Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The 2016 Bizarro-meter: Ranking the NHL's strangest offseasons

Now that we’re into the month of August, the NHL off-season is largely done.

Sure, there are still six weeks until training camps open. But most of the big moves have already happened, and we’ve settled into the dog days of summer when not much is going on.

Most teams have already done the majority of what they’re going to do. And it’s fair to say that some teams had more straightforward summers than others.

And so it’s time to break out the annual Bizarro-meter, in which we rank each team’s off-season based on just how strange it’s been.

Let's be clear: "bizarre" does not necessarily mean "bad." An unexpected move or two can work out great, while a conservative approach will often fail miserably.

We're not judging how well each team performed here. We're looking at how far out of the range of expectations they went.

So let's look at each team's major off-season moves, where "the off-season" is everything that happened after the team played its final game — whenever that ended up being. We'll do this by division, and we'll start off with the home of the defending Stanley Cup champs.


Pittsburgh Penguins

The off-season so far: As is typically the case for Stanley Cup champions, they saw some useful depth pieces depart due the salary cap concerns.

But their strangest move was: Not really losing anyone of consequence. That sounds harsh – sorry Jeff Zatkoff, Ben Lovejoy and Beau Bennett – but with the exception (so far) of Matt Cullen, the Pens really haven't lost any key pieces of their championship roster. That includes Marc-Andre Fleury — at least for now.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 2.2/10.

There will be more moves to come, as some estimates puts the Penguins over the cap right now. But for now, a largely quiet off-season has been good news.

Washington Capitals

The off-season so far: It's been pretty quiet. They swapped around some depth parts and traded for Lars Eller, and that's about it.

But their strangest move was: Not overreacting to an early playoff exit with a bunch of firings, trades and general scapegoating.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 3.1/10.

To be clear, standing pat was absolutely the right approach. But given recent franchise history, it represents a change of direction.

New York Rangers

The off-season so far: Their biggest move was trading Derick Brassard to Ottawa for Mika Zibanejad. They also said goodbye to a handful of veterans, including Eric Staal, Dan Boyle and Dominic Moore, clearing room to get Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes re-signed

But their strangest move was: Signing UFAs Nathan Gerbe and Michael Grabner. Those are good additions, but it's still strange to see the Rangers go conservative in free agency, given their history.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 3.4/10.

Remember when we said that bizarre wouldn't necessarily mean bad? Some Rangers fans might be wishing that GM Jeff Gorton had made some more unexpected moves, like finding a taker for Rick Nash or (somehow) Dan Girardi. Instead, it's been pretty standard stuff.

Philadelphia Flyers

The off-season so far: They bought out R.J. Umberger, re-signed Brayden Schenn and added Dale Weise.

But their strangest move was: Weise probably got a little too much money. Still, whatever happened to the "offersheet Shea Weber" or "trade Jeff Carter and Mike Richards to make room for Ilya Bryzgalov" version of the Flyers?

Bizarro-meter ranking: 4.3/10.

I'm still having trouble with the whole "Ron Hextall is calm and rationale" thing, but he clearly has a plan and is sticking to it.

New York Islanders

The off-season so far: No team featured more prominently in the free agent market, with the Islanders both landing and losing big names. They signed one of the biggest available in Andrew Ladd, and also added P.A. Parenteau and Jason Chimera. But they lost Kyle Okposo, who headed to Buffalo, as well as Frans Neilsen (Detroit) and Matt Martin (Toronto). Add it all up, and did they get any better? I'm not sure they did.

But their strangest move was: As strange as it was to see a team undergo so much free agency churn, it was a player they kept that sticks out as the strangest. While it was overshadowed by the moves to come, bottom-six forward Casey Cizikas getting a five-year, $16.75-million deal is still a tough move to justify.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 6.5/10.

Oh, they may also be moving again. Things are never boring for the Islanders.

New Jersey Devils

The off-season so far: They added pair of Cup-winning Penguins by signing Lovejoy and trading for Bennett, and signed veteran Vernon Fiddler. Oh, and they also added Marc Savard's contract.

But their strangest move was: Trading Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 6.7/10. That's almost entirely for the shocking Hall trade which — it goes without saying — we'll see again once we get to Edmonton.

Carolina Hurricanes

The off-season so far: In June, they basically got Teuvo Teravainen from the Blackhawks for free by agreeing to eat Bryan Bickell's contract. It was an almost impossibly good deal, and they followed it up with some decent value signings. That continued a few years' worth of sneaky-smart moves in Carolina. And they even resisted the urge to get all sentimental and bring back Eric Staal. These guys are geniuses!

But their strangest move was: Re-signing Cam Ward, who is no longer an especially good goaltender, to a multi-year deal. These guys are morons!

Bizarro-meter ranking: 7.0/10.

I'm honestly not sure what's going on in Carolina. Did you ever have a kid in your class who was so smart that it got awkward for everyone, so she'd occasionally flunk a test on purpose just to seem normal? That's the best explanation I can come up with for the Ward signing.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The off-season so far: While they've yet to unload any of the big contracts clogging their cap situation, they created some room by buying out Jared Boll and Fedor Tyutin. They used some of that room to sign franchise cornerstone Seth Jones to a team-friendly six-year deal.

But their strangest move was: Using the third overall pick in the draft to take a player who wasn't in the consensus Big Three. Pierre-Luc Dubois is a good prospect who could well turn out to be better than Jesse Puljujarvi. But the pick was still a shocker. Even if Dubois was Jarmo Kekalainen's guy, you'd think the Jackets would find a way to trade down a few spots first.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 7.4/10.

Give Kekalainen credit for having the courage to make a pick he had to know would open him up to criticism. But he'd better hope it works out.

>> Read the full post at Sportsnet