Most of the best free agents are already picked over and while there is still a few months before the start of the season, NHL rosters are starting to take shape. We're going to take a quick division-by-division look to see each team's progress so far during the offseason. Thursday's division: The Northwest
1. Vancouver Canucks
Key Additions: Jason Garrison
Key Losses: Sami Salo
The Presidents' Trophy winning team managed to snag one of the top defenders in free agency (Jason Garrison) and even managed to get him on a bit of a discount when compared to the rest of the market. Garrison is more than just a booming slap shot from the point, he's also a quality all-around defender. Don't expect him to score 16 goals again like he did this past season, but that shouldn't subtract too much from his overall value.
The Canucks Are… Better. How can they not be after adding a quality top-four defenseman to a roster that just finished the regular season with the best record in the league?
2. Minnesota Wild
Key Additions: Zach Parise, Ryan Suter
Key Losses: Guillaume Latendresse
When the Wild bragged on their Twitter feed about sending in offers to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, not many people took it seriously (present company included). In hindsight … we should have. The Wild went all in on Parise and Suter, and even though they may not have been the highest bidders they were still able to offer the two players matching contracts and an opportunity to play together.
The Wild Are… Better. How much better remains to be seen, but they are no doubt an improved team. There's always risk with 13-year contracts like the ones given to Parise and Suter, but the Wild should at the very least be in serious contention for a playoff spot which is a step in the right direction for a team that's missed the postseason four years in a row.
3. Calgary Flames
Key Additions: Jiri Hudler, Dennis Wideman
Key Losses: David Moss, Olli Jokinen
The Flames' offseason has been the subject of much derision
General manager Jay Feaster has kept together a large part of the team that missed the playoffs once again last season, which probably isn't the best thing. The Flames then went outside the organization and spent big money on Jiri Hudler and Dennis Wideman. Perhaps too much, but that's what happens when you dip into free agency (especially in a weak year) to fill needs.
The Flames Are… Slightly better. But enough to end their current playoff drought? Probably not. And will Wideman and Hudler improve them enough to justify nearly $10 million in cap hits between the two of them? Hudler isn't going to see the type of linemates he saw in Detroit, and while Wideman can produce some points, most of them come on the power play and his defensive game is a bit suspect.
4. Colorado Avalanche
Key Additions: John Mitchell, Greg Zanon, P.A. Parenteau
Key Losses: Peter Mueller
The big addition in Colorado this summer was bringing in P.A. Parenteau as a free agent from the New York Islanders. His production over the past two years compares very favorably to some of the other free agents that signed this summer, but the biggest question is how much of that was due to playing on a line with John Tavares and Matt Moulson?
The Avalanche are... About the same. I don't expect Parenteau to duplicate his numbers from the Islanders. The biggest improvement the Avalanche will see is from within, like a bounce back year offensively from Matt Duchene.
5. Edmonton Oilers
Key Additions: Nail Yakupov, Justin Schultz
Key Losses: None
It's become a yearly tradition for Edmonton to be picking No. 1 in the NHL draft, and for the third straight year the Oilers were able to add another top young prospect to their lineup. This time it was Nail Yakupov as he joins a group that already includes Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. The Oilers also kept veteran Ryan Smyth on a two-year deal. The other big addition: free agent defenseman Justin Schultz, the top prospect that gained free agency after not signing with the Anaheim Ducks.
The Oilers Are... About the same. Yakupov certainly makes them more entertaining (and interesting) and gives them more offensive punch. Schultz fills a significantly bigger need than Yakupov and he's probably going to play a pretty big role for a guy that has yet to play a game in the NHL.