So many players changed teams during the offseason through trades and free agency. But which of these new faces in a new place has had the biggest impact throughout the first 22 days of the 2020-21 NHL season?
We asked seven NHL.com writers for their opinions.
Zdeno Chara, Washington Capitals
After watching Chara play 14 seasons with the Boston Bruins, it seemed strange to see the defenseman in a different uniform. But the 43-year-old has fit in quickly on and off the ice since signing a one-year, $795,000 contact as an unrestricted free agent Dec. 30. Chara began the season playing on the Capitals third defense pair and worked his way up to playing alongside John Carlson on the top pair. Through his first 10 games, Chara has four points (two goals, two assists) and is second on the Capitals with a plus-8 rating and 20:29 average ice time per game. The likely future Hockey Hall of Famer also instantly became a respected leader and has been embraced by his new teammates. This was evident in the way they mobbed him at the bench after he scored his first goal with the Capitals in a 6-3 win against the New York Islanders on Thursday. — Tom Gulitti, staff writer
Patric Hornqvist, Florida Panthers
Hornqvist has brought a consistent net-front presence for the Panthers since they acquired the forward in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sept. 24, 2000. The 34-year-old, playing on the second line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Alexander Wennberg, has been outstanding. He’s one of four players tied for the Florida scoring lead with seven points (five goals, two assists), joining Huberdeau and centers Carter Verhaeghe and Aleksander Barkov. Hornqvist, who won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017, brings a knowledge of what it takes to win to the Panthers, who have gotten off to a 5-0-1 start in the Discover Central Division. — Tracey Myers, staff writer
Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames
The Flames targeted the 31-year-old goalie on the first day of the NHL free agent signing period and Markstrom was all in, signing a six-year, $36 million contract (average annual value $6 million) Oct. 9 after he came off a strong showing in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he went 8-6 with a 2.85 goals-against average, .919 save percentage and one shutout in 14 starts with the Vancouver Canucks. During the regular season, he was 23-16-4 with a 2.75 GAA, .918 save percentage and two shutouts in 43 starts. Markstrom is Calgary’s long-term option in goal, and he has lived up to expectations this season with the Flames in the Scotia North Division, going 4-2-1 with a 2.27 GAA, .924 save percentage and two shutouts in seven starts. — Mike G. Morreale, staff writer
Brandon Saad, Colorado Avalanche
The forward looks like he’s fitting in well with the Avalanche. A slow start (one goal, minus-8 rating in six games) has given way to a run more along the lines of what was envisioned when Colorado acquired Saad in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 10, 2020. He has scored seven points (four goals, three assists) in his past five games and is contributing with his speed to a team with plenty of it. His chemistry with center Nazem Kadri is growing and the returns on Saad suggest he’s going to help stabilize Colorado’s second line and deliver in the clutch. This was an intriguing addition for the Avalanche because of Saad’s championship pedigree as a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Blackhawks. How that manifests itself for Colorado, a Stanley Cup favorite, remains to be seen, but he is delivering as advertised. — Dan Rosen, senior writer
Christopher Tanev, Calgary Flames
The Flames have benefited immensely after signing the 31-year-old defenseman to a four-year, $18 million contract (average annual value $4.5 million) Oct. 9. He has exhibited calmness playing on a pair with Noah Hanifin, but that’s just one part of the equation. The sample size is small after nine games and two points (one goal, one assist) but the underlying numbers are strong. Tanev has a 58.6 SAT percentage and has averaged 20:27 time on ice per game this season, higher than any of his previous four seasons with the Canucks. That suggests his trust factor with Flames coach Geoff Ward is high, something that’s likely to continue given Tanev’s reliability for making good plays and good decisions. — Tim Campbell, staff writer
Tyler Toffoli, Montreal Canadiens
Toffoli has helped the Canadiens offense thrive so far this season. His nine goals in 10 games lead the NHL and his 13 points (four assists) rank first among Montreal forwards. Toffoli has also provided a spark to the Canadiens power play, converting at 23.7 percent, up from 17.7 percent last season. With depth at forward, the Canadiens can keep pace in the high-scoring North Division and have the security to withstand injuries in a shortened season. — Rob Reese, fantasy editor
Carter Verhaeghe, Florida Panthers
Lots of familiar names on this list, including Hornqvist, a fine choice for Florida. But let’s not overlook Verhaeghe. The center played 52 regular-season games for the Lightning last season and scored 13 points (nine goals, four assists). He played in eight playoff games during Tampa Bay’s title run, with two assists. But since signing a two-year contract with the Panthers as an unrestricted free agent Oct. 9, the 25-year-old has seized the opportunity to play a bigger role and helped Florida to a fast start. As mentioned above, he is tied for the scoring lead for the Panthers with seven points (five goals, two assists) and also is second among forwards in average ice time per game (17:45), behind Barkov (22:06). We’ll see if Verhaeghe and the Panthers can keep up this pace, or stay relatively close to it, but this is a great start. — Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist