It’s a new and old Pacific Division that the LA Kings are rejoining, so let’s get caught up with their rivals’ offseason moves.
After a year spent in a makeshift West Division, the LA Kings return to their familiar Pacific Division in the 2021-22 season. A lot has changed in the Pacific since we last saw it, though.
The Kings’ long-time Pacific Division foe, the Arizona Coyotes, are gone. They’ve moved to the Central Division to make room in the Pacific for the expansion Seattle Kraken. And the Pacific Division teams in Canada? The Kings didn’t play them at all last year. It’s safe to say those teams will look quite different from when LA last saw them.
NHL offseason moves tend to come in a flurry of action right out of the gate, so maybe you missed some of them. With most of the offseason’s heavy lifting looking like it’s taken care of at this point — though we’re still waiting on those Jack Eichel and Vladimir Tarasenko trades — it seems like a good time to get up to speed with what the Kings’ division rivals have been up to this summer and how different they’re going to look in the upcoming season.
It’s been a very quiet offseason for the Ducks, who look to be in store for another long year as their rebuild continues. They added what they hope will be a big piece of that rebuild when they selected center Mason McTavish with the third-overall pick of the draft. McTavish joins Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale as young players that Anaheim hopes to build a contender around at some point.
Also, long-time captain Ryan Getzlaf opted for comfort and familiarity over chasing a second ring. The veteran center signed a one-year, $3-million contract to return for a 17th season with the team.
The Flames couldn’t find a way to protect their captain in the expansion draft. They allowed the Kraken to pluck 2018-19 Norris Trophy winner Mark Giordano from their roster. Giordano turns 38 in October but is still a quality defenseman and one of the most significant players any team lost in the expansion draft.
After a disappointing season that saw them make a coaching change and miss the playoffs, there was speculation that the Flames may look to shake things up. Perhaps trade a core player like Sean Monahan or Johnny Gaudreau, the latter of whom can become an unrestricted free agent after next season. But both players remain with Calgary as of now. The Flames have instead focused on adding to their team.
Nikita Zadorov was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks to help fill the hole on their blue line created by Giordano’s departure. Meanwhile, Blake Coleman was brought in to help upfront on a six-year, $29.4 million contract. They also added some forward depth in acquiring Tyler Pitlick from the Kraken after Seattle selected him from Arizona in the expansion draft, as well as signing old friend Trevor Lewis, who reunites with Darryl Sutter.
The Oilers have been one of the busier teams of the offseason and have been providing plenty of debate fodder for hockey Twitter. They sent defenseman Caleb Jones to the Blackhawks in a trade for Duncan Keith, a 38-year-old blueliner who’s had a very decorated career but hasn’t looked like the same player in recent years. They also shipped defenseman Ethan Bear to the Carolina Hurricanes for forward Warren Foegele and signed former Toronto Maple Leafs forward Zach Hyman to a seven-year, $38.5-million contract.
That’s not all. They also re-signed forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to an eight-year, $41-million contract, in addition to inking defenseman Darnell Nurse to an eight-year, $74-million extension. It also looks like they’re going to continue riding a 39-year-old Mike Smith in between the pipes, as he was re-signed to a two-year, $4.4-million deal.
San Jose Sharks
In desperate need of a goaltending upgrade, San Jose bought out the final three years of Martin Jones‘ contract and brought back former Shark James Reimer on a two-year, $4.5-million contract. The Sharks also signed veteran forwards Nick Bonino and Andrew Cogliano. Meanwhile, their leading scorer from last season, Evander Kane, has again found himself in the headlines for the wrong reasons. Kane’s future with the team — potentially his future in the league — seems up in the air at this point.
Patrick Marleau remains unsigned but also not yet retired. Would it surprise anyone to see the Sharks bring him back again?
Where to begin? They added a whole team. The biggest names to know on the inaugural Kraken roster include Giordano, Philipp Grubauer, Adam Larsson, Jamie Oleksiak, Jordan Eberle, Jared McCann, Vince Dunn, Yanni Gourde, Calle Jarnkrok, and Joonas Donskoi. They took Kurtis MacDermid from the Kings but flipped him to the Colorado Avalanche for a fourth-round pick. Not many people seem to think this team will be good right away. Of course, we all thought the same about the Vegas Golden Knights.
After enjoying a surprising amount of success in 2019-20, last season was brutal for the Canucks. They finished in last place in a North Division that became a punch line. They’ve certainly been busy this offseason, but are they better?
Their biggest move was sending a package of draft picks — including the ninth-overall pick in July’s draft — and a handful of Jim Benning’s regrettable free-agent signings — Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle, and Antoine Roussel — to the Coyotes for Conor Garland and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Garland, who they signed to a five-year, $24.75-million contract, is a nice addition. But taking on Ekman-Larsson’s contract, even with Arizona retaining 12%, is a bit scary. Vancouver needs to hope a change of scenery can help him play better than he has in recent years.
Benning also bought out another one of his free-agent mistakes — netminder Braden Holtby — and signed Jaroslav Halak to replace him as a veteran backup to Thatcher Demko. And the Ekman-Larsson acquisition wasn’t the only change made on their blue line. Nate Schmidt was traded to the Winnipeg Jets for a third-round pick, and the club parted ways with Alex Edler after 15 seasons together. They also brought Luke Schenn back on a two-year, $1.7-million deal, signed former Jets blueliner Tucker Poolman to a four-year, $10-million contract, and added Brad Hunt on a one-year, $800 K deal. Meanwhile, forward Jason Dickinson was acquired from the Dallas Stars for a third-round pick and signed to a three-year, $7.95-million contract.
Vegas Golden Knights
Marc-Andre Fleury is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, an original Golden Knight, a fan favorite, and the original face of the franchise in Vegas. And he was unceremoniously traded to Chicago for nothing but salary cap relief as they decided to hand the reigns to Robin Lehner. Former Oilers and Jets goaltender Laurent Brossoit signed a two-year, $4.65-million contract to be Lehner’s backup.
They also made an interesting swap of young forwards who seemed like they could use a change of scenery, trading Cody Glass to the Nashville Predators for Nolan Patrick, who Nashville had just acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers. Patrick and Glass were the second and sixth picks, respectively, of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Winger Evgenii Dadonov was acquired from the Ottawa Senators for defenseman Nick Holden. Tomas Nosek departed for the Boston Bruins as a free agent, and enforcer Ryan Reaves was traded to the New York Rangers to help them deal with their Tom Wilson problem, but Mattias Janmark was re-signed to a one-year contract.
And, sigh… Alec Martinez was re-signed to a three-year, $15.75-million deal.