NHL’s Regret Index: Grading Some of the Big Offseason Moves

One of the lines in Frank Sinatra’s famous song My Way is “Regrets, I’ve had a few; But then again, too few to mention.” At this point in the season, this feels like a great way to summarize how a lot of the teams feel about their offseason and the decisions they made.

Related: 3 Worst Goalie Acquisitions of 2022 Offseason

A lot of teams made notable signings or trades this offseason, with hopes of upgrading their rosters for the 2022-13 season. Similarly, a few teams held back from making big decisions, either signaling confidence in their roster or avoiding making risky decisions that could mortgage the team’s future. The question is if they are regretting their decisions. Yes, it’s early but at this point in the season, it’s clear that some moves are starting to pay off.

Note: The moves are graded on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most regrettable decision.

Devils: Not Making a Splash – Regret Score: 1

The New Jersey Devils entered the offseason with the salary cap space to make a big signing like adding Johnny Gaudreau to their offense. In previous years, the front office has made big moves including acquiring PK Subban in a trade in 2019 and signing Dougie Hamilton in 2021, and they looked poised to take a similar path this year. Instead, they made a handful of moves that weren’t major acquisitions but helped round out the roster. The Devils signed forward Ondrej Palat and acquired defenseman John Marino as well as goaltender Vitek Vanecek through trades.

John Marino New Jersey Devils
John Marino, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The quiet offseason, for Devils standards, has paid off immensely. They look like one of the best teams in the NHL and with a 20-4-1 record, boast the best record in the Metropolitan Division. Yes, the Devils could have signed Gaudreau and had him play alongside some of the best young skaters in the league including Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt. However, the quiet offseason, where general manager (GM) Tom Fitzgerald made a handful of depth additions, has helped turn the team into one of the best in the league. It’s safe to say that they have no regrets about the route they took this summer.

Maple Leafs: Replacing Jack Campbell & Petr Mrazek – Regret Score: 2

This summer, there were a lot of question marks about how the Toronto Maple Leafs would upgrade their roster, specifically the defense and goaltending, which allowed 3.07 goals per game last season. Pressed against the salary cap, they chose to part ways with both their goaltenders, Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek, and replace them with Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov. Initially, the decision looked like one that was going to derail the Maple Leafs’ season as both Murray and Samsonov were coming off rough seasons and didn’t look like reliable starters for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. However, through the quarter mark of the season, the decision has paid off as the team has stability in the net with the help of both offseason acquisitions and Erik Kallgren, who was on the team the previous season.

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One of the Maple Leafs’ writers at The Hockey Writers, Alex Hobson, echoed a similar sentiment about replacing both Campbell and Mrazek. “Campbell and Mrazek have both statistically been some of the worst goalies in the NHL to start the season, whereas Murray and Samsonov have given them a chance to win in every game they’ve played and then some. It’s still a risky move since they’ve both missed time with injuries this year, and there’s lots of hockey left to be played, but we’ve seen what both goalies are capable of at the top of their game, and if they can stay consistent, they’ll be one of the best tandems the team has had in recent memory.”

The Maple Leafs are allowing only 2.48 goals per game and their goaltending has a combined .916 save percentage and a 2.40 goals-against average (GAA), a strong improvement from the .904 SV% and 2.93 GAA they had last season. So far, they’ve experienced a great rebound on the defensive end of the ice with the bold decision to replace their goaltenders from the previous season paying off.

Flames: The Summer of Treliving – Regret Score: 3

After losing Gaudreau to free agency and Matthew Tkachuk demanding a trade, Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving was at a crossroads with the franchise. He could have used the loss of two elite players as a sign to rebuild and not only continue to trade away key players but look to add assets for the future. The other option was to remain competitive and take an aggressive approach to the offseason to put together a Stanley Cup-caliber roster. Treliving chose the latter route, where he acquired Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar in exchange for Tkachuk, and late in the summer, signed Nazem Kadri to a seven-year deal, signaling the Flames were in win-now mode.

Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving
Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal)

The Flames have struggled to start the season with a 10-10-3 record which is fifth in the Pacific Division. However, considering the options and the task Treliving faced, he helped keep the Flames competitive and kept the championship window open. The aggressive approach to the offseason can backfire but as of now, the decision has paid off for them.

Oilers: Acquiring Jack Campbell – Regret Score: 5

At first glance, the Edmonton Oilers signing Campbell to a five-year deal is shaping up to be one of the worst ones from the offseason. He was brought in with the hopes of solving the team’s woes at goaltending but has a .872 SV% and a 4.12 GAA on 391 shots. If Campbell continues to struggle, he could singlehandedly cost the Oilers a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup as a liability on an otherwise talented roster. However, despite the struggles, especially early on this season, the decision to sign him isn’t regrettable for GM Ken Holland.

To understand why, my colleagues and Oilers writers Rob Couch and Sean Panganiban weighed in, explaining how the struggles can’t be blamed on Campbell and why in the end, the move can still pay off. For starters, Campbell, even with the struggles, is an upgrade from the previous starters the team had in the past few seasons, notably Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen. Additionally, the Oilers couldn’t start the season with Stuart Skinner, who only started 13 games in the previous two seasons, as the primary goaltender and they needed a proven starter with a proven reputation. Lastly, he needs time to acclimate himself to the new setting, and with the adjustments, he is expected to become an elite goaltender.

