NHL offseason grades: Central Division

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Divisions: Metropolitan | Pacific | Atlantic

With the NHL offseason all but wrapped up, we're handing out comprehensive grades for all 32 teams. The four-part series kicks off with an in-depth look at each club in the Central Division.

Some contract figures are reported. Most players on two-way deals have been omitted.

Arizona Coyotes

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Nick Bjugstad F 1 year $900K
Conor Geekie F 3 years Entry-level deal
Zack Kassian F 2 years $3.2M (trade with EDM)
Josh Brown D 2 years $1.275M
Patrik Nemeth D 2 years $2.5M (trade with NYR)
Troy Stecher D 1 year $1.25M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Alex Galchenyuk F Signed PTO with COL
Dmitrij Jaskin F Signed in Russia
Phil Kessel F Signed with VGK
Antoine Roussel F Signed PTO with PHI
Kyle Capobianco D Signed with WPG
Harri Sateri G Signed in Switzerland

Re-signed

Player Position New contract length AAV
Lawson Crouse F 5 years $4.3M
Christian Fischer F 1 year $1.126M

Unsigned

Player Position Status
Jay Beagle F Unrestricted free agent
Logan Cooley F 3rd overall pick (2022)
Loui Eriksson F UFA
Anton Stralman D UFA

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Dylan Guenther F 9th overall (2021)
Jack McBain F 3rd round (2018)
Nathan Smith F 3rd round (2018)

The Coyotes just keep doing their thing in the desert. One of the biggest changes for the team entering the 2022-23 season will be its residency at a shared 5,000-seat arena at Arizona State, which is bound to garner a ton of attention (there's no such thing as bad publicity, right?).

Arizona's race for last place is going swimmingly. Kessel, who led the club with 44 assists last season, has taken his talents to Sin City. The Coyotes took on some more undesirable contracts, such as two more years of Kassian at a cap hit of $3.2 million. Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz were the team's most productive scorers in 2021-22, and the Coyotes haven't added any powerhouses to their forward group. Their offensive ceiling remains critically low.

Arizona continued to draft well and made three first-round selections in July, including Cooley, who said he hopes to suit up for the Coyotes after his first season at the University of Minnesota. His potential arrival will give fans something to look forward to, but most eyes will be on Jakob Chychrun, who miraculously remains a Coyote. That likely won't be the case for much longer, so time will tell what other assets and picks Arizona can acquire for his services as it embarks on yet another plummet to the basement of the league.

Grade: C+

Chicago Blackhawks

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Andreas Athanasiou F 1 year $3M
Colin Blackwell F 2 years $1.2M
Max Domi F 1 year $3M
Jack Johnson D 1 year $950K
Kevin Korchinski D 3 years Entry-level deal
Petr Mrazek G 2 years $3.8M (trade with TOR)
Alex Stalock G 1 year $750K

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Henrik Borgstrom F Bought out
Brett Connolly F Bought out
Kirby Dach F Traded to MTL
Alex DeBrincat F Traded to OTT
Dominik Kubalik F Signed with DET
Dylan Strome F Signed with WSH
Calvin de Haan D Signed PTO with CAR
Erik Gustafsson D Signed with WSH
Collin Delia G Signed with VAN
Kevin Lankinen G Signed with NSH

Re-signed

Player Position New contract length AAV
Philipp Kurashev F 1 year $750K
Caleb Jones D 1 year $1.35M

Unsigned

Player Position Status
Frank Nazar F 13th overall pick (2022)
Sam Rinzel D 25th overall pick (2022)

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Lukas Reichel F 17th overall (2020)
Alex Vlasic D 2nd round (2019)

When the Blackhawks traded Brandon Hagel to the Tampa Bay Lightning days before the deadline in March, captain Jonathan Toews said, "If he's not a guy that's a part of a rebuild, then I don't know."

Unfortunately for Toews, that was the recurring theme of Chicago's offseason. The Blackhawks shipped off two-time 40-goal-scorer DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators and bid farewell to Dach and Strome, the latter of whom they lost for nothing. Chicago did end up with three first-round selections at the draft in July and stocked its cupboards well with Korchinski, Nazar, and Rinzel, but there's no guarantee that fans will see them in the big leagues this campaign as they continue to develop.

