The NHL playoffs are still ongoing but that doesn’t mean the 28 teams that are currently out of action are inactive. There’s a lot of interesting action swirling or starting to get going around the Penguins’, so let’s take a trip around the former and future Metropolitan Division to see what some of Pittsburgh’s rivals might be up to.
Flyers looking for big impact add?
The Philadelphia Flyers were uncharacteristically quiet last off-season, making very few external additions. The retirement loss of Matt Niskanen was felt pretty heavily, so it’s no surprise that most of the biggest rumors around the Flyers right now include adding a top flight defenseman, and a right handed one if they can manage.
Philly has had some interest linked to free-agent-to-be Dougie Hamilton, as well as Columbus’ Seth Jones and also Minnesota’s Matt Dumba. If rumors are to be believed, it looks as if Hamilton is not their primary target, while Jones may be at the top of the list.
Regardless of how it shakes out, there looks like more changes than last summer coming for the Pens’ cross-state rivals.
New coach for New York
The Rangers have named Gerard Gallant, formerly of Vegas and Florida, as their new head coach. The tea leaves are saying this might have happened now that the Rangers are believing that Rod Brind’Amour (who still needs a contract for next year) will be close to re-signing and staying in Carolina.
The Rangers are also a top name mentioned in this summer’s Jack Eichel sweepstakes ($) and new GM Chris Drury may be inclined to attempt major moves in an effort to quicken the rebuilding process that’s resulted in no playoff first rounds in the last four years (with only a quick trip to the Toronto bubble to be swept in the play-in round).
Jersey jockeying for young players
The Devils have the highest draft pick in the division this summer where they’ll pick fourth overall. They also will be looking to extend two young players that I’ve grown to like a lot in Yegor Sharangovich and Janne Kuokkanen. Not the most exciting turn of events yet for this building team.
But they could spice things up if reports come true that NJD is looking at acquiring not-so-good defenseman Risto Ristolainen from Buffalo.
Nothing interesting in DC
Not too much going on with the Capitals. There’s a low-drama Alex Ovechkin contract extension that everyone already knows the end game (they re-sign him). But other than that, not too much else to report. Over the off-season it will be worth watching to see just how much they try to re-tool, or perhaps are able to do so while working around a tight salary cap.
There has been some talk from the Caps’ GM himself about Washington’s appetite on whether or not they want to stay in the Evgeny Kuznetsov business. But the 29-year old has four years left on a $7.8 million cap hit and a 15-team no trade clause, so for now they might have no other choice but to ride out the ups and downs that come with his play and actions based on his contract.
Welcome back Lumbus
The Pens and Columbus Blue Jackets will be reunited if the NHL gets their divisions back together. Kinda missed having little brother to kick around. As usual, things haven’t been going well in Ohio with the latest key player in Jones telling the team joining the long line of key players to say he wishes to not re-sign with Columbus and will walk into free agency next summer if he’s not traded first.
There’s a coaching change, with John Tortorella and the team parting ways after six seasons. Current Pittsburgh assistant coach Mike Velucci reportedly interviewed twice for the job and was a serious contender but Torts has been replaced by Brad Larsen. Larsen has been a CBJ assistant coach for the past several seasons.
Winds of change in Carolina?
Carolina, another presumed division returnee, will be an interesting team as ever. They haven’t been able to re-sign Hamilton and are letting his agent shop him around for a deal and trade prior to hitting free agency so he can see what his market is to see if Carolina is in fact the deal that makes sense.
Hamilton’s status will be a major factor for the off-season, especially if he does end up in Philly, the swing and balance of power could shift a bit with where the major player goes.