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2017 NHL Offseason Analysis: Pacific Division

2017 NHL Offseason Analysis

PACIFIC DIVISION

The Pacific Division has become the more competitive of the two divisions in the Western Conference. With the emergence of young powerhouse teams like Edmonton and Calgary, as well as the persistent efforts of perennial playoff favorites Anaheim and San Jose, it will be very difficult to earn one of the three playoff slots designated for the Pacific Division. Los Angeles has made drastic organizational changes to try to get back in the playoff hunt, and Vancouver will look to bounce back as Henrik and Daniel Sedin enter the final year of their contracts. Arizona made strides in accelerating its rebuild; though playoff contention is unlikely, there’s plenty of skill in the desert.

The most significant change heading into 2017-2018, however, is the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights franchise to the division. This throws a plethora of unknowns into the picture, making the Pacific Division arguably the most interesting division to watch this season. Here is an overview of the offseasons for the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks and Vegas Golden Knights.

2016-2017 Pacific Division Standings

  1. Anaheim Ducks — 105pts
  2. Edmonton Oilers — 103pts
  3. San Jose Sharks — 99pts
  4. Calgary Flames — 94pts
  5. Los Angeles Kings — 86pts (missed playoffs)
  6. Arizona Coyotes — 70pts (missed playoffs)
  7. Vancouver Canucks — 69pts (missed playoffs)

Anaheim Ducks

Pacific Division

Sami Vatanen (left), Cam Fowler (right); Photo credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

2016-2017 By the Numbers

Overall Record: 46-23-13-105
Playoff Result: Eliminated in Conference Finals by Nashville (4-2 NSH)
Standings: Pacific Division: 1, Western Conference: 3, League: 6
Goals For: 220 (NHL rank: 18)
Goals Against: 197 (NHL rank: 28)
Power Play Percentage: 18.7 percent (NHL rank: 17)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 84.7 percent (NHL rank: 4)
Leading Scorer: Ryan Getzlaf (15-58–73)
 

Summary of 2016-2017 Season Results

The Ducks won the Pacific Division for the fifth year in a row despite a valiant effort by the Edmonton Oilers that brought the race down to the wire. After sweeping Calgary in the first round, Anaheim ran into the pesky Oilers once again. The Ducks won the series in seven games, but it wasn’t without controversy. There were extremely questionable calls made in games four and five, both overtime losses for the Oilers. The Game 5 call was one of the most controversial goals of the season as many contested that Ryan Kesler held Cam Talbot’s pad in the crease for several seconds, preventing him from making a save. The referees allowed the goal despite video evidence showing goalie interference. In the end, the Ducks got the calls and got the wins, setting up a third-round meeting with Nashville. Ultimately, Anaheim lost in six games. But despite the disappointing finish, there are positive things to take away from the season.

The play of 24-year-old Rickard Rakell was impressive, as he led the team in goals with 33, including 10 game-winning goals. His production was especially beneficial since Corey Perry had a miserable year, scoring just 14 goals through the first 73 games of the season and finishing with 19 total.

The most significant takeaway from the season, however, is that Anaheim finally beat the game-seven curse that has plagued the organization for years. The Ducks were able to win a game seven for the first time since the 2005-2006 season, a season in which the team was called the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Even though the Ducks failed to reach the Stanley Cup Final, the game seven victory against Edmonton should not be taken lightly.
 

Most Significant Offseason Moves

Expansion Draft Deal

Pacific Division

Shea Theodore; Photo credit: Fred Kfoury III-Icon Sportswire

Anaheim was faced with a sticky situation, like other teams, heading into the Vegas Expansion Draft. With five key forwards (Ryan Getzlaf, Perry, Kesler, Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg) and four key defensemen (Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Josh Manson) to protect, some type of Deal had to be arranged in order to keep all those assets in Anaheim. This was especially true since only two of the four defensemen could be protected given Kevin Bieksa’s no-movement clause. General manager Bob Murray made such a deal, but at a cost. He was forced to part with talented young defenseman Shea Theodore, but doing so allowed the Ducks to retain Silfverberg, Vatanen and Manson. Those are three key players that will be crucial to this team’s success moving forward. Though a very valuable asset was lost in Theodore, who is primed to be a solid NHL defenseman, the retention of those players outweighed the negative consequences. Murray did what he had to do to protect this team. Plus, the deal led to Vegas using its expansion draft pick to take Clayton Stoner off Murray’s hands and off Anaheim’s books; losing his $3.25 million Cap Hit is a huge plus, especially for a budget team.
 

