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Best moves made in the Metropolitan Division

September 3, 2019, 6:55 PM ET [9 Comments]
Ty Anderson
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There's not much that hasn't been covered by HockeyBuzz this summer.

I mean, Ryan Wilson and Mike Augello are highlighting players I absolutely forgot existed or am still unsure exist. Jared McCann? Please. That's a MLB catcher. He played for the Braves. You're not fooling me, Gunner. And I'm almost certain the prospects Augello's been listing on his countdown are people he's invented to trick us into talking about the Maple Leafs AS ALWAYS.

But in the dog days of August and early September, it's been a whole lotta just catching up on what you may have missed during the draft weekend and free agent frenzy.

Here are what I'd consider the best moves (and non-moves alike) made in the Metro Division.

CAROLINA: Matching Sebastian Aho’s offer sheet from the Canadiens

This is an easy one. Stupidly easy, actually. Honestly, I should probably credit this move to the Canadiens. After all, they’re the ones who signed Aho to that offer sheet and allowed the ‘Canes to keep Aho for less than $8.5 million for the next five years. I’m not even kidding you: There’s a one billion percent chance that the Hurricanes caught word of that offer sheet and then died laughing upon realizing that they were not going to have to pay Aho north of $9 million for the next six years.

Now, the Hurricanes as a whole remain a complete mystery.

Rod Brind’Amour seems like somebody everybody in that room wants to fight for, there’s some youthful energy and promise within that room. How they handle the ups and downs of NHL life without Justin Williams, who is stepping away from hockey for at least a year, is a total unknown. But the biggest question for the Hurricanes seems to be anywhere besides the ice. Nobody’s quite sure what still-somewhat-new owner Tom Dundon plans on doing with this team. Some within hockey still wonder and/or question how determined he is to truly build a winner (financially, anyway) in Raleigh.

But locking down Aho, and passing the first test of a team testing his financial commitment, is by all means the best thing that could have happened to Carolina this summer.

COLUMBUS: Signing winger Gustav Nyquist

Losing Artemi Panarin was quite a kick in the junk for the Blue Jackets. Nobody can dispute that.

But the Blue Jackets can and should hang their hats on not making desperate (read as: dumb) attempts to replace Panarin with overpayments and three shiny nickels for a quarter kind of logic. In fact, the only high-risk signing the Jackets made this summer was for 30-year-old winger Gustav Nyquist. It’s a deal that the Jackets should be happy about adding to their books, too.

On a new four-year, $22 million contract, Nyquist comes to the CBJ after 22 goals and 60 points in 81 games between the Red Wings and Sharks last season. But did you know that Nyquist was an even-strength assassin last year, with 48 of his 60 points coming at even-strength? That was good for the 48th-highest mark among NHL forwards last year, tying him with players such as Jakub Voracek and Gabriel Landeskog, and putting him ahead of talents such as Ryan Johansen and Phil Kessel.

The Blue Jackets may have lost a player that factored in on over half of their total power-play production a year ago in Panarin, the even-strength boost from Nyquist should be noticeable.

NEW JERSEY: Taking a one-year gamble on Wayne Simmonds

A lot is being made about the Devils and what they could be this season. I mean, how could you not talk about a team that added No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes and Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban? Some have even mentioned that Jersey will be a definite threat for a postseason spot this year. That’s what makes their one-year, $5 million gamble on Wayne Simmonds an absolute win for their front office. See, the Devils are entering this season with postseason hopes. Again, rightfully so.

But in the event that NJ isn’t quite ready, having a motivated Simmonds attempting to avenge last year’s season-long disappointment in Philly (and then Nashville) could see a worthwhile return. Be it in the standings or in a deadline deal from such contender suckered into deadline day prices.

ISLANDERS: Re-signing Jordan Eberle to five-year deal

Not a ton to dissect with the Islanders, really; Lou lost Robin Lehner and replaced him with walking groin injury Semyon Varlamov and added Derrick Brassard as a free agent. Given what some believed would be on the table for the Islanders this summer (Panarin, namely), it seems like a letdown. But one thing the Islanders should be happy about is keeping Jordan Eberle on a new five-year deal.

