Coyotes aren’t the only active Pacific Division team this offseason
It has been another active offseason for Coyotes general manager John Chayka. He didn’t even wait for the 2017-18 season to end before getting started.
In the span of three months, the Coyotes have signed goalie Antti Raanta to a three-year, $12.75 million contract extension; traded forward Jordan Martinook and a third-round draft pick to the Carolina Hurricanes for center Marcus Kruger and a fourth-round pick; traded wing Max Domi to the Montreal Canadiens for center Alex Galchenyuk; re-signed defenseman Kevin Connauton to a two-year, $2.75 million contract; signed defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson to an eight-year, $66 million extension; signed defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to a two-year, $10 million extension; signed free-agent signed forward Michael Grabner to a three-year, $10.05 million contract; and re-signed center Brad Richardson to a two-year, $2.5 million contract.
“If this is the group we’re going with, we’re comfortable,” Chayka said. “If there’s a chance to improve, we’ll look at that.”
The Coyotes weren’t alone in their offseason activity, however. A number of new faces will populate the Pacific Division this season. Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of the Coyotes’ rivals’ moves.
ANAHEIM DUCKS (101 points, 2nd place)
Key additions: F Carter Rowney, D Luke Schenn, F Brian Gibbons, F Anton Rodin.
Key re-signings: None yet. RFAs Brandon Montour, Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie are in the works.
Key losses: F Antoine Vermette, D Kevin Bieksa, F Jason Chimera, F Chris Kelly, F Derek Grant, D Francois Beauchemin.
A beat writer’s take (Eric Stephens, The Athletic Los Angeles: @icemancometh)
On the Ducks’ minor involvement in free agency: “They really couldn’t do anything big in free agency because they’ve got a lot of their money tied up already with Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf, plus they have extended Cam Fowler long term, [along with] Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Rickard Rakell and Andrew Cogliano. They are also planning for next year when they Adam Henrique, John Gibson and Jakob Silfverberg are free agents.
“The bump up in the cap did help a little bit in terms of flexibility, but they don’t like to spend all the way to the cap anyway, if they need to add somebody at the trade deadline. [GM] Bob Murray wasn’t all that interested in the free agent market anyway. His thought is that if he’s not going to get something appreciably better, then what’s the point? You’re just going to further hamstring yourself.
Why sign Rowney to a three-year deal? “What I’ve been told is that there were other interested people, which is the only reason I could see going three years, no offense to Carter Rowney, on a player like that, when you could find someone else for less. Clearly, the pro scouting staff sees a lot in him. They do want to upgrade their fourth line.”
CALGARY FLAMES (84 points, 5th place)
Key additions: D Noah Hanifin, F Elias Lindholm, F James Neal, F Derek Ryan, F Austin Czarnik.
Key re-signings: None
Key losses: D Dougie Hamilton, F Micheal Ferland, F Chris Stewart, F Matt Stajan.
A beat writer’s take (Kristen Anderson, Postmedia: @KdotAnderson)
On trading Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland and Adam Fox to Carolina for Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm: “There were questions on whether Fox would sign in Calgary or finish his degree at Harvard. Ferland has been a physical presence and had 20 goals last year but has been kind of inconsistent throughout his career. When you look deeper into the type of person Dougie Hamilton is, he’s just a little bit different type of guy.
“We only know so much about these players. We have all worked with people who have a different approach. That doesn’t mean they can’t get along in a team environment. Dougie’s a quieter guy, maybe sensitive, but he was so good in the community and he was excellent on the ice. More than anything, the Flames needed a shake-up, a dressing-room shake-up, regardless of personality clashes, if there were anything. This really serviced that need to light a fire and get some other guys going.”
On adding James Neal: “That really gives the Flames that missing piece of the puzzle, that true, top-six forward that they (can) wedge in with Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau on the top line. I don’t know where he’ll start. He could be a good fit with Matthew Tkachuk on the second line. I know [coach] Bill Peters wanted Lindholm to play with Gaudreau and Monahan if the season started tomorrow. [GM] Brad Treliving wanted to address some issues and he defined what those were with these moves, trying to solve their scoring problems with Lindholm and Neal. They only had 216 goals last year. They finished 27th overall.”
