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

While there are still plenty of available unrestricted free agents, several unsigned restricted free agents, and a handful of players who could potentially be dealt, theScore is handing out offseason grades for each NHL team.

Wednesday's edition focuses on the Metropolitan Division, which was uncharacteristically quiet.

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

Carolina Hurricanes

Chase Agnello-Dean / National Hockey League / Getty

Key arrivals

Player Position Contract Length AAV
Jesper Fast F 3 years $2M
Drew Shore F 1 year $700K
Joakim Ryan D 1 year $700K

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Justin Williams F Retired
Sami Vatanen D Became UFA
Joel Edmundson D Traded to MTL
Trevor van Riemsdyk D Signed with WSH

Re-signed

Player Position New Contract Length AAV
Warren Foegele F 1 year $2.15M
Haydn Fleury D 2 years $1.3M

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Morgan Geekie F 3rd round (2017)
Dominik Bokk F 1st round (2018 - STL)
Jake Bean D 1st round (2016)

The Hurricanes were rather quiet this offseason. Fast is a strong play-driver and should be a nice fit for Rod Brind'Amour's group, but when he's a team's most notable addition, you know not much has changed.

On the blue line, Edmundson and van Riemsdyk won't be missed considering how much depth the club has. However, general manager Don Waddell might be regretting his trade for Brady Skjei ($5.25 million in average annual value for four more seasons) at the 2020 deadline and signing Jake Gardiner ($4.05 million in AAV for three more seasons) last offseason.

Those contracts could make it difficult to re-sign Dougie Hamilton, who's set to hit unrestricted free agency next offseason when Andrei Svechnikov's entry-level deal expires. Waddell loses marks for not getting out ahead of his 2021 cap dilemma.

This is still a solid team that should improve as young players continue to develop, but the goaltending duo of James Reimer and Petr Mrazek remains suspect.

Grade: C

Columbus Blue Jackets

Jamie Sabau / National Hockey League / Getty

Key arrivals

Player Position Contract Length AAV
Max Domi F 2 years $5.3M AAV (trade with MTL)
Mikko Koivu F 1 year $1.5M
Mikhail Grigorenko F 1 year $1.2M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Josh Anderson F Traded to MTL
Alexander Wennberg F Bought out
Ryan Murray D Traded to NJ
Markus Nutivaara D Traded to FLA

Re-signed

Player Position New Contract Length AAV
Vladislav Gavrikov D 3 years $2.8M
Gabriel Carlsson D 2 years $725K
Elvis Merzlikins G 2 years $4M
Joonas Korpisalo G 2 years $2.8M

Unsigned RFAs

Player Position
Pierre-Luc Dubois F

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Liam Foudy F 1st round (2018)

Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen addressed his biggest need this offseason: depth down the middle. The additions of Domi, Koivu, and Grigorenko will allow Boone Jenner and Nick Foligno to play on the wing where they're most valuable. However, all these players have question marks.

Is Columbus getting the 72-point Domi from 2018-19 or the 44-point Domi from 2019-20? He'll almost certainly be more valuable than Anderson, who produced just four points over 26 games during an injury-riddled campaign last season. However, Anderson is the better player when healthy.

Grigorenko is a high-upside, low-risk addition. The former first-round pick has plenty of skill but was never able to put it all together in the NHL. Can he be a key contributor after three years in the KHL? Additionally, what does the 37-year-old Koivu have left in the tank?

The blue line's top six remains solid, but the depth took a hit with the losses of Murray and Nutivaara. That could be problematic in a condensed schedule.

It's difficult to give the Blue Jackets a high grade considering their No. 1 objective coming into the offseason had to be getting Dubois locked up, and they've yet to do that despite having over $9 million in cap space.

Grade: C+

New Jersey Devils

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract Length AAV
Andreas Johnsson F 3 years $3.4M (trade with TOR)
Ryan Murray D 1 year $4.6M (trade with CBJ)
Dmitry Kulikov D 1 year $1.15M
Corey Crawford G 2 years $3.9M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Joey Anderson F Traded to TOR
Kevin Rooney F Signed with NYR
Mirco Mueller D Became UFA
Cory Schneider G Became UFA

Unsigned RFAs

Player Position
Jesper Bratt F
MacKenzie Blackwood G

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Nolan Foote F 1st round (2019 - TB)
Nick Merkley F 1st round (2015 - ARI)
Alexander Holtz F 1st round (2020)
Ty Smith D 1st round (2018)
Kevin Bahl D 2nd round (2018 - ARI)

As one of the few clubs with cap flexibility, the Devils were able to make some savvy trades with teams looking to clear cap space. They acquired a solid middle-six winger in Johnsson and a legitimate top-four defenseman (when healthy) in Murray while only giving up Anderson and a fifth-round pick. That's some nice work by new GM Tom Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald also solidified his goaltending by adding Crawford on a fair deal. The veteran netminder proved in the playoffs he can still perform at a high level.

