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Summer report card: Atlantic Div.

Flyers do stunning job of reloading, put heat on Devils

Posted: Wednesday August 15, 2007 2:45PM; Updated: Friday August 31, 2007 1:56PM
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New Jersey Devils
2006-07 Record Grade
49-24-9, 107 points
Atlantic Division champions
#2 overall in Eastern Conference
B
Player Movement
FRESH FACES
Dainius Zubrus (UFA, Buf), Karel Rachunek (UFA, NYR), Vitali Vishnevski (UFA, Atl), Kevin Weekes (UFA, NYR), Arron Asham (UFA, NYI), Ian Moran (UFA, Ana), Noah Clarke (UFA, LA), coach Brent Sutter
BACK IN THE FOLD
Andy Greene, Cam Janssen, Grant Marshall, Zach Parise, Michael Rupp, Paul Martin
GONE
Scott Gomez (UFA, NYR), Brian Rafalski (UFA, Det), Brad Lukowich (UFA, TB), Dan LaCouture (UFA, Ana), Jim Fahey (UFA, Chi), Scott Clemmensen (UFA, Tor)
YET TO SIGN
Frank Doyle, John Oduya, Alex Brooks, Jim Dowd, Erik Rasmussen, Jason Wiemer
Offseason Evaluation
Despite losing a pair of first-line stars in the bloody opening days of free agency, the Devils might actually have had one of the better offseasons in the NHL. Although he failed to add anyone with the impact to replace Gomez or Rafalski, GM Lou Lamoriello did a solid job rebuilding with a group of hard-working, albeit second-tier, signings. The addition of physical forces like Vishnevski, Asham and Zubrus ensures next year's squad should be more difficult to play against. Lou also earns praise for securing a major part of the team's future by signing Parise to a four-year extension at well below market rate. Adding Weekes to spell the excellent, but aging, Brodeur should enhance the veteran's effectiveness next spring. The most important acquisition won't skate for the club. In Brent Sutter, Lamoriello appears to have found a coach who can maintain the integrity of Devils hockey, and move it forward into the New NHL.


New York Rangers
2006-07 Record Grade
42-30-10, 94 points
#6 in Eastern Conference
A-
Player Movement
FRESH FACES
Chris Drury (UFA, Buf), Scott Gomez (UFA, NJ), Andrew Hutchinson (trade, Car)
BACK IN THE FOLD
Henrik Lundqvist, Brendan Shanahan, Petr Prucha, Sean Avery, Marcel Hossa, Jason Strudwick
GONE
Michael Nylander (UFA, Wash), Jed Ortmeyer (UFA, Nash), Karel Rachunek (UFA, NJ) Kevin Weekes (UFA, NJ), Matt Cullen (trade, Car), Brad Isbister (UFA, Van)
YET TO SIGN
Jarkko Immonen, David Liffiton, Sandis Ozolinsh
Offseason Evaluation
No wonder Rangers fans are giddy. Past free-agent spending sprees have rarely been fruitful, but this summer's additions are cut from an entirely different cloth. Drury and Gomez are gritty, proven winners. Along with Avery (re-signed after a contentious arbitration process), they'll make this team a significantly more abrasive lot than they were for much of last season. That he was able to add two of the summer's biggest names while re-upping Shanahan, Lundqvist and Prucha proves that GM Glen Sather hasn't lost his touch. Still, the loss of Cullen shouldn't be overlooked. The deal made sense financially, but he was a major contributor toward the end of the season. His speed and experience will be missed on the third line.