Keep Cam and Carry On

Pacific Division

Cam Fowler; Photo via nhl.com

It was practically a foregone conclusion that Cam Fowler was going to be dealt from the Anaheim Ducks as last season got underway. He had been on the trading block and was the subject of endless speculation. However, his 2016-2017 performance was so strong and so convincing that he was named an All-Star, remained with the team for the duration of the season, earned a protection slot in the expansion draft and solidified a place in the Ducks lineup for the next nine years. Considering his status in October, Fowler’s recent eight-year, $52 million extension is quite impressive and well-deserved after his statement campaign this past year. His statline of 11 goals and 39 points in 80 games only says so much. It was his production, his increased aggressiveness offensively (he averaged 2.33 shots per game compared to his previous high of 1.64) and his overall play that made his season exceptional. He left Anaheim no choice but to commit to him, and he will be a part of the core of this team for many years.

It’s a great deal for the Ducks, too. A $6.5 million cap hit for a 25-year-old all-around defenseman is reasonable in today’s age, especially considering comparable contracts handed out around the league. Fowler still has one year remaining on his current deal at a $4 million cap hit, meaning he is signed for the next nine seasons. Clearly, Murray and the Ducks believe in Fowler, and for good reason. Locking him up long-term is a great move for the organization.
 

Extending Eaves

Pacific Division

Patrick Eaves; Photo credit: Jae C. Hong-AP Photo

The Ducks acquired Patrick Eaves prior to last season’s trade deadline, and he fit in immediately. The rugged winger is coming off a career-high 32-goal season (21 with Dallas and 11 in 20 games with Anaheim). He found instant chemistry with top-line center Ryan Getzlaf, chipping in 11 goals and 14 points in the final 20 games of the regular season. He added four points in seven postseason games before going down with an injury in the second round.

Somehow, Murray was able to re-sign Eaves to a three-year deal that carries just a $3.15 million cap hit. Eaves, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, wanted to remain with the Ducks, which explains the lower cap hit. Nevertheless, it’s an outstanding deal for Anaheim. Acquiring a top-six winger for a conditional draft pick (even if it turned into a first-round pick) is an excellent move, but signing a solid top-six player capable of playing top-line minutes for around $3 million a year is an absolute steal. There’s no doubt Eaves would have commanded more on the open market, especially after the 32-goal campaign, but it’s clear he enjoyed being part of this club and believes in the team’s chances moving forward. If Eaves can remain healthy, he can be a lethal force for this Ducks team throughout the season and into the playoffs.
 

In the Crease

Pacific Division

Ryan Miller; Photo credit: Jeff Vinnick-Getty Images

The Ducks were forced to rely on backup netminder Jonathan Bernier last season as starter John Gibson missed time with various injuries. Bernier finished the year 21-7-4 with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage. However, he posted a .940 save percentage in the month of March after Gibson went down with yet another lower-body injury. Bernier signed a one-year deal with Colorado, though, leaving the backup role vacant.

Luckily for Anaheim, Murray had a backup plan: Ryan Miller.

The deal itself is very reasonable; two years at a $2 million cap hit is excellent value and less than half as much as Bernier’s $4.15 million cap hit. He and Gibson will count for a combined $4.3 million against the cap this season.

Plus, Miller’s not your average backup; he has a lot left in the tank. He may be 37, and he may not be the player he was years ago in Buffalo, but he is far from done. Miller managed a .914 save percentage behind one of the worst teams last year in Vancouver; imagine what he can do behind one of the best blue lines in the entire league.

Also, it has been reported that he has changed his offseason training program and overall style of play to help minimize stress on critical areas prone to injury. Imparting some of this knowledge on 24-year-old Gibson could be very beneficial to the Ducks down the line, especially considering how many injuries Gibson has suffered in his short NHL career.

All in all, this could be considered the Ducks’ best move of the offseason. Is there risk in bringing in a 37-year-old netminder? Sure. But this could be a huge win-win for a Ducks team used to having strong goaltending throughout the year.
 

Main Offseason Transactions

  • Buyout (June 17): D Simon Despres–$2.44 million cap savings in 2017-2018
  • Trade (June 21): D Shea Theodore to Vegas to not select D Sami Vatanen or D Josh Manson in expansion draft
  • Re-Sign (June 23): F Patrick Eaves to 3-year deal with AAV of $3.15 million
  • Re-Sign (June 25): D Korbinian Holzer to 2-year deal with AAV of $900,000
  • Re-Sign (July 1): D Cam Fowler to 8-year deal with AAV of $6.5 million
  • FA Signing (July 1): G Ryan Miller to 2-year deal with AAV of $2 million
  • FA Signing (July 7): F Dennis Rasmussen to 1-year contract at $725,000
  • FA Signing (Aug. 21): D Francois Beauchemin to 1-year contract at $1 million

Key Player Movement

OUT

D Simon Despres
D Shea Theodore
G Jonathan Bernier
D Clayton Stoner (expansion)
F Michael Sgarbossa
F Emerson Etem

IN

G Ryan Miller
D Francois Beauchemin
F Dennis Rasmussen
G Reto Berra
 

Final Thoughts

Anaheim has had a strong offseason without having to make many changes. With great contributions from players like Rakell and Silfverberg, Anaheim found a lot of success throughout last season and will look to do so again when the puck drops in October. This roster featured nine players with more than 10 goals last year; balanced offense like that does wonders throughout a long 82-game campaign, and the team’s youth is expected to make further progress this year.

