The dust appears to have settled on what has been a pretty hectic NHL offseason. The flat salary cap and condensed offseason have made for some interesting moves across the league. Some teams have completely reinvented themselves through a series of moves. Others have looked to simply plug some holes in their lineups. This piece will take a look at which NHL players will make the biggest impact with their new teams in the 2021-22 season. Whether the player is on the verge of a breakout year, or perhaps in need of a bounceback season, we will assess who scored the top offseason acquisition.
Three NHL Players Poised for a Big Year With Their New Teams
#3. Conor Garland, Vancouver Canucks
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how the Vancouver Canucks had the most confusing offseason of any team this summer. While I stand by that statement, it’s not to say their moves won’t pay off. Conor Garland comes to Vancouver included in the blockbuster deal with the Arizona Coyotes where the Canucks traded away some old contracts (and assets) for some new players. OEL may have headlined that trade, but Garland may have the bigger impact of the two.
Entering his fourth NHL season, Garland is poised for a breakout year. The winger has scored double-digit goal totals in each of his three years thus far. That includes a 22-goal sophomore campaign in 2019-20. Garland has an 82-game average of 24 goals so far while sporting an impressive 57% career Corsi rating. He joins a Canucks team that struggled to score last year, ranking 24th in the league with 2.64 goals per game. Garland could add some additional scoring depth behind the likes of Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson as Vancouver hopes their offseason gambles pay off with a deep playoff run.
#2. Ryan Ellis, Philadelphia Flyers
Like the Canucks, the Philadelphia Flyers also revamped their entire lineup this offseason. Acquiring Ryan Ellis for Philippe Myers and Nolan Patrick was one of the first big moves made by any team this offseason. It was one of the multiple major moves by the Flyers, with Rasmus Ristolainen, Cam Atkinson, Martin Jones and Keith Yandle also joining the squad.
Ellis won’t necessarily make an impact for what he does on the score sheet but rather, what he’ll help others do. The blueliner moved into a shutdown role in his last couple of seasons with the Nashville Predators. With Philly, he will likely complement offensive defencemen Ivan Provorov and Rasmus Ristolainen, allowing them to jump into the play more often. He will also help the Flyers penalty kill, which ranked second-last in the league last year at just 73%. Having a 30-year-old veteran blueliner with his abilities will benefit the Flyers in every way. You can essentially put him in the lineup and forget about him. And there’s no shortage of big-game experience from Ellis as he was a fixture on Nashville’s Stanley Cup Final team in 2017.
Honourable Mention: Mike Hoffman, Montreal Canadiens
Mike Hoffman will be joining his fourth NHL team in the past five seasons. The Montreal Canadiens inked the winger to a three-year deal with an AAV of $4.5 million. Everywhere he’s gone in his NHL career so far, he’s scored goals. He boasts an 82-game average of 28 goals, with over a third (35%) of his career tallies coming on the powerplay. Hoffman will help a Montreal team that was in the middle of the pack in goal-scoring in the regular season (17th in the league) and struggled to find the back of the net at times during their Stanely Cup run.
Honourable Mention: Philipp Grubauer, Seattle Kraken
The starting goalie for the NHL’s newest franchise, Philipp Grubauer makes this list because of the potential he brings to the team. It’s tough to say exactly how the Seattle Kraken will do this coming season. They could capture the same magic the Vegas Golden Knights had in 2017-18, or stumble out of the gates their first season. Regardless, Philipp Grubauer will be their goaltender and he has the potential to channel some Marc-Andre Fleury magic.
But the German-born netminder should also have a chip on his shoulder. The Colorado Avalanche elected not to re-sign their Vezina-finalist goaltender, with Grubauer signing long-term in Seattle. The feeling of not being wanted on a Stanley Cup favourite is surely motivating to any athlete. Grubauer has the potential to be a fan-favourite in the Pacific Northwest right from the jump if he plays well. And with a career .920 save percentage, all indications are that he will.
#1. Zach Hyman, Edmonton Oilers
If you ask any NHL fan, surely they would love a player like Zach Hyman on their team. A hard-working, gritty, versatile player that can be slotted anywhere in the lineup is a coach’s dream. Naturally, he was one of the offseason’s biggest prizes when news broke that the Toronto Maple Leafs would not re-sign him.
Hyman joins an Edmonton Oilers team with high expectations. And his skill set will allow him to transition into the lineup seamlessly. He will strengthen an already formidable Oilers penalty-killing unit, which ranked 9th in the league last season at 82.5%. Hyman has also been averaging a 20-goal pace over 82 games in his career. That’s much needed on an Oilers squad that relies heavily on production from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Whether he plays alongside those two superstars, or behind them, Hyman will make a difference wherever he’s put.