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Lightning reach eight-year extension with Steven Stamkos
0:48 | NHL
Lightning reach eight-year extension with Steven Stamkos
Wednesday July 6th, 2016

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Less than a month into the off-season and already the landscape has changed in the NHL. The draft, free agency and a couple of franchise-altering trades have shifted the balance of power, setting up some teams to take the next step in 2016-17... and others to drop into the abyss.

We'll take a look where each team stands, starting with the Atlantic Division, home of a couple of big winners and some very clear losers. Here are our takes on the Metro and Central.  

• Free agent signings tracker

Atlantic Division Summer Outlook

  • 1
    2Florida Panthers
     
    2015-16: 47-26-9
     
    In: Keith Yandle, Jason Demers, Mark Pysyk, James Reimer, Jared McCann
     
    Out: Eric Gudbranson, Dmitry Kulikov
     
    Has any team been more active than the Panthers this summer? New GM Tom Rowe completely rebuilt his blue line, ditching size and physicality for puck-moving possession drivers. He wildly overpaid both Yandle and Demers in the process, but quickly realized his analytics-driven vision. He also went aggressive on Aaron Ekbad's new eight-year $60 million deal, skipping the bridge contract and going directly to the long-term contract befitting a franchise player. May as well give Ekblad the C now.
     
    Handing five years to Reimer raised some eyebrows, but that's a savvy deal. Roberto Luongo is 37 and will slow sooner than later. Adding a reliable partner who can play 30-plus games extends the veteran's shelf life and ensures the Cats have a viable stop-gap in place as they nurture their next No. 1.
     

  • 2
    Tampa Bay Lightning
     
    2015-16: 46-31-5
     
    In: None
     
    Out: Jonathan Marchessault, Mike Blunden
     
    The latest example of Steve Yzerman's managerial genius: While others were overextending term and dollars in free agency, the Lightning GM used the signing period to get his own house in order. By extending the contracts of Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy—each at bargain prices—Yzerman ensured that the pieces are in place to challenge for a Stanley Cup in each of the next five seasons.
     
    He still has work to do this summer. Emerging superstar Nikita Kucherov is an RFA and needs a new deal that will be a challenge to fit under the cap. It's also likely that either goalie Ben Bishop or defenseman Jason Garrison will have to be moved to create some wiggle room. Either of those losses would be tough to swallow, but this team is well situated moving forward.
     
     
    3
    1Detroit Red Wings
     
    2015-16: 41-30-11 
     
    In: Frans Nielsen, Steve Ott, Thomas Vanek
     
    Out: Pavel Datsyuk, Brad Richards, Kyle Quincey
     
    The trade that sent the final year of Datsyuk's contract and the 16th pick in this year's draft to Arizona for the 20th and a second rounder will go down as one of the finest swaps in the storied career of Red Wings GM Ken Holland. Masterful. Although he couldn't use the cap space to sign Steven Stamkos as hoped, Holland managed to tread water with the acquisition of Nielsen. The UFA center will slot in on Detroit's second line and soak up the all-situation minutes that Datsyuk vacated.
     
    Vanek was a reasonable gamble on a one-year deal. Though he was branded a disappointment in Minnesota, he still potted 18 goals. He can help a team that ranked 23rd in scoring and 13th on the power play.

  • 4
    Boston Bruins
     
    2015-16: 42-31-99
     
    In: David Backes, Anton Khudobin, Riley Nash
     
    Out: Loui Eriksson, Dennis Seidenberg, Brett Connolly, Landon Ferraro
     
    Say what you will about the dubious merits of swapping one aging, overpriced UFA forward (Backes) for another (Eriksson). Where GM Don Sweeney really dropped the ball was his failure to upgrade a defense that ranks among the three worst in the league. There were players out there that could have helped this team (Erik Gudbranson, Dan Hamhuis) but Sweeney couldn't get it done, setting the B's on course for another playoff DNQ. Overpaying a third-pair puck-mover like Torey Krug (four years, $21 million) goes to show just how desperate the situation in Boston really is.
     
    And then there was the annual draft day folly. No complaints about top pick Charles McAvoy, but the B's wasted the first rounder they acquired in the Martin Jones trade on Trent Frederic, a player who might develop into a depth forward. “He is not going to be a top-two-line guy, we know that,” Bruins director of amateur scouting Keith Gretzky told reporters. “But he has some jam. He plays hard with the penalty minutes. We were fortunate to get him.”
     
    Not sure how grabbing a potential checking line center at 29 should be considered fortunate, but this, after all, is the same scouting staff that bypassed Kyle Connor, Matthew Barzal and Thomas Chabot despite having three first rounders in 2015.
     
