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 2020 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 have finished each of the last three seasons in 30th or worse but they made several big additions this offseason in forward Evgenii Dadonov, who has scored at least 25 goals in each of the past three seasons; goaltender Matt Murray, who led the Pittsburgh Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups as a rookie in 2016 and 2017; center Tim Stutzle with the No. 3 pick in the draft; and defenseman Jake Sanderson with the No. 5 pick. There is a lot to get excited about in Ottawa with talent on the way, but it will just be a waiting game until the draft picks hit their peak.
30. Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks had a quiet offseason, adding just defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and center Derek Grant as well as defenseman Jamie Drysdale with the sixth overall pick in the draft. John Gibson had a disappointing season in 2019-20 as he recorded just a .904 save percentage and a 3.00 goals-against average, and he is critical to the Ducks’ success. Many of the Ducks’ core players are getting older but they have some nice pieces in forwards Max Jones and Sam Steel. Still, it will be a while for the team to get back to being relevant.
29. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks lost center Joe Thornton, brought back forward Patrick Marleau and acquired goaltender Devan Dubnyk and center Ryan Donato. The offense is still suffering from the loss of Joe Pavelski as it averaged just 2.57 goals-per-game last season (27th) and did not undergo a lot of change in the offseason. Defenseman Brent Burns is coming off of a season where he was a -22 and is not getting any younger at age 35 while Erik Karlsson cannot stay healthy. The two goalies for the Sharks this season each posted an .892 five-on-five save percentage last season and the team lost the No. 3 pick in the draft in the Karlsson trade in September 2018. It should be another season near the basement in San Jose.
28. Detroit Red Wings
After getting eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention three weeks before the NHL went on pause due to COVID-19, the Red Wings had a productive offseason, selecting forward Lucas Raymond at No. 4 and acquiring forward Bobby Ryan, forward Vladislav Namestnikov, defenseman Jon Merill, defenseman Marc Staal, defenseman Troy Stetcher, and goaltender Thomas Greiss while parting with goaltender Jimmy Howard after 15 seasons in Detroit. The Red Wings still have plenty of talent with forwards Anthony Mantha, forward Tyler Bertuzzi, and center Dylan Larkin and there is nowhere to go but up.
27. Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres made a lot of changes after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the ninth consecutive season, adding forward Eric Staal, forward Taylor Hall, center Cody Eakin, forward Tobias Reider, and defenseman Matt Irwin. In addition, they hired senior vice president of business administration Kevyn Adams to replace GM Jason Botterill and drafted forward Jack Quinn eighth overall at the NHL Draft. While the Sabres have some talented young forwards in Victor Olofsson, Jack Eichel, and Sam Reinhart and a goaltender that established himself as a No. 1 last season in Linus Ullmark, there is not much depth. Speaking of Eichel, how long until he demands a trade out of Buffalo?
The Blackhawks hinted at a rebuild and officially stepped in that direction as they parted with goaltender Corey Crawford, forward Brandon Saad, and defenseman Olli Maatta. They brought in some depth pieces in defenseman Nikita Zadorov, forward Mattias Janmark, and center Lucas Wallmark this offseason, all downgrades from the three players they lost. While they still have forward Patrick Kane and center Jonathan Toews around, any hope of the Blackhawks being competitive is dead as long as Malcolm Subban and Colin Delia make up their goaltending tandem.
25. Los Angeles Kings
The Kings took a step in the right direction towards the end of last season as they were on a seven-game winning streak before the season paused. While they had a quiet offseason, they added Maatta and selected center Quinton Byfield at No. 2 overall. With center Anze Kopitar, defenseman Drew Doughty, and goaltender Jonathan Quick, some young prospects coming in, and nothing to lose, the Kings are a dangerous team but will likely not make any significant noise next season.
The Devils signed Crawford to work in net with MacKenzie Blackwood, who posted a .915 save percentage and a 2.77 goals-against average during his rookie season. They also selected center Alexander Holtz eighth overall in the draft, acquired defenseman Ryan Murray from the Columbus Blue Jackets, and got forward Andreas Johnsson in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. If centers Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier rebound after disappointing seasons, the Devils could be competitive but will likely not be in the race.
23. Florida Panthers
The Panthers seem poised to take a step back this season after losing Dadonov and likely forward Mike Hoffman in free agency. Forward Patric Hornqvist was brought in to help and he is not to the level of either of those players. They made some depth changes and brought in center Alexander Wennberg, forward Vinnie Hinostroza, center Carter Verhaeghe, defenseman Radko Gudas, and defenseman Markus Nutivaara. Nutivaara could be significant as the Panthers’ average of 3.18 goals-against per game over the last three seasons has been tied for the sixth-worst but Sergei Bobrovsky, who posted a .900 save percentage and a 3.23 goals-against average in his first season in Florida, will be critical to a turnaround. While this team can still score, the losses of Hoffman and Dadonov combined with the fact that the Panthers have had struggles keeping the puck out of their net puts them in a worse spot. Three-time Stanley Cup winner Joel Quenneville is the winningest active coach in the league. Time will tell if he can make this team a winner.
