When the Stanley Cup Playoffs conclude later this summer, hockey fans everywhere will say goodbye to this season’s divisional structure. In 2021-22 the NHL will be going back to the Pacific, Central, Metropolitan, and Atlantic, albeit with a couple of tweaks. That means the Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins will be divisional rivals once again, so let’s check in on some notes from around the old-new Atlantic.
- Even the new divisions weren’t enough to help the Sabres, who have now missed the playoffs in ten straight seasons and face an offseason of change. Jack Eichel dominates the headlines coming out of Buffalo, but there are other players on the roster to keep an eye on this summer. In his latest mailbag, Buffalo News writer Lance Lysowski explains that he believes a Rasmus Ristolainen trade is “inevitable” at this point and it would make sense to do it before the upcoming expansion draft. The 26-year-old Ristolainen has just one year left on his contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent, so if Buffalo is going to try to turn him into any future assets, now is the time to do it.
- The Montreal Canadiens may not be very excited about going back to the Atlantic, given they just waltzed through the North en route to the third round. That playoff success has certainly turned some critics into champions of GM Marc Bergevin and as Eric Engels of Sportsnet writes, it seems to have reinvigorated the front office executive. In examining the future of Bergevin, who is under contract for just one more season in Montreal, Engels writes that he was recently offered a “lucrative, three-year deal.” Obviously, the focus right now is on the Canadiens’ quest for the Stanley Cup, but the Bergevin situation will need to be resolved at some point.
- When the Bruins come back to the Atlantic they could be a very different looking team, with names like Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, and Taylor Hall all scheduled for unrestricted free agency. In making a decision to re-sign those free agents or not, GM Don Sweeney has a little less cap space to work with. PuckPedia reports that because the Bruins decided to split their 2019-20 performance bonus overage and had another $1.05MM overage this season, they face a $2.02MM carryover penalty for the 2021-22 season. That’s certainly not a surprise to the Bruins front office, who would have been working with this knowledge all season, but it does tighten things even further in a flat cap world.