In 45 days, the Predators will welcome the Blackhawks to Bridgestone Arena to begin the 2016-17 season. We’re getting close, people.
While there is a lot to analyze when looking at the upcoming year, it’s best to get our bearings. We’ll go division by division, catch up on who’s where, what happened this summer, which coach is in trouble and why the team that made all those splashes in the off-season will find themselves in the deep end before too long.
We started by previewing the Pacific Division, and today we’ll take a look around the Metro Division.
Best Off-Season Acquisition
Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
In a move that may stand as the biggest yet overlooked trade in recent NHL history thanks to the P.K. Subban - Shea Weber swap, the Devils committed a felony in acquiring Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Adam Larsson.
Larsson, a fourth overall pick of the Devils in 2011, is not a bad hockey player by any standards but he isn’t Hall. Sure, the Oilers got better on the backend (they couldn’t get any worse) but they also traded away a franchise talent in a one-for-one trade.
The soon to be 25-year-old is under contract for the next four years with an extremely reasonable cap-hit of $6 million. Larsson is less than two years younger and may carry more “potential” than Hall based on just his age, but that isn’t a reason to trade one of the best wingers in the NHL to maybe get a possible top-tier blue liner.
Hall has three 25+ goal seasons already to his name after being selected as the top pick in the 2010 NHL Draft and is coming off of a 26 goal, 65 point season on a bad Oilers team a year ago.
Worst Off-Season Acquisition
There wasn’t really an off-the-wall bad acquisition by any teams in the Metro this summer, but it is worth noting that the Devils signed Brandom Gormley to a one-year, two-way contract with a value of $650,000. It’s small money, but Gormley hasn’t shown the hockey world much after being selected 13th overall by the Coyotes in 2010.
The 24-year-old defenseman has two goals and three assists in 58 NHL games with both Colorado and Phoenix. He played 39 games with the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL last season scoring four goals and adding two assists while accumulating 26 penalty minutes and a -19 rating.
The ‘Canes also inked Raffi Torres, who hasn’t played in an NHL game in over two seasons, to a PTO on Aug. 29.
Other Notable Additions
Teuvo Teravainen, Carolina Hurricanes: Chicago made it no secret that they were trying to get rid of Bryan Bickell and his $4 million cap-hit off of their books last season but were unsuccessful in doing so. This summer they were able to get Bickell out of their system, but it came at a mighty steep price as they decided to trade Teravainen along with him to Carolina in exchange for a second-round pick at this year’s draft (Artur Kayumov) and a 2017 third-round pick.
Carolina has finished 27th in the league in scoring in each of the past two seasons and they’ll be looking for Teravainen - who had 13 goals and 22 helpers in his sophomore season - to give them some firepower on the left-wing.
Jimmy Vesey, New York Rangers: Most of us already know the gist of this story so we’ll keep this one short and sweet. Nobody really knows what type of role Vesey will play with the Rangers, but he certainly is a notable addition for the Rangers as he would have been for any other team around the league.
Andrew Ladd, New York Islanders: The Isles inked Ladd to a seven-year, $38.5 million ($5.5 mil AAV) contract this summer. They lost Kyle Okposo to the Sabres, and Ladd will help fill that scoring void. He had 25 goals and 21 assists in 78 games (59 with WPG and 19 with CHI).
Lee Stempniak, Carolina Hurricanes: The 33-year-old had a strong 2015-16 season with 19 goals and 32 assists in 82 games (63 with NJD and 19 with BOS) and could play a huge role for the ‘Canes this season. Whether or not he flirts with another 20 goal season is an obvious question mark, but if he does, Carolina may have had the steal of the summer as he signed two-year, $2.5 million deal on July 1.
Mika Zibanejad, New York Rangers: The Rangers dealt center Derick Brassard and a 2018 seventh-round pick to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Zibanejad and a 2018 second-round pick. The trade is, at least on paper, a wash but Zibanejad has just one-year left on his contract and is coming off of a 51 point season.
Coach Or GM On The Hot Seat
Jarmo Kekalainen, GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets
You can just look at the Blue Jackets’ General Fanager page, go down the list of players and pick out at least six deals that make you question what in the world is going on.
Sure, the Jackets were able to sign Seth Jones to a reasonable six-year, $5.4 million AAV deal but there really isn’t another contract on the entire roster that screams “wow, that’s a pretty nice contract”.
Columbus finished last in the Metro and 27th in the league last season with a 34-40-8 record. They are locked up to some very bad deals and John Tortorella is the man behind the bench; Jackets fans are going to turn on Kekalainen if there isn’t an improvement on the ice this season.
All stats via hockey reference.