After one of the most challenging postseasons in NHL history, teams and players had to navigate an equally challenging start to the offseason.
The salary cap remained flat at $81.5 million, per the new collective bargaining agreement, which forced teams to scuttle plans and trade high-priced talent to open up space. The economic impact of the COVID-19 shutdown created budget crunches that limited options for free agents and the teams seeking to sign them. Then there was the shadow of the Seattle Kraken, as the expansion draft loomed large in offseason decisions.
Some teams handled all of this well. Other teams … not so much. Through the first few weeks of the offseason, here’s a report card on all 31 NHL teams.
Note: Emily Kaplan graded the Central and Metropolitan Division teams, and Greg Wyshynski graded the Pacific and Atlantic. Advanced stats via Evolving Hockey and Natural Stat Trick unless otherwise noted. Cap space intel via Cap Friendly.
Current cap space: $0
Smartest move: Signing Shattenkirk. In the span of a season, the 31-year-old defenseman went from a buyout ending his disappointing run with the New York Rangers to being an integral part of the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning‘s blue line. At three years and $3.9 million in average annual value, with limited trade protection, Shattenkirk bolsters the right side of the defense and potentially gives Hampus Lindholm a new partner.
Questionable move: Staying the course. The Ducks are going to ask for more from their young next wave, including forwards Sam Steel and Trevor Zegras, a 19-year-old wild card. But this is a veterans’ team, with David Backes (36), Ryan Getzlaf (35), Shattenkirk, Adam Henrique (30) and Jakob Silfverberg (30). Shouldn’t a team that missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons have shaken up the mix a little more?
What’s left to do: Add a backup goalie. Anthony Stolarz has 26 games of NHL experience with three teams. Given the compressed schedule, the Ducks probably need a proven veteran paired with John Gibson. Will that end up being Ryan Miller again at a discount?
Grade: B+. The Shattenkirk signing is terrific, filled a positional need and will help a moribund power play. Grant’s contract — three years, $1.5 million in AAV — is fine for a former Duck who is a known commodity. The team will open up cap space by placing Ryan Kesler ($6.875 million) on long-term injured reserve, but the Ducks are feeling the pain of Corey Perry‘s buyout ($6.625 million) under the flat cap. Perhaps they could have moved a contract or two, but again, they’re making a run with a veteran team, apparently.