Fowler’s extension and the re-signing of Eaves were both excellent moves, and signing Miller to backstop one of the best defenses in the game was a savvy decision by Murray. Bringing Francois Beauchemin back into the fold gives this back end even more stability. Though losing Theodore for expansion purposes was a very tough blow, this Anaheim defense is one of the best and brightest in the league, with five defensemen under the age of 26.

There’s a lot to like about this Anaheim team headed into next season. Getzlaf and Kesler provide an intimidating 1-2 punch up the middle, and Perry is bound to rebound this year after maintaining just an 8.8 percent shooting percentage, tied for the lowest in his career. Plus, the fact that the team finally broke through and won a game seven is a very good sign for the future. Since most of last year’s roster will return for the 2017-2018 campaign, Anaheim should make the playoffs with relative ease once again.
 
 

Arizona Coyotes

Pacific Division

Derek Stepan; Photo credit: Elsa-Getty Images

2016-2017 By the Numbers

Overall Record: 30-42-10-70
Playoff Result: Did not make playoffs
Standings: Pacific Division: 6, Western Conference: 12, League: 28
Goals For: 191 (NHL rank: 27)
Goals Against: 258 (NHL rank: 3)
Power Play Percentage: 16.2 percent (NHL rank: 26)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 77.3 percent (NHL rank: 27)
Leading Scorer: Radim Vrbata (20-35–55)
 

Summary of 2016-2017 Season Results

Not much was expected of the Arizona Coyotes, and the team didn’t disappoint, finishing sixth in the division, 12th in the conference and 28th in the league. Considering it was a year for a lot of young players to get their feet wet, the end result isn’t too concerning. Though some failed to meet expectations, the organization and its fanbase are hopeful that this year will bring a stronger collective effort from a team stacked with young talent and promise.

One thing that will have to improve, however, is the play of star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who had arguably the worst season of his career last year. For one thing, his production was down. Even though he finished second on the team in points, he had a down year with only 12 goals and 39 points. He put up 15-plus goals in each of the last three seasons, scoring 21 and 23 in 2015-2016 and 2014-2015, respectively, as well as 43-plus points in each of the past three seasons. It was an especially disappointing drop considering he put up a career-high 55 points in 2015-2016. His success on the power play also took a hit as he registered 19 points after 27 the year before. But it was more than just his production that left a lot to be desired. He turned the puck over uncharacteristically and did so far too often, he finished with a team-worst minus-25 rating and he got caught trying to do too much on too many occasions. The good news, however, is now that his general manager has brought in some veteran talent to help him out, he and his team could be set for a more spirited campaign.
 

Most Significant Offseason Moves

After losing the contracts of Chris Pronger and Pavel Datsyuk, both acquired to help the team reach the cap floor, some could have assumed the team would go and spend big on free agents. Instead, general manager John Chayka made a series of trades and otherwise stayed the course. Part of his offseason process involved ending ties with 40-year-old captain Shane Doan after 20 years with the organization. This was a clear sign that the team is in full rebuild mode, giving the reins to the young guns in the system. However, a series of trades brought in some key veteran pieces that will nurture this group of young players as well as stabilize all three components of the lineup: offense, defense and goaltending. Here’s an overview of Chayka’s actions.

Broadway Benefits

Pacific Division

Derek Stepan; Photo credit: Julie Jacobson-AP Photo

In a bold draft day deal, Arizona acquired center Derek Stepan and goaltender Antti Raanta from the Rangers in exchange for defenseman Anthony DeAngelo and a 2017 first-round pick (seventh overall). This was an excellent move for the Coyotes.

Though Stepan never amounted to a true first-line center in New York, he is arguably the best center this team has had in years. At the very least, he can bridge the gap until some of Arizona’s superstar prospects are ready to take over. This team was in desperate need of at least one top-six center, and 27-year-old Stepan could be the perfect match. He will provide consistent scoring to a team that has been anything but consistent. In fact, Stepan has recorded 53-plus points in each of the past four years and 44-plus points in all seven seasons of his NHL career. He has averaged 18 goals per season, but his playmaking ability will be a great asset to a team brimming with promising wingers.

