Tommy Bennett | Follow Me On Twitter @TJBennettt37
It has been over a week since the free agency frenzy. Fireworks were set off everywhere. Some teams made more splashes than others. It was not the strongest of classes, but plenty of key names found new homes.
One division to key on is the Atlantic Division. Every team saw key arrivals and departures. One team that saw this specifically was the Boston Bruins. With the way the division loaded up, how do the Bruins stack up alongside them?
Arrivals: Milan Lucic, Morgan Geekie, James van Riemsdyk, Patrick Brown, Kevin Shattenkirk
Departures: Taylor Hall, Nick Foligno, Tyler Bertuzzi, Dmitry Orlov, Garnet Hathaway, Connor Clifton
Still unsigned: Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Jeremy Swayman, Trent Frederic
This was an uncharacteristic summer for the Boston Bruins. The bonus overages from the David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron contracts carried over. That left General Manager Don Sweeney in a tough spot. As the club gambled and went all in on a historic season, the result did not end up as desired. Now is the time for Sweeney and Cam Neely to plan accordingly.
Sometimes you have to make do with what you got. What the Bruins got is little money to spend. The first order of business was shipping Taylor Hall to Chicago in a salary cap dump scenario. Without having to retain any salary, the club recouped the $6 million he was due. Losing his scoring ability will hurt, but it’s a business. None of the deadline acquisitions were returning, especially at the price they would get on the open market.
Sweeney did precisely what he needed to do. Reinforce the roster with depth at a quality price. Bringing in beloved fan favorite Milan Lucic for less than $1 million fills the fourth-line role left behind by Nick Foligno. BNG’s very own Only Bruins podcast touched on what the signing means right now and how it differs from the time they traded him (10:30 mark of the episode). And it is 100% spot on. Also, Lucic loves being a Bruin, and this is the best feel-good story heading into the 100th season. Furthermore comes James van Riemsdyk, Morgan Geekie, and Kevin Shattenkirk. Geekie brings size and depth production. Not to mention he is 24 years of age. Van Riemsdyk is a veteran winger coming off a solid season with the Flyers. Even though Shattenkirk is not the same player he once was, he fills the hole left by Clifton. The opportunity to help on the power play and be a stable presence brings a lot of value.
The core group for the Bruins is in place. David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Jake DeBrusk lead the way up front. In addition, the blue line is coming back the same. Jeremy Swayman needs to be signed, but goaltending is its strong suit. However, a lot of the teams’ success could hinge on the decision of their captain. It was all about reinforced depth for this summer. Next summer, the finances are in plenty. Boston will be competitive but could see some regression in a competitive division.
Arrivals: Connor Clifton, Erik Johnson, Dustin Tokarski, Justin Richards
Departures: Malcolm Subban, Vincent Hinostriza
The Buffalo Sabres might be one of the most fun teams in the league. Kevyn Adams has done a magnificent job putting this team back on the map. For the first time in a long time, the Sabres are headed in the right direction.
The glue that holds this team together lies with its forward group. Last summer, Adams inked superstar center Tage Thompson to a long-term extension. Midway through the year, Dylan Cozens signed long-term with the club. Buffalo now has a dynamic duo down the middle of the ice. Furthermore, Alex Tuch, Jeff Skinner, Owen Power, and Rasmus Dahlin round out a core group ready to make a playoff push. However, it is time to build further.
For the most part, the Sabres are a young team. One position that is a weakness for the club is the blue line. Bringing in former Colorado Avalanche defensemen Erik Johnson was a significant move. He brings the necessary leadership for this young group and a veteran presence on the back end.
Former Boston Bruins defensemen Connor Clifton signed a three-year deal. He is young, which fits the mold of this core group. Clifton plays bigger than his size and is not afraid to be physical. Even if he is on the third pair, Clifton is serviceable and can log more significant minutes if needed. His only weakness is his ability to turn over the puck. If Clifton can tone that part of his game down, it is great for him all around. Not to mention he is coming off a career season production-wise. Clifton ended up pricing himself out of Boston and joins a young and up-and-coming team in Buffalo.
