The NHL off-season is an excellent opportunity for a team’s management to overhaul the lineups and add new talents and depth to their lines. Some teams objectively improved throughout the off-season, while others did not. A team’s off-season success is generally based on their acquisitions through free agency and trades, however could also be gauged based on new draftees and prospects set to break into the league. This article will outline three teams who have made the largest strides towards a successful season during the 2019 off-season. Here are your Most Improved NHL teams.
New York Rangers (Most Notable Acquisition: Artemi Panarin) The Rangers had a very busy offseason this year. After it looked as though they were destined for a rebuild after trading away serviceable winger Mats Zuccarello and second-line center Kevin Hayes, they instead brought new life into Manhattan. It began when they won the second overall pick in the 2019 Draft Lottery, which they used to select promising Finnish prospect Kappo Kakko. Following the lottery win, the Rangers traded up for stud defenseman Jacob Trouba, sending defenseman Neal Pionk the way of the Winnipeg Jets. This led the Rangers to acquire what is easily their largest splash of the summer, UFA Artemi Panarin. This could provide significant DFS value for Kakko as he may start the season alongside a strong veteran presence in “the Breadman”, not to mention he could benefit from Panarin’s point production, which totalled 87 points last season (28 Goals, 59 Assists).
Colorado Avalanche (Most Notable Acquisition: Nazem Kadri) The Aves were faced with quite a predicament leading into the offseason, and the fact that they’ve managed take such positive strides to sort themselves out of it is why I have them so high on this list of the Most Improved NHL Teams. Tough decisions had to be made and Colorado could very easily have both long and short term benefits from the moves made this offseason. After trading Matt Duchene to the Ottawa Senators in November 2017, they were given Ottawa’s draft selection for the 2019 NHL draft. Despite Ottawa finishing dead last in the league after a dismal 2018-19 campaign. The Aves only received the 4th overall selection from Ottawa which turned into defenseman Bowen Byram. The problem facing the Avalanche during this offseason was that they have many expiring entry-level contracts, which the team will have to deal with all at once. In order to make up cap room, the Aves traded away Tyson Barrie to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Nazem Kadri and Calle Rosen. Rosen is still a young defenseman at 25 years old and could come in handy down the stretch for the Avalanche as a third-line pairing. However, the main draw for the Avalanche was Nazem Kadri. The 28-year-old center is on an extremely team-friendly deal which is set to last until 2022-23. This new room in the salary cap allowed Colorado to sign Sam Girard this offseason and will allow Colorado to resign Graves, Zadorov and Makar. They also picked up a serviceable NHL winger in Joonas Donskoi who created moments of brilliance while playing for the Sharks. The Avalanche may not be out of the woods yet as they have a bit of goalie trouble after losing their starter Semyon Varlamov in free agency and more notably are still in negotiations with Star winger and RFA Mikko Rantanen. (If you would like to read about other star RFA’s who have yet to sign a new deal check out our article!)
New Jersey Devils (Most Notable Acquisition: PK Subban) After a disappointing 2018-19 campaign, the Devils had one of the most notable offseasons in the entire league. It began after the Devils selected future star Jack Hughes with the first overall pick in the 2019 Entry Draft and came to a head when the Devils traded with the Nashville Predators for franchise defenseman P.K. Subban. The Subbanator will join a Garden State team which already had two former first overall picks in Taylor Hall (2010) and Nico Hischier (2017). Hall sat out for most of the 2018-19 season and will have a completely rejuvenated team when he returns. This team could provide huge DFS value for Hughes as he is set to play on the Devils top Power Play unit alongside both Hall and Subban. The Devils also signed a strong depth winger in Wayne Simmonds and traded for KHL stud Nikita Gusev (who has yet to play a minute on NHL ice…) There is no doubt that the Hudson River Rivalry just got much more intense with two of the Most Improved NHL Teams.
Honorable Mentions: Toronto Maple Leafs (Barrie), Arizona Coyotes (Kessel), Dallas Stars (Pavelski)
As an avid hockey fan since 2007, I suffered through the worst moments in Toronto Maple Leafs history and persevered to tell the story. I picked up NHL DFS in 2017 after being introduced to FanDuel by a family member and began writing NHL articles for Daily Play Action since 2018. Since my introduction to NHL DFS, I've surpassed the initial bumps in the road and have continually sought to hone my game season after season. Today, I have solely focused on improving as an NHL DFS player in order to maximize my output in the sport. This is truly a win-win as I also love the sport itself. Last year, I notably recommended Sean Kuraly in the NHL Winter Classic, where he went on to be the most valuable player of the slate with a goal and 5 shots. I was also in on Mantha when he had a whopping 12.9x value, Perlini when he posted a 10x value and Ennis, who was my top value play of the year at 14.9x value. My most notable NHL takedown was the NHL 25 cent deflection in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals where I took down the $100 top prize. You can find me on Twitter @AFabrykant on FanDuel as InAustonWeTrust and on DraftKings as Allan51299