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NHL offseason grades: Atlantic Division

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Divisions: Central | Metropolitan | Pacific | Atlantic

While there's still time for unforeseen signings and trades to alter the grades awarded below, theScore continues its offseason divisional breakdown with a deep dive into the Atlantic.

It's worth noting the NHL plans to significantly alter its divisions for the 2020-21 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, and Ottawa Senators will likely be playing in an all-Canadian Division.

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

Boston Bruins

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
 Craig Smith RW 3 years $3.1M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Torey Krug D Signed with STL
Joakim Nordstrom LW Signed with CGY


Player Position New contract length AAV
Matt Grzelcyk D 4 years $3.68M
Jake DeBrusk F 2 years $3.675M
Kevan Miller D 1 year $1.25M
Jakub Zboril D 2 years $725K

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Jakub Zboril D 1st round (2015)
Urho Vaakanainen D 1st round (2017)
Jack Studnicka C 2nd round (2017)
John Beecher C 1st round (2019)

It feels as though a perennial powerhouse has taken a step backward for the first time in years after the Bruins' rather lackluster offseason.

Boston's blue line is about as thin as it's been in this era - especially on the left side. Krug's departure to sign a monster ticket with the Blues is as embarrassing as it is disappointing for the Bruins, and Zdeno Chara's future is unclear. Zboril will get a chance to plug one of those holes after signing his first one-way deal in October, but losing both defensive staples in the same offseason with no formidable replacement is far from ideal.

Up front, the Bruins didn't fare much better. Smith is an underrated addition on a reasonable deal, but Boston was believed to be in the running for both Taylor Hall and Mike Hoffman. The team lost out on Hall and has so far failed to sign Hoffman, despite opting not to pay Krug. The latter winger is still available, but the Bruins are now unlikely suitors with just under $3 million in projected cap space.

General manager Don Sweeney gets some credit for locking up key restricted free agents DeBrusk and Grzelcyk, but getting those deals done was essentially the bare minimum for a team that can see its Stanley Cup window beginning to close.

Grade: D+

Buffalo Sabres

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Taylor Hall LW 1 year $8M
Eric Staal C 1 year $3.25M (trade with MIN)
Cody Eakin C 2 years $2.25M
Tobias Rieder RW 1 year $700K
Matt Irwin D 1 year $700K

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Michael Frolik LW Became UFA
Marcus Johansson LW Traded to MIN
Jimmy Vesey LW Signed with TOR
Dominik Kahun LW Signed with EDM
Wayne Simmonds RW Signed with TOR
Johan Larsson LW Signed with ARI


Player Position New contract length AAV
Sam Reinhart RW 1 year $5.2M
Victor Olofsson LW 2 years $3.05M
Zemgus Girgensons LW 3 years $2.2M
Brandon Montour D 1 year $3.85M
Linus Ullmark G 1 year $2.6M
Curtis Lazar RW 2 years $800K

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Dylan Cozens C 1st round (2019)

Unsigned RFAs

Player Position
Lawrence Pilut D

After a tumultuous finish to the 2019-20 campaign, the Sabres had one offseason goal: Make Jack Eichel as happy as can be.

Kevyn Adams tried to do exactly that during his first summer as Sabres general manager - most notably by shocking the league and winning the Hall sweepstakes with a low-risk, high-reward contract. Prior to that splash, Buffalo dealt Johansson to the Wild for Staal, landing a reliable No. 2 center while clearing over $1 million in cap space. Those additions give the Sabres what looks to be - on paper - their strongest top-six forward group in recent memory.

Buffalo also took care of some in-house business while moving on from several depth pieces that failed to move the needle a year ago. Bringing back Reinhart and Olofsson on short-term deals ensures two key players will still be RFAs once those contracts expire.

The Sabres are still vulnerable defensively, however. Re-signing Montour was a wise decision, and another step forward by Rasmus Dahlin would certainly go a long way, but this team's Achilles' heel may be keeping the puck out of its own net.

Grade: A-

Detroit Red Wings

Dave Reginek / National Hockey League / Getty

Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Vladislav Namestnikov LW 2 years $2M
Thomas Greiss G 2 years $3.6M
Marc Staal D 1 year $5.7M (trade with NYR)
Bobby Ryan RW 1 year $1M
Troy Stecher D 2 years $1.7M
Jon Merrill D 1 year $925K

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Trevor Daley D Retired
Jonathan Ericsson D Became UFA
Jimmy Howard G Became UFA
Brendan Perlini LW Became UFA
Justin Abdelkader LW Bought out


Player Position New contract length AAV
Anthony Mantha RW 4 years $5.7M
Tyler Bertuzzi LW 1 year $3.5M
Robby Fabbri C/RW 2 years $2.95M
Sam Gagner RW 1 year $850K
Adam Erne LW 1 year $997K

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Lucas Raymond RW 1st round (2020)
Moritz Seider D 1st round (2019)
Joe Veleno C 1st round (2018)
Michael Rasmussen C/LW 1st round (2017)

Several longtime regulars won't be back with the Red Wings after Detroit took a few more offseason steps on its slow ascent back to contention.

