Offseason Grades, Metropolitan Division: Blue Jackets, Penguins make major splashes

Chris Humphreys / USA TODAY Sports

Metropolitan | Atlantic | Central | Pacific

One call can still change everything.

But with the executive mixer having cleared the draft floor, and fatigue from the sprint to sign unrestricted free agents set in, the lugging and heavy lifting, for most clubs, is over.

Here's how we grade the Metropolitan Division combatants based on their performance early this offseason.

Carolina Hurricanes: B-
Key Addition: Eddie Lack
Notable Subtraction: Alex Semin

Today, the Hurricanes are a little less toxic.

Though neither a direct swap, nor a real game-changer, bringing in the charming, fun-loving, and talented potential No. 1 goaltender Eddie Lack and bidding farewell to the noxious Alex Semin is certainly an agreeable exchange.

James Wisniewski is, and will continue to be, quite overpaid, but should help along those positive vibes, too.

Columbus Blue Jackets: A-
Key Addition: Brandon Saad
Notable Subtraction: Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano

The Blue Jackets' previous reservations did not apply to Brandon Saad.

Jarmo Kekalainen paid a premium to acquire Saad, and wasn't resistant to the 22-year-old, two-time Stanley Cup champion's financial appetite (his demands not unlike those effectively dismissed in negotiations with Ryan Johansen last summer) in his effort to house the deepest fleet of power forwards in the conference.

His top six will be ever-menacing, but Kekalainen, who needed to spend his first-round pick on a defenseman to offset the loss of Mike Reilly, failed to make an immediate upgrade to his back end.

New Jersey Devils: C-
Key Addition: Kyle Palmieri
Notable Subtraction: None

Peter Chiarelli and Don Sweeney wasted no time stamping their vision on the Oilers and Bruins, respectively, but Ray Shero's rebrand in New Jersey seems to working on a delayed onset.

The homegrown Kyle Palmieri and John Moore are serviceable parts, and Pavel Zacha might move the needle when he's ready to contribute, but it's looking like the Devils of old - minus Scott Gomez - right now.

New York Islanders: B-
Key Addition: None
Notable Subtraction: Griffin Reinhart

Garth Snow made the sweetest of lemonades from the lemons he brought to the NHL draft - turning a fizzling defender into two important prospects - and was probably wise in steering clear of the top free agents available in a weak class.

While it's hard to find fault in their discipline, or the team-friendly pacts they signed with Anders Lee and Thomas Hickey, the Islanders appear prepared to enter the season as one of the few Eastern Conference teams that didn't make advances to their roster.

New York Rangers: D+
Key Addition: Emerson Etem
Notable Subtraction: Carl Hagelin, Martin St. Louis, Cam Talbot

After another ascent toward the top - without actually reaching the summit - the Rangers find themselves in danger of a slide.

Whether it's a dated approach, or just a lack of creativity, New York's inability to command value for Hagelin and Talbot indicates an organizational failure underneath the weight of the salary cap.

With tricky contract negotiations with Derek Stepan looming, along with Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes scheduled to become free agents next summer, newly appointed general manager Jeff Gorton has to develop a method to replenish talent, and quick.

Philadelphia Flyers: B
Key Addition: Michal Neuvirth
Notable Subtraction: Chris Pronger's contract

Following a series of crafty maneuvers on the draft floor, Ron Hextall finalized perhaps the steal of free agency with his acquisition of Neuvirth, who in support of Steve Mason, completes the Flyers' best tandem in recent memory. Meanwhile, Chris Pronger's "trade" to Arizona frees up valuable cap space when Sam Gagner's contract expires next summer.

Vincent Lecavalier, R.J. Umberger, and Andrew MacDonald are significant roadblocks in the Flyers' path back to prominence, but Hextall's decision-making over the last two weeks suggests he might be the man who can hurdle them.

Pittsburgh Penguins: B+
Key Addition: Phil Kessel
Notable Subtraction: Paul Martin, Steve Downie

They weren't kidding about pursuing a scoring winger.

With Kessel now on either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin's side, Pittsburgh may now pose the most formidable offensive attack in the NHL. But at what cost?

The Penguins are wildly top-heavy, having Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, and Kris Letang claiming 45 percent of the team's salary cap. Is Jim Rutherford clever enough to piece together an economical roster to offset this marked imbalance? His old boss might doubt that.

Washington Capitals: A
Key Addition: Justin Williams, T.J. Oshie
Notable Subtraction: Mike Green

Two top-six forwards in, two middle-six forwards out.

Brian MacLellan created some much-needed definition within the Capitals' lineup (and made up for an underwhelming draft) with his acquisition of Oshie and the bargain signing of Williams - two legitimate options to skate on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

Elsewhere, Jay Beagle is a coup at $1.75 million for the next four seasons, and with a sizable chunk of the cap still available, the Capitals can retain Eric Fehr, if they so choose, and reward Braden Holtby with the lucrative, long-term contract he deserves.

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Offseason Grades, Metropolitan Division: Blue Jackets, Penguins make major splashes
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