What did your favorite teams do this summer? Did it involve fun and excitement? Mystery and adventure? Or did it end like most failed vacations, where shame and remorse prevailed?
Lockout, shmockout. No one wants to hear about how some mega-rich owners are looking to prevent their not-as-wealthy players from lacing up the skates and earning even more revenue. All you care about is the upcoming season and planning your fantasy game accordingly.
So here's what has happened since the LA Kings shocked the hockey world in June and made most experts look like idiots. We've made it easier to follow by grading the clubs based on their transactions. You may disagree with these assessments, but don't worry - you're probably wrong. Please include comments at the bottom if you are so inclined to have a different opinion. (Or if you just feel like talking. I'm here.)
Sorry, no one made the top grade this summer. Everyone's task for next year: Try harder.
While Carolina remained respectable last season offensively (16th in the league in goals scored) and pathetic defensively (25th in goals allowed), it focused on forwards this offseason. A first-round pick was relinquished to acquire Jordan Staal (10 years, $60 million), and there are always questions surrounding Alexander Semin (1, $7M), but both provide significant numbers if healthy and motivated. Based on his progression, Jeff Skinner was signed at a discount (6, $34.35M). Joe Corvo (1, $2M) seems to do well in a Canes uniform and has returned for a third stint. Maybe they took a gamble with the inconsistent Marc-Andre Gragnani, but the cost and commitment (1, $0.8M) is minimal.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Major expectations fall on a franchise that hasn't seen the postseason since the lockout and maintains an increasingly frustrated fan base. GM Brian Burke arrived in 2008 and promised a five-year plan, so the urge to make a blockbuster trade may seem tempting. However, Burke has stayed away from the popular trade options (like Roberto Luongo and Rick Nash) to stay the course. Out went underperforming Luke Schenn in exchange for a potential top-line center in James van Riemsdyk. Defenseman Morgan Rielly (3, $2.8M) went into the draft as a possible risk but might be the one with the biggest upside.
Edmonton still deserve a high mark, even though they lucked out on a third straight first-overall selection. After all, no one can discount how much Nail Yakupov (3, $2.78M) can already provide. Just witness how awesome Taylor Hall (7, $42M) and Jordan Eberle (6, $36M) have been in their young careers. The rest of the cast should be just fine, now that Ryan Smyth (2, $4.5M), Sam Gagner (1, $3.2M) and Devan Dubnyk (2, $7M) are in. And winning the Justin Schultz sweepstakes (2, $1.85M) proved to be the incentive others needed to re-sign.
It was less about the money donated to Shea Weber (14, $110M) and more a willingness to build the franchise and pointing it in the right direction. A shame Nashville couldn't also hold on to Ryan Suter, but Mike Fisher (2, $8.4M), Colin Wilson (3, $6M), Paul Gaustad (4, $13M) and Sergei Kostitsyn (2, $6M) - among others - will be around for the next little while. Former Pred Chris Mason (1, $1.25M) has come back and Scott Hannan (1, $1M) offers experience and determination at a bargain.
Yes, the Wild invested $196 million on two skaters. And even after these moves, they still aren't necessarily Western Conference playoff contenders. Realistically, neither Zach Parise nor Ryan Suter (with their matching 13, $98M contracts) is considered an elite player, but ownership should still be applauded for landing the market's two biggest catches. As long as injury doesn't sideline Josh Harding (3, $5.7M), he should make his way to the front of the netminding line. Drafting defensive dynamo Mathew Dumba (3, $2.8) at No. 7 may have been the best bounce of the first round.
Not a bad first season in Winnipeg. Capacity crowds, nationwide support and a highly competitive club. If management could make Tobias Enstrom (5, $28.75M) and Ondrej Pavelec (5, $19.5M) happy, then surely it can do the same for Evander Kane. Add in a still valuable Olli Jokinen (2, $9M) and a useful Alexei Ponikarovsky (1, $1.8M) to build the forward depth.
Los Angeles Kings
Capturing a first title in franchise history should not change the way one builds a roster, so no surprise pretty much all of LA's moves were done in-house. After all, why disrupt the nucleus when it has proven successful? The big winner was clearly Jonathan Quick (10, $58M). Other postseason notables like Jarret Stoll (3, $9.75M), Dustin Penner (1, $3.25M), Colin Fraser (2, $1.65M) and Dwight King (2, $1.5M) were taken care of for reasonable figures.
Last summer's bulk spenders eased up on the expenditures, but still spent in quantity to maintain their momentum. Kris Versteeg (4, $17.6M) was rewarded for his breakout campaign. They were never going to compete to retain Jason Garrison, so Filip Kuba (2, $8M) is a solid scoring fill-in. A huge shot of toughness comes in with George Parros (2, $1.85M). If Peter Mueller (1, $1.73M) can recover from concussion issues, then Florida got itself s a nice little addition up front.
What do you get for the team that has almost everything? Well, frankly, nothing. Pittsburgh's primary goal the last few months was to clear enough funds to pay its stars down the road. Unfortunately, that meant Jordan Staal served as the casualty but at least they got Brandon Sutter and a first-rounder. And then the Pens used their first two selections on capable blueliners (Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta) who will only add to their depth at the position. And maybe you heard about this Sidney Crosby kid and his new deal (12, $104.4M).