There is a lot to be excited about for Buffalo. Devon Levi could be the full-time starter after making his debut to end the year. Every other move was minor, but Buffalo is trending upwards.
Detroit Red Wings
Arrivals: Shayne Gostisbehere, Justin Holl, JT Compher, James Reimer, Alex DeBrincat, Klim Kostin, Alex Lyon, Daniel Sprong, Timothy Gettinger
Departures: Dominik Kubalik, Kailer Yamamoto, Alex Nedeljkovic, Filip Zadina
The Yzerplan is back in full effect. For the second summer in a row, Steve Yzerman has gone on to spend heavily in free agency. Not to mention, Yzerman swung a big trade and finalized an extension. The Detroit legend is doing everything he can to bring the club back to its glory days.
Some contracts are heftier than others and also puzzling. But for the most part, these are significant upgrades to make the club better. Landing Alex DeBrincat in the trade with the Ottawa Senators is enormous. After parting ways with Tyler Bertuzzi at the deadline, giving captain Dylan Larkin a premiere scorer is ideal. DeBrincat is a pure sniper (27 goals this season) and has 66 points.
After a career year with the Colorado Avalanche, JT Compher signed a long-term contract. The versatile player (who can play wing and center) will look to build off that career season which saw him finish fourth on Colorado in points. The addition of Daniel Sprong is enormous depth for Detroit. Sprong had the highest points per 60 minutes (3.66) among all Seattle Kraken players. In addition, he scored 21 goals on the year, shattering his expected rate. After bouncing around, he enjoyed a great season helping the club reach the playoffs. Much like Buffalo, the blue line is the weakest point. Aside for Moritz Seider, it was bland back there.
Shayne Gostisbehere has bounced around a bit. However, he had a rejuvenating season for himself. Gostisbehere had 13 goals, 28 assists, and 41 points. Primarily a power play specialist, he registered 15 points in that regard. Gostisbehere will help transition offensively and get the puck to the forward group effectively. Justin Holl is a bit of a head-scratcher. On a strong Toronto team, he had the worst Corsi, and Fenwick and had the highest expected goals against. However, Holl is physical and can block shots and sacrifice the body. Again, the blueline is not deep, so hopefully, a change of scenery can spark his play.
Letting Alex Nedeljkovic go is a no-brainer. After performing steadily behind a stout Carolina defense, the trade never prospered in Detroit. While Ville Husso is the clear-cut number one, bringing in serviceable backups is a wise decision. Alex Lyon showed what he was capable of in the playoffs.
Lyon had his largest sample size of starts come with Florida. It helped guide them into the playoffs, where he eventually was named the starter. The journeymen goalie has a new home and will compete with veteran James Reimer for a role.
Whether the Yzerplan comes to life is a mystery, but the roster is starting to take shape. On paper, their top six unit looks excellent. Dylan Larkin, Alex DeBrincat, Lucas Raymond, David Perron, Andrew Copp, and Daniel Sprong will be tasked with taking this team to new heights. Whether they perform and gel remains to be seen. The roster itself is more profound than last season as well.
Arrivals: Mike Reilly, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Evan Rodrigues, Niko Mikkola, Dmitry Kulikov
Departures: Alex Lyon, Radko Gudas, Anthony Duclair, Marc Staal
The reigning Eastern Conference champions have retooled their lineup. Spencer Knight has returned to the organization at their development camp. Not to mention, their core group is very much intact. However, the goal is always to get better, but money was tight.
Given their cap circumstances, the club traded away Anthony Duclair to the San Jose Sharks. Another high-impact player Radko Gudas signed a monster deal with the Anaheim Ducks. Given the roster construction in the net, keeping Alex Lyon was a pipeline dream. Given the departures on the back end, reinforcing the blue line was a must.