Stepan wore the “A” in New York and could very well carry that letter to Arizona. His leadership and experience, which includes 92 postseason games, will be greatly beneficial on and off the ice. Plus, his $6.5 million cap hit will go a long way towards helping this team reach the cap floor of $55.4 million.

Perhaps the best part of this trade is that Chayka didn’t have to give up much. The team loses DeAngelo, who scored 14 points in 39 games and had some good stretches. However, he has a history of being temperamental and remains unproven at the NHL level, putting the risk of the deal on the Rangers.

The acquisition of Raanta is explored below in the “Changes in the Crease” section.
 

Swedish Stability

Pacific Division

Niklas Hjalmarsson; Photo credit: Brian Cassella-Chicago Tribune

On the same day, Chayka made another significant upgrade by acquiring veteran defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson from the Chicago Blackhawks. Chayka parted with defenseman Connor Murphy and prospect Laurent Dauphin but added a gem of a defenseman.

Hjalmarsson is one of the most underrated defensemen in the National Hockey League. He has spent his entire 10-year career in Chicago, playing a key role in each of the team’s three Stanley Cup victories. The move was shocking considering how important he has been in Chicago, but Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman wanted cap stability and therefore opted for the younger Murphy, who is signed for an extra three seasons.

Arizona gets an outstanding veteran defenseman with considerable experience and tremendous success. The change of scenery will be shocking for the 30-year-old rearguard, but he could be an enormous factor in this team’s success, especially considering how much his presence will help Ekman-Larsson. He may not play with Ekman-Larsson since he primarily plays on the right side, but Hjalmarsson will eat up a ton of minutes and will take the tough assignments, as he has done throughout his career. This deal upgrades Arizona’s back line substantially, and this move could prove to be the team’s best of the offseason.
 

Changes in the Crease

Pacific Division

Antti Raanta; Photo credit: Elsa-Getty Images

Heading into the expansion draft, the Coyotes had to choose between goaltenders Mike Smith and Louis Domingue. Though Smith currently is the better of the two goalies, Chayka decided to protect 25-year-old Domingue and send Smith to Calgary. Knowing Domingue is not ready to be a starter, Chayka was gambling that he’d be able to replace Smith this offseason. However, it appears as though Chayka was fairly confident he’d have someone for the job.

That is because a deal with the Rangers reportedly was in the works prior to the expansion draft. It was rumored that Chayka insisted on Raanta’s inclusion in that deal, which must have made moving Smith more palatable.

In any case, the Coyotes enter the 2017-2018 season with Raanta, who will have a crack at being a starting goalie for the first time in his career.

Raanta has had a string of successful seasons as a backup goalie for the Blackhawks and Rangers, playing very well in place of Corey Crawford and Henrik Lundqvist, respectively. He posted a 2.26 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in 26 starts last year with the Rangers and has averaged a 2.32 GAA and .917 SV% in his four-year career. He is signed for one more year on a deal that carries just a $1 million cap hit, so this season will be his tryout.

Raanta has extensive playoff experience and has learned from some of the best goalies in the NHL. The 28-year-old is eager to impress, though he will have his work cut out for him. He’s grateful to have his chance to prove himself, and all signs point to him taking full advantage of that opportunity.
 

Main Offseason Transactions

  • Trade (June 16): F Brendan Warren and 5th-round pick to Philadelphia for F Nick Cousins and G Merrick Madsen
  • Trade (June 17): G Mike Smith (25% salary retained) to Calgary for rights to G Chad Johnson, rights to D Brandon Hickey and conditional 3rd-round pick (becomes a 2nd if Flames make playoffs)
  • Trade (June 23): D Connor Murphy and F Laurent Dauphin to Chicago for D Niklas Hjalmarsson
  • Trade (June 23): D Anthony DeAngelo and 2017 1st-round pick (7) to New York Rangers for F Derek Stepan and G Antti Raanta
  • FA Signing (July 1): D Adam Clendening to 1-year contract at $650,000
  • Re-Sign (July 1): F Nick Cousins to 2-year deal with AAV of $1 million
  • FA Signing (July 4): F Michael Latta to 1-year contract at $650,000
  • FA Signing (July 5): F Emerson Etem to 1-year contract at $850,000
  • Re-Sign (July 21): F Tyler Gaudet to 1-year contract at $650,000

Key Player Movement

OUT

F Shane Doan
F Radim Vrbata
G Mike Smith
F Martin Hanzal
D Anthony DeAngelo
D Connor Murphy
F Alexander Burmistrov
F Laurent Dauphin
F Teemu Pulkkinen (expansion)
D Michael Stone

IN

F Derek Stepan
G Antti Raanta
D Niklas Hjalmarsson
F Nick Cousins
D Adam Clendening
 

Final Thoughts

In addition to parting ways with Doan, Arizona also will move on without head coach Dave Tippett after eight years with the organization. Rick Tocchet will take over as bench boss after serving as assistant coach for the back-to-back Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

A lot of these moves point to a total rebirth in Arizona, part of which has been encouraged by now sole owner of the team Andrew Barroway. He believes Arizona can be a premier NHL destination and is structuring the rebuild with that in mind.

