Off-Season Recap North of the Border


It’s been a busy off-season for Canadian Teams, waiting in the wings to end Canada’s Stanley Cup Curse. There’s been different approaches from all teams in the Great White North, whether improving up front, on the back six, or maybe on special teams. You may like or dislike your team’s moves, but there is no denying somehow it will help your team,  either in the AHL or in the big leagues. Here’s an off-season recap of how things have gone for Canadian Teams, starting from the Far West.

Click “Continue Reading” to see how things have gone this off-season with teams north of the 49th parallel

The Vancouver Canucks started their off-season with bang. After getting disposed of the eventual Stanley Cup Champions Chicago Blackhawks in the second round, Van City held the 25th overall pick in the NHL Draft, instead trading the pick to the Florida Panthers along with forwards Steve Bernier and Michael Grabner for Keith Ballard and Victor Oreskovich. The Canucks had neither second or third-round picks, therefore not making an impact on Draft Day.

On June 30th, the ‘Nucks made four minor signings in Yann Sauve, Lee Sweatt, Chris Tanev, and Anton Rodin, all defenseman. Two Canucks prospects were re-signed, G Cory Schneider and F Peter Andersson. Their first dip into Free Agency came in the form of Manny Malhotra, to a 3-year contract worth $7.5 million. The biggest move on July 1st for GM Mike Gillis was to sign Dan Hamhuis to a six-year, $27 million contract. Gillis was also able to re-sign pending free agents Mason Raymond, Aaron Rome, Tanner Glass, Jannik Hansen, and Shane o’Brien. Recently, Vancouver signed journey-man Joel Perrault to a one-year contract, a depth move in my mind.

Grade: B

The Calgary Flames look to re-gain momentum and try to forget a disaster of a season last year, in which they finished 10th in the Western Conference. They  made their first pick in Los Angeles at the Draft like Vancouver, in the third round. They did however trade prospect Henrik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks for a sixth-round pick, and acquired Logan MacMillan from the Anaheim Ducks.

July 1st was the worst day an organization could receive from it’s media and fans. The Flames signed former Flame players Alex Tanguay to a 1-year, $1.7 million contract and Olli Jokinen to a two-year contract worth $6 million. Both were surprises, especially Jokinen who was horrendous in his previous stint as a Flame. Whatever Darryl Sutter was having that day, I need some of it. After those shockers, Calgary tried to make their team tougher, signing Raitis Ivanans, Tim Jackman, and Ryan Stone all to one-year contracts. Calgary made some vital moves, re-signing a pair of defensemen Mark Giordano and Ian White, both two one-year contracts. In a managerial move, Jay Feaster was signed in an associate role to Darryl Sutter. Not much has been heard from the Sutters since, especially with the loss of some key players.

Grade: C

The Edmonton Oilers came into the off-season with the mantra of “Hey, we can only get better”. That’s true, and they seem to have done so this time around. With the first-overall pick, the Oil selected Taylor Hall, the superstar from Kingston in the making. That wasn’t the only news for E-Town on Draft Day, as they made a couple of moves sending prospect Riley Nash to Carolina for a second-round pick, trading late-round picks with the Maple Leafs, and later trading F Patrick O’Sullivan to the Phoenix Coyotes for D Jim Vandermeer. Steve Tambellini was also able to acquire F Colin Fraser for the Chicago Blackhawks. The biggest news coming right before the Draft was Pat Quinn stepping down and becoming Senior Hockey Advisor, while Tom Renney assuming the head-coaching duties.

July 1st went quiet for the Oilers, signing a pair of defensemen in Kurtis foster and Richard Petiot from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Edmonton also brought back Steve MacIntyre to a one-year contract, and recently signed D Shawn Belle, F Gregory Stewart, and G Martin Gerber. The busiest part has been signing all the good prospects they have, including Hall, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Teemu Hartaikanen, and Linus Omark. A couple of Free Agents were re-signed, including Ryan O’Marra, Theo Peckham, Taylor Chorney, Gilbert Brule, JF Jacques, Devan Dubnyk, Jeff Deslauriers, Liam Reddox, and Jason Strudwick.

Grade: A

 The Ottawa Senators looked to rebound from a surprise season and go from pretenders to contenders. After the guy they liked in the 2010 Draft went before they could snatch him up, the Sens instead traded their 16th overall pick to the St. Louis Blues for prospect David Rundblad. Again, their next pick was in the third round, so nothing to report from there.

The team fixed their most important issue, and that was on the Power Play by signing Sergei Gonchar to a 3-year, $16.5 million contract. Ottawa had a couple of Restricted Free Agents they needed to sign to pen and paper, and they did before any arbitration hearing went, and that included Jesse Winchester, Nick Foligno, Peter Regin, and Chris Campoli. After that, only minor moves were made including signing former Tampa defenseman David Hale and tough guys Francis Lessard and Tim Spencer. Entry Level Contracts were given to Roman Wick and Corey Cowick. As a last piece of business, a new coach for their affiliate was name by the name of Kurt Kleinendorst.

Grade: B

The Toronto Maple Leafs biggest move was naming ex-Flame Dion Phaneuf as their captain for the upcoming season. Management obviously traded their first and second round picks this season to the Boston Bruins for Phil Kessel, therefore they stood pat until the second round via trade, like so many other Canadian Teams. Before the clock struck midnight on July 31st, the Leafs acquired Kris Versteeg from the Chicago Blackhawks for a package which included Viktor Stalberg.

When July 1st came, Brian Burke came out with guns and signed Colby Armstrong to a 3-year, $9 million contract. A couple of undrafted players came the Leafs’ way, including highly-sought after goalie Jussi Rynas, Ben Scrivens, Marcel Mueller, and former Stanley Cup Champion Mike Zigomanis. Another Cup winner Brett Lebda, was signed to a 2-year, $2.9 million contract. The biggest moves have been to re-signed Nikolai Kulemin and John Mitchell. And still, we haven’t seen Tomas Kaberle moved, but it should happen in the next few weeks.

Grade: C

The Montreal Canadiens made waves after their miracle Eastern Conference Final run, and all of them were trades. First, hero goaltender Jaroslav Halak was traded to the St. Louis Blues for prospects Lars Eller and Ian Schultz. Later, Montreal was able to trade headache Sergei Kostitsyn to the Nashville Predators for Dustin Boyd and Dan Ellis, who later departed to Tampa Bay. At the Draft, Montreal traded up to the 22nd overall pick and drafted defenseman Jarred Tinordi.

Free Agency has gone quiet for Pierre Gauthier and co. They were able to get a back-up for Carey Price in the name of Alex Auld to a 1-year, $1 million contract and D Alexandre Picard to a one-year, two-way contract. The most important re-signing, still hasn’t happened. Carey Price and Pierre Gauthier appear at a standstill, and with nothing happening. Montreal also recently named former player Randy Cunneyworth as coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs, their AHL affiliate.

Grade: D