Sure it’s hot outside, but that can’t melt my enthusiasm for NHL hockey. The off-season has been busy with signings (Patrick Marleau to the Leafs), re-signings (Connor McDavid for 10 years in Edmonton) and new additions to the NHL (I love me some Golden Knights hockey). If you’ve been occupied with the NBA (like me), you may have missed out on some huge shakeups since the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, but never fear, Sportznutt is here to save the day…..errr, something like that. With that in mind, in no particular order, here are the top 3 off-season teams so far:
Dallas Stars: Radulov (W), Hanzal (C) , Methot (D), and Bishop (G) complimented a strong draft to upgrade the back to earth Stars after a miserable sophmore slump from a rebuilding franchise. Here, they get veterans that should give them a presence other veterans like Sharp and Hemsky failed to deliver last year, resulting in their departure. I see them closer to their production from 2 years ago, rather than last season.
New York Rangers: Desharnais (C), Shattenkirk (D), Pavelec (G), give the Rangers much needed depth at positions of need. Shattenkirk is at worst a solid defenseman who can score, and settles in nicely on the PP with McDonagh. Desharnais has some potential, but he, alongside others in Montreal, seemed complacent and lost in the shuffle, so this could be the awakening he needs.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Girardi (D), Kunitz (W), are the key free agent signings that add to their already deep talent pool. What makes it such a good off-season was that they re-signed a ton of their talent to good contracts. One year removed from making it to the Stanley Cup Finals WITHOUT Steve Stamkos, this is a young group of players with talent that breaks through any glass ceiling in front of them. And while they did trade Drouin away for a young defenseman, Sergachev is apparently the real deal. All in all, this under-rated team just got better.
And your bonus pick is……….
Las Vegas Golden Knights: It’s not often that one can say that they like the look of the expansion team’s roster, but, here I say, and dare I say, I do! Fleury and Pickard are two excellent choices for a starter and a backup between the pipes. Defensively, there are no standout names, but the Knights surely did their homework, grabbing young players who will come into their own within a few years (Theodore). Up front, there are some very talented names with proven pasts or decent upsides, such as James Neal, David Perron, Reilly Smith and Cody Eakin. All in all, for a team starting from scratch, they got players (and picks) that could and should elevate their team to relevance.
There has been a lot of movement here in a league that creates change. The Penguins and Capitals lost some pieces and could take a step back, though Pittsburgh is incredibly deep. The Blackhawks seemed to panic and changed a lot on their team, probably when they didn’t need to, so it’ll be interesting to see how they do next year. The Canadiens lost and gained significant pieces, but they need a shakeup and a wakeup. Either way, when the puck drops this fall, I’ll be watching.
And there you have it.