New York Rangers
The Blueshirts finally got that coveted power forward with the acquisition of Rick Nash from Columbus, though it came at the cost of a rising star (Artem Anisimov), a gritty leader (Brandon Dubinsky), an up-and-coming blueliner (Tim Erixon) and a 2013 first-rounder. Still worth the price, if only for the added revenue and publicity. Other minor figures left, but were admirably replaced by Taylor Pyatt (2, $3.1M), Aaron Asham (2, $2.2M), and Jeff Halpern (1, $0.7M).
The second-half collapse last season left Dallas dejected but ready to move forward. In little more than a week, the Stars shipped Mike Ribiero to Washington and acquired Derek Roy from Buffalo. Provided Roy can stay healthy, that should be an upgrade. Father Time might be catching up to Ray Whitney (2, $9M) and Jaromir Jagr (1, $4.55M), but their scoring skills haven't diminished. Aaron Rome (3, $4.5M) can be counted upon for defensive responsibility and keeping opponents away from the net.
So close to the playoffs yet again, but ultimately foiled by untimely injuries. Matt Duchene (2, $7M) went missing but he should be back to full strength. P.A. Parenteau (4, $16M) brings his impressive two-year Islander resume to the mix. Erik Johnson (4, $15M) lies on the cusp of upper-tier defenders, while Ryan Wilson (3, $6.75M) isn't far behind. An additional couple of seasons for Steve Downie (2, $5.3M) and Jamie McGinn (2, $3.5M). Lost amongst the moves was the decision to gift netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere (1, $1.5M) an extension a year early.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Rick Nash had to go. There was no way he would stay. The incoming haul for the former captain looks favorable on paper, but there's an obvious hole at right wing. Nick Foligno (3, $9.15M) also required an address change, so Marc Methot's services were sacrificed. Three draft picks could be considered a steep price for someone who has never consistently started, so there could be a lot of pressure on Sergei Bobrovsky to start and win right away. And then there's future stud D-man Ryan Murray (3, $2.8M).
Last summer's premiere dealers stayed relatively quiet, with the biggest news being the arrival of Mike Ribeiro (from Dallas), the shedding of Dennis Wideman (to Calgary) and the excommunication of Alexander Semin (to the Moon). Kudos getting cheap forwards Wojtek Wolski (1, $0.6M) and Filip Forsberg (3, $2.78M) after the latter slipped to No. 10 in the draft. Thumbs down for dropping a sack of cash on the doorstep of Mike Green (3, $18.25M), though you'd figure at least half the other organizations would do likewise.
A hockey franchise without an owner is similar to a kid whose parents can't afford to buy all the items that would make the kid happy. In the case of Phoenix, unknown funds lead to losing key personnel. With Ray Whitney, Taylor Pyatt and Adrian Aucoin already gone, you believe free-agent captain Shane Doan will really want to stay? David Moss (2, $4.2M) and Steve Sullivan (1, $1.85M) can serve as adequate role players, but nothing more. And welcome back to the desert, Zbynek Michalek (traded from Pittsburgh).
For a team who had trouble finding the net (23rd in goals for), it's a wonder why Anaheim stocked up on defensemen. Sheldon Souray (3, $11M) may not be the force of old, but he'll still do enough. Bryan Allen (3, $10.5M) will burn a lot of ice time. And if Lubomir Visnovsky isn't forced to Long Island, then bump the Ducks up a notch. At least legend Teemu Selanne (1, $4.5M) keeps on going, while Daniel Winnik (2, $3.6M) isn't too shabby a purchase.
Last season's pleasant surprise who was so close in knocking off the Rangers in the first round. A nice amount of spending room, but the only outside signing of note would be former 25-goal scorer Guillaume Latendresse (1, $2M). The majority of the money landed with Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson (7, $45.5M). After coming over from Phoenix, Kyle Turris (5, $17.5M) has finally shown glimpses of being that No. 3 pick from 2007. Chris Neil (3, $5.75M) probably could've gotten more elsewhere, but showed some loyalty. And it's nice to have Daniel Alfredsson and his thrifty $1 million salary returning for another go.
San Jose Sharks
After another abbreviated playoff run, it was assumed the Sharks would blow up the roster and send one or more of their stars packing. But common sense negated that notion. Adam Burish (4, $7.2M) becomes the new agitator. Brad Stuart (3, $10.8M) comes along for another run in NoCal. Marc-Edouard Vlasic (5, $21M) earns fair market value, while Justin Braun (3, $3.75M) gets paid for whatever he does.
St. Louis Blues
Why fix a system when it's not broken? True, though the Blues endured long stretches - especially against the Kings in the second round - without scoring. Prospects are rising through the system to help, but you think Rick Nash would've looked good in the royal blue and gold? Both T.J. Oshie (5, $21M) and David Perron (4, $15.25M) hit the jackpot. Chris Stewart (1, $3M) is still being entrusted to use his size and skill. Barret Jackman (3, $9.5M) gives you plenty of minutes and aggression.
