NHL Offseason Review: Atlantic Division

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has been one of this offseason's busiest execs. (USATSI)
Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has been one of this offseason's busiest execs. (USATSI)

More NHL Offseason: NHL rumors | Rumor mill | Trade Tracker | 2014-15 preseason odds

There's plenty of time remaining in the NHL offseason, but with so much movement before the calendar struck July 15, there's plenty to be gleaned from what has already happened. Big trades, big free-agent signings and the like have created a rather frenetic few weeks of summer without a single puck or skate in sight.

With that in mind, it's time to recap how the landscape and teams around the NHL have changed with Eye on Hockey's Offseason Review. Whipping around all four divisions, the review will cover the offseason additions and subtractions, the money spent and if teams around the league have successfully taken the strides to improve their teams for 2014-15 this offseason.

It all starts with the Atlantic Division that included the President's Trophy-winning Boston Bruins and Eastern Conference finals runner-up Montreal Canadiens. For some teams in the Atlantic, it was a rather busy summer, with movement throughout the lineup.

There was no team busier than the Tampa Bay Lightning, who overhauled the bottom of their lineup and defensive corps without disturbing a core of players that helped the club reach the playoffs last season. They have taken real strides toward contention.

Meanwhile, the division's top team a season ago, the Bruins were forced to stand pat as teams around them made efforts to improve. They lost 30-goal man Jarome Iginla thanks to a cap crunch and still have important RFA deals to get done before the summer is out.

Here's a look at what has happened so far this summer in the Atlantic.

Boston Bruins

In: No NHL roster players

Out: F Jarome Iginla (UFA), D Andrej Meszaros (UFA), G Chad Johnson (UFA), F Shawn Thornton (UFA)

Big acquisition: None.

Biggest tasks left: Re-signing restricted free agents Torey Krug and Reilly Smith has to be the A-1 priority for general manager Peter Chiarelli, but the club also has new contracts due to RFAs Justin Florek, Matt Bartkowski and Jordan Caron. They have plenty of time to do that this summer, but in order to stay cap compliant, the Bruins may have to move a current roster player.

Review: The Bruins were hamstrung by $4.7 million in bonus overages, mainly tied to Iginla, who the team had no choice but to let walk. They couldn't make any additions, but have the key players from their President's Trophy run coming back next year, except for Iginla. The Bruins may be slightly weakened by that loss, but it should be minimal. This is still a very good team and they'll get Dennis Siedenberg back healthy, while they are likely to anticipate another step forward from guys like Krug and Smith.

Buffalo Sabres

In: F Matt Moulson (5 years, $25 million), F Brian Gionta (3 years, $12.75 million), D Andrej Meszaros (1 year, $4.1 million), D Josh Gorges (trade)

Out: D Christian Ehrhoff (buyout), F Ville Leino (buyout), F Cory Conacher (UFA), D Jamie McBain (UFA), D Henrik Tallinder (UFA)

Big acquisition: Bringing Moulson back at five years at an annual cap hit of $5 million was a bold maneuver by general manager Tim Murray. With the team in the middle of a rebuild, Murray nabbed a solid veteran with scoring potential to help usher in this new era for the Sabres. If Moulson still has some effectiveness by the end of this deal, he could remain a go-to scorer on a stronger, but still young team.

Matt Moulson's return to Buffalo could be great for the franchise. (USATSI)
Matt Moulson's return to Buffalo could be great for the franchise. (USATSI)

Biggest task remaining: The only real big decision facing the Sabres coming up is how to handle first-round pick Sam Reinhart. He has likely done all he can in junior, but preserving one of those entry-level years on his contract has to be an attractive option. Should the Sabres feel more comfortable with his long-term development coming at the NHL level, then there's not much reason to send him back. He very well could help this revamped Sabres lineup pull a few surprises next year.

