NHL Power Rankings: Most impactful additions of 2020-21 season

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we take a look at the most impactful additions teams made for the 2020-21 season.

That includes free agent signings, offseason trades, and in-season trades.

It does not include rookies, so for as impactful as Kirill Kaprizov or Ilya Sorokin may have been, they do not fit the definition we are looking for here since they were already part of their respective organizations as former draft picks. We are looking for players that were actually added to the organization.

Regular season and postseason contributions are all counted.

Leading the way are a handful of players making meaningful contributions to some semifinalists, including two of the bigger free agent signings of the offseason and one of the bigger trade deadline additions.

Who all makes the cut in this week’s NHL Power Rankings?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Tyler Toffoli, Montreal Canadiens. In terms of overall production and value against the salary cap this is the best addition of the offseason, and I am not even sure it is particularly close. Toffoli finished as the seventh-leading goal scorer in the NHL, has been the leading scorer on a playoff semifinalist, has a series clinching goal, and has been Montreal’s biggest offensive difference-maker all season. Not only that, he is also a fantastic all-around player aside from his goal scoring and they got him for a steal of a price against the salary cap (just a little over $4M per season on a manageable four-year contract). Tremendous move by Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens, and a miserable show of cap management and roster management by the Canucks to let him get away.

2. Alex Pietrangelo, Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas’ latest big-ticket move was to sign Pietrangelo away from the Blues in free agency. It is a massive contract, but he has given the Golden Knights another bonafide top-pairing defenseman (along with Shea Theodore). Very strong regular season performance that is in line with his normal career levels and an outstanding postseason. They paid a steep price and they are getting big production.

3. Kyle Palmieri, New York Islanders. A significant trade deadline addition. The Islanders needed scoring, especially in the absence of team captain Anders Lee, and Palmieri was a perfect fit in terms of style and substance. His Islanders career got off to a slow start, but he has been everything they wanted and needed in the playoffs. A big reason they are two wins away from their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1984.

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4. Devon Toews, Colorado Avalanche. As if the Avalanche needed another impact player on their blue line. They acquired Toews from the Islanders for two second-round draft picks, immediately signed him to a four-year contract extension, and got an incredible season from him. With Cale Makar, Sam Girard, Toews, and the arrival of Bowen Byram the Avalanche defense is set for years.

5. Taylor Hall, Boston Bruins. When we saw Taylor Hall, we mean the Boston version of Taylor Hall. Because Buffalo, well, that just did not work out for anybody. Boston, though, was a very different story. From the moment he arrived Hall started to regain his top-line, MVP-level form and helped give the Bruins something they desperately lacked — a second scoring line. It did not produce a Stanley Cup, but if the Bruins can get Hall re-signed he should continue to be an impact player.

6. Cam Talbot, Minnesota Wild. The Wild were one of the biggest surprise teams in the league this season, and the arrival of Kaprizov was a huge factor in that sudden turnaround. Better goaltending also played a big role. Talbot was not one of the bigger names in the goaltending carousel this offseason but he made one of the best and most consistent impacts for a Wild team that ended up being one of the league’s best.

7. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida Panthers. In some ways Verhaeghe is a testament to the absurd depth the Lightning have accumulated over the years. He dominated in the AHL for them, could barely crack their NHL lineup, did not get a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent due to salary cap reasons, and then signs a cheap contract in Florida and plays like a top-line player.

8. Jeff Carter, Pittsburgh Penguins. He showed he still has something left in the tank. A lot, actually. He was one of Pittsburgh’s best players following his acquisition from the Kings and figures to play a prominent role next season as either their third-line center, or second-line center depending on how long Evgeni Malkin is sidelined.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 schedule, TV info]

9. Craig Smith, Boston Bruins. This was a really strong signing by the Bruins and along the same lines as the Toffoli deal in Montreal. Good player, good value, good fit. Smith, Hall, and David Krejci helped form an outstanding second scoring line in Boston that was a perfect complement to the big line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. The only problem now is two of those three (Hall and Krejci) are unrestricted free agents this offseason.

