or not, basically a month away from opening, we figured he was time to assign off season ratings to all. seven clubs that play north of 49th.
Calgary Flames: A+
To be clear, this rating does not reflect how much the Flames have improved; it’s about how general manager Brad Treliving reacted to an absolutely devastating situation.
Johnny Gaudreau won the right to live and play wherever he wanted, and Matthew Tkachuk was under no obligation to be a Lifetime Flame and, at the very least, warned the team that Calgary was not going be his long- term home. Great. None of this changes the fact that it was a left hook hit from Joe Frazier to the team, who drafted both players and were more than willing to commit big bucks for each. only to hear, “Yeah cool, no. ”
Shortly after Gaudreau fled to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Tkachuk indicated he would rather move on as well. Treliving could have done what so many of us humans do and throw a giant pity party over things that don’t go his way. . Instead, he avoided the release of the cowards – who said it was all out of his hands and took a bunch of futures for Tkachuk – and instead acquired Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar from the Florida Panthers despite the fact that they were both at 12 months. of free agency themselves.
Huberdeau has already received the extension that was reserved for Gaudreau and, with Milan Lucic’s money coming off the books next year, don’t be shocked if Weegar follows suit and puts pen to paper on a deal that will keep him. in Calgary.
Now Kadri comes in and, along with Elias Lindholm, forms the best 1-2 punch down the middle Calgary has had in a long time. Tying up a first-round pick in Sean Monahan to free up space was a more than acceptable decision in terms of cost of doing business and, even at that, Treliving managed to keep his first-round pick in the busy 2023 draft. , as conditions met. a deal with Montreal means the Habs will end up with a Calgary first in 24, 25 or 26.
Does Kadri-Huberdeau-Weegar on the inside and Gaudreau-Tkachuk-Monahan on the outside equal a better Flames team? I believe it is and even if you think it’s a sawing how remarkable is it that Treliving kept this team on track when it could have been reduced to rubble and conversations on prospects and draft picks? It’s just an absolute master class in courage and flexibility.
Ottawa Senators: One
No team in Canada — and possibly the entire league — has taken the step the Senators have this summer. Adding Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux to the top six is incredible, and we can reasonably expect Cam Talbot to help stabilize the goaltender.
Plus, agreeing to a new eight-year deal with 23-year-old center Josh Norris – who scored at a 43-goal pace last season – is another wonderful development.
Questions remain on the blue line, but this team will be great fun to watch and you don’t need to be a blind optimist to expect Ottawa to push for a playoff spot.
Edmonton Oilers: B
It was quietly a pretty solid offseason for the Oilers, headlined by the arrival of Jack Campbell on a five-on-five to solidify the crease. It’s by no means a slam dunk that a 1-2 of Campbell and Stuart Skinner will thrive, but having Campbell as No. 1 is certainly an upgrade from what Edmonton dealt with last year.
Duncan Keith’s decision to retire and Mike Smith to head to long-term injured reserve – where he should stay – has created breathing room and general manager Ken Holland has done a good job of retaining Evander Kane — your co-leader for 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs goals with 13 — and picking up defenseman Brett Kulak at the deadline.
Montreal Canadiens: B
The offseason really began for Montreal when general manager Kent Hughes was brave enough in his convictions to take Juraj Slafkovsky first overall in a 2022 NHL Draft hosted by the Canadiens. Will Shane Wright make them regret the day? Come back in three years.
Unfortunately, the acquisition of a first-rounder and Monahan from Calgary has to be seen through the prism of Carey Price who can’t play. The only reason the Canadiens could face Monahan is because Price’s $10.5 million cap will be on the long-term injured list for most likely the entire season. It’s a tough way to see a fantastic career end, but clarity does a lot to help Canadians right now.
Maybe Monahan is destined to be knocked down before he becomes a UFA next summer, but it’s fair to wonder if there’s a longer-term game here if the guy who turns 28 just at the start of the new season can put lingering injuries behind him and find his old 30-goal form.
Hughes has also accepted Jeff Petry’s wish to skate for a different team and the returning Pittsburgh is an intriguing defender who just rebounded with hometown boy Mike Matheson.
Vancouver Canucks: B-
The offseason in Vancouver is really more about what didn’t happen — specifically, a JT Miller trade — than what did. With each passing day, it seems more likely that Miller will start the year with the Canucks, and depending on how you feel about his ability to leave as a UFA next summer, that can definitely be classified as a good thing.
Picking up left-winger Andrei Kuzmenko from the KHL is a solid bet and while it could be said that Vancouver made Kuzmenko’s fellow Russian Ilya Mekheyev a bit too rich with a four-year deal worth 4, $75 million a man, the winger is a big body that skates well and scored at a 32-goal rate last season.
A new three-year pact for Brock Boeser also suits both parties.
Toronto Maple Leafs: C+
There has been no agreement yet with RFA defender Rasmus Sandin and let’s just say it doesn’t look like a resolution is imminent. As far as what the Leafs have actually done, it’s all about the goalie, as there’s a whole new battery in Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov after starting last fall with Jack Campbell ahead of Petr Mrazek. You have to ring Toronto for the fact that there’s so little certainty around the new duo, but no one can sit here on the scorching days of summer and tell you the goalie is definitely going to drain this crew.
Who’s to say a healthy Murray won’t find his stride or that Samsonov – a first-rounder in 2015 – never lived up to his potential? At 25, the Russian is right at that age where some goalkeepers are taking the plunge, especially those with his pedigree.
The real note is a shrug emoji until we see how things play out in the fold.
Winnipeg Jets: C
There’s just not much to do here, especially since the Jets couldn’t lure Manitoban Barry Trotz home to coach this club.
Probably the biggest development in Winnipeg other than that bench job for Rick Bowness is that restricted free agent Pierre-Luc Dubois has agreed to a one-year deal that will grant him the same RFA status next summer. Of course, Dubois’ name is a doorway into the conversation about the amount of turmoil that seems to be simmering beneath the surface in Manitoba, where the Jets have somehow gone from a team sure to achieve great things to a club with issues the size of the Prairies. some key players.
Before Dubois signed, his agent more or less said — all things being equal — that the team his client would like to end up with is Montreal.
Meanwhile, Mark Scheifele recently affirmed his desire to stay with the club after there was more than a little smoke following the end of a disappointing non-playoff season for the Jets that he may be ready for. pass.
Either way, a change in a near offseason is inevitable as none of Dubois, Scheifele, Blake Wheeler or Connor Hellebuyck have contracts that extend beyond 2023-24.
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