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|Several signings and one big trade drastically shifted the balance of power across the NHL in a matter of days.
With John Tavares going home to Toronto http://www.buffalobillsteamonline.com/jordan-poyer-jersey , Paul Stastny leaving Winnipeg for Vegas, St. Louis signing three free agents and trading for Ryan O’Reilly, the landscape of the league has changed. The Washington Capitals are bringing back a vast majority of their team, the Western Conference is loaded and yet the Maple Leafs now appear to be Stanley Cup favorites after adding Tavares.
”He’s one of the best players in the league,” Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman said. ”And I think it’s obvious to say that Toronto is a better team today with that acquisition.”
Tavares’ decision to leave the New York Islanders knocks them out of contender status and puts a whole lot of pressure on coach Mike Babcock’s Maple Leafs to make a deep playoff run. Losing out on Tavares despite reportedly offering more money than the Maple Leafs’ $77 million over 11 years kept the Sharks from moving into front-runner status in the West – but they may not be done yet.
”We pride ourselves on being able to take a swing on difference makers like this,” San Jose GM Doug Wilson said. ”John was the one that we wanted to swing at.”
The Sharks, who extended Logan Couture and re-signed Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl to keep their core together, have plenty of tradable assets and will keep swinging for a difference-maker. One is off the market following the Blues‘ trade for O’Reilly that now gives them a potent 1-2-3 punch down the middle with Brayden Schenn and free agent signing Tyler Bozak.
O’Reilly saw the Blues sign Bozak to a $15 million, three-year contract and wondered if there wasn’t room for him anymore. Now they have centers to match up with just about any opponent in the league.
”You look at all the teams that have success, they definitely have guys down the middle that compete,” O’Reilly said Monday. ”And I’m thrilled to be a part of that.”
The Capitals boasted depth with Evgeny Kuznetsov TJ Brodie Jersey , Nicklas Backstrom and Lars Eller during their Cup run, and Babcock can now roll out Tavares, Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri. Vegas lost talent on the wing with David Perron going to St. Louis and James Neal signing with Calgary but now has a very competitive center corps led by Stastny, William Karlsson and Erik Haula.
”We do like having centers,” Golden Knights GM George McPhee said. ”You can move centers around the lineup, you can have centers on the wing. You can’t get wingers to play center.”
Here’s a look at where a few more teams stand early in the preparations for the 2018-19 season:
GOT WHAT THEY NEED
LIGHTNING: Signing Tavares would’ve been a luxury and might’ve necessitated a roster makeover just to fit him under the salary cap. Tampa Bay signed restricted free agent forward J.T. Miller to a long term deal, extended defenseman Ryan McDonagh, got a deal done with Slater Koekkoek and should have much of the same team that won the Atlantic Division last season.
”We try to improve our team,” Yzerman said. ”I don’t sense that we have a need to change just to change.”
FLAMES: Inking Neal to a $28.75 million, five-year contract would be a nice capper to the Flames‘ offseason that began with acquiring center Elias Lindholm and defenseman Noah Hanifin from Carolina. New coach Bill Peters could put Neal or Lindholm on right wing with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan.
GM Brad Treliving’s final tasks this offseason are to find a backup goaltender to Mike Smith and sign restricted free agents Lindholm and Hanifin to new contracts.
KINGS: Long-term , signing franchise defenseman Drew Doughty to an $88 million Youth JuJu Smith-Schuster Jersey , eight-year extension is the most important thing Los Angeles did. In the shorter term, it also won the competition for returning Russian winger Ilya Kovalchuk, who GM Rob Blake believes can play with either top-six center, Anze Kopitar or Jeff Carter, and produce at age 35.
”That scoring-type winger was something that we needed to add,” Blake said. ”Where he plays on the power play and the way he scores goals with his shot I think is something we’ve coveted or looked for.”
WORK LEFT TO DO
SENATORS: They traded Mike Hoffman, bought out Alexandre Burrows but still have at least one big problem with the future of Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson. The Senators have reportedly given Karlsson’s camp permission to speak with other teams about a contract – which is expected to look a whole lot like Doughty’s deal – which would open to door to Ottawa trading its captain rather than losing him for nothing like the Islanders did when Tavares wouldn’t sign early.
”We start Oct. 4,” GM Pierre Dorion said Sunday in Ottawa. ”We’ve got lots of time.”
OILERS: Connor McDavid won the scoring title and the Ted Lindsay award as the players’ choice for most outstanding player, and yet Edmonton missed the playoffs by 17 points. GM Peter Chiarelli publicly dangled the 10th pick in the draft to try to get an offensive defenseman and hasn’t been able to acquire one yet.
Meanwhile, left wing Milan Lucic is 30, coming off a 34-point dud of a season and still has five years left on his contract at a $6 million annual cap hit. Lucic’s name has come up in trade talks C.J. Mosley Jersey , but moving him now won’t be easy, so the Oilers have to prepare for life with him next season.
”He’s a proud guy and we expect to have him back and at a The McCourty twins are back together.
The Cleveland Browns traded cornerback Jason McCourty to the New England Patriots on Thursday, reuniting him with his brother Devin. The Browns also sent a seventh-round pick to the Patriots to get a sixth-rounder in return.
”Cleveland it’s been real!” Jason McCourty wrote on the Twitter account the brothers share. ”I wish nothing but the best to the guys in that locker room!”
The Browns have been one of the most active teams in the NFL this offseason as they try to rebuild from last season’s 0-16 record. They have already traded for quarterback Tyrod Taylor and three-time Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry, while signing seven free agents, including running back Carlos Hyde.
They also made a deal on Wednesday to send defensive lineman Danny Shelton to New England for a third-round pick in 2019. But the defending AFC champion Patriots have mostly been losing players, including receiver Danny Amendola, left tackle Nate Solder, defensive back Malcolm Butler and running back Dion Lewis.
After spending his first eight seasons with Tennessee, Jason McCourty, 30, started 14 games and led the Browns with three interceptions and made 65 tackles last season Jack Johnson Jersey , the most for any player in the secondary.
He became a locker room leader, but also ruffled feathers by saying the team never should have gone winless after both coach Hue Jackson and new general manager John Dorsey bemoaned the team’s lack of talent.
”The talent in this locker room is not the talent to go win a Super Bowl this year, but this locker room is far more talented than 0-16,” Jason McCourty said following the season-ending loss in Pittsburgh.
”I’m kind of tired of hearing so many people say, even within the organization, is we don’t have the guys or we need more guys. Let’s work with the guys we do have and find ways to win games.”
Also Thursday, the Patriots re-signed running back Rex Burkhead. A 2013 sixth-round draft pick who spent his first four seasons with the Bengals, Burkhead has run for 639 yards and eight touchdowns and caught 64 passes for 542 yards and four touchdowns in his career.
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