The Coyotes are prepared to let the kids play this season. This should be the youngest or one of the youngest rosters in the NHL, but that’s by design. Players like Stepan, Hjalmarsson and Raanta will help steer the ship, and their contributions and presence should make life easier for the rest of the team. Ekman-Larsson, Max Domi and Tobias Rieder are three players set for bounce-back seasons, and there’s nowhere to go but up for Jamie McGinn, who tallied just 17 points last year. Highly-touted prospect Dylan Strome finally could be given his chance now that he is another year older. Jakob Chychrun will have a chance to continue to develop into the stud defenseman he’s projected to be, and underestimated Nick Cousins can prove his worth after getting dealt by Philadelphia. The only player the team has yet to re-sign is Anthony Duclair, who has been the subject of trade rumors. Regardless of what happens with Duclair, there is more than plenty of young talent on the roster and in the system. No one expects Arizona to reach the postseason this year, though a legitimate uptick in points is not out of the question. One way or another, teams will have to pay more attention to the Coyotes moving forward.
 
 

Calgary Flames

Pacific Division

Travis Hamonic (left), Brad Treliving (center), Mike Smith (right); Photo credit: Jeff McIntosh-Canadian Press

2016-2017 By the Numbers

Overall Record: 45-33-4-94
Playoff Result: Eliminated in Conference Quarter-Finals by Anaheim (4-0 ANA)
Standings: Pacific Division: 4, Western Conference: 7, League: 15
Goals For: 222 (NHL rank: 17)
Goals Against: 219 (NHL rank: 17)
Power Play Percentage: 20.2 percent (NHL rank: 10)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 81.6 percent (NHL rank: 12)
Leading Scorer: Johnny Gaudreau (18-43–61)
 

Summary of 2016-2017 Season Results

The Calgary Flames had an up-and-down year but ultimately landed back in the playoffs, albeit for a brief stint. There were some growing pains with new head coach Glen Gulutzan. However, he made them a stronger even-strength team, and his back was against the wall with inconsistent and sometimes atrocious goaltending throughout the year. The Flames made too many costly mistakes in the first-round series against Anaheim, a sweep, but showed a lot of character during the regular season. There were some puzzling personnel and usage decisions, but Gulutzan also got a lot out of certain players. Most notably, Mikael Backlund had a phenomenal year, excelling in all areas of the game. Backlund had legitimate linemates and was given a chance to play an important role in many situations, for which Gulutzan deserves a lot of credit. Most of the team struggled to start the year, but when things picked up, guys like Sean Monahan took off. He scored 36 points in the last 40 games of the regular season and put up four goals in four postseason games. Matthew Tkachuk had an excellent rookie campaign and exceeded all expectations. Though the Troy Brouwer contract seems to be a disaster and Johnny Gaudreau had an “off” year, including just two assists in the playoffs, the season as a whole leaves plenty of room for optimism.

General manager Brad Treliving took that optimism and multiplied it, having one of the better offseasons of any team in the NHL. Here’s an overview of what Calgary has done.
 

Most Significant Offseason Moves

Trade for Travis

Pacific Division

Travis Hamonic; Photo credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders were the only team to protect five defensemen in the expansion draft, but general manager Garth Snow felt he had no choice in the matter given the quality of defensive depth in New York. That level of depth makes players expendable, which ultimately is what happened to arguably the Islanders’ best defenseman, Travis Hamonic.

Though Treliving had to give an arm and a leg to get him, acquiring Hamonic was a momentous move.

Hamonic is not coming off his best season; in fact, he finished with a career-low minus-21 rating. But he struggled with injuries and played in just 49 games. He is an excellent defenseman and can be a shutdown guy or a two-way option. He adds incredible skill and ability to an already-impressive defense, and he could make a massive difference for this team.

The negative aspect of the deal is the fact that Treliving had to give up quite a lot to land him. Specifically, Calgary moved the team’s 2018 first- and second-round picks as well as a 2019 conditional second-round pick. This may seem like a lot for a defenseman without much flash to his game. However, Hamonic is underrated, if anything, and is entering his prime at 27 years of age. Snow took advantage of the market since there was high demand for a player of Hamonic’s caliber. But for a team with plenty of talent in the organization, losing those picks is worth it if you are receiving high value in return, and Treliving and the Flames received immense value in Hamonic.
 

