The NHL's wild offseason should open the door for some surprise teams to make the postseason. The shortened season, condensed schedule and the crazed spending of free agency will give some teams hope to get back into the playoffs.
These teams didn't make the playoffs last year, but will expect to have success this season with new additions and another year of experience for young players.
The Hurricanes did all they could to improve this season by signing Alexander Semin and trading for Jordan Staal. By adding the two forwards, they are showing they are ready to win. Staal and Semin scored 25 and 21 goals last season, respectively, but will likely need to up their production.
Their defense is still very shaky and will need to improve this season. They gave up 243 goals during the season to finish 25th in goals allowed. The key to their success this season is helping out Cam Ward who faced the second-most shots (2,143) and made the second-most saves (1,961) in the league. The recent addition of Dan Ellis should help out and, if nothing more, create more cap space.
The Wild made a big splash this offseason with the signings of both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to 13-year deals. The team hasn't been to the postseason since they won the Northwest Division in the 2007-2008 season, but they'll be back this season after the expensive offseason.
Suter and Jared Spurgeon are set to partner on the blue line to create one of the most formidable duos in the league. The rest of the group is young and talented and should heavily benefit from Suter's addition and the experience he brings. The Wild won't just make the playoffs, they will be a high seed in the West.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning will once again have no problem scoring goals. The team finished ninth last season in goals scored with 235 netted. Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Teddy Purcell, Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Malone are all back after scoring at least 20 goals apiece last year.
The biggest question for the Lightning is once again in goal. They acquired Anders Lindback from Nashville this season in hopes he can be the guy to get them back in the playoffs. While he doesn't have a ton of NHL experience, the big goalie should be able to improve the team enough to get them back in the postseason.