10. Corey Perry, Montreal Canadiens. This one is probably a surprise. Even though Perry is not the player he was at his peak, he has still proven to be a very strong addition to the Montreal lineup. He scored at a 15-goal, 40-point pace over 82 games, had great possession numbers, and has been outstanding in the playoffs during the Canadiens’ shocking run through the playoffs. He only cost them $750,000 against the salary cap. You could not have possibly asked for more from that signing.

Honorable mentions: Tyson Barrie (Edmonton Oilers), Chris Tanev (Calgary Flames), Patric Hornqvist (Florida Panthers), Kasperi Kapenen (Pittsburgh Penguins), Brandon Saad (Colorado Avalanche), Sam Bennett (Florida Panthers), Mike Reilly (Boston Bruins), Jakub Vrana (Detroit Red Wings), Anthony Mantha (Washington Capitals)

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    Thompson nets 4 in 1st, 5 overall, as Buffalo tops Columbus

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    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tage Thompson matched an NHL record by scoring four times in the first period and finished with five goals and an assist as the Buffalo Sabres won their third straight road game, 9-4 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.

    Thompson is the second U.S.-born player to score five goals in a game. He is the fourth player in NHL history to record four goals in the first period of a regular-season game, joining Peter Bondra (1994), Grant Mulvey (1982) and Joe Malone (1921). He is also the fourth active player to score five goals in a game, joining Timo Meier (Jan. 17, 2022), Mika Zibanejad (March 5, 2020) and Patrik Laine (Nov. 24, 2018).

    “It’s definitely a rewarding feeling,” Thompson said. “You’ve spent a lot of years working to get to this point and to be rewarded for it is a pretty good feeling and it just leaves you hungrier.”

    Thompson’s outburst helped Buffalo score six times in the first 16:40.

    “That was an amazing performance by Tage, and really, the whole group set the table,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “I thought the energy, the collective effort, the focus to start was really good and enabled that to happen.”

    Alex Tuch had a goal and three assists, Dylan Cozens added a power-play goal and two assists and Rasmus Dahlin finished with a goal and two assists. Peyton Krebs also scored. Jeff Skinner picked up four assists and Jacob Bryson had two. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 20 shots.

    Patrik Laine and Gustav Nyquist each scored twice for Columbus.

    Joonas Korpisalo stopped two shots before being pulled in the first in favor of Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped 15 shots through the second period. Korpisalo returned in the third and finished with six saves.

    Columbus has lost six straight home games and five of its last six overall.

    “We didn’t have an answer for that one line,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “Tage Thompson just tore us up tonight.”

    Buffalo dominated from the puck drop, scoring four goals on its first six shots.

    Cozens put the Sabres on the board at 3:21 of the first, 53 seconds into a Blue Jackets penalty, and Thompson made it 2-0 just 2:09 later. Dahlin scored Buffalo’s third goal at 7:28 of the first, driving Korpisalo from the net in favor of Merzlikins, who gave up Buffalo goal No. 4 to Thompson 32 seconds later.

    Thompson’s third career hat trick and second of the season came on a power-play goal at 12:22 of the first. He followed with his fourth goal, also on the power play, at 16:40.

    Columbus scored two goals in just over a minute, with Laine at 10:49 and Nyquist at 12:04, before Buffalo reeled off three straight in just over three minutes to end the period, including Thompson’s fifth, and goals by Krebs and Tuch.

    Laine and Nyquist scored in the third period for Columbus.

    STREAKING

    Cozens has 12 points in his last five games and is riding a career-best, five-game point streak. Thompson has eight goals and five assists in his last five games and 10 multi-point games. Dahlin has a five-game point and assist streak, and Gaudreau stretched his points streak to six games.

    NOTES: The Sabres joined the Kraken as the second team this season to score nine goals in a game. … Thompson is the second player in Buffalo history to have five goals in a game, joining Dave Andreychuk, who had five goals and an assist on Feb. 6, 1986.