Goalie Carousel

After a season of often disastrous goaltending, it was clear a change in net was needed. Brian Elliott struggled out of the gate but then turned things around in the second half of the season. Unfortunately, his playoff performance was a big factor in the Flames’ elimination, so his one-year test run was a failure. Chad Johnson wasn’t much better and was inconsistent throughout the year.

In order to address the matter, the Flames got rid of both Elliott and Johnson and brought in two new goalies via trade: Mike Smith and Eddie Lack.

Pacific Division

Mike Smith; Photo credit: Christian Petersen-Getty Images

Smith, 35, was acquired from Arizona after playing six seasons in the desert. He finished last season with a 2.92 goals-against average and .914 save percentage; however, the Coyotes finished 28th in the standings, and Smith was the team’s MVP for much of the year. Calgary has one of the best groups of defensemen in the league. That is something Smith is not used to but will welcome with open arms.

Smith battled in his time in Arizona and was often unconscionably good. Despite his age and past inconsistency, Smith makes sense in the short term for a team looking to contend while also developing young talent.

Pacific Division

Eddie Lack; Photo credit: Patrick Smith-Getty Images

Like Smith, Lack will benefit tremendously from playing behind such a strong defense in Calgary. He has averaged a 2.56 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in four NHL seasons but has the potential to develop into a starting goalie. Perhaps giving him a few years with Smith is just what he needs to get there.

Whether or not these moves are solutions remains to be seen, but Smith should find success given the upgrade of talent in front of him.
 

Foo Coup

Pacific Division

Spencer Foo; Photo courtesy of Union Athletics

Spencer Foo was the hottest free-agent NCAA player on the market after an impressive junior-year season at Union College. He scored 26 goals and 62 points in just 38 games and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award as best collegiate player. Impressively, Foo set a program record with a 21-game point streak. It was believed that the 23-year-old Edmonton native would sign with the Red Wings just days before his official decision was announced. However, luckily for the Flames, Foo chose Calgary.

Landing him was quite a coup.

Aside from being the most sought-after collegiate player of the offseason, Foo plays right wing and therefore can provide an offensive boost in an area of need. It’s likely he’ll crack the opening-night roster, as that must have been a guarantee ahead of the signing. There’s a chance he could slot in next to Gaudreau and Monahan; if not, perhaps he could help Sam Bennett get his game going, which would be huge for the Flames.

Either way, this signing is a steal for the Flames, especially considering the Alberta rival Edmonton Oilers were on Foo’s short list at the end. Somehow, Treliving pulled this off, and it could prove to be quite significant throughout the season.
 

Other Transactions

Keeping Kris
Pacific Division

Kris Versteeg; Photo credit: Derek Leung-Getty Images

In addition to the above deals, Treliving made several additional moves to improve the Flames this offseason. The first was to re-sign forward Kris Versteeg, who signed with the team one day before the start of last season after attending the Oilers’ training camp. That proved to be a very important move, so one can only assume it was a priority to get him re-signed. Treliving took care of the matter by signing Versteeg to a one-year extension with a $1.75 million cap hit. He also signed Micheal Ferland to a 2-year extension at the same cap hit.

Bouma Buyout
Pacific Division

Lance Bouma; Photo credit: Al Charest-Calgary Sun

Treliving also decided to part ways with forward Lance Bouma, whom he bought out. Bouma was signed to a terrible three-year, $6.6 million contract in 2015 but had scored a combined 14 points in 105 games since signing. The buyout gives the Flames $1.53 million in cap savings this year, but more importantly it clears a spot for one of the young players to step in and assume. Plus, it gets Bouma out of the lineup, which is a good thing.

Signing Stone
Pacific Division

Michael Stone; Photo credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Lastly, Treliving re-signed Michael Stone to a three-year deal with a cap hit of $3.5 million. While Stone has had some strong stretches in his career, he was not impressive as a Flame last season. Once the Flames acquired Hamonic, most expected Treliving to let Stone walk. The fact that he didn’t shows that he believes the Flames are all in and ready to truly contend in the playoffs. Though Brett Kulak could be a strong fifth/sixth defenseman for this team, Treliving is ensuring that the team has plenty of depth on defense. The only issue is that if Kulak gets called up in case of an injury, he’d have to clear waivers before being sent down; that’s a risk Calgary cannot afford to take.
 