While New Jersey has two RFAs to sign, the team has over $17 million in cap space to use. The Devils get docked for not being even more aggressive considering their cap space and the remaining UFAs that could help fill the holes on this roster, specifically up front.

The hiring of Lindy Ruff as New Jersey's head coach was a questionable move, but all and all it was a stellar offseason for the Devils.

Grade: B

New York Islanders

Mark Blinch / National Hockey League / Getty

Key arrivals

Player Position Contract Length AAV
Ilya Sorokin G 1 year $2M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Derick Brassard F Became UFA
Matt Martin F Became UFA
Tom Kuhnhackl F Became UFA
Johnny Boychuk D Career over (eye injury)
Devon Toews D Traded to COL
Andy Greene D Became UFA
Thomas Greiss G Signed with DET

Re-signed

Player Position New Contract Length AAV
Josh Ho-Sang F 1 year $700K
Ryan Pulock D 2 years $5M

Unsigned RFAs

Player Position
Mathew Barzal F

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Oliver Wahlstrom F 1st round (2018)
Kieffer Bellows F 1st round (2016)

Lou Lamoriello has put the Islanders in quite a pickle. Thanks to some contracts he's signed since arriving in Long Island two years ago (most notably Jordan Eberle, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Leo Komarov), New York is up against the cap. Signing Barzal looked like a near-impossible task, but getting $6 million in relief by placing Boychuk on LTIR will likely help the team ink the franchise center.

However, the Islanders still had to move Toews, 26, who was their second-best defenseman last year, and they only received a pair of second-round picks in return. That's a massive loss.

With no improvements up front or on defense, this offseason can only be considered a disaster - especially while Barzal remains unsigned. The only thing saving this grade from an F was convincing Sorokin to leave the KHL six years after the Isles drafted him.

Grade: D

New York Rangers

Jared Silber / National Hockey League / Getty

Key arrivals

Player Position Contract Length AAV
Kevin Rooney F 2 years $750K
Jack Johnson D 1 year $1.15M
Anthony Bitetto D 2 years $738K

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Jesper Fast F Signed with CAR
Lias Andersson F Traded to LA
Marc Staal D Traded to DET
Henrik Lundqvist G Signed with WSH

Re-signed

Player Position New Contract Length AAV
Ryan Strome F 2 years $4.5M
Brendan Lemieux F 2 years $1.55M
Tony DeAngelo D 2 years $4.8M
Alexandar Georgiev G 2 years $2.425M

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Alexis Lafreniere F 1st round (2020)
Vitali Kravtsov F 1st round (2018)
K'Andre Miller D 1st round (2018)

One year after being one of the busiest teams in free agency, the Rangers were rather quiet in 2020. Aside from buying out a franchise icon in Lundqvist, the team made no significant moves.

After making an addition by subtraction by shipping Staal to the Red Wings, GM Jeff Gorton replaced him with one of the few defensemen worse than Staal: Jack Johnson. The former third overall pick is a below-replacement-level blue-liner. His $1.15-million cap hit won't kill New York, but it all but guarantees Johnson a spot on the team's bottom pair. Better options could've been had for under $1 million.

The Rangers have ample firepower up front, one of the league's best, young, cost-efficient goaltending duos, and a strong right side of the blue line. However, the left side of the blue line (Ryan Lindgren, Libor Hajek, Brendan Smith, Johnson, and Bitetto) is one of the NHL's worst. If New York misses the playoffs, it will likely be because of Gorton's failure to address this issue.

Lafreniere could be an immediate impact player, but the Rangers shouldn't get credit because a ping pong ball bounced their way.

Grade: D

Philadelphia Flyers

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Key arrivals

Player Position Contract Length AAV
Erik Gustafsson D 1 year $3M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Tyler Pitlick F Signed with ARI
Derek Grant F Signed with ANA
Nate Thompson F Signed with WPG
Matt Niskanen D Retired

Re-signed

Player Position New Contract Length AAV
Nolan Patrick F 1 year $874K
Nicolas Aube-Kubel F 2 years $1.075M
Oskar Lindblom F 3 years $3M
Justin Braun D 2 years $1.8M
Robert Hagg D 2 years $1.6M
Brian Elliott G 1 year $1.5M

Unsigned RFAs

Player Position
Philippe Myers D

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Morgan Frost F 1st round (2017)
German Rubtsov F 1st round (2016)
Mark Friedman D 3rd round (2014)

It cannot be understated how big the loss of Niskanen is. The veteran was the perfect partner for Ivan Provorov on the team's top pairing, and he flourished against tough matchups.

