Breaking down each Eastern Conference team’s offseason using goals above replacement

A team’s total goals above replacement (GAR) can tell a lot about how they may perform on a night in and night out basis. When NHL offseasons come around, teams will send positive and negative players away and acquire others in their spot. We broke down how the Western Conference fared in GAR changes a few days ago, so now it’s time to take a look at the Eastern Conference. Which teams improved the most in terms of GAR added and which teams got worse? Let’s take a further look.

GAR assesses a player’s value in terms of how many goals they contribute to their team above replacement. It is calculated using even strength offence, even strength defence, special teams contributions, as well as penalty differential. A replacement level player would have a GAR of zero. Consequently, anything above zero is an above-replacement level player, and anything negative is a below-replacement level player.

All GAR numbers are courtesy of the Evolving-Hockey.com model. We’ll only be looking at moves involving NHL players who met the minimum requirements last season to have their GAR calculated.

Boston Bruins

2021–22 record: 51–26–5 (Eliminated 1st round)

GAR Added: -1.1 GAR

In: David Krejci, Pavel Zacha

Out: Erik Haula, Curtis Lazar, Anton Blidh

The Boston Bruins continue to keep the band together, as they try to make one final run with their aging core. Their only notable move this offseason was shipping out veteran centre Erik Haula for Pavel Zacha. Haula was surprisingly effective last year for Boston, posting a 9.5 GAR compared to Zacha’s 2.2. Overall the move is one that makes them worse.

Losing Curtis Lazar hurts their forward depth although they brought back David Krejci after a year in Europe. Krejci posted a very solid 12.2 GAR during his last season in the NHL in 2020–21 so he should provide the team with a boost even at 36 years of age.

Overall the Bruins will go into next season with nearly the same team, and should once again be in contention for a divisional playoff spot with one of the oldest rosters in the league.

Buffalo Sabres

2021–22 record: 32–39–11 (Missed playoffs)

GAR Added: 19.9 GAR

In: Ilya Lyubushkin, Riley Sheahan, Kale Clague, Eric Comrie

Out: Will Butcher, Mark Jankowski, Colin Miller, Mark Pysyk, Drake Caggiula, Aaron Dell, Cody Eakin, Dustin Tokarski

The Buffalo Sabres saw a lot of turnover this offseason, but nothing involving actual impact players. They shed a lot of dead weight and brought in some decent depth players to fill in the gaps. Overall an offseason that can be described as addition by subtraction.

The only addition of note would be that of Eric Comrie. The 2013 second-round pick finally started to put it together last season, posting a 14.4 GAR and .920 save percentage across 19 games. The sample size is small, but it’s cheap gamble for a Sabres team who is desperate for help in net. He’s certainly an upgrade over Aaron Dell who posted a -4.2 GAR last season and walked as a free agent.

Riley Sheahan and Ilya Lyubshkin are both solid depth adds posting GAR totals 6.5 and 4.6 last season, although neither are needle movers. Kale Clague meanwhile was terrible last season and posted a -10.0 GAR, third worst in the NHL. The Sabres will be counting on the internal development of their young prospects to get them out of the basement this season.

Carolina Hurricanes

2021–22 record: 52–20–8 (Eliminated 2nd round)

GAR Added: -18.4 GAR

In: Brent Burns, Max Pacioretty, Ondrej Kase, Paul Stastny, Ryan Dzingel, Dylan Cohglan, William Lagesson

Out: Vincent Trochek, Max Domi, Nino Niederreiter, Tony DeAngelo, Ian Cole, Derek Stepan, Steven Lorentz

The Carolina Hurricanes had one of the busiest offseasons in the Eastern Conference, as they saw multiple impact players leave while bringing in new ones to replace them. Their biggest moves were the acquisitions of Brent Burns and Max Pacioretty.

