How do you think Rutherford did this offseason? I say looking at everything, I say an A-. Let's look at all the signings and departures we have made:
First, we let Gerber, Cullen and Ward go for free agency, dumped dead weight in trades (Vasicek + Tverdovsky) and let our two rentals (Weight + Recchi) go back to their former teams. I say we dumped the right players considering all the replacements JR got.
At forward, We replaced Cullen, Weight, and Recchi with Letowski, Belanger and Walker. Walker (a complete steal for Vasicek ) has replaced Cullen very effectively with his consistent play. Belanger has filled Weight's role very nicely, as well for much less salary ($1.3 million compared to $3.5 million). We haven't seen much of Letowski, but after his concussion he has played well, and has given a spark on our third line.
On defense, we basically traded Ward and Tverdovsky for Gleason and Tanabe. Gleason has had some good games and bad games, but overall I really like his defensive play, and is the future of our defense along with Babchuk. Tanabe (aka. Snuggles ) is really soft, and is afraid to take a hit, but really, he is only #9 on our depth chart with all our D-men healthy.
At goal, Cam Ward really took over in the playoffs, and despite Gerber's excellent regular season play that season, we had to give Cam the starting job this season. We signed Grahame to be his backup. He was shaky in his first 2 starts, but has been great for us afterwards.
After all that analysis, you can say Rutherford did a pretty decent job this offseason after winning the Cup and increasing salaries for our core. Once the defense gets together and a few deadline acquisitions, we have a chance to defend the Cup.
On the RFA front that's a definite A+, especially considering how badly some other teams (Buffalo) were absolutely ***** in arbitration. Locking up Staal, Williams and Cole long term for less then many players were awarded is nothing short of highway robbery.
On the UFA front, I'd give it a solid B. Allowing Aaron Ward to walk and bringing in David Tanabe at nearly a million per are the two things I would have done differently. Obviously we didn't know that Kaberle would be out THIS long after the season, but we still had plenty of room under the cap for Ward. Allowing Weight to walk wasn't nessicarily a bad thing, he was pretymuch a garentuee to be a rental. Same goes for Recchi although he could easily have ended up staying in Raleigh but a deal was nixed by the wife for family reasons (they live in Pittsburgh) if some reports are to be believed.
Letowski has been a nice sparkpulg type on the 3rd line for us when healthy. Production wise he's been a step down from Vasicek, but he's less expensive and fits the system better. After two very sub-par starts Grahame has been nothing short of stellar his last 3 starts. Consistency is an issue for the guy but IF he's back to the form he was in while he was behind Khabibulin he's one of the best backups in the league. Everybody else (Willis, Bayda, Forrest, Boulerice, etc.) seems to have been depth pickups. The jurry is still out on the Angelidis and Dwyer signings as to wether they can be our next Chad LaRose.
Walker for Vasicek was a streight up A+. Joe wasn't really producing here near the level he is capable of, nor does it appear he's doing so in Nashville. In his place we picked up one of the gritiest players on the team in Scott Walker. He's producing at a better level then Cullen was last year and brings quite a few more intangables. Essentially we replaced Cullen with a more effective and cheeper counterpart by trading a guy that was not adjusting well to the speed of the new NHL.
Johnson and Tverdovsky for Gleason and Belanger was a LOT more questionable, in fact as of right now I'd still give that one a C, and that's mostly because it got Oleg's 2.5 off the books for the next 2 years. Gleason is still developing into a solid defenseman but as of right now he's pretymuch Aaron Ward with more offense, not that that's a bad thing. Belanger has been a good replacement for Vasicek in terms of production offensively in addition to being a more effective two-way player and much better skater. Still, to give up on a prospect of Johnsons calibre is overpayment on our part, even factoring in Oleg's negative trade value due to his contract. Johnson's one of those few players with the potential to dominate any game he chooses to and it looks like he's on the way to reaching that.
Isbister for Petruzalek. While not an offseason deal it's one I love nonetheless. I've been prety high on Petruzalek's potential for a while now and he does a big part in filling a huge void in our system at the moment. Prospect wise Bobby Hughes is the only player we had before the trade that looked like they had a good chance at being a solid NHL scorer. Harrison Reed, Joe Barnes and Nick Dodge are possibilities as well in that reguard but they look more in doubt to reach their potential.
I'd grade the offseason an A-. Obviously the team isn't as good as the one that won the cup, but they are in much better shape then the one that started last season by a good margin. Remember the enigmas that were Nicklas Nordgren and Radim Vrbata to start last season? Everyone this time around seems to fit nicely into a certain role. I'd say the only thing we're lacking right now is an excelent 3rd line center. On the top 2 lines we're prety well set and we definitely have the wingers for the 3rd line. On top of that, the team is still in an excelent cap situation, especially compared to pretymuch every other team that is considered a contender this year.