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 Central Division will look to start the 2021-22 regular season next month.
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Bill Guerin entering his third season as Minnesota GM has continued to be bold in transitioning the Wild away from the club’s veteran core group, choosing not to re-sign former team captain Mikko Koivu, trading centers Eric Staal, Luke Kunin, winger Jason Zucker, and goalie Devan Dubnyk after the 2020 season and completing the house cleaning with the buyouts of Suter and Parise this summer.
The club still has unfinished business prior to training camp, as restricted free agent and leading scorer Kirill Kaprizov is unsigned. Guerin is depending on internal improvement from youngsters Joel Eriksson-Ek, Jordan Greenway, Kevin Fiala, and 2020 first-rounder Marco Rossi, and spent most of his money in free agency replacing blueliners Suter and Soucy, adding Goligoski, Benn and Kulikov.
The Predators were an early exit in the playoffs and GM David Poile, never being shy to mix things up, moved veteran winger Arvidsson to Los Angeles for a pair of draft picks and made a blockbuster deal shipping Ellis to Philadelphia for Myers and Nolan Patrick and then flipping Patrick to Vegas for Glass.
Nashville’s biggest challenge will be to find their next franchise goalie after the retirement of Rinne. Juuse Saros had a great season (2,28 GAA, .927 save %) and earned a four-year, $20 million contract extension, but he may only be a place keeper for 2020 first rounder Yaroslav Askarov, currently playing in the KHL.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues have a pair of unresolved situations in restricted free agent Robert Thomas looking for a new contract and veteran Vladimir Tarasenko’s request for a trade, which has been difficult to honor with his injury history and $7.5 million cap hit.
GM Doug Armstrong chose not to re-sign Hoffman and replaced him with free-agent Saad (coming off a great playoff with Colorado), lost Dunn in the expansion draft to Seattle and swapped sandpaper for scoring by shipping Blais to New York for Buchnevich.
GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was opportunistic in being able to bolster his blueline after the departures of Jacob Trouba and Dustin Byfuglien, taking advantage of Vancouver and Washington’s need to clear cap space and trading three draft picks to get veterans Schmidt and Dillon.
The Jets lost Appleton to Seattle in the expansion draft and backup Brossoit to free agency, but added a veteran depth forward Nash and ex-Jet Comrie to backup Connor Hellebuyck.