New York Islanders
2006-07 Record Grade
40-30-12, 92 points
#8 in Eastern Conference
B-
Player Movement
FRESH FACES
Andy Sutton (UFA, Atl), Mike Comrie (UFA, Ott), Bill Guerin (UFA, SJ), Ruslan Fedotenko (UFA, TB), Jon Sim (UFA, Atl), Darryl Bootland (Det), Aaron Johnson (Col), Joey MacDonald (UFA, Bos), Josef Vasicek (UFA, Car)
BACK IN THE FOLD
Sean Bergenheim, Chris Campoli, Wade Dubielewicz, Trent Hunter, Chris Simon
GONE
Alexei Yashin (buyout, Russia), Ryan Smyth (UFA, Col), Jason Blake (UFA, Tor), Tom Poti (UFA, Wash), Viktor Kozlov (UFA, Wash), Richard Zednik (UFA, Fla), Arron Asham (UFA, NJ), Sean Hill (UFA, Minn)
YET TO SIGN
Steve Regier, Eric Boguniecki, Mike Dunham, Randy Robitaille, Andy Hilbert
Offseason Evaluation
Perhaps only Buffalo was more decimated by free-agent defections than the Isles, who saw top scorers Smyth, Blake and Zednik, and puck-moving blueliner Poti flee to greener pastures immediately after July 1. GM Garth Snow failed to keep any of his top UFAs at home -- the loss of Smyth was particularly painful -- but deserves credit for turning what could have been a complete disaster into a fairly productive summer. By restocking his club with several gritty players who should fit in well with coach Ted Nolan, he's given the team a chance to be competitive. And hey, just getting the underachieving Yashin and his bloated salary off the payroll bumped their score up a letter grade by itself.


Pittsburgh Penguins
2006-07 Record Grade
47-24-11, 105 points
#5 in Eastern Conference
B
Player Movement
FRESH FACES
Ty Conklin (Buf), Dany Sabourin (UFA, Van), Darryl Sydor (UFA, Dal), Petr Sykora (UFA, Edm)
BACK IN THE FOLD
Mark Recchi, Gary Roberts, Ryan Whitney, Rob Scuderi. Maxime Talbot, Erik Christiansen, Colby Armstrong, Alain Nasreddine
GONE
Michel Ouellet (UFA, TB), Chris Thorburn (UFA, Atl), Wade Brookbank (UFA, Car), Jocelyn Thibault (UFA, Buf), Nils Ekman (UFA, Russia)
YET TO SIGN
Eric Cairns, Josef Melichar, Ronald Petrovicky, Nolan Schaefer
Offseason Evaluation
The Pens constructed an enviable core of young talent through the draft, so their summer was about re-signing Whitney, Talbot, Christiansen and Armstrong, and adding complementary pieces to the puzzle. The additions aren't big names, but they'll contribute. Sydor's no longer a top-four defender, but his leadership and grit will have an impact - his experience winning a pair of Cups would have been invaluable during the Pens' first-round struggles last spring. Sykora adds speed and experience to the second line. GM Ray Shero's biggest move: signing Sidney Crosby to a long-term extension. With the franchise center in place for the next six years, Shero can focus on the little things that go into building a championship squad (signing Peter Forsberg?). Some buzz suggests Foppa wants to play in Pittsburgh, and the natural center could easily slide onto the wing to accommodate the glut at that position. If Shero pulls that off - and he appears to have the cap room -- his final summer grade will deserve a bump.


Philadelphia Flyers
2006-07 Record Grade
22-48-12, 56 points
#15 in Eastern Conference
A
Player Movement
FRESH FACES
Daniel Briere (UFA, Buf), Scott Hartnell (trade, Nash) Kimmo Timonen (trade, Nash), Jason Smith (trade, Edm), Joffrey Lupul (trade, Edm)
BACK IN THE FOLD
Antero Niittymaki, Boyd Kane
GONE
Joni Pitkanen (trade, Ed), Geoff Sanderson (trade, Edm), Niko Dimitrakos (UFA, Ott), Todd Fedoruk (UFA, Dal), Mike York (UFA, Phoe)
YET TO SIGN
Robert Esche, Dimitri Afanasenkov, David Printz
Offseason Evaluation
This was the sort of summer that should follow a season as miserable as the one the Flyers just suffered through. GM Paul Holmgren executed what should be regarded as a textbook rebuilding job, one that makes his team more competitive in the short term and a legitimate contender in the long run. Key issues -- goaltending, defense, speed, grit, scoring -- were addressed at the trade deadline with the acquisitions of Martin Biron, Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent and Braydon Coburn. That group's potential made it arguably the finest re-build job in deadline history. Holmgren's summer additions were equally bold and displayed a far greater grasp of what it takes to succeed in the New NHL than was demonstrated by his predecessor, Bobby Clarke. These Flyers will be stronger, faster and grittier, with two legitimate scoring lines and decent depth up front. The revamped defense could be the key, with former captains Timonen and Smith adding flash and physicality to a blueline that was woefully inept with the puck last season.

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