Taking a peak at what the Penguins’ divisional rivals have done this off-season we have worked our way through the top teams, and then the middle of the pack and now we’re left with the ones bringing up the rear.
#7 Philadelphia Flyers (31-38-13, 75 points)
Overview: After years of papering things over and making attempts to stay competitive, the Flyers have failed enough to realize they need to tear it down and go back to square one. This perhaps should have been obvious after losing Claude Giroux at the 2022 deadline, however Chuck Fletcher made a half-hearted effort to save his job and show some progress. It didn’t work, Fletcher is out and now the Flyers will finally try and construct a proper rebuild.
Important Additions: Garnet Hathaway, Ryan Poehling, Marc Staal, Cal Petersen, Sean Walker, Victor Mete, GM Danny Briere
Important Losses: Kevin Hayes, James van Riemsdyk, Ivan Provorov, Tony DeAngelo, Justin Braun, Brendan Lemieux, GM Chuck Fletcher
Still to go: Morgan Frost (restricted free agent)
—The talent going out the door this summer was significant, with the Flyers parting ways with four out of their top 10 scorers in order to clear some contracts and start over. It will also be costly, with Philadelphia paying DeAngelo and Hayes over $5 million NOT to play for them this year through buyout and retentions, respectively. The talent level will take time to rebuild with young players, because what h, and now Staal and Hathaway are the only players over 30 on the team (outside of grinder Nic Deslauriers). The Flyers are still a couple years away from completely purging the bad Fletcher did and getting enough quality back to go places.
#8 Columbus Blue Jackets (25-48-9, 59 points)
Overview: Hopes were high in Ohio heading into the 2022-23 season, after signing marquee free agent Johnny Gaudreau. It didn’t work out, though, and the bottom dropped out of their year. Brad Larsen couldn’t put the pieces together as an NHL head coach and was dismissed following a bitterly disappointing season that narrowly saw CBJ avoid last place in the whole league (Anaheim recorded one less point for a total of 58).
Important Additions: Damon Severson, Ivan Provorov, Adam Fantilli, Mike Babcock
Important Losses: Gavin Bayreuther, Brad Larsen
Still to go: none
—The impetus was clear on what Columbus was trying to improve this summer: they were able to tempt Severson (formerly of New Jersey) to sign with them and avoid testing free agency and then made another trade within the division to add Provorov from Philadelphia. Injuries limited Zach Werenski to only 13 games, so it will be as if the Blue Jackets are getting almost an entirely new set of big time defensemen for next season. Beyond that, the curious decision to bring in the disgraced Babcock will stand out- can the veteran coach rehab his image and eventually go out on a high note? The draft also broke favorably for CBJ with Fantilli falling to the third pick. The best NCAA player has already signed with the Jackets and should be a Day 1 player and finally gives them a big time center prospect.
It’s looking bleak in Philadelphia in the short term, with an easy prediction that they should be a doormat in 2023-24. Columbus has made significant improvements and investments to add prime-aged defenders, but they have been a difficult team to gauge and predict. They have some quality players on their roster, but all of the pieces have yet to form together yet. Given the strength and cohesion found elsewhere in the division, that could make for another steep uphill battle in Columbus this season yet again.