3 fringe teams that quickly became contenders

After some bold moves during Free Agency, these three teams went from being playoff contenders to Stanley Cup contenders. Here are those three teams.

During NHL free agency, we saw a lot of big names get moved around. Three teams made some massive acquisitions to edge themselves away from the pack as they addressed their weaknesses with monster solutions.

They’ve have pushed themselves into the Stanley Cup conversation and their fanbases are buzzing with excitement for the 2019-20 season. Here are the three teams who have turned themselves into contenders.

3. Dallas Stars

Acquisition: Joe Pavelski

The Dallas Stars finished second-last in the league in goals per game (2.5) and heavily relied on their goaltending and defence to win games. Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov are key scorers for the Stars but after them, goal production drops off as only one other player has 15+ goals.

Pavelski is a pure goalscorer and his impact on the ice will be felt immediately by the Stars as his nose for the net and skill at tipping pucks adds another dimension to the Stars offence. Last season, he finished with 38 goals, which marked the fifth time in his career that he scored over 30 goals in a single season.

His acquisition adds more scoring depth for the Stars as they are now able to move four premium goalscorers around in their line combinations as well as on the powerplay. The addition of the new firepower, backed by the steady goaltending of Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin, makes for a deadly combination for the rest of the league.

2. Colorado Avalanche

Acquisition: Nazem Kadri

Colorado’s center depth got scary deep with the acquisition of Nazem Kadri. A shutdown center with an offensive upside is just what the Colorado Avalanche need to give Nathan MacKinnon an easier time with matchups.

In the last three seasons, Kadri saw a change in his role on the Toronto Maple Leafs as Mike Babcock turned him into his designated shutdown center. Kadri’s performance improved as he played against tougher opponents and it resulted in back-to-back 32-goal seasons.

Having Kadri on the Avalanche adds scoring depth, but also relieves some pressure off Nathan MacKinnon as he won’t have to play against the other team’s top line every night. In the playoffs, the importance of center depth gets magnified as every chance at puck possession becomes vital. Having Kadri who had a winning percentage of 55% at the dot last season is a huge asset to add to this already dangerous offensive team.

1. Florida Panthers

Acquisition: Sergei Bobrovsky

The Florida Panthers always had a strong team on paper but struggled to find the right goaltender to round out their roster. They have incredible offensive depth, with players like Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Mike Hoffman leading the charge. Last season, the Panthers had the second-best powerplay in the league (26.8%) and averaged 3.2 goals per game.

Their biggest problem was their goalies’ combined save percentage of .897, with James Reimer leading the way with his .900 save percentage. The addition of the two-time Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky was exactly what the Panthers needed.

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In his career, Bobrovsky’s save percentage has only dipped under .900 once (.899) and that was back in 2012. Last season he struggled in the beginning but in the second half, he caught on fire and ended up with a career-high of 9 shutouts. The offensive power of this team combined with the superstar goaltending easily makes Florida one of the more dangerous teams in the league.

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