NHL Power Rankings: Every team’s best offseason decision

NHL Power Rankings: Every team's best offseason decision

This is the offseason edition of theScore’s NHL Power Rankings heading into the 2023-24 regular season. Check back every other Monday during the regular season for updated rankings.

In this edition, we look at the best offseason decision each team has made so far.

1. Vegas Golden Knights

Re-upping Adin Hill. Contracts for goaltenders are always scary, especially for a netminder who’s coming off of a historic Stanley Cup run with only 101 regular-season games to his name. However, keeping Hill in Vegas for only a two-year commitment is solid business from general manager Kelly McCrimmon. Hill gets paid in the short term, and the Golden Knights retain a fan favorite to see if he can truly handle a starter’s role.

2. Colorado Avalanche

Adding Jonathan Drouin. The Avalanche retooled their supporting forward group with the acquisitions of Ryan Johansen and Ross Colton, but signing Drouin to a one-year, $825,000 deal was their savviest piece of business. The 28-year-old forward acknowledged he was in need of a “fresh start” after an underwhelming, injury-riddled six-year stint in Montreal, and he’s now joining a powerhouse in Colorado. It’s a low-risk, high-reward signing for the Avs.

3. Carolina Hurricanes

Signing Dmitry Orlov. Sebastian Aho‘s max-term, team-friendly extension is a close second for the Hurricanes this summer, but Carolina nailed it when it signed this summer’s top free agent. Orlov’s arrival arguably gives the Hurricanes the NHL’s deepest blue line, and keeping the contract to two years makes it virtually risk-free.

4. New Jersey Devils

Trading for Tyler Toffoli. It may be a lot to ask for the 31-year-old winger to replicate the career-high 34 goals and 73 points he recorded last season, but he still has lots left in the tank and also doubles as a respected veteran with championship pedigree for a young team with Stanley Cup aspirations. Surrendering a third-round pick and Yegor Sharangovich – who was a healthy scratch at times in the playoffs – was a strangely light price to pay.

5. Edmonton Oilers

Chris Tanouye / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Connor Brown‘s creative deal. Brown will almost certainly make $4 million in salary this season but will only cost $775,000 on the Oilers’ cap. That’s thanks to his performance bonus, which he was only eligible to receive due to missing most of 2022-23 due to a torn ACL. The bonus will likely result in a cap overage that’ll apply to the team’s 2024-25 payroll, but the deal maximizes Edmonton’s chances in 2023-24. A clever contract from GM Ken Holland on a player that has a history with Connor McDavid and has excelled alongside talented players in the past.

6. Dallas Stars

Bringing in Matt Duchene. We’re certain that the Stars are more than happy to be Duchene’s rebound team after he was dumped bought out by the Predators. The 32-year-old forward said he was “absolutely” motivated by how his tenure ended in Nashiville, and he’s bringing that motivation to Dallas for the low cost of a one-year, $3-million deal. Not bad business for a guy who’s one season removed from a 43-goal campaign.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs

Adding Tyler Bertuzzi. The Maple Leafs’ offseason has been met with mixed reviews, but reeling in Bertuzzi was unanimously viewed as a win. He’s a big upgrade to Toronto’s top six, and a one-year contract can help the Leafs win now without complicating the books as new deals loom for Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and, eventually, Mitch Marner.

8. Tampa Bay Lightning

Letting Alex Killorn walk as a UFA. The Lightning made some savvy under-the-radar additions like Conor Sheary, but their wisest decision was saying goodbye to Killorn. He was a key part of Tampa Bay’s back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, but creating cap room to give the 33-year-old anything resembling the four-year, $25-million deal he got from the Ducks would’ve been a colossal mistake.

9. New York Rangers

Adding Blake Wheeler. The 36-year-old isn’t the 90-point player he once was, but Wheeler doesn’t need to be that at the measly $800,000 cap hit he’ll cost the Rangers. Coming off of a 55-point campaign – one that would’ve put him fourth among New York forwards a season ago – Wheeler still has gas in the tank to provide scoring at a cheap ticket for a Rangers team that’s right at the cap ceiling.

10. Los Angeles Kings

Jonathan Kozub / National Hockey League / Getty

Acquiring Pierre-Luc Dubois. Sure, there’s some concern since he’s already on his third NHL team ahead of his seventh season, but a one-two-three punch of Anze Kopitar, Dubois, and Phillip Danault down the middle in Los Angeles sounds downright fearsome to us. Fingers crossed that Dubois’ eight-year, $68-million extension is fruitful for both parties.