22. Nashville Predators
The Predators lost center Mikael Granlund, forward Craig Smith, forward Austin Watson, and center Nick Bonino and only brought in some depth pieces in forward Luke Kunin, center Nick Cousins, and center Brad Richardson, for a considerably underwhelming offseason. Nashville’s defense underperformed last season as they gave up an average of 3.10 goals-against per game, tied for the 11th-most in the NHL. In addition, Pekka Rinne lost the starting job last season as he posted an .895 save percentage and a 3.17 goals-against average and at age 37, it does not appear promising for the Predators’ goaltender. Expect Nashville to take a big step back this season.
21. Minnesota Wild
The Wild upgraded in goal as they signed Cam Talbot in free agency and upgraded at forward with the additions of Marcus Johansson, Nick Bonino, and Nick Bjugstad. In addition, they have forward Kirill Kaprizov, who recorded 33 goals, 62 points, and a +32 rating in 57 games with the KHL’s CSKA Moskva; goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen, who posted a .927 save percentage and a 2.07 goals-against average with the AHL’s Iowa Wild last season; and center Marco Rossi, the ninth pick in the draft, on the way. The Wild flipped a switch after replacing Bruce Boudreau with Dean Evason last season as they ended the regular season with an 8-4-0 record. They should be in the race next season.
20. Arizona Coyotes
After failing to pull the trigger on a trade to deal defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the Coyotes are poised to step back as they lost Hall in free agency and signed just center John Hayden, forward Tyler Pitlick, and forward Johan Larsson. They still have a solid defensive corps led by Ekman-Larsson and Jakob Chychrun and a goaltending tandem with Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta but are not as deep as they were last year. They also replaced GM John Chayka with Steve Sullivan. Still, they could be in the hunt this season.
19. Winnipeg Jets
The Jets brought Paul Stastny back over the offseason to fill the hole at second-line center and signed Forbort for defensive support and center Nate Thompson for depth. They also re-signed defenseman Dylan DeMelo after he helped turn the Jets’ defense around after getting acquired from the Ottawa Senators at the NHL Trade Deadline last season. It is pretty evident that forward Patrik Laine wants out of Winnipeg, which will obviously not benefit a Jets’ offense that was below league-average with an average of 3.00 goals-per-game last season. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner after he posted a .922 save percentage and a 2.57 goals-against average in the regular season, should give them a chance but it may too big a hill to climb for the Jets.
18. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets acquired forward Max Domi from the Montreal Canadiens to improve an offense that was tied for 27th with an average 2.57 goals-per-game last season. But they gave up Nutivaara and Ryan Murray from a defense that was tied for third with an average of 2.61 goals-against per game in an attempt to clear cap space to sign Hall in free agency, which ultimately backfired. The Blue Jackets have one of the top goaltending tandems in the NHL with Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo, but they need Vladislav Gavrikov to step up in the absences of Nutivaara and Murray. While they have some talented forwards in Domi, Gustav Nyquist, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Cam Atkinson, and Pierre-Luc Dubois, it does not match up well against most teams. With a below-average offense and a worse defense in a competitive Eastern Conference, the Blue Jackets could take a step back this season but should still be competitive.
17. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers had a quiet offseason but added defenseman Tyson Barrie to bolster their blueline, re-signed goaltender Mike Smith, and brought forward Jesse Puljajarvi back while not losing anything significant. A team with centers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl should have a chance but they do not have much depth to support them as the two combined for 77 of the Oilers’ 223 goals last season (34.5%). They still have a solid defensive core with Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, and Adam Larsson but could benefit if Mikko Koskinen puts up a similar .917 save percentage from last season. However, they should sneak into a postseason spot.
16. Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks downgraded in goal by letting Jacob Markstrom walk and replacing him with former Vezina winner Braden Holtby, who struggled last season. Holtby will split the net with Thatcher Demko, who broke out with a .985 save percentage in four Stanley Cup Playoff games last season. They lost Stetcher, Chris Tanev, and Oscar Fantenberg on defense but were able to steal Nate Schmidt from the Vegas Golden Knights for just a third-round pick. They also lost Tyler Toffoli up front, leaving them with a hole on offense. While they have a few openings to patch in their lineup, the Canucks should be able to compete in the Pacific Division with center Elias Pettersson, forward Brock Boeser, center Bo Horvat, and defenseman Quinn Hughes around.
