Murderer's row Pt. 2 - The Middle of the Pack

Looking at the middle of the pack in the Metro division - the moves they've made, and where they may stack up.

Welcome back to the cellblock, inmate. Time to meet a few more of the Blue Jackets' neighbors here in the Metro Division pen.

Key Additions: Thomas Greiss

Key Departures: Griffin Reinhardt (EDM), Michal Neuvirth (PHI), Lubomir Visnovsky (Unsigned), Tyler Kennedy (Unsigned)

You don't see the Islanders doing much this offseason - but they're in a position where they didn't need to make a lot of dramatic changes. With a forward group that includes John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner, Mikhail Grabovsky, and Nikolai Kulemin, there's almost an embarassment of riches as the Islanders move to their new home in the Barclays Center, while their back end isn't too shabby either. The decision to trade highly touted prospect Reinhardt and allow Visnovksy to walk isn't so crazy when you consider the way Johnny Boychuck and Nick Leddy have settled in with their blue line, and the addition of Thomas Greiss provides a proven backup for Jaroslav Halak.

The real question for the Islanders is going to be taking the next step - and they've banked on their current core group being able to do it. If they bet right, it's a great opportunity to make a big impact in their new home. If they've bet wrong, it could easily turn into another year of great hype and weak results from this team.

Key Additions: Phil Kessel, Tim Erixon

Key Departures: Steve Downie (ARI), Craig Adams (Unsigned), Maxime Lapierre (Unsigned), Blake Comeau (COL), Daniel Winnik (TOR), Paul Martin (SJS), Christian Ehrhoff (Unsigned)

It's starting to feel like the window is closing in Pittsburgh, and they're doing whatever they can to wedge it open just a little longer. Making a big move for David Perron during the regular season didn't pay off as quickly as Jim Rutherford had hoped, so now they turn to Phil Kessel. Loading up with Crosby, Kunitz, and Kessel on their first line, and Malkin, Perron, and Hornqvist on the second is a pretty potent attack, but the more the Penguins invest in their top six forwards, the more crunch they start to feel at the bottom, particularly if Brandon Sutter continues to underperform his contract.

Having a full and healthy season from Olli Maata and Kris Letang should help Pittsburgh's defense, but beyond Rob Scuderi there isn't a ton of veteran experience should anyone go down. That could put a lot of pressure on Marc-Andre Fleury, and we all know how well he handles that...

Key Additions: Brandon Saad, Gregory Campbell

Key Departures: Marko Dano (CHI), Artem Anisimov (CHI), Mark Letestu (EDM), Jack Skille (Unsigned)

Last season, 9 points was the difference between the Blue Jackets competing for the Stanley Cup and staying at home. When you consider the team's insane run of injuries and just plain bad luck, that's kind of amazing - and a good reason to think this team is primed for some big things in the 2015-2016 season.

The loss of Anismov, Dano, and Letestu is going to be felt especially on the PK, but Campbell isn't a slouch in that department, and it's likely we'll see guys like Wennberg and Jenner given the chance to expand their roles to help compensate.

The big question for Columbus is what may come out of training camp - with rumors that the team is trying to get Christian Ehrhoff to bring his price down, that would immediately add a very experienced vet to the blue line, and potentially allow the team to send a few more players to Lake Erie, or perhaps even as assets in a trade to help improve their chances at the postseason while providing some cap relief.

Saad is the big name, though, and in many ways could be the game changer, giving Columbus a level of offensive threat that opposing teams will be forced to defend against, potentially opening up more scoring opportunities for guys like Brandon Dubinsky and Scott Hartnell.

It's going to be very interesting to see what the team rolls out in October, and there's a good chance we're going to see them take a hard run at New York and Washington for the division lead in the process.

We'll finish this series with a look at the remaining clubs at the bottom of the division - perhaps not as clear threats to the Jackets' quest for the Cup, but still dangerous, and still making moves of their own.

Thanks again to Ryan Real for his help with the graphics used in this series! We appreciate his hard work.

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