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Ana Sakic

We weren't sure what to make of Tampa Bay's summer moves during the preseason. Now? It looks like another brilliant set of transactions by GM Steve Yzerman, Julien BriseBois & Co. 

Jan 16, 2018
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When you're in school, report cards are rigid documents that chronicle your success or failure.

(Unless, of course, you attempt to manually change a grade so you don't get your video game console taken away by angry parents, which may or may not be applicable to your humble author.)

But in the NHL, report cards are a bit more malleable thanks to the benefit of hindsight. A "bad" signing in July can suddenly look better several months later. A "good" trade in June can be seen as abjectly terrible by the All-Star break.

As the 2017-18 season crosses the halfway mark, we're getting a better sense of which offseason moves worked and which ones flopped hard, so we've decided to regrade NHL teams. The initial offseason grades are based on original reporting, media observations and perception at the time.

Here are the revised offseason transaction report cards. Let's find out who the A-students are, and who is losing their Nintendo for a month.

Note: The teams are listed in alphabetical order, but to skip to a specific team click on the link below:

ANA | ARI | BOS | BUF | CGY | CAR | CHI | COL | CBJ | DAL | DET | EDM | FLA | LA | MIN | MON | NSH | NJ | NYI | NYR | OTT | PHI | PIT | SJ | STL | TB | TOR | VAN | VGS | WSH | WPG

Offseason grade: C
Midseason regrade: C+

The big move last summer was sending defensemen Shea Theodore and Clayton Stoner to the Golden Knights so they could hang onto players like Josh Manson and Sami Vatanen, the latter of whom they eventually flipped for Devils forward Adam Henrique. Manson is fifth on the team in scoring, and defenseman Brandon Montour has thrived with increased ice time. Goalie Ryan Miller has been excellent in his backup role, with a .935 save percentage in 11 appearances. Center Dennis Rasmussen was a whiff, and is now in the AHL.

The biggest flaw in their offseason was something out of their control: Inking Patrick Eaves to a three-year deal, only to see his career interrupted by a battle with Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Offseason grade: A-
Midseason regrade: C

Look, it's entirely possible this all works out in the end, but it hasn't worked quite yet. The Coyotes got aggressive last summer, acquiring center Derek Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta from the Rangers and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson from the Blackhawks. Of the three, Stepan has been the best, Raanta has played decently when healthy and Hjalmarsson has been injured and ineffective. Trouble is, he was expected to be the most important addition. Oh, and Mike Smith, jettisoned in the Great Purge of Old Coyotes last summer, has been one of the league's best goalies with the Flames. Whoops.

Offseason grade: B-
Midseason regrade: B+

The Bruins' offseason was one in which the hopes for a blockbuster deal -- there was Matt Duchene and Jacob Trouba speculation -- might have been the only letdown, because the Bruins were handing the keys to younger players at several positions. It's hard to cry in your beer about Colin Miller when Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy are ready on the right side. It's hard to gripe about not adding a veteran center when that might have buried Danton Heinen. GM Don Sweeney knew what he had coming. Doing little ended up meaning a lot.

Offseason grade: B+
Midseason regrade: C

The Sabres are one of the season's blazing tire fires, and GM Jason Botterill's first offseason smells of gasoline. Let's start with the positive: He won the trade, perhaps by default, with the Wild that brought defenseman Marco Scandella and forward Jason Pominville to the Sabres. Scandella, in particular, has been a bright spot for Buffalo, although Pominville had better offensive numbers with the Wild. Benoit Pouliot is having a rebound season on a show-me contract. Defensemen Nathan Beaulieu has been effective when healthy.

On the other hand, goaltender Chad Johnson has been a downgrade from Anders Nilsson, and the less said about oft-injured, oft-ineffective Jacob Josefson, the better. But, as is Sabres tradition, all is forgiven if this mismanagement gets them the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Offseason grade: C-
Midseason regrade: A-

Look, I'm guilty as charged: I thought the Flames adding Mike Smith was a bit like trying to cover the smell of a soiled bathroom with a candle made of blue cheese. Instead, he's fifth in the NHL in even-strength save percentage, at .929, and is credited as the reason the Flames hung tough and are now challenging in the Pacific. So, mea culpa.

Also, their draft pick bounty sent to the Islanders for Travis Hamonic is looking better as he has gotten more comfortable in the system. Ryan Pike of Flames Nation has deemed him a "mild disappointment," but getting better. They expunged a bunch -- Brian Elliott, Deryk Engelland and Alex Chiasson -- and made a couple of positive moves. Oh, and corrected the Eddie Lack mistake, quickly.

Offseason grade: A-
Midseason regrade: C

The best-laid plans of NHL general managers often go awry. And so it was that Scott Darling was given a four-year, .6 million contract after being acquired from the Blackhawks, to become the Hurricanes' starter and the solution to their goaltending woes. And so it was that he has a .905 even-strength save percentage through 28 games. He has been brutal, and one of the biggest busts of last offseason.

