Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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Looking back at the 2023 NHL offseason: Red Wings hit home run with Alex DeBrincat, Kyle Dubas takes big risk

The 2023-24 NHL season is past the halfway point with the All-Star break drawing near. The league will officially descend upon Toronto for the annual assembly of its top talent this weekend. 

Quite a few marquee players, including some All-Stars, switched addresses during the 2023 offseason. Some moves were phenomenal, and some were a tad lackluster. 

As a result, it’s time to take a closer look at the biggest moves of this past summer and how they’ve panned out through a half-season in 2023-24.

Red Wings reaping benefits of Alex DeBrincat trade

The Detroit Red Wings haven’t exactly been the juggernaut the franchise was in the 1990s and early 2000s over the last several years. During the 2023 offseason, the Red Wings made a huge splash when they acquired star winger Alex DeBrincat in a trade with the Ottawa Senators.

DeBrincat has certainly appeared as advertised in 2023-24. The American-born star currently has 43 points (18 goals, 25 assists), and ranks second on the team in points behind Dylan Larkin. DeBrincat has been a huge asset to Detroit’s power-play unit as he’s registered eight power-play goals and six power-play assists up to this point. 

After stops in Chicago and Ottawa to start off his professional career, DeBrincat appears to have found his home in Detroit. The Red Wings’ top line has looked phenomenal with DeBrincat anchoring one of the wing spots along with Lucas Raymond. DeBrincat’s presence has the Red Wings locked into a Wild Card playoff spot right now, and that standing could easily improve if DeBrincat breaks out in the second half of the 2023-24 season.

Penguins didn’t need to acquire Erik Karlsson

The Pittsburgh Penguins spent a good chunk of the 2000s and 2010s as one of the league’s top franchises. After all, the Penguins have hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup three times over the past 15 years. As evident by their 2023 offseason, the Penguins may be holding onto past glories.

The writing was on the wall during the 2022-23 season as the Penguins missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 16 seasons. The organization made several changes, including landing Kyle Dubas from the Toronto Maple Leafs to run their front office. One of Dubas’ first moves on the job was landing defenseman Erik Karlsson in a trade with the San Jose Sharks. Karlsson was coming off of a Norris Trophy-winning campaign in which he tallied 101 points (25 goals, 76 assists).

The possibility of regression was evident, but Karlsson has had a solid campaign with 34 points (seven goals, 27 assists) for his team. However, this was an unnecessary move for an aging team too far from Stanley Cup contention. Sidney Crosby is still an elite center, but he may only have a few years left at this point. This is a team averaging just 2.96 goals per contest and is currently six points out of a playoff spot. For an aging roster, the Penguins weren’t knocking on the door of a Stanley Cup, so acquiring a player like Karlsson wasn’t an absolute necessity. 

Kings have gotten underwhelming production from Pierre-Luc Dubois 

In 2022-23, the Los Angeles Kings fell to the Edmonton Oilers in the opening round of the postseason for the second consecutive year. As a result, the Kings made a bold move and went out and acquired veteran center Pierre-Luc Dubois from the Winnipeg Jets. It was a lofty price tag as the Kings had to part with forwards Alex Iafallo and Gabriel Vilardi to complete the deal. Dubois also signed an eight-year, $68 million contract extension after being traded.

A half season into his Kings tenure, Dubois certainly hasn’t performed anywhere near what Los Angeles expected when the franchise acquired his services. Dubois has registered just 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 47 games. Dubois produced just three goals and three assists during the month of January, including tallying only one point in the last seven games. It also doesn’t help that Iafallo has a similar point total (18) and makes $4.5 million less per season than Dubois.

On a large number of shifts, the effort just hasn’t been there when it comes to Dubois. The veteran forward has arguably been the biggest disappointment of any of the 2023 offseason acquisitions. For a team with grand playoff aspirations, it’s a tight race in the Western Conference, and it’s simply going to need more out of Dubois down the home stretch of the regular season.

Tyler Toffoli thriving with Devils

The New Jersey Devils took the first step toward becoming a force in the Eastern Conference a season ago as they upset the New York Rangers in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Devils acquired winger Timo Meier in a trade with the San Jose Sharks at the 2023 trade deadline, and made another big deal this past offseason in landing winger Tyler Toffoli in a trade with the Calgary Flames.

Toffoli has certainly been the goal-scoring threat the Devils were hoping for when they acquired him this past summer. Toffoli currently leads the Devils in goals (21) on the season, and he has been on fire recently. The veteran winger has tallied five goals over his last four games, and New Jersey has needed every bit of that offensive production. Toffoli has really thrived skating on the Devils’ second line, and the team has leaned on him even more due to the absence of star center Jack Hughes.

The Devils find themselves on the outside of the playoff race at the moment. As a result, Toffoli couldn’t have picked a better time for a career season as he’s currently on pace for 37 goals this season. It’s quite possible that acquiring Toffoli was one of the most underrated moves of the 2023 offseason.

Senators weren’t the right fit for Vladimir Tarasenko

Veteran winger Vladimir Tarasenko was traded to the New York Rangers prior to the 2023 deadline, but that didn’t translate to the postseason success many envisioned. Tarasenko was an impending free agent and drew interest from multiple teams, but chose to sign a one-year deal with the Ottawa Senators.

The Senators’ struggles have been well-documented as they currently have the fewest points (40) in the Eastern Conference. Tarasenko just hasn’t been a great fit with this young Senators team, but he’s still enjoyed some solid production. After all, Tarasenko owns a 14.9 shooting percentage, which is second on the team behind only Drake Batherson (15.7). Perhaps Tarasenko isn’t the elite forward he once was, but the veteran winger still has tallied 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) in 44 games this season.

Considering how much Ottawa has struggled, Tarasenko could certainly be on the move prior to the March 8 trade deadline. Tarasenko does have a no-movement clause, so he can shoot down any potential trade. It’s possible a team like the Carolina Hurricanes or Rangers could be interested in Tarasenko’s services. After all, the Hurricanes did express interest in signing the veteran forward this past summer. 

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