Written by Greg Stamper, who can be found on twitter @g_stamp91.
Despite the recent drop of in activity, the offseason in the NHL is an exciting time for both teams and fans. It provides each and every team with a period to reflect on what they have and determine what they need going forward to take the next step.
Some teams hit the jackpot and land their man, while others miss out and end up signing players or making trades simply to say they did something.
Let’s take this break in the action to look at this offseason’s winners and losers.
First up, the winners ….
Last offseason, Dallas Stars’ rookie GM Jim Nill made the biggest splash on the trade market when he acquired an elite young centre in Tyler Seguin from the Bruins. This year was no different as Nill once again used his trade magic to acquire another top-end centre in Jason Spezza from the Senators, while giving up only one roster player (Alex Chiasson) and a few prospects and picks (no first rounders).
The man has been a GM for only one calendar year and through trades has acquired not one, but two first-line centres. This is an extremely rare and tremendous feat.
On top of Spezza, Dallas also signed his winger from the Senators, Ales Hemsky, to a three year, $12 million deal.
After coming over to Ottawa from the Oilers late last year, Hemsky was solid playing alongside Spezza, collecting 17 points in 20 games and Dallas is banking on that production to carry over to their team.
Very solid work Mr. Nill.
The Ducks made the second biggest trade of the offseason when they acquired Ryan Kesler from the Canucks to take over as the team’s second-line centre behind Ryan Getzlaf.
While they did give up some good young talent to get him (Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa and the 24th pick in the first round of the 2014 draft, which Vancouver used to take Jared McCann), the Ducks have more than enough prospects in the system to fill their void and adding Kesler makes them top notch cup contenders.
Anaheim also solidified their fourth-line centre spot by trading for Nate Thompson from the Lightning, added former 50 goal scorer Dany Heatley on a one-year, $1 million deal, and rounded out their defense by signing Clayton Stoner for four-years, $12 million.
The Stoner signing may be a bit too expensive for a player of his talents, but all-in-all this offseason, the very strong Ducks got even stronger.
St. Louis Blues
A team who was linked to both Kesler and Spezza before they were dealt, the Blues were extremely determined this offseason to acquire a quality second-line centre.
After missing out (or choosing to stay away) on both of the previously mentioned targets via trade, St. Louis got their man in Paul Stastny (25 goals and 60 points in 71 games last season with Colorado) on the free agent market for four-years, $28 million.
Much like the Ducks and the Stars, the Blues now have a formidable one-two punch at centre with David Backes and Stastny.
Throw in the acquisition of Carl Gunnarsson, who St. Louis views as a top-four defenseman, the re-signing of the versatile winger/centre Steve Ott for two-years, $5.2 million, and bringing 26 year-old Finnish centre Jori Lehtera (23 points in 24 international games for Finland last year) over from the KHL for two-years, $5.5 million, you see the Blues deserve to be in the winners category.
The Penguins are winners for letting Brooks Orpik go and not agreeing to over-pay for Matt Niskanen either.
Instead, new Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford filled Niskanen’s void by signing Christian Ehrhoff to a very nice one-year, $4 million deal after he was bought out by Buffalo. Ehrhoff is still a very good player and should shine in Pittsburgh with the talent around him.
The Penguins made a risky move in an attempt to spread out their top heavy offense, trading all-star forward James Neal to Nashville for forwards Patric Hornqvist (who has good goal scoring abilities but is known for being inconsistent for stretches through-out the regular season) and Nick Spaling.
Pittsburgh also made several good inexpensive depth signings bringing in Steve Downie (who is capable of putting up offense on a second-line or being a super pest on a third-line) for one-year, $1 million, re-signing bottom-six centre Marcel Goc for one-year, $1.2 million, goaltender Thomas Greiss for one-year, $1 million, and Blake Comeau for one-year, $700,000.
A lot of one-year deals, but a lot of diverse talent as well.
Tampa Bay Lightning
General Manager Steve Yzerman and the Lightning went into free agency with a plan; take depth from the Eastern Conference Champions, the New York Rangers.
Tampa signed Anton Stralman (five-years, $22.5 million) and Brian Boyle (three-years, $6 million) from the Rangers, both of whom are expected to have increased roles on their new team.
Tampa also re-signed Ryan Callahan for six-years, $34.8 million, bought-out Ryan Malone, grabbed veteran bottom-six winger Brenden Morrow for one-year, $1.55 million, acquired top-four defenseman Jason Garrison from Vancouver, and signed goaltender Evgeni Nabokov for one-year, $1.55 million to be Ben Bishop’s back-up.
Tampa’s only big loss came in the form of Teddy Purcell, who they traded to Edmonton for Sam Gagner, before then trading Gagne to the Arizona Coyotes to free cap space.
It has been a busy offseason for Yzerman, but he has done very well and his team now looks poised for a nice playoff run in the weak Eastern Conference.