Ever since Cory Schneider was re-upped (3, $12M), the dilemma has continued for GM Mike Gillis: keep a still-talented, but megabuck goalie (Roberto Luongo) as a backup or swap him for a substandard package of players and draft choices? Not an easy task, yet the rest of the work must continue. With the loss of Sami Salo, in steps Jason Garrison (6, $27.6M) and his excellent all-around 2011-12 season. The only other notable transaction is Mason Raymond (1, $2.275M), who will attempt to turn around his fortune by staying healthy.
New Jersey Devils
Besides the loss of Zach Parise, there wasn't much the Cup finalists needed to worry about. Right, that whole Martin Brodeur possibly leaving thing. That scare was quickly alleviated when the 40-year old inked a new contract (2, $9M). Johan Hedberg (2, $2.8M) will continue to sit on the bench waiting for the old man to pull another muscle. Bryce Salvador (3, $9.5M) comes off a freak playoff burst to net a sizable return. And then there's first-round selection Stefan Matteau (3, $2.78M). Matteau! Matteau! Matteau?!
Another club with obvious offensive issues took a couple of steps to correct this, though the cost of doing so may have been a bit steep. The below-average defenseman and fifth-rounder acquired for Dennis Wideman were not causes for concern; it's the subsequent contract the 29-year old inked upon arrival that raised a few eyebrows (5, $26.25M). And Jiri Hudler can help out, but is he really worth that much on a per-year basis (4, $16M)?
Sorry about losing out on Shea Weber. But just think with that $110 million saved, Philly wouldn't have had enough to spend has on Scott Hartnell (6, $28.5M), Wayne Simmonds (6, $24M), and Jakub Voracek (4, $17M) with enough left in the wallet to snag Ruslan Fedotenko (1, $1.75M) and Bruno Gervais (2, $1.65M). Score! Wait, so Sami Kapanen and Chris Therien aren't available?
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Bolts owned the dubious distinction of allowing the most goals last season and decided to overcompensate as quickly as possible. Two second-rounders and a third for Anders Lindback (2, $3.6M), a should-be-but-hasn't-been No. 1 goalie?! Eight years and more than $40 million for two defenders (Matt Carle and Sami Salo) who will never be confused for their back-end effort?! Still gotta give props for locking up Teddy Purcell (3, $13.5M).
It may be unfair to judge a team based on its lack of activity, but here we are talking about what Chicago didn't do this summer in as many words as possible. Their spot in the bottom category was only spared due to insufficient funds. Anyone else want to hear about Sheldon Brookbank (2, $2.5M) and how he will revolutionize the Blackhawk blueline?
You'd think a quick spring exit, a rapidly aging blueline corps and little spending cash would spur Boston to be a major player on the trade market. But, alas, it wasn't meant to be. The Bs focused on who they already possessed and did so in bulk. Tim Thomas has taken at least a one-year sabbatical, so Tuukka Rask (1, $3.5M) becomes the unquestioned leader between the pipes. Cha-ching for Chris Kelly (4, $12M), more elbow grease for Gregory Campbell (3, $4.8M) and a good day for Daniel Paille (3, $3.9M). And just to rile Habs fans, they opted for goalie Malcolm Subban at the No. 24.
No-brainer protecting your most valuable player (Carey Price at 6, $39M) for the long term or your leading scorer last season (Max Pacioretty at 6, $27M), so why not secure your A1 defenseman (RFA P.K. Subban) before others come calling? Travis Moen (4, $7.2M) is proficient at not scoring. Alex Galchenyuk (3, $2.8M) possesses tremendous promise, so there's something to cheer down the road.
Detroit Red Wings
Nicklas Lidstrom has finally waved goodbye and, perhaps, so has the Wings' 20-year league domination. Detroit was in the running for any and all big name free agents but didn't land anyone of note. Although Mikael Samuelsson (2, $6M) will maintain the club's Swedish quotient and Jordin Tootoo (3, $5.7M) will finally be a pest they can use. No, wait, they also picked up Jonas Gustavsson (2, $3M) to act as backup. Stanley Cup, here we come!
Whenever Buffalo makes a few positive strides, it seems something happens that causes the organization to slip back into obscurity. Last season, a late swoon knocked them off the playoff map. Derek Roy was deemed expendable and Tyler Ennis is mired in contract limbo. And don't expect the combination of Steve Ott and Adam Pardy to come close to Roy's numbers. A couple of blue-chippers at the draft with Mikhail Grigorenko (No. 12) and Zemgus Girgensons (No. 14), but the latter was only taken by relinquishing a first and second-round selection. Hey, at least management didn't toss ridiculous offers to try and lure slightly above-average skaters. Oh wait, it did (4, $30M for Shane Doan?!).
New York Islanders
The team's a mess, the owner is nuts and no one can agree whether a new arena is a viable business option. Yup, the Isles are back, and they remain pathetic as ever. Lubomir Visnovsky will be coming to town, provided you have a tranquilizer or a subpoena. And it speaks volumes about their sad state to think they were willing to give up all their draft choices to Columbus for a shot at selecting Ryan Murray. But all is not lost as they signed Matt Carkner (3, $4.5M).