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Gaudreau, Leafs goalies and more: Rating the East’s offseason headlines in the Bizarro-meter


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Buffalo Sabres

The offseason so far: It was, as one fan blog put it, “boring and uneventful, but that was a good thing.” There’s a plan in Buffalo, and this was a summer where that meant staying the course. At least they weren’t selling.

But their strangest story was: The Tage Thompson extension seems dicey for a guy coming off a career-high shooting percentage.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 2.7/10. They also tried to trade for Matt Murray, but he wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause. Sure dodged a bullet there, he said, before taking a big sip of water and checking where Murray ended up.

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On Tuesday, we dusted off the offseason bizarro-meter and gave it a good workout going through the Western Conference. We looked at some big swings in Calgary, an international drama involving Minnesota, a deposed captain in Winnipeg, and lots more. It got weird, which is kind of the entire point.

Today, it’s the East. As always, we’re ranking each team by how bizarre their offseason was, with the important caveat that “bizarre” does not necessarily mean “bad.” We want the teams that surprised us, whether that was with something positive, negative or somewhere in between.

We’ll go by divisions, starting in the Metro and working our way from the least to most bizarre.


Metro Division

New York Rangers

The offseason so far: It was mostly a status quo offseason after last year’s far more newsworthy summer. They did trade Alexandar Georgiev to Colorado and Nils Lundkvist to Dallas, re-signed Kaapo Kakko on a tidy bridge deal, lost Ryan Strome and Andrew Copp to free agency, and named Jacob Trouba captain.

But their strangest story was: They bet big on Vincent Trocheck, no doubt hoping he can duplicate the production he had for whatever team it was he played for last year.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 3.8/10. They made some moves, but in terms of weirdness, there’s not all that much to see here.

Washington Capitals

The offseason so far: They added forward depth in Dylan Strome and Connor Brown, but will start the season without Tom Wilson and Nicklas Backstrom.

But their strangest story was: Finally addressing the goaltending by trading Vitek Vanecek and signing Darcy Kuemper to a big-money deal.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 4.5/10. It’s not often you can find the most recent Cup-winning goalie on the UFA market, and the Capitals snapped him up.

Carolina Hurricanes

The offseason so far: They signed Paul Stastny and extended Martin Necas, along with a handful of smaller moves. Also, they gave Don Waddell a new contract before he started interviewing with other teams, which was a nice change.

But their strangest story was: Acquiring Brent Burns and Max Pacioretty in exchange for (checks notes) essentially nothing. Huh, apparently managing the salary cap has benefits.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 5.9/10. It’s not that getting multiple free all-stars wasn’t impressive, but after recent offseasons the Hurricanes are like the gifted kid who gets an A- on the exam. I’m not disappointed, but I know they’re capable of so much more.

New Jersey Devils

The offseason so far: The perpetual offseason champions had another decent summer, albeit one that featured solid additions like Ondrej Palat and Erik Haula instead of any big names. On that note, they didn’t get Johnny Gaudreau or Matthew Tkachuk, and it sounds like they didn’t get all that close, but they would like you to know that they tried.

But their strangest story was: Knowing they desperately needed a goalie, the Devils turned to the Capitals, who also desperately needed a goalie, and said “Hey can we have your goalie?” Problem solved, I guess.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 6.1/10. They also hired Jack Adams finalist Andrew Brunette as “associate coach,” which I guess sounds better than “guy we’re promoting when we fire Lindy Ruff in early-November.”

New York Islanders

The offseason so far: [tumbleweed full of chirping crickets blows by]

OK, they weren’t completely absent, but it felt that way. That was especially true when it came to Johnny Gaudreau, who we figured would have some interest in playing close to home, or maybe a late-summer Nazem Kadri signing. The Isles didn’t have the cap room, and couldn’t find it in time.

But their strangest story was: Watching a big chunk of the fan base finally turn on Lou Lamoriello. The guy has been bulletproof for a long time, and you can understand why given what he did in New Jersey. He’s always been a bit of an eccentric character, and that plays when you’re winning. But when you whiff on improving a so-called contender that just missed the playoffs, patience starts to wear thin.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 6.4/10. It’s been a tough year for Islander fans. Let’s maybe give them a home game in October this year, just as a treat.

Philadelphia Flyers

The offseason so far: They hired John Tortorella, drafted a dude named Cutter, and signed a few veterans. They also bought out Oskar Lindblom, who is an inspirational hero, and traded for Tony DeAngelo, who is not.

But their strangest story was: Admitting that they didn’t even try to land hometown boy Johnny Gaudreau because it was too hard. You’re not supposed to say that stuff out loud, guys!

Bizarro-meter ranking: 6.7/10. Between Tortorella and the roster and the cap crunch and the exasperation of the fan base, the trainwreck potential here is off the charts.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The offseason so far: They traded for Jeff Petry and moved on from John Marino. But the big story was always going to be their own pending free agents, as they had to figure out if they could bring back Evgeni MalkinKris Letang and Bryan Rust. We all assumed Rust would be a strong third on the priority list, so when they signed him first it looked like one or both of Malkin and Letang might leave. As time went on, it became clear that would be happening, and the Penguins’ core would finally be broken up for the first time in a generation.

But their strangest story was: They ended up signing Letang and Malkin after all. So, never mind I guess.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 6.8/10. The Malkin stuff was especially weird, but all’s well that ends well. They kept the band together, let’s see if they can still play.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The offseason so far: They signed Erik Gudbranson and re-signed Patrik Laine, both for a little too much money. I think that was pretty much it.

