Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings made one of the bigger signings of the offseason snagging the returning Ilya Kovalchuk for a 3-year deal. Kovalchuk returns to the NHL after a five-year absence where he “retired” to play in the KHL. There is no denying the offensive talent that Kovalchuk possesses and he will definitely help the King’s offensive output. The question though is by how much? Even in his prime, Kovalchuk was not going to blow you away with his speed. The NHL game has continued to get faster in his absence, and the Kings are already on the slower/heavier side of the scale. The Kings have taken a significant risk with a 35+ contract whose effectiveness in the NHL at this stage of his career has yet to be seen.
The Kings also locked up perennial Norris candidate Drew Doughty to an 8-year deal. Doughty is a great defenceman but this is a team that as mentioned is slower than what appears to be needed to compete in the NHL has a lot of players locked into long-term deals late into their careers. This should be something that the Sharks should be concerned about going forward as well. Finally, live by the sword Budaj by the sword.
The Vancouver Canucks are now fully entrenched in their rebuild. Their focus seems to be building their war chest of prospects and assets. That being said it should come as no surprise that most of their offseason acquisitions have been inexpensive veteran players. The Canucks added Antoine Roussel, Sven Baertschi, Tim Schaller, Derrick Pouliot, and ultimate hockey trivia answer Jay Beagle. This addition of players shouldn’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of their Pacific Division rivals.
Even in a weak Pacific Division, it is difficult to see this as a playoff contender. The goaltending is still abysmal with Anders Nilsson and Jakob Markstrom in goal. Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat can’t do it all. The Sedins not being on the roster is also a devastating loss for the Canucks. While they are not the Sedins of old the Canucks will still have a hard time filling the void they left behind. Canucks fans should brace for a long season.
Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights shocked the NHL last year with their success in both the regular season and the playoffs. A team regularly predicted to fall off at any moment before we knew they would be great the whole time steamrolled their way into the cup final. Now the question is, what will they do for an encore? The Golden Knights grabbed the second best centerman in the 2018 free agent class in Paul Stastney. They also for some reason decided that Ryan Reeves was worth almost $3 M a season as well. Another issue facing the Golden Knights is William Karlsson who has filed for Salary Arbitration and should see a significant pay raise.
On their way out the door is David Perron and James Neal. Losing Perron ultimately shouldn’t hurt the team as much as Neal. Perron was relegated to a rotating spot in the lineup with Tomas Tatar in the final. Neal, on the other hand, is a hole that the Golden Knights may have a hard time filling both in production and style of play. The Golden Knights have been rumored to have gone after Erik Karlsson in trade from the Senators. Even though they appear to be out of that race, for now, there is always a chance of getting back in. If they are able to swing that deal they instantly become the new power in the Pacific Division, even if they don’t I won’t underestimate this team again going forward.