NHL Power Rankings: Ranking the NHL general managers

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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we turn our focus to the league’s 31 general managers to see who is at the top of the class and doing the best job building their team.

We are looking at a combination of career achievement, as well as current success and the way they have set their team up for the long-term.

Who tops the list?

To this week’s Power Rankings!

The Elites

1. Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche. There is not a team in the NHL that is set up for more long-term success than the Avalanche. The Matt Duchene trade could help set up the defense for the next decade, while he has also taken advantage of his salary cap situation to the past two years to stack the depth chart behind his All-Star top line.

2. Steve Yzerman, Detroit Red Wings. His Detroit track record is obviously incomplete, but he was the main architect of a Tampa Bay Lightning team that has been the NHL’s most successful team over the past six years. That counts. A lot. That is also why he gets such a high mark.

3. Doug Armstrong, St. Louis Blues. Since being named general manager a decade ago the Blues have the fourth most wins in the NHL and finally got their championship. The Alex Pietrangelo situation was tough, but they still found a capable replacement in Torey Krug. The trades for Brayden Schenn and Ryan O'Reilly were complete robberies that helped bring the Blues their first Stanley Cup.

4. Julien BriseBois, Tampa Bay Lightning. Even though he has only been the general manager for two years he still had a major hand in building the current roster. He also had an incredible 2020 to get Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow, Patrick Maroon, and Kevin Shattenkirk to help bring the Stanley Cup back to Tampa Bay.

5. Don Sweeney, Boston Bruins. His tenure has not been perfect, but the Bruins have a great team with a very manageable salary cap outlook. That is not an easy thing to accomplish.

Established names and strong track records

6. Lou Lamoriello, New York Islanders. He built a mini-dynasty in New Jersey and that will always be part of his story. He has not made a ton of franchise-altering moves with the Islanders (Jean-Gabriel Pageau is significant) but he did bring stability and credibility to an organization that lacked both before he arrived.

7. Jim Nill, Dallas Stars. This guy has never met a blockbuster offseason acquisition that he hasn’t liked. His aggressiveness did not result in success on the ice until recently. Fun fact: Over the past two years no team has won more playoff games than the Stars’ 22.

8. Jim Rutherford, Pittsburgh Penguins. In terms of entertainment value he is in a class all by himself because he never stops trading people. Ever. He has won three Stanley Cups with two different organizations, and that commands respect. There have been a LOT of home runs with the Penguins in terms of his roster moves. He has also had some massive swings and misses. The latter has happened far more frequently the past few years and might closer their window a little faster than it should.

9. Brian MacLellan, Washington Capitals. He helped bring a Stanley Cup to Washington and nobody can ever take that away. They remain a constant contender but there has been some obvious regression the past two years. Overall though, he’s built a strong team that is still a Stanley Cup contender.

Definitely above average 

10. Kelly McCrimmon, Vegas Golden Knights. Since taking over the role he has added Chandler Stephenson, Alec Martinez, Robin Lehner and Alex Pietrangelo to the roster. Salary cap nightmare? Maybe. But also a hell of a team.

11. Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs. The most polarizing general manager in hockey, mainly due to his perception within the insane hellscape that is the Toronto hockey scene. Overall, I like the moves he makes. He has a plan, he sticks to it, and he does not let outside voices dictate his path. The lack of postseason success, combined with Lamoriello’s success in New York, has put a massive target on his back. Winning in the playoffs will change that. Sometimes that requires forces beyond the general manager’s control.

12. Don Waddell, Carolina Hurricanes. Dougie Hamilton, Nino Neiderreiter, Vincent Trocheck, and Brady Skjei are among the players Waddell has acquired since replacing Ron Francis two years, without giving up all that much in return. He also got a first-round pick out of Toronto (No. 13 overall) for eating a portion of Patrick Marleau’s contract.

13. Ken Holland, Edmonton Oilers. The end of his Detroit tenure was not good, but I like his start in Edmonton as he attempts to clean up Peter Chiarelli’s mess. This offseason has been especially productive with the cheap additions of Tyson Barrie, Kyle Turris, and Dominik Kahun.

The middle ground

14. Jeff Gorton, New York Rangers. There have been some missteps here and there, but overall there is a pretty clear plan in place and a lot of impact talent added to the organization. Some draft lottery luck has helped (a top-two pick in each of the past two years!) as did a huge free agent score in Artemi Panarin. The big criticism in the short-term is the fact they have nearly $14 million in dead money on the books this season. That is insane.

15. Doug Wilson, San Jose Sharks. A few years ago he is in the top-five, easily. But the Sharks have badly regressed, their salary cap situation is rough, and he ignored the goalie situation for two years when the team was supposed to be a contender. That was completely reckless.

16. Rob Blake, Los Angeles Kings. He inherited a team on the decline and is in the process of tearing it all down. The Kings have one of the league’s best farm systems and a loaded talent pool to build from. There is a foundation being built here, even if it takes time to see it pay off.

17. Chuck Fletcher, Philadelphia Flyers. His biggest moves have been acquiring Kevin Hayes and Matt Niskanen. He paid Hayes a ton of money, but so far it has worked out. The Niskanen trade was a solid talent-for-talent swap, but Niskanen retired after just one year. He has not dramatically altered the course of the franchise in one direction or another.

18. Marc Bergevin, Montreal Canadiens. He makes a lot of trades that seem like losses for him initially and then turn out to be wins. He’s actually had some GREAT moves. But the on-ice results remain completely mediocre. He had a strong offseason on paper this year. How the team does as a result might make-or-break my perception of him.

[More: ProHockeyTalk Free Agency Tracker]

19. Jarmo Kekalainen, Columbus Blue Jackets. The Artemi Panarin and Seth Jones trades were massive wins that helped make the Blue Jackets a consistent playoff team, something that they had NEVER been before. Now it is time to take the next step and no longer be happy to simply make the playoffs.

20. Brad Treliving, Calgary Flames. The Flames draft and develop fairly well, but they make some absolutely bonkers decisions in free agency and in the offseason under Treliving. In a couple years we might look back at this offseason and wonder what they were thinking. Some might already be doing that.

21. David Poile, Nashville Predators. The Predators they are a team trending in the wrong direction while Poile has had some significant missteps along the way. Big picture? He has done a good job in Nashville, literally helping to build the team from the ground up. But most general managers that get 22 years and untouchable job security with a single team usually have more to show for it than just one trip out of the second round of the playoffs.

22. Kevin Cheveldayoff, Winnipeg Jets. He has been busier in recent years, but he remains one of the least active general managers in the NHL. He doesn’t make many bad moves, and he doesn’t make many great moves. Mostly because he rarely makes any moves.

Too soon to tell

23. Bill Guerin, Minnesota Wild. I think his first year has been mostly fine (love the Nick Bonino trade; like the value for Jason Zucker), but it’s been just that: One year.

24. Tom Fitzgerald, New Jersey Devils. His initial moves revolved around purging a disappointing roster. He found good value in his early trades, and I love the Corey Crawford signing.

These guys should be on the hot seat

25. Pierre Dorion, Ottawa Senators. Three years ago the Senators were a double overtime Game 7 away from the Stanley Cup Final. Today, nobody from that team remains on the roster. That says more about ownership than Dorion, whose hands have been tied. The Senators have a ton of draft picks to work with and an improving farm system, but ownership will still dictate what this thing becomes.

26. Bob Murray, Anaheim Ducks. My biggest criticism here is the Ducks just do not seem to have any real direction. This is not a playoff team.  They continue to act like they are a playoff team. That means it will be longer before they actually become a playoff team again.

27. Stan Bowman, Chicago Blackhawks. Banners hang forever, and every great team will eventually have to pay the piper for its success. I feel like Chicago’s time in that regard came sooner than it needed to through mismanagement and an inability to cut the chord with players they won with. Loyalty is great, but in a bottom-line business it does not always win. He also lost three separate Brandon Saad trades which is completely baffling. The rebuild is off to a rocky start.

28. Jim Benning, Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks have hit some major home runs in the draft despite never picking higher than fifth during their rebuild. Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and Quinn Hughes are superstars that are going to make this team a must-see. But the cap management here is a complete disaster and ultimately cost them a good playerTyler Toffoli — that they paid a significant price for at the trade deadline just a few months earlier. It has also resulted in an incredibly top-heavy roster.

Not enough track record to rank

Kevyn Adams, Buffalo Sabres. He has only been in charge for six months, but they have been an eventful six months. Taylor Hall, Eric Staal, and Cody Eakin are strong pickups. But they are still only one-year commitments for a team that has major long-term issues.

Bill Zito, Florida Panthers. He is continuing the Panthers’ recent tradition of front office change and massive roster overhaul. Hopefully he has better luck than the people before him.

Bill Armstrong, Arizona Coyotes. He has some challenges ahead.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Stars sign 41-goal scorer Jason Robertson to 4-year, $31M deal

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FRISCO, Texas — Jason Robertson signed a four-year, $31 million contract with the Dallas Stars after the young 40-goal scorer missed the first two weeks of training camp.

The Stars announced the deal after their exhibition game in Denver, only a week before the regular season opener Oct. 13 at Nashville.

Robertson turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when the left wing had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. His 13 power-play goals led the team. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn, and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

“Jason is an integral part of the present and future of our team and we’re thrilled to have him for the next four years,” general manager Jim Nill said.

A second-round draft pick (39th overall) by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. The 6-foot-3 California native had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

“Since he was drafted by our organization, he has worked tirelessly to become a better player every day. His knack for scoring goals and seeing plays develop on the ice are just some of the tremendous assets that he brings to our team,” Nill said. “He is one of the best young players in the NHL, and we look forward to seeing him continue to progress.”

Robertson had the second-highest point total for a Stars rookie in 2020-21, when he had 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) in his 51 games.

