THE NHL’S BEST AND WORST MOVES FROM LAST SUMMER

2023-10-04 · 4 min read · NHL/Hockey
Panthers' Matthew Tkachuk and Leaf's Jack Campbell

David Kirouac/USA Today Sports | Getty Images

With the NHL preseason underway I've been thinking about the biggest moves from last summer and how they panned out. I've also been thinking about how this summer's moves will work. Thus, I thought it would be fun to write a piece ranking the best and worst movies from last summer followed by a piece projecting the best and worst movies from this summer; which we can then revisit later and/or after the season. Without further ado, here are my best and worst moves from last offseason with a year of hindsight.
Best - Matthew Tkachuk (Florida Panthers)
  • While the cost to bring Tkachuk to south beach was high, Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, Cole Schwindt and a first rounder. Despite that haul so far, they have come out looking like gangbusters. Even with the talent loss and Weegar's presence on defence is being missed, what's given Florida some short-term pain is setting up for long-term gain. Tkachuk's play in his first Panthers season was downright amazing; he finished with 109 Points and 2nd in Hart voting. At just 25 years old, his contract should age beautifully for the Panthers as the cap rises. Along with Aleksander Barkov, Tkachuk gives Florida two young elite, two-way forwards to build around. Huberdeau, meanwhile, isn't as well-rounded and showed this season that his best days may be behind him.
Worst - Jack Campbell (Edmonton Oilers)
  • Signing Campbell always came with some risk for Edmonton. For one, the 30-year-old had never played more than 31 games in a season until last year, when he appeared in 49. Secondly, there were always red flags with his stellar periphery stats last season (.914 save percentage, 2.64 goals-against average). Beneath the surface, he ranked 95th out of 118 goalies with a minus-7.96 GSAx, which shows he was propped up by an underrated defensive team in the Maple Leafs. Now just one year into a 5 year 25-million-dollar contract, Campbell has seemingly been replaced by the younger, cheaper and likely better Stuart Skinner. There is time for Campbeell to bounce back but if it doesn't happen soon this contract is gonna be a big burden.
Best - Ilya Samsonov (Toronto Maple Leafs)
  • As a free agent from the Capitals, Samsonov opted to sign a one-year, $1.8 million contract with the Maple Leafs. Samsonov was thought to be the secondary part of a tandem with Matt Murray, but after Murray was injured two games into the 2022–23 season. Samsonov was elevated to the team's starting goaltender for at least the next four weeks and basically the rest of the season. In early November Samsonov was injured (on a penalty shot, weird right?) and would have to miss about a month of play. Samsonov finished the season with 27 wins in 42 games played for the Leafs, with a 2.33 GAA and a .919 Save %; backstopping the team to their first playoff series win since 2004. Now he seems to be the unquestioned starter headed into this season.
Worst - Jonathan Huberdeau (Calgry Flames)
  • Calgary has failed to meet expectations across the board last season, but we're homing in on Huberdeau here. Aside from Jacob Markstrom, it's hard to find a more underwhelming Flame in 2022-23. Huberdeau was the star attraction of the package the Flames received from the Panthers in the Matthew Tkachuk trade. The Flames were so confident in Huberdeau's fit that they signed him to an eight-year, $84-million extension (largest in Flames history) without even seeing him in a Flames jersey - and why not? Huberdeau posted 115 points last season, good for second most in the NHL. Yet his first year went south quickly he struggled with Daryl Sutter’s system and his agent got into a public spat with the team. Huberdeau finished the season with 15 goals and 55 points in 79 games, his lowest totals since 2016-17 in which he only played 31 games. With Sutter gone and some time to adjust I won't be surprised to see Huberdeau bounce back at least partially this year, but it won’t make his first season with them less of a failure.
Best - Kevin Fiala (Los Angeles Kings)
  • It isn't every day that a 26-year-old forward coming off an 85-point season becomes available, but thanks to the Wild's cap issues (looking at your Parise/Suter buyouts) Fiala was. All Los Angeles had to give up to acquire Fiala's services was a 2022 first-rounder and prospect Brock Faber. It's even better when you consider the Kings' deep prospect pool and need for young cornerstone talent. Fiala immediately signed on for the long haul in Los Angeles (seven years 55 million). He's fit right in with his new squad, picking up 72 points in 69 games good for 2nd on the team in points and first in assists. If he can continue to produce at or above a point-per-game rate, his deal will look even sweeter once the cap rises.
Worst - Ben Chiarot (Detroit Red Wings)
  • Chiarot, 31, feels from a bygone era he is big, mean, and physical but slow with his skates and stick; typically leading to poor on-ice results. The worst part is that Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman brought in the veteran to help reigning Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider, but Chiarot only appears to be dragging the young cornerstone defenseman down with him; as they struggled beside each other until the pairing was broken up mid season. They gave this guy four years and 4.75 million a season, this is already ageing poorly.
Honourble Mentions
  • Best - Andre Burokovsky (Seattle Kraken)
  • Worst - Erik Gudbranson (Columbus Blue Jackets)
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By: Chase Howard

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