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NHL Division Primer: The Atlantic

Our look into each division going into the season rolls on. Up next, the Atlantic.

2016 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The NHL season is ever so close now. While there is plenty to talk about with our local hockey team, we have decided to get everyone up to speed on what’s been going on around the league.

We have already covered the Pacific and Metropolitan divisions. Today, we take a look into the Atlantic.

Best Off-Season Acquisition

Kyle Okposo, Buffalo Sabres

What do you do if you’re the Sabres organization, and have a bevy of young talent but only one or two guys with veteran leadership presence in the locker room? You go out and get one. Okposo was a big get for this team. He is a skilled forward that I believe will fit in well with the scheme in Buffalo.

Looking at Okposo’s numbers with the Islanders last year, there is one thing that stands out to me. When he is on the ice, his linemates are better off for it. While he was on the ice, his line generated more possession and shot chances than without him.

Will Okposo be the savior to this Sabres team? Probably not. But he will give them a significant boost in the standings this coming season.

I expect that he’ll be paired up with Jack Eichel next year, and that is a scary sight for opposing teams. Eichel is already a threat on the ice when he is by himself, but with the addition of Okposo to his line, the sky is the limit for him.

Let’s also not overlook that Buffalo got him for a really good deal, in my opinion. They signed him to a $42 million deal with an AAV of $6 million for seven years. When you compare that with some of the other contracts that were doled out this off-season, this one is not bad at all. Which brings me to my next point...

Worst Off-Season Acquisition

David Backes, Boston Bruins

Don’t get me wrong with this selection, but Backes was my pick because of the money he is getting. He signed a five-year deal with an AAV of $6 million. To put that into perspective, that is the same as Okposo, and Filip Forsberg. That’s right, this guy below is making the same as Forsberg guys!

Let’s move past that though and really talk about why this is a bad move. Backes’ numbers have steadily been on the decline over the past few years.

His overall offense has dipped since the 2015 season. He has, however, stayed steady on the defensive side of the puck, if not gotten slightly better. But when you are looking to sign a big time free-agent in the off-season, you’re not looking for someone who has stayed consistent on one side of the puck.

I’m sure Backes will be a fine player in Boston, but the fact that they are shelling out $6 million a year over five years just doesn’t make sense to me. Especially considering where he is in his career.

Other Notable Additions

There were a lot of signings and trades that happened in the Atlantic, but here are just a few for you:

  • Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens: Yes, I am sure that this one still stings for a lot of fans, but both teams will be better off for this trade. Montreal got the guy they wanted, now it’s time for them to produce wins.
  • Frans Nielsen, Detroit Red Wings: With the departure of Pavel Datsyuk, the Red Wings needed to fill that hole somehow. Nielsen will definitely be able to contribute, but I don’t think anyone can replace Datsyuk.
  • James Reimer, Florida Panthers: Who knows how much more Roberto Luongo has left in him. This was a smart move to think of the future for the Panthers.

Player To Watch

Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

There is going to be a lot of pressure on this kid come the start of hockey season. Matthews will be in the spotlight in town that craves hockey success. Toronto is a town where the media can make or break a player. How he handles it will be fun, and interesting to watch. Regardless of how he responds to the media, it will be fun to see what he can do on the ice.

You can catch a preview of his skills below.

Coach Or GM On The Hot Seat

Marc Bergevin, Montreal Canadiens

This was a no-brainer for me. After dealing away, arguably, their most popular player in P.K. Subban, the pressure is on Bergevin and the front office to produce, and produce quickly. I mentioned Toronto is a tough market to play in earlier, but Montreal is even tougher. Each move made is being watched under a microscope. Bergevin claims he got that guy they wanted in Weber, but if it doesn’t produce a Stanley Cup soon, it may be his job on the line.

Regardless of how the season plays out in the Atlantic, one thing is for sure certain. There will be plenty of story lines to keep us, the fans, entertained.