There's plenty of talent to be excited about in the 2023 NHL Draft, but it's going to be a long season in Chicago. Some of the Blackhawks' new additions up front, like Athanasiou and Domi, don't significantly move the needle, although they could be solid trade pieces down the line. The tandem of Mrazek and Stalock isn't exactly a one-two punch. Add the uncertain futures of upcoming unrestricted free agents Patrick Kane and Toews into the mix, and first-year NHL head coach Luke Richardson truly has one big mess on his hands. At least the Blackhawks' tank job is essentially guaranteed to succeed.

Grade: D

Colorado Avalanche

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Anton Blidh F 1 year $750K (2-way)
Evan Rodrigues F 1 year $2M
Lukas Sedlak F 1 year $800K
Brad Hunt D 2 years $762.5K (2-way)
Alexandar Georgiev G 3 years $3.4M (trade with NYR)
Jonas Johansson G 1 year $750K (2-way)

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Nicolas Aube-Kubel F Signed with TOR
Andre Burakovsky F Signed with SEA
Nazem Kadri F Signed with CGY
Nico Sturm F Signed with SJS
Jack Johnson D Signed with CHI
Ryan Murray D Signed with EDM
Darcy Kuemper G Signed with WSH

Re-signed

Player Position New contract length AAV
Andrew Cogliano F 1 year $1.25M
Darren Helm F 1 year $1.25M
Artturi Lehkonen F 5 years $4.5M
Nathan MacKinnon F 8 years $12.6M (beginning in 2023-24)
Valeri Nichushkin F 8 years $6.125M
Josh Manson D 4 years $4.5M

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Ben Meyers F Undrafted
Oskar Olausson F 28th overall (2021)
Sampo Ranta F 3rd round (2018)

The Avalanche weren't in dire need of an offseason that would knock your socks off to remain a dominant force in the league, so the savvy contenders mostly stayed the course. Many pointed to Colorado's trade deadline acquisitions as the secret to the team's success in 2021-22, and the front office showed its appreciation as Cogliano, Lehkonen, and Manson all re-upped this summer. The Avs also handed out a huge semi-risky contract to former reclamation project Nichushkin and are banking on the hope that his breakout campaign was the real deal.

Goaltending is the defending champs' biggest question mark. With Kuemper joining the Washington Capitals in free agency, the Avalanche are taking a risk by relying on Georgiev to fill his shoes. The Russian backstop didn't have the best campaign with the New York Rangers, but he did show flashes of potential as the No. 1 guy when Igor Shesterkin missed time with an injury.

The club's offense took a hit with the departures of Burakovsky and Kadri (and the Rodrigues addition doesn't totally make up for their absences), but that's just the cost of business for the Avalanche, who had Nathan MacKinnon to think about: The phenom could've become a UFA next summer, but Colorado opted to avoid any headaches by signing him to an extension this summer that doubles his current $6.3-million cap hit.

Grade: B+

Dallas Stars

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Mason Marchment F 4 years $4.5M
Will Butcher D 1 year $750K (2-way)
Nils Lundkvist D 2 years $1.775M (trade with NYR)
Colin Miller D 2 years $1.85M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Alexander Radulov F Signed in Russia
Michael Raffl F Signed in Switzerland
Vladislav Namestnikov F Signed with TBL
John Klingberg D Signed with ANA
Andrej Sekera D Retired

Re-signed

Player Position New contract length AAV
Denis Gurianov F 1 year $2.9M
Jake Oettinger G 3 years $4M
Scott Wedgewood G 2 years $1M

Unsigned

Player Position Status
Blake Comeau F UFA
Jason Robertson F RFA
Braden Holtby G UFA

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Mavrik Bourque F 30th overall (2020)
Wyatt Johnston F 23rd overall (2021)
Logan Stankoven F 2nd round (2021)

We can't consider the Stars' offseason complete until they sign Robertson, but we can applaud them for the Oettinger deal. Getting their bona fide No. 1 in net signed to a three-year pact with a $4-million cap hit is a tidy piece of business. The deal can look even better if Oettinger plays like he did in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Dallas also added Marchment in free agency. He enjoyed a standout year with the Florida Panthers, scoring 18 goals and 47 points in 54 games. However, the acquisition is a bit of a gamble, seeing as few would have guessed that Marchment would command a four-year, $18-million deal heading into last season - before the 2021-22 campaign, the physical forward had played in just 37 NHL games and only had two career goals.