15. New York Rangers
The Rangers had a quiet offseason but parted with franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist after Igor Shesterkin came in and posted a .932 save percentage in 12 games at the end of last season. In addition, they found gold at the draft where they selected Alexis Lafreniere with the first overall pick. The Rangers appear to be ready to take a big step with forward Artemi Panarin and center Mika Zibanejad leading the offense, some quality young defensemen in Adam Fox and Anthony DeAngelo, and a solid goaltending tandem in Shesterkin and Alexander Georgiev. However, it will be tough in a competitive Eastern Conference.
14. New York Islanders
The Islanders were also quiet this offseason as they parted with only defenseman Devon Toews and goaltender Thomas Greiss after falling to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions in the Eastern Conference Final. However, they have some talent coming up in the system with defenseman Noah Dobson and goaltender Ilya Sorokin ready to take the next step. The Islanders still need to re-sign their top center in Mathew Barzal and defenseman in Ryan Pulock, both of whom are restricted free agents, but they should be in the Eastern Conference race with head coach Barry Trotz at the helm.
13. Montreal Canadiens
After upsetting the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers as the No. 12 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Canadiens had a big offseason, signing Toffoli, defenseman Joel Edmundson, and forward Josh Anderson and acquiring goaltender Jake Allen. In addition, they re-signed forward Brendan Gallagher and defenseman Jeff Petry to long-term extensions. While they were the No. 12 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Canadiens ranked second in the NHL with a 54.43% Corsi-for percentage and a 54.01% expected goals-for percentage during the regular season, suggesting they were better than the standings indicated. After some big offseason additions, the Canadiens could be ready to take a big step with goaltender Carey Price still around.
12. Pittsburgh Penguins
After their second consecutive early exit, the Penguins made some big changes, acquiring forward Kasperi Kapanen, forward Colton Sceviour, defenseman Mike Matheson, and center Mark Jankowski while losing Hornqvist, Murray, and defenseman Justin Schultz. The Penguins appear to be on the decline after three consecutive early exits and with centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin getting older but they should remain in the hunt for a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Though, with a weak defensive pairing in Matheson and Cody Ceci and a second-tier goaltending tandem in Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith, there are some worries in Steel City.
11. St. Louis Blues
The Blues had a quiet offseason but made a huge change on defense with captain Alex Pietrangelo departing in free agency and defenseman Torey Krug coming in to fill the gap. They have to sign restricted free agent Vince Dunn, but their defense is still very deep and Jordan Binnington had an admirable sophomore season where he posted a .912 save percentage and a 2.56 goals-against average. Though, Binnington will have to step up after the Blues dealt Allen. The Blues have a fine forward group led by Ryan O’Reilly that should improve with Vladimir Tarasenko healthy and they should be in a position where they could chase a top-three spot in the Central Division.
10. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs made some changes after coming up just short in the qualifying round, signing defenseman T.J. Brodie, forward Wayne Simmonds, forward Jimmy Vesey, and defenseman Zach Bogosian and losing Barrie, Kapanen, and forward Andreas Johnsson. The Maple Leafs already averaged 3.39 goals-per-game last season (third in the NHL) and should be a lot better defensively with Brodie. With centers Auston Matthews, John Tavares, forward Mitch Marner, and defenseman Morgan Reilly, the Maple Leafs should be able to rebound after a bit of a disappointing 2019-20 season.
9. Calgary Flames
The Flames may have lost Brodie, Derek Forbort, and Travis Hamonic on the backend but should be in fine shape with Oliver Kylington and Jusso Valimaki ready to take on bigger roles and an upgrade in net with Markstrom now in the fold. They didn’t do much upfront, adding just Josh Leivo but have some talent in Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, and Matthew Tkachuk. After falling in the first round in each of the past two seasons, the Flames appear to take the next step.
8. Boston Bruins
After finishing first in the NHL in the regular season, the Bruins appeared to take a step back as they finished the Eastern Conference round-robin tournament with an 0-3-0 record and fell to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions in five games in the second round. This offseason, the Bruins lost Krug and possibly Zdeno Chara from a defense that finished first in goals-against per game (2.39). Meanwhile, they added forward Craig Smith to a top-heavy offense that saw three forwards in David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron produce over 47% of its goals. The outlook in the crease is a little uncertain as Tuukka Rask opted out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs midway through and rumors swirled that he was pondering retirement. His contract expires at the end of the 2020-21 season. While the big three will give them a chance, a lack of depth and a thinner blueline will likely mean a drop-off for the Bruins.
7. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes lost a few defensemen from the NHL’s deepest blueline from last season in Sami Vatanen, Joel Edmundson, and Trevor Van Riemsdyk but they still look good on the backend with Hadyn Fleury and Jake Bean ready to come in. They didn’t do much with their forward corps but signed Jesper Fast in free agency. Andrei Svechnikov, Martin Necas, and Sebastian Aho are all turning into very dangerous offensive weapons. The Hurricanes looked into upgrading their goaltending tandem of Petr Mrazek and James Reimer as their .9122 save percentage last season was the sixth-worst in the NHL, but they haven’t made any moves yet. They should be in fine shape there if Mrazek bounces back from last season when he had a .905 save percentage. The Hurricanes were once again one of the NHL’s best possession teams last season with a 54.3% Corsi-for percentage and are in good shape for another successful season.
