For ages, it felt like the Central Division was the reigning champion as the toughest division in the NHL.
The Metropolitan Division seemed to knock the Central off its perch, right down to the Pittsburgh Penguins beating the Nashville Predators in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Still, much of those stumbles seemed self-imposed, as the Dallas Stars struggled, the Winnipeg Jets disappointed, and the Colorado Avalanche were jaw-droppingly bad.
Let’s take a look at PHT’s material on the Central Division with the 2017-18 season set to begin.
- It wasn’t pretty, but the Blackhawks were indeed able to place Marian Hossa on LTIR.
- That played a role in Chicago being able to wiggle under the salary cap ceiling while signing Cody Franson and keeping Alex DeBrincat in the mix.
- We will soon see how well Brandon Saad‘s reunion works out after the Blackhawks made that bold Artemi Panarin trade.
- That wasn’t the only big trade Chicago made, as they also sent underrated defensive defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona for Connor Murphy.
- The Matt Duchene mess hangs over this team; if nothing else, it made for some funny jokes. Here are some tips on how Colorado can make the best of the mess they’ve made.
- The Avalanche’s management group could use some advice, too. GM Joe Sakic is a legend, but that can only shield him from so much if the team continues to flounder.
- At least the Avalanche have a pretty flexible situation, salaries-wise.
- They lost one promising prospect and gained another.
- The Stars brought back Ken Hitchock for a second run as head coach.
- That was far from the only impact move. They acquired and signed Ben Bishop in hopes that he will cure their ailments in goal. Naturally, this will mean plenty of pressure for the towering netminder.
- Dallas is no stranger to big changes in the offseason, and they made waves by landing coveted free agent Alex Radulov. The Stars might experiment with a top-heavy line of Radulov, Jamie Benn, and Tyler Seguin.
- Can Hitchcock improve this team in its own end? Adding Marc Methot makes sense to some, yet others wonder if he’s a lot like Dan Hamhuis: the type of defenseman who’s being left behind in the modern NHL.
- The expansion draft loomed as a serious threat for the Wild, and ultimately Minnesota sent a worthwhile defenseman in Marco Scandella to Buffalo amid the frenzy. They didn’t lose Jonas Brodin or Matt Dumba, so it wasn’t all bad.
- Even so, GM Chuck Fletcher’s seat might be getting hot after years of spending without playoff results.
- Signing Mikko Koivu and Marcus Foligno might change this outlook slightly, but you can review Fletcher’s work in this salary cap outlook.
Speaking of signings, the Wild inked a deal with Daniel Winnik today:
- While the Wild and other teams seemed to avoid a huge expansion draft loss, GM David Poile had to stomach the sight of seeing James Neal leave for the Golden Knights. Remarkably, the two sides still made a trade in the Alexei Emelin deal.
- At the time, Emelin seemed like helpful depth. He might turn out to be more important than that, however, as Ryan Ellis is slated to miss a significant chunk of the season.
- It wasn’t all bad news for Predators defensemen, as Roman Josi became captain.
- The Penguins beat the Predators, but Nick Bonino was impressed enough with Nashville to jump ship to “Smashville.”
- Bonino is under some pressure to prove he’s worth a raise. Preds fans should cut him some slack since he might be a little banged-up.
- Speaking of raises, the Predators handed a big (and sometimes-criticized) contract to Ryan Johansen and a long, potential super-bargain to Viktor Arvidsson.
- Even if you don’t dig the Johansen deal, you have to marvel at how well-constructed this Predators team is, overall.
St. Louis Blues
- The Blues go into this season with Mike Yeo getting his first training camp … but what a disastrous preseason it’s been.
- Maybe most sadly, promising forward Robby Fabbri is out for all of 2017-18.
- Veteran forward Alex Steen is hurt, possibly significantly. Patrik Berglund‘s bad news came quite a bit earlier.
- We’re still awaiting word on Jay Bouwmeester after he fractured his ankle. Zach Sanford is expected to miss most of this season.
- Hey, at least the Blues are constructed quite well. It’s up to Paul Stastny to prove that he deserves another contract.
- All of a sudden, Brayden Schenn goes from an intriguing supporting cast member to … possibly crucial? It was a resounding trade either way.
One other Blues note:
- Did the Jets finally find stability in net? The Ondrej Pavelec era is mercifully over; Steve Mason now joins Connor Hellebuyck to form this team’s duo.
- Why that combo carries some serious promise.
- The Jets made some serious commitments to forwards. Bryan Little got a new deal and so did promising winger Nikolaj Ehlers.
- Here’s a breakdown of Winnipeg’s salary structure (after Little’s deal, but before Ehlers signed).
- This doesn’t mean Winnipeg’s work is done. Patrik Laine will one day be expensive, and Jacob Trouba could end up being costly.
- Management at least doesn’t have to worry about their contracts. Near-invincible head coach Paul Maurice and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff both received extensions … even though this franchise hasn’t ever won a playoff game. This could be the year, and maybe in a big way.