Biggest moves of 2023 NHL season: Alex DeBrincat dealt to Red Wings, Erik Karlsson lands with Penguins
The 2023-24 NHL season is now less than two months away, and it has been a long season with several important moves. More than a few big names changed teams, and one could be forgiven for missing some of the summer deals.
Before training camps open and the puck drops on opening night, let’s review some of the season’s most impactful moves. Legitimate stars like Alex DeBrincat and Erik Karlsson were traded in a couple of offers, while other contenders tried to find the missing piece that will help them lift the Stanley Cup.
The Winnipeg Jets sent Pierre Luc-Dubois to the Los Angeles Kings, a team that was trying to get over the postseason hump after the first round out of the back. Similarly, the New Jersey Devils are trying to take advantage of their own Stanley Cup window, and landing Tyler Toffoli should help them do just that.
There will be familiar faces in unfamiliar places this winter, so let’s take a look back at the biggest deals of the 2023 NHL offseason.
1. Alex DeBrincat | RW| Detroit Red Wings
Old team: Ottawa Senators
New team: Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings were 24th in goals scored last season, and general manager Steve Yzerman addressed this issue by acquiring Alex DeBrincat from the Ottawa Senators in a trade that sent Dominik Kubalik and a couple of versions the other way.
In the 2021-22 season, DeBrincat scored 41 goals with the Chicago Blackhawks for the second time in his young career. His 2022-23 season with the Senators wasn’t quite as strong, but he still finished the year with 27 goals and 66 points. DeBrincat also finished second on the team in receiving opportunities with 177, per Natural Stat Trick.
DeBrincat will bring some pop to the top of Detroit’s lineup that has needed it over the last few years. He should slot in nicely alongside Red Wings speedy center Dylan Larkin on the first line.
2. Erik Karlsson | D| Pittsburgh Penguins
Old team: San Jose Sharks
New team: Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins are trying to keep their Stanley Cup window open, and they did so by trading for Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson. It was a terrible move by new general manager Kyle Dubas, and the only question now is whether Karlsson will be enough to get the Penguins their fourth ring in the Sidney Crosby era.
The Penguins haven’t reached the second round of the playoffs since 2018, and their 16-year playoff streak ended last season. In recent years, Pittsburgh has been tinkering around the edges of its roster, but the addition of landing Karlsson is very appealing. The 33-year-old proved he has plenty of gas left in the tank with 101 points on a poor San Jose Sharks team in 2022-23. Karlsson should still be very effective with more talent around him on the Penguins.
Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are all at the end of their careers and looking for their fourth Stanley Cup. Karlsson, on the other hand, has done almost everything in his career except lift the Stanley Cup. That.
3. Pierre-Luc Dubois | C| Los Angeles kings
Old team: Winnipeg Jets
New team: Los Angeles kings
In each of the last two seasons, the Kings were swept by the Edmonton Oilers in the first round. Putting Dubois in the middle of their lineup might be good enough to level the playing field and get them over the hump in the 2023-24 campaign.
Dubois is a big two-way center, and that will come in handy with Los Angeles battling the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl every spring. Last season, Dubois tallied 27 goals and 36 assists while making an impact in all three zones. With Dubois on the ice at five on five, the Winnipeg Jets had a plus-13 goal differential, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Being strong down the middle is a staple of Stanley Cup contenders, and the Kings can now check that box, if they choose to play Dubois at center. Los Angeles could now use Anze Kopitar, Philip Danault and Dubois as their top three centers, or the team could load up their top six by playing Dubois on the wing.
4. Tyler Toffoli | RW| New Jersey Devils
Old team: Calgary Flames
New team: New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils have everything for a Stanley Cup contender, and they only strengthened their status as one of the most exciting teams in the league by landing Tyler Toffoli in a trade from the Flames. The goals should come early and often for the Devils in the 2023-24 season.
It looks like every year you can send your watch to Toffoli by scoring at least 20 goals and scoring anywhere between 40-50 points. Last season, Toffoli bumped those numbers up to 34 goals and 73 points, despite the Flames’ generally disappointing results. The point here is that Toffoli has been a reliable scorer for a decade now, and he will be successful with even more young talent around him in New Jersey.