A blue line consisting of Brandon Montour, Aaron Ekblad, and Gustav Forsling has reinforcements. After being bought out by the Bruins, Mike Reilly gets the opportunity to play with the high-flying Panthers. Same with Oliver Ekman-Larsson. After underperforming offensively for the Canucks, he gets a one-year deal at a cheaper rate. This move should bode well for him, as he’s going to a team that is opportunistic offensively. Florida had the seventh-best expected goals percentage, whereas Vancouver had the seventh-worst. The system should benefit the player.
Niko Mikkola is a nice depth piece. He is young, big, and physical and helps round out the roster. But the big ticket was the signing of Evan Rodrigues. As if the Panthers needed more juice upfront.
After a career year with the Penguins, he enjoyed another stellar campaign with Colorado. Rodrigues is coming off a 16-goal, 22 assists, and 38-point season. With the departure of Nazem Kadri, the opportunity to play increased minutes was there. Rodrigues finished the year with a 49.4% Faceoff win percentage. This is excellent depth for the Panthers, who already have plenty of firepower up front.
Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart, Evan Rodrigues, Aleksander Barkov, and Carter Verhaeghe round out a lethal forward group. The Cats got dangerous, and after a Cup run, they are hunting for more.
Arrivals: Alex Newhook, Lias Andersson
Departures: Jonathan Drouin, Alex Belzile, Joel Edmundson
Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton are building something special. Those things take time to come to fruition, but the foundation is laid. The core group is intact, but their prospect pool is getting deeper. Eventually, that pool will rise, and this team will be a problem.
This offseason was not about spending money and loading up. It was about keeping their own. Montreal brought back the majority of their restricted free agents. In addition, Sean Monahan returned on a one-year deal. Before being injured, he was enjoying a resurgent season. It is worth the gamble. However, the big prize was signing Cole Caufield to a long-term extension.
Montreal may not be very good next season, but they will be fun to watch and do have the pieces in place.
Arrivals: Joonas Korpisalo, Dominik Kubalik
Departures: Alex DeBrincat, Cam Talbot, Julien Gauthier
It is amazing the type of power switch everyone is seeing within the Atlantic Division. Much like Buffalo and Detroit, Ottawa is another team on the rise. The club made a big splash in both adding and subtracting.
One area of weakness for the team is goaltending. This position has not been secure since Chris Kunitz ripped a slapshot past Craig Anderson to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Not to mention, trading Filip Gustavsson to Minnesota was just a gut punch, given how he played.
Cam Talbot went to the Los Angeles Kings, and in comes Joonas Korpisalo. Talbot was not bad, but Anton Forsberg was better and finished with 8.1 goals saved above expected. Korpisalo comes in and brings a ton of upside to Ottawa. Korpisalo finished with 2.87 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. Not to mention, his 12.4 goals saved above expected was the best in Los Angeles. After starting in Columbus, this is an excellent turnaround for him. Adding Korpisalo helps shore up the position that ranked 20th in team save percentage.
After getting his wish, Alex DeBrincat got traded. He got to go to his hometown team and gets to play in the city he grew up in. However, coming back is Dominik Kubalik. He is not the same caliber of talent as DeBrincat, but he is still an exceptional player. Kubalik is coming off a career year in Detroit. He scored 20 goals, 25 assists, and 45 points. Kubalik reinforces the depth for Ottawa, which has a strong core up front.
Even with losing DeBrincat, this is a strong group altogether. Brady Tkachuk is a star. Josh Norris will look to avenge his injury-riddled season. Tim Stutzle is coming off a 90-point season. Thomas Chabot, Jakob Chychrun, and Jake Sanderson lead the charge on the blue line. Now they have a stable goaltender.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Arrivals: Conor Sheary, Calvin de Haan, Luke Glendenning, Josh Archibald
Departures: Alex Killorn, Corey Perry, Ross Colton, Ian Cole, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Pat Maroon
Unsigned Players: Tanner Jeannot
Oh, the mighty have fallen. The back-to-back champions have gone over a severe turnover. However, the core group remains intact, but their depth has taken a back seat. Their departures outweigh their arrivals. In Tampa Bay fashion, they manage to add quality depth that always has a way of working out.
