The NHL offseason is in full swing after the frenzy surrounding the draft and the start of free agency. With that the Pacific division has improved immensely within both the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames making some of the bigger moves this summer. In all the Pacific division isn’t decided in the summer, it’s decided over the course of an 82-game regular season schedule.
Arizona and Edmonton were basement-dwellers last season and it’s possible only one of them continues to struggle potentially positioning themselves for the likely 1st overall selection this year in Auston Matthews. The Oilers might be closer to a playoff spot now than ever before but a few teams might continue making transitions with both San Jose and Vancouver looking to stay the course and move towards younger competitive rosters respectively. On the other end Anaheim, Calgary and Los Angeles are the big three playoff contenders out of the division, with two of them being sizeable favourites to do some damage this summer.
All in all where do the Pacific teams rank in comparison to each other?
7. Arizona Coyotes
In: G David Leggio G Anders Lindback, D Alex Grant, D Nicklas Grossmann, D Zbynek Michalek, D Chris Pronger (contract), D Dylan Reese, D Derek Smith, LW Craig Cunningham, LW John Scott, LW Eric Selleck, C Boyd Gordon, C Dustin Jeffrey, C Dylan Strome, C Antoine Vermette, RW Steve Downie, RW Brad Richardson
Out: D Mark Louis, LW Lauri Korpikoski, C Sam Gagner, C Maxim Letunov
Analysis: It’s clear Don Maloney needed to get above the cap floor and address the glaring holes throughout the roster, namely at center and on defense. They re-signed Mikkel Boedker, brought back Antoine Vermette plus some other depth upfront and Zbynek Michalek and Nicklas Grossmann were added to the defense to help out their homemade superman in Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
When all the dust has settled the Coyotes are far from a playoff contender next season but they have put together a solid prospect base over the past few seasons with the additions of Max Domi, Dylan Strome, Nick Merkley, Anthony Duclair and Henrik Samuelsson. The goal is to continue to build through the draft and have another development year and slowly bring the kids along.
The future is bright in the desert, the future however is still years away.
6. Edmonton Oilers
In: G Anders Nilsson, G Cam Talbot, D Eric Gryba, D Griffin Reinhart, D Andrej Sekera, C Mark Letestu, C Connor McDavid
Out: G Adam Huska (184th), D Martin Marincin, D Jonas Siegenthaler (57th), D Sergei Zborovskiy (79th), LW Lauri Korpikoski, C Mathew Barzal (16th), C Liam Coughlin, C Travis Ewanyk, C Mitch Stephens (33rd)
Analysis: GM Peter Chiarelli has turned fortunes around and there is a certain buzz around the Oilers with them getting the biggest fish in the off-season in McDavid, he was gift wrapped to Chiarelli by the former regime led by Craig MacTavish and Kevin Lowe. With McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Darnell Nurse heading to make a push for roster spots next season and the newly acquired Reinhart the Oilers have a decent prospect pool to pull from.
Add in the fact that they’ve now brought in a potential starter in Talbot, added to their struggling defense and made some crafty moves upfront, suddenly the Oilers along with the Buffalo Sabres are two of the most improved teams in the NHL. The only question is if the Oilers made the right move giving up a majority of their six picks in the top 90 of the 2015 NHL Draft.
Now the realistic predictions; fans shouldn’t be asking if the Oilers push for a playoff spot next season, might be a little early to say that. Fans should be asking if they can finally play competitive hockey and stay out of the NHL basement for once.
5. Vancouver Canucks
In: G Richard Bachman, D Matt Bartkowski, D Guillaume Brisebois (66th), D Taylor Fedun, D Tate Olsen (210th), C Blair Jones, RW Brandon Prust
Out: G Eddie Lack, D Kevin Bieksa, D Patrick McNally, D Bobby Sanguinetti, LW Brandon Defazio, C Shawn Matthias, C Cal O’Reilly, RW Zack Kassian, RW Brad Richardson
Analysis: The youth movement has begun, not a rebuild it’s a “re-tool”. The biggest name the Canucks acquired this offseason was Prust, the names going the other way is quite disappointing. Not only is the organization tranisitioning at the NHL level, it seems their AHL affiliate in Utica is bound for a step back after an impressive run to the Calder Cup finals this season.
Lack, Bieksa, Matthias and even Kassian to an extent now make way for goaltender Jacob Markstrom, defenseman Frank Corrado to get regular spots as with Bartkowski who was signed as a free agent. Upfront expect prospects like Bo Horvat, Linden Vey, Cole Cassels, Brendan Gaunce and Nicklas Jensen to push for bigger roles but Canuck fans shouldn’t get too far ahead of themselves.
