Nashville Predators: A-
I don’t know that Nashville had to do much this offseason. Unlike the Wild, the Predators were within two wins of taking home the Stanley Cup. And I don’t think this was a fluke, either. They underperformed in the regular season and showed their true potential at the right time.
But the Predators got better in the present and future. General manager David Poile moved Colin Wilson, which wasn’t a major loss, and replaced him with an obvious upgrade in Nick Bonino. Yannick Weber, Frederick Gaudreau, Austin Watson and Viktor Arvidsson all re-upped with the team as well.
That last one really makes this grade for the Preds. Arvidsson signed a seven-year deal at $4.25 million per season. That will be a coup for this team should he perform at even two-thirds of the rate he did in the 2017 postseason.
The major concern here has to be that Pekka Rinne’s hip continues to hold up and he performs more like he did through large swathes of the 2017 playoffs. If Rinne falls apart, the team might regret not going out to find more goaltending help this offseason.
St. Louis Blues: B+
Let’s start with the fleecing heard ’round the world. How Blues general manager Doug Armstrong managed to convince Pittsburgh to give him a first-round draft pick and Oskar Sundqvist for Ryan Reaves, I will never know. But that is an amazing deal for the Blues.
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Armstrong then doubled down by netting Brayden Schenn in an upgrade over Jori Lehtera, who was on the other side of the deal with Philadelphia. Sure, two draft picks were moved in the process, but that was offset by the Pittsburgh deal.
Adding Chris Thorburn and Beau Bennett on low-cost contracts was good for the team’s bottom six. David Perron’s departure stings, but he’s certainly not irreplaceable.
But the reason St. Louis does not get into “A” range is the Colton Parayko deal. I think they’re going to regret paying him $5.5 million per season over the next five years. While he’s had solid moments, I don’t think he’s shown nearly enough to have earned that type of money.
Still, Armstrong set his team up to contend for the Central Division title. With Mike Yeo entirely in charge of this team for the first time, we’ll see how that works out on the ice.
Winnipeg Jets: C-
The Jets are the third team on this list that didn’t do a whole lot in the offseason. The biggest change made by general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was in goal, with Ondrej Pavelec on the way out and Steve Mason coming in.
Besides that, the team bought out defenseman Marc Stuart and lost the aforementioned Thorburn to the expansion draft.
Cheveldayoff is a smart guy, but I’m not necessarily sure what his plan is for the 2017-18 season. His team is not a contender, he’s got an entirely solid top six, an entirely iffy defense and three goaltenders who saw NHL time in 2016-17. Maybe he has more up his sleeve depending on how the team performs early next season? They do have more than $8 million in cap space.
So those are my grades for the Central Division’s seven teams this offseason. Things can still happen, of course, but enough major events have transpired to give a fair view of each GM’s efforts heading into the 2017-18 campaign. Let me know what you think of my grades in the comments.