In a salary cap world, you cannot keep everyone. That was felt last season as the club saw longtime winger Ondrej Palat move on to the New Jersey Devils. The same thing happened this season with Alex Killorn. Tampa Bay simply does not have the money that Anaheim did. He is taking his talents to Disneyland, making $6 million per season. However, the toughest pill to swallow was trading the rights of Ross Colton to the Colorado Avalanche. He is young and has a lot of upside. But it’s a business, after all.
Coming in is Conor Sheary, who is the ideal Tampa Bay player. Filling in for Ian Cole is Calvin de Haan. The big ticket signings came last summer when Anthony Cirelli, Erik Cernak, and Mikhail Sergachev all signed extensions. With the club’s nucleus intact on the top two lines, the bottom two lines will feature younger and fresher legs within the system.
Scary part? Toronto bounced them in the first round, giving them extra-rested legs.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Arrivals: Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, John Klingberg, Ryan Reaves
Departures: Ryan O’Reilly, Erik Gustafsson, Noel Acciari, Justin Holl, Luke Schenn, Michael Bunting, Erik Kallgren, Alex Kerfoot
Unsigned Players: Ilya Samsonov
Last but not least, everyone’s favorite is the Toronto Maple Leafs. The club saw a lot of names move on to greener pastures. However, the players they brought to reinforce the group outweighed those departures.
For the second year in a row, John Klingberg is taking a one-year deal to bet on himself. Anaheim was abysmal across the board defensively. But Klingberg brings offensive upside and can help slot in on the power play. Toronto suits his style of play, and he can eat big minutes if needed. Ryan Reaves does not provide much in terms of production. But what he does bring is grit and toughness. The most significant additions lie with the forward group.
Tyler Bertuzzi signed a one-year deal to be in Toronto. Bertuzzi is the exact type of player that the Leafs need. Bertuzzi drives hard to the net and does hard work along the boards. Despite dealing with injuries the last few seasons, he has reached the 60-point mark. Playing alongside Auston Matthews should do wonders for his production. He was crucial for Boston in the playoffs and was arguably their best player. The next signing is Max Domi.
Domi is coming off one of his best seasons in recent memory. Before the trade to Dallas, he was a near-point-per-game player with Chicago. His 56-point season was his best since his 72-point season with Montreal in 2018-19. Like Bertuzzi, Domi brings nastiness to the lineup. In addition, he can play both center and wing, making the Leafs’ top two lines deadly. Matthew Knies will likely make the opening night roster as he looked strong in the playoffs for the club. Brad Treliving has to hope he can replicate that production again.
There is one problem. The Leafs are over the salary cap. Ilya Samsonov still needs a contract, and the core four in Toronto could be coming to an end. William Nylander has not signed an extension, and a trade could be on the horizon.
As of right now, the Leafs are a better hockey team. They got tougher to play against and added more firepower. The core group is looking to build upon its first-round victory and has the pieces to do it.
How Do The Bruins Stack Up?
It is no secret that the Atlantic Division got better. However, the Boston Bruins are still a good hockey team. They did not get the shiniest trophy on the shelf. However, Boston added players to fill a need and built the roster out of quality talent. A lot of this season hinges on the return of Patrice Bergeron. Without him, the depth down the middle is murky and is not scaring anybody.
The reality is that while the Bruins are good, the rest of the division is closing in. Montreal will be in the basement. But teams like Detroit, Ottawa, and Buffalo are closing the gap. It’ll be a closely contested race in the division as the Atlantic has become a gauntlet like the Metropolitan Division.
Prediction: Boston finishes third in the division and makes the playoffs.