The good news is that forwards Justin Williams, Marcus Kruger and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk are all positive possession players who have done well. Williams is averaging the same points-per-game rate he did with the Capitals last season.

Offseason grade: B
Midseason regrade: C-

Egads. The Blackhawks had to deal with the sudden (but unsurprisingly cap-friendly!) loss of Marian Hossa, and made their usual financial overcompensation moves last offseason. Out went the dynamic Artemi Panarin (38 points this season to lead the Blue Jackets) and in came Brandon Saad (23 points, fifth for the Blackhawks). Their reunion with Patrick Sharp (six goals in 42 games) failed. Tommy Wingels and Lance Bouma have been getting devoured by opponents -- to the tune of a minus-38 in Corsi differential. This grade stays in the C's because Connor Murphy, Jan Rutta and Jordan Oesterle have been varying degrees of better than Brent Seabrook. But it's barely there.

Offseason grade: C-
Midseason regrade: C+

Remember how the original Star Trek movies had that thing where every other one (i.e. the even-numbered ones) were good and the others were mediocre? Colin Wilson is a Star Trek movie, and unfortunately his post-trade numbers with the Avs look more like his mediocre 2015-16 season with Nashville than either his 45-point or 35-point seasons that book-ended it. Nail Yakupov has eight goals, which is getting something out of Nail Yakupov, which was unexpected.

But, goalie Jonathan Bernier was the pickup of the offseason, with a stellar .922 save percentage in his first 18 appearances. The best thing about GM Joe Sakic's offseason turned out to be patience, as he waited for a windfall in the Matt Duchene sweepstakes -- and got one.

Offseason grade: B
Midseason regrade: B+

Clearly, the Artemi Panarin trade is working out for the Jackets, as he leads the team in scoring. At this point, the only concern is getting him inked before free agency in 2019. But we can only move the Jackets up a half grade because of William "Wild Bill" Karlsson's transformation into goal-scoring machine with the Golden Knights, and the decision to leave him dangling in the expansion draft. Hey, getting that David Clarkson money off the books was important, but maybe not that important.

Offseason grade: A
Midseason regrade: B+

The Stars jettisoned a good number of under-performers in the offseason -- Antti Niemi, Patrick Sharp, Lindy Ruff -- and then went on quite a spree. If we measure Dallas as having made four major acquisitions, they break down thusly: a huge win with winger Alexander Radulov, with 40 points in 45 games; an expected win with goalie Ben Bishop, whose numbers are improving (.922 even-strength save percentage) after some adjustment to a new team; but defenseman Marc Methot and center Martin Hanzal have been injury-riddled disappointments. So we'll just drop the grade down a smidgen, with due respect to how sneaky good the Tyler Pitlick signing was.

(Lindy Ruff jokes aside, please note that we're not including coaches in these, because obviously there was no greater offseason addition in Dallas than Ken Hitchcock.)

Offseason grade: C
Midseason regrade: C-

Seeing as how defensemen Trevor Daley and Luke Witkowski were the only acquisitions, and both have been in the C- range, that's how they end up here. The contract standoff with Andreas Athanasiou clearly didn't do anyone any favors, either.

Offseason grade: B-
Midseason regrade: D

It's no secret that Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli has taken some heat for the state of the team. It's also no secret that the Oilers' offseason was one of the worst in the NHL. The Jordan Eberle deal -- which Chiarelli has justified vaguely as an insurance policy for a potential Leon Draisaitl offer sheet -- gave the Islanders a winger with 34 points in 44 games and gave Edmonton center Ryan Strome, who has exactly half that output (17 points). Chiarelli also signed Jussi Jokinen, who had one point in 14 games before being shipped to the Kings for Michael Cammalleri, who hasn't done much more. Meanwhile, depth defenseman Jordan Oesterle (Blackhawks) has thrived after he wasn't re-signed. Good times!

Offseason grade: D+
Midseason regrade: C-

The Panthers basically lost an All-Star team on paper last summer: Jaromir Jagr, Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Jussi Jokinen and Thomas Vanek. Replacing them -- again, on paper -- was an underwhelming group that included Evgenii Dadonov and Radim Vrbata. While Vrbata has disappointed, Dadonov has been awesome: 26 points in 35 games, their fourth-leading scorer. So taking that and avoiding taking Jagr's decline into account, that's a little better than we'd previously thought. But not much, when you factor in that Vegas expansion draft misplay with both Marchessault and Smith.

