Offseason Moves Yet to Pan Out Early in this NHL Season
In a recent Bleacher Report slider, I listed eight offseason moves already paying early dividends in 2017-18.
However, there were trades and free-agent signings that have yet to pan out as expected. Here’s a look at the most notable.
Coyotes trade for Stepan, Raanta, Hjalmarsson and Demers. The Arizona Coyotes made several moves to bolster their depth at center, in goal and on the blueline. In three trades, they acquired center Derek Stepan and goaltender Antti Raanta from the New York Rangers, veteran defenseman in Niklas Hjalmarrson from the Chicago Blackhawks and blueliner Jason Demers from the Florida Panthers.
Instead of improvement, however, the Coyotes tied a league record for the longest consecutive season-opening losing skid (0-10-1). While Stepan’s been among their top players (seven points in 11 games), he’s been unable to help them avoid their current spiral. The additions of Hjalmarssson and Demers prompted some pundits to suggest the Coyotes had one of the deepest bluelines in the Western Conference. Their current record, however, indicates otherwise. Raanta, meanwhile, was sidelined by injury for most of October.
Canadiens acquire Jonathan Drouin. In a bid to bolster their offense, the Montreal Canadiens shipped promising young defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Drouin, a talented young forward coming off a career-high 53-point campaign.
That move did little to help the offensively anemic Canadiens avoid one of their worst starts (3-7-1) in franchise history. While the 22-year-old leads the Habs with eight points in 11 games, he was held scoreless in six of those contests. That’s not to suggest it’s entirely Drouin’s fault, but his streaky production hasn’t helped. Sergachev’s stellar play with the Lightning, meanwhile, is just salt in the wound.
Rangers sign Kevin Shattenkirk. One of the top players in this summer’s unrestricted free agent market, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk inked a four-year, $26.6 million contract with the New York Rangers. He was expected to bring additional mobility and offense to their blueline.
Shattenkirk has nine points in 12 games with the struggling Blueshirts, but he’s bounced around their defense as the coaching staff tries to find the right pairing for him. He’s also had difficulties in his own zone. Meanwhile, the Rangers are off to their worst start in years, winning just three of their first 12 games.
Sabres & Wild multiplayer swap. On June 30, the rebuilding Buffalo Sabres shipped forwards Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno (plus a 2018 third-round pick) to the Minnesota Wild for defenseman Marco Scandella, winger Jason Pominville and a 2018 fourth-round pick.
This move has yet to help either club. Pominville, returning to the Sabres four years after being dealt to the Wild, has 12 points in as many games, while Scandella’s second in ice time (22:57). Sadly, they’ve been unable to significant improve the Sabres, winners of only three contests.
The Wild, meantime, won only four of their first nines games. Foligno has five points in eight games and Ennis only four.
Oilers acquire Ryan Strome. Prior to the 2017 NHL Draft, the Edmonton Oilers dealt right wing Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders for winger Ryan Strome,
While Eberle has nine points in 11 games with the Isles and remains a top-six forward, Strome has only three points in 10 games. He’s been shuffled around the Oilers’ lines, providing little secondary scoring. His low offensive output is among the reasons they’re off to a disappointing 3-6-1 start.
Jets sign Steve Mason. Hoping to bolster their goaltending depth and buy time for promising Connor Hellebuyck to develop, the Winnipeg Jets signed veteran Steve Mason to a two-year, $8.2 million contract.
So far, Mason’s short body of work with the Jets leaves much to be desire. He’s winless in four starts (0-3-1) with a bloated 4.84 goals-against average and a save percentage of .872. He did, however, show improvement in his last outing, a 2-1 overtime loss to Columbus. If not for Hellebuyck’s stellar player thus far (4-0-1, 2.25 GAA, .931 SP), the Jets would be in trouble.