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Metro division breakdown: Flyers competition has gotten better

The Flyers will face a slew of division opponents who have made big improvements this offseason.

The Metropolitan Division was, by far, the best division in the NHL last season.

For proof, consider:

1. The Capitals, Penguins, Blue Jackets and Rangers all finished with more 100 points – no other division had more than two team break the threshhold.

2. Three of the top four teams in the league resided in the Metro.

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3. The Capitals, with 118 points, won the President’s Trophy.

4. Of course, the Penguins were the Stanley Cup champions.

Unfortunately for the Flyers, their rivals didn’t make life any easier for them this offseason. Most made moves that should, on paper at least, make them better.

Except for trading Brayden Schenn for a depth player and draft picks, the Flyers remained mostly quiet this summer. General Manager Ron Hextall, whose lone free agent signing was goalie Brian Elliott, will lean on a veteran core and a dose of up to six rookies, including second overall selection Nolan Patrick, to carry the load.

In the first of a two-part series, let’s look at who left and arrived in the Metro. We’ll review Carolina, Columbus and New Jersey and then hit the rest of the division in our second part.

Carolina

Notable arrivals: Scott Darling, Trevor Van Riemsdyk, Justin Williams, Marcus Kruger

Notable departures: Eddie Lack

Skinny: The big name here is Darling, who camped out behind goalie Corey Crawford for the last three years in Chicago. He’s 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, went 18-5 with a .924 save percentage last season and will get his first job as a starter. Despite his age (35), Williams still has enough left in the tank to score 20 goals and has a couple of Cups on his resume. Van Riemsdyk, also from the Blackhawks, gives an already talented blue line another steady presence.

Better or worse: Better.

Columbus

Arrivals: Artemi Panarin

Departures: Scott Hartnell; Sam Gagner; Brandon Saad

The skinny: The Blue Jackets won the offseason with their blockbuster trade to acquire Panarin, who posted 151 points the last two years in Chicago. He’s an upgrade over Saad, who went to the Blackhawks in the deal while Hartnell, whose contract was bought out, and the resurgent Gagner (free agency) will be hardly missed.

Better or worse: Better.

New Jersey

Arrivals: Nico Hischier; Marcus Johanssen, Bryan Boyle

Departures: Michael Cammalleri

The skinny: Although the defense needs a ton of work, their three additions will no doubt improve the offense. Hischier, the first pick in the draft, provides instant offense and intrigue, while Johanssen, who spent six years in DC, posted a career-high 58 points last season (24 goals). Boyle will bring leadership and grit at center on the third or fourth line. They failed, however, to address needs on their blue line.

Better or worse: Better.

 
 
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