On the backend, Klingberg walked as a free agent after hearing his name crop up in countless trade rumors during the regular season. Although the offensive defenseman's performance has been on the decline recently, losing him for nothing isn't ideal, and Miller obviously isn't a one-to-one replacement. Perhaps the acquisition of 22-year-old Lundkvist (and his scoring touch) can help round out the right side in Dallas.

Grade: B-

Minnesota Wild

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Sam Steel F 1 year $825K
Filip Gustavsson G 1 year $787.5K (trade with OTT)

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Nick Bjugstad F Signed with ARI
Nicolas Deslauriers F Signed with PHI
Kevin Fiala F Traded to LAK
Jordie Benn D Signed with TOR
Dmitry Kulikov D Traded to ANA
Cam Talbot G Traded to OTT

Re-signed

Player Position New contract length AAV
Connor Dewar F 2 years $800K
Jacob Middleton D 3 years $2.45M
Marc-Andre Fleury G 2 years $3.5M

Unsigned

Player Position Status
Brock Faber D Playing in NCAA (trade with LAK)

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Marco Rossi F 9th overall (2020)
Calen Addison D 2nd round (2018)

The Wild are beginning to feel the consequences of the Ryan Suter and Zach Parise contract buyouts. The pair will count for almost $13 million against the cap this season, which meant keeping Fiala - or finding a suitable replacement - was virtually off the table. That hurts, no matter how confident general manager Bill Guerin is in Minnesota's ability to remain just as competitive. The Wild did add promising defenseman Faber in the Fiala trade, but he decided to return to the University of Minnesota in 2022-23.

Minnesota also moved on from goaltender Talbot, who's set to become a UFA next summer, but its goaltending tandem took a bit of a hit. Fleury will turn 38 in November and must now share the crease with the 24-year-old Gustavsson, who appeared in just 27 games over the past two campaigns. Talbot also posted stronger regular-season numbers than Fleury after the three-time Stanley Cup champ arrived in Minnesota at the trade deadline.

The Wild can still certainly take a playoff spot in the Central Division - Kirill Kaprizov seems set to continue his game-breaking ways - but this underwhelming offseason is likely just a preview of what life will look like in Minnesota due to some tighter purse strings.

Grade: C-

Nashville Predators

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Mark Jankowski F 1 year $750K (2-way)
Nino Niederreiter F 2 years $4M
Zach Sanford F 1 year $850K
Ryan McDonagh D 4 years $6.75M (trade with TBL)
Kevin Lankinen G 1 year $1.5M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Nick Cousins F Signed with FLA
Luke Kunin F Traded to SJS
Matt Benning D Signed with SJS
David Rittich G Signed with WPG

Re-signed

Player Position New contract length AAV
Filip Forsberg F 8 years $8.5M
Cody Glass F 1 year $874K (2-way)
Yakov Trenin F 2 years $1.7M
Jeremy Lauzon D 4 years $2M

Unsigned

Player Position Status
Rocco Grimaldi F UFA
Ben Harpur D UFA

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Egor Afanasyev F 2nd round (2019)
Yaroslav Askarov G 11th overall (2020)

The Predators have wormed their way into the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons. One way to help make sure that trend continues was to re-sign Forsberg to an eight-year pact, which was Nashville's most crucial piece of offseason business.

In other news, the Predators just had to give up Philippe Myers and Grant Mismash to take blue-liner McDonagh from the cap-strapped Lightning, but the acquisition is a bit of a double-edged sword. McDonagh won two Stanley Cup championships with the Bolts and was a stalwart on their penalty kill, but he's also 33 years old and still has four years remaining on his deal with a hefty $6.75-million cap hit. However, adding Niederreiter to the forward group on a frugal two-year, $8-million deal was a home run: The Swiss winger has hit the 20-goal mark five times in his career, including in 2021-22.

Nashville didn't lose anything too substantial this summer, either. Some teams in the division arguably took a step back competitively, which might turn into a greater opportunity for the Predators - especially if they get another big year from their star players.