The Devils can now ice a field that includes Jack Hughes, Timo Meier, Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier, Dawson Mercer and Toffoli as their six main attackers. Few, if any, other teams can match that kind of firepower.
5. Dmitry Orlov | D| Carolina Hurricanes
Old team: Boston Bruins
Current team: Carolina Hurricanes
Speaking of teams holding out to maximize their Stanley Cup window, the Carolina Hurricanes are trying to do the same. Carolina bolstered its position of strength by signing defenseman Dmitry Orlov to a two-year, $15 million contract this offseason.
Orlov, now 32, has been a strong puck defender throughout his career. In fact, the 2022-23 season was one of the best. His 29 assists and 36 points were career bests. In addition, Orlov posted a nine-plus goal differential at five-on-five in just 23 regular season games with the Boston Bruins. That kind of efficiency is not out of the question on a Hurricanes team that is among the best in possession of the puck in the NHL.
Adding Orlov gives the Hurricanes a wealth of options on the blue line. Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce are two of the best defenders around, and Brent Burns and Brady Skjei have a knack for being efficient offensively. Orlov’s presence only makes Carolina harder to beat on the back end.
6. Tyler Bertuzzi | LW | Toronto maple leaves
Old team: Boston Bruins
New team: Toronto maple leaves
The Toronto Maple Leafs managed to reach the second round of the playoffs last season, but they only got one more win after that. Hoping to finally make the most of a talented roster, the Maple Leafs signed Tyler Bertuzzi to a one-year deal to add bona fide power forward to the lineup.
Bertuzzi has been injured in recent years, but has been effective when healthy. Last season, Bertuzzi had just eight goals and 30 points in 50 games, but his numbers took a big bump after the Red Wings dealt the Bruins. In 21 games with the Bruins, Bertuzzi scored four goals and 16 points. Despite Boston’s disappointment in the first playoff round, Bertuzzi was outstanding. He scored five goals and five assists in a seven game streak.
It seems the Maple Leafs are always on the lookout for old hockey tricks like grit and sandpaper. Those moves didn’t always work out (see: Wayne Simmonds), but Bertuzzi has enough skill to go along with his rough edges. Bertuzzi will bring a different dynamic to a talented forward group in Toronto with Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and John Tavares already in the mix.
7. Vladimir Tarasenko | RW| Ottawa Senators
Old team: New York Rangers
New team: Ottawa Senators
After failing to sign Alex DeBrincat to a contract extension, the Senators had to send one of their best young scorers to the Red Wings. With a spot in the top six open, the Sens signed Vladimir Tarasenko to a one-year deal in July.
Tarasenko is six years older than DeBrincat, but is just two years removed from a 34-goal season in 2021-22. Last year, Tarasenko had some peaks and valleys as he split 69 games between the St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers. Tarasenko finished the season with 18 goals and 50 points, and can bring some touches and experience to Ottawa.
Tarasenko may not be at the top of his game anymore, but he can still be a productive player in Ottawa, especially with so much young talent around him. Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stützle and Drake Batherson are all rising stars in the sport, and Tarasenko will only be asked to provide support.
8. Matt Duchene | LW | Dallas stars
Old team: Nashville Predators
New team: Dallas stars
The Dallas Stars should be considered a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup in the 2023-24 season, especially after signing Matt Duchene at a bargain bin price. After the Nashville Predators bought out Duchene earlier this summer, the Stars swooped in and got a skilled offensive player for just $3 million.
Duchene, 32, has had an uneventful tenure in Nashville, but has shown he still has what it takes to make a big impact on the offensive end. In the 2021-22 season, Duchene set the franchise record for goals in a single season with 43. He also added another 43 assists for 86 total points. Last season, Duchene’s numbers came back down to Earth with 22 goals and 56 points, but Dallas would be very happy with that because of the low acquisition cost.
The Stars offense took a step forward last season under first team coach Peter DeBoer, and that should continue in 2023-24. DeBoer now has Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski, Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Wyatt Johnston and Duchene on hand every night.