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After a flurry of trades and free agent signings, a lot of teams improved their rosters going into next season, while others dropped in the 2019 NHL offseason power rankings. While some attractive free agents remain on the market, NoVa Caps looks at where each team ranks going into the heart of summer.
31. Ottawa Senators
The Senators added depth to their defense with the additions of Nikita Zaitsev and Ron Hainsey after they allowed the most goals in the NHL last season (an average of 3.67 per game). The team has some young and talented forwards with Brady Tkachuk, Connor Brown, and Colin White but still lack depth up front. Ottawa’s goaltending is a concern with Craig Anderson coming off of a year where he had a .903 save percentage. With their top offensive contributors from last season in center Matt Duchene, forward Ryan Dzingel, and forward Mark Stone gone, expect the Senators to sit comfortably in 31st this year.
30. Los Angeles Kings
The Kings added depth to their lineup with forward Martin Frk, forward Mario Kempe, and defenseman Joakim Ryan in free agency. Los Angeles still has a hole in their top-four defense core and didn’t make a lot of changes to an offense that finished 30th in the NHL with an average of 2.43 goals-per-game. With center Anze Kopitar, center Jeff Carter, defenseman Drew Doughty, and goaltender Jonathan Quick getting older, the Kings will likely be at the basement of the Western Conference once again.
29. Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks have one of the best goaltenders in the league in John Gibson but don’t have much else. Their leading scorer, center Ryan Getzlaf, missed 15 games and posted only 48 points last season. They also lost forward Corey Perry (buyout) and haven’t made any major moves in the offseason with forwards Nicolas Deslaurier and Andreas Martinsen being their biggest additions. Their defense is also lacking as they have no depth behind Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, and Hampus Lindholm. With an aging core and a lineup full of holes, Anaheim should be in the draft lottery discussion come April.
28. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers picked up goaltender Mike Smith and added offensive depth with Markus Granlund and Tomas Jurco. Though they have two of the best in the game in centers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, only two other forwards hit the 30-point plateau last season (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: 69, Alex Chiasson, 38). Defense is also a concern after GM Ken Holland, who joined Edmonton this offseason, made no changes to a group that finished tied with the Devils for sixth-worst in goals-against (3.30) last season.
27. Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings have had a relatively quiet offseason so far as center Valtteri Filpulla, defenseman Patrik Nemeth, and goaltender Calvin Pickard are the only players that they’ve acquired. Their biggest move was off the ice as they named Steve Yzerman as their GM, which should speed up their rebuild. Detroit finished the 2018-19 season strong as they went 7-3-0 in their last 10 games, which should give the group some confidence entering the season. They have to bolster their aging blueline after it allowed an average of 3.32 goals-per-game last season, the fifth-highest in the NHL. While the future promises to be brighter in Motown, there is still a lot of work left for Yzerman before it can be called a playoff contender.
26. Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks improved their defense this offseason with the additions of defensemen Tyler Myers, Jordie Benn, and Oscar Fantenberg, and their top-six forward group with the acquisition of Micheal Ferland in free agency. They have a lot of talent on the roster with center Elias Pettersson (the reigning Calder Trophy winner), forward Brock Boeser, and center Bo Horvat in Van City for the long haul. Vancouver needs to re-sign Boeser, who is currently a restricted free agent, and upgrade their goaltending before talking Stanley Cup Playoffs.
25. Columbus Blue Jackets
It has been a tough offseason to say the least in Columbus as they have lost their leading scorer in forward Artemi Panarin, their No. 1 goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky, their first-line center in Duchene, and a talented winger in Dzingel. While their defense is still stacked with Zach Werenski, Seth Jones, David Savard, and Ryan Murray, the lack of a No. 1 goaltender will result in more goals allowed. They still have a lot of talent up front with Gustav Nyquist (who they signed to a four-year deal in free agency), Cam Atkinson, Josh Anderson, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Nick Foligno leading the way. Unfortunately for Columbus, most of their Metropolitan Division peers have bulked up in the offseason, meaning the Jackets will likely finish last.
24. Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens could again challenge for a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. They made tweaks around the edges this offseason as they acquired forward Nick Cousins, defenseman Ben Chiarot, and goaltender Keith Kinkaid in free agency. While Montreal boasts some talented forwards led by Tomas Tatar and Max Domi, their defensive depth remains a concern. They will likely miss the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs due to a competitive Eastern Conference and the lack of improvements during the offseason. At the same time, world-class goalie Carey Price will give Montreal a chance to make some noise this upcoming season.
23. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks improved their defense with the acquisitions of Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan. The real godsend for them was signing goaltender Robin Lehner, who was second in the NHL with a .930 save percentage and third with a 2.13 goals-against average last season. While he won’t likely repeat last season’s success, Lehner will provide the Blackhawks with some solid depth. Starter Corey Crawford, who has been one of the league’s best goalies when healthy, has missed 96 games over the past two seasons due to concussion issues. Offense should not be an issue for them as the majority of their forwards are returning from last season after they averaged 3.26 goals-per-game (ninth-most in the NHL). The Blackhawks should compete for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs but with an aging core, an injury-prone Crawford, and Lehner unlikely to repeat his success from last season, they will likely find themselves on the outside looking in on the Western Conference Stanley Cup Playoff race.
22. Minnesota Wild
The Wild added some nice pieces up front in Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman this offseason. While they have some talent, their best players — forwards Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, and defenseman Ryan Suter, are getting older. Their top-four defense core of Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, and Matt Dumba is solid but lack depth after that. With their roster aging and other teams around the West improving, Minnesota will likely miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second straight season after making the tournament for six consecutive seasons.
21. New York Rangers
The Rangers have added some big names in the offseason, including the top free agent on the market in Panarin, defenseman Jacob Trouba via trade, and forward Kaapo Kakko with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. While the Rangers have made a lot of improvements this offseason, there are still a number of holes on that roster. They still need another top-six center and a top-four defenseman. It might not hurt to add another goaltender either as Henrik Lundqvist will turn 38 in March, though that is not as concerning as the other two areas of need. Until those holes are addressed, the Rangers are not a Stanley Cup Playoff team.
20. Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres added defenseman Colin Miller, forward Marcus Johansson, defenseman Henri Jokiharju, and forward Jimmy Vesey in the offseason in an effort to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2011. They also hired Ralph Krueger as head coach. Led by center Jack Eichel and forward Jeff Skinner, Buffalo has the forwards, defensemen, and goaltenders they need to get to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it will be an awfully tough task in a competitive Atlantic Division.
19. Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes had a furious finish to the 2018-19 season but missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the seventh consecutive season by just four points. The team added forward Phil Kessel and center Carl Soderberg to improve an offense that was tied for the third-worst in goals-per-game (2.55) last season. Arizona still has most of the defense that finished the 2018-19 season tied with the Blues for the fifth-fewest goals-against per game (2.68) as Kevin Connauton is the only defenseman they have lost this offseason. The Coyotes will likely be around the playoff picture in the West but with so many other teams improving, it’s going to be hard to make the postseason in 2020.
18. Pittsburgh Penguins
After getting swept by the Islanders in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Penguins have added depth to their lineup with the additions of forward Brandon Tanev, center Alex Galchenyuk, and forward Dominik Kahun but have lost some key contributors to the core that helped them win back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017. Kessel (traded to the Coyotes) and Maatta (dealt to the Blackhawks) are both gone. Although they have the offensive firepower to make up for the loss of Kessel with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jake Guentzel still around, the subtraction of Maatta leaves a hole in their top-four defense core that has to be addressed. After losing one of their top scorers in Kessel, making the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs by just four points this past season, and the core another year older, the Penguins’ 13-year Stanley Cup Playoff streak could come to an end this season.
