NHL 2021 season debate: The worst and best offseason moves

USA TODAY Sports
·4 min read

The 2021 NHL season is mere days away. While the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage throughout North America, the NHL has implemented a more compact, 56-game schedule with teams allowed to carry a "taxi squad" of players. This group will consist of four to six players who teams can call up to their active roster in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak and do so more easily with potential travel/quarantine restrictions in place on travel from the American Hockey League, which will start Feb. 5.

As teams end their training camps and finalize rosters, it's time to reflect on what has gone on over the past few months. What were the worst and best moves of the offseason?

USA TODAY Sports' NHL group weighed in with their answers:

Worst?

Teams that passed on Mike Hoffman. The winger signed a one-year deal for $4 million after coming to camp as a tryout. (Yes, the Blues could be winners, too). That he had to settle for this really makes no sense. Hoffman has scored 26 or more goals and 56 or more points in five of his six full seasons. The Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators are two teams that stand out as those who could have used his offensive abilities. -- Jimmy Hascup, USA TODAY Sports

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Chicago Blackhawks. They let Corey Crawford (who has since announced his retirement) walk without an established goalie to replace him and they traded 20-goal scorer Brandon Saad for a rugged defenseman. Those moves look worse after Kirby Dach and Alex Nylander had surgery and Jonathan Toews went on leave with an illness. The Blackhawks face a tough season. -- Mike Brehm, USA TODAY Sports

Bruins lose big on blueline. Boston won the Presidents' Trophy last season, but it's hard to look at what the Bruins lost on defense and think they're anything but worse. Torey Krug, a vital part of the power play and a top puck-mover, signed with the Blues in free agency. The Bruins then compounded a potential problem on the left side by also letting longtime stalwart Zdeno Chara walk – and it doesn't seem like money was the issue, because the 43-year-old essentially took a veteran minimum deal with the Capitals. Chara is not the player he used to be, but his long reach and physicality is useful. And you would think the Bruins would want him to stay in Boston for leadership if nothing else, considering he was the team's captain the past 14 seasons. -- Jace Evans, USA TODAY Sports

Defenseman Zdeno Chara (left) will bring his defensive prowess and physicality to the Capitals' defense this year.
Defenseman Zdeno Chara (left) will bring his defensive prowess and physicality to the Capitals' defense this year.

Best?

Lightning's cap maneuvering. Is Tampa Bay a better team with Nikita Kucherov in the lineup? Yes. Are they still a Stanley Cup contender this year with him on injured reserve? Yes, and they can thank general manager Julien BriseBois for the savvy moves this offseason to keep together a core that remains the strongest in the NHL. With Kucherov's $9.5 million salary coming off the cap while he's injured, the Lightning were able to re-sign two-way ascending forward Anthony Cirelli and young defensemen Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak to three year-deals. To get cap compliant, the Lightning traded away veterans Braydon Coburn and Cedric Paquette (and a second-round pick). -- Jimmy Hascup, USA TODAY Sports

Golden Knights signing Pietrangelo: You can debate the wisdom of giving the former St. Louis Blues captain, 31 this month, a seven-year deal, but in the short term, he makes Vegas a stronger team. The signing became more important when the contending Avalanche and Blues moved into the division. The Golden Knights will be happy having Pietrangelo on their team rather than facing him eight times -- Mike Brehm, USA TODAY Sports

Joe Thornton to the Maple Leafs: I don't know that this move dramatically alters what Toronto was going to be on the ice this season – acquiring defenseman TJ Brodie will almost certainly have a greater impact on the team's point total – but I still think this was a great move for a Leafs team that needed a small shakeup. Jumbo is one of the game's great personalities and getting someone like him in that room who has seen it all could be just what an underachieving Maple Leafs team needs. He could serve as a mentor of sorts for fellow former No. 1 pick Auston Matthews and the Leafs' other talented young stars. If Thornton can help out on the ice by using his superb vision and passing talents on the power play and lower lines, even better. There's always a lot of pressure on this Leafs team, especially in this season where they'll only be playing other Canadian teams until the semifinals. They're expected to make a deep run. Knowing that now, it can't hurt to have an experienced veteran who keeps things loose. -- Jace Evans, USA TODAY Sports

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NHL 2021 season debate: Who made the worst, best offseason move?

OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
Tampa Bay
-167-1.5O 5.5
Columbus
+140+1.5U 5.5