With the NHL season drawing closer and training camps opening today for playoff teams, I thought it would be a good time to look at one big addition for each team in the North Division heading into the season and their potential impact.
Calgary Flames: RW - Josh Leivo (Signed as FA)
Leivo joins the Flames among the platoon of players who left Vancouver for Calgary during free agency. On a one-year 875k deal, the Flames aren’t taking much risk by bringing in Leivo who had 7 goals and 19 points in 36 games last year for Vancouver before injuries derailed his season. The question around Leivo will be his health, as he’s only played a maximum of 49 games in a season over his career. By virtue of being a rare right handed shot on this Flames team, he may get opportunities to produce. He isn’t going to be a world-beater but could provide some solid bottom six depth for Calgary.
Edmonton Oilers: C - Kyle Turris (Signed as FA)
Turris has the potential to be a sneaky good signing for the Oilers. He was bought out by the Nashville Predators during the offseason as they looked to get out of the final four years of a six year deal he signed in 2018, which carried an AAV of $6M. Turris signed that original contract on the same day he was acquired in the Matt Duchene three team trade. However he was never really able to replicate the success he had in Ottawa. He did have 31 points in 62 games last year which would be a solid depth addition for the Oilers bottom six who didn’t produce much at all in past seasons. At 1.65M for two years, he seems like a pretty low risk high reward signing for the Oilers.
Montreal Canadiens: G - Jake Allen (Acquired via Trade from STL)
While the Habs made a bunch of moves over the offseason to improve, the Allen move may have fallen under the radar as other bigger moves took the headlines. Allen provides a really solid backup option to Carey Price which will be extremely needed in the condensed schedule for the 2020-21 season. While Allen had a couple of poor seasons preceding 2019-20, he actually had a solid campaign this past year with a 12-6-3 record with a .927 SV% and 2.15 GAA. While the cap hit of $4.35M may be a lot to pay for a backup, he will allow Montreal flexibility to give Price more nights off if needed over the course of the season. Backup goalies will have extra value this season for sure.
Ottawa Senators: C - Alex Galchenyuk (Signed as FA)
While the Senators have made a number of bigger moves such as acquiring Matt Murray or signing Evgenii Dadonov, I think this signing of Galchenyuk was a smart move by the Senators. Galchenyuk split last season between the Minnesota Wild and Pittsburgh Penguins, after the Pens had acquired him the previous summer from Arizona in the Phil Kessel deal. While there may be off-ice concerns based on the fact that he has been with four teams in two calendar years, there is still reason for the Senators to look at his output prior to 2019-20 and take a shot on him. Galchenyuk had 24 points in 59 games last year, but prior to that he had five straight seasons of 40+ points including 30 goals and 26 assists in 2015-16 with Montreal. With questions surrounding the Senators depth, he may get some special teams time this year, and it could allow him to get back to that 50 point mark.
Toronto Maple Leafs: C/LW - Joe Thornton (Signed as FA)
It’s hard for any signing or acquisition to go under the radar in the center of the hockey universe, so instead I will pick this one. At 41 years old, Joe Thornton isn’t exactly expected to go into Toronto and light the world on fire, but he should bring some veteran leadership to a Leaf team that has seemed to lack it in the past. It is also an opportunity for Thornton to play in Ontario, just a few hours away from his home town of London. It sounds like the Leafs are hoping for some big things from Thornton however as head coach Sheldon Keefe announced today that they are planning to start camp with Thornton on the top line alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
Vancouver Canucks: D - Nate Schmidt (Acquired from VGK)
While the Canucks are returning many of the same players from last season (aside from those that departed to Calgary), one new player who may not have grabbed the headlines is Nate Schmidt. Perhaps it was he was acquired for a measly third round pick as Vegas tried to sort out their cap crunch, but Schmidt could be a really good acquisition on the Canucks blue line. Since arriving in Vegas three seasons ago, Schmidt has become a top four defender with solid point production and defensive play. If he ends up being paired with Quinn Hughes, it could be a very good year. The Canucks are certainly hoping he fits in well as he’s signed through 2025 at a 5.95M AAV.
Winnipeg Jets: C - Paul Statsny (Acquired from VGK)
Another victim of the Vegas cap crunch, Statsny begins his second stint in Winnipeg hoping to replicate results from his last time there. He played 19 regular season games and put up 13 points in 2017-18 after being a deadline acquistion from St. Louis. He followed that up with an impressive 15 points in 17 games as the Jets made it to the Western Conference Final. A couple years later, Statsny looks slated to go into the 2C role for the Jets with a lot of uncertainty surrounding Brian Little. With one year left on his contract, the Jets are banking on one more solid year from the 35 year old center where he could find himself between young stars like Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine.