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Catching up with the rest of the division

And now for something completely different

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Washington Capitals v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Six Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

We’ve reached the point in free agency where we are now scraping the bottom of the barrel. Outside of some restricted free agents and arbitration dates there shouldn’t be too many surprises before training camps begin. So, it’s as good a time as any to recap what has changed in the New York Rangers’ division this offseason.

In addition to updating you on the moves made by the other teams in the Metropolitan Division, we’re also going to take a look into the crystal ball. Which teams might be contenders when the Rangers are emerging from their rebuild? Let’s take a look at this offseason’s moves and what might happen next.

Note: many of the AHL level signings and re-signings have been omitted.

Carolina Hurricanes

In: Andrei Svechnikov, Dougie Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, Adam Fox, Petr Mrazek, Calvin de Haan, Jordan Martinook

Out: Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin, Cam Ward, Derek Ryan, Joakim Nordstrom, Lee Stempniak, Joakim Nordstrom, Marcus Kruger

Re-signed: Trevor van Riemsdyk, Greg McKegg, Phillip di Giuseppe, Lucas Wallmark

The Hurricanes snagged Svechnikov second overall in the 2018 Draft and then added Dougie Hamilton in a blockbuster trade. Not bad, not bad at all. Carolina also signed Calvin de Haan, further solidifying one of the most impressive defenses in the league. However, Justin Faulk’s future is a little bit up in the air, and the Jeff Skinner trade rumors are still simmering.

The iconic Cam Ward has left the team and is now in Chicago. The mercurial Petr Mrazek has taken his place, which leaves the Hurricanes with the same number of question marks in the goal crease as they had this time last year. Can Scott Darling rebound? We’ll soon find out.

Calgary Flames v Ottawa Senators

Hamilton will help the Hurricanes’ power play in a profound way and most seem to agree that Carolina won that blockbuster deal. But will that trade be enough to get Carolina back in the playoffs? With Skinner and Justin Williams on the last years of their deals, there’s no time like the present for new head coach Rod Brind’Amour’s team to make a deep playoff run.

In three years...

The Hurricanes have a ton of potential to be a powerhouse in the Metropolitan Division a few years years from now. The blue line is young and absolutely stacked, Sebastian Aho looks like the real deal, and Svechnikov is going to be a monster. Carolina will be an exciting team to watch as the Rangers rebuild, especially if they can develop their center prospects and find a reliable workhorse starting goaltender.

Columbus Blue Jackets

In: Riley Nash, J-F Berube, Anthony Duclair, Adam Clendening

Out: Ian Cole, Jordan Schroeder, Matt Calvert, Jack Johnson, Thomas Vanek, Mark Letestu

Re-signed: Boone Jenner, Ryan Murray, Oliver Bjorkstrand

The only thing that matters to Blue Jackets fans right now is what the heck is going to happen with Artemi Panarin. Unfortunately for them, the Breadman’s future in Ohio is looking pretty bleak. The Blue Jackets lost a lot of offensive depth in free agency, but they dodged a bullet by letting Jack Johnson take his talents to Pittsburgh and picked up a safe gamble with Anthony Duclair. But Duclair is still a gamble, and him and Riley Nash alone can’t replace the forward depth Columbus lost.

In three years...

Columbus might have the murkiest future of all the teams in the Metropolitan Division. Naturally, there’s a lot riding on what happens with Panarin. General manager Jarmo Kekäläinen can’t let his star Russian winger walk without getting something in return. Complicating matters for the Blue Jackets is a prospect pool with very few gems in it. If Kekäläinen can find a way to turn Panarin into some picks and prospects, the Blue Jackets’ future will look far brighter than it does now.

New Jersey Devils

In: Eric Gryba

Out: John Moore, Patrick Maroon, Michael Grabner, Brian Gibbons, Jimmy Hayes

Re-signed: Blake Coleman, Stefan Noesen, Eddie Läck, Nick Lappin

The Devils were going to be hard-pressed to repeat the success they had last season even without the guys they lost in free agency. Will Ray Shero find some diamonds in the rough late in free agency on PTOs or perhaps pick up a valuable forward in a salary dump trade? The Devils have done it before, but we are now undoubtedly talking about the bottom of the barrel in regards to available free agents.

In three years...

One has to imagine that Shero is going to lock up Taylor Hall before he becomes a UFA on July 1, 2020. Hall, along with Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha, and Jesper Bratt, looks like a promising core of forwards on paper. Corey Schneider is signed through the 2021-22 season, but he’s already 32. What the Devils look like three years from now will come down to the development of guys like Hischier, Zacha, Bratt, Miles Wood, Will Butcher, and Michael McLeod. That part of New Jersey’s future looks promising, but finding affordable players to fill supporting roles is another matter entirely.

