Winner: Dallas Stars
Yes, the Stars are a winner. The stealing of Jaromir Jagr from the Flyers was an expert move. In Jagr they finally have a top line scoring threat, even if he is 40 years old. While the attempt to replace Mike Richard who they lost last year to the Rangers failed; they succeeded in softening the blow, but never fully got over it last season.
Looking past Jagr, they also managed to get Derek Roy in a trade from the Sabres. This looked like a great deal at first, dumping some players who were likely to jump ship soon anyway (Steve Ott, and Adam Pardy), then as soon as they signed their new top six forward they lost him again. Roy had surgery to repair his shoulder and will be out of the game until around November. Now they need a top six again.
They lost backup Andrew Raycroft to top Italian professional league Serie A but then quickly replaced him with the 24-year-old Richard Bachman, who had been playing for their AHL affiliate Texas Stars and shows great potential for when Kari Lehtonen eventually goes back to his place of duty: The injured reserve.
The Stars will also be without Sheldon Souray and Adam Burish, but signed Ray Whitney. Souray was a non-factor last season, Burish was a bruiser who’s absence will be felt, but Whitney and Jagr will make up for the beatings by lighting lamps more than those two ever did.
While the Stars may not be looking at a championship this year, they will be back in the run for the playoffs. Look for their horrible 2.57 goals-per-game last season to drastically change for the better. It’s going to be a crowded year in the West this upcoming season.
Loser: Detroit Red Wings
The Wings were a front runner in the Suter-Parise sweepstakes, not only would they attempt to replace the legendary Nick Lindstrom, they would add another top line scoring threat. Everyone in Detroit thought this was a done deal (myself included) and when we all saw the Wild mega-deal we were shocked.
What have the Wings management done since and before then? Not really much of anything. They have done nothing to address the massive hole in the defense that the captain’s retirement left, or the questionable play of starting goaltender Jimmy Howard. Instead of going after someone who could challenge Howard for his position they signed Maple Leafs reject Jonas Gustavsson, a mediocre goalie with a heart condition.
What other masterful moves did Wings’ GM Ken Holland have up his sleeve? Signing Jordin Tootoo, Damien Brunner, Mikael Samuelsson (again)? Brad Stuart was traded to Anaheim for Andrew Murray creating another huge defensive gap, and in Holland’s only decent move he let Jiri Hudler walk.
Rumors are still abound about Detroit fighting to pull the trigger for a Rick Nash deal, or possibly signing Shane Doan, both are badly needed right now though neither show any real signs of happening. The last thing Holland said about free agency was that he was trying to talk Tomas Holmstrom into coming back for one more year.
Holmstrom will be 40 and only potted 23 points last year. Not at all the move they need to address a roster that is starting to look more like it’s for the upcoming Alumni game rather than another run at the Stanley Cup.
Winner: Los Angeles Kings
Obviously the Kings had to do one thing this offseason: Keep together the roster that hoisted the Cup, and they did just that. While Dustin Penner only managed 18 regular season points, he became a playoff hero by racking up 3 goals and 8 assists on the way to the championship. The Kings locked him up for one more season at $3.25 million; while they overpaid, no one can blame them for keeping their championship squad together.
Then the Kings quickly re-signed arguably the most important player on their roster over the last season: Jonathan Quick. The 26-year-old Conn Smyth winner inked a 10-year 60-million dollar contract, effectively making him a King for life. This leaves Jonathan Bernier without the starting spot he’s wanted for a while, but gives the Kings amazing trade bait in the young talented net minder.
Rumors are swirling where Bernier will end up and what LA will get in return, regardless of what happens the Kings made sure they will remain a contender for years to come.
Loser: Calgary Flames
The Flames have been stuck in limbo for years now, and it’s not going to change this year. They don’t know if they want to rebuild, or try to get back to winning through the free agent market. When a front office is as lost as Calgary’s is, nothing good can come from it.
