Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Bizarro-meter’s Eastern Conference offseason rankings

We’ve fired up the bizarro-meter for our annual attempt to figure out which NHL teams had the strangest offseason. Not the best or the worst or the busiest, mind you, but just the strangest.

Yesterday, we looked at the Western Conference, with top scores going to Golden Knights and Blackhawks, and the buyout-happy Minnesota Wild leading the way with a score of 8.6. Can anyone from the East compete with that score? [Remembers what the East teams were up to this year.] Yeah, I feel like a few of them can, but let’s see where this goes…

Atlantic Division

Tampa Bay Lightning

The offseason so far: We knew that cap Armageddon was coming, and it wasn’t pretty. The Lightning lost an entire line in Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow, plus David Savard and Tyler Johnson. They offset those losses with a few cheap veteran signings, highlighted by Corey Perry, but overall it was a whole lot of talent hitting the road.

But their strangest story was: Losing all those good players and still looking like every bit like an elite Cup-worthy roster. These guys are annoying.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 2.5/10. Newsworthy, sure, but not especially bizarre. Maybe the only weird part for Julien BriseBoise is that he didn’t have to do this last year.

Detroit Red Wings

The offseason so far: It was basically the Alex Nedeljkovic trade and then a handful of depth moves.

But their strangest story was: If Nedeljkovic turns out to be the answer in goal, Steve Yzerman will have added a key piece at a low price.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 3.4/10. Yzerman continues his slow-but-steady rebuild. Every year, we say that he’ll eventually have to get more aggressive, but apparently that point hasn’t arrived yet. The Wings are on track, but it’s hard to see how they’ll be all that much better this year unless Nedeljkovic goes full superstar.

Florida Panthers

The offseason so far: The big news was landing Sam Reinhart from the Sabres at a reasonable price. They lost Chris Driedger and Alex Wennberg to Seattle, the former through the expansion draft and the latter as a UFA, and also said goodbye to veteran defensemen Keith Yandle and Anton Stralman.

But their strangest story was: The Panthers once again losing two good players to an expansion team was pretty funny after the whole Vegas disaster, even though they pretty much played this one fine.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 4.1/10. It feels like this could be nearing make-or-break time in Florida, with Aleksander Barkov in the last year of his deal and Jonathan Huberdeau a year behind him, so maybe there’s an argument that the Panthers should have been more aggressive. But they landed a big player and didn’t lose anyone crucial, so they should be better.

Boston Bruins

The offseason so far: The Bruins didn’t pull off any blockbuster moves, but they certainly churned through a big chunk of the roster, with lots of names moving in and out. The biggest change is in goal, where Linus Ullmark takes over from Tuukka Rask, at least until we know if and when Rask is coming back. They signed Nick Foligno but lost David Krejci, who was more important than most of us gave him credit for. And they re-signed deadline acquisition Taylor Hall to a fairly reasonable deal.

But their strangest story was: Probably the whole Rask/Ullmark thing, since it feels like we could be headed for anything from Rask being done in the NHL to him returning midway through the season to reclaim his starter’s job (at which point Ullmark’s contract feels onerous).

Bizarro-meter ranking: 5.2/10. The Bruins were busy, and it’s rare to see a contender have his much uncertainty about their goaltending heading into a season, but nothing they did seemed especially surprising under the circumstances.

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