Sure, Eberle experienced a 22-point dip from 2017-18 to last year, but one thing’s clear: He works with what they’re doing, and I’m not sure that the Islanders’ recent dips into the free agent market have been all that forgiving, making that comfort seem infinitely more appealing.

RANGERS: Trading for Jacob Trouba

You’re probably getting sick of me singing the Rangers’ praises.

And honestly, I don’t blame you. Especially if you got to know me as a Bruins writer first, meaning you probably (most definitely) hate all things Rangers and New York in general, really.

But I’ll say it again: New York’s trade for then-Jets defenseman (and restricted free agent) Jacob Trouba was a trade GMs make 110 times out of 100. Using the pick they acquired from the Jets in exchange for two month of Kevin Hayes (who left the Jets and signed with the Flyers as a free agent), the Rangers essentially acquired Trouba from the Jets in exchange for just so-so d-man Neil Pionk.

This. Is. Absurd.

PHILADELPHIA: Bringing in a new, experienced voice behind the bench

I’m going to be honest: I really didn’t love Philly’s summer. Kevin Hayes might be a fine player, but I don’t know if he’s $7 million per year fine. Ditching Radko Gudas was a smart move (you might as well get something for defense-first players before paying them becomes something that limits your team’s ceiling), but retaining salary to do it and then picking up an even more expensive defenseman with more on-ice problems (Niskanen’s game absolutely tanked last year) seems weird.

So let’s go with this one: The team brought in head coach Alain Vigneault. If Vigneault’s history means anything, this tends to have a positive impact in the first year or two. And if Vigneault is as committed to matchups as he claims, the Flyers should see a big step forward from some of their youngsters.

(It honestly can’t be any worse than Dave Hakstol. That man looked legitimately clueless as to the events transpiring before him throughout his entire run behind the Philadelphia bench.)

PITTSBURGH: Getting what they could out of Phil Kessel

The Penguins knew what they were getting with Phil Kessel. Everybody knew what the Penguins were getting with Phil Kessel, actually. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (Kessel’s bad rap will probably be remembered as one of the stranger things of 21st century professional hockey), but still.

There was absolutely no way that the Penguins were going to be able to continue to ride with the three-headed monster of Kessel, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin. This league and its hard cap has made that (almost) completely impossible, as we’ve all come to learn. But the Penguins can and should take comfort in knowing that they squeezed everything they could out of Kessel The Penguin.

In four years with the Pens, Kessel scored 110 goals and 303 points in 328 games. More importantly, they won back-to-back Stanley Cups, and with Kessel playing at a Conn Smythe level in both runs.

Getting that made the cap headaches worth it for Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, and ditching Kessel but getting Alex Galchenyuk (19 goals and 41 points last year, and under contract for just this season at $4.9 million) out of it seems like Pittsburgh making the best of their situation.

WASHINGTON: Finding a solid bottom-six presence in Richard Panik

The Capitals lost one of the best bottom-six scorers in hockey with the departure of free agent winger Brett Connolly. But they replaced him with a potentially big boost -- and in all situations, too -- with the signing of winger Richard Panik. Not exactly the most imposing offensive threat throughout his run with the Coyotes, the Capitals should take comfort in the fact that Panik was among the coaching staff's more dependable options a year ago, averaging a career-high 16:37 per game. And depending on how they use him, Panik could see his numbers creep back up to the 22-22-44 line he had with the Blackhawks in 2016-17.

Which Metro Division team had the best offseason?
Carolina Hurricanes
Columbus Blue Jackets
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
New York Rangers
Philadelphia Flyers
Pittsburgh Penguins
Washington Capitals

Ty Anderson is a writer, columnist, and weird personality for 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, where he covers all things Boston sports. He has been covering the National Hockey League for HockeyBuzz.com since 2010, and has also been part of the Boston Chapter of the PHWA since 2013. In addition to writing, Ty can occasionally be heard on the air at 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, and seen and/or heard on the NHL Network every now and then. He will not give you his email, so yell at him on Twitter (@_TyAnderson).
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