Detroit — You can’t say the NHL offseason has been boring.
A huge star (John Tavares) goes back home, a franchise-altering defenseman (Rasmus Dahlin) is drafted, and numerous free-agent signings and trades that make everyone around the NHL sit up and take notice have helped make this summer anything but a yawner.
As usual, there have been some noticeable winners — and big, big losers. And, for some teams, a little of both.
Let’s take a look at the best and worst and of this NHL offseason thus far:
■ Toronto Maple Leafs: Some day, they might build a statue for GM Kyle Dubas. And team president Brendan Shanahan. And coach Mike Babcock. We’ll stop there. Because signing forward John Tavares, bringing the Toronto native back home, is an NHL-altering move. The Leafs have become an NBA-style “superteam” and it’ll be disappointing if they don’t win a Stanley Cup soon.
■ Buffalo Sabres fans: These are passionate fans in Buffalo, and they’ve been through a lot of lean years. But drafting defenseman Rasmus Dahlin — the best defensive prospect in decades — and receiving a haul of good assets while trading forward Ryan O’Reilly make it a productive summer so far for this long-suffering franchise.
■ Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall: The money is a bit much ($7 million a year), but the term (five years) is fair and manageable. James van Riemsdyk did score 36 goals in Toronto last season, and he should continue to put back pucks from 5 feet of the net for the foreseeable future in Philadelphia. A good, somewhat shrewd, move here.
■ Second-string goalies: The Wings gave Jonathan Bernier $9 million over three years. Cam Ward skates to Chicago (one year, $3 million), while Philipp Grubauer (three years, $10 million) takes Bernier’s place in Colorado. Anton Khudobin goes to Dallas (two years, $5 million), while Jaroslav Halak (two years, $5.5 million) moves into Khudobin’s spot in Boston. Buffalo nabs Carter Hutton (three years, $8.25 million) to be its new starter. Getting dizzy? It seemed like backup goalies had their own personal game of musical chairs, and came away pretty rich doing it.
■ Calgary Flames: Who would have thought Calgary would become a destination spot, but Flames GM Brad Treliving did an outstanding job of reshaping his roster this offseason. He swiped forward Elias Lindholm and defenseman Noah Hanifin from Carolina, then signed forwards James Neal and Derek Ryan in free agency. The Flames possess a deep, talented roster.
■ Reunions: Tavares going to where he grew up. Philadelphia signing a player (van Riemsdyk) it originally drafted. And Thomas Vanek (Detroit), David Perron (St. Louis), Tomas Plekanec (Montreal) and Matt Cullen (Pittsburgh) are going back to where they had success in their careers. There was a lot of going back home when free agency got underway this past Sunday.
■ Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka: This guy has had a productive offseason. He made a potentially productive trade in acquiring forward Alex Galchenyuk from Montreal, re-signed star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and on Sunday added a nice piece in winger Michael Grabner. While we'll see about the draft, this is becoming a competitive roster.
John Niyo, Ted Kulfan and Gregg Krupa, discuss the Red Wings' free-agent moves, and the prospects who participated in the development camp. John Niyo and Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News
■ Detroit Red Wings: Loved the draft and OK with the Bernier signing, but didn’t care for bringing back defenseman Mike Green and Vanek. Those signings appeared to stall some rebuilding momentum.
■ Boston Bruins: They didn’t do much at the draft and defenseman John Moore is decent, but the Bruins haven’t done enough to pass Toronto or Tampa in the top-heavy Atlantic Division. The Bruins could be a top-five team in the NHL — and be third in their division. Amazing.
■ San Jose Sharks: Getting forward Evander Kane re-signed was a win, but being so close on Tavares and missing out was a gut-wrenching miss. The Sharks have done a wonderful job of solidifying their roster, but the window to win a Stanley Cup is shrinking. And doesn’t it seem like the Sharks are always in on stars, come close to acquiring or signing them, and just miss?
■ Los Angeles Kings: Talk about windows shutting. Getting defenseman Drew Doughty to stay for the next eight years ($88 million) was huge — and they had to it — and same with inking forward Ilya Kovalchuk (three years, $18.75 million). The Kings desperately needed scoring, but this is going to be an aging roster in a couple seasons, and lack of speed continues to be an issue. There are 10 players over the age of 30. Oh my.
■ New York Islanders fans: There was hope with the draft, claiming two outstanding prospects in Oliver Wahlstrom and defenseman Noah Dobson. But all that enthusiasm disappeared when Tavares left town. He was the face of the franchise, and most didn’t expect Tavares to leave after a for-the-better front office and coaching change. This is going to sting — a lot — for a while.
■ Ottawa, all of it: The organization appears to not have a plan, the fans hate the owner, the roster hasn’t improved, and star defenseman Erik Karlsson will likely be traded soon or leave after the season in free agency. What a mess. Drafting forward Brady Tkachuk has provided only mild relief.
■ Carolina Hurricanes: Drafting forward Andrei Svechnikov was a huge win. But trading Lindholm and Hanifin for a shaky package was questionable, then addressing the goaltending problem by signing Petr Mrazek was downright scary. There was a fear new owner Tom Dundon was going to dismantle a promising roster and it appears he’s doing it.
■ Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford: When the Penguins traded away a couple of good, young assets to create salary cap space, you expected Rutherford to pull off something big. Defenseman Jack Johnson (Ann Arbor/Michigan) is fine, but you wonder if the Penguins can still compete with Tampa and Toronto.
■ The star-studded 2019 free agent defenseman class: Ryan McDonagh (Tampa), Doughty (Los Angeles) and Ekman-Larsson (Arizona) have re-signed, Ryan Ellis (Nashville) likely will, and Karlsson (Ottawa) surely will once he’s traded. So much for another anticipated star-studded free agent class.
■ Winnipeg: Not necessarily the Jets, although this affects them the most. But with forward Paul Stastny leaving for Vegas, this is another sign that no matter how strong the Jets organization is, good players aren’t attracted to living in Winnipeg.
■ Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning: Signing Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel to matching deals worth $12 million over four years was…mind-boggling. If you cut those contracts in half, okay, much more fair. But given the length and money, it’s incomprehensible on the surface. They’re gutsy but fringe players.