By: Andrew Parker
The 2018 NHL off-season has been a roller coaster ride with a few trades, the July 1st signing frenzy, and the Tavares and Karlsson saga. Some moves were made this summer that could drastically affect how the upcoming season can play out, and here are the biggest game-changing moves that took place:
John Tavares Signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs
Tavares left a sinking ship in New York to go play for a very young and up-and-coming team in Toronto. The Maple Leafs are a team that finished among the top three in the best division in hockey last year. They did this without Tavares, so it’s hard to see them getting worse next year. After taking a very good Bruins team to a game seven in the first round of the playoffs, a player like Tavares could very well push the Leafs over the top.
It will be interesting to see how Mike Babcock will align his firepower on offense, as they already have Auston Matthews at center as well. If the Maple Leafs have a weakness, it would be the defense, but if you’re scoring six goals a game, defense might not be all that important. Having too much talent on the offensive end should never be an issue that holds a team back, and they will figure out a way to make the pieces come together.
Ryan O’Reilly Traded to the St. Louis Blues
The Buffalo Sabres did not shock anyone when they traded O’Reilly, as they are a team that is rebuilding and had already traded Evander Kane last season. The Blues got exactly what they needed in a guy like ROR. St. Louis was lacking another scoring presence to slide into the lineup alongside Vladimir Tarasenko.
After two straight seasons of trading away vets in Kevin Shattenkirk and Paul Statsny, it was time to bring another one in to help keep pace in a tough Central division. Throwing a first line out there such as Steen-O’Reilly-Tarasenko might do the Blues some good and hopefully bring out the best in Tarasenko.
For a team who is still searching for their first Stanley Cup, this kind of trade was needed. The Blues are stuck in a mediocre spot after finishing ninth in the Western Conference last season. On the bright side, they brought a kid back home to play for his hometown team with the signing of Patrick Maroon.
Ilya Kovalchuk Returns to the NHL
This move had the potential to be the biggest move of the summer…. if it were about five years ago. At 35 years-old, Kovalchuk has made the long awaited return to the NHL to sign with the Kings. After playing 12 seasons in the NHL, Kovalchuk dipped out in 2013 to return home and play for the KHL in Russia. Does Kovalchuk still have the talent to score 40 goals in the NHL? Will the Kings even be good enough for this Kovalchuk signing to even matter? Neither question will be answered until we see the Kings on the ice.
Erik Karlsson Saga
Not only is Ottawa one of the worst teams in the league on the ice, off the ice they are having even more trouble. After reports surfaced about Mike Hoffman’s girlfriend lashing out on Karlsson’s wife, things looked horrible for Ottawa. Since this incident surfaced, Hoffman was traded to Florida and Karlsson wants out as well. It isn’t so much of a question as to if he will get traded, it is more of a question as to when he will be dealt.
We all thought Karlsson was traded to Tampa Bay a few weeks ago when a fairly credible reporter tweeted that the trade was done. As we know, that trade did not happen and Karlsson is still a Senator. Whenever he gets dealt, it will most likely affect a playoff race waiting to happen.
The Bruins Trusting the Kids
The Boston Bruins are in a weird spot this off-season. After exceeding expectations last season and buying at the deadline, they made it to the second round of the playoffs. You could say they are a little ahead of schedule in their rebuild.
Under head coach Bruce Cassidy, the Bruins have trusted the younger kids more than they used to. Inserting guys into huge roles last year such as Debrusk, Heinen, Donato, McAvoy, and Carlo all paid off. Sticking it out with them [Debrusk, Heinen, Donato, and McAvoy] last year and letting them come back more improved this year could have been the right move. These young players proved to be able to handle themselves in top line minutes, so why would Boston want to ditch that?
So much trade chatter is surrounding the Bruins right now, as guys like Debrusk, Krejci, Backes, and Krug spearhead the conversation. If the Bruins were smart, they would hold on to what they have and watch the kids get better and better as more opportunities arise.
Obviously the off-season is not over yet. More signings and trades are bound to be made. Regardless of what happens from here on out, we are in store for an exciting 2018-2019 NHL season.
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Cover photo via: Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images