Main Offseason Transactions

  • Trade (June 17): Rights to G Chad Johnson, rights to D Brandon Hickey, conditional 3rd-round pick (becomes 2nd if Flames make the playoffs) to Arizona for G Mike Smith (25% salary retained)
  • Trade (June 24): 2018 1st-round pick, 2018 2nd-round pick and 2019 conditional 2nd-round pick to New York Islanders for D Travis Hamonic and 2019 conditional 4th-round pick
  • FA Signing (June 27): F Spencer Foo to 2-year ELC with AAV of $925,000
  • Re-Sign (June 29): F Kris Versteeg to 1-year contract at $1.75 million
  • Trade (June 29): D Keegan Kanzig and 2019 6th-round pick to Carolina for G Eddie Lack (50% salary retained), D Ryan Murphy and 2019 7th-round pick
  • Re-Sign (June 30): D Michael Stone to 3-year deal with AAV of $3.5 million
  • Buyout (June 30): D Ryan Murphy – $687,500 cap savings in 2017-2018
  • Buyout (June 30): F Lance Bouma – $1.53 million cap savings in 2017-2018
  • Re-Sign (July 13): F Michael Ferland to 2-year deal with AAV of $1.75 million
  • Re-Sign (July 14): F Curtis Lazar to 2-year deal with AAV of $950,000

Key Player Movement

OUT

G Brian Elliott
G Chad Johnson
D Dennis Wideman
D Deryk Engelland (expansion)
F Alex Chiasson
F Lance Bouma

IN

G Mike Smith
D Travis Hamonic
F Spencer Foo
 

Final Thoughts

All in all, the Flames have had an impressive offseason. If nothing else, Calgary has been aggressive, which is an encouraging sign. Getting rid of Brouwer’s contract would have gone a long way, but Treliving did a nice job solidifying the blue line, addressing the goaltending and bringing in an exciting option on offense in Foo. Re-signing Ferland and Versteeg to team-friendly contracts shores up a competitive top-nine, with Gaudreau, Monahan, Ferland, Michael Frolik, Backlund, Tkachuk, Versteeg, Foo, etc. all vying for spots. Bennett remains a restricted free agent but should be re-signed to a modest contract before the start of the season.

There are some question marks surrounding Smith, but considering the team has had six main goaltenders in the last two seasons (Elliott, Johnson, Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller, Joni Ortio and Niklas Backstrom), Smith and Lack could provide the stabilization this team needs. Smith has two years remaining on his contract at a $4.25 million cap hit after Arizona retained 25 percent of it in the trade. Two years of a veteran goalie who battles, can be lights-out and is fighting for his last chance at a Cup could help this team become a legitimate playoff threat. Plus, he will have plenty of support behind one of the best groups of defensemen in the league in Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, T.J. Brodie and now Hamonic, with Stone and Matt Bartkowski or Kulak as the third pairing.

Treliving believes the combination of the moves he has made and the talent already established throughout the lineup will take this team to new heights this season. Though the Pacific Division will be one of the most competitive in the league, Calgary has positioned itself for a very successful year.
 
 

Edmonton Oilers

Pacific Division

Connor McDavid (left), Leon Draisaitl (right); Photo credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

2016-2017 By the Numbers

Overall Record: 47-26-9-103
Playoff Result: Eliminated in Conference Semi-Finals by Anaheim (4-3 ANA)
Standings: Pacific Division: 2, Western Conference: 4, League: 8
Goals For: 243 (NHL rank: 8)
Goals Against: 207 (NHL rank: 23)
Power Play Percentage: 22.9 percent (NHL rank: 5)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 80.7 percent (NHL rank: 17)
Leading Scorer: Connor McDavid (30-70–100)
 

Summary of 2016-2017 Season Results

The Edmonton Oilers had a season to remember. The team finally put everything together and exceeded all expectations, making the playoffs for the first time in a decade and putting together a dream-come-true year for playoffs-starved fans. The team ended up losing the division by just one point at the very end of the season but advanced to the second round of the playoffs. A few questionable calls stood in the way of the Conference Finals, which shows just how close this team really is to contending for the Cup.

Led by captain Connor McDavid, the Oilers marched through the regular season with poise and confidence, and everything seemed to click. Cam Talbot had a masterful 42-win season but was robbed of a Vezina Trophy nomination due to NHL politics. McDavid won his first Hart Memorial, Art Ross and Ted Lindsay trophies with a 100-point campaign, and Leon Draisaitl was right behind him with a breakout 77-point season of his own. Seven Oilers forwards scored 15 or more goals, including Patrick Maroon’s 27 tallies, and the team’s power play was ranked fifth overall in the league. With a top-10 offense, an upgraded blue line and excellent goaltending, the Oilers were in great shape at the start of last season. Several changes have been made to the roster but the team finds itself in a good position once again. Here’s an overview of what general manager Peter Chiarelli has done this summer.
 

