Now that the free agency periods has fallen to a stand still, and teams are preparing for arbitration hearings and training camps, it is time to take a look back and see who were the winners and losers from this offseason, so far. You will also notice there were definitely more winners than losers.
New York Rangers:
They signed prized free agent Brad Richards, and only for about a $6 million cap hit. That meant that they could grab Ruslan Fedotenko and re-sign Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle, and Brandon Dubinsky. Ryan Callahan is heading to arbitration. But they have gotten better offensively, and they still have Henrik Lundquist under contract.
They may not have signed any of the “high-profile” free agents, but they did not need to. What they needed to do: eliminate cap-room and sign role-players that they did not have a year ago … and they did just that. They traded away high-contract players of Brian Campbell and Tomas Kopecky; and signed D-man Steve Montador, and role-players of Andrew Brunette, Jamal Mayers, Sean O’Donnell, and Sami Lepisto. They also re-upped offensive players of Viktor Stalberg and Michael Frolik. Most importantly, they re-signed their young star goalie Corey Crawford. They did all this and they still have about $5 million in cap room.
They traded for RFA G Semyon Varlamov and then signed Milan Hejduk, Matt Hunwick, Jan Hejda, Ryan O’Byrne, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and Shane O’Brien. They are still young, but their nucleus of players has gotten better and what’s around them have gotten much better as well. Because of this, coach Joe Sacco has only to blame himself if he cannot use this team to compete for a playoff spot.
Columbus Blue Jackets:
Front-office problems, what front office problems? Yes, they lost prospect Jakub Voracek and Scottie Upshall, but they radically improved their team. They helped star Rick Nash by getting Jeff Carter in a trade with Philly. Their backend got radically stronger by signing James Wisniewski and Radek Martinek (if Martinek can stay healthy). Their young talent coming up can only make them better. But for them to really make this a success, goalie Steve Mason needs to find his swagger again and they need to compete in a tough Central Division. But Jackets have had a great offseason.
They traded for Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley and only lost Martin Havlat. By getting these two, and having a stellar draft, the Wild are looking like a team that can be a surprise team this season. If their role players improve, their energized fan base could be in for a treat.
St. Louis Blues:
TJ Oshie and Matt D’Agostini are the two youngsters they needed to re-sign. Then they brought in Roman Polak, Vladimir Sobotka, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Jason Arnott. They alos gave Jonathan Cheechoo a shot, which could potentially be the steal of the offseason. The entire Central Division is capable of making the playoffs, but there might be two disappointed teams because of how stacked the division is.
Yes, they lost Jason Arnott, Semyon Varlamov, and Marco Sturm. But they surprised everyone by getting G Tomas Vokoun and then signing Mike Knuble, Brooks Laich, Jeff Halpern, Roman Hamrlik, Joel Ward, and Troy Brouwer. They didn’t just sign players, they attempted to sign the right players that fit into their system and will help them win now. But if they do not reach the Stanley Cup Finals, then this season will be a failure and coach Bruce Boudreau will be out of a job.
They drastically overpaid for Ville Leino, which will most likely prove to be a bust. They lost D-man Steve Montador who is critical to their backend. They did sign Drew Stafford, Nathan Gerbe, and Christian Ehrhoff, but they were not able to really make themselves better.
Yes, they signed Ilya Bryzgalov, but only time will tell if they have finally answered their goalie problems. But in order to give Ilya his 9 year $51 million dollar contract they lost both Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, but also Darrol Powe, Danie Carcillo, Sean O’Donnel, Ville Leino, and backup Brian Boucher. Also, there are now rumors that they are going to trade up-and-coming goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who only had a great season last year. They also overpaid for aging Jaromir Jagr, and how much will they get out of him? Philly lost so much that I don’t think there is any way they can compete for a long playoff run.
Toronto Maple Leafs:
They offered top free agent Brad Richards more money, but he opted for the Big Apple for a chance to hoist the Cup again. The then brought in oft-injured Tim Connolly and re-signed Clarke MacArthur and traded for Matt Lombardi (also oft-injured). If Connolly and Lombardi can play to their potential then they could be steals, but it just looks like that the Leafs will be looking at the draft lottery again. They have so many holes that I do not see the playoffs in their future.