    The only possible bright spot? Khudobin has the potential to start 20 games. If he can do that and get Tuukka Rask back to the 60-game range that he played in his Vezina Trophy-winning season of 2013-14, there's a slim chance the B's might sneak into the eighth spot.

  • 5
    Ottawa Senators
     
    2015-16: 38-35-9
     
    In: Mike Blunden, Chris Kelly
     
    Out: Patrick Wiercioch
     
    The Sens weren't expected to make much noise this summer and so far they've kept things quiet. Rookie GM Pierre Dorion brought back former Sen Chris Kelly for his smarts and work ethic, but wisely stayed out of the deep end as free agency opened. That leaves roster spots in contention for young prospects like Nick Paul, Matt Puempel, Ryan Dzingel and Buddy Robinson, a smarter play than overspending on immediate help. He still needs to add at least one top-six defenseman for next season, but there are bargains out there to fill that role.
     
    It'll be interesting to see how they handle RFA winger Mike Hoffman. He filed for arbitration on July 5, setting the stage for a one-year deal that could see the 29-goal man become a UFA next summer. Dorion can't let afford to waste an asset like that.

  • 6
    Montreal Canadiens
     
    2015-16: 38-38-6
     
    In: Shea Weber, Alexander Radulov, Andrew Shaw, Mikhail Sergachev, Al Montoya
     
    Out: P.K. Subban, Lars Eller
     
    Radulov could turn out to be the signing of the summer, a potential 30-goal power forward ... if he can behave himself. Versatile forward Shaw, acquired at the draft from the cap-strapped Blackhawks, gives the Habs a feisty, if undersized, middle-six option (albeit at a premium price of $3.9 million AAV). Sergachev was a brilliant pick up in the first round. He has top-pair potential down the road and could conceivably crack the roster this season. And having a healthy Carey Price between the pipes changes everything for this team.
     
    But this team is going nowhere fast as long as Marc Bergevin is steering. Montreal's bumbling GM set the franchise back a decade with the inexplicable, indefensible Subban trade. Yes, Weber is more defensive-minded and a better fit for coach Michel Therrien's outdated style, but he was a disaster in the playoffs, is four years older than Subban, and carries a contract that stretches through 2026. Good luck with that.
     
    More concerning though was his stunning comment about his failure to make a big move in free agency. “Today I was aggressive,” Bergevin said on July 1. “But some players flat out told me they don’t want to play here, so there was no negotiation.”
     
    Players don't want to play for the Montreal Canadiens? That paints a dire picture of this franchise … and of the man running it.

  • 7
    Buffalo Sabres
     
    2015-16: 35-36-11
     
    In: Kyle Okposo, negotiating rights to Jimmy Vesey, Dmitry Kulikov, Anders Nilsson
     
    Out: Mark Pysyk, Chad Johnson
     
    Gotta love Tim Murray. The Sabres GM made it clear last year that he had no patience for a lengthy rebuild and he proceeded to deal make deals with an eye on immediate success. He's followed that up with another aggressive summer that has his team on course to return to the playoffs next spring.
     
    Okposo, a potential 25-goal, 60-point man, gives coach Dan Bylsma a dangerous new weapon for his top-six. Yes, the price was high, but the fact that a top free agent would choose the Sabres speaks highly of Murray's vision and ability. If he can convince Vesey to forgo free agency (he has until Aug. 15 to seal the deal), he'll have added another top-flight piece for a mid-round draft pick. Even if he fails, it was worth the gamble.
     
    Kulikov brings some much needed physicality to Buffalo's blue line, along with a left-handed shot to balance out a back end that has a chance to take a step forward next season.

  • 8
    Toronto Maple Leafs
     
    2015-16: 29-42-11
     
    In: Auston Matthews, Matt Martin, Roman Polak, Frederik Andersen
     
    Out: Brad Boyes, P-A Parenteau
     
    You have to love the way this team is set up moving forward. Andersen addresses the glaring need for a legitimate No. 1 goalie. Paired with Jonathan Bernier, the Leafs now have a viable tandem between the pipes. The defense still has holes, but Polak is a serviceable third pair option. Up front, Matthews is a game-changer, the first franchise-caliber center the team has dressed since the heyday of Mats Sundin. He should make an immediate 20-goal, 50-point impact while helping to usher in Mitch Marner and William Nylander.
     
    The decision to sign Islanders fourth-liner Matt Martin a four-year, $10 million deal is impossible to defend, but that's the only obvious misstep so far in a summer that should have Toronto fans geared up for opening night.

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