Photo: Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images
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.
32. Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres already traded defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and right-wing Sam Reinhart and center Jack Eichel could be next after Buffalo finished dead last in the NHL last season. While they did a good job of collecting draft picks and prospects in their rebuild, those pieces likely will not be ready to make an impact this season. After losing goaltender Linus Ullmark for most of last season due to injury, he is no longer in the organization and the team will roll with a goaltending tandem of Aaron Dell and Craig Anderson, which could be among the NHL’s worst.
31. Arizona Coyotes
The Coyotes have also been selling off key pieces of their team this offseason as right-wing Conor Garland, defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and all three of their goaltenders from last season are no longer in the organization. While Arizona did a good job of collecting assets for their future, they will not help the Coyotes this season. Running with a goaltending tandem of Josef Kosenar and Carter Hutton does not give this team much hope to compete this season.
30. San Jose Sharks
The Sharks made over their goaltending tandem by buying out Martin Jones’ contract, trading Josef Kosenar to the Coyotes for Adin Hill, and signing James Reimer in free agency and made some moves to improve their forward depth but none of the players they acquired are expected to suddenly turn the direction of the ship in San Jose.
29. Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks had a very quiet offseason as their only major moves have included re-signing center Ryan Getzlaf and signing right-wing Buddy Robinson and defenseman Greg Pateryn in free agency. They have some promising defensemen and a solid goaltender in John Gibson but their offense is holding them back.
28. Columbus Blue Jackets
Defenseman Seth Jones and right-wing Cam Atkinson are gone but the Blue Jackets brought in right-wing Jakub Voracek, center Sean Kuraly, and defensemen Adam Boqvist and Jake Bean this offseason. They could move goaltender Joonas Korpisalo and still need depth at both forward or defense. Returning to the Metropolitan Division only makes an already steep hill for Columbus steeper.
27. Detroit Red Wings
Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic was a big addition to the Red Wings, who also made a couple of good low-risk signings in center Pius Suter and center Mitchell Stephens. They improved their defense with the acquisitions of Nick Leddy and Jordan Oesterle and did not lose anyone major. While GM Steve Yzerman is doing a lot of good things in Detroit, a lot more work is still ahead.
26. Ottawa Senators
The Senators did not make a lot of headlines this offseason as their only major addition was defenseman Nick Holden. This team is counting on its young players like left-wing Brady Tkachuk, right-wing Drake Batherson, defenseman Erik Brannstrom, center Tim Stutzle, and goaltender Filip Gustavsson, who are all promising pieces and are trending in the right direction but are still not where they want to be.
25. Vancouver Canucks
There has been a lot of movement in Vancouver this offseason with Ekman-Larsson, Garland, and goaltender Jaroslav Halak among the players coming in and goaltender Braden Holtby, defenseman Nate Schmidt, and right-wing Jake Virtanen among the ones heading out. The Canucks have a lot of promising talent in center Elias Pettersson (who missed a lot of time last season), right-wing Brock Boeser, center Bo Horvat, defenseman Quinn Hughes, and goaltender Thatcher Demko but need to clean up their play in the defensive end.
24. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers added right-wing Cam Atkinson and defenseman Ryan Ellis but defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and goaltender Martin Jones were questionable additions, especially Jones to back-up a fragile Carter Hart after last season. There is some talent with right-wing Travis Konecny, center Sean Couturier, right-wing Claude Giroux, and defenseman Ivan Provorov but did not get much better after a down season in 2020-21.
23. Nashville Predators
The Predators acquired defenseman Philippe Myers, center Cody Glass, and goaltender David Rittich over the offseason but lost Ellis, right-wings Calle Jarnkrok and Viktor Arvidsson, and goaltender Pekka Rinne this offseason. Losing two of their best forwards for no immediate help will hurt the team. The team’s defense is still deep with Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm leading the way but they do not have enough offensive firepower to compete with the big guns in the Western Conference.
22. Calgary Flames
Losing defenseman Mark Giordano in the expansion draft was a big loss but they acquired Nikita Zadorov to replace him. They added center Blake Coleman in free agency but only made depth moves besides those two additions. There have been questions about center Sean Monahan and left-wing Johnny Gaudreau’s futures with the organization but with a deep defense and goaltender Jacob Markstrom, they could make things interesting in a weak Pacific Division.
21. Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton lost Adam Larsson, Ethan Bear, and Dmitry Kulikov and added Duncan Keith and Cody Ceci to their blueline, which is now full of defensively-flawed players with Oscar Klefbom out again this season. They did not make any changes to their goaltending tandem of Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith from last season. While the Oilers have centers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the lack of offensive, defensive, and goaltending depth might come to haunt them in a wide-open Pacific Division with the exception of the Vegas Golden Knights.
