Atlantic Division free-agency preview


The Montreal Canadiens were not satisfied with a first-place finish in the Atlantic Division — and much less so with a first-round exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs. Similarly, the Ottawa Senators, who came within one game of the Stanley Cup Final, may shake up their roster. The Tampa Bay Lightning look to vault themselves back into the Eastern Conference elite after missing the playoffs. (Free agents are unrestricted, unless otherwise noted).

Notable free agents: LW David Pastrnak (RFA), C Ryan Spooner, C Dominic Moore

Needs: A raise for 70-point scorer Pastrnak will be the top priority in terms of forwards. Charlie McAvoy should augment the defensive corps but adding depth on the back end will also be key for Boston.

Cap space: $13.5 million

Big moves so far: The Bruins hope that McAvoy, 19 — who made his NHL debut during the 2017 playoffs — and dominant AHL goalie Zane McIntyre can make an impact.

Notable free agents: RW Brian Gionta, D Cody Franson, LW Marcus Foligno (RFA), G Robin Lehner (RFA), G Anders Nilsson, C Zemgus Girgensons (RFA), D Nathan Beaulieu (RFA)

Needs: The Sabres — who missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season — are still very much a work in progress, but they have roster flexibility, cap space and new leadership in the organization.

Cap space: $25.5 million

Big moves so far: The Sabres have a new GM, Jason Botterill, and a new coaching staff led by a familiar face, Phil Housley, who was an All-Star defenseman for Buffalo. The Sabres also acquired Beaulieu’s rights from Montreal.

Notable free agents: C Andreas Athanasiou (RFA), LW Tomas Tatar (RFA), D Xavier Ouellet (RFA)

Needs: Detroit ranked 26th in both goals for and goals against last season. Its leading scorer, best defensive player and captain, Henrik Zetterberg, will turn 37 on Oct. 9. Both defense and goaltending have been wobbly in the Motor City. Onerous contracts and the resulting lack of cap space may prevent the Wings from addressing their needs.

Cap space: $7.9 million

Big moves so far: The Red Wings made 11 selections in the draft and will christen a new home, Little Caesars Arena, next season.

Notable free agents: RW Jaromir Jagr, LW Thomas Vanek, D Alex Petrovic (RFA), D Mark Pysyk (RFA)

Needs: Injuries may have been the Panthers’ undoing last season, but they need more than just better health to compete in 2017-18. An already-inconsistent attack has been depleted by the departure of two productive forwards and the potential departure of two more.

Cap space: $20 million

Big moves so far: The Panthers protected their two not-so-coveted RFAs on defense but dumped two scorers, Reilly Smith and bargain-priced Jonathan Marchessault, on Vegas at the expansion draft.

Montreal Canadiens

Notable free agents: RW Alexander Radulov, C Alex Galchenyuk (RFA), D Andrei Markov

Needs: The Habs desperately need a first-line center, preferably one with some size. Given the considerable cost of re-upping Radulov, replacing at least Alexei Emelin — if not Markov — on defense and extending the deal of potential 2018 UFA goalie Carey Price, Montreal must be judicious. Trading Galchenyuk in favor of a bigger, more consistent center may be their move.

Cap space: $21 million

Big moves so far: Montreal acquired forward Jonathan Drouin in exchange for defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev. The Canadiens promptly signed Drouin, then an RFA, to a six-year contract.

Ottawa Senators

Notable free agents: C Jean-Gabriel Pageau (RFA), LW Viktor Stalberg, C Mike Condon

Needs: The Senators lack scoring punch up front and now must reconcile that need with solidifying a shuffled defense corps. They ranked 22nd in goals last year but were kept afloat by their defense. They may also be in the market for a No. 2 or No. 1B goaltender.

Cap space: $14.8 million

Big moves so far: Ottawa lost Erik Karlsson‘s defense partner, Marc Methot, in the expansion draft. Despite strong postseasons by both defenseman Dion Phaneuf and top-paid forward Bobby Ryan, they have shopped Phaneuf actively and left Ryan unprotected in the expansion draft.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Notable free agents: LW Ondrej Palat (RFA), C Tyler Johnson (RFA)

Needs: With Steven Stamkos on the mend, formidable cap space and a positionally balanced cupboard of promising prospects, the Lightning are one of the most intriguing teams this offseason. Adding a top-four defenseman tops their shopping list, followed by some size up front.

Cap space: $23 million

Big moves so far: GM Steve Yzerman finally put an end to Drouin’s tumultuous stint in Tampa, bringing in Sergachev. That move fit his broader effort to deepen the organization’s defense.

Notable free agents: C Zach Hyman (RFA), RW Connor Brown (RFA), C Brian Boyle, D Roman Polak, D Matt Hunwick

Needs: Veteran, defensive-minded bridge players would be solid additions for Toronto. The Maple Leafs could benefit from bringing in some experienced, selfless pros to set strong examples for their young studs. A seasoned top-four defenseman and a sound two-way forward seem like reasonable wishes, but Toronto also has the talent to make a blockbuster trade.

Cap space: $14 million

Big moves so far: The Leafs extended Nikita Zaitsev in May, meaning he, Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner are all fixtures on their blue line. They also drafted four defensemen.

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