Is GM Brad Treliving in trouble? “It’s been a tumultuous few years. You make the playoffs first year, doesn’t make the playoffs the next year, makes it and then doesn’t make it again last year. He’s had a history of making deals that improve the Flames. Hamilton was a coup to turn first-round picks into Hamilton, but it only last a few years so was it a success? I would assume there is some internal pressure for Brad Treliving to make the playoffs this year, especially spending the money he is on James Neal.
“He’s put the pieces in place for Bill Peters to do some damage. I would assume his time in Calgary would get a hard look if they don’t make the playoffs this year. They have been out of the first round once and they haven’t gotten out of the second round since 2004. Fans are frustrated. I think there is some real pressure for the Flames to do something in the next few years, especially with the new arena saga ongoing.”
EDMONTON OILERS (78 points, 6th place)
Key additions: F Kyle Brodziak, D Kevin Gravel, F Tobias Rieder, G Mikko Koskinen
Key re-signings: F Drake Caggiula, F Ty Rattie
Key losses: F Michael Cammalleri
A beat writer’s take (Jonathan Willis, The Athletic Edmonton: @JonathanWillis)
On the Oilers minor involvement in free agency: “Most of the July 1 moves were prudent, low-cost moves that you like to see a GM make, even though they didn’t have much choice in the matter. The only real wrinkle was signing [Koskinen] to such a pricey contract when he only has four career NHL games and his KHL numbers aren’t anything special. The only other option they could have had with their cap situation would have been to move out a pricey contract and they badly need all the players they have on pricey contracts.”
Was there any thought to trying to move Milan Lucic’s contract? “I get the impression there were conversations. I don’t think that they look at Lucic as having negative value. It’s possible there was a trade out there that they felt wasn’t sufficient return for him.”
LOS ANGELES KINGS (98 points, 4th place)
Key additions: F Ilya Kovalchuk, G Peter Budaj
Key re-signings: D Drew Doughty
Key losses: D Christian Folin, D Kevin Gravel, F Torrey Mitchell
A beat writer’s take (Lisa Dillman, The Athletic Los Angeles: @reallisa)
On adding Kovalchuk: “There is no doubt this team needs scoring. Look at the first-round series against the Golden Knights and it was difficult for them to even generate chances. He will help considerably on their power play in a very big way. Drew Doughty was talking about him, saying we really haven’t had someone to shoot from that position in the circle like [Alex Ovechkin] sets up. I think they won the sweepstakes by offering three years rather than two. I really do view it as a low-risk move because they don’t have to give up anybody off their roster.”
On signing Doughty before he reached free agency: “I’m fascinated by this because he negotiated his own contract. The only other player I can remember doing it in Kings history is Dustin Brown, and Dustin and Drew were roommates. Drew had been with Newport Sports Management his entire career. He called up [GM] Rob Blake during the NHL Draft and said ‘you’re going to negotiate directly with me.’ I guess all negotiations should go so smoothly because they started talking parameters and term and money on Monday or Tuesday and it was done by Friday. He said it was easy, ‘just punch in a few numbers and figure what you’re worth.’ I was having visions of Zillow.com like we do for home purchases. He said ‘if it had been difficult I would have had to re-hire Newport.’”
On the advanced age of key Kings: “I’m a big believer in the here and now. You have to take advantage of your core. Drew Doughty in his prime, Jonathan Quick is still hugely effective and they’ll have Jeff Carter back for a full year. He wasn’t even close to what he can be when he came back after that serious injury. They’re going to need more out of Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli, Adrian Kempe. There was some disappointment that that did not happen.”
SAN JOSE SHARKS (100 points, 3rd place)
Key additions: F Antti Suomela
Key re-signings: F Logan Couture, F Evander Kane, F Joe Thornton, F Tomas Hertl
Key losses: D Dylan DeMelo, F Mikkel Boedker, F Eric Fehr, F Jannik Hansen, F Joel Ward, UFA F John Tavares
A beat writer’s take (Kevin Kurz, The Athletic San Francisco: @KKurzNHL)
On missing out on John Tavares: “Certainly [GM] Doug Wilson is disappointed. They even went an unconventional route in releasing that statement after Tavares chose the Maple Leafs. The sense I was getting was that they were certainly all in for Tavares, but I’m not sure how interested they were in the other free agents on the market. I got the sense Doug knew early on the morning of July 1 that he wasn’t getting Tavares but he still didn’t dip his toes in the free-agency waters. We’ll see what they do form here because right now, they’re weaker on paper than the team that finished the season. I would think there is more coming. Wilson has a history of making trades in the offseason. That’s how he got Dan Boyle and Brent Burns.”
On Suomela: “Their biggest need is for a fourth-line center. He led the Finnish league in scoring last year and he was pursued by as many as a dozen teams. He’ll get a shot at that along with Dylan Gambrell. The biggest issue for them is center. You have Joe Thornton coming back and he was playing very well before he got hurt in January, but he’s a 39-year-old with two major knee surgeries in the last two years.”
VANCOUVER CANUCKS (73 points, 7th place)
Key additions: F Jay Beagle, F Antoine Roussel, F Tim Schaller
Key re-signings: D Derrick Pouliot, F Sven Baertschi, F Darren Archibald
Key losses: F Daniel Sedin, F Henrik Sedin, F Jussi Jokinen, F Markus Granlund
A beat writer’s take (Mike Halford, The Athletic Vancouver: @HalfordTSN)
On the Canucks’ curious free-agent signings: “I understand what they were trying to do. They’ve got some guys that are offensively inclined and they want them to step into the lineup and be able [to play] minutes that will allow them to embrace the offensive side, so they needed to get a better bottom six. Vancouver’s PK was terrible and they felt they had a leadership void because both of the Sedins were gone, and they felt they were soft to play against last year. The problem is the amount of money and the term they spent to address this need. They said there was a bidding war for Jay Beagle. I have a hard time believing that upwards of 10 teams were in on Jay Beagle. They got into a bidding war to address a need that didn’t need to have that kind of money or term committed to it.”
On the young players who will get their chance: “Elias Pettersson is going to get a real good shot out of training camp and by all indications he’ll be on the roster. Thatcher Demko, the goalie of the future, [GM Jim] Benning said he will get to compete for the back-up job. Quinn Hughes who fell into theirs laps at the draft, they’re talking about him turning pro now, even though he’ll be 19. They expect to be extremely young this year.”
On the quest for the other Hughes, expected top 2019 pick, Jack Hughes: “From the moment Benning went to the podium at the draft and everyone realized they were going to get Quinn Hughes, the narrative wrote itself. The draft is here next year, you’ve already got the one brother and you’re a franchise that is largely defined by twin brothers. They’re going to be bad. If you’ve been this bad for this long and you get this opportunity to land these kind of talents in consecutives drafts, do you not kind of owe it to yourself to do it?”
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS (109 points, 1st place)
Key additions: F Paul Stastny, D Nick Holden, F Daniel Carr
Key re-signings: F Ryan Reaves
Key losses: F James Neal, F David Perron, D Luca Sbisa
A beat writer’s take (Jesse Granger, Las Vegas Sun: @JesseGranger_)
On the addition of Stastny: “The Golden Knights’ top line is obviously set. They were the most productive line in hockey last year with Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson. The second line was really good at scoring with Erik Haula, James Neal and David Perron, but defensively they were really bad. I think with the loss of Neal and Perron and the addition of Stastny, he brings the playmaking ability they had but he is a lot more defensively responsible. That takes pressure off Haula where he can move to wing or even be a third-line center.
On Holden’s role: “What [GM George] McPhee told me is Holden is essentially a Luca Sbisa clone. They lost Sbisa in free agency but Holden will plug right in there and probably be one of the last defensemen on the roster.”
On the pursuit of Erik Karlsson: “I don’t think they ever thought they were in the [John] Tavares sweepstakes. I think they were solely focused on Stastny the whole time. Karlsson, they are definitely serious about. That makes it hard to talk about their offseason because it’s incomplete. Everything they have done has led me to believe that McPhee believes he is getting Karlsson. That would obviously be huge. That completely changes the way this offseason looks. You see all these reports that Dallas might be in it and Tampa and the Rangers. I think the Golden Knights are the favorite to get him by far just because of their cap flexibility to take on Bobby Ryan’s contract and they’ve got so many young assets.”