20. New Jersey Devils
The Devils had an active offseason where they upgraded their defense by acquiring Ryan Graves and Dougie Hamilton, their offense by signing left-wing Tomas Tatar, and their goaltending by inking Jonathan Bernier. They have a young core with centers Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier in addition to goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood that appears poised to take a step forward this season but they are not expected to make any real noise in a tough Metropolitan Division.
19. Los Angeles Kings
The Kings have done a great job of improving their team this offseason with the additions of Arvidsson, center Philipp Danault, and defenseman Alexander Edler and no major subtractions. They need their young players like center Lias Andersson, center Gabriel Vilardi, defenseman Matt Roy, and goaltender Calvin Petersen to make a difference this season and are on the rise. With a window of opportunity in the Pacific Division after the Oilers got worse, the Kings could very well be a surprise team this season.
18. New York Rangers
Even though the Rangers let their issues with Washington Capitals right-wing Tom Wilson dictate a lot of their roster moves this offseason, there is still a ton of talent with left-wing Artemi Panarin, center Mika Zibanejad, reigning Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Adam Fox, and goaltender Igor Shesterkin this offseason. Just when this team appeared ready to take a step forward this season, they took a step backward when they traded right-wing Pavel Buchnevich for Sammy Blais and lost right-wing Colin Blackwell in the expansion draft and replacing him with Ryan Reaves.
17. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks made a few major trades as they acquired Jones from the Blue Jackets, reigning Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from the Vegas Golden Knights, and center Tyler Johnson from the Tampa Bay Lightning. The loss of Suter was a blow but upgraded from Zadorov and Keith. They also signed defenseman Jake McCabe. With Fleury and right-wing Patrick Kane, as well as the possible return of center Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks should compete for a wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
16. St. Louis Blues
The Blues lost left-wings Mike Hoffman and Jaden Schwartz in free agency but replaced them with Buchnevich and Brandon Saad. The loss of defenseman Vince Dunn in the expansion draft was a blow, but the hope is that Jake Walman or Niko Mikkola can step in and replace him. Right-wing Vladimir Tarasenko is expected to be on the move before the season starts but the word is that the Blues want to trade him for immediate help, so they should compete for a wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
15. Minnesota Wild
The Wild added defensive depth after losing Ryan Suter (buyout) and Carson Soucy (expansion draft) as they signed Alex Goligoski, Dmitry Kulikov, and Jon Merrill. Even with the loss of left-wing Zach Parise, they should still have a respectable offense as long as left-wing Kirill Kaprizov (unsigned restricted free agent) doesn’t flock for the KHL. The Wild also have a solid goalie tandem of Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen.
14. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins laid low this offseason as they signed depth left-wingers Danton Heinen, Brock McGinn, and Dominik Simon but lost Ceci, center Jarred McCann, and left-wing Brandon Tanev. They still have centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin leading the charge but goaltending is a question mark after they failed to add any support for Tristan Jarry after his horrendous postseason.
13. Washington Capitals
After a third consecutive first-round exit, the Capitals lost left-handed defensemen Brenden Dillon and likely Zdeno Chara but kept left-wing Alex Ovechkin in the fold and still have one of the NHL’s most dangerous offenses. They still need to replace Dillon and perhaps they could use a veteran backup in net but the Capitals should still compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference even though age is starting to catch up to them.
12. New York Islanders
The Islanders added Parise (reportedly, though the deal has not been announced) and right-wing Richard Panik but lost right-wing Jordan Eberle in the expansion draft. They have an open spot on defense after trading Leddy but they should be fine under head coach Barry Trotz’s system. They have a strong goaltending tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin, and the return of left-wing Anders Lee from injury should also help.
11. Seattle Kraken
Sure, the Kraken whiffed on a few of their expansion picks, but they made up for it as they signed Schwartz, center Alex Wennberg, and reigning Vezina Trophy finalist Philipp Grubauer in free agency. Grubauer and Chris Driedger are expected to be one of the league’s top tandems. They still have a deep offense (though, center depth might be an issue) and a big, mobile defense led by Giordano and Larsson. Vegas’s stunning performance in their inaugural season may have expectations overly high, but the Kraken have a fighting chance in a struggling Pacific Division,
10. Toronto Maple Leafs
With a lot of their salary cap space invested in center Auston Matthews, center John Tavares, right-wing William Nylander, and right-wing Mitch Marner, the Maple Leafs made some solid low-risk but potential high-reward additions in free agency as they signed left-wing Michael Bunting, left-wing Nick Ritchie, and right-wing Ondrej Kase. They still have a deep defense and an admirable goaltending tandem of Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek.