Grade: A-

St. Louis Blues

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Noel Acciari F 1 year $1.25M
Martin Frk F 1 year $750K (2-way)
Matthew Highmore F 1 year $750K (2-way)
Josh Leivo F 1 year $750K
Thomas Greiss G 1 year $1.5M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Dakota Joshua F Signed with VAN
David Perron F Signed with DET
Ville Husso G Traded to DET
Charlie Lindgren G Signed with WSH

Re-signed

Player Position New contract length AAV
Klim Kostin F 1 year $750K
Jordan Kyrou F 8 years $8.125M (beginning in 2023-24)
Robert Thomas F 8 years $8.125M (beginning in 2023-24)
Nathan Walker F 1 year $775K (beginning in 2023-24)
Nick Leddy D 4 years $4M
Niko Mikkola D 1 year $1.9M
Scott Perunovich D 1 year $750K

Unsigned

Player Position Status
Tyler Bozak F UFA

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Jake Neighbours F 26th overall (2020)
Scott Perunovich D 2nd round (2018)

Let's not beat around the bush: Losing Perron in free agency takes a bite out of the Blues. The bad news? St. Louis didn't find a way to replace his power-play prowess with any of its additions so far. The good news? The team had an NHL-leading nine players hit the 20-goal mark in 2021-22, including Perron, so there's a variety of options to fall back on.

Instead of keeping Perron, the Blues opted to solidify their top-four defensive corps by handing out a four-year extension to Leddy. The 31-year-old defenseman didn't put up favorable underlying numbers - St. Louis failed to control over half of the shot attempts and expected goals with him on the ice at five-on-five in the regular season and the playoffs, according to Natural Stat Trick - but he took on some tough assignments while proving he was capable of saddling up next to Colton Parayko in the postseason.

Breakout netminder Husso priced his way out of St. Louis after challenging a struggling Jordan Binnington for the starting job during the regular season. The Blues added Greiss on a cheap deal to be their new backup, which is clearly a downgrade. To lessen the sting, the team will need Binnington to continue reestablishing his role as the true No. 1 option following his strong playoff performance.

The Blues also inked youngsters Kyrou and Thomas to identical eight-year extensions beginning in 2023-24. Both forwards are coming off breakout seasons, but the pricey pacts can prove to be costly if their production in 2021-22 was just a flash in the pan.

Grade: B-

Winnipeg Jets

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Sam Gagner F 1 year $750K
Kyle Capobianco D 2 years $762K (2-way)
David Rittich G 1 year $900K

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Adam Brooks F Signed with PHI
Zach Sanford F Signed with NSH
Paul Stastny F Signed with CAR
Evgeny Svechnikov F Signed with SJS
Eric Comrie G Signed with BUF

Re-signed

Player Position New contract length AAV
Mason Appleton F 3 years $2.167M
Pierre-Luc Dubois F 1 year $6M
Jansen Harkins F 2 years $850K

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Cole Perfetti F 10th overall (2020)

Oh, Winnipeg - this is not it. Aside from hanging onto the discontented Dubois (for now, at least), the Jets didn't do much of anything after a season where they failed to meet high expectations. They lost Stastny in free agency, and the closest they've gotten to replacing the productive veteran so far is by adding Gagner, which isn't exactly a perfect fit. Winnipeg also got worse in the crease, replacing breakthrough backup Comrie with Rittich, who had some difficulties in 2021-22. At least Appleton is back for three more years, we guess?

To be fair, the coaching carousel was spinning out of control in Winnipeg all season long, so perhaps the Jets' most crucial offseason addition was their change behind the bench. After Paul Maurice's departure and a trial run with Dave Lowry, Winnipeg hired Rick Bowness as its newest head coach this summer.

Bowness will now have to wrestle with some apparent tensions: Stastny said the Jets needed to have more respect for each other at the end of last season, while the team has opted to enter the new campaign without a captain. However, fans can breathe one sigh of relief because it now looks like Mark Scheifele is here to stay after casting doubt on his future with the franchise. The Jets still have some questions to answer in 2022-23, but maybe a bit more stability can help them get back on the right track and generate the right kind of noise.

Grade: D+

(Salary source: CapFriendly)

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NHL offseason grades: Central Division
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