17. Winnipeg Jets
The Jets lost Myers (signed with Canucks) and Trouba (traded to Rangers) in addition to Tanev (signed with Penguins). They acquired Neal Pionk but that is not an upgrade from Trouba. Winnipeg has plenty of talent with forwards Blake Wheeler, Mark Schiefele, Patrick Laine, Kyle Connor, defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, and goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. But with other teams in the Central such as the Avalanche and Stars improving, they will likely be a bubble team in the Western Conference. However, their star power should make them good enough to sneak into the final wild-card spot in the West.
16. New Jersey Devils
The Devils have been one of the busiest teams this offseason after trading for defenseman P.K. Subban, drafting center Jack Hughes first overall, and signing forward Wayne Simmonds. A healthy Taylor Hall will also give the Devils a huge boost come training camp. Unfortunately for the Devils, they are in a tough Eastern Conference. With Corey Schnieder and MacKenzie Blackwood expected to share the net in the upcoming season, the Devils’ additions might not be enough to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2020.
15. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks lost Nyquist, captain Joe Pavelski, forward Joonas Donskoi, and maybe center Joe Thornton (if he retires) all for nothing this offseason. With the core in San Jose getting older and Martin Jones providing inconsistent goaltending in the crease, now might be time to say that the Sharks’ Stanley Cup window is closed. However, with defensemen like Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and some nice pieces up front in Evander Kane, Logan Couture, and Timo Meier, the Sharks will likely make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2020.
14. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers went on a stretch of 21-9-2 before losing their last five games of the regular season. The team has upgraded their defensive depth with the additions of defensemen Matt Niskanen (Capitals) and Justin Braun (Sharks). They also added a top-six center in Kevin Hayes and bolstered their bottom-six forward group with the acquisition of Tyler Pitlick. Philadelphia already had some dangerous offensive weapons with Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, and James Van Riemsdyk. If their young defensemen like Ivan Proverov, Travis Sanheim, and Robert Hagg step up and Carter Hart and Brian Elliott supply them with strong goaltending, the Flyers are going to be a very scary team.
13. Dallas Stars
After coming up one win short of the Western Conference Final, the Stars added Pavelski and Perry to an offense that tied the Arizona Coyotes for the third-worst in goals-per-game (2.55). The Stars are among the cream of the crop in both defense and goaltending. They may have to add another top-six center by the trade deadline but are in good shape to compete for a top-three spot in the Central Division.
12. New York Islanders
The Islanders did not make a lot of changes in the offseason after finishing one point behind the Washington Capitals for the Metropolitan Division title during the regular season, though they lost their No. 1 goaltender in Lehner, a Vezina Trophy nominee from last season. Backup goaltender Thomas Greiss also had a solid 2018-19 campaign and Semyon Varlamov should be able to provide adequate backup goaltending. With all of the defense returning for a team that finished first in the NHL in goals-against per game (2.33) during the regular-season and one of the best coaches in the game in Barry Trotz, the Islanders should make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a second consecutive season.
11. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes added depth in every area this offseason after acquiring Dzingel, center Eric Haula, forward Brian Gibbons, defenseman Gustav Forsling, and goaltender James Reimer. They also retained core pieces by re-signing center Sebastian Aho and goaltender Petr Mrazek after making the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in 10 years. Carolina lost a few key pieces from last year’s playoff team, but with one of the strongest bluelines in the NHL and a lot of talent up front, the Hurricanes are poised to take another step in the right direction this season.
10. Florida Panthers
The Panthers have had a monster offseason with the acquisitions of a two-time Vezina Trophy winner in Bobrovsky, forward Brett Connolly, center Noel Acciari, and defenseman Anton Stralman. With a loaded offense already, the Panthers improved in that area and helped a defense that allowed an average of 3.33 goals-against per game (the fourth-highest in the NHL) last season with the additions of Bobrovsky and Stralman.
