Central Division Offseason Wrap-Up

The 2017 NHL Offseason has been rather hectic, however, the Expansion Draft, Entry Draft, and the bulk of Free Agency has come and gone. Some teams made a large splash, some added a few helpful pieces, and others spent this busy time tanning on the beach. Now, we’ll be looking at each team, division by division, and wrap up everything that this offseason has provided. We’ll also look at each team’s key additions and subtractions, and their season expectations. The expectations will be placed on a scale of where they’ll finish in the standings.

The scale looks like this:

Bottom Feeder: A team that really has no shot at making the playoffs, and will remain relatively low in the standings

Not a Playoff Team: A team that isn’t quite low enough to be referred to as a Bottom Feeder, but they aren’t quite at a level to compete for a playoff spot either.

Playoff Contender: Teams that are at a level where a playoff spot is a reasonable goal. Go ahead, say you think the team will make the playoffs. It’s alright.

Playoff Team: A team that should make the postseason in some capacity. Even if it’s the 16th-seed, they’re still there.

Cup Contender: They don’t just make the playoffs, but they’re probably good enough to go all the way.

*Note: We didn’t include re-signings, because they weren’t necessarily “Additions”

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, lets get to the wrap-up.

Today, the Central division is under the microscope.

  • Key additions: Patrick Sharp (LW), Brandon Saad (LW), Tommy Wingels (C), J-F Berube (G)
  • Key subtractions: Artemi Panarin (LW), Marcus Kruger (C), Niklas Hjalmarsson (D), Scott Darling (G)
  • General Thoughts: After being swept in the first round of last season’s playoffs, they said changes were coming, and change they did. Scott Darling was shipped off to Carolina, and then things really picked up around the draft for Chicago. They traded Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Coyotes for some younger, cheaper talent (Murphy, Dauphin). Later, the Hawks continued the shocking moves by moving star-forward Artemi Panarin to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Brandon Saad. Yes, the same Brandon Saad that they traded away a few years back to alleviate cap issues. They also brought back a familiar face in Patrick Sharp on a remarkably team-friendly deal. While these moves didn’t make them a significantly downgraded team, they didn’t make them a significantly improved team either. All in all, I think they took a step back, but not enough to knock them out of postseason quite yet. I’d expect a division or wildcard spot come April.
  • Expectation: Playoff Team
  • Key additions: Jonathan Bernier (G), Nail Yakupov (RW)
  • Key subtractions: Patrick Wiercioch (D), Calvin Pickard (G), Mikhail Gigorenko (C), Francois Beauchemin (D)
  • General Thoughts: Oh boy. I didn’t think it could happen, but Colorado has seemingly become a worse team. As I’m writing this article (it is currently July 26th), Colorado only has 3 defensemen under contract. THREE. It’d be an understatement to say that they won’t be a good team this year. However, one positive is that they do have an talented young crop of prospects who are on the cusp of making a difference in the organization. This thoughts section will be relatively short because there really isn’t much to say about this team. Sorry to all the Avs fans out there, hopefully things look up for you soon, right?
  • Expectation: Definite Bottom Feeder
  • Key additions: Martin Hanzal (C), Alexander Radulov (RW), Marc Methot (D), Ben Bishop (G), Ken Hitchcock (Coach)
  • Key subtractions: Patrick Sharp (LW), Cody Eakin (C), Ales Hemsky (RW), Antti Niemi (G)
  • General Thoughts: I think the Dallas Stars are by far the most improved team in the Central. They went out and addressed many of the issues that faced them last season. Most notably, their goaltending. The tandem of Lehtonen and Niemi was certainly a disappointment, and they ate a lot of cap space. So, Dallas went and found their goalie. They acquired Ben Bishop from LA, and then signed him to a 6-year extension. They also filled their coaching vacancy after the firing of Lindy Ruff. Ken Hitchcock could really work out well for a team like Dallas, as he implements a successful defensive structure. Look to see them back in a playoff spot this year.
  • Expectation: Playoff Team
  • Key additions: Tyler Ennis (LW), Marcus Foligno (LW), Kyle Quincey (D)
  • Key subtractions: Marco Scandella (D), Jason Pominville (RW), Alex Tuch (RW), Darcy Kuemper (G)