Both players were acquired for dirt cheap as the Hurricanes didn’t see a single impact player go out the door in either deal. Burns posted a GAR of 10.6 last season, and was acquired for Steven Lorentz whose GAR came in at -0.4 in 2021–22. Meanwhile Pacioretty and his 4.2 GAR was quite literally acquired for free. Both are huge wins for the Hurricanes, even if Pacioretty is out until the new year.

That said it wasn’t all good news for the Hurricanes, as they lost two top six forwards in Vincent Trochek and Nino Niederreiter in free agency, as well as a useful depth piece in Max Domi. Combined they contributed a substantial 27.8 GAR last season. They also shipped out Tony DeAngelo who posted a whopping 16 GAR last season for nothing but draft picks. That said they did go out and sign Paul Stastny and Ondrej Kase who combined for 13.3 GAR in 2021–22 to fill some gaps at forward.

In terms of overall GAR added, the Hurricanes got worse; however, they did a decent job considering their cap situation to remain a cup contender and one of the strongest teams in the East. They’ll once again be competing for top spot in the Metro Division.

Columbus Blue Jackets

2021–22 record: 37–38–7 (Missed playoffs)

GAR Added: 26

In: Johnny Gaudreau, Erik Gudbranson

Out: Oliver Bjorkstrand, Gabriel Carlsson, Dean Kukan

The Columbus Blue Jackets had perhaps the most shocking offseason of any team in the league, pulling off a massive surprise and landing the top free agent on the market in Johnny Gaudreau. It was a huge get for a team that’s desperate for help in every area.

Gaudreau came in with a GAR of 31.1 last season, the second highest total in the NHL. The addition immediately makes the Blue Jackets a much more dangerous team offensively. Questions remain on if Gaudreau can replicate his results from last season with a much weaker supporting cast and coach, but he should provide tremendous value regardless.

The bad news is the Blue Jackets did literally nothing else except sign Erik Gubranson to a horrendous contract and then ship out the underrated Oliver Bjorkstrand for pennies due to cap reasons. Gudbranson posted a 4.1 GAR last season, however that was the first positive GAR total he’d posted since the 2015–16 season. The odds of him having similar results on a brutal defensive team in Columbus are slim to none.

Bjorkstrand meanwhile posted a team-leading 8.7 GAR in 2021–22, and was traded for nothing but draft picks. Landing Gaudreau is obviously a huge addition and will make the Blue Jackets better next season, however they’re still a ways away from being considered a playoff team in a deep Metro division.

Detroit Red Wings

2021–22 record: 32–40–7 (Missed Playoffs)

GAR Added: 38.5 GAR

In: David Perron, Ville Husso, Andrew Copp, Dominik Kubalik, Olli Maatta, Ben Chiarot, Mark Pysyk, Robert Hagg

Out: Tomas Greiss, Sam Gagner, Danny Dekeyser, Marc Staal, Olli Juolevi, Carter Rowney

No team in the Eastern Conference had a busier offseason than the Detroit Red Wings. The “Yzerplan” is in full effect as the Red Wings came away with a haul in free agency this summer and should be a much improved team next season.

Of their losses the only players who posted a positive GAR total last season are Marc Staal and Carter Rowney, both of whom are depth players at best. Shedding Danny Dekeyser’s -9.5 GAR which ranked fourth last in the NHL last season is a big win as is getting rid of Tomas Greiss and his -10.0 GAR. However, they did then sign Ben Chiarot, who posted the second worst GAR total in the NHL last season at -12.7.

In terms of additions, the Red Wings went out and broke the bank. Detroit added a combined cap hit of $24 million in free agency, the most of any team in the NHL. In particular they added a trio of solid forwards in David Perron, Andrew Copp, and Dominik Kubalik. The trio combined for a GAR of 16.7 last season, with Copp leading the way at 9.1 GAR.

