While teams can’t make no moves in the offseason, some teams took that to the extreme. In the opposite direction, some teams win free agency day one and then by the trade deadline they are selling off those big summer signings for draft picks.
There are teams that simply keyed in on their depth third and fourth lines, third pair defensemen and minor league additions for their ECHL and AHL affiliates. As there are injuries that happen throughout any season, the depth is a critical portion of any NHL team.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Most significant offseason moves: Ryan Callahan to injured reserve, Jan Rutta re-signed, Luke Schenn, Braydon Coburn re-signed, multiple depth goalies including Curtis McElhinney, Spencer Martin, and Scott Wedgewood.
The most notable of Tampa’s offseason is the plethora of goalies brought in. While Andrei Vasilevskiy won the Vezina Trophy for his play in 2018-2019, he dealt with an injury that allowed Louis Domingue to put on a stellar show. That is where the confusion arises; Domingue only has a year left on his deal and bringing in McElhinney signaled Tampa may try and move Domingue on to a team where he may have a chance to supplant an incumbent starter before the season starts.
In more upsetting news, Ryan Callahan was placed on long term injured reserve with a career-ending spine injury. Tampa would have been cap-strapped and would have tried to move on from Callahan’s contract, but the thirteen year forward was a force in the room and will be missed.
Another eastern conference team at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Lightning are the Ottawa Senators. While the Senators’ moves were baffling to a point, they reminded the league that they are still a franchise after losing cornerstone players in previous offseasons.
Most significant offseason moves: New coach D.J. Smith is a former defenseman and will become the 14th coach in the history of the franchise, acquiring Artem Anisimov, Connor Brown and defensemen Nikita Zaitsev (above) forwards and signed Tyler Ennis and Ron Hainsey to one-year deals for each.
With the Senators having finished last in 2018-2019 and second to last in 2017-2018, this team will need to make considerable improvements on the ice to not make it the third year in a row in that situation. While a team in this situation would make sense to make improvements on a larger scale, I think the Senators approach here is prudent. In the signings of Tyler Ennis and Ron Hainsey, they signed two players to cheap deals that may become assets at the trade deadline with the main caveat being Hainsey has a modified no-trade clause.
The Senators currently have five picks in the first two rounds of the 2020 NHL Entry draft, and if they are smart, they would consider trying to add more as they continue this rebuild. There has been some mention of Eugene Melnyk having an internal cap below the league upper limit, which could limit the roster going forward.
Most significant offseason moves: Signing Derek Grant, Korbinian Holzer, Michael Del Zotto, and the ageless Ryan Miller to be a backup to John Gibson, who has talent but has had injury issues in the past. The second team on this list to make a coaching change, Dallas Eakins was promoted from his position as the AHL coach of the San Diego Gulls and became the 10th coach in franchise history. The Ducks also bought out mainstay Corey Perry (who ended up signing with the Dallas Stars) leaving the team with many question marks going forward.
The addition of Dallas Eakins will be a big change for the Ducks. While Eakins has coached in the NHL, 113 games for the Edmonton Oilers with a 36-63-14 record. The team may not have the high-end talent of a Connor McDavid, but the depth on this Anaheim team supplants what was available in Edmonton. John Gibson will also be the most talented goaltender he has had in the NHL. If it all falls apart for the Ducks having a potential trade chip in Ryan Miller, or any of the other expiring contracts may provide additional draft capital from a contender.
The Senators and the Ducks have a mountain to climb to return to the playoffs in the 2019-2020 season and the Lightning may not be able to repeat their regular-season success of the 2018-2019 season, but all three made the decision to stand pat for now. Time will tell when they’re ready to make the splashy moves again.
Written by Joe Martini and republished with permission from The 4th Line Podcast
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