An Early Offseason Look at The 3 Most Improved Rosters in The Eastern Conference

‘Buyer beware’ is a term that in recent years has become synonymous with that of NHL Free Agency. The 2016 offseason serves as a cautionary tale on the matter, proving that sometimes the best move a general manager can make is no move at all (see Lucic, Nielsen and Ladd contracts). It feels pretty unlikely that general managers will take this advice to heart anytime soon though, judging by the record amount of dollars committed to players on day 1 of free agency (upwards of $915M according to CapFriendly).

All that being said, every year there is still a handful of teams who are perceived to have made shrewd signings and trades, turning their fans into playoff-hopefuls come October. Let’s take a look at 3 of these improved rosters starting in the Atlantic Division.

Image Credit: NHL

Detroit Red Wings

Left WingCentreRight Wing
Lucas RaymondDylan LarkinTyler Bertuzzi
Jakub VránaAndrew CoppDavid Perron
Dominik KubalikPius SuterFilip Zadina
Adam ErneMichael RasmussenOskar Sundqvist
Left DefenceRight Defence
Ben ChiarotMoritz Seider
Olli MäättäFilip Hronek
Jordan OesterleGustav Lindström
Ville Husso
Alex Nedeljkovic
Bold indicates new addition, Italics indicates RFA status


Steve Yzerman has been regarded as among the league’s top general managers for the better part of a decade now and the roster above is proof he’s worthy of that honour. At first glance the Andrew Copp signing ($5.625M/5yrs) is a smidge too expensive for a tad too long, but it’s easy forget Copp only turned 28 this month making him rather young relative to many free agents. Copp has shown to be versatile and could slide to the wing as he ages to complement a young centre in the future; such as the recently drafted Marco Kasper. David Perron on a 2-year deal at $4.5M annual average value (AAV) can be argued as Yzerman’s best signing. The veteran winger has hovered at just under a point-per-game (0.89 p/pg) pace going back to his season with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-18.

On the other hand, goaltender Ville Husso represents the Red Wings biggest gamble of the offseason. Husso’s contract ($4.75M/3yrs) has boom or bust potential as the netminder enters begins his Red Wings tenure with a limited yet decent track record consisting of a .912 save percentage (SV%) in 57 games played (GP).

Yzerman elected to round out his defence corps with experienced and belligerent defenders in Ben Chiarot and Olli Määttä and while it’s tough to see much offence being produce from the left side that isn’t much of a problem when their pairing partner is either reigning Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider or the underrated Filip Hronek. Rounding out the bottom pair is Jordan Oesterle and young swede Gustav Lindström who might find him self playing with fellow country-man and promising talent Simon Edvinsson soon enough.

The finishing touches on a successful offseason for the Red Wings would include turning Tyler Bertuzzi or Filip Zadina into draft capital to make room for right winger Robby Fabbri following recovery from knee surgery. Overall, the Red Wings are set up for wildcard contention as soon as this coming season, but they aren’t the only team in their division with those ambitions.

Image Credit: CTV News Ottawa

Ottawa Senators

Left WingCentreRight Wing
Brady TkachukJosh NorrisDrake Batherson
Alex DeBrincatTim StützleClaude Giroux
Alex FormentonShane PintoMathieu Joseph
Parker KellyDylan GambrellAustin Watson
Left DefenceRight Defence
Thomas ChabotNikita Zaitsev
Erik BrännströmTravis Hamonic
Jake SandersonArtem Zub
Cam Talbot
Anton Forsberg
Bold indicates new addition, Italics indicates RFA status


The Ottawa Senators fanbase has long-awaited the end of their rebuild, which became rather frustrating to endure after general manager Pierre Dorion claimed it to be finished just a year ago. Chances are we don’t see Dorion make that declaration again but that’s because the roster moves made thus do enough of the talking. The homecoming story for Hurst, Ontario native Claude Giroux and the surprise acquisition of Alex DeBrincat have received rave reviews in all NHL circles. Just like the aforementioned David Perron, Giroux is also 34 years of age and boasts similar production at 0.81 p/pg. Where the two veterans defer is in pedigree; a category Claude Giroux handedly beats Perron in. The Senators did pay handsomely for Giroux ($6.5M/3yrs) in comparison to Perron but there is reason to believe both contracts can provide value closer to that of Joe Pavelski’s previous deal ($7M/3yrs) opposed to the one Patrick Marleau signed in 2017-18 ($6.25/3yrs).

DeBrincat is a bonafide 40-goal-scorer that solidifies the Senators top-6 forward group among the very best. If DeBrincat is able to repeat or even build on his point totals from last season (82GP-41G-78P) he’ll be in line for a huge payday after the 2022-23 season, it’s a problem Pierre Dorion would presumably welcome this time next year.

Goaltender Cam Talbot was also acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Wild prior to the free agency period. He’s expected to form a tandem with Anton Forsberg, giving the Senators a sense of security in goal that just wasn’t there with Matt Murray.

Dorion’s final offseason challenge is to upgrade the currently lackluster blue line; particularly on the right side. All indications point to the front office having made this a priority that if followed through will see the Senators in contention for their first playoff berth since 2017.

Tweet Credit: @NJDevils

New Jersey Devils

Left WingCentreRight Wing
Ondrej PalatNico HischierJesper Bratt
Yegor SharangovichJack HughesDawson Mercer
Tomas TatarErik HaulaAndreas Johnsson
Miles WoodMicheal McleodNathan Bastian
Left DefenceRight Defence
Ryan GravesDougie Hamilton
Jonas SiegenthalerDamon Severson
Brendan SmithJohn Marino
Mackenzie Blackwood
Vitek Vanacek
Bold indicates new addition, Italics indicates RFA status


Devils general manager Tom Fitzpatrick viewed Johnny Gaudreau as ‘the Belle of the free agency ball’ but when the star winger pivoted towards Columbus, Fitzpatrick found himself a consolation dance partner in 2-time Stanley Cup Champion Ondrej Palat. An argument can even be made that the Palat signing ($6M/5yrs) better suits the needs of New Jersey’s roster compared to the potential Gaudreau signing. The Devils do already possess an undersized American playmaker in Jack Hughes whereas Palat adds a new dimension to a younger leaning Devils forward group.

Fitzpatrick also parlayed the rest of that prospective Gaudreau cap space into defensive depth via trade. John Marino was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins in a deal that saw Ty Smith and a 2023 third round pick go the other way, both players in the swap could benefit from a change of scenery after last season. It’s a move that could see longtime Devil Damon Severson shipped out in the event Marino returns to form and 2022 2nd overall draft pick Simon Nemec moves his way up the depth chart.

The Devils still have restricted free agents (RFAs) to get locked up in forwards Miles Wood, Jesper Boqvist, and goaltender Vitek Vanecek; who also arrived in a deal with the divisional rival Washington Capitals. Goaltending has sunk New Jersey in the recent past and neither Blackwood or Vanacek are a sure thing, it’s a gamble Fitzpatrick and many general managers around the league seem to be comfortable with right now.

Head to the to shop for the official Toronto Maple Leafs merch in time for the 22/23 season.



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