11. Florida Panthers

Snagging Evan Rodrigues. The Panthers were strapped financially this offseason, but signing Rodrigues to a four-year, $12-million contract was a shrewd piece of business. He’s coming off his best season on a point-per-game basis (0.57) and should complement Florida’s big offensive guns nicely. Rodrigues contributes strongly at both ends of the ice and can fill in at center or the wing.

12. Pittsburgh Penguins

Trading for stud defenseman Erik Karlsson. Obviously. The swap was a masterclass from new GM Kyle Dubas, who acquired the reigning Norris Trophy winner without having to part with top prospects Owen Pickering and Brayden Yager, and they shed cap space in the process. This is a team that has its eye on getting Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang another Cup.

13. Boston Bruins

Signing Morgan Geekie to a two-year, $4-million contract. This was a pretty low-risk, high-reward investment. The 2023 unrestricted free-agent class was short on centers, and Geekie was one of the youngest available at 25 years old. His 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame gives him the physical tools to be a strong defensive player, and his 2.47 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five (31st best in the league among qualified players) show some untapped offensive potential.

14. Seattle Kraken

Locking up Vince Dunn. When the Kraken claimed Dunn in the expansion draft, the hope was that he could move up the lineup and become a top-end defender after posting excellent metrics on St. Louis’ third pairing. Dunn made good on that potential last season, ranking top 10 in scoring among blue-liners, and Seattle rewarded him accordingly. His $7.35-million cap hit will be more than worth the price if he remains a 23-plus-minute, top-pairing anchor.

15. Buffalo Sabres

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Drafting Zach Benson. Buffalo wasn’t a major player in free agency or the trade market this summer, but the Sabres made an already outstanding prospect pool even more impressive at the draft when they selected Benson 13th overall. Many viewed it as a slide for the dynamic WHL winger, who racked up 98 points in 60 games before turning 18 with the Winnipeg Ice this past season.

16. Minnesota Wild

Drafting Riley Heidt 64th overall. It’s been a quiet summer in Minnesota, but snagging Heidt with the last selection of the second round – with one of the picks acquired in the Jordan Greenway trade – could look like a steal in a few years’ time. Several analysts pegged the supremely skilled Heidt as a first-round pick after he tallied 97 points in 68 games with the WHL’s Prince George Cougars last season.

17. Ottawa Senators

Nabbing Vladimir Tarasenko. Being forced to move on from Alex DeBrincat was a tough pill to swallow for the Senators, but GM Pierre Dorion softened the blow by adding Tarasenko on a one-year pact worth $5 million. The 31-year-old is one year removed from a 34-goal, point-per-game campaign and has significant playoff experience. On a short contract, there’s minimal risk and a lot of upside for an Ottawa team that remains on the cusp.

18. New York Islanders

Re-signing Ilya Sorokin. Sorokin could’ve become a UFA in 2024, but he got his bag one year early, inking an eight-year, $66-million extension July 1. Sure, that’s a lot of term for a goalie who’s already 28 years old, but Sorokin has proven to be the guy on Long Island. He earned his first Vezina Trophy nomination in 2022-23 after posting a .924 save percentage and six shutouts while dragging the Islanders to the playoffs.

19. Washington Capitals

Taking a chance on Max Pacioretty. The Capitals were viewed as a strong candidate for wholesale changes after missing the playoffs, but Washington stayed relatively quiet this summer. Its most notable player transaction was bringing in Pacioretty on a one-year, $2-million deal. It’s a touch risky given his recent Achilles tendon injuries, but someone other than Alex Ovechkin needs to score goals, and Pacioretty has six 30-goal campaigns to his credit.

20. Detroit Red Wings

Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photo / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Trading for DeBrincat. There are many big Red Wing moves to choose from, but we can’t ignore the splashiest. The price of a conditional first-round pick, a fourth-round pick, Dominik Kubalik, and Donovan Sebrango was more than worth it for a Detroit team with a rich prospect pipeline that needs star talent to get over the hump. DeBrincat is coming off a poor season in Ottawa, but the 25-year-old two-time 40-goal scorer could be poised for a huge year with his hometown team.

21. Winnipeg Jets

Getting multiple assets for Dubois. The Jets did incredibly well to get three NHLers and a high second-round pick for Dubois when everyone knew he wanted out of Winnipeg. Losing Dubois hurts, but gaining a budding young player in Gabe Vilardi, a consistent producer in Alex Iafallo, and a center with upside in Rasmus Kupari allows the Jets to remain competitive despite moving a top center.