They also acquired Ville Husso, who posted a GAR of 22.4 last season. To pick him up for nothing but a third-round pick was incredible value and gives the Red Wings one of the better goaltender duos in the East. They may not be a playoff team just yet, but after a tremendous offseason the Red Wings may finally find themselves out of the NHL’s basement in 2022–23.

Florida Panthers

2021–22 record: 58–18–6 (Eliminated 2nd round)

GAR Added: 9.1 GAR

In: Matthew Tkachuk, Rudolf Balcers, Chris Tierney, Nick Cousins, Michael Del Zotto, Marc Staal

Out: Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, Mason Marchment, Claude Giroux, Ben Chiarot, Noel Acciari, Joe Thornton

After claiming the Presidents’ Trophy in 2021–22, the Florida Panthers underwent some huge changes to their roster this offseason. Unfortunately it looks like they’re worse because of it. Their overall GAR added is quite skewed by Marc Staal and Michael Del Zotto’s inflated GAR totals from last season of 9.4 and 7.3 respectively. Shedding rental Ben Chiarot’s -12.7 GAR also helped.

Their biggest move was of course the blockbuster deal to acquire Matthew Tkachuk, sending franchise legend Jonathan Huberdeau and defensive stalwart MacKenzie Weegar the other way. Tkachuk’s 24.0 GAR ranked seventh in the NHL last season, while Huberdeau and Weegar combined for a GAR total of 24.5. Tkachuk is an elite player, but this was a massive haul to give up.

Outside of that trade, the Panthers also saw forwards Mason Marchment, Claude Giroux and Noel Acciari, and Joe Thornton walk in free agency. Marchment in particular posted a GAR of 20.5 last season during a breakout season so losing him for nothing is a big loss. Rudolf Balcers is an intriguing add, but is far from a replacement.

The Panthers made some franchise altering moves this offseason, but now look like a much less intimidating team in the East. They’ll still be a contender for top spot in the Atlantic Division, but they’re a much weaker team on paper than they were last season.

Montreal Canadiens

2021–22 record: 22–49–11 (Missed Playoffs)

GAR Added: 15.9 GAR

In: Kirby Dach, Sean Monahan, Evgenii Dadonov, Mike Matheson

Out: Jeff Petry, Alexander Romanov, Kale Clague, Ryan Poehling

After a dismal 2021–22 season that saw them land the top pick in the 2022 draft, the Montreal Canadiens made some shrewd moves to surround the young core of their roster. The height of their offseason work came during the 2022 NHL draft.

The Canadiens shipped out Alexander Romanov for a first-round pick, and then flipped that pick along with a third-round pick for Kirby Dach. Dach posted an underwhelming 0.1 GAR last season, however there’s a reason he was the third overall pick just three years ago and at 21 years old he still has plenty of room to reach his potential.

They also shipped our veteran Jeff Petry along with Ryan Poehling for Mike Matheson. Petry posted a 7.3 GAR last season, while Matheson came in at 10.4. Considering the age of both players, this was a solid move.

Finally, the Canadiens used their ample cap space and Shea Weber’s buried contract to bring in Sean Monahan, Evgenii Dadonov, and a first-round pick. Monahan was brutal last season posting a -2.1 GAR, but could turn it around if healthy. Dadonov meanwhile, was a nice free pickup, posting a GAR of 8.0 last year. The Canadiens won’t be as bad as they were last year, but they’ll likely still sit near the bottom of the East come years end.

New Jersey Devils

2021–22 record: 27-46-9 (Missed Playoffs)

GAR Added: 42.6

In: Ondrej Palat, Erik Haula, Vitek Vanecek, John Marino

Out: Pavel Zacha, Ty Smith, P.K. Subban, Jimmy Vesey, Jon Gillies

The New Jersey Devils once again had a very strong offseason, as they seem to be bound to breakout one of these days. Perhaps 2022–23 is finally the year?