Offseason grade: C
Midseason regrade: B-

The Kings' big offseason move was swapping out the dour comportment of coach Darryl Sutter for John Stevens, but that doesn't affect the grade. What does: The whiff that was the Michael Cammalleri signing, who then became the serviceable Jussi Jokinen. But little moves like the addition of center Alex Iafallo and defenseman Christian Folin have worked, while Darcy Kuemper (.931) has been a nice understudy for Jonathan Quick. But, again, the biggest move was the coaching change, which led Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown to their smiles again.

Offseason grade: C+
Midseason regrade: C-

The Wild's trade with the Sabres netted them Marcus Folgino and Tyler Ennis. After a fast start, Folgino's points-per-game average is about where it was last season. And Ennis is doing what he does, which is be a shell of the player that scored 20 goals back in 2014-15. Matt Cullen has a Corsi for percentage of 37.9 percent. Meanwhile, the Wild took a hit in the expansion draft, as Vegas ended up with Erik Haula and Alex Tuch -- both of whom the Wild miss.

Offseason grade: B-
Midseason regrade: C-

The Jonathan Drouin trade cost the Canadiens rookie defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, but gave them a potentially elite offensive winger (20 points in 38 games). The quicker the Habs realize he's a wing and not a center, the better. Losing Alexander Radulov hurts. Being unable to replace Andrei Markov hurts more, at least this season. Karl Alzner -- he of the five-year, .125-million contract -- is on the positive side of possession. Ales Hemsky was felled by an injury. Not great.

Offseason grade: B
Midseason regrade: C+

In the long run, this might work out. There's a chance Nick Bonino finds his game in the postseason to make up for an underwhelming regular season. Scott Hartnell is settling into his depth role, and defenseman Alexei Emelin will be slotted properly now that the blue line is getting healthy. But they haven't replaced James Neal's points on the wing. Bottom line: The offseason moves matter a whole lot less than the regular-season trade for Kyle Turris.

Offseason grade: B+
Midseason regrade: A

The Devils added No. 1 overall pick Nico Hischier, prize college free-agent defenseman Will Butcher and free agent forward Brian Gibbons in the offseason. They're all in the team's top five leading scorers. They added veteran center Brian Boyle, who is tied for third on the team, with 11 goals scored. Throw in the contributions of Marcus Johansson and Drew Stafford, and it's easy to see how the Devils turned this thing around so quickly.

Offseason grade: B+
Midseason regrade: A

As long as Garth Snow can keep making trades with the Oilers, the Islanders are golden. The Ryan Strome-for-Jordan Eberle trade was specious to being with; seeing how Eberle and Mathew Barzal have meshed, it's a lopsided win for the Islanders. With a few injuries on defense, the Islanders probably miss Travis Hamonic a little, but that draft pick bounty (a first- and second-round pick in the 2018 draft, and a second-rounder in 2019 or 2020) was considerable.

Offseason grade: B+
Midseason regrade: C+

The Rangers made one of the biggest splashes in free agency by inking hometown boy Kevin Shattenkirk to a four-year, .6-million. As his coach Alain Vigneault said, there's been a learning curve, as his possession numbers at 5-on-5 plummeted and point production overall are off. But the real issue with the Rangers' offseason was their decision to replace Derek Stepan from within, mainly because the young centers that'll replace him aren't ripe yet. After factoring in the possession thud of David Desharnais and the surprisingly strong goaltending from Ondrej Pavelec, and overall it drops a grade.

Offseason grade: C
Midseason regrade: D+

What's to say, really? The Senators thought they had a conference title contender based on last season, and they didn't. So they added center Nate Thompson (he's been fine), defenseman Johnny Oduya (likely flipped at the deadline) and bid adieu to Marc Methot, which has led to Erik Karlsson playing at least 50 minutes with no less than five partners this season. The most damning moment before opening night might have been that bizarre contract extension they gave goalie Craig Anderson, but we'll deal with that next season.

Offseason grade: B-
Midseason regrade: C

You know who's quietly been quite OK this season? Goalie Brian Elliott, with a .925 even-strength save percentage and the eighth best low-danger save percentage (.987) for a middle-of-the-road defensive team. So good signing there. Not so good: The Jori Lehtera-for-Brayden Schenn move, which luckily netted the Flyers some picks -- because he's 41 points behind Schenn's total at the moment. (Also, No. 2 pick Nolan Patrick has only two goals in 34 games.)

  • After Ducks center Andrew Cogliano was suspended, snapping his streak of 830 consecutive games played, former NHL tough guy Tie Domi tweeted that the league should have considered Cogliano's streak -- and respect among his peers -- in meting out justice.

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Offseason grade: C-
Midseason regrade: C+

Why their offseason grade was so low: Trading a first-round pick and a roster player for Ryan Reaves. Letting Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz and Matt Cullen all walk without suitable replacements. Bidding a bittersweet farewell to Marc-Andre Fleury, only to replace him with what was left of Antti Niemi after his Dallas stint. (He lasted three games in Pittsburgh).

