After looking at the Atlantic Division and how each team improved during NHL free agency, the second division worth examining in the Eastern Conference is the eight-team Metropolitan Division. This division was less busy than the Atlantic, but the Metropolitan Division has had some interesting moves to note and one might expect more activity from a couple of these teams over the coming days/weeks.
Here’s a rundown of what each team did:
Without a starting goaltender, and projected cap space around $5 million, the Carolina Hurricanes may not be able to afford a big-name UFA splash. If anything, the Canes might need to unload a big name from the deep defensive unit they have in place. That said, the Canes have made several short-term, minor deals. The only deal over a year was a three-year, $6M contract for UFA Jesper Fast.
Will Carolina make a trade to open some cap space? Jake Gardiner is on the block but it’s hard to imagine they’ll be a lineup of teams looking to take on that contract.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets enjoyed the emergence of a solid goaltending duo during the Covid shortened season. In April, the organization ensured the duo would continue as the tandem between the pipes, signing both Joonas Korpisalo (2 years – $2.8M AAV) and Elvis Merzlikins (2 years – $4M AAV) a week apart.
With almost $13M of cap space the Blue Jackets are likely looking for more offensive help up front. Columbus started addressing the offensive situation by trading Josh Anderson to the Montreal Canadiens for Max Domi. Will the Blue Jackets sneak in on a forward like Mike Hoffman or add some veteran depth in Corey Perry?
The NHL seems to be waiting on the Blue Jackets to do something else. They just aren’t sure what that something is yet.
New Jersey Devils
With $18M in cap room one might expect the Devils to make a little more noise soon. To this point, the biggest deal done by the organization was getting two-time Stanley Cup champion Corey Crawford locked up. He and Mackenzie Blackwood should make a solid goaltending tandem for a young Devil’s team in 20/21.
Other than trading a 2020 5th round pick to Columbus for former 2nd overall pick Ryan Murray, the Devils have been pretty quiet. Stay tuned for more action in Jersey!
New York Islanders
The Islanders recently had to move out a good young defender in Devon Toews to give them some cap flexibility. There’s also talk the team is looking to move defenseman Johnny Boychuk.
The Islanders now have nearly $9M of cap space, but still need to find a way to strike deals for RFA’s Matt Barzal and Ryan Pulock – two good young Islander players. Additionally, Islander GM Lou Lamirello has said that the team would also like to bring back trade deadline acquisition, Andy Greene. Giving it the old ‘eyeball test’ – the Islanders may still need cap room to make all three of those players happy.
New York Rangers
So far, the New York Rangers prioritized two important in-house RFA’s by extending goaltender Alexandar Georgiev (2 years – $2.425M AAV) and defenseman Tony DeAngelo (2 years – $4.8M AAV). The Rangers also picked up former 3rd overall selection, Jack Johnson on a 1-year/$1M deal after he was bought out by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Rangers are in good shape moving forward and have over $10M in cap flex to make additional adjustments as they see fit. The Blue Shirts are going to be one of the more exciting offensive teams over the next several NHL seasons.
After Matt Niskanen announced his decision to retire, the Flyers were forced to dip into the market by signing Swedish defenseman Erik Gustaffson (1 year – $3M). The 28-year-old Gustaffson has spent most of his NHL career as a Chicago Blackhawk but finished the 19/20 season in Calgary with the Flames. The Flyers will be hoping Gustaffson can find his game form from the 18/19 season where he posted 17 goals and 43 assists (60) in 79 games for the Blackhawks.
The Flyers also re-signed former 2nd overall pick Nolan Patrick (1 year – $874k) and back up goaltender Brian Elliot (1 year – $1.5M). With just under $5M of cap space the Flyers might be looking to add some additional pieces up front.
The Penguins did most of their heavy lifting prior to the free agency period by extending two-way center Jared McCann to a 2-year deal with a $2.94M AAV. The Penguins also made a clear goaltending decision for the future by signing Tristan Jarry to a three-year contract ($3.5M AAV) in early October. Of course, that meant the Penguins would be looking to move Matt Murray who has now become the starting goaltender in Ottawa for the Senators. The team traded for Kasperi Kapanen and moved out Patric Hornqvist and Nick Bjugstad.
Other than that, the Penguins have made some smaller, short term deals including the addition of Cody Ceci for a year at $1.25M. With just over a $1M in cap space the Penguins will likely stand pat on making any big free agent signings for the time being.
The Washington Capitals have signed three notable UFA’s this offseason and are now ‘spent’ – as in zero cap room. The Capitals first priority was to lock up 2020 trade deadline acquisition Brendan Dillon (4 years – $3.9M AAV) who proved what a nasty piece of work he can be to play against in the defensive zone. On October 9th, the Caps would sign two divisional rival players in Justin Schultz (2 years – $4M AAV), and former New York Ranger icon/goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (1 year – $1.5M). The first Capitals v Rangers game should provide some solid entertainment on the East Coast – or at least a good story line.
Stay tuned to the 2020 NHL Free Agency feature as the Western Conference divisions are up next!
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