Johnny Hockey has moved East, although not as far as everyone thought. The Western champions couldn’t hold the whole group together. And two teams with long playoff droughts have made some moves in hopes of changing that.

Johnny Gaudreau joins Columbus headlined a busy offseason of moving players around NHL. Darcy Kuemper left Colorado for Washington after backing the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup, and former teammate Nazem Kadri signed with Calgary, Gaudreau’s former team.

Toronto is often called the center of the hockey universe, but last summer it was Calgary that was part of the biggest trade: Matthew Tkachuk to Florida for Jonathan Huberdeau and Mackenzie Wigar. Panthers Division Opponents Ottawa and Detroit have also made significant strides to take another step toward contention.

Despite only a $1 million increase in the salary cap, many players were traded after the Avalanche knocked off Tampa Bay to win it all.


Gaudreau was a top free agent, and signs pointed to a return home to Philadelphia. But the Flyers couldn’t make room to sign the South Jersey native, who opted to sign a seven-year, $68.25 million contract with the Blue Jackets.

“I thought it was a good place for me personally,” Gaudreau said. “I think we can achieve great success here. This is a place I’ve had on my bucket list for a while. It’s not just from what I’ve heard about the city and where you live, but this team has some good players and I’m really looking forward to joining this team.”

The Blue Jackets are still out of contention for the playoffs, but with Gaudreau, they’re closer than before.


After the top eight and bottom eight in the Eastern Conference were separated by 16 points last season — the largest margin since the current format was introduced in 1993-94 — the two teams outside the playoff ranks have made major moves to try to change this.

The Red Wings, who haven’t made the playoffs in the past six seasons, spent $61.5 million in free agency to add center Andrew Cope, wings David Perron and Dominik Kubalik and defenseman Ben Ciarotto. They also acquired goaltender Ville Hus from St. Louis.

Ottawa, which hasn’t made the playoffs in seven of the last nine years, didn’t wait for free agency to add important pieces. The Senators acquired high-scoring winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and goaltender Cam Talbot from Minnesota before signing longtime Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux.

After years of patience, excitement is building in Canada’s capital.

“We wanted to do it right,” Senators general manager Pierre Darion said. “We didn’t want to put in Band-Aids when we did this: try to sign a free agent contract, make one deal, and then one year you’re in and the next you’re out. By doing it this way, we just feel a greater desire for long-term success.”


Colorado’s biggest shakeup since winning the Cup came in net, acquiring Alexander Georgiev from the New York Rangers and paving the way for Kuemper to leave in free agency. The Avalanche have signed Georgiev to a three-year contract and will pair him with Czech veteran Pavel Frankuz.

“When he was a starter, he played really well and he wanted a bigger opportunity, and he got that opportunity,” president of hockey operations Joe Sakic said of Georgiev. “Frankie, he’s a great backup goaltender who can come in and play 30-40 games. I think they will make a great duo.”

The Avalanche kept much of their core together and also made a potentially valuable free-agent signing, landing forward Evan Rodriguez for $2 million.

“I like the signing of Rodrigo,” top forward Nathan MacKinnon said. “We’re getting a guy with 45 points for $2 million, that’s crazy: 19 goals. I saw him shoot about 7% last year and strike out 19, so I think it’s hot. Who knows how many goals he will score?”


In addition to trading for Tkachuk, who adds some size and grit, the reigning Presidents Trophy winner Panthers signed defenseman Marc Staal and brought brother Eric to training camp for a check-up. The brothers vacationed together and deals were made on the back nine at Pebble Beach.

“It was crazy,” said brother Jordal Staal, who is captain of the Carolina Hurricanes. “They’re both just super pumped. … Really cool stuff.”


While most of Tampa Bay’s two-time Cup winners remain, the salary cap has forced some to leave. Dependable defenseman Ryan McDonagh was traded to the Nashville Predators, and playoff scorer Ondrej Palat signed with the New Jersey Devils.

General manager Julien Brisbois made bargain purchases to sign winger Vladislav Namestnikov and veteran defender Ian Cole. He also believes quarterback Phillip Myers — the return of McDonagh — has a chance to exceed expectations after a couple of tough seasons.

“It wasn’t that long ago that we saw a lot of potential in him,” Brisbois said. “He has a really good set of tools. Hopefully we can get the most out of him in the new conditions and if we can do that we will have a really good defender who is only 25 years old.”


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