The Capitals beefed up their defense this offseason with the additions of Van Riemsdyk, Justin Schultz, and Paul LaDue after their 3.44 goals-against per game average from December 22 on was the worst among the 24 teams that qualified for the NHL’s return-to-play plan. They also re-signed Brendan Dillon. The Capitals did not make many changes on offense after finishing second in the NHL with a 3.42 goals-per-game average but lost Ilya Kovalchuk. The biggest changes for the Capitals came in goal, where they let Holtby walk in free agency and signed Lundqvist to support Ilya Samsonov, and behind the bench, as they fired Todd Reirden and replaced him with Peter Laviolette. The Capitals’ core is aging but captain Alex Ovechkin is showing no signs of slowing down and defenseman John Carlson is coming off of his first career Norris Trophy nomination. They will likely be a top team in the NHL again but it will be harder for them to win the Metropolitan Division crown this time around.
5. Dallas Stars
After falling in the Stanley Cup Final to the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games, the Stars re-signed goaltender Anton Khudobin and added defenseman Mark Pysyk. This team was one of the NHL’s best defensively as they averaged 2.52 goals-against per game (second) and kept the league’s best goaltending tandem of Khudobin and Ben Bishop, which combined for a .933 five-on-five save percentage last season (second: Bruins, .938) intact. This team is stacked defensively with Miro Heiskanen, who led all NHL defensemen with 26 points in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and John Klingberg around. They are in good shape offensively but could use more from their top scorers as center Tyler Seguin’s 50 points last season led the team. However, this team is very dangerous and seems poised to win a Stanley Cup in the near future.
4. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers finished last season on a 19-6-1 tear, including 9-1-0 in their final 10 regular-season games, and earned the top-seed in the Eastern Conference in the round-robin. The orange and black had a quiet offseason as their only change was signing defenseman Erik Gustafsson to replace Matt Niskanen, who announced his retirement in October. The team’s young players, including defenseman Ivan Provorov, defenseman Philippe Myers, center Travis Konecny, and goaltender Carter Hart, established themselves in the league and almost put the Flyers ahead of the Capitals for the Metropolitan Division crown. The loss of Niskanen hurts, but the Flyers showed that the time is now for their young players with their sprint down the finish line during the regular season and earning the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
3. Vegas Golden Knights
Like the Flyers, the Golden Knights finished the regular season strong as they ended it on an 11-2-0 tear, won the top seed in the Western Conference in the round-robin, and advanced all the way to the Western Conference Final for the second time in their three-year existence. They didn’t make a ton of changes this offseason but saw Schmidt and Stastny head out to make room for the prize of the free-agent class in Pietrangelo. The Golden Knights kept goaltender Robin Lehner around by signing him to a five-year contract after he won out the starting job by going 9-7 with a .917 save percentage, a 1.99 goals-against average, and four shutouts in the postseason. Defenseman Shea Theodore broke out in the Stanley Cup Playoffs where he posted seven goals, 19 points, and a +7 rating in 20 games and the Golden Knights’ forward group is as good as any with Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and William Karlsson leading the way. They have the best goaltending tandem in the NHL in Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury. After coming close in their third season, the Golden Knights look poised to finish first in the Western Conference again and maybe win it all next season.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
The defending Stanley Cup Champions did not make any significant changes this offseason as they re-signed forward Pat Maroon and defenseman Luke Schenn but are handcuffed by the salary cap as defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, defenseman Erik Cernak, and center Anthony Cirelli are currently restricted free agents with the Lightning down to a measly $2.9 million in salary-cap space. So far, Tampa hasn’t found a trade partner to get them out of their cap crunch, though they placed forward Tyler Johnson on waivers to help. If they manage to re-sign the trio, they should once again be a top team with forward Nikita Kucherov, center Brayden Point, defenseman Victor Hedman, and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy all standing strong.
- Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche were not active on the free-agent market but made a couple of big trades as they acquired Saad from the Blackhawks and Toews from the Islanders to give them more depth on offense and defense. This team has the deepest offense in the NHL led by the best line in Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog and perhaps the deepest defense with Cale Makar and Sam Girard. They also have some exciting prospects in defenseman Bowen Byram, center Shane Bowers, and forward Logan O’Connor, who are expected to compete for time on the NHL roster this season. The Avalanche have an admirable goaltending tandem of Philipp Grubauer, when healthy, and Pavel Francouz. If this team stays healthy next season, look out.
By Harrison Brown