They wildly overpaid for Red Wings underachiever Jiri Hudler who still hasn’t got his game back since he ran off to Russia and the KHL. They then went on to overpay for Dennis Wideman and lose a solid center in Olli Jokinen who signed with Winnipeg. The only real stars on this team are Jarome Iginla and Mikka Kiprusoff and both are aging quickly.
Instead of entering a full on rebuilding phase, dealing their two aging stars away for young talent, and using draft picks they are breaking the bank for mediocre players. This offseason perfectly illustrates why they haven’t been to the playoffs for 3 years and haven’t won a series since 2003-04. In a crowded Western Conference, the Flames still stand no chance.
Winner: Edmonton Oilers:
This is how a rebuilding process is supposed to go. While it has taken a long time, the Oilers are going to be a serious threat to anyone in the West. They resigned up and coming net minder Devan Dubnyk and won the strange Justin Schultz contract race, beating out every other team in the league for the young defenseman. A great move for a team that had the 23rd ranked defense last year.
The signing of Dubnyk is a must as aging, drunk driving goalie Nikolai Khabibulin is in the last year of his contract and at 39 maybe the last of his checkered career. The Oilers have been bringing the former 14th overall pick along slowly and methodically but he has yet to snag the starting spot. He finished last year 20-20-3 with a .914 save percentage, and has yet to shoulder a heavy workload in the NHL. He is the future of Oilers goal keeping and he has to start playing like it.
They also re-signed ‘Captain Canada’ Ryan Smyth for two years and 4.5 million dollars, obviously for his leadership ability rather than his scoring as he only registered 46 points last season. His leadership will be badly needed on a team with only two players over the age of 29.
They also made a depth signing by penning Darcy Hordichuk for one year and $850,000. Hordichuk certainly won’t be lighting the lamp very often (41 points in 538 career games) but will add some grit to the young team.
While they won’t be making a championship run, or maybe not even a postseason run this season, they are taking the right steps and this team has a very bright future.
Loser: Nashville Predators
Obviously they lost huge by failing to resign Ryan Suter, and in turn possibly giving Shea Weber a reason to run for greener pastures. They are really losers this offseason because of the conduct of their GM David Poile, who has been acting like a scorned child rather than a grown man.
After Suter signed with the Wild, he insisted that Suter had lied to him stating “I was looking at all my notes yesterday,” Poile said. “Ryan had said when we had a meeting in November with he and (agent) Neil Sheehy, he said at the time that he is not going anywhere else, he is signing with the Nashville Predators.”
Now as the days past and he didn’t have Suter’s name on a sheet of paper he had to know something was up, the man has been a GM in some way, shape, or form for 30 years. Poile said that Suter was supposed to come back and talk with him after he was done talking with other teams but never got the chance, and has gone so far as to call Suter a liar.
Really the only thing he’s done since July 4th is stomp around like an angry child rather than try to replace some of the pieces his team lost during the offseason. It’s time to come to terms with reality and move on.
Winner Minnesota Wild
The Wild were the winners of the “Suter-Parise sweepstakes”. ‘The State of Hockey’ signed the two best free agents available to mega-contracts worth 98 million dollars apiece. I don’t think anyone saw this happening. Zach Parise, maybe he is a Minnesota native, but Suter? He could have gone anywhere he wanted and immediately contended for a Cup.
The poor Wild have some of the best fans in the league but have only been past the first round of the playoffs once in their short history (Western Conference Finals 2002-03) and needed something badly to breathe some life into their franchise. The fans got more than what they ever could have hoped for.
Even with these two inked long-term, it will take a few more key moves to make the Wild a real Cup contender, namely addressing questions in net and their lack of scoring that the Setoguchi-Heatley deal didn’t remedy. Regardless, this masterful move by owner Craig Leipold made the Wild’s future brighter than at any other time in franchise history.
Joe Kassabian is a contributor for Outside the Redzone. Follow him on Twitter @jkass9966