The off-season is when the suits begin to shine. We break down the premier roster architects in the business.
Fantasy drafts consist of choosing players, but what if you had the No. 1 pick in a GM pool? It’s a pretty important position, one we may see Las Vegas filling in the near future. Who is the best of the bunch? We surveyed a cross-section of agents (who deal with GMs and their staffs on a frequent basis) and prominent reporters to get the answer.
The two criteria: (a) best in terms of talent evaluation, trade savvy and salary-cap savvy; and (b) smartest rebuild. That way, we didn’t just get 10 GMs whose teams happen to be doing well. And to continue the theme of constant vigilance, we’ve also included a projection of who each GM’s top center, D-man and goalie will be in three years. Those “Down the Middle” depth chart positions are the most crucial in the NHL. Note that even some of the best GMs have work to do there. You will also find each GM’s most savvy recent move and one he’d probably like to have back.
1. STAN BOWMAN, BLACKHAWKS
No team shed more talent in recent years, yet Bowman still has three Cups and a core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford intact.
DOWN THE MIDDLE: Jonathan Toews–Duncan Keith–Corey Crawford
SAVVY MOVE: Artemi Panarin, Calder Trophy finalist and smashingly successful KHL free agent pickup
Do-over: Brian Bickell’s contract, though it’s now Carolina’s problem.
2. KEN HOLLAND, RED WINGS
Since taking over as GM in 1997, Holland has guided Wings to the playoffs all 18 times a season was played. Like Bowman, he has three rings as GM and another as an assistant GM before that.
DTM: Dylan Larkin–None–Petr Mrazek
SAVVY MOVE: Sharpshooting winger Gustav Nyquist, drafted 121st overall in 2008
Do-over: Jimmy Howard’s long-term deal. $5.3 million is a lot to pay for a platoon goalie.
3. JIM NILL, STARS
A Holland acolyte, Nill has been a huge dealer in Dallas, landing elite players Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp via trade and leading the Stars to the Central Division crown this season.
DTM: Tyler Seguin–John Klingberg–None
SAVVY MOVE: Snagging Mattias Janmark for a past-his-prime Erik Cole at the 2015 trade deadline
Do-over: Tying up more than $10 million in cap space on two “No. 1” goalies, Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi.
4. STEVE YZERMAN, LIGHTNING
Another Detroit product, Yzerman has overseen some excellent drafts in Tampa, while also dealing with public scraps involving players Martin St-Louis and Jonathan Drouin. Wednesday’s contract extension with Steven Stamkos could vault him even higher on the list.
DTM: Steven Stamkos–Victor Hedman–Andrei Vasilevskiy
SAVVY MOVE: Ondrej Palat, drafted 208th overall in 2011
Do-over: Matt Carle’s long-term contract at a $5.5 million AAV (with a no-trade clause to boot), which was bought out on Thursday.
5. DALE TALLON, PANTHERS
Did a lot of the legwork turning Chicago into a powerhouse and now has a dangerous young squad percolating in Florida, where he was just promoted from GM to president. Marrying phenoms (Aaron Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov) with experience (Jaromir Jagr) has worked wonders.
DTM: Aleksander Barkov–Aaron Ekblad–None
SAVVY MOVE: Re-signing Jaromir Jagr
Do-over: Dave Bolland’s albatross contract.
6. LOU LAMORIELLO, MAPLE LEAFS
As shrewd as ever, Lamoriello somehow works his magic in secret while operating in one of the NHL’s leakiest media markets. Locking down Morgan Rielly and jettisoning the big contracts of Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf were just the beginning.
DTM: Auston Matthews–Morgan Rielly–Frederik Andersen
SAVVY MOVE: Nikita Soshnikov and Nikita Zaitsev, free agent
Do-over: Getting very little in return in the James Reimer trade with San Jose.
7. DEAN LOMBARDI, KINGS
Recent disappointments notwithstanding, Lombardi put together a two-time Stanley Cup-winning squad in Los Angeles and still has a tight roster despite some salary cap issues.
DTM: Anze Kopitar–Drew Doughty–Jonathan Quick
SAVVY MOVE: Tyler Toffoli, 47th overall in 2010
Do-over: Dustin Brown’s $5.9 million AAV isn’t terrible, but giving him eight years back in 2013 was a mistake.
8. DOUG ARMSTRONG, BLUES
Instead of blowing up a roster that has underwhelmed in the playoffs, Armstrong augmented his Blues with rookies Robby Fabbri and Colton Parayko and veteran Troy Brouwer. Losing stink: washed off. Series win over rival Chicago: done.
DTM: Robby Fabbri–Alex Pietrangelo–Jake Allen
SAVVY MOVE: Colton Parayko, 86th overall in 2012
Do-over: Paul Stastny’s four-year, $28 million giant of a contract (with a no-trade clause).
9. BRAD TRELIVING, FLAMES
Dismissing Jack Adams-winning coach Bob Hartley proved Treliving will not tolerate mediocrity. He’s got a great young core in Calgary that just needs goaltending and puck possession lessons.
DTM: Sean Monahan–T.J. Brodie–Brian Elliott
SAVVY MOVE: Stealing stud D-man Dougie Hamilton from the Bruins for picks on draft day 2015
Do-over: Thinking a Jonas Hiller-Karri Ramo-Joni Ortio goalie battery would survive.
10. DAVID POILE, PREDATORS
The only GM the Predators have ever known orchestrated a huge upset win over favored Anaheim in the playoffs thanks to Pekka Rinne’s goaltending and one of the most versatile defense corps in the NHL.
DTM: Ryan Johansen–Roman Josi–Pekka Rinne
SAVVY MOVE: Oh man, that Filip Forsberg-Martin Erat trade is already legendary. You can probably add Wednesday’s P.K. Subban trade to the list.
Do-over: Being the third team to try Cody Hodgson.
This is an edited version of a feature that appeared in the June 20 edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.