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Ranking the NHL’s 15 best signings, trades and pickups of 2015

  1. Capitals acquire T.J. Oshie

Recognizing the need to diversify their forward corps, the Caps shipped Troy Brouwer, prospect goaltender Pheonix Copley and a 2016 third rounder to the Blues for the speedy Oshie. Although the inconsistency that plagued him with St. Louis is still a factor, he’s been largely effective skating primarily on the top line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Oshie already has 13 goals and is on pace to smash his previous career best of 21.

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  1. Flyers sign Michal Neuvirth

 

With their goaltending situation in flux, Philly gambled that Neuvirth could rediscover the form he flashed early in his career with the Capitals. So far, that bet has paid off. The 27-year-old has been the perfect complement to starter Steve Mason, going 8-4-2 in 16 appearances for the Flyers. But his play has been even better than those numbers suggest. Neuvirth sits first in the league with a sizzling .937 save percentage and fifth with a 2.06 GAA.

 

  1. Stars sign Antti Niemi

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It seemed like an overly aggressive move at the time given his recent struggles, but the three-year, $13.5 million contract that Niemi signed as a free agent last summer doesn’t look so bad now. The 32-year-old has been the ideal partner for Kari Lehtonen, with both players well ahead of last season’s numbers. Together, they’ve helped the Stars hold the opposition to 2.5 goals-against per game. While their ranking (13th) may not stand out on its own, it sparkles compared to the 3.13 and 26th they posted last season.

 

  1. Coyotes acquire Anthony Duclair

At the time, this swap was all about Keith Yandle, who went to the Rangers along with Chris Summers and a 2015 fourth rounder in exchange for Duclair, John Moore, a 2015 second rounder and a lottery-protected 2016 first rounder. The veteran defender added some offensive punch to the blueline of a New York team that was looking to improve on its finish as Stanley Cup runner-up the year prior. It almost worked, too—Yandle chipped in two goals and 11 points, but the Blueshirts fell one game short of returning to the final.

There’s no disappointment, though, in Arizona where Duclair already is delivering on his promise of becoming an excellent top-six winger. The 20-year-old has 10 goals and 19 points through 35 games as a rookie with the Coyotes, and looks like he’ll be a major asset in their rebuild.

 

  1. Blue Jackets acquire Brandon Saad

 

Minutes after this seven player/one pick stunner went down you just know that 28 other general managers were wondering what they could have done to bring Saad on board. The 23-year-old winger has all the tools to become an elite power forward, and while he hasn’t yet found his form in Columbus, there is a widespread expectation that he’ll be a significant contributor to the Jackets’ success in years to come.

 

  1. Flames acquire Dougie Hamilton

 

As ugly as the early returns have been, there is no denying the long-term potential of this swap. Hamilton is widely regarded as a player who can be counted on to play top-pairing minutes for the next decade, making the investment of their 2015 first round pick (No. 15) and two second rounders (45, 52) an easy price to pay for GM Brad Treliving. Hamilton is already showing signs of acclimating himself to both the Flames and the Western Conference. After posting an ugly –11 rating through his first nine games, he’s +12 in his 27 games since.

 

  1. Stars acquire Patrick Sharp

 

Another high-scoring forward seemed like a low priority for the Stars this past off-season, but GM Jim Nill knows a bargain when he sees one. Taking advantage of Chicago’s cap crunch, he shipped Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt to the Hawks for Sharp, who has rediscovered his All-Star form in victory green. The 34-year-old winger been a natural on the league’s best line alongside Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, and has been an effective weapon from the point on the NHL’s third-rated power play. He could be the difference maker in a long playoff run.

 

  1. Sabres acquire Ryan O’Reilly

 

Hyperactive Sabres GM Tim Murray made bigger deals during the past 12 months but none better than this. Taking advantage of a frayed relationship between O’Reilly and management in Colorado, Murray leveraged futures (Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, JT Compher and a 2015 second rounder) in exchange for the prospect of immediate impact. The early returns weren’t promising but once he was on the ice O’Reilly proved to be exactly what this team needed: a gritty two-way center capable of handling heavy minutes and deflecting pressure away from top pick Jack Eichel as he gets his feet wet in the NHL. Midway through the season,O’Reilly is on pace for 73 points, which would be a new career high, and he’s played his way into serious consideration for Team Canada at the upcoming World Cup.

 

  1. Maple Leafs sign Mike Babcock

 

This was the move that brought integrity to Toronto’s rebuild. While keeping an eye on the long-term (in particular, by giving the kids time to develop in the minors), coach Babcock is already laying the foundation for short-term success by getting the current squad to buy in to his process. While the results aren’t there quite yet, the Leafs are clearly a smarter, more effective team. What you’re seeing now—the commitment to possession, the cycle and more shots on net—hints at the success that’s just around the corner.

 

  1. Wild acquire Devan Dubnyk

It was the year’s ultimate Hail Mary. With his goaltending in disarray and his team melting down after seven consecutive losses, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher sent a 2015 third rounder to the Coyotes in exchange for Dubnyk, their seldom used backup. His impact was immediate. He won eight of his first 10 decisions to right the ship, then went on to finish with a 27-9-2 record, five shutouts, a 1.78 GAA and a .936 save percentage. His performance won him the Masterton Trophy and recognition as a finalist for the Vezina. NHL16 HUT Coins on www.igxe.com/NHL16/cheap-NHL16-coins-NHL16.html

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