Friends Close, Enemies Closer: Checking In On Other Metro Division Teams This Offseason

By Ed Francis on October 15, 2020 at 1:20 pm
Metro Division
The Game Haus

The Columbus Blue Jackets have had an active offseason so far.

Gone from the roster are Josh Anderson, Alexander Wennberg, Ryan Murray, and Markus Nutivarra. Spare parts such as Devin Shore, Marko Dano, and Jakob Lilja made quiet exits, as well. 

Max Domi and Mikko Koivu arrived to give a desperately needed boost to the center position, and there is still a distinct possibility that the Blue Jackets add another forward before training camp begins (whenever that may be).

But what about the teams that Columbus will be fighting against for a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs? What metro teams are better today than they were a month ago, and what teams may be worse? Here is a look at what changes the Blue Jackets metro division rivals have made so far:

Carolina Hurricanes

Key Additions:  Jesper Fast (F)

Key Subtractions:  Joel Edmundson (D), Justin Williams (F), Trevor van Riemsdyk (D), Anton Forsberg (G)

The addition of Fast will give the Hurricanes an adequate second or third line scoring threat; the former New York Ranger had 12 goals and 17 assists in 69 games last season. But they haven't done much else. Losing a pair of experienced defensemen in Edmundson and van Riemsdyk hurts a bit, but their February acquisition of Brady Skjei (also from the Rangers) is a de facto addition. He played just seven games with the Canes before the season was put on pause. They were close to acquiring Jacob Markstrom, but didn't, and still have questions between the pipes.

BETTER OR WORSE? Neither. The Canes did nothing to move the needle, and look to be about set for the 2020-21 season. 

New Jersey Devils

Key Additions:  Corey Crawford (G), Ryan Murray (D), Andreas Johnsson (F)

Key Subtractions: Cory Schneider (G), Joey Anderson (F) 

They added the letter "e" to their goalie situation, and it's instantly better. Crawford will likely split time with youngster MacKenzie Blackwood, but unless Blackwood is fantastic, it's very possible that Crawford is the Devils first option. The swap of Anderson for Johnsson gives New Jersey a more immediate impact player, but Anderson could be a steal for the Maple Leafs within a couple of years. Picking up Ryan Murray helps, but only until - say it with me - he gets hurt. 

BETTER OR WORSE? A bit better. They improved between the pipes and it's hard to not root for Murray to stay healthy. If he does, and if Johnsson becomes the 20-goals-a-year forward the Devils are hoping for, they'll be heading in the right direction.  

New York Islanders

Key Additions:  Cory Schneider (G)

Key Subtractions:  Devon Toews (D), Thomas Greiss (G)

It's hard to have an offseason more quiet than the one the Islanders are having thus far. They traded Toews, a second pairing defenseman, to the Colorado Avalanche for a pair of second round picks, and they brought in Schneider to replace Greiss to play behind Semyon Varlamov. 

BETTER OR WORSE? Uhh. Incomplete? Neither? Both? Toews was a fan favorite, but losing him won't alter the on-ice product.

New York Rangers

Key Additions:  Alexis Lafreniere (F), Jack Johnson (D)

Key Subtractions: Henrik Lundqvist (G) 

This was an offseason that became all about Lafreniere when the ping pong balls fell where they needed to for the Rangers. Getting Jack Johnson is a puzzling move. Losing Lundqvist was more of an emotional loss than an on-ice loss. He's 38, played in only 30 games, and had a goals against average of 3.16. The Rangers have younger options in Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin. 

BETTER OR WORSE? They have Lafreniere. They're better, despite the signing of Johnson. 

Philadelphia Flyers

Key Additions:  Erik Gustafsson (D) 

Key Subtractions:  Matt Niskanen (D), Tyler Pitlick (F), Derek Grant (F) 

The blow of Niskanen's surprise retirement was softened by the signing of Gustafsson, but the Flyers haven't done much else. Losing Grant and Pitlick isn't a huge loss, but they did combine for 23 goals last season. In the case of Grant, most of his 15 goals came with the Anaheim Ducks prior to a deadline deal that sent him to the Flyers. Grant did not re-sign with the Flyers, and instead opted to go back to Anaheim. 

BETTER OR WORSE? Slightly better, but only because of the continued development of goalie Carter Hart. 

Pittsburgh Penguins

Key Additions: Kasperi Kapanen (F), Mark Jankowski (F), Mike Matheson (D)

Key Subtractions: Conor Sheary (F), Matt Murray (G), Patric Hornqvist (F), Justin Schultz (D), Patrick Marleau (F), Jack Johnson (D)

The Penguins were the most active team in the division this offseason. Trading Murray inserts Jarry as their top goalie, no questions asked. Bringing Kapanen back into the fold is going to improve their second line, but losing Sheary (who is an underrated player, and someone that Blue Jackets fans should want in Columbus) and Hornqvist offsets that a bit. Penguin brass was not happy with the qualifying round exit, and this was the end result of it. 

BETTER OR WORSE? In theory, they're better because they've lost Johnson. Kapanen is a great get, but became a necessity instead of a luxury when they lost an entire line of legitimate NHL forwards. They tried to get better, but missed the mark.

Washington Capitals

Key Additions: Henrik Lundqvist (G), Justin Schultz (D)

Key Subtractions: Braden Holtby (G), Radko Gudas (D)

The big story with the Capitals this offseason is the replacing of one veteran goalie with another, but the Capitals throwing $8 million dollars to former Pittsburgh Penguin Justin Schultz was curious. Injuries have limited Schultz to just 72 games in the last two seasons combined, and his play was somewhat marginal from an analytical standpoint. If healthy, he'll offset the loss of Radko Gudas, who signed with the Florida Panthers.

BETTER OR WORSE? If Lundqvist can find his inner youth, they'll be a bit better. Otherwise, we're not looking at a team that is much different from last season.