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NHL Offseason Grades: Pacific Division, NHL | BallHyped Sports Blogs
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NHL Offseason Grades: Pacific Division

Hyped by on August 21, 2017

On October 5, the NHL finally gets underway again. It seems like an age since Sidney Crosby hoisted the Pittsburgh Penguins’ second Stanley Cup in as many years, but the excitement of the offseason managed to keep hockey fans enticed, so now it’s time to evaluate how teams performed off of the ice.

Here we’ll be looking at the Pacific Division, their additions and subtractions, and their overall grade for their offseason dealings. We’ll also be looking at the new Vegas Golden Knights and the surprisingly strong roster that they’ve amassed.

So, without further ado, here’s how the Pacific Division’s teams did over the summer.

Anaheim Ducks

1st in the Pacific Division last season, 46-23-12 record, +23 goal differential

Last season, the Anaheim Ducks were a physical force with a deep and strong defensive corps, so they utilized that to ensure they kept their top players when the Expansion Draft rolled around. The Ducks managed to convince Vegas to pick Clayton Stoner by also giving them Shea Theodore, holding onto a still very strong group of defenders.

They also lost bottom-six forward Emerson Etem and Nate Thompson to the free agency, as well as Jonathan Bernier, who effectively saved their charge to the playoffs last season. When John Gibson picked up an injury, the Ducks also began to suffer from some scoring troubles, but Bernier’s elite-level play pulled them through the rough patch with a winning record.

However, the Ducks managed to find a very capable replacement to Bernier as a backup goaltender with veteran Ryan Miller. They also grabbed Steven Oleksy, Derek Grant, and Reto Berra from the free agency, who will most likely provide roster depth. Dennis Rasmussen, however, may be able to make claims as Anaheim’s fourth line center.

Overall, the Ducks did well to hold onto their top defensive talents, which also made way for hot prospect Brandon Montour, and they added a bit more experience to their goaltending group, which should help John Gibson continue to develop into his very lofty potential. They didn’t lose anyone particularly major and re-signed big-time players in Patrick Eaves and Cam Fowler: this was a quiet and clever offseason for Anaheim. B

Arizona Coyotes

6th in the Pacific Division last season, 30-42-10 record, -63 goal differential

So, instead of taking another step forward as a young and vibrant team, the Arizona Coyotes switched up the front office and saw the team take a step backwards regarding on-ice performances. There were shining lights in English-born Brendan Perlini, veteran goalie Mike Smith, and captain Shane Doan, but the vast majority of the team simply didn’t play up to their potential.

Losing Teemu Pulkkinen to the Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft wasn’t a big deal, but they did shed some important players in Josh Jooris, top scorer Radim Vrbata, and Shane Doan. With free agency signings like Zac Rinaldo, Emerson Etem, Michael Latta, and Adam Clendening, the Coyotes didn’t exactly make a splash, but they did well in the trade market.

Boasting young and vibrant NHL lines as well as a deep prospect pool, Arizona managed to pull in some pieces that they needed to improve the team and shepherd the youth. They sent Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin to the Chicago Blackhawks for one of the best defensive defensemen in the league, Niklas Hjalmarsson, as well as exchanging Anthony DeAngelo and a first-round pick for Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta of the New York Rangers. All three of the traded-in players fill major needs in the lines.

With the amount of young talent on the current roster, the Arizona Coyotes would be excused for playing the waiting game while accumulating more high-value assets until their future-stars become current stars. But general manager John Chayka has done well to add the kind of players that will accelerate that climb to the top and make the team that bit more competitive. B+

Calgary Flames

4th in the Pacific Division last season, 45-33-4 record, +5 goal differential

Some big trades and much-needed re-signings took place in Calgary over the summer, and they managed to limit their Expansion Draft losses to just Deryk Engelland. They lost Ryan Murphy, Lance Bouma, and the notoriously hit-and-miss Brian Elliott, which opened up a new era of goaltending for the Flames.

Trading a conditional third-round pick, Brandon Hickey, and Chad Johnson to the Coyotes for Mike Smith was the start of their goalie revolution. Then the addition of Eddie Lack from Carolina – who had put in some superb performances before his recurring concussion and once he returned last season – has improved the Flames’ goaltending corps.

Re-signing Kris Versteeg, Curtis Lazar, Michael Stone, and Micheal Ferland, was huge, as was the trade for defenseman Travis Hamonic – who had requested a trade to Canada a couple of seasons ago from the New York Islanders, due to family matters.

