NHL offseason grades: Central Division
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Divisions: Central | Metropolitan | Pacific | Atlantic

Several teams have done well in free agency, on the trade market, and with their own restricted free agents this offseason despite the unforeseen circumstances impacting the financial landscape.

Other clubs, of course, haven't fared as well, and the always competitive Central Division is a prime example of that. One club all but imploded, another made a slew of head-scratching decisions, while a pair of rival teams were more successful at retaining their top talent and adding to it.

There will undoubtedly be more moves to come if and when plans for the 2020-21 season are finalized, but here's how we rate the Central squads so far this offseason:

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

Chicago Blackhawks

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract Length AAV
Nikita Zadorov D 1 year $3.2M (trade with COL)
Mattias Janmark LW/C 1 year $2.25M
Lucas Wallmark C 1 year $950K

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Corey Crawford G Signed with NJ
Brandon Saad F Traded to COL
Drake Caggiula LW/C Did not receive qualifying offer
Olli Maatta D Traded to LA
Slater Koekkoek D Did not receive qualifying offer

Re-signed

Player Position New Contract Length AAV
Dominik Kubalik LW 2 years $3.7M
Malcolm Subban G 2 years $850K

Unsigned RFAs

Player Position
Dylan Strome C

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Pius Suter C/LW Undrafted
Ian Mitchell D 2nd round (2017)
Kevin Lankinen G Undrafted

The Blackhawks' offseason has been an unmitigated disaster. Chicago's core veterans were reportedly upset with the direction management took after it parted with multiple pieces from the franchise's championship years and let several others walk. Longtime Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews even went public to say the moves came as a shock.

In response to the team's leaders, the organization published a letter to fans, but in doing so, admitted it was committed to rebuilding. Former Chicago enforcer John Scott called the letter "embarrassing," and it's hard to disagree.

Most importantly, the Blackhawks needed to address their goaltending following Crawford's exit. They may still do so before 2020-21 begins, but entering the campaign with Subban and Collin Delia between the pipes inspires little confidence. All things considered, the offseason couldn't have gone much worse for Chicago.

Grade: F

Colorado Avalanche

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract Length AAV
Brandon Saad LW 1 year $5M (trade with CHI)
Devon Toews D 4 years $4.1M (trade with NYI)

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Vladislav Namestnikov LW/C Signed with DET
Nikita Zadorov D Traded to CHI
Colin Wilson LW/C Became UFA

Re-signed

Player Position New Contract Length AAV
Andrei Burakovsky LW 2 years $4.9M
Ryan Graves D 3 years $3.167M
Valeri Nichushkin RW 2 years $2.5M
Tyson Jost C/LW 1 year $874K

Unsigned RFAs

Player Position
Vladislav Kamenev C/LW

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Conor Timmins D 2nd round (2017)
Martin Kaut RW 1st round (2018)
Bowen Byram D 1st round (2019)

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Avalanche have done an excellent job. Colorado retained most of its depth and added a couple of talented pieces without sacrificing much.

The Avalanche traded Zadorov to Chicago in the deal that netted Saad, then filled their defensive void by acquiring Devon Toews from the New York Islanders for a pair of second-round picks before signing the reliable blue-liner to a new four-year pact. Saad's acquisition more than offsets the loss of Namestnikov, and Toews is unquestionably an upgrade over Zadorov.

Colorado kept its roster deep and skilled from top to bottom while maintaining a prospect pool that still oozes with potential. Giving Burakovsky an AAV close to $5 million after his first 20-goal season was a bit generous, but that was only a minor blemish on what's been an otherwise superb offseason.

Grade: A-

Dallas Stars

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract Length AAV
Mark Pysyk D 1 year $750K

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Corey Perry RW Became UFA
Mattias Janmark LW/C Signed with CHI
Roman Polak D Signed in Czech Republic
Martin Hanzal C Retired

Re-signed

Player Position New Contract Length AAV
Anton Khudobin G 3 years $3.33M
Radek Faksa C 5 years $3.25M
Roope Hintz C/LW 3 years $3.15M
Denis Gurianov LW/RW 2 years $2.55M
Andrej Sekera D 2 years $1.5M

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Joel Kiviranta LW Undrafted
Jason Robertson LW 2nd round (2017)

The Stars didn't make any big splashes this offseason, but they did virtually everything they had to do. Most notably, Dallas brought back Khudobin - its goaltending savior. A three-year deal might not be ideal with all the mileage on the 34-year-old, but the AAV is quite team-friendly and he proved indispensable while carrying the team on its Cup Final run.

The Stars also took care of their RFAs and didn't suffer any major losses, roster-wise. Perry could still return to the fold, though Dallas' cap situation might make that difficult following the team's other signings.

Kiviranta's unexpected breakout was one of the best stories of the playoffs, and he's a virtual lock to make the squad in at least a bottom-six role despite his limited regular-season experience.