    UP NEXT

    Buffalo: Hosts Pittsburgh on Friday.

    Columbus: Hosts Calgary on Friday.

    Ovechkin, Strome lead Capitals past struggling Flyers 4-1

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    PHILADELPHIA — Alex Ovechkin scored two empty-net goals, Dylan Strome had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Wednesday night.

    T.J. Oshie also scored for the Capitals, who finished 3-3 on a six-game trip. Charlie Lindgren made 29 saves.

    Kevin Hayes scored for Philadelphia, which has lost 13 of 15 games. Carter Hart made 23 stops.

    Strome broke a 1-all tie with 10:41 remaining when he deflected John Carlson‘s shot from long range past Hart.

    Hayes had a golden opportunity to tie it on a Philadelphia power play, but Lindgren made a great right pad save on a try from close range with 8:20 remaining.

    Ovechkin iced it, scoring into an empty net with 1:35 left and adding another empty-netter with 8.2 seconds left for his 15th of the season. Ovechkin has 795 career goals, good for third all-time. He is six goals away from tying Gordie Howe for second place. Wayne Gretzky, with 894 goals, tops the list.

    Hayes scored his ninth goal of the season for his team-leading 28th point with 4:14 left in the first period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Hayes rushed to the bench after breaking his stick on a slap shot attempt, and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot with his new stick.

    The Flyers had a power-play goal for the third straight game and have four overall in that stretch. Philadelphia, which began play ranked 30th in the NHL in scoring on the man advantage, now has converted 16.7% (14 of 84) of its chances.

    Oshie tied it 3:51 into the second on the Capitals’ fourth power play as the Flyers continued to take sloppy penalties. This time, James van Riemsdyk committed Philadelphia’s third tripping minor of the game. Oshie made them pay with his fifth goal of the season when he finished a nifty passing sequence with Strome and Evgeny Kuznetsov with a perfectly placed one-timer over Hart’s left shoulder.

    NOTES: Van Riemsdyk returned after missing the last 20 games due to a broken right index finger. . Flyers forward Tanner Laczynski was placed on injured reserve after departing midway through the third period of Monday’s 5-3 win over Colorado with what looked like an injury to his left leg. . Washington was without several injured players, including starting goalie Darcy Kuemper (upper body). Kuemper was with the team, but missed his second in a row. . Carlson had two assists. . Philadelphia’s Cam Atkinson, out all season with an upper body injury, has been practicing and is close to returning.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: Host Seattle on Friday night.

    Flyers: Open four-game trip at Vegas on Friday night.

    Penguins prospect Sam Poulin taking leave of absence

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    PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins forward prospect Sam Poulin is taking a leave of absence from the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

    Penguins general manager Ron Hextall announced on Wednesday that the 21-year-old Poulin, Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in the 2019 draft, is stepping away due to “personal reasons.”

    “The Penguins support Sam’s decision to take time away from hockey to focus on himself,” Hextall said in a release. “As with all of our players, our priority is them as individuals first. We look forward to having him back with the team when he is ready.”

    Hextall said Poulin will return home to Quebec and continue to work out on his own.

    Poulin made his NHL debut in October and had one assist in three games before heading back to the AHL. Poulin had four goals in 13 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the time of his decision.

    Nathan MacKinnon sidelined about a month with upper-body injury

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    DENVER — The injury-riddled Colorado Avalanche will be without leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon for about a month after he suffered an upper-body injury in a loss to Philadelphia.

    The team announced the news on social media.

    MacKinnon has eight goals and 26 assists for a team-best 34 points this season for the defending Stanley Cup champions. He joins a long list of banged-up players, including Valeri Nichushkin, Evan Rodrigues, Bowen Byram, Kurtis MacDermid, Josh Manson, Darren Helm and captain Gabriel Landeskog. Forward Artturi Lehkonen also missed the game in Philadelphia.

    The 27-year-old MacKinnon signed an eight-year extension in August. He was coming off a postseason in which he tied for the league lead with 13 goals, helping the Avalanche raise their third Stanley Cup in franchise history.