It’s been a very strong summer for the Calgary Flames who shored-up their goaltending, kept integral players, and added a star defenseman. They could very well push for higher standing in the Pacific Division next season with this mighty unit. A

Edmonton Oilers

2nd in the Pacific Division last season, 47-26-9 record, +35 goal differential

Just look at what having a whole season of Connor McDavid on the ice can do for a team. The young captain’s team rewarded his century of point-scoring with a big fat $100,000,000 contract over eight-years commencing in 2018/19, giving him the biggest cap hit of any NHL player. Plus, the Oilers lost next to nothing from their main roster, with Griffin Reinhart being selected by Vegas.

The moving of Benoit Pouliot and David Desharnais was inevitable for this fast-developing team. Re-signing the of the likes of puck-blocking machine Kris Russell, big Eric Gryba, young Punjab-star Jujhar Khaira, and brutish forward Zach Kassian will help the keep moving in the right direction without too many changes to the dressing room. The Oilers were quite quiet in the free agency but did move their third-highest point scorer of last season, Jordan Eberle, for Ryan Strome – mostly for cap space purposes.

Their incredible surge last season, as well as decent showing in the playoffs, has the Edmonton Oilers at 6/1 to win the Western Conference, which would be a great use of a free bet considering that their offseason promises more of the same next season. C

Los Angeles Kings

5th in the Pacific Division last season, 39-35-8 record, -8 goal differential

Having won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014, the Los Angeles Kings have failed to impress and need to move in a new direction. A new general manager and head coach, Rob Blake and John Stevens, have been brought in to do that, but they haven’t had a great offseason to get started.

Signing Christian Folin and Michael Cammelleri were strong moves, as was bringing in Darcy Kuemper as their new backup goaltender, but little else was done. The main hope is that the change in management will unlock their once very productive lineup.

With very little by way of team improvements for the deteriorating LA Kings, it wasn’t an offseason that will put them back into playoff spots. D

San Jose Sharks

The San Jose Sharks lost next-to-nothing in the Expansion Draft but did lose Mr. San Jose himself in the free agency. Even at 37-years-old, Patrick Marleau still had a lot to offer the Sharks – he even scored 27 goals and 46 points last season – but the man who had been at the club since 1997 left to play for Toronto.

Despite that misstep in judgment, the Sharks did manage to tie up superstar goalie Martin Jones, elite defensive-defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, center Chris Tierney, and big Joe Thornton. Thornton was only signed up for another season, which may be why Marleau opted for three years with the Maple Leafs.

San Jose will be relying on their younger players stepping up and playing their part next season, but none look ready to fill a 50-point void yet. D

Vancouver Canucks

7th in the Pacific Division last season, 30-43-9 record, -61 goal differential

Rock bottom of the Pacific Division, but not as bad as the shameful Colorado Avalanche overall in the Western Conference, the Vancouver Canucks got to work in the free agency, signed some very good players, and only lost Luca Sbisa to the Vegas Golden Knights.

One of the many revelations of Columbus’ great season, Sam Gagner, and solid defenseman Michael Del Zotto have joined up, as well as Patrick Wiercioch, Alexander Burmistrov, and Anders Nilsson. Ryan Miller left, but that leaves the net for the giant Swede Jacob Markstrom to fill.

Young talents Reid Boucher, Brendan Gaunce, and Evan McEneny have also signed new contracts to accompany the likes of Nikolay Goldobin – who the Canucks traded for mere peanuts from San Jose at last season’s trade deadline – and Bo Horvat as the team develops their young stars.

Keeping in mind that Vancouver is rebuilding, the Canucks made some great signings, will bring up some of their prospects, and already look to be a better team than last season. A

Vegas Golden Knights

2017/18 to be their first season of play in the NHL

The newly formed Vegas Golden Knights, the first major league team to call Las Vegas home, started the offseason by taking a player from each of the 30 teams in the NHL via the Expansion Draft. The league aimed to give Vegas the tools to become competitive much quicker than any expansion teams of the past, and they certainly achieved that. After a few trades and free agent signings, this is what their starting XX may look like coming into their first game:

Goalies: Marc-Andre Fleury (starter), Calvin Pickard (backup).
Defensemen: Jason Garrison, Deryk Engelland, Shea Theodore, Clayton Stoner, Luca Sbisa, Nate Schmidt.
Wingers: Jonathan Marchessault, James Neal, David Perron, Reilly Smith, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Alex Tuch, Vadim Shipachyov, David Clarkson.
Centers: Cody Eakin, Erik Haula, Oscar Lindberg, William Karlsson.

Looking set to be a pretty good team this season, the Vegas Golden Knights should be able to cause a fair few upsets. However, it may take a few seasons before they’re challenging for a playoff spot.

With some good offseason exploits by many of the teams in the Pacific Division, the battle for the playoff places should be a heated affair, but the two leading the way to go deep in the playoffs, as it stands, is the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers.