The 2016 NHL offseason was certainly one of the most memorable in recent memory. It was one of the most star-studded drafts of all-time, and never had we seen so many albatross contracts handed out like it was Christmas season. Also, some of the biggest trades took place.
Shea Weber for P.K. Subban was a trade nobody saw coming, and the Toronto Maple Leafs finally gave up a lot to acquire themselves a starter. Past-their-prime veterans earned first-line centre money and some teams took huge risks by giving away draft picks like they were coupons.
Nonetheless, we aren’t even halfway through the season and we already have a good feel for how some of these offseason moves will change the landscape of the NHL. Some have been absolute season-changers, and some are just downright disastrous. Here is a look at the eight offseason moves that are succeeding and seven that are failing.
Note: All stats are courtesy of ESPN and NHL.com
15. Succeeding: New Jersey Gets Taylor Hall
The New Jersey Devils lacked pure goal-scorers for many years, namely after Zach Parise signed with the Minnesota Wild in 2012. New Jersey then swung a deal with the Edmonton Oilers, shipping away 2011 first-rounder Adam Larsson for the speedy winger. New Jersey had enough quality blueliners and needed more scoring punch.
The Oilers, already loaded with forwards, didn’t exactly need Taylor Hall. He failed to reach superstar level, was often hurt and inconsistent. He’s enjoying life in New Jersey, as he’s on pace for 25 goals and 62 points. Reuniting with junior hockey teammate Adam Henrique has given New Jersey a lot to be excited about for years to come.
14. Failing: Oilers Get Adam Larsson
Everyone knew that the Oilers didn’t get enough for Taylor Hall. Yes, trading him for a blueliner made a ton of sense. But if they had looked elsewhere, they could have gotten the franchise defenceman that they lack. Adam Larsson, who was a plus-15 in New Jersey last year, was Edmonton’s idea of fixing up the defence. So far, it hasn’t been so good.
Though the Oilers are in playoff contention and have shown plenty of improvement, Larsson certainly hasn’t lived up to the hype. He’s posted a woeful minus-three, and you know it would be worse without Connor McDavid. The Oilers are allowing 2.65 goals per game, a minor improvement from the 2.95 per contest they allowed last year. But given how they surrendered the former first-overall pick for a defenceman that hasn’t worked out yet, the Oilers land on this list.
Keep in mind there were rumors about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins going to the Minnesota Wild, with Jonas Brodin’s name in the rumor mill. Edmonton could have given up a less-talented player for an even better defenceman.
13. Succeeding: Minnesota Wild Sign Eric Staal
Hard to believe it’s been 11 years since Eric Staal scored 100 points en route to leading the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup. Staal also put up 70-point seasons with ease, but had significantly regressed over the last few seasons. He had just 54 in 2014-15 and 39 in 2015-16.
But the Minnesota Wild were desperate for offence and handed him a modest three-year deal worth $10.5 million. Staal leads Minny in points with 25 through 31 games, and the team is second in an ultra-tough Central Division. Staal is on pace for 26 goals and 66 points, which would be his best season since 2011-12. It appeared as though the superstar was nearing the end of his better years, but he’s found new life in The State of Hockey.
12. Failing: Detroit Red Wings Overpay Frans Nielsen
The Detroit Red Wings appear more keen on extending their playoff streak than rebuilding – which is best for the long-term. GM Ken Holland has handed out fancy contracts to good, not great players. After Pavel Datsyuk decided to finish his playing career in Russia, Holland tried filling the void by giving Frans Nielsen a five-year deal worth $31.5 million.
Nielsen hasn’t been a failure in Detroit, but 17 points in 33 games isn’t exactly living up to the contract either. He’s on pace for just 17 goals and 42 points, and there’s no way the Wings are moving that contract. The main reason he lands on this list is because this move suggested Detroit isn’t ready to rebuild, even though it’s long overdue.
11. Succeeding: Rangers and Senators Make Even Swap
The Ottawa Senators traded speedy sniper Mika Zibanejad to the New York Rangers for a bigger setup man in Derick Brassard. Both guys were doing fine with their teams, but the aging Rangers needed more speed. The speedy Senators needed more size. The trade has worked out well for both teams.