Most Significant Offseason Moves

Ending the Eberle Era

Pacific Division

Jordan Eberle; Photo credit: Andy Devlin-NHLI via Getty Images

For the second straight summer, the Oilers traded a star player to the Metropolitan Division, sending Jordan Eberle to the Islanders in exchange for Ryan Strome.

The Oilers say goodbye to Eberle after seven seasons in Edmonton in which he amassed 165 goals and 382 points in 507 regular-season games. A big impetus for the trade was Eberle’s $6 million cap hit; Strome carries a $2.5 million cap hit this season and will become a restricted free agent at the end of the year. Eberle did not establish strong chemistry with McDavid or Draisaitl and had a miserable playoff performance, recording zero goals and two assists in 13 games. It’s an unfortunate situation for Eberle, who scored 20-plus goals in each of the past six seasons (assuming he was on pace for 27 goals in the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season). Despite his 20 goals and 51 points this past year, however, he has not been the Jordan Eberle from earlier in his career.

Ryan Strome
Pacific Division

Ryan Strome; Photo credit: Mike Stobe-NHLI via Getty Images

In return the Oilers get Strome, who has a great hockey pedigree but has not proven himself at the NHL level. The 24-year-old former fifth-overall pick is coming off a difficult campaign in which he was benched mid-game, scratched and overall inconsistent. He put up 13 goals and 30 points, including eight in the final seven games of the year. He responded well after head coach Jack Capuano was replaced by Doug Weight, but it was too little too late for the Islanders. Strome is an inconsistent and streaky player but has shown flashes of incredible vision, passing and skill. Going from right wing on the top line one night to center on the third line the next, Strome got lost in the picture in New York. However, the move to Edmonton could revitalize his career and get him back to the 50-point player he’s capable of being.

Trade Analysis

Eberle is a better player than Strome. By that standard, the Islanders won this trade. However, something was not right with Eberle in Edmonton. He couldn’t be a lethal scoring threat playing with McDavid or Draisaitl and was unable to capitalize on scoring chances or use his skill the way he had done so easily throughout his career.

However, Strome may not play to his full potential either. He hit the 50-point mark in the 2014-2015 season and recorded 19 points in 37 games in 2013-2014 but has otherwise produced 30 and 28 points in the past two years, respectively. Someone like Brock Nelson, also on a one-year, $2.5 million deal, would have been a significantly better asset for Chiarelli to acquire, though it’s unlikely the Islanders would have been willing to part with him. While it’s a big loss for the Oilers given what Eberle has done for this franchise, his playoff performance more than anything sealed the deal. Everyone knew it was coming, and Chiarelli got a strong player on a cheaper contract that expires at the end of this year in return. But when all is said and done, the Islanders won this trade.
 

The Big 2

Pacific Division

Leon Draisaitl (left), Connor McDavid (right); Photo credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

The two best players on the Oilers are Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. McDavid had one year remaining on his entry-level contract but both the Oilers and McDavid’s camp wanted to negotiate a new deal this summer to avoid potential distraction during the year. Plus, there was no question about whether McDavid wanted to remain an Oiler and whether the Oilers wanted to retain the player who likely will become the best player in the NHL. Draisaitl, on the other hand, was a restricted free agent in need of a new contract after signing an entry-level deal in 2014.

Captain Connor
Pacific Division

Connor McDavid; Photo credit: Andy Devlin-NHLI via Getty Images

It was McDavid that signed first, agreeing to an eight-year, $100 million extension. The contract carries a $12.5 million cap hit, giving him the highest cap hit in the NHL. McDavid could have gotten even more on his deal but decided to leave some money on the table in order to help pay for Draisaitl’s contract and to leave some money for the team’s cap needs in the future. This was an admirable move by the young captain, though it will be difficult for Edmonton to manage the cap no matter what.

It makes complete sense to give McDavid a massive contract. After all, he led the league in points this season with 100 and is only at the start of his career. He is considered by most to be the best player this league has seen since Sidney Crosby, so locking him up long-term is a natural priority for the Oilers organization. The contract is very rich, regardless of whether McDavid left money on the table. It’s a big cap hit, which makes building a strong team around him more difficult. That being said, Chiarelli had to pay him, and it’s better to get it done sooner rather than later. McDavid is locked up for the next nine years, which is the most productive thing the Oilers could have done.

Draisaitl Deal
Pacific Division

Leon Draisaitl; Photo credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Draisaitl signed an eight-year, $68 million extension, which carries an $8.5 million cap hit. This is a reasonable contract given Draisa



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2017 NHL Offseason Analysis: Pacific Division

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