They say that in order to win a war you need to prepare in peacetime. For NHL franchises, this is that peace time. Every year it seems we see some truly baffling moves, some shrewd ones and a few that just seem to be shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. This year has been no different. What is surprising is the extent some of the teams have gone to blow themselves up.
No team has gone to greater lengths to revamp themselves than the Philadelphia Flyers. Jeff Carter was the first to be jettisoned. Whatever else can be said, Holmgren didn’t sell the man who posted 115 regular season goals in the past three campaigns cheaply. In return, they landed Jakub Voracek, and a first and third round pick from the Columbus Blue Jackets that turned into Sean Couterier (once the consensus #1 pick) and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds leading goal scorer Nick Cousins. When they traded Captain Mike Richards to the LA Kings some were shocked. I was only surprised it took this long after the arrival of Pronger for one of the two to land elsewhere. When the haul they got in return was totaled up you had to wonder how desperate the Kings were for this deal. Holmgren pulled in Brayden Schenn, frequently regarded as the best prospect in anyone’s system, in addition they got Wayne Simmonds a young winger with some attitude and physicality.
Most importantly the Flyers addressed their Achilles heel. They finally went out and got a top shelf goalie. Ilya Bryzgalov has been, at least in the regular season, one of the best in the game the past three years. The no more Brian Boucher, he along with Carcillo, O’Donnell, Versteeg, and Powe were swept out much like the team was during the playoffs. One thing of note, is that I don’t think the Flyers are done with their moves. With Simmond and Talbot (after a voided contract) yet unsigned, they have twenty players under contract and just over five million in cap space.
Verdict: Winner, long term but I’m not sure they are better next season.
The first major shot in the summer arms war was the exchange between Howson and Holmgren. Jeff Carter’s presence alone should make Rick Nash breathe easier. Carter is expected to carry a large part of the offensive load. Columbus GM Howson was not shy about following this up with the big money signing of James Wisniewski. To do this he traded away a late round pick for a couple days of negotiation time. In that time Wisniewski was signed to one of the NHL’s increasingly infamous front loaded deal that will see him paid more next year than any of the last three Norris Trophy winners. His total cap hit will be less than $40,000 below that of Duncan Keith who is likely the most complete defenseman of his generation. Having the fifth highest scoring defensmen of last season, and the 7th highest goal scorer in the NHL last year should make a difference for the team that was 24th in goals scored.
Verdict: Winners, short and medium term. Neither of these two have unmanageable cap hits, and could help attract quality free agents if they thrive.
If someone can explain the free agent moves and trades of the Colorado Avalanche in anyway other than that the leadership is either incompetent, or they wish to draft in the lottery for the next several seasons feel free to comment or email. Chief among their baffling moves is flushing a first and a second round draft pick on a goalie who’s not only streaky and fragile, who has threatened to Russia if not handed the #1 slot in Washington, but who has never played more than 27 games in a season. The other half of their apparent goalie tandem is Giguere. Five years ago Giguere was a top shelf goalie, its hard to tell how much of his fading is his own fault an how much is the fact that the Ducks and Leafs weren’t that good the last few seasons.
On the bright side, a team that had a super concentration of its fighting majors in three players, added a whole lot of toughness and solid skill sets in the bodies of Gabriel Landeskog and Duncan Siemens. Fleischmann’s addition should add some versatility up front.
Verdict: Huh, draft well, trade poor, free agent meh?
The Washington Capitals are probably the second biggest recipients of a gift by the rest of the NHL’s general managers this off season. I’d rate the sighing of Vokoun for peanuts behind only the slide of Dougie Hamilton into the laps of the Boston Bruins in terms of collective brain farts since the end of the playoffs. Well before that they picked up Nashville playoff hero Joel Ward, former Chicago Blackhawk Troy Brouwer (as yet unsigned), added Roman Hamerlik from the Montreal Canadien’s as well. With all the new faces, and all of them with solid playoff resumes its clear that the Caps have continued their refocus on playoff success.
Currently they have thirteen forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies signed with just over half a million in cap space. Given that neither Carl Alzner nor Troy Brouwer are signed, I would be shocked if they don’t make one or two more moves over between now and opening night. At a guess Mike Green or Dennis Wideman will be gone as they are high similar players with the largest difference being the formers ability to skate well.
Verdict: Winner. They could still screw it up by not signing Alzner or trading a piece away for pennies on the dollar. I’d also consider letting Hannan sign elsewhere when he was such a big part in the teams learning to play defense a negative.
The Kings appear to be in win-now mode. With the addition of Mike Richards via trade and fellow former Flyer Simon Gagne via free agency their offense promises to be better. These two moves are on top of the addition of Dustin Penner at last years deadline. They also shipped Ryan Smyth to Edmonton in exchange for a penalty killer, and a pick. At the draft they picked up one of the top rated goalie prospects in the second round. They do still have to sign young defeneen Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez, but have the space to do so. Given that they were 25th in goals for last season, I’m a little surprised they failed to lockup any additional offensive talent. Smyth was a 25 goal scorer, they also haven’t addressed their left side weakness.
More Win, Lose or Huh? coming soon.