With the old guard out, general manager Steve Yzerman shifted his attention to the team's young nucleus. Yzerman locked up goal-scorer Mantha to a four-year deal, gave Fabbri an extension, and inked Bertuzzi for one year to keep his RFA status intact next offseason.

The Red Wings also wisely landed a second-round pick for taking Staal's expiring contract from the Rangers. The 33-year-old won't necessarily improve Detroit's chances of winning, but his veteran presence could go a long way for the club's young core.

Bringing in Greiss to play alongside Jonathan Bernier gives Detroit a respectable tandem in goal, though it remains to be seen how successful the German puck-stopper will be without the Islanders' strong defensive system in front of him.

Overall, the Red Wings took care of their in-house talent and added some veteran pieces that should make the team more competitive than it was in 2019-20.

Grade: B+

Florida Panthers

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Patric Hornqvist RW 3 years $5.3M (trade with PIT)
Alexander Wennberg C 1 year $2.25M
Vinnie Hinostroza RW 1 year $1M
Carter Verhaeghe LW 2 years $1M
Markus Nutivaara D 2 years $2.7M (trade with CBJ)
Radko Gudas D 3 years $2.5M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Mike Hoffman LW Became UFA
Mike Matheson D Traded to PIT
Evgenii Dadonov RW Signed with OTT
Erik Haula LW Became UFA
Lucas Wallmark C Signed with CHI
Brian Boyle C Became UFA
Mark Pysyk D Signed with DAL


Player Position New contract length AAV
MacKenzie Weegar D 3 years $3.25M

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Grigori Denisenko LW 1st round (2018)
Owen Tippett RW 1st round 2017)

Unsigned RFAs

Player Position
Aleksi Saarela C

Changing general managers in the middle of the offseason doesn't typically end well. The Panthers parted ways with Dale Tallon in August and hired Bill Zito in September, and it's led to some interesting decisions.

Prior to his departure, Tallon inexplicably dealt Vincent Trocheck to the Hurricanes in February in exchange for Haula and Wallmark. The two combined to play 14 regular-season games for the Panthers before Zito let both walk in free agency. Ouch.

Florida also traded for Hornqvist. The winger is a nice player in his own right, but the Panthers are paying him $5.3 million annually when it looks like they could have brought back Dadonov for less. With Hoffman's status still unclear, Florida is in great danger of losing its top two goal-scorers from last season for nothing.

Weegar is the only player the club has re-signed so far as Zito looks to put his own stamp on the roster, and swapping out Matheson and Pysyk for Gudas and Nutivaara is a marginal defensive improvement. After relying on their offensive firepower to win games last season, the Panthers could be in for yet another disappointing campaign.

Grade: C-

Montreal Canadiens

Jamie Sabau / National Hockey League / Getty

Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Josh Anderson RW 7 years $5.5M (trade with CBJ)
Tyler Toffoli RW/LW 4 years $4.25M
Jake Allen G 1 year $4.35M (trade with STL)
Joel Edmundson D 4 years $3.5M

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Max Domi C Traded to CBJ


Player Position New contract length AAV
Brendan Gallagher RW 6 years $6.5M
Jeff Petry D 4 years $6.25M
Jake Allen G 2 years $2.87M
Victor Mete D 1 year $735K

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Cole Caufield RW 1st round (2019)
Alexander Romanov D 2nd round (2018)
Jake Evans C 7th round (2014)

Unsigned RFAs

Player Position
Charles Hudon LW

Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin locked up some key pieces and supplemented every position without sacrificing much this offseason, and that is extremely difficult to do.

Bergevin moved a seemingly disgruntled Domi to add some much-needed size and grit in Anderson, who's also proved he can find the back of the net at a respectable rate. Signing the injury-riddled winger to a seven-year, $38.5-million pact was somewhat questionable, however, and the deal could impact future negotiations if homegrown players look to use it as leverage to land a bigger ticket.

The additions of Toffoli and Allen should benefit the Canadiens handsomely next season. The Habs' snake-bitten offense needed some polish, and Toffoli has scored at a 20-goal pace in five of his last six campaigns. Allen's presence between the pipes will be invaluable in bringing out the best version of Carey Price, whose inconsistent play is likely a byproduct of leading all netminders in minutes played in each of the previous two seasons.

Bergevin also put to bed any perception of discord between Gallagher and the club when he gave the beloved winger a splashy six-year deal. The Canadiens are easily one of the most improved teams on paper after this offseason, and that's without considering the potential impact of rookie rearguard Romanov. Not too shabby.