But their strangest story was: Oh right, they also signed the single biggest star on the UFA market. And all things considered, they got him at a very reasonable price, despite nobody even thinking they were in the running. Not bad, considering he didn’t even visit the city until the deal was already done.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 7.8/10. This one’s a bit tough because, from the Blue Jackets’ perspective, there was nothing especially strange about the Gaudreau signing. One of the league’s most exciting players calls up and says he wants to play for you, you roll up your sleeves and get the deal done, even if you have to shuffle off a good player to make room. But the signing was so stunning for the rest of us that I have to give it high marks.


Atlantic Division

Detroit Red Wings

The offseason so far: They signed a whole lot of guys. Some of them are good, some of them not so much, and none of them are superstars. But GM Steve Yzerman brought in enough help that Dom’s model thinks they improved more than any other team. That should give new head coach Derek Lalonde more to work with than Jeff Blashill had.

But their strangest story was: Signing David Perron to an NHL contract. Wait, only the Blues are allowed to do that!

Bizarro-meter ranking: 3.5/10. Busy? Absolutely. Newsworthy? Sure. But given how long the rebuild has been going, the only bizarre thing about Yzerman’s offseason was that he waited this long.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The offseason so far: The cap continued to hack away at the East’s best team, as they had to trade Ryan McDonagh and couldn’t keep Ondrej Palat.

But their strangest story was: Signing Mikhail SergachevAnthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak to eight-year extensions, plus seven for pending free agent Nick Paul. That seems like a lot, but when you’ve won multiple Stanley Cups, you can understand wanting to lock in as many players as you can.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 3.7/10. Those extensions aren’t likely to age well, but flags fly forever.

Boston Bruins

The offseason so far: It took a while, but they re-signed Patrice Bergeron and brought back David Krejci, both on team-friendly deals that carry bonuses that won’t hit the cap until next year. They also traded for Pavel Zacha from the Devils. Oh, and Don Sweeney got an extension.

But their strangest story was: Firing Bruce Cassidy, one of the better coaches in the league. It might work – sometimes, even very good coaches wear out their welcome, and it was nice to see Jim Montgomery get another shot. But for a team that’s clearly trying to squeeze one more run out of an aging core, you wonder if they didn’t take a step back behind the bench.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 5.4/10. Montgomery will get to prove himself early, with a big chunk of the roster out for the start of the season.

Ottawa Senators

The offseason so far: It was… good? Senators fans are… happy? Man, this did get weird.

There’s no way around it, GM Pierre Dorion had himself a summer. He landed Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux, dumped most of Matt Murray’s contract, and got several key pieces locked up to long-term deals. It maybe wasn’t quite a perfect offseason, but for a team that knows what it’s like to endure a historically bizarre summer, this was pretty much everything they could have hoped for.

But their strangest story was: Parting ways with Pierre McGuire, only because it made all of us go “Oh yeah, I guess they did hire Pierre McGuire.”

Bizarro-meter ranking: 6.7/10. We’ll see if it translates to a playoff push, but either way, a long-suffering fan base deserved an offseason of positivity. I stand by the Wilson Phillips thing, by the way.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The offseason so far: It was largely what we’ve come to expect from a Maple Leafs offseason in the Kyle Dubas era: Some painful cap casualties (Ilya Mikheyev), some smart bets on cheap depth pieces (including Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Zach Aston‑Reese and Adam Gaudette), at least one slightly more expensive bet they’ll probably regret (Calle Jarnkrok), a big name taking a huge hometown discount (Mark Giordano), and absolutely no change to the core so don’t even ask. No news on the Rasmus Sandin dilemma yet, though.

But their strangest story was: Watching Dubas basically bet his job on Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov. Look, it could work because goalies are weird and the team in front of them matters. But Murray wasn’t good at all in Ottawa, hasn’t had a decent season in three years, and now heads to one of the league’s most intense markets to replace a popular starter on a team facing more pressure to win than just about anyone. That’s… certainly a choice.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 7.5/10. Even months later, the Murray gamble feels mind-boggling, especially coming just days after the Leafs gave up a first-round pick to undo the Petr Mrazek mistake. This is either going to make Dubas look very smart, or very unemployed.

Montreal Canadiens

The offseason so far: It’s been pretty much nonstop headlines for last year’s worst team. They kept Martin St. Louis as coach, won the lottery for the first overall pick, didn’t use that pick on the player that everyone except Cory Pronman thought they’d take, made two big draft floor trades, moved the Shea Weber contract, probably closed the door on Carey Price’s career, traded Jeff Petry, took Sean Monahan’s contract, and named Nick Suzuki captain. Take a breath, guys, Arpon might need to sleep.

But their strangest story was: The never-ending list of conditions on the Monahan trade, not to mention the fact that it all could mean that the Canadiens just traded for a first-round pick in 2026. I would watch a full-length documentary series just on how those conditions were negotiated.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 7.7/10. They’re still going to be bad, but they weren’t boring.

Florida Panthers

The offseason so far: Oh, not much besides following the best season in team history with both a coaching change and one of the biggest blockbuster trades of the cap era. We often criticize teams for resting on their laurels, but after a 122-point season, you could understand it. Not in Florida, though, where a second-round exit obviously wasn’t good enough.

Moving on from Andrew Brunette was surprising. Sending both Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar (and a first-round pick!) to Calgary in the Matt Tkachuk trade was downright shocking. They even got Tkachuk signed to a risky but reasonable contract, thanks in part to working out the first legitimate sign-and-trade in NHL history.

Was it smart? I have no idea. But I loved it.

But their strangest story was: They didn’t win a game in the second round, so they replaced Brunette with Paul Maurice, who has managed to win a game in the second round in just one of his last 12 seasons.

Bizarro-meter ranking: 8.2/10. We didn’t even get into all of the useful players they lost in free agency, so they’re almost certainly worse. But Bill Zito is going for it instead of playing it safe, so he might be my new favorite GM.

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”
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