Before the start of this season’s camp, new coach Pete DeBoer said he looked forward to coaching Robertson.

“Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here,” DeBoer said then. “So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

Robertson will finally be there now.

Coaching carousel leaves 10 NHL teams with new face on bench

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The coaching carousel spun a little faster than usual across the NHL, meaning nearly a third of the league will have someone new behind the bench this season. And not just bottom-feeders making changes.

Ten teams go into the season next month with a new coach, from Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida and perennial playoff-contending Boston to rebuilding Chicago and San Jose.

John Tortorella will try to whip Philadelphia into shape, Bruce Cassidy is tasked with getting Vegas back to the playoffs and Derek Lalonde takes his two Stanley Cup rings as a Tampa Bay assistant to his new challenge with the Detroit Red Wings.

TORTS REFORM

Philadelphia players knew they were in for some changes when Tortorella was hired, so they asked Cam Atkinson, who spent six years playing for the no-nonsense coach in Columbus.

“I keep telling them like he’s a guy that’s going to change the whole dynamic of this organization,” Atkinson said.

Tortorella has not shied away from saying a culture change is needed after a last-place finish and a decade with one playoff series win. There is likely not much he and players can do this year about a Cup drought that dates to 1975, but they can start with maddeningly inconsistent stretches of games that have plagued the Flyers for years, no matter the roster.

BIG MO

The Panthers were the league’s best team in the regular season last year but struggled in the playoffs before losing in the second round to cross-state rival Tampa Bay in five games. That was enough for general manager Bill Zito to decide to move on from interim coach Andrew Brunette and hired seasoned veteran Paul Maurice.

The expectation is to get back to the playoffs and compete for the Cup, and having Maurice at the helm was one of the factors that made power forward Matthew Tkachuk pick Florida as his trade-and-sign destination.

“He’s got high hopes for our team,” Tkachuk said. “He sees us playing in a certain way that’s going to make us successful. And he’s done it. He’s been around the NHL a long time, been a very successful head coach and somebody that I’m really looking forward to working with.”

PLAYOFF ROTATION

Bruins GM Don Sweeney fired Cassidy after a seven-game loss to Carolina in the first round despite Boston’s sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

Vegas had already fired Peter DeBoer, making him the scapegoat for an injury-riddled fall from the top of the Western Conference that ended with the team’s first playoff miss in five years of existence. The Golden Knights quickly turned to Cassidy, who like Maurice brings experience and gravitas to a franchise with championship aspirations.

“I think we’re very fortunate as an organization to have him as our coach,” center Jack Eichel said. “Every single person I’ve spoke to about them, they said the same thing: that he’s got a really, really great knack for the game and to able to make adjustments and he understands things. Very, very competitive — wants to win, has won a lot of hockey games over the last few years.”

The Bruins replaced Cassidy with Jim Montgomery, a hockey lifer getting a second chance after being fired by Dallas in December 2019 for inappropriate conduct. Montgomery sought and received help at a rehab facility and got a big endorsement from the staff with St. Louis, the team he was working for as an assistant.

“He’s a winner,” Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman said. “I think guys are going to thrive on that energy.”

The Stars completed the circle by hiring DeBoer, who has coached two teams (New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016) to the final and is on his fifth stop around the league.

“This is a tough league and it’s a tough one to coach in and you have to be able to handle situations,” GM Jim Nill said. “I know Pete can do it.”

LAMBERT ISLAND

Lane Lambert served as an assistant under Barry Trotz with Nashville, Washington – where they won the Cup together – and the Islanders. When Trotz was abruptly fired after New York missed the playoffs for the first time in his four seasons on the job, his right-hand man got the gig with his endorsement.

Longtime executive Lou Lamoriello thought his team needed a new voice. But Lambert isn’t that new, and his familiarity with the Islanders keeps some continuity.

“Barry was great for our team, and having Lane as an assistant, he had lots of say, as well,” forward Mathew Barzal said. “As a group, we all have a good relationship with him, so I think it’ll be an easy transition for our team.”

MORE NEW VOICES

The final coaching change of the offseason came in San Jose, with ownership and interim management firing Bob Boughner and his assistants before Mike Grier took over as GM. Grier hired David Quinn, who most recently coached the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics after spending three years with the Rangers.

Rick Bowness, the Stars’ interim coach when Montgomery was fired who helped them reach the final in 2020 and was not brought back, joined Winnipeg. He immediately made an impact by stripping Blake Wheeler of the Jets captaincy.

The other new coaches – Lalonde in Detroit and Luke Richardson in Chicago – are not expected to make such big waves.

Richardson, who briefly was acting coach for Montreal during the 2021 final when Dominique Ducharme tested positive for the coronavirus, is overseeing the start of a long-term rebuild by the Blackhawks. Lalonde was Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman’s pick to help end the storied franchise’s playoff drought.

“He believes in what he’s preaching, which I think is great walking into a new locker room,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s made a great impression on the guys.”

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.