Grade: B+

Minnesota Wild

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract Length AAV
Cam Talbot G 3 years $3.67M
Marcus Johansson C/LW 1 year $4.5M (trade with BUF)
Nick Bonino C 1 year $4.1M (trade with NSH)
Nick Bjugstad C 1 year $2.05M (trade with PIT)

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Devan Dubnyk G Traded to SJ
Eric Staal C Traded to BUF
Mikko Koivu C Signed with CBJ
Alex Galchenyuk LW/C Signed with OTT
Luke Kunin C Traded to NSH
Ryan Donato C Traded to SJ

Re-signed

Player Position New Contract Length AAV
Jonas Brodin D 7 years $6M
Carson Soucy D 3 years $2.75M
Jordan Greenway LW 2 years $2.1M

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Kirill Kaprizov LW 5th round (2015)

Wild general manager Bill Guerin has certainly been active, but that doesn't mean all the moves were beneficial to his team. The Staal-for-Johansson swap was a clear win for Buffalo as well as a puzzling downgrade for Minnesota.

Sending Dubnyk to San Jose and replacing him with Talbot works in the short term, but Minnesota's new 33-year-old netminder is only one year younger than his predecessor, and Talbot hasn't taken on a starter's workload since his tenure with the Edmonton Oilers a few seasons ago.

Locking up Brodin was essential, but dealing away so much of the core without getting a whole lot in return is disappointing. Change was clearly necessary for the Wild after years of mediocrity, but transactions for their own sake - several of which risk alienating the fan base - don't seem prudent.

Grade: C-

Nashville Predators

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract Length AAV
Mark Borowiecki D 2 years $2M
Nick Cousins LW 2 years $1.5M
Matt Benning D 2 years $1M
Brad Richardson C/RW 1 year $1M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Mikael Granlund LW/C Became UFA
Craig Smith RW Signed with BOS
Nick Bonino C Traded to MIN
Kyle Turris C Bought out
Austin Watson LW Traded to OTT

Re-signed

Player Position New Contract Length AAV
Yakov Trenin LW/C 2 years $725K

Unsigned RFAs

Player Position
Luke Kunin C

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Eeli Tolvanen RW 1st round (2017)
Anthony Richard C 4th round (2015)

The Predators upgraded their third defensive pairing by bringing in Borowiecki and Benning, but the team's forward group is worse off following Smith's departure and Granlund's likely exit.

However, Nashville GM David Poile may not be done adding in free agency, and nor should he be, considering the club has nearly $13 million in cap space. The longtime executive needs to acquire another top-six winger like Mike Hoffman or Anthony Duclair, and bolstering the squad's less than inspiring bottom six would be wise as well.

However, as things currently stand, the Predators' offseason has left something to be desired.

Grade: C

St. Louis Blues

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract Length AAV
Torey Krug D 7 years $6.5M
Kyle Clifford LW 2 years $1M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Alex Pietrangelo D Signed with VGK
Jake Allen G Traded to MTL
Jay Bouwmeester D Became UFA
Troy Brouwer RW Became UFA

Re-signed

Player Position New Contract Length AAV
Jacob de la Rose LW/C 1 year $700K

Unsigned RFAs

Player Position
Vince Dunn D

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Klim Kostin C/LW 1st round (2017)
Scott Perunovich D 2nd round (2018)

Losing Pietrangelo was devastating for the Blues, and the former captain's immense impact on the blue line will be missed in St. Louis. However, Krug was the next-best defenseman on the market and was more than just a consolation prize.

Blues GM Doug Armstrong signed the skilled rearguard for over $2 million less annually than the $8.8-million AAV Vegas paid for Pietrangelo. Though Krug isn't quite as good as his counterpart, he is a year younger, and he's a star in his own right. Considering the downgrade from Pietrangelo could've been worse, Armstrong made out well.

However, there is some cause for concern in goal. Going from Allen - who's arguably the best backup netminder in the league - to the unproven Ville Husso puts a ton of pressure on Jordan Binnington, who took a step back last season after his Cup-winning campaign one year prior.

All things considered, the Blues aren't all that much worse on paper. That's definitely a positive considering how things could've gone.

Grade: B-

Winnipeg Jets

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract Length AAV
Paul Stastny C 1 year $6.5M (trade with VGK)
Derek Forbort D 1 year $1M
Nate Thompson C 1 year $750K

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Cody Eakin C Signed with BUF
Dmitry Kulikov D Signed with NJD
Anthony Bitetto D Signed with NYR
Logan Shaw RW Signed with OTT

Re-signed

Player Position New Contract Length AAV
Dylan DeMelo D 4 years $3M
Laurent Brossoit G 1 year $1.5M
Nathan Beaulieu D 2 years $1.25M
Mason Appleton RW/C 2 years $900K
Luca Sbisa D 1 year $800K
Sami Niku D 2 years $725K

Unsigned RFAs

Player Position
Jack Roslovic C/RW

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Logan Stanley D 1st round (2016)
Kristian Vesalainen LW 1st round (2017)
Dylan Samberg D 2nd round (2017)
Ville Heinola D 1st round (2019)

The Jets needed a second-line center after doctors advised Bryan Little not to play next season, and reuniting with Stastny was a solid strategy. He's a soon-to-be 35-year-old pending UFA, but it was worthwhile considering Winnipeg only gave up defenseman Carl Dahlstrom and a conditional fourth-round pick.

Bringing back the underrated DeMelo was important as well in light of the Jets' somewhat desperate need on the back end.

However, Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff's best decision this offseason has been keeping Patrik Laine despite all of the chatter regarding the winger's future. Moving him for less than he's worth just to resolve the situation wouldn't be smart. Keeping him and letting the talk cool down has been an astute course of action.

Grade: B

(Salary source: CapFriendly)

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NHL offseason grades: Central Division
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