Which NHL team had the worst offseason?
As we enter into the preliminary stages of NHL training camp, the regular season is becoming visible on the horizon. The final roster preparations are being made, and to be fair, trades could still go down.
This year, however, only the Blackhawks and Red Wings sit over the cap ahead of the season at $85,000 and $3,000,000 over respectively. Chicago’s roster can be sorted with one or two minor moves, as the situation is not as dire as it has been in years past. For Detroit, the situation is even clearer, as Johan Franzen and his $3,954,545 contract can be placed on long-term injured reserve for relief.
So, as the dust (presumably) settles, it’s time to look back: which team had the worst offseason in 2017?
For starters, the Penguins did not have a great summer, but they have not won two straight Stanley Cups for no reason. Trading down over twenty spots to acquire Ryan Reaves is pretty rough. Losing Nick Bonino did not help either. But, these are the consequences to being a dominant team in the salary cap era.
Their search for a third line center will continue into the first few months of the season, so if they can sort that out, the offseason will look much better. Regardless though, I don’t think Mike Sullivan, Sidney Crosby, or any Penguins fans will be losing any sleep moving forward.
The Capitals, however, were in a different situation. General manager Brian MacLellan went all-in last season, most notably acquiring Kevin Shattenkirk at the trade deadline.
Washington, as we know, still lost in the second round to Pittsburgh. The best-assembled team in the Alex Ovechkin era still could not get the job done, and the repercussions were costly.
The Capitals were forced to part ways with, either by free agency or trade, Kevin Shattenkirk, Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson, and Karl Alzner. They also lost Nate Schmidt to Vegas.
Barry Trotz will have to look to young players such as Jakub Vrana and Christian Djoos to fill in the holes left behind. The Capitals will certainly be a worse team next season, however it is not right to assume that they will no longer be a threat.
Moving on to a different area of ineptitude: the Colorado Avalanche. Joe Sakic failed to move out Matt Duchene this summer, and the burden of his situation is clearly weighing on the team.
The situation is at a boiling point between Duchene and the Avalanche. A change of scenery would benefit both parties, but Sakic’s price has just been too high for teams to match. In reality, he has decreased Duchene’s value by overpricing him. It’s funny how that works.
Besides that fiasco, the Avalanche did not make any huge moves this offseason. Protecting Semyon Varlamov instead of Calvin Pickard in the expansion draft was the only other head-scratcher.
On that subject, the Vegas Golden Knights’ offseason can be thrown into question.
The Golden Knights undoubtedly made a ton of great moves from June until now. Using their leverage to acquire two additional first round picks and Alex Tuch, among others, was super impressive. However, some of George McPhee’s further moves were confusing.
For one, they drafted way too many defensemen. Currently, they have eleven defensemen on one-way contracts. That’s about three or four too many, and that is even after trading the likes of Marc Methot, Alexei Emelin, and David Schlemko.
Due to their abundance on the blueline, the Golden Knights will either be forced to put some players through waivers or trade them below market value. McPhee once held all the cards, but now the role is reversed. What he does in these next few weeks will be interesting to watch.
Furthermore, they made some questionable picks during the expansion draft, like Deryk Engelland (an unrestricted free agent!) from Calgary and Tomas Nosek from Detroit instead of Petr Mrazek.
The Knights cannot be given a free pass for the offseason, but then again it’s hard to fault them. They were in a strange spot and made the most of it.
The Blackhawks had a weird offseason too, bringing back Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp while ditching Artemi Panarin, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and a few more NHL-level players. These deals are not bad in essence, but it is wrong for Stan Bowman to go out and make these deals and signings just for the sake of getting the band back together. Plain and simple: the moves made the team worse.
Now that brings it to the be-all and end-all, the team which had the worst offseason in 2017.
That team is none other than the Florida Panthers.
Out of the ten top scorers for the Panthers in 2016-2017, five are no longer on the team. They let Jaromir Jagr leave in free agency. They bought out Jussi Jokinen. They traded Jason Demers.
Not a good track record already, but that is just hitting the surface of it.
They traded Reilly Smith to Vegas for a fourth-round pick just to get rid of his salary. Smith is one year removed from a 50-point season and a 8-points in six games playoff run. One bad season should not have changed the perspective on Smith, regardless of the money.
They also let 30 goal scorer Jonathan Marchessault leave to Vegas in the expansion draft. Granted, this one is more complicated than it looks, but they should have moved Marchessault prior to the Golden Knights having the opportunity. Teams would have been (and probably were) lining up at the door to acquire Marchessault at the trade deadline and possibly before the expansion draft as well.
Also, they tried to get Keith Yandle to waive his no-movement clause ahead of the draft, but he declined. That would have been another disaster.
Like with any trade, signing, or buyout, the moves made by all the aforementioned can be and will be looked at in hindsight. Only time will tell how the standings shake out this year, but looking at the moves made in the summer is a pretty solid start.