Free agency is underway and the Pacific division is as wide open to winning as it was last year. No division title is won in July, but it can be lost.
Anaheim Ducks: C-
The biggest strength of the Ducks off season so far is not signing any hideous contracts. That’s about all that can be said for it though. They finished 17th in scoring last year and the only player they have signed since July first is a retread journeyman defenseman. Nate Guerin was drafted back in 2002 by the New York Rangers and has played in an unimpressive 205 regular season and 7 post season NHL games since. Hardly the most optimistic of starts to the off-season.
Arizona Coyotes: C
Given their likely spending budget the Coyotes had a decent start to free agency picking up Jamie McGinn to play along side some of their youngsters. He’ll bring some size to the team. Other signings included depth players like goalie Justin Peters. They still have a lot to do to be a playoff team, maybe this is the year they go young?
Calgary Flames: B-
The Flames went out and addressed needs. They signed Chad Johnson to a one year deal at a team friendly number. Johnson is emerging as a strong goaltender and had very good number playing behind last years woeful Buffalo Sabre. Troy Brouwer is now their highest paid forward, which would be very odd on many teams, but at under $5m its a decent contract on a team that’s best forward are on or just ended their entry level deals.
Edmonton Oilers: C+
The Edmonton Oilers signed three players, Milan Lucic, Jonas Gustavsson, and Mark Fraser. Fraser is a big bodied defenseman who has spent most of the time since being drafted in 2005 in the AHL collecting just 219 NHL games. It’s worth noting he played in the New Jersey Devils system with Adam Larsson, but they were not very frequent linemates. Gustavsson is a quality backup goaltender which is something they need as only three teams finished with more goals against last year. Milan Lucic was signed for more money than another other player on July first. He’s quite familiar with Peter Chiarelli, Andrew Ference, and Benoit Pouliot from their time in Boston, having won a Cup with the first two. Lucic and Oskar Klefbom appear to be the long range plan for the Oilers as both are signed the end of the 2022-23 season. The signings themselves weren’t egregious, but defense, defense, defense were the first, second, and third needs of the team and they didn’t do much to address those.
Los Angeles Kings: B
Jeff Zatkoff who used to be in the Kings system having played for the Monarchs for a couple years. He may well see serious NHL time after playing well as part of the Penguins Stanley Cup run. The rest of their signings were all second (or lower) tier players with former Washington Capitals center Michael Latta as the most recognizable nationally, Tom Gilbert is a well traveled depth defenseman who is fairly reliable but not flashy, and last was the signing of Zach Trotman a defenseman with decent tools who was Mr Insignificant of 201o. Getting all three for under $3m is a pretty nice deal, especially given the taxes in California. There wasn’t a lot of need here, and also rather little cap space.
San Jose Sharks: B
When you go to the Stanley Cup finals and you aren’t losing anyone to free agency, there isn’t a lot to do. The Sharks added Mikkel Boedker who has proven himself able to produce in the playoffs. The Sharks need more of that, just as they could have used his speed in June against the Penguins. Solid signing that should enhance the team without damaging chemistry.
Vancouver Canucks: D
The Canucks needed to add youth, speed, and quality defense they did none of that. They added Loui Eriksson fresh of a contract year performance, and two players unlikely to play a combined 20 NHL games this season. Possibly their best move was signing Doug Jarvis as an assistant coach.