Their biggest move of the summer was signing Ondrej Palat to a five-year deal. Palat posted a 9.8 GAR last season and will bring a plethora of skill and experience to the Devils. This was a great add. They also swapped Zacha for Haula, and John Marino for Ty Smith. Haula’s GAR of 9.5 topped Zacha’s 2.2 GAR last season, while Marino’s 2.7 easily cleared Smith’s dreadful -5.7 GAR. Both moves seem like wins.

Finally in net they acquired Vitek Vanecek for draft picks. Vanecek posted a 12.1 GAR in 2021–22 and will provide a massive upgrade over Jon Gillies and his -9.7 GAR. The Devils made nothing but good moves this summer, and while the playoffs are a stretch, they should be a competitive team in 2022–23 at the very least.

New York Rangers

2021–22 record: 52–24–6 (Eliminated 3rd round)

GAR Added: -14.5 GAR

In: Vincent Trochek, Jaroslov Halak, Ryan Carpenter

Out: Ryan Strome, Andrew Copp, Alexander Georgiev, Justin Braun, Tyler Motte, Frank Vatrano, Patrik Nemeth, Kevin Rooney

After a surprise trip the Eastern final last season the Rangers saw a ton of players walk out the door, and didn’t do much to replace them. Their depth certainly took a hit this offseason.

The biggest swap the Rangers made was letting Ryan Strome walk in free agency and replacing him with Trochek. Strome posted a 9.6 GAR in 2021–22 while Trochek came in at 6.6. Overall it’s a close swap, although it appears to be a slight downgrade. In net they traded Alexander Georgiev and signed Jaroslov Halak to replace him. Both struggled last season as Georgiev posted a 0.3 GAR compared to Halak’s 0.2, so this swap doesn’t amount to much of anything.

The team saw plenty of players leave as mentioned, with the biggest losses being Copp and Frank Vatrano. The two posted a combined GAR of 10.8 so it’s a loss that will certainly be felt with no replacements coming in. At least they shed Patrik Nemeth’s dreadful -8.2 GAR.

The Rangers made a big swap at centre and a minor one in net, but lost some key pieces to their lineup and did nothing to replace them. They’ll once again be a contender in the Metro division with Igor Shesterkin in net, but they’re not exactly a Cup favourite.

New York Islanders

2021–22 record: 37–35–10 (Missed Playoffs)

GAR Added: 9.2 GAR

In: Alexander Romanov

Out: Zdeno Chara, Andy Greene

The NY Islanders’ offseason can be described as a series of what ifs. The team was linked with numerous high profile players from Gaudreau to Kadri, yet ended the offseason with Romanov as their only major addition.

Romanov posted a 5.1 GAR last season in Montreal and is still young, but giving up the 13th overall pick was a steep price to pay for an unproven defencemen. Past that, the Islanders saw Zdeno Chara retire and Andy Greene is currently a UFA. Both were below replacement last season so those losses were addition by subtraction at least.

For a team that missed the playoffs last season, this was an incredibly underwhelming offseason. I have no clue what Lou Lamoriello’s plan is here as the Islanders once again look like a very mediocre team.

Ottawa Senators

2021–22 record: 33–42–7 (Missed playoffs)

GAR Added: 22.3

In: Alex DeBrincat, Claude Giroux, Cam Talbot, Tyler Motte

Out: Connor Brown, Matt Murray, Michael Del Zotto, Chris Tierney, Viktor Mete, Tyler Ennis, Adam Gaudette, Filip Guustavsson

Quality of quantity would be a great way to describe the Ottawa Senators offseason. While the team lost a handful of decent depth players, the players they added are significant pieces that should have a big impact next season.

The Senators made one of the biggest trades of the offseason, acquiring 40-goal scorer Alex DeBrincat from the tanking Blackhawks for a bag of magical beans. It only cost the Senators their first-, second- and third-round picks to get the 24-year-old star. DeBrincat led all Blackhawks in GAR last season at 20 and immediately makes the Senators forward group much scarier.

