Central Division team trends

0:48 | NHL
Blackhawks trade Teuvo Teravainen, Bryan Bickell to Hurricanes
Thursday July 7th, 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. We started with the Atlantic Division, home of a couple of big winners and some very clear losers. Here's our take on the Metro.  

• Free agent signings tracker


  • 1
    2Dallas Stars
    2015-16: 50-23-9
    In: Dan Hamhuis
    Out: Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, Kris Russell, Vernon Fiddler, Colton Sceviour
    GM Jim Nill allowed half of a 50-win defense walk out the door while adding only one experienced hand in free agency. Call it a leap of faith. Hamhuis, the sole addition, fits a very specific need. He's a veteran defender who can saddle up alongside John Klingberg on the top pair and watch his back while the youngster spearheads the attack. And Hamhuis came in on a sweetheart deal: just two years at $3.75 million per. That's solid cap management. The other two jobs will be filled internally. Rookie Esa Lindell seems likely to take one. The other could be seized by part-timers Jamie Oleksiak or Patrik Nemeth. The D will be younger as a result, but it might just be safer as well.
    There's still some pressure to make a change between the pipes—Tampa's Ben Bishop beckons—but for now Nill is playing it cool, betting that a more effective defense will elevate the play of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi ... and that the price for goaltending help will drop as the expansion draft draws closer. A risky play, but it could pay off.

  • 2
    3St. Louis Blues
    2015-16: 49-24-9
    In: David Perron, Carter Hutton
    Out: David Backes, Troy Brouwer, Steve Ott, Brian Elliott
    I supported the Blues and GM Doug Armstrong for refusing to re-sign aging forwards David Backes and Troy Brouwer on July 1. That was the most prudent course of action with the long-term in mind. Short term, though? Their departures created two big holes, leaving this team far weaker than the one that advanced to the Western Conference Finals.
    Perron could be part of the answer in his return to St. Louis, but expectations should be limited for the winger who is on his fourth team in three seasons. Dmitrij Jaskin and Ty Rattie could play larger roles, but neither is a safe bet to pick up the slack. Add in a weakened tandem in net after the trade of Elliott, and the looming uncertainty of defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk's status, and turmoil seems inevitable.
    1Chicago Blackhawks
    2015-16: 47-26-9
    In: Brian Campbell, Jordin Tootoo
    Out: Andrew Shaw, Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise, Thomas Fleischmann, Kyle Cumiskey
    GM Stan Bowman's knife cut deep in the annual paring of the roster, gutting the team's depth up front, but in the process creating enough cap space to address the pressing need for a reliable top-four defender. Campbell, a veteran of the 2010 Stanley Cup-winning Hawks, should be an easy and comfortable fit on the second pair. The addition allows Trevor van Riemsdyk to drop to the third pair alongside rookie Michal Kempny, which should make for a more effective six-man unit.
    There are a lot of questions to be answered up front. Can Richard Panik fly on the first line? Will Tyler Motte, Dennis Rasmussen and Ryan Hartman step up and fill bottom-six roles? Where does Tootoo fit in the mix? Still, this team has solid bones, and Bowman is as good as anyone at tweaking on the fly.

  • 4
    4Nashville Predators
    2015-16: 41-27-14
    In: P.K. Subban, Yannick Weber
    Out: Shea Weber, Carter Hutton, Barret Jackman, Paul Gaustad, Eric Nystrom
    GM David Poile is a wizard. Here's a man who has shed Weber, Ryan Suter and Seth Jones over the past three years and might actually have a better blueline as a result. With Subban joining Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis, the Preds now ice a group that is blessed with unmatched speed and playmaking ability. They'll flood the offensive zone, attacking as a five-man unit while keeping play 200 feet from goalie Pekka Rinne.
    There are questions to be answered up front (like, are Kevin Fiala and Colton Sissons ready to step up?), but pace is clearly a priority across the roster for 2016-17. This team will be fun to watch. Full marks for the Filip Forsberg extension as well. He's worth every penny of that $6 million AAV.

  • 5
    5Minnesota Wild
    2015-16: 38-33-11
    In: Eric Staal, Alex Stalock, Chris Stewart, Victor Bartley
    Out: Thomas Vanek, Ryan Carter, Chris Porter, Justin Fontaine, David Jones, Jaret Stoll
    GM Chuck Fletcher's phone was busy heading into the draft as opposing teams gauged the prices on his young defensemen. He ended up standing pat, but with a glut of talent on the back end, and a glaring need for scoring up front, there might be a deal in his future.
    In the meantime, he gambled that Staal still has something left to offer. A long shot? Maybe. The veteran center is coming off a disastrous season, but could rebound to 20 goals and 60 points given the right circumstances. The price (three years, $10.5 million) makes him a decent gamble.
    Fletcher also signed RFA goalie Darcy Kuemper to a one-year deal, which doesn't make much sense after doing the same with UFA Stalock. The issue isn't the logjam. It's contract length. Neither goalie is signed into the 2017-18 season, which would have allowed them to be exposed in next summer's expansion draft instead of starter Devan Dubnyk. That's something that could be addressed later in the season, but why not handle it now?

  • 6
    6Colorado Avalanche
    2015-16: 39-39-4
    In: Patrick Wiercioch, Joe Colborne, Fedor Tyutin
    Out: Mikkel Boedker, Nate Guenin, Shawn Matthias
    GM Joe Sakic made it known that he was going to be fairly quiet in free agency, so his meager haul isn't exactly a disappointment. Wiercioch was cut loose by the Senators, but is a favorite of the analytics crowd. Colborne is coming off a 19-goal season and could be useful in a depth role. Tyutin can provide some veteran depth to a D corps that badly needs some. All three could wind up making a positive impact on the club, and they came in much cheaper than if Sakic had re-signed the players who left via free agency. Still, treading water seems like an odd approach for a team that missed the playoffs last season and whose young players have yet to prove they deserve to be considered core.
    Speaking of those young players, Sakic still hasn't handled the heavy-lifting portion of his off-season. Tyson Barrie is headed for a bruising arbitration session. RFAs Nathan MacKinnon and Mikhail Grigorenko both need new deals as well. Things are just getting started in Denver.

  • 7
    7Winnipeg Jets
    2015-16: 35-39-38
    In: Patrik Laine, Brian Strait, Shawn Matthias, Quinton Howden
    Out: Matt Halischuk, Grant Clitsome
    The Jets earned universal praise for their haul at the draft. Sharpshooting winger Laine (second) instantly makes the big club better. He could play a top-six role next season. Massive blueliner Logan Stanley (18th), 6' 3" defenseman Jacob Cederholm (97th) and Russian goalie Mikhail Berdin (157th) will need more time to develop, but are prime pieces for a system that's regarded as the gold standard around the league.
    There was less excitement in free agency—not surprising, considering the team's commitment to keeping jobs open to competition for young players like Josh Morrissey and Kyle Connor—but GM Kevin Cheveldayoff added some pieces who'll improve the team's depth. All in all, an off-season fully in keeping with his steady-as-she-goes approach.

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