Ottawa is enjoying a bounce-back season (second in the Atlantic Division) after missing the playoffs last year. Brassard has seven goals and 15 points and has played well defensively in his own end. Adjusting to Guy Boucher’s system, he should rediscover his old offensive form before long. As for Zibanejad, he’s out for a few more weeks after sustaining a broken leg. Before the injury, he had five goals and 15 points in 19 games. The Rangers have transitioned into a much faster, younger team with Ziba’s addition, among others.
10. Failing: San Jose Sharks Sign Mikkel Boedker
The San Jose Sharks used their incredibly fast and skilled team to reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2016. However, the younger and even faster Pittsburgh Penguins shut them down throughout the series – wearing and tiring their opponents out and winning the Stanley Cup.
San Jose knew that another speedster was the main resource they needed to repeat as Western Conference champions, so they signed Mikkel Boedker to a four-year deal worth $16 million. After 39 points in 62 games on a lowly Arizona Coyotes team, the expectation is that he would do even better playing with Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and/or Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.
Well, Boedker only has two goals and six points with a minus-seven rating. The Sharks do have more speed, alright. But $4 million a season for that isn’t necessarily worth it. Boedker isn’t bringing the results to San Jose, and it’s going to hurt them down the road when they’re up against the cap.
9. Succeeding: Alexander Radulov Turns Canadien
Alexander Radulov was a rising star with the Nashville Predators but has spent the bulk of his playing days in the KHL. Keen on a return to the NHL, Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin took a chance on him, signing the Russian sniper to a one-year deal worth $5.75 million. The Habs were starving for offence and needed another playmaker to take the tolls off of Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk.
Radulov has become an offseason bargain, with six goals and 23 points in 30 games while posting a plus-seven rating. His speed and playmaking abilities have given the Habs a game-changer. Montreal is bouncing back from a disastrous 2015-16 campaign as they lead the Atlantic Division.
The Russian star has discussed how much he loves Montreal and is keen on staying her for a long time. Bergevin had a ton of heat on him in the offseason, but he cooled down by bringing in Radulov – who has been the steal of free agency so far.
8. Failing: Buffalo Sabres Overpay Kyle Okposo
The Sabres should have looked at the long-term and try to save up their cap space to ensure they’ll be able to keep all of their young stars down the road – namely Jack Eichel. However, GM Tim Murray wanted to speed up the rebuilding process and signed John Tavares’ old linemate, Kyle Okposo, to a seven-year deal worth $42 million.
That’s a lot of money for:
a) a 28-year-old
b) a guy who hasn’t scored more than 27 goals in a season
c) a guy who mainly succeeded because Tavares was feeding him the puck
Okposo hasn’t been a massive disappointment with Buffalo, but he’s scored just eight goals and 22 points this season and is on pace for 24 goals and 59 points. Those are not bad numbers, but Okposo’s dollars and length are simply too much. The Sabres are also nowhere close to a playoff berth.
7. Succeeding: Oilers Add Muscle, Sign Milan Lucic
The Oilers have stocked up on first-overall picks (as everyone knows) but they haven’t seen a lot of results. In order to finally start competing for a playoff spot, they made a big move by signing power forward Milan Lucic to a seven-year deal worth $42 million. Though his style of play and mileage scared some teams, he’s made the most of it in Edmonton.
Lucic has nine goals and 23 points and is on pace for 22 goals and 55 points. But his value goes well beyond the stat sheet: His size adds plenty of protection to the young Oilers forwards who are generally undersized. He gets to score the dirty goals and protect his teammates. The results are showing, as the Oilers sit third in the Pacific Division and looked destined to make the playoffs for the first time in 11 years.
6. Failing: Calgary Flames Trade for Brian Elliott
The Flames missed the playoffs in 2016 and didn’t advance far in 2015 because of porous netminding. Not since the 2004-2011 days of Miikka Kiprusoff had this team owned a quality number one.
Well, they made the big move by trading a second-round selection to the St. Louis Blues for Brian Elliott, who was among the NHL’s top netminders during his run with the team. The deal seemed like a bargain for Calgary, who could have pursued Ben Bishop or Marc-Andre Fleury instead.
Elliott has posted an awful 4-9-1 record with a 3.21 goals against average and .889 save percentage. The good news for Calgary is that they DO have a reliable number one: Career backup Chad Johnson. His sensational play has moved Elliot to the bench, and chances are he won’t be a starting goalie elsewhere again after a dismal season in Calgary.