New York Islanders

In: Matt Martin, Jan Kovar, Robin Lehner, Leo Komarov, Valtteri Filppula, Tom Kuhnhackl

Out: John Tavares, Calvin de Haan, Jaroslav Halak, Nikolay Kulemin, Chris Wagner, Eamon McAdam

Re-signed: Brock Nelson, Ryan Pulock, Thomas Hickey, Ross Johnston, Devon Toews, Kyle Burroughs

The smoke from the jersey burnings is still lingering. John Tavares is gone and there’s no replacing him — unless Mathew Barzal assumes that role, which still leaves an opening in Barzal’s position from last season. The players that Lou Lamoriello acquired in the aftermath made that fact painfully clear for Islanders fans.

Adding insult to injury is the departure of de Haan from what was already an inadequate blue line. On paper the Islanders look like a lottery pick team waiting to happen.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

In three years...

Right now it feels like the fate of the Isles rests on the shoulders of young Barzal — and, in all likelihood, it does. Lamoriello might have his future goaltender in Ilya Sorokin and he just picked up two promising prospects in Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson in the 2018 Draft. Things certainly look grim now, but if Lamoriello gets a lottery pick all of that could change in a few years.

Philadelphia Flyers

In: James van Riemsdyk, Christian Folin

Out: Valtteri Filppula, Brandon Manning, Petr Mrzaek

Re-signed: Samuel Morin, Alex Lyon, Anthony Stolarz, Taylor Leier

The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn gave the Flyers’ 2018 offseason a top grade. Philadelphia knows exactly what they’re getting in van Riemsdyk, and they didn’t pay a ludicrous amount to bring him home. Parting ways with Filppula was addition by subtraction and Folin could be a nice depth D signing.

In three years...

The Flyers have the best group of prospects in the NHL and Nolan Patrick is, well, he’s Nolan Patrick. Ivan Provorov is 21 and is already a stud, Travis Konecny is also 21 and is coming off of a 24-goal season, and the Flyers have their goalie of the future in 19 year old Carter Hart. Giroux is 30, Voracek is 28, JVR is 29, and Sean Couturier is 25 and has a sweetheart deal. Three years from now the Flyers should be a wrecking ball in the Metropolitan Division.

Pittsburgh Penguins

In: Jack Johnson, Matt Cullen, Jimmy Hayes, Derek Grant, Stefan Elliott

Out: Conor Sheary, Matt Hunwick, Tom Kuhnhackl, Carter Rowney

Re-signed: Jamie Oleksiak, Bryan Rust, Daniel Sprong, Riley Sheehan, Dominik Simon

As someone who covers the Rangers I’m pretty thrilled that the Penguins signed Jack Johnson to a five-year deal. The 31 year old is going from a healthy scratch in the playoffs for the Blue Jackets to $3.25 million in precious Pittsburgh cap space for half a decade. The Penguins also moved a solid forward in Sheary to get rid of Hunwick’s contract. Yikes.

In three years...

The Penguins are sure to be a competitive team next season, but that might not be the case when the Rangers are wrapping up their rebuild. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, Kris Letang, and Johnson are all 30 or older and are all signed through the 2020-21 season. Together, that group of six players takes up $40.8 million in cap space. So, it’s fair to say that Pittsburgh needs Daniel Sprong to pan out in a big, bad way. They also need Matt Murray to get healthy and bounce back after a lackluster 2017-18.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Columbus Blue Jackets - Game Four Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Washington Capitals

In: Nic Dowd, Brooks Orpik, Jayson Megna

Out: Philipp Grubauer, Jay Beagle

Re-signed: John Carlson, Madison Bowey, Michal Kempny, Devante Smith-Pelly

The biggest move the Capitals made this offseason was re-signing Carlson. In order to make that happen they dealt Orpik and Grubauer to the Avalanche for a second round pick (the Avalanche then bought out Orpik, who signed as a free agent with the Capitals for a year and just $1 million in cap space). The defending Cup Champions also have a new head coach in Todd Reirden now that Barry Trotz is with the Islanders. Everyone’s a year older, but the Capitals will still be Cup contenders next season.

In three years...

Just like the Penguins, the Capitals’ continued success will be dependent on whether or not they can develop depth or find it in free agency. Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, and Carlson are all signed through 2024-25 and take up a combined $21.55 million in cap space. Brian MacLellan will need to proceed with caution and get creative to keep this team competitive while Ovechkin is still playing at an elite level.

One of the biggest decisions that MacLellan has to make is what to do with Nicklas Backstrom and Braden Holtby; both will be UFAs two years from now. Can you imagine the Capitals without Backstrom? One way or another the Capitals will be a much different team when the Rangers are emerging from their rebuild.