The salary cap remaining at $81.5 million for the second straight season didn't prevent NHL teams from bolstering their rosters this offseason. Trade activity resumed following the completion of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final on July 7. Several major signings took place three weeks later when the free-agent market opened.
Some teams, such as the New Jersey Devils, used free agency to address their need for a top-pairing defenseman. Others, such as the Philadelphia Flyers, shook up their roster with several notable trades.
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Activity in the trade and free-agent markets has slowed entering the offseason dog days, so this is a good opportunity to examine the five clubs that dramatically improved. We'll look at their noteworthy moves and their effect on the rosters. Feel free to express your views in the comments.
Detroit Red Wings
General manager Steve Yzerman continues to rebuild the Detroit Red Wings with young talent, but he's also shown a recent willingness to add players to accelerate the process. He made a significant move at this year's trade deadline by shipping Anthony Mantha to the Washington Capitals for forwards Jakub Vrana and Richard Panik, a first-round pick in the 2021 draft and a 2022 second-rounder.
Yzerman's tinkering continued into this offseason through the trade market. Following the expansion draft, he acquired promising goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic from the Carolina Hurricanes for Jonathan Bernier and a 2021 third-round pick. He also sent Panik and a second-round pick to the New York Islanders for defenseman Nick Leddy.
A Calder Memorial Trophy finalist last season, Nedeljkovic signed a two-year, $6 million contract. The 25-year-old could become the young starting goalie the Wings have been seeking. Meanwhile, the Isles' need to move Leddy or risk losing him in the expansion draft provided Yzerman with the opportunity to add experienced skill to the blue line.
Yzerman also made a foray into the free-agent market by inking Pius Suter to a two-year, $6.5 million contract. Despite his promising 27-point performance in 55 games in 2020-21, the 25-year-old center became an unrestricted free agent when the Chicago Blackhawk decided not to qualify his rights. He should be a good fit on Detroit's second or third line.
Los Angeles Kings
General manager Rob Blake acknowledged Drew Doughty's call for the Los Angeles Kings to provide immediate help to the roster. After spending the past two seasons rebuilding with youth, Blake got busy in the trade and free-agent markets, adding veteran skill.
Blake's first move was to acquire Viktor Arvidsson on July 1 from the Nashville Predators. The 28-year-old right winger has tallied 31-plus goals twice in his career and reached 61 points two times. A swift skater, Arvidsson should provide a boost to a Kings offense whose 2.54 goals-per-game average ranked 27th last season.
The Kings GM also scooped up one of the summer's top free agents by signing Phillip Danault to a six-year, $33 million contract. A solid two-way center, the 28-year-old Danault played a crucial role in the Montreal Canadiens' march to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final. He should fill their second-line center spot while providing promising youngsters such as Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte more time to develop.
Blake didn't forget the blue line, inking Alexander Edler to a one-year, $3.5 million contract. The 35-year-old managed just eight points with the Vancouver Canucks last season. That could be attributable to the shortened season and a COVID-19 outbreak among the Canucks, though. He tallied 33 points in 2019-20, and his mobility could be a good addition to the power play.