The signing of Gustafsson was curious. It seemed to spell the end of Shayne Gostisbehere's time in the City of Brotherly Love - given the prior rumors - but he remains in Philadelphia. Gustafsson and Gostisbehere have high offensive ceilings, but both are defensive liabilities and aren't suited to play alongside Provorov. In hindsight, Gustafsson at $3 million seems like a slight overpay, depending on what UFA D-men Travis Hamonic and Sami Vatanen sign for.

The Flyers have a deep crop of forwards and arguably the best young goaltender in the game, but if Myers can't step into the top-pairing role with Provorov, GM Chuck Fletcher is going to wish he did a better job replacing Niskanen. Thankfully, Philadelphia has a bit of wiggle room, so a defenseman could potentially be acquired during the season if things go south.

Grade: C-

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dave Sandford / National Hockey League / Getty

Key arrivals

Player Position Contract Length AAV
Kasperi Kapanen F 2 years $3.2M (trade with TOR)
Colton Sceviour F 1 year $1.2M (trade with FLA)
Mark Jankowski F 1 year $700K
Mike Matheson D 6 years $4.875M (trade with FLA)
Cody Ceci D 1 year $1.25M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Patric Hornqvist F Traded to FLA
Nick Bjugstad F Traded to MIN
Conor Sheary F Became UFA
Patrick Marleau F Signed with SJ
Justin Schultz D Signed with WSH
Jack Johnson D Bought out
Matt Murray G Traded to OTT

Re-signed

Player Position New Contract Length AAV
Jared McCann F 2 years $2.94M
Sam Lafferty F 2 years $750K
Evan Rodrigues F 1 year $700K
Chad Ruhwedel D 1 year $750K
Tristan Jarry G 3 years $3.5M

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Samuel Poulin F 1st round (2019)
Pierre-Olivier Joseph D 1st round (2017 - ARI)

The Penguins were easily the busiest team in their division this offseason, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're the most improved.

GM Jim Rutherford drafted Kapanen and his father, Sami, but a first-round pick and a solid prospect in Filip Hallander was a steep price to pay for a player who's yet to prove he can flourish as a top-six forward.

Kapanen will essentially replace Hornqvist - a gritty, heart-and-soul player - in the top six. Hornqvist's contract ($5.3 million in AAV for three more years) wasn't great, but swapping it for Matheson's deal could be problematic. Matheson is a turnover machine who's posted a sub-50% expected goals share in four straight seasons. He's a third-pairing blue-liner at best.

In what seemed like an attempt to make Pittsburgh's defense even worse, Rutherford signed Ceci, one of the league's worst blue-liners. His possession numbers were better this past season in Toronto after six years in Ottawa, but he's still a liability. He won't be counted on to play top-four minutes in Pittsburgh, but it's still a questionable signing.

On the bright side, Jankowski and Sceviour are solid bottom-six additions and offer good value.

Grade: D+

Washington Capitals

Mark Blinch / National Hockey League / Getty

Key arrivals

Player Position Contract Length AAV
Justin Schultz D 2 years $4M
Trevor van Riemsdyk D 1 year $800K
Henrik Lundqvist G 1 year $1.5M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Ilya Kovalchuk F Became UFA
Radko Gudas D Signed with FLA
Braden Holtby G Signed with VAN

Re-signed

Player Position New Contract Length AAV
Brenden Dillon D 4 years $3.9M
Jonas Siegenthaler D 1 year $800K

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Connor McMichael F 1st round (2019)

GM Brian MacLellan had very little cap room to work with this offseason, and it was a foregone conclusion that the forward group was going to go mostly untouched.

However, the Capitals had some flexibility with regards to their defense and goaltending. Schultz was an interesting addition. Washington had the league's second-best offense but the 15th-ranked defense. Targeting more of a defensive defenseman would've made sense, but Schultz doesn't exactly fit that description. He's more of a high-variance offensive blue-liner.

Washington's best move of the offseason, though, was re-signing Dillon. The rugged defenseman has posted strong possession numbers in his career and performed well with the Caps - specifically alongside John Carlson - after being acquired at the trade deadline. The value is reasonable, too.

In goal, Lundqvist was a decent value signing (he probably won't be worse than Holtby was at $6.1 million last year). "King Henrik" will be playing in front of a better team he had in New York, and he should be an excellent mentor for Ilya Samsonov.

Lastly, MacLellan deserves credit for firing head coach Todd Reirden after just two years and replacing him with Peter Laviolette, who has a strong track record of immediate success.

Grade: B

(Cap source: CapFriendly)
(Analytics source: Natural Stat Trick)

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NHL offseason grades: Metropolitan Division
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