Review: Had the Sabres just sat back and spent just enough money to reach the salary floor, no one would have flinched, but that's not what happened. The Sabres fortified a young lineup with strong veterans like Moulson and Gionta, who very well could captain this team for the duration of his contract. Murray found and signed players that wanted to be there and cut loose Ehrhoff because he didn't. Just because the Sabres are rebuilding doesn't mean they are supposed to have a lineup with no bite. This team still probably won't be very good next season, but it will be above the salary floor and have some exciting youngsters learning on the job, which will make them an interesting club that may just be better than we think when the puck drops.

Detroit Red Wings

In: F Andy Miele (1 year, 2 way), F Kevin Porter (1 year, 2 way)

Out: F Todd Bertuzzi (UFA), F David Legwand (UFA), F Mikael Samuelsson, F Jordin Tootoo (buyout)

Biggest acquisition: The Red Wings' biggest signing was that of their own player in handing Kyle Quincey a two-year, $8.5 million deal. The team reportedly struck out on all other free agents they targeted leading to a rich deal for Quincey. It's not the kind of thing Red Wings fans wanted to see, but that's the reality of today's NHL. There's a lot of competition for top players.

Biggest tasks remaining: There are three big things the Red Wings have to do. Daniel Alfredsson is still mulling a return. He is an unrestricted free agent, but it is believed he will sign with the Red Wings if he returns. Outside of that, the Wings have to lock up both Tomas Tatar and Danny DeKeyser on new contracts. Both are restricted free agents and should figure in largely in the future of this franchise.

Review: The Red Wings' offseason hasn't been much to write home about. There were no significant losses from last season's roster, but no additions either. The Wings have been reluctant to hand big roles to younger players, but they're going to have to. The inability to attract free agents didn't seem like an anomaly as the organization does not seem to be the hot spot it once was for attracting NHL talent on the open market. The good news is that the Red Wings need to give more space for Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist to grow into the high-end NHLers they look like they can be. That said, the Red Wings have an uphill battle in keeping up with some of the younger teams in the league as well-established veterans begin the downsides of their careers in Detroit.

Florida Panthers

In: F Dave Bolland (5 years, $27.5 million), F Jussi Jokinen (4 years, $16 million), D Willie Mitchell (2 years, $8.5 million), F Derek MacKenzie (3 years, $3.9 million), F Shawn Thornton (2 years, $2.4 million), G Al Montoya (2 years, $2.1 million), D Aaron Ekblad (Draft)

Out: D Tom Gilbert (UFA), F Jesse Winchester (UFA), D Ed Jovanovski (buyout)

Biggest acquisition: This is biggest by way of money, but possibly not by actual return. The Panthers handed a large deal to Dave Bolland, a veteran center coming off a lukewarm season, cut short by injury, with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He does have two Stanley Cup rings and that may come with some added value, but it's hard to see it making up for the massive amount the Panthers are paying him. The Jokinen deal, however, looks a fair amount better and he should be a top contributor next year.

Biggest tasks remaining: Like a lot of teams, the Panthers have some serious restricted free agents to get under new contracts, not the least of which is veteran defenseman Dmitry Kulikov. Also in need of new contracts are arbitration-bound Jimmy Hayes, as well as Brandon Pirri and Dylan Olsen. All three of those players were acquired in various trades from the Chicago Blackhawks last season and could figure prominently into Florida's future plans.

Review: The throwing around of money in order to reach the $51 million salary floor was expected, but the five-year deal for Bolland is the most aggressive and may one day be impossible to move should the team need it. The Panthers have a solid base of young players and prospects that could be coming in on entry-level money over the next few years which will be friendly to their cap. That gives them a lot of wiggle room, but some of these contracts seemed more like spending for the sake of spending and the long-term vision for this club remains unclear.

