The Washington Capitals were not the only team to make a splash in free agency during the first couple of days. Yes, the Caps only made moves on day 1 but they certainly made a splash. The rest of the division has been active as well and could make a difference within the division as well as within the eastern conference.
The Carolina Hurricanes made a couple of moves but nothing that I see will break their streak of playoff drought. The ‘Canes added a center with a 53% face-off win percentage in Jay McLement and they added a 4th line center to take the place of the loss of Manny Malhotra. They also brought back a blue-liner that was traded last season in Tim Gleason. Of course we know that Justin Peters was lost, but as a back-up probably not making a playoff difference at this point for the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have not been too active so far in free agency. They have added one player via trade, Scott Hartnell, who is almost a guarantee for 20 goals a year and he does bring experience and leadership to the team. Past that, I don’t see the Blue Jackets as a major issue for the Caps. They did lose a couple of players and that could hurt them in the long run; Derek MacKenzie, Nikita Nikitin, Nick Schultz, R.J. Umberger.
We move on to the Devils. New Jersey is always thought of as a defensive team and that is where their strength seems to be. They had trouble scoring goals last year and made a move to change that. The Devils added Mike Cammalleri, who lead the Flames last year in goals with 26 and they also brought in Martin Havlat to help on the offensive end. The Devils are always stingy and ready to ruin the party.
We next move to the Island, looking at both the Islander and the Rangers. The Islanders have been active so far. They lost two and added five players. Two of those were goalies, Chad Johnson and Jaroslav Halak. The other players added were T.J. Brennan,Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin. We are familiar with Grabovski and it looks as if they will be using him as the 2nd line center behind John Tavares. Kulemin is going to add some offense for the Islanders as well. He finished with career highs last year putting together 30 goals and 57 points. Brennan is coming off a great year as a defenseman in the AHL and should make a mark right off the bat.
The Rangers lost more than they brought in. Their big name guy the brought in was Dan Boyle. They however lost Brad Richards and Anton Stralman. After free agency, I think that the Rangers lost more than they were able to bring in not just number-wise but in talent as well. This could be good for the Caps this year.
We next look at the teams from PA. These are the final two teams in the Metropolitan division. We will start with the Flyers as they lost as many as they brought in. The Flyers brought in Nick Schultz and R.J. Umberger. They lost Scott Hartnell and Steve Downie. Although these transactions will make a difference in the game, the bigger deal for the Flyers is that they are currently over the cap by 3 million and they are currently shopping Vincent Lacavalier around to unload his 22.5 million dollar contract that still has 5 years to go and is weighing the Flyers down.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are probably the biggest issue in this division for the Capitals and everyone else. The Penguins have been active so far this off-season. They lost two defenseman to us, big deal. They did bring in a strong defenseman that needs to rejuvenate his career, Christian Ehrhoff. The also lost their 4th and 5th ranked scorers in James Neal and Jussi Jokinen. They added Steve Downie and Thomas Greiss as a back up goalie.
Taking a look at the division as a whole, this will be an exciting year and with the moved made so far it will take a fast start by the Washington Capitals to get out in front and with their defensive-minded approach, they could be the favorites here.