This is a development year, the Canucks will surely contend for a playoff spot but will they seriously be able to hold down one of the final wildcard spots in an ultra competitive Western Conference?
4. San Jose Sharks
In: G Martin Jones, D Mark Cundari, D Paul Martin, D Patrick McNally, D Karl Stollery, C Michael Haley, RW Joel Ward
Out: G Antti Niemi, D Taylor Fedun, D Matt Irwin, LW Freddie Hamilton, LW John Scott, C Sean Kuraly
Analysis: Say what you will, the Sharks are entering a transition year, hoping not to finish worse than last year and hoping to contend for a playoff spot.
There are alot of questions about the Sharks coming into next season. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are another year older, will they still produce? Can a duo of Jones and Alex Stalock give the Sharks competitive goaltending? Can Tomas Hertl have a bounceback year?
They’ve got a good top four with the addition of Martin only making it stronger so they can give a prospect like Mirco Mueller sheltered minutes and not kill his confidence next year. Adding Ward rounds out the top six upfront but there is a bit of a fall off after and a player like Matt Nieto needs to step up or look to be expendable.
The Sharks will contend for a playoff spot.
3. Los Angeles Kings
In: G Jhonas Enroth, D Jamie McBain, LW Milan Lucic
Out: G Martin Jones, D Andrew Bodnarchuk, D Colin Miller, D Andrej Sekera, D Jakub Zboril (13th), C Mike Richards, RW Justin Williams
Analysis: The Kings missed the playoffs and there was some change that was going to be expected, they’ve played too many one-goal games and needed to make a change upfront. Now factor in the names that were lost and this was a devastating off-season for any NHL club aside from the addition of Lucic. Add in the off-ice spectacle that is occuring and things are quickly going sideways if someone doesn’t grab a hold of things.
The Kings lost some proven veteran experience in the roster in Sekera, Richards and Williams which means more will be expected from the likes of the newly acquired Lucic, and young players in Tanner Pearson, Nick Shore, Tyler Toffoli and co.
This is still a good NHL club from top to bottom with one of the better one-two punches at center in Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter. A solid offensive year from Marian Gaborik and captain Dustin Brown and the Kings can bounce right back. Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick will be expected to continue playing all-world hockey.
The Kings can be a playoff team and by all means should be every year, but all those long playoff runs caught up to them. Here’s hoping for the fanbase that a rested off-season will return the Kings back to a contender spot.
2. Calgary Flames
In: G Karri Ramo, D Dougie Hamilton, LW Derek Grant, RW Michael Frolik
Out: D Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (45th overall), D Jeremy Lauzon (52nd overall), C Max Reinhart, RW Zach Senyshyn (14th overall), LW Sven Baertschi
Analysis: Talk about impressive GM Brad Treliving has knocked it out of the park and the Flames are suddenly a rising team that can do some damage next season en route to being taken seriously in the next year or two as a legit Stanley Cup contender.
In the big picture we’ll see how much they really gave up a decade in the Hamilton trade and cutting ties with a prospect like Baertschi who has a high ceiling. With a solid one-two punch in goal, what’s now become one of the deepest bluelines in the league built around captain Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie, Hamilton, Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell. They have an impressive group upfront built around Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Sam Bennett and Jiri Hudler, the acquisition of a PK specialist like Frolik will only help them role four-lines.
Now the Flames have the ability to become a long-term force if they can just manage the cap, something we have yet to see Treliving challenged with.
1. Anaheim Ducks
In: G Anton Khudobin, G Matt Hackett, G Garrett Metcalf, D Kevin Bieksa, D Korbin Holzer, D Joe Piskula, LW Carl Hagelin, LW Harry Zolnierczyk, C Chris Mueller, C Shawn Horcoff, C Julius Nattinen, RW Brian McGrattan
Out: D Francois Beauchemin, D James Wisniewski, LW Matt Beleskey, LW Emerson Etem, LW Ryan Gropp
Analysis: The keys to the Ducks offseason is the additions of Bieksa, Hagelin, Horcoff and some depth players in exchange for losing Beauchemin, Beleskey and a dwindling prospect in Etem who had an off year. In the big picture alot of these moves are lateral moves and the Ducks are still the team to beat in the Pacific although finding ways around the cap.
Another solid season from Frederik Andersen, another year of experience for the defensive core of Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler and Sami Vatanen and the Ducks are serious contenders out of the Western Conference. Imagine we still haven’t mentioned they still have Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler in their primes along with Jakob Silfverberg and prospect Nick Ritchie trending upward next season.