  • General Thoughts: Minnesota did some interesting things this offseason. After being defeated by the Blues in the first round, the Wild went into the summer wondering what went wrong. They went out and traded Alex Tuch, a forward prospect with promise, to the Golden Knights for expansion considerations. They also found themselves dealing with the Sabres, and honestly, I’m not to fond of the trade. Scandella performed well for the Wild during his time there, and his presence will definitely be missed. I have the Wild as a playoff contender because the do have great pieces, however I’m not too sure if they have enough to succeed.
  • Expectation: Playoff Contender
  • Key additions: Nick Bonino (C), Scott Hartnell (RW), Alexei Emelin (D)
  • Key subtractions:   Mike Fisher (C)?
  • General Thoughts:  There is a reason GM Poile won the GM of the year award and that his team made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Further evidenced by the fantastic Johansen contract earlier today, Poile is setting up his team with fantastic young talent for the long term on very team friendly contracts. I mean how do you manage to bring in Bonino, Hartnell, and Emelin- who are not superstars by any means but excellent depth additions- to a team that already has Johansen, Forsberg, Subban, Josi, Ellis, Rinne…. need I actually go on? With their only key subtraction being Mike Fisher (which isn’t even necessarily guaranteed yet), and the depth additions of Bonino (because that Johansen injury killed their center depth), Hartnell (why not take a chance on a guy who will slot into the third line but has the ability to play up in the lineup for $1 million), and Emelin (whose play has declined but will be playing third pairing minutes and is someone Laviolette will actually play instead of his third pairing this past finals), you have to expect this team to make it back to the Cup finals, if not make a strong case for it in the playoffs.
  • Expectation: Cup Contender
St. Louis
  • Key additions: Brayden Schenn (C), Chris Thorburn (RW)
  • Key subtractions:  Ryan Reaves (RW), Jori Lehtera (C)
  • General Thoughts:  The Blues, perennially a playoff team these past few seasons, has yet to find major success in the post season like they usually do in the regular season. With that being said, I do expect some of the same old for the Blues this season, but Allen is going to have to step up and play to what his original expectations were as a player. The Brayden Schenn trade was fantastic for the Blues in my opinion because I am really high on Schenn (and Lehtera, but Schenn is younger) and would be really interested to see him play with Taresenko. The Reaves trade was also a fantastic move because I mean Ryan Reaves fetched a first round pick. Ryan Reaves…. That first round pick became Klim Kostin, one of the best European players in this draft who is a wonderful pick for the Blues and Kostin might contribute sooner rather than later for the Blues. And then they went and basically got Reaves back by getting Thorburn, wonderful moves by the Blues, but there really isn’t much about the team that really makes you go “WOW,” thus this is a playoff team as usual that if maybe things pan out well they can go deep.
  • Expectation: Playoff Team
  • Key additions: Steve Mason (G), Dmitry Kulikov (D)
  • Key subtractions: Paul Postma (D), Ondrej Pavelec (G), Mark Stuart (D)
  • General Thoughts: I’m cautiously optimistic about the Jets position this year. They went out and addressed some well-known issues. Are those guys they brought in the answer? I’m not 100% sure. I think the play of Steve Mason largely depends on if the Jets can smarten up with their penalties taken. Both Mason and Hellebuyck struggle in 5 v 4 save%, but Mason excels 5 v 5 (Top 5 in the league at .930). The Jets D-Core, if healthy, could really boost this team to where they want to go. It remains to be seen if Kulikov will return to what he was showing in Florida, but it’s hard to tell when a guy plays in Buffalo. I do think the Jets are a better team than what they were at the start of the offseason, and they have one of the most exciting offenses in the entire league. It’s the backend that has me curious. However, I think it’s make or break this year for management and coaching, because they have the tools to do good things, and now it’s up to the coaching staff to help implement it all.
  • Expectation: Playoff Contender

Problems with the Nashville or St. Louis takes? Direct your anger at Conor.

That does it for the Central, but make sure to check back in on Monday for our Atlantic Division Wrap-Up!

As always, feel free to leave opinions in the comments, and if you liked it, give it a share!

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