22. Calgary Flames

Breaking up with Darryl Sutter. More moves may be on the way (Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm, and Mikael Backlund are all question marks), but firing their head coach is the Flames’ best offseason decision so far. After a listless 2022-23 campaign, Calgary didn’t appear to be in love with Sutter’s hard-ass style anymore, so it was time to call it quits. Now it’ll be up to newbie Ryan Huska to put the pieces together in his first season as an NHL head coach.

23. Columbus Blue Jackets

Landing Damon Severson. The Blue Jackets pounced on Severson in a rare sign-and-trade rather than take their chances with him on the open market. It only cost Columbus a third-round pick for a premier puck-mover that further bolsters a Blue Jackets backend that’s suddenly deep as anyone’s. Eight years is a lot for a 29-year-old, but Severson immediately makes Columbus a better team.

24. Nashville Predators

Signing of Denis Gurianov for one year at $850,000. Nashville’s splashy additions of Ryan O’Reilly and Luke Schenn come with some risk due to age and contract term, but Gurianov carries literally none. Now 26, the former first-round pick and 20-goal scorer has struggled in recent years, but his size-speed combination gives him plenty of upside, and he should be hungry while playing on a prove-it deal.

25. Vancouver Canucks

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Signing Pius Suter. It was a surprise to see Suter remain a free agent until mid-August when he was finally scooped up by the Canucks on a two-year deal with a $1.6-million cap hit. The 27-year-old isn’t the most glamorous addition, but Suter adds versatility to Vancouver’s bottom six and brings much-needed shorthanded skill to a team that had the worst penalty kill in the league a season ago.

26. St. Louis Blues

Trading for Kevin Hayes. All it took for the Blues to scoop him up from the Flyers was a 2024 sixth-round pick. Oh, and St. Louis got him on sale, too, with Philadelphia retaining 50% of his inflated $7.143-million cap hit. That’s tidy work for a veteran center who hit the 50-point plateau for the second time in his career during the 2022-23 campaign.

27. Arizona Coyotes

Acquiring Sean Durzi. The Coyotes signed a collection of players to one-year deals in free agency, presumably for trade bait in a few months. However, trading for Durzi, who’s a restricted free agent after the 2023-24 season, was a clever and low-cost move. He’s a dynamic talent on the blue line and should help Arizona on its long-winding path to contention.

28. Montreal Canadiens

Signing Cole Caufield to an eight-year contract with a $7.85-million cap hit. Caufield has scored 48 goals in 83 games since Martin St. Louis became Montreal’s head coach in February 2022. If he scores anywhere near that pace, the contract is already a bargain. As the salary cap rises, it could become one of the most team-friendly deals in the entire NHL. Caufield is still just 22 with lots of room to improve, too.

29. Chicago Blackhawks

Drafting Connor Bedard. The trajectory of the Blackhawks’ franchise was altered when they landed the rights to draft Bedard first overall. He’s the most hyped prospect in the sport since some other Connor in 2015, and for good reason. Bedard’s arrival will rejuvenate the fanbase and make Chicago a must-watch team this season.

30. Anaheim Ducks

Debora Robinson / National Hockey League / Getty

Troy Terry‘s extension. The Ducks haven’t signed creative RFA forward Trevor Zegras yet, so we’re going to zero in on his teammate instead. Terry is an important piece of Anaheim’s long-term future, and GM Pat Verbeek proved that by signing the 25-year-old winger and two-time All-Star to a seven-year, $49-million deal. A key producer for the Ducks over the past two seasons, Terry’s deal can look even better as the salary cap continues to rise.

31. Philadelphia Flyers

Drafting Matvei Michkov. It’s teardown time in Philadelphia, but if the Flyers find their way back to relevancy any time soon, selecting the uber-talented Russian seventh overall is sure to help the cause. It’ll take a couple of years for this pick to pay dividends, but Michkov immediately became Philly’s top prospect and should be more than NHL-ready by the time his KHL contract expires.

32. San Jose Sharks

Signing Filip Zadina to a one-year, $1.1-million deal. The 2018 No. 6 pick was in dire need of a fresh start before agreeing with the Red Wings to have his contract terminated, and the Sharks were smart to pounce at the opportunity for a reclamation project as they continue to rebuild. It wouldn’t be surprising if Zadina hits his stride in a new environment, where he could potentially play alongside a talented center like Logan Couture or Tomas Hertl.

(Analytics sources: Evolving Hockey, Natural Stat Trick)

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