5. Succeeding: Rangers Sign Jimmy Vesey
The 2016 Hobey Baker winner (given to the top collegiate hockey player in the United States) was drafted by the Nashville Predators in 2012 but refused to sign and stay with the organization.
Jimmy Vesey headed to free agency and got to pick his team. The New York Rangers were coming off of a disappointing first-round exit in the playoffs and needed to add some young skill to keep the championship window open. They signed Vesey and the results have been remarkable. He has 10 goals and 17 points in 34 games and has the Rangers in contention for the Presidents’ Trophy. Vesey is one of the flashiest players in the NHL and is only going to get better as he develops his game more. This was nothing short of a huge win for the Rangers.
4. Failing: Vancouver Canucks Sign Loui Eriksson
The Canucks have procrastinated a rebuild for four years, and the fans have shown their frustration. Ratings are way down, sellouts have become a pipe dream for the most part and tickets are at an all-time low. Despite all of this, the front office has decided to try and ice a competitive team.
So they signed 31-year-old Loui Eriksson to a six-year deal worth $36 million despite the obvious need to move on from ageing players and load up on young assets. Eriksson, who shined with Daniel and Henrik Sedin at the World Cup of Hockey, has just six goals and 14 points. He scored 30 goals and 63 points with the Boston Bruins last season.
Now, the Canucks are stuck with another disastrous contract that’s immovable. They refused to start the much-needed rebuild and now find themselves stuck with a 31-year-old who’s only going to slow down more.
3. Succeeding: Toronto Maple Leafs Finally Have a Goalie
Ed Belfour was well past his prime when he was with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Andrew Raycroft was not worth acquiring by giving up Tuukka Rask to a division rival. J.S. Giguere wasn’t even half as good as the Stanley Cup champion we saw in Anaheim. James Reimer had a couple of quality seasons but was never that great. Jonathan Bernier was a major bust in Toronto.
See the trend? The Leafs just haven’t been able to find that number one goalie. But after tearing it all down and beginning a rebuild, they still needed to find a franchise netminder. They traded first and second round picks to the Anaheim Ducks for goaltending services.
Frederik Andersen posted an incredible 77-26-12 record in Anaheim and has been a stud in Toronto: He’s 12-8-6 with a 2.65 goals against average and .918 save percentage despite a lackluster defensive group in front of him. Oh, when the Leafs young stars finally reach their primes, Andersen’s going to be a star. Finally, this team has a real number one.
2. Failing: Andrew Isn’t a Good Ladd on Long Island
Andrew Ladd was an above-average player for the Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets. He has plenty of great qualities: Ladd’s good for 25 goals and 50-plus points a season, is a great leader and has valuable experience with a pair of Stanley Cup championships. But the New York Islanders opted to pay him like a superstar. And it’s blown up in their faces.
The Islanders gave him a seven-year deal worth $38.5 million. That wasn’t a good idea at first, given his age (31) and the fact he was bound to slow down soon enough. Well, the Islanders are among the NHL’s worst teams and Ladd has just four goals and seven points with a terrible minus-11 rating.
With John Tavares set to become a free agent in 2018, the Islanders are going to need to open up a vault if they want him to avoid free agency. Having Ladd take up valuable cap space as a guy who’s playing like a fourth-linger is surely not helping in any way.
1. Succeeding: Shea Weber for P.K. Subban
About that whole “symbiotic trade” stuff.
The Montreal Canadiens came under a lot of fire from the hockey world by trading away the beloved P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber. Subban wasn’t only a hero to the city, but he’s five years younger and has five years left on his deal compared to Weber having 10.
Well, Weber is playing like a guy who wants to win his first Norris Trophy. He has eight goals, 18 points, a plus-18 rating and is on pace to finish with 21 goals and 46 points. The Habs are among the top teams in the Eastern Conference right now after missing the playoffs last season.
Subban, who had a miserable 2015-16 season in Montreal, has seven goals (after scoring six all of last season) and 17 points. The Predators aren’t quite in the playoff race, but getting rid of Weber’s contract before it becomes a disaster was a huge win.
Who’s hating on Marc Bergevin now? Probably people who don’t have Shea Weber on their fantasy team.
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