Montreal Canadiens

In: D Tom Gilbert (2 years, $5.6 million), F Jiri Sekac (2 years, $2.7 million), F Manny Malhotra (1 year, $850,000), F P.A. Parenteau (trade)

Out: F Thomas Vanek (UFA), F Daniel Briere (trade), D Josh Gorges (trade), F George Parros (UFA), D Douglas Murray (UFA), D Francis Bouillon (UFA), F Louis Leblanc (trade)

Biggest acquisition: Nabbing Gilbert at reasonable money and term was probably Marc Bergevin's best move of the offseason to date. He can be a top-four defenseman for the Habs and be a marked improvement over Gorges as a player who both defends and moves the puck well. You could argue that getting Parenteau for Briere in a trade was a bit fortuitous as well in getting rid of the latter's contract, but Gilbert may end up making the larger overall impact next season.

Biggest task remaining: There is but one thing Bergevin has to worry about this summer and one thing alone: Re-sign P.K. Subban. The former Norris Trophy winner is a restricted free agent and has already elected for salary arbitration. The Habs should be working diligently to get him under contract before then so as not to be beholden to the arbitrator's decision, which very well could end up favoring Subban. Getting the club's best player under a long-term contract will make this summer a success.

Review: It's a bit incomplete until the Subban deal is done, but assuming it does get done (and it really should), the Habs probably got better this offseason. They got better on defense for sure by adding Gilbert to a mix that has some solid pieces already. The depth signing of Malhotra was nice as well. There was a lot of addition by subtraction though as well. With the exception of Thomas Vanek, whose stay in Montreal was a bit disappointing, the Habs didn't really lose anyone of note that would have been much help next year. Overall, it has been an effective offseason so far for Bergevin. He just needs to put the cherry on top with finalizing a Subban deal.

Ottawa Senators

In: F Alex Chiasson (trade), F David Legwand (2 years, $6 million)

Out: F Jason Spezza (trade), F Ales Hemsky (UFA), F Stephane Da Costa (UFA), F Matt Kassian (UFA)

Biggest acquisition: More out of desperation than anything else, the Sens added Legwand on a short-term deal. He did have 51 points last season and as a veteran of 977 NHL games, he should be a solid presence for the many young players Ottawa will be forced to play next season. However, this was an offseason highlighted more by losses than additions.

Biggest tasks remaining: There are two big negotiations facing the Senators. The more pressing is the new contract due to restricted free agent and goalie of the future Robin Lehner. He'll likely want more reps this season and failing that, he should command a long-term commitment from the club as their guy. He has to split time with Craig Anderson now, but Anderson's deal expires at the end of next season. It should be Lehner's show by then. The club also needs to try to negotiate an extension with Bobby Ryan, whose deal expires after the 2014-15 season. He could be a big prize on the UFA market next summer, but if Ottawa can make a long-term commitment worth big money, Ryan could be inclined to stick around.

Review: To be quite frank, this offseason hurt for the Senators. Losing longtime forward Jason Spezza, who really wanted out of town, and not getting a ton of production back to replace him is going to sting. Alex Chiasson is a fine young player who is still only just realizing his potential as a pro, but Spezza's production will be sorely missed by a team that failed to meet expectations in a big way last season. They'll go into next season with a slightly weaker roster, though they could get by if the younger guys like Mika Zibanejad and Chiasson take big steps forward this year as contributors.

Anton Stralman will solidify blue line for Lightning. (USATSI)
Anton Stralman will solidify the blue line for the Lightning. (USATSI)

Tampa Bay Lightning

In: D Anton Stralman (5 years, $22.5 million), F Brian Boyle (3 years, $6 million), G Evgeni Nabokov (1 year, $1.55), F Brenden Morrow ($1 year, 1.55 million), D Jason Garrison (trade)

Out: G Anders Lindback (UFA), F Ryan Malone (buyout), F B.J. Crombeen (trade), D Sami Salo (UFA), F Tom Pyatt (UFA), F Nate Thompson (trade), D Mike Kostka (UFA), G Cedric Desjardins (UFA), F Teddy Purcell (trade)

Biggest acquisition: Getting Stralman for a reasonable annual $4.5 million cap hit in a shallow market for defenseman was rather terrific signing by general manager Steve Yzerman. It allowed the Lightning to address a position of moderate weakness. That, coupled with the trade for Garrison from the Canucks gives the Lightning a legitimate top-four defense to build around No. 1 Victor Hedman.