9. Colorado Avalanche
After making it to Game 7 of the Second Round, the Avalanche made some big moves adding a No. 2 center in Nazem Kadri; more scoring depth with the additions of Andre Burakovsky, Joonas Donskoi, and Pierre-Eduard Bellemare; and defensive depth with the acquisitions of Connouton and Calle Rosen. Colorado seems poised for a strong season but will need to add goaltending depth behind Philipp Grubauer after Varlamov left in free agency.
8. Calgary Flames
The Flames have not made a lot of changes after winning the Western Conference in 2018-19, though they signed goaltender Cam Talbot in free agency. If Talbot and David Rittich provide the team with much better goaltending than what they got in 2018-19, the Flames are going to be a dangerous team with offensive talent like Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk (currently a restricted free agent), and Elias Lindholm and one of the deepest bluelines in the entire league.
7. Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights have lost a couple key contributors in Haula (traded to Carolina Hurricanes) and Miller (traded to Buffalo Sabres) due to salary cap constraints but have one of the best top-six forward groups in the NHL and an elite goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury. Vegas may need to add another top-four defenseman by the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline but is poised to make a long run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after making the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season and almost making it to the second round (if not for a fluke call by the officials) in their second.
6. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs improved their defense with the additions of Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci in separate trades this offseason. Despite losing Kadri and forward Patrick Marleau (buyout), the Maple Leafs’ offense is as good as any with center Auston Matthews, center John Tavares, forward William Nylander, and forward Mitch Marner, a restricted free agent. They have to re-sign Marner but Toronto should be a top team in the East. Unfortunately for them, it’s hard to see them moving up in the Atlantic Division with Tampa Bay and Boston not budging.
5. Washington Capitals
The Capitals lost some of their top contributors in Burakovsky (traded to the Avalanche), Connolly (signed with the Panthers), and Niskanen (traded to the Flyers in exchange for defenseman Radko Gudas) but bolstered their bottom-six forward group with the additions of Richard Panik, Garnet Hathaway, and Brendan Leipsic. Captain Alex Ovechkin does not look like he’s going to slow down any time soon after leading the NHL in goals (51) for the eighth time in his career. With their core of Ovechkin, center Nicklas Backstrom, center Evgeny Kuznetsov, forward T.J. Oshie, and goaltender Braden Holtby returning, the Capitals should compete for a fifth consecutive Metropolitan Division title.
4. Nashville Predators
While the Predators did not get a strong return for Subban, they already have a replacement for him in rookie Dante Fabbro. They also added to their top-six forward group by signing Duchene. With a strong offensive balance, one of the league’s best defense cores, and a Vezina caliber goaltender in Pekka Rinne, they are one of the most dangerous teams in the Western Conference.
3. St. Louis Blues
The defending Stanley Cup Champions have undergone almost no turnover this offseason and have a strong core of players such as forward Vladimir Tarasenko, center Ryan O’Reilly, and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. If goaltender Jordan Binnington, who is currently a restricted free agent, shows that he is the real deal, the Blues should be contenders in the West once again. Will they be able to maintain their magic after a summer with the Cup?
2. Boston Bruins
The Bruins have not undergone significant roster changes besides losing Johansson (signed with Sabres) and Acciari (signed with Panthers) in free agency. They could use another top-six forward but with the defense and offensive firepower that this team has, the Bruins will be a contender once again after losing in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
After blowing the rest of the league away during the regular season, the Lightning have done a great job of keeping their roster intact, losing only Stralman (free agency), forward J.T. Miller (traded to Canucks), and forward Ryan Callahan (disease). They still have to re-sign restricted free agent center Brayden Point, who posted 41 goals and 92 points last season. With players like forward Nikita Kucherov, center Steven Stamkos, defenseman Victor Hedman, and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, this team is destined for a Cup run after getting swept by the Blue Jackets in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.
By Harrison Brown