On top of that, they also signed hometown kid Giroux in free agency. Giroux is past his prime, but he still posted a solid 7.2 GAR last season and is a big get for a young team. They offloaded Matt Murray’s dreadful contract and then flipped Filip Gustavsson to Minnesota for veteran Cam Talbot. Gustavsson posted an ugly -4.3 GAR in 2021–22, so even Talbot’s 0.3 GAR is a big upgrade.

The Senators had a spectacular offseason. Even though they lost some useful depth pieces, they added some legitimate impact players that should insulate their talented young core. Expect the Senators to finally make their way out of the basement next year, even though the playoffs are probably a stretch.

Philadelphia Flyers

2021–22 record: 25–46–11 (Missed playoffs)

GAR Added: 28.3 GAR

In: Tony DeAngelo, Justin Braun, Nick Deslauriers

Out: Oskar Lindblom, Keith Yandle, Martin Jones, Nate Thompson

The Philadelphia Flyers are an absolute mess. There’s no other way to describe them. The team failed to clear any of their cap and instead brought more on. Failing to sign a superstar talent in Gaudreau who made it evidently clear he wanted to play in Philadelphia was an all-time fail.

The Flyers’ only major move of note was the acquisition of DeAngelo, who posted a monster GAR of 16.0 last season. The problem is he was playing in a sheltered role on a stacked team, and will be thrown to the wolves in Philadelphia. Don’t expect the same success.

Past that, the Flyers signed two depth pieces in Justin Braun and Nick Deslauriers. Deslauriers posted an ugly -5.0 GAR last season and is not an NHL player. The Flyers also bought out Oskar Lindblom for some reason, despite him still being a useful player and just 26 years old. At the very least Keith Yandle retired and they shed his NHL worst -13.9 GAR.

Together with their mediocre offseason and a plethora of injuries, the Flyers should be right in the thick of the Bedard sweepstakes.

Pittsburgh Penguins

2021–22 record: 46–25–11 (Eliminated 1st round)

GAR Added: -18.7 GAR

In: Jeff Petry, Ty Smith, Jan Rutta, Drake Caggiula, Ryan Poehling, Dustin Tokarski

Out: Evan Rodrigues, Mike Matheson, John Marino, Brian Boyle

The Pittsburgh Penguins completely revamped their blueline this offseason, hoping to put together another run while their aging core is still intact. The Penguins dealt Matheson for Petry, then also traded Marino for Smith. To finish off their defensive re-model they signed Jan Rutta.

Petry posted a 7.3 GAR last season, while Matheson came in at 10.4 so this was close to an even swap if not a tad downgrade. Marino for Smith meanwhile looks like a big mistake. Smith posted a -5.7 GAR last year, while Marino came in at 2.7. If Smith doesn’t rebound in a big way this was a downgrade.

Rutta was tremendous in Tampa Bay last year, putting up 13.2 GAR. If he can continue that success in Pittsburgh it’ll be a great add. Unfortunately the Penguins lost an impact forward in Rodrigues and then replaced him with two replacement level ones in Drake Caggiula and Poehling. Dustin Tokarski and his -5.9 GAR was also a curious add.

The Penguins had a pretty rough offseason, altering their defence corps to middling results while getting weaker at forward. Regardless, with the OG band still together they’ll once again be close to a playoff certainty in the East.

Tampa Bay Lightning

2021–22 record: 51–23–8 (Eliminated Stanley Cup Final)

GAR Added: -17.3 GAR

In: Ian Cole, Vlad Namestinikov, Haydn Fleury, Phillipe Myers

Out: Ondrej Palat, Ryan McDonagh, Jan Rutta

After yet another trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the Tampa Bay Lightning once again saw some core members walk out the door due to cap constraints.

