Disappointing seasons from the Rangers and Devils prompted impressive offseason work from both organizations. It certainly helped that both teams had the top two picks in the NHL Draft -- selections that netted potentially franchise-altering talents in Kappo Kakko and Jack Hughes, respectively.
While they didn't have a high draft pick or significant free agent signing, the Islanders made a handful of moves, mainly in the form of re-signings. For the most part, their roster enters 2019-20 relatively unchanged.
Taking all of this into consideration, here's a closer look at the biggest moves each organization made...
New York Rangers
Rangers GM Jeff Gorton had arguably the best offseason of any NHL executive, though Devils GM Ray Shero has a case, too. In Kappo Kakko, the Rangers secured a talent that many believe would have gone No. 1 overall had it not been for phenom Jack Hughes. He's got size, speed and physicality, and will likely be a scoring threat for years to come.
Kakko, however, was just one of the coups of New York's offseason. They signed the biggest free agent of the summer -- Artemi Panarin. The 27-year-old winger has tallied at least 70 points in all four seasons of his NHL career and will become the focal point of New York's offense. He'll also aid the play of Mika Zibanejad, who broke out with a 30 goal, 74 point season last year.
In addition to drafting and signing premium talent, Gorton accelerated the rebuild by adding Jacob Trouba via trade. Many were surprised at how little New York paid for the 26-year-old defenseman who tallied 50 points last year, surrendering only Neal Pionk and the 20th overall pick in the 2019 Draft. Trouba was promptly locked up to a seven-year deal, with the Blueshirts securing his services through 2026. And don't forget, they signed Adam Fox, too.
New York Islanders
The Islanders, much to the fans' dismay, didn't make any flashy moves. Instead, the organization made it a focus to re-sign its impending free agents. They almost let Captain Anders Lee walk, but were able to lock him up on a seven-year, $49 million deal. Avoiding a John Tavares-esque departure from his captain was crucial for GM Lou Lamoriello, and he successfully did that.
The organization's biggest moves, though, were retaining both Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson. Eberle's $27.5 million deal ensured that he'll stay in Long Island for the next five years, while Nelson agreed to a six-year, $36 million pact.
Eberle and Nelson were kept, but many questioned the decision to let Robin Lehner walk. The organization's response of signing Seymon Varlamov, 31, as a replacement was met with equal criticism. Lehner is younger (28) and had been the superior goaltender over the last couple of seasons, endearing himself to Islanders and NHL fans alike.
Lehner's modest one-year, $5 million deal with Chicago suggests that New York could have had him at a fair contract, too. Instead, they committed four years and $20 million to Varlamov.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils, by most accounts, stole the show this offseason. After drafting Jack Hughes with the No. 1 overall pick, Shero never slowed down. Even if he didn't add a free agent this summer, adding Hughes would have qualified as a successful summer.
Rather than standing pat post-draft, Shero added the likes of P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds and most recently, KHL star Nikita Gusev. The addition of Subban speaks for itself, as the organization was able to add one of the league's top defensemen at a relatively cheap price (Steven Santini, Jeremy Davies, two draft picks). Simmonds will serve as an experienced right-handed wing, something the Devils clearly lacked a season ago.
Adding Gusev in a trade with Vegas could pay dividends, too. He hasn't played a game in the NHL, but he's accumulated 144 points through 116 games in his last two seasons with Russia's SKA Saint Petersburg. It was another example of Shero taking advantage of a team's salary constraints, as he did with the Subban trade in June. Head coach John Hynes now has plenty of pieces to work with and a number of different line combinations to test. Up next? Taylor Hall's future.