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The Calgary Flames seem destined to take part in an all-Canadian division this season, which could be as little as six weeks away.
With that in mind, I thought it’d be fun to look at the best and worst moves each team made this off-season.
We’ll start with the best.
Move: signing Jacob Markstrom to 6 x $6M deal
The Dominik Simon signing was my favorite in terms of bang for your buck. He has produced more than 30 points per 82 games over the last two seasons – very good for a bottom-6er – while providing value on the forecheck and defensively. For $700K, it is hard to beat.
I’m going with Jacob Markstrom, though. He may not be the best value, per se, but he is definitely the most impactful.
He was named Vancouver’s team MVP in back-to-back years, which is no small feat considering some of the players on that team. The Canucks played mostly horrific defense in front of Markstrom – they gave up chances at an extremely high rate – and still posted really solid numbers.
By keeping the team’s core intact, the Flames clearly thought they’d be best served improving the supporting cast around the core and trying to win now. If you’re trying to win now, bringing in a goaltender like Markstrom is definitely going to help the cause.
Move: signing Dominik Kahun to 1 x $975K deal
I thought this was a sneaky-good addition by the Oilers. Kahun quietly averaged more than 2.0 points per 60 at 5v5 over the last couple of seasons. He is a very efficient middle-6 scorer and he’ll provide some much-needed offensive depth on the wing. For years the Oilers have had to use guys like Alex Chiasson, Zack Kassian, and James Neal in key roles because they simply didn’t have much talent on the outside.
Kahun will help, as will re-upping Tyler Ennis and bringing Jesse Puljujarvi back in the fold. They may not be stars, per se, but they’re all capable offensive talents who better fit along Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
Move: signing Tyler Toffoli to 4 x $4.25M deal
I loved the Toffoli signing in Montreal. Loved it. They’ve needed more firepower on the wing for years and Toffoli will provide it. While he is not a high-end finisher, he generates so much volume that it doesn’t always matter. He will score his share of goals.
Toffoli is also one of the better play-driving wingers in the league and will further help Montreal control the run of play when on the ice.
I think he brings some of what they need and his style of play meshes perfectly with how the Canadiens tend to play under Claude Julien.
Quite frankly, I think he is underpaid and the length is more than reasonable for a UFA of his caliber.
Move: signing Evgenii Dadonov to 3 x $5M deal
Dadonov ranks 27th in the NHL in points per 60 over the last three years. 27th! He has been a more efficient point producer than Taylor Hall, Sebastian Aho, Mikko Rantanen, Jack Eichel, and Vladimir Tarasenko, among many others, during that time. Playing on a very good top line in Florida helped, of course, but you don’t put up those numbers without ample talent.
The Senators have a few really good young players but not much surrounding them. While they figure to be a poor team once again, it is important to have some quality veteran players around and Dadonov is that.
I think he is well worth the money and, given the term, there really isn’t much risk involved. By the time Dadonov starts taking a noticeable step back, he should be off the books.
Good player, good contract.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Move: trading Kasperi Kapanen for 15th overall + Filip Hallander
The Maple Leafs entered the off-season in a tough cap situation, especially considering they needed to upgrade their defense. You knew it, I knew it, everyone knew it.
While teams like Columbus (Ryan Murray for a 5th) and Vegas (Nate Schmidt for a 3rd) had to give players away for far less than they’re worth – and Tampa Bay legitimately waived a top-6 forward in Tyler Johnson – the Maple Leafs somehow managed to get insane value for their player.
Kapanen is a high-end skater and he does have some talent. The hands, and the decision making, don’t match the speed, though, and his on-ice impact is concerningly poor considering he should now be in the prime of his career. For a player who has the same GAR as Pavel Zacha(!!) over the last three years to fetch a fairly high 1st round pick, and a quality prospect, for a cap-strapped team is almost unbelievable.
I know people like to use Kyle Dubas as a Piñata but he deserves real credit for this move.
Move: trading 2022 3rd for Nate Schmidt
I don’t think this is any sort of master management from GM Jim Benning. He had a need and bought way low on a high-caliber player because Vegas was in a situation where they legitimately needed to give players away to get cap compliant. That said, the Canucks were smart to be the ones to step forward.
Their defense was, quite frankly, not very good last season. While Schmidt isn’t going to limit things defensively, his overall impact is quite strong and much better than that of Chris Tanev at this point in his career. Schmidt is a clear upgrade for a team that needed one, and the cost of acquisition was minimal.
Move: trading Carl Dahlstrom and a 2022 4th for Paul Statsny
This is much like the situation mentioned above. Winnipeg had a clear need at 2C – particularly with Bryan Little’s future in doubt – for a player to play, and make meaningful contributions, alongside Patrik Laine and Nik Ehlers on the 2nd line. They found that in Stastny and, again, gave up next to nothing to get a deal done.
I’m still pretty skeptical of how good the Jets will be this season – their top line is very poor defensively, as is their team as a whole – but they *want* to be good and moving Dahlstrom + a 4th for Stastny is absolutely a step in the right direction.
Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com and Evolving-Hockey.com
Taking stock of an all-Canadian division
Grading the Flames’ off-season moves
Flames make another smart, low-risk gamble with Josh Leivo
Flames make smart gamble on Dominik Simon
Flames sign Andrew Mangiapane to two-year bridge deal
Flames make risky bet on Chris Tanev
Flames sign Jacob Markstrom to long-term deal