The Metropolitan Division hasn’t just produced the last two Stanley Cup winners (Pittsburgh Penguins) and last two Presidents’ Trophy winners (Washington Capitals).
It’s also a division that runs deep. The Columbus Blue Jackets took the league by storm in 2016-17, and while Sergei Bobrovsky might not be sensational again, many still believe they’re legit. The New York Rangers and New York Islanders still boast significant strengths, while the Carolina Hurricanes are dark horse candidates once more.
Even the New Jersey Devils keep adding promising talent.
Let’s preview what might once again be the best division in the NHL.
- During the summer, the Hurricanes locked up part of their future in rising defensemen. That included extensions for Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce.
- There were some Matt Duchene to Carolina rumblings, so this post examined if Noah Hanifin would be worth giving up to make it happen.
- As much as that trade would be about adding a proven scorer to a promising bunch of forwards, it would also be about the Hurricanes leveraging an area of strength. Simply put, this team boasts an enviable array of talented young defensemen.
- The biggest move of the summer was handing Scott Darling a big contract to be their guy in net. He may determine this team’s ceiling, particularly in 2017-18.
- As much as this is about young talent, it’s heartening to see Justin Williams back in the fold.
Columbus Blue Jackets
- Speaking of Duchene trade possibilities, this post ponders a deal that would send Boone Jenner and Ryan Murray to Colorado.
- Bobrovsky dazzled last season, helping John Tortorella win the Jack Adams. Will both of them match or exceed those efforts?
- The Blue Jackets were part of one of the summer’s most surprising deals, receiving Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad. How will Panarin mesh with this roster (and coexist with Torts)? He wants to prove that he isn’t just Patrick Kane’s passenger.
- Columbus committed to promising forward Alex Wennberg with this deal. It took a while and almost got a little awkward, but they reached a compromise with Josh Anderson, too.
- Big salary cap decisions await.
New Jersey Devils
- The Devils lucked into the top pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, choosing Nico Hischier over Nolan Patrick. Hot take: they were happy to make such a tough decision. Hischier could be an immediate difference-maker for New Jersey.
- Devils GM Ray Shero continues to add useful players via trades. In the case of this past summer, he took advantage of Washington’s cap woes to land Marcus Johansson for a low price.
- Trades have allowed Shero to put together an interesting foundation, even if there is still work to do. Still, the Damon Severson signing, in some ways, highlighted a sparse group of defensemen.
- It would help if Will Butcher develops into the sort of guy who justifies more than a few offseason headlines.
New York Islanders
- The John Tavares saga continues into 2017-18, and it’s unclear when the Islanders will get more clarity. Tavares deserves clarity of his own, as the Islanders need to get their home in order. It could be months before that happens, as the Belmont Park scenario shows.
- GM Garth Snow at least took some measures to make life easier for Tavares, trading Ryan Strome for Jordan Eberle (someone who has chemistry with Tavares).
- It sure felt like the Travis Hamonic deal was made with future moves in mind. We’ll have to wait and see in that regard.
- Jaroslav Halak is under pressure to keep his career going strong, though it remains to be seen if he can snag many starts from Thomas Greiss. Halak did finish 2016-17 on a high note, so who knows? At worst, the Islanders have incentive to play him, even if it’s just to pump up his trade value.
- Joshua Ho-Sang already impressed during some of the dimmer moments of last season. From an entertainment standpoint, here’s hoping we see more of him.
- Doug Weight had some success as interim head coach with the Islanders. It will be fascinating to see what he might accomplish with the “luxury” of a training camp. Bonus points for making a “Rocky” reference.
New York Rangers
- Even by the Rangers’ standards, this was a summer of change. One big one included sending center Derek Stepan and valuable backup Antti Raanta to the Coyotes for Anthony DeAngelo and the seventh pick of the draft. The Rangers then signed Ondrej Pavelec as Raanta’s replacement behind aging star Henrik Lundqvist.
- Another big departure included Dan Girardi, who signed with Tampa Bay. He has plenty of critics, yet his loss is an emotional blow for some in the organization.
- That doom and gloom might cover up some optimism, as the Rangers signed one of the biggest names of free agency to a relatively reasonable deal by locking up Kevin Shattenkirk. This could make for quite a change of pace on the blueline.
- Check out the Rangers’ salary structure after signing Mika Zibanejad to a new contract.
- Staring down a contract year, Rick Nash is at a fork in the road.
- Much like the Devils, the Flyers were delighted by the rare occurrence of getting a high first-rounder. Nolan Patrick, the second pick, looks like another quick study.
- The Philadelphia Flyers will look different in net, as Brian Elliott joins Michal Neuvirth while Steve Mason is gone.
- Philly traded away Brayden Schenn, receiving picks and Jori Lehtera. Michael Del Zotto is also out of town.
- With Lehtera, Patrick, and Valtteri Filppula recently added to the mix, Philly can mix and match with centers. That might give them the confidence needed to try out Claude Giroux as a winger with Sean Couturier down the middle.
- A slew of young players forced Matt Read to the AHL.
- For repeat champs, the Penguins have avoided catastrophic losses … but they’ve still experienced big ones.
- Marc-Andre Fleury graciously embraced the expansion draft process, so this is all on Matt Murray now. His awesome dog will think he’s cool, either way, though.
- Nick Bonino is gone to the Predators. Matt Cullen chose the Wild instead. The Penguins enter the season with questions at third-line center.
- The Penguins paid up to keep Justin Schultz in the fold and added Matt Hunwick, while the likes of Ron Hainsey and Derrick Pouliot are out. Trevor Daley ranks as maybe the most significant blueline loss.
- There were some odd Phil Kessel trade rumors, but the hot dog enthusiast remains with the Penguins.
- Much has been made of Kris Letang being back, and rightfully so.
- They spared few expenses on their Stanley Cup rings.
- Sidney Crosby and the Penguins absorbed criticism for accepting a White House visit.
Something noteworthy from today:
- The Capitals feel like their offseason losses resemble the Stanley Cup hangover without the title.
- Losing Kevin Shattenkirk wasn’t a big surprise. Karl Alzner going to Montreal might be a more unexpected loss for Washington’s defense. Vegas taking Nate Schmidt in the expansion draft was another blow to a blueline that will test Barry Trotz’s schematic mettle. Some also believe it was a mistake not to buy out Brooks Orpik.
- Washington parted ways with Justin Williams.
- To some surprise, the Capitals re-signed T.J. Oshie.
- They also spent big on Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov. KHL offers might have driven up the value of both players.
- Despite what many are deeming the worst offseason in the NHL, there are some who still believe the Capitals can be competitive. It just isn’t likely to be as easy.
- Perhaps a svelter Alex Ovechkin might help?