Biggest task remaining: There's not a heck of a lot the Lightning have left to do after being so busy early this offseason with aggressiveness on the trade market and in free agency. They also locked up their key RFAs. The one thing Yzerman and company can focus on is trying to work an extension with goaltender Ben Bishop, who will be heading into the final year on his contract. His first season as a No. 1 was rather tremendous, but it was just one season of work in that role. As a pending UFA, Bishop has some leverage, but this will be a delicate situation for the Lightning as they learn their way as a cap-team.

Review: Yzerman was all over the place this offseason, slinging deals and in the process, he reimagined the Lightning roster without having to part with key players. The defense's top four is better. The forward group is deeper. There's a backup goalie with starter experience in Nabokov in case Bishop's injury troubles flare up again. There are layers to this lineup, more so than last year. The Lightning spent a lot of money, especially on the new $34.8 million contract for Ryan Callahan, which is big money for a player that has reached 50-plus points just once in his career. That deal could loom largely, but if anything has been proven this summer, the Lightning are going to spend and Yzerman is going to get creative in how he builds this roster. They're going to be one of the most intriguing teams going forward and could be a legitimate contender next season.

Toronto Maple Leafs

In: F Leo Komarov (4 years, $11.8 million), D Stephane Robidas (3 years, $9 million), F Matt Frattin (trade), F Petri Kontiola (1 year, $1.1 million), F Mike Santorelli (1 year, $1.5 million), D Roman Polak (trade)

Out: F Dave Bolland (UFA), F Mason Raymond (UFA), F Nikolai Kulemin (UFA), D Tim Gleason (buyout), F Jerry D'Amigo (trade), D Carl Gunnarsson (trade), D Paul Ranger (UFA)

Biggest acquisition: Adding Robidas, one of the better shutdown defensemen in the NHL over his career, was a solid get, but he is getting older and is coming off breaking his leg twice in one season. How he moves and how effective he'll be over the next three years is a guess. The interesting move the Leafs made that has real potential was going overseas and taking a flyer on Petri Kontiola. He's a former KHL all-star and has been great for Finland internationally, including at the Olympics. He could be a low-risk, high-reward deal if it pays off.

Biggest tasks remaining: Dave Nonis has a lot of work to do this offseason. The club has to figure out what it is going to do with goaltender James Reimer. He's a restricted free agent in a bad situation as the No. 2 in Toronto. He is scheduled for salary arbitration, but there's also the option of trading him away. The Leafs are in a tight spot with little in the pipeline to backup Jonathan Bernier. The team has to extend restricted free agent defenseman Jake Gardiner, while also making a decision on RFA Cody Franson. It seems like there has been a lot of momentum lately for Franson to get dealt at some point. He very well could be re-signed however and probably should be as he has been solid for the Leafs to date. Those are the big things left to make decisions on and they're rather crucial.

Review: The Maple Leafs had a pretty quiet offseason, but that may have been a good thing. There weren't a lot of options out there to make them better. There was a reported failed trade to land Josh Gorges and that was after the team had already flipped Carl Gunnarsson for Roman Polak. That seems like an awfully redundant move, but then they brought in Robidas anyway to go big on shutdown D. There's not as much mobility on the back end it would seem, which is a bad thing for a club that struggled on the blue line last season. The Leafs were wise to let Bolland walk on a too-rich deal to the Panthers and didn't go crazy spending like they did last summer. That said, this team didn't appear to improve in any notable way in the offseason. Will the results be different than a season ago? At this point, it doesn't look like it.

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