Their biggest loss was that of Palat, who left in free agency for New Jersey. Palat posted a 9.8 GAR in 2021–22 and is a substantial loss for the Lightning. They also let Rutta and his 13.2 GAR walk in free agency, and offloaded Ryan McDonagh’s salary for a downgrade in Phillipe Myers. A trio of losses that will certainly be felt.

Due to their tight cap situation, the Lightning were only able to bring in some cheap depth pieces to fill the gaps. With their core intact they’ll once again be a major threat in the East, but they are far from the juggernaut they once were.

Toronto Maple Leafs

2021–22 record: 54–21–7 (Eliminated 1st round)

GAR Added: -10.1 GAR

In: Ilya Samsonov, Matt Murray, Calle Jarnkrok, Viktor Mete, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Adam Gaudette, Jordie Benn

Out: Jack Campbell, Petr Mrazek, Ilya Mikheyev, Ondrej Kase, Ilya Lyubushkin, Jason Spezza, Colin Blackwell

Another year, another offseason of tinkering around the edges after a first round exit for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Maybe this will be the season it finally works? If it isn’t, the Maple Leafs may finally have to split up their core.

The biggest change for the Maple Leafs came in net, as they were priced out of the Jack Campbell sweepstakes, who signed with the Oilers, and inexplicably replaced him with Murray and Ilya Samsonov. Trading for Murray and his contract was one of the headscratchers of the offseason. Sure he posted a GAR of 9.0 in a tiny sample size last season, but he had posted a negative GAR total in three of the previous four seasons.

Samsonov is younger and has some potential, but he struggled last year and posted a GAR of just -2.8. Not exactly a reliable duo to go into the season with. Apart from that, the Maple Leafs brought in a whole bunch of depth players as they always do. None of them needle-movers.

The Maple Leafs will once again go into the season as a playoff lock, but their goaltending could prevent them from going further than the first round.

Washington Capitals

2021–22 record: 44–26–12 (Eliminated 1st round)

GAR Added: 34.1 GAR

In: Darcy Kuemper, Dylan Strome, Connor Brown, Erik Gustafsson, Gabriel Carlsson

Out: Ilya Samsonov, Vitek Vanecek, Justin Schultz, Johan Larsson, Michael Kempny

The Washington Capitals are teetering between the Alex Ovechkin contender era and the Alex Ovechkin beat Gretzky era. The team extended their contender window with a solid offseason.

The Capitals most notable swap came in net, as they got rid of both Samsonov and Vanecek, and signed arguably the top goaltender on the market in Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper was lights out with Colorado last season, posting a 30.4 GAR. He’ll provide the team with a massive boost in net.

They also made a nice signing in Dylan Strome who posted 9.4 GAR last season and should provide some solid depth down the middle. Connor Brown is also an underrated add and a very solid middle-six winger. Johan Larsson is a very underrated role player though and is a bigger loss than most would think. Luckily the rest of their losses are addition by subtraction.

The Capitals should easily be a playoff team next season after their solid offseason, as they try to take one last run at the Stanley Cup before it’s too late.

Final rankings

1New Jersey Devils42.6
2Detroit Red Wings38.5
3Washington Capitals34.1
4Philadelphia Flyers28.3
5Columbus Blue Jackets26
6Ottawa Senators22.3
7Buffalo Sabres19.9
8Montreal Canadiens15.9
9New York Islanders9.2
10Florida Panthers9.1
11Boston Bruins-1.1
12Toronto Maple Leafs-10.1
13New York Rangers-14.5
14Tampa Bay Lightning-17.3
15Carolina Hurricanes-18.4
16Pittsburgh Penguins-18.7

The Eastern Conference comes out looking a bit better than the West, with 10 of 16 teams finishing the offseason with positive GAR added. The winners of the offseason in the East are clear, as New Jersey, Detroit and Washington both had tremendous summers and brought in a ton of value.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the conference heavy hitters took a beating this summer. The Penguins end up grading out the worst, although the Hurricanes and Lightning aren’t far behind.

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