Which teams have had the best and worst off-seasons according to the numbers?

Jack Eichel (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

It’s been nearly two weeks since free agency opened and most of the big fish have landed, which means it’s time to evaluate the winners and losers of free agency. There’s still some great players out there that can help teams, but the bulk of signings have already been made so right now is a perfect time to see how each team has done so far.

Usually, grading a team’s offseason in July is a fool’s errand because a lot of things will change during the season, but with recent advances in hockey analytics, it’s possible to get a reasonable estimation. Just like our post before free agency began, we used wins above replacement from war-on-ice.com over the last three seasons to project what a player will do next season. Using our off-season movement tracker, we looked at who’s in and who’s out for each team and added up their WAR totals to get wins added (or lost) from this offseason.

Of course, wins aren’t everything in the offseason, especially in a salary cap league. The value of the wins added is important too. With that in mind, here’s all 30 teams’ wins added compared to how much salary they added. Above the red line means a team got less for their money, while below means teams got more. (Keep in mind that WAR is generally skewed towards forwards and goalies so a team that added a big-time D-man, like Calgary, won’t look as great as they should here). Read more

Sabres expecting massive crowd for Eichel vs. Reinhart scrimmage

Jared Clinton
Jack Eichel (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

While a final count has yet to be determined, the Buffalo Sabres are set to welcome a crowd for Jack Eichel’s scrimmage debut that rivals a home game for the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, Arizona Coyotes or even the Winnipeg Jets.

That’s right: the Sabres are expecting somewhere in the neighborhood of 13,000 to 15,000 fans to be in attendance Friday when a prospect team featuring Eichel, the second overall selection in the 2015 draft, takes on another squad that starring 2014 second overall pick Sam Reinhart.

Suffice to say, Buffalo’s a tad excited. Then again, so is Eichel. Read more

Why it will take time before McDavid, Eichel make serious impact

Connor McDavid (David Cooper/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres have made it very clear – it’s time to flip the switch. The two franchises collected their rewards for a season of ineptitude – two generational talents in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel – 12 days ago at the draft and they’ve been bathing in optimism ever since with an attitude that suggests they’re going to waste no time in getting the teams back into contention. The two teams made some of the biggest moves during the off-season that show they mean just that.

Edmonton traded for goaltender Cam Talbot and added steady defender Andrej Sekera during free agency, while Buffalo got a young, almost-elite center in Ryan O’Reilly to go with their own new goaltender, Robin Lehner. They’re very good moves for both clubs and there’s no doubt that the teams are much better because of it.

Here’s the thing: these two teams were already very bad. In terms of goal difference, Buffalo allowed 113 more goals than they scored while Edmonton allowed 85. Not many teams have put up numbers that atrocious (adjusted to this year’s goal-scoring levels and talent distribution) since the league has expanded and those that have were still pretty bad the next season, too. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Shattenkirk, Lecavalier and Bozak trade talk continues

Kevin Shattenkirk (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The Kevin Shattenkirk trade speculation that surfaced during the recent NHL draft gained momentum during the opening day of free agency. Jeremy P. Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the defenseman’s agent denied claims his client was being shopped, but it did little to quell the rumors.

It remains to be seen how the speculation will be affected by the Blues recent trade of winger T.J. Oshie to the Washington Capitals. If they’re still fielding inquiries about Shattenkirk, Rutherford suggests the 26-year-old blueliner’s contract could be the issue. Shattenkirk has two years left on his deal at an average cap hit of $4.25 million. The Blues already have considerable long-term contracts invested in blueliners Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester. Rutherford notes they won’t part with Pietrangelo, while Bouwmeester’s struggles last season could hurt his trade value. Read more

Brandon Saad and Ryan O’Reilly sign huge deals with new teams

Brandon Saad

The contracts came in within minutes of each other and both came with big dollar amounts. Columbus signed new left winger Brandon Saad to a six-year, $36 million contract, while Buffalo extended recently acquired center Ryan O’Reilly for seven years at $7.5 million per season. Let’s walk through the sticker shock.

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Report: Ryan O’Reilly, Sabres agree to long-term deal

Jared Clinton
Ryan O'Reilly (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Less than a week after snagging Ryan O’Reilly from the Colorado Avalanche hours before the draft, it appears the Buffalo Sabres are on the verge of locking the 24-year-old pivot up to a long-term deal.

According to a report by The Buffalo News’ John Vogl, a source has said O’Reilly and the Sabres have come to terms on a long-term contract and the deal will be announced soon. The terms of the deal, while not yet disclosed, will likely pay O’Reilly upwards of $7 million per season with the potential for the contract to be closer to the $8 million-mark per year.

O’Reilly is currently in the final year of a two-year, $12 million bridge deal which he signed in July 2014. Read more

Buffalo Sabres ink Jack Eichel to three-year, entry-level contract

Jared Clinton
Jack Eichel

Jack Eichel is ready to take on the NHL.

The Buffalo Sabres announced Wednesday that they have signed Eichel to a three-year, entry-level contract, which means Eichel will head to professional hockey instead of returning to Boston University next season.

Eichel, who was selected second overall at the 2015 draft by the Sabres, comes to Buffalo after just one season in the NCAA. While he had been quiet about where he would be headed next season, with some believed he could head back to school for the 2015-16 campaign, but his signing makes it official that he’s turning pro.

Last season with the Terriers, Eichel was the highest scoring player in the NCAA with 26 goals and 71 points in 40 games, and led the club to a conference championship and was the MVP of the Hockey East tournament. In addition, he took home Hobey Baker Award honors as the top player in the NCAA last season. Eichel was also the NCAA Rookie of the Year, first-team All American, Hockey East Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year and a first-team all-star.

With Eichel signed, the Sabres, who were goal starved last season, immediately become much better offensively. Add Eichel to the likes of Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, Zemgus Girgensons and Matt Moulson, and the Buffalo offense looks vastly improved in a short span.

As for the contract, Eichel will get a pretty standard entry-level deal worth a reported $925,000 per season. That said, though, the contract will be heavily bonus laden and with Eichel likely to fight for the Calder Trophy next season, there’s a good chance his deal could earn Eichel much more than the base cap hit.