Pacific Division Teams Improve Via Draft And Free Agency

The last few days in the NHL have been nothing short of a flurry. With the 2015 NHL Entry Draft in the not so distant past and the opening of the Free Agency there has been a plenty of big moves across the NHL. Some of the bigger moves came within the Pacific Division, where as a whole, the division has improved.

All seven teams within the division have been involved with drafting or bringing in a player from another team, in some cases a team from the Pacific, and on paper seem to have gotten better because of their moves.

Here is a team-by-team look at some of the moves each team has made.

Kevin Bieksa
(Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks brought in defenseman Kevin Bieska via trade with the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks got a second round pick in the 2016 Draft in return. This was a smart move for the Ducks seeing they lost defensive heavyweight Francois Beauchemin to the Colorado Avalanche via free agency. Bieska replacing Beauchemin probably isn’t entirely possible, but filling a hole partially is better than letting a leak flow.

Although it’s not an on ice addition, the Ducks also made an addition on the bench bringing in Paul MacLean as an assistant coach. I don’t have a crystal ball but Bruce Boudreau might be on a tighter leash than most think.

Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes’ biggest advances this summer is likely to come from their position in the Draft. After reportedly fielding numerous offers for their third overall pick, the Coyotes elected to hold onto their first round pick and grab Dylan Strome. The Coyotes also brought back Antoine Vermette who played with Arizona for four seasons before he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks last season. Well, Vermette got his Stanley Cup championsip and is back with a new two year deal.

Much like Vermette, Zybnek Michalek will be returning to the Coyotes for his third stint in Arizona. Michalek has played in 737 NHL games over time with the Coyotes, St. Louis Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Vermette and Michalek should prove to be valuable leaders for a young Coyotes pipeline that should start trickling into the NHL.

Calgary Flames

The Flames could be the early favorite for winners of the 2015 offseason. Very few teams have made the same caliber of moves that Calgary has made in the opening days of summer.

Add defensive giant Dougie Hamilton, who signed a multi year extension with the Flames after being traded from Boston at the Draft, toss in a depth presence with Michael Frolik, who was acquired via free agency and bring back Karri Ramo who was re-signed and you have one of the league’s fastest rebuilds moving even quicker.

The most important fact about the additions of Hamilton and Frolik is that Flames general manger Brad Treliving was able to add the two without losing any roster players. That means the Flames’ two newest additions are being added to a roster that boasts young stud Johnny Gaudreau, Jiri Hudler, Mark Giordano, and even younger stud Sam Bennet.

If you thought the Flames were real last season, next season they could be doing some real damage.

Connor McDavid: The generational talent is finally officially a member of the Edmonton Oilers. (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)
Connor McDavid: The generational talent is finally officially a member of the Edmonton Oilers. (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

Edmonton Oilers

Let’s get the easy part out of the way. Connor McDavid is a generational talent and will bring new life into a franchise that hasn’t seen the playoffs since they lost game seven of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final to the Carolina Hurricanes. But drafting who some are calling the next Sidney Crosby isn’t the only thing the Oilers have done to make their team better.

The biggest overhaul happened on the Oilers’ blue line. On top of trading for defenseman Griffin Reinhart at the Draft, Edmonton was able to sway coveted unrestricted free agent Andrej Sekera to a six year $33 million contract. The big take away from this is the acquisition of Sekera. Sekera was rumored to be returning to Los Angeles, but instead ended up with a division rival.

Edmonton also hopes they found the answer to their goalie troubles in Cam Talbot. Talbot cost the Oilers three picks, a stiff price but a price Edmonton was willing to pay for the prized backup goalie.

The Oilers also added depth forward Mark Letetsu, who signed a three year $5.4 million contract with Edmonton.

Put Sekera and Reinhart on a blue line that already has Andrew Ference and Justin Schultz and add McDavid to an offensive core of Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle and the Oilers look a lot better. You probably shouldn’t write them into the playoffs just yet but they will be better next season, that’s for sure.

Los Angeles Kings

A mean team got a whole lot meaner with one move. At the Draft, the Kings, an already heavy team with a physical style of play, brought in power forward Milan Lucic via trade with the Boston Bruins. Lucic was brought to Los Angeles in exchange for goalie Martin Jones and the Kings’ 13th overall pick. Bringing in Lucic, although questioned by some, was the right move by Lombardi. Lucic will slide into a top line role and bring more answers to other player’s roles in the line up.

After moving Jones the Kings needed to fill their backup goalie position. Bringing up Calder Cup champion J.F. Berube was thought to be the answer. But instead Kings general manager Dean Lombardi brought in proven back up Jhonas Enroth via free agency.

Now if the Kings could just grab a d-man they would be set.

(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)
(Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks found their goalie, and pissed off everyone in Los Angeles at the same time.

Before the dust could settle on Jones being traded to Boston he was back in California as a part of the Sharks organization. The Sharks brought Jones back to the West Coast via trade with Boston in exchange for a first round pick in 2016. Jones will likely be the Sharks’ starter once the regular season gets going.

Who do the Sharks open the 2015-16 season against? The Kings, in Los Angeles, that should be fun.

Outside of the latest chapter in the Kings and Sharks drama, San Jose brought in veteran blue liner Paul Martin. Martin has appeared in 697 games, split between New Jersey and Pittsburgh, and has recorded 272 points and a plus-100 rating. Martin should fit in well and play a veteran leader role on the Sharks roster.

Vancouver Canucks

Trying to keep up with the Kings and possibly making up for losing the physicality of Bieska, the Canucks brought in Brandon Prust via trade. In exchange for Prust the Montreal Canadiens received Zack Kassian and a fifth round pick in 2016.

The Canucks also traded away goalie Eddie Lack to the Hurricanes for a pair of picks over the next two years. I think it’s safe to say the Canucks might be losing in the offseason improvements department. But luckily for Vancouver, there is a lot of time before the regular season gets going and plenty of times to catch up with the division.