In a follow-up question, Couch brought up a fair comparison for Campbell’s first year with the Oilers. “Jacob Markstrom two years ago was not good for the Flames and then finished second in Vezina Trophy voting the following season.” In Markstrom’s first season with the Flames, he had a .904 SV% and a 2.66 GAA on 1,161 shots but after adjusting to the new team, he put together a .922 SV% and a 2.22 GAA on 1,754 shots including nine shutouts. Similarly, Campbell might look awful in his first season with the Oilers but throughout a five-year contract, the move is expected to pay off.

Jacob Markstrom Calgary Flames
Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Campbell, like many goaltenders that join the Oilers, has a lot to adjust to. The Oilers play at a faster pace and while they possess a high-powered offense, they also struggle defensively. Likewise, they have one of the most top-heavy rosters in the NHL, resulting in greater inconsistency within games. Ultimately, Campbell has to adapt to the new team and in the long run, the move will look better over time.

Ducks: Signing John Klingberg – Regret Score: 8

The Anaheim Ducks signed defenseman John Klingberg to a one-year deal with the hopes that he would help round out the defense. Furthermore, with a young and talented roster, he looked like one of the missing pieces that would help take the team to the next level and possibly make the playoffs. The move has not only backfired but it has set the Ducks back not just this season but for the next few years as well.

John Klingberg Anaheim Ducks
John Klingberg, Anaheim Ducks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Ducks are allowing 4.17 goals per game and Klingberg, who was supposed to put the defense over the top has been a non-factor. He only has 0.1 defensive point shares and 24 blocked shots, and despite having a reputation for being a two-way player, only has one goal and seven assists. The Ducks are likely going to move on from him at the trade deadline or the end of the season but more importantly, the decision to sign him slowed down their rebuild. They signed Klingberg to compete but instead have been the exact opposite with a 6-16-3 record which is the worst in the Pacific Division.

Sabres: Not Acquiring a Goaltender – Regret Score: 9

The Buffalo Sabres entered this season with high hopes. After going 16-9-3 in March and April to close out the season, the team was eager to start the new season and snap the 11-year playoff drought which is the longest in the NHL. The Sabres had a roster that looked poised to have a big season, the only question mark was their goaltenders, Craig Anderson and Eric Comrie.

Craig Anderson Buffalo Sabres
Craig Anderson, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Through 24 games, the goaltending looks like a liability that will cost the Sabres a chance to make the playoffs. Moreover, the decision to not acquire a goaltender in the offseason but instead stick to Comrie and Anderson is what’s coming back to haunt them. To quote Jacob D. Strozyk, who covers the Sabres, “The biggest regret right now is not getting a goaltender. Anderson is defying his age but he can’t play a lot. Comrie has been ok, and their young goalie (Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen) looks decent but not great. It would have been great to see Buffalo go after a starting goaltender from the free-agent market. They can score and the defense has been decent enough. If they had reliable goaltending, they could be winning more games.” The offense is averaging 3.71 goals per game which is well above the league average but unfortunately, the goaltending has let them down with a combined .893 SV% and a 3.47 GAA on 774 shots.

Flyers: Not Signing Johnny Gaudreau – Regret Score: 10

The Philadelphia Flyers are in the middle of a rebuild and as a result, didn’t have an urgency to sign Gaudreau, a star player of the free agency class who grew up in nearby Salem, New Jersey. Failing to sign him doesn’t hurt them this season, as the offense was expected to struggle and Gaudreau wasn’t going to singlehandedly turn around a unit that averages only 2.38 goals per game. However, in the long run, the inability to sign a scorer of his caliber will cost the team and become one of the more regretful decisions in recent seasons. The team had the opportunity to sign an elite scorer in the prime of his career but allowed him to sign elsewhere despite his expressed interest in playing close to home.

Johnny Gaudreau Columbus Blue Jackets
Johnny Gaudreau, Columbus Blue Jackets (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

Moreover, by not signing Gaudreau, the Flyers allowed him to sign a seven-year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets, a Metropolitan Division opponent. For the next seven years, the Flyers will regret missing out on adding a star scorer, someone who could have been a building block for the offense and the roster altogether. To make matters worse, they have to face him multiple times every year. Earlier in the season, they played two games against Gaudreau and he scored a goal while adding three assists, both of which were Blue Jackets’ wins, and it could be a sign of what’s to come for the next few years.

Other Decisions That Might Become Regretful

The Florida Panthers are happy to have Tkachuk in their lineup. However, they might end up regretting the trade they made with the Flames where they traded both Huberdeau and Weegar, two key players in their recent success. The team has taken a step back this season with a 12-9-4 record but considering they are playing well and remain one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference with Tkachuk playing a primary role, the trade doesn’t look regrettable so far.

The Pittsburgh Penguins decided to keep the contending window open and re-sign a handful of their veteran players over the offseason with the hopes of competing for the Stanley Cup. They were off to a slow start, but with a 13-8-4 record are in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference. If the season unravels, the Penguins will regret going all-in but for now, the decision isn’t one that’s going to cost them.

The 2022-23 season has passed the quarter mark, meaning we have a decent sample size of every team but at the same time, it’s still early in the season. A lot can change by end of the regular season but so far some of the decisions that were made in the summer are starting to take effect.

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