9. Winnipeg Jets
The Jets upgraded their blueline this offseason with the additions of Dillon and Schmidt, which should make one of the league’s best goaltenders in Connor Hellebuyck even better. They still have a deep offense led by players like center Mark Schiefele, left-wing Nikolaj Ehlers, left-wing Pierre-Luc Dubois, and right-wing Blake Wheeler and kept center Paul Stastny in the fold this offseason. They also added a solid defensive centerman in Riley Nash in free agency.
8. Montreal Canadiens
Losing Danault hurt, but center Jesperi Kotkaniemi appears ready to take a step forward after a solid postseason and the Canadiens still have a deep offense with Hoffman coming in and right-wing Cole Caufield set to break into the lineup full time. On defense, they will miss Shea Weber (out for the year after ankle surgery), but they added David Savard and have a solid top-four unit in front of Carey Price and Jake Allen.
7. Boston Bruins
The Bruins have a hole at second-line center after losing David Krejci, but they added forward depth with the additions of left-wing Nick Foligno, center Erik Haula, and left-wing Tomas Nosek and kept left-wing Taylor Hall in the fold. They also re-signed Mike Reilly and added Derek Forbort to their defense. The Bruins underwent changes in goal with Tuukka Rask out to start the season and Halak signing elsewhere but should be fine after signing Ullmark as they already have Jeremy Swayman. Adding some much-needed forward depth was a big win for the Bruins this offseason.
6. Colorado Avalanche
While the Avalanche have a lot of talent with center Nathan MacKinnon, right-wing Mikko Rantanen, left-wing Gabriel Landeskog, and defenseman Cale Makar, they lost a lot as Grubauer, Graves, Saad, and right-wing Joonas Donskoi are no longer in Colorado. Darcy Kuemper was a good pick-up but will likely not be as good as Grubauer was. They have one of the best top-lines in the NHL and a deep defense but they will need their young players to fill in holes left vacated by key contributors that left this offseason.
5. Dallas Stars
The Stars took a step back last season but they were dealing with a lot of injuries and had a more condensed schedule than everybody else in their division due to a COVID-19 pause. Ryan Suter should solidify an already deep blue line led by Miro Heiskanen and Braden Holtby just gives them another option alongside Anton Khudobin, Ben Bishop, and Jake Oettinger. Their offense is also looking deep with right-wing Denis Gurianov, left-wing Jason Robertson, and others.
4. Florida Panthers
Reinhart and center Joe Thornton add to an already-deep offense headlined by center Aleksander Barkov, left-wing Jonathan Huberdeau, and center Carter Verhaeghe while they also have a deep defense with Aaron Ekblad coming back. Spencer Knight showed what he can do late last season and is expected to enter the season as the No. 1 goaltender.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning lost a lot of talent over the offseason, including their entire checking line from the past two seasons, but should still be a top team with center Brayden Point, right-wing Nikita Kucherov, right-wing Steven Stamkos, center Anthony Cirelli, defenseman Victor Hedman, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. They will be relying on young talent such as defenseman Cal Foote, center Ross Colton, and center Alex Barre-Boulet to step in for those who left. The Lightning signed center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, right-wing Corey Perry, and goaltender Brian Elliott in free agency.
2. Carolina Hurricanes
Yes, the Hurricanes lost Nedeljkovic and Hamilton in free agency but signed Antti Raanta and Frederik Andersen to make up their goalie tandem and acquired Bear, DeAngelo, Ian Cole, and Brendan Smith, so they should have the depth to still be among the NHL’s best in defense. They still have a deep offense with center Sebastian Aho, left-wing Teuvo Teravainen, right-wing Andrei Svechnikov, and center Martin Necas and added center Derek Stepan to the mix.
1. Vegas Golden Knights
While they lost Fleury for (almost) nothing, that allowed the Golden Knights to improve their offense as acquired right-wing Evgenii Dadonov, center Nolan Patrick, and center Brett Howden. Re-signing Alec Martinez meant that they kept a defense that allowed the fewest goals last season and they signed goaltender Laurent Brossoit to back up Robin Lehner. The Golden Knights still have right-wing Mark Stone and left-wing Max Pacioretty around and should be expected to compete for the Presidents’ Trophy.
By Harrison Brown