The days before expansion led to several key decisions (and non-decisions) for all the NHL teams as they grapple with how they want to get through the process. Who in the Penguins’ division did good? Who did bad?
Let’s judge the trades made before the lists were due, as well as the lists themselves. This isn’t the end of the world to be at the bottom, nor does finishing at the top mean certain success next season, but it’s always fun to see where teams stack up.
—I think the Pens had the worst week of any team in the division, they traded Jared McCann for nothing that will help next season. That’s a big loss for a team still near the salary cap and isn’t going to be able to replace his speed, versatility and production for $2.9 million. Through the rest of free agency and with trades the Pens can always improve their standing, but there is work to be done.
—Leaving Max Domi on the unprotected list looks like a move that could be looked back on and think “what were they doing?” Domi was just OK in his first year with the Blue Jackets, but with the strict John Tortorella out, the offensive-minded Domi may have performed better moving ahead. Also they have not yet completed a Seth Jones deal, and the clock is starting to tick on moving him for a big return.
—They haven’t done much, but are a team setup for big losses in the near future with the contract stalemate with Dougie Hamilton and leaving 20-goal scorer Nino Neiderrieter on the unprotected list and being a real candidate for selection by Seattle.
—No action, but that may be a positive development since that includes not making a panic sale on Evgeni Kuznetsov. Our old friends Conor Sheary and Justin Schultz are both dangling and one could make a fairly appealing potential expansion tribute to be lost.
4. New Jersey
—The Devils added defender Ryan Graves from Colorado for a song, taking advantage of a team up against the expansion limits. Nice little add for them.
3. New York Rangers
—NYR got a fourth round pick for a not-very-good-at-all Brett Howden and also got the negotiating rights to a league darling in Tampa’s Barclay Goodrow. NYR still needs to get him to sign before free agency opens, if they do they have found a way to actually get better this week (including addition by subtraction in dropping Howden) where most teams are naturally getting a notch worse.
2. NY Islanders
—GM Lou Lamoriello worked his dark magic like he always does. In two trades he opened up over $8 million in salary cap room with the only total cost being losing Nick Leddy and a second round pick and a conditional third rounder. The Islanders now have some badly needed wiggle room for off-season moves that will include re-signing Adam Pelech.
—Ugh, you hate to see them here, but Philly deserves credit for nabbing an elite right handed puck moving defenseman in Ryan Ellis on a decent long-term contract for a very reasonable cost of only giving up Phil Myers and el busto Nolan Patrick. RHD was a big problem spot for the Flyers last season, adding Ellis will go a long way to helping them for years to come.
It won’t take many good (or bad) decisions over the next week of expansion, free agency and potential trades to shake this list up a lot for overall off-season activity.