Grade: A

Ottawa Senators

Andre Ringuette / National Hockey League / Getty

Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
Evgenii Dadonov RW 3 years $5M
Matt Murray G 4 years $6.25M (trade with PIT)
Austin Watson LW 3 years $1.5M (trade with NSH)
Alex Galchenyuk LW 1 year $1.05M
Erik Gudbranson D 1 year $4M (trade with ANA)

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Mark Borowiecki D Signed with NSH
Bobby Ryan RW Bought out
Craig Anderson G Became UFA
Ron Hainsey D Became UFA
Mikkel Boedker LW Became UFA
Anthony Duclair LW Became UFA


Player Position New contract length AAV
Connor Brown RW 3 years $3.6M
Chris Tierney C 2 years $3.5M
Nick Paul LW 2 years $1.35M

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Tim Stuetzle C/LW 1st round (2020)
Logan Brown C 1st round (2016)
Egor Sokolov LW 2nd round (2020)
Josh Norris C 1st round (2017)

The rebuilding Senators turned over a new leaf this offseason, moving on from several longtime players while adding a couple of proven pieces to a mix of budding talent.

Ottawa didn't have to sacrifice much to acquire Murray, and though his hefty contract may have caught some off guard, the deal lends credence to owner Eugene Melnyk's pledge to spend closer to the cap in the coming seasons. Adding Dadonov was also a sign the Senators intend to compete on the ice and court high-impact free agents going forward.

Internally, general manager Pierre Dorion inked Brown, Tierney, and Paul to reasonable deals that will leave the Senators room to accommodate several restricted free agents next offseason, including blue-chip winger Brady Tkachuk.

Grade: B

Tampa Bay Lightning

Scott Audette / National Hockey League / Getty

Key arrivals


Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Kevin Shattenkirk D Signed with ANA


Player Position New contract length AAV
Mikhail Sergachev D 3 years $4.8M
Pat Maroon LW 2 years $900K
Luke Schenn D 1 year $800K
Mitchell Stephens C 2 years $737K

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Cal Foote D 1st round (2017)
Alex Barre-Boulet LW Undrafted

Unsigned RFAs

Player Position
Anthony Cirelli C
Erik Cernak D

The reigning Stanley Cup champions have spent the majority of the offseason doing financial gymnastics to try to keep their core intact for another run. Locking up Sergachev on Wednesday was a step in the right direction, but the Lightning are far from finished.

Tampa Bay is currently $2 million over the salary cap as it shifts its focus to bringing back Cirelli and Cernak. The former won't come cheap after notching a career high in points and finishing fourth in Selke Trophy voting last season.

The Lightning wouldn't have much financial flexibility to counter a potential offer sheet, and a failed attempt to move Tyler Johnson earlier this summer was a tough reality check for the cap-strapped champs. GM Julien Brisebois has said he's confident he'll sign Cirelli and Cernak, but Tamp Bay's offseason can't be considered a success until that happens.

Grade: C

Toronto Maple Leafs

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Key arrivals

Player Position Contract length AAV
TJ Brodie D 4 years $5M
Wayne Simmonds RW 1 year $1.5M
Joe Thornton C 1 year $700K
Jimmy Vesey LW 1 year $900K
Mikko Lehtonen D 1 year $925K
Zach Bogosian D 1 year $1M
Alexander Barabanov RW 1 year $925K
Aaron Dell G 1 year $800K

Key departures

Player Position Transaction
Kasperi Kapanen RW Traded to PIT
Andreas Johnsson LW Traded to NJD
Tyson Barrie D Signed with EDM
Cody Ceci D Signed with PIT
Kyle Clifford LW Signed with STL
Frederik Gauthier C Became UFA


Player Position New contract length AAV
Ilya Mikheyev LW/RW 2 years $1.64M
Travis Dermott D 1 year $874K
Jason Spezza C/RW 1 year $700K
Denis Malgin C/RW 1 year $700K

Rookies who could crack the lineup

Player Position Drafted
Nick Robertson LW 2nd round (2019)
Timothy Liljegren D 1st round (2017)

After learning another tough lesson last postseason, Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas made a concerted effort to bolster his star-studded lineup in a few key areas of need.

The addition of Brodie, a reliable two-way defenseman who can play the right side alongside Morgan Rielly, was easily Toronto's most significant move. The combination of Rielly, Brodie, and Jake Muzzin gives the Maple Leafs their best defensive trio in recent memory. Bogosian, meanwhile, is an intimidating presence who should make Toronto more difficult to play against, and ditching defensive liabilities in Barrie and Ceci is addition by subtraction.

Up front, Dubas pulled off an absolute steal by recouping a first-round pick and a strong prospect in Filip Hallander for Kapanen. Although trading Johnsson wasn't the preferred course of action, the Maple Leafs have plenty of depth on the wing and needed to allocate money to other positions. Simmonds' homecoming gives Toronto more sandpaper on offense, and Vesey is a low-risk option who played alongside Alex Kerfoot at Harvard.

Lastly, the Maple Leafs re-signed Spezza and added a future Hall of Famer in Thornton on low-risk, high-reward deals. Their veteran leadership will be invaluable for a Toronto team that's still relatively young.

Grade: B+

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