Why their re-grade is higher: Frankly, because the reinforcements are starting to arrive, and impress. If Dominic Simon and Daniel Sprong can be Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel 2.0 on Sidney Crosby's line, that dramatically helps reshape a lineup that's never replaced those veteran departures (the Riley Sheahan trade aside).

So, let's assume this was the plan all along, with more to come.

Offseason grade: C
Midseason regrade: C

This is basically an "incomplete" because the Sharks didn't really do much of anything in the offseason, other than welcome the soft bushy beard of Joe Thornton back for another season and opt not to give Patrick Marleau a three-year contract. So ... congrats?

Offseason grade: B
Midseason regrade: A-

The Blues had already done well for themselves in the offseason, from flipping Jori Lehtera for Brayden Schenn to somehow getting a roster player (Oskar Sundqvist) and a first-rounder (used on Klim Kostin) from Pittsburgh for enforcer Ryan Reaves. Except now we've seen Schenn become an All-Star, with 44 points in 46 games and we've seen Kostin tally eight points in five games at the World Juniors, so ... well done, Doug Armstrong! (Admittedly, though, Chris Thorburn hasn't worked out as well as he'd hoped.)

Offseason grade: B-
Midseason regrade: A-

The Lightning are winning everything else, so why wouldn't they also win in retroactive offseason transaction grading? Jonathan Drouin's performance with Montreal aside, the play of Mikhail Sergachev for the Lightning has been exemplary (26 points in 44 games) even if his ice time has been limited in comparison to, say, Charlie McAvoy. The much-maligned Dan Girardi, signed after his Rangers buyout, has been OK -- a plus-17, and a minus-2.55 relative Corsi that probably has more to do with partner Braydon Coburn being possession quicksand. Chris Kunitz ... well, that's a playoff signing.

Heck, they even baited Vegas into taking Jason Garrison in the expansion draft, and he's one of only two players (along with Vadim Shipachyov, who returned to Russia) that didn't work out for the Knights. As usual, all hail Stevie Y.

Offseason grade: B
Midseason regrade: A-

The Patrick Marleau signing was always expected to yield strong returns in the short term, and his numbers are right in line with last season's. As the Leafs will tell you, the veteran intangibles matter just as much. The real surprise is defenseman Ron Hainsey, coming off his Stanley Cup win with the Penguins. He's third on the team in average ice time (22:14) and has helped Morgan Rielly to arguably his best season in the NHL. Maybe they lose a little credit in switching out Brian Boyle for Dominic Moore, but overall the Leafs played it smart last offseason.

Offseason grade: B-
Midseason regrade: D+

There's one undeniable highlight from the offseason for GM Jim Benning: Free agent Thomas Vanek's 32 points in 45 games, playing himself into viable trade bait territory again. But many of his other moves have been ... not good.

Forward Sam Gagner's first season in a three-year deal has begun with an offensive regression. Defenseman Michael Del Zotto has been a possession black hole. And Alexander Burmistrov might go down as the offseason's biggest bust: Who else can say one of their acquisitions retired from the NHL after being scratched for a seventh defenseman? (Oh, and keep in mind we're not counting the Derrick Pouliot move since it happened in October. But that was a nice one for Benning.)

Offseason grade: Inc.
Midseason regrade: A

What else needs to be said about the job GM George McPhee did in assembling one of the best first-year teams in sports history?

From leveraging players like Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson to smart expansion draft selections like Nate Schmidt to understanding the chemistry of the locker room he was building, to look back at the summer is to look back at the foundation of something truly special in the NHL this season.

Offseason grade: C
Midseason regrade: B

The Capitals saw a slew of talent walk out the door, from free-agent defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner and forward Justin Williams, to expansion draft fodder Nate Schmidt, to cap casualty Marcus Johansson. Their only significant addition: forward Devante Smith-Pelly. But you know what? Turning the roster over to younger players worked, and Smith-Pelly has been a nice little addition. Given their success, the offseason is starting to look more like a suitable belt-tightening than a step backward.

Offseason grade: C-
Midseason regrade: C+

See, this is why hockey is so delightfully unpredictable. We saw the Jets swap out Ondrej Pavelec for former Flyers goalie Steve Mason and thought, "Hey, that's an improvement!" And then we saw them add defenseman Dmitry Kulikov on an inexplicable three-year contract and thought, "Ugh, no, bad Winnipeg, bad!"

Well, turns out Mason was a sieve, although his struggles paved the way for Connor Hellebuyck to step into the job he was groomed for and challenge for the Vezina Trophy; and Kulikov has been surprisingly better, with positive possession numbers and a decent partnership with Tyler Myers. Add in whatever impact Matt Hendricks has made, subtract Mark Stuart and Chris Thorburn, and they did better in hindsight.




Ana Sakic photos

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Ana Sakic photos

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