32 NHL clubs will report for training camp later this month after a busy summer that saw over 100 free agent signings and 60 trades. A number of teams will look dramatically different because of moves to improve, rebuild or made out of necessity to adjust to the league’s flat salary cap.
Here is how teams in the Atlantic Division will look to start the 2021-22 regular season next month.
After an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final, the Canadiens saw a remarkable turnover in their roster, with veteran Perry and centers Denault and Kotkaniemi departing via free agency. GM Marc Bergevin was further challenged to fill the massive hole left by team captain Shea Weber, who may have played his last NHL game due to a series of injuries.
The Habs compensated for the departure of Kotkaniemi by trading two draft picks to Arizona for Dvorak, signed Savard away from Tampa Bay and veteran sniper Hoffman to bolster their offensive output, but the key for next season will be when goalie Carey Price can return from off-season surgery and whether youngsters Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Alexander Romanov can step up in primary roles.
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The Sens are focused mostly on promoting from within with one of the best prospect groups in the NHL. Defenseman Thomas Chabot and forwards Connor Brown, Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle and Josh Norris make up a talented core group.
GM Pierre Dorion deftly moved out winger Dadonov and his $5 million cap hit after a disappointing offensive year and used the cleared cap space to sign forward Drake Batherson on a six-year contract extension, but he is still trying to get power forward Brady Tkachuk locked up on a long term extension.
Tampa Bay Lightning
GM Julien Brisebois masterfully navigated the salary cap to keep his core group together and acquire support players like Goodrow, Coleman and Savard to enable the Lightning to win consecutive Cups, but this summer the bill came due.
Tampa lost their entire third line of Goodrow(New York), Coleman (Calgary) and Gourde (Seattle) in free agency and the expansion draft, along with veteran center Johnson being traded to Chicago for cap relief, but will rely on a combination of young players developed internally (Alex Barre-Boulet, Cal Foote, Mathieu Joseph) and inexpensive free agent signings (Bellemare, Perry) to fill the gap.
Toronto Maple Leafs
After winning the North Divison and going all-in at the trade deadline, the Leafs once again fell short in the playoffs and faced a cap crunch that made it impossible to re-sign free agents Andersen, Hyman and Foligno.
GM Kyle Dubas was limited to bargain-basement shopping in the summer, adding Mrazek to partner with incumbent Jack Campbell. Toronto is looking to youngsters Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin to make the jump to the NHL on a full-time basis on defense, and signed Bunting and Ritchie to multi-year deals to bolster their vacated left side.