Offseason Grades, Atlantic Division: Sabres strike while iron is hot

Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sports

Metropolitan | Atlantic | Central | Pacific

Boston Bruins: D-
Key Addition: Matt Beleskey
Notable Subtraction: Dougie Hamilton, Milan Lucic

In the absence of direction or any definitive purpose, the Bruins worked to add, subtract, and selectively relocate assets at a feverish, often comical, pace.

The two steps back, one step forward strategy is hard to decipher, and one that's reduced Boston to a team expected to remain on the periphery next season. But what general manager Don Sweeney did manage to create is the cap space this team was so desperate for last summer - the same financial flexibility that probably would have preserved the Bruins as we used to know them.

Was it by design? Yeah, probably. But scaling back, and opening up options doesn't have to look like a car wreck.

Buffalo Sabres: A-
Key Addition: Ryan O'Reilly, Robin Lehner
Notable Subtraction: Cody Hodgson

It may have been a shameful undertaking, but there's something admirable about what Buffalo has done since dismantling its roster in pursuit of a top draft selection. Because after landing Evander Kane, and only narrowly missing out on Mike Babcock, the deep-pocketed Sabres have continued to take hacks, aiming straight over the fences.

In embracing O'Reilly's dogged financial demands, and having the cap space to take on an unwanted contract, the Sabres were able to nail down a No. 1 center to play in front (and eventually behind) Jack Eichel for the next eight seasons, and get first pick of the goaltending litter.

They're still short on defense, will concede often, and aren't a playoff team, but the last few weeks have ensured that not only are the Sabres worth watching once again, but that they're going to be competitive, too.

Detroit Red Wings: B
Key Addition: Mike Green, Brad Richards
Notable Subtraction: Stephen Weiss

The Red Wings' free-agent foray is truly up to the eye of the beholder.

Detroit signed the class's marquee blue-liner, but Green was a bottom-pairing defenseman last season. They also nailed down a reigning Stanley Cup champion in Richards, but awarded a significant raise to a player who managed a mere 37 points for a championship team that bleeds offense. And finally, they rid themselves of Weiss, but will now suffer a significant cap penalty through 2021 as a result.

We shall see how this plays out.

Florida Panthers: C-
Key Addition: Marc Savard's contract
Notable Subtraction: Jimmy Hayes

From Aaron Ekblad's successful salad days to Jaromir Jagr's unforeseen - and utterly enjoyable - stay, it was an uplifting season across the entire spectrum for the Panthers.

Well, that has since fallen very flat, considering the team's most-notable splash this summer was the acquisition of a dead-money contract to tread comfortably above the salary floor.

Montreal Canadiens: D
Key Addition: Zack Kassian
Notable Subtraction: Brandon Prust

It's been a confounding few weeks for the Canadiens.

Rather than improving a painfully flawed, but capable roster, Marc Bergevin has focused his attention mainly on retaining the players he acquired at last season's trade deadline. And that's fine, really, but the failure to feed a peckish lineup with a blast of scoring is simple oversight.

Montreal avoids a failing grade for acquiring the more talented, controllable, and cap-friendly Kassian in their swap with the Canucks.

Ottawa Senators: B-
Key Addition: -
Notable Subtraction: Robin Lehner

The Senators deserve credit for handling their housework in a tidy fashion, and landing a first-round pick in mitigating their surplus of goaltenders, but there's not a move to rally around here.

Ottawa has ample cap space, but unfortunately are right up against their self-imposed ceiling with Mike Hoffman and Alex Chiasson in need of new deals.

It's frustrating, considering the Senators' late push, which was an indication they were perhaps an impact player away from being a legitimate conference contender, but unless Bryan Murray can strike a deal, they'll enter the season at a bit of a standstill.

Tampa Bay Lightning: C
Key Addition: Erik Condra
Notable Subtraction: -

With basically an entire conference championship roster prepared to return, and little maneuverability under the cap, the Lightning weren't necessarily supposed to factor in the preliminary stages of the offseason - other than to lock up superstar Steven Stamkos.

It's too early to worry about him, seeing as he's only been eligible for an extension for about a week now, but it shouldn't be Steve Yzerman's only concern. The Lightning might go a long way in preserving their championship viability in the event they're able to get out from underneath one of the few bad contracts they have signed.

Toronto Maple Leafs: B
Key Addition: Shawn Matthias, Kasperi Kapanen
Notable Subtraction: Phil Kessel

Big-market team using small-town strategy to great effect.

It's rather ironic what's become of the Maple Leafs, who seem to have unanimous support from their championship-starved fan base while in the process of stripping down, turning over a roster, and inviting a fringe players to play focal roles in hopes they can translate into material assets down the line.

The Kessel trade left something to be desired in the minds of many, but they executed their plan - to proliferate picks and prospects, and frankly, to be nothing but a workmanlike unit next season - with strict devotion and undeniable effectiveness.

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Offseason Grades, Atlantic Division: Sabres strike while iron is hot
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