NHL Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stands Heading into the Offseason

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured Columnist IIIJune 27, 2022

NHL Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stands Heading into the Offseason

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    AP Photo/John Locher

    That sound you hear in Denver can only mean one thing.

    The NHL season is over, and the Colorado Avalanche are Stanley Cup champions.

    The franchise picked up its first title in 21 years while ending the Tampa Bay Lightning's try for the league's first three-peat since the 1981-82 New York Islanders.

    Nathan MacKinnon and Co. finished off the series with a 2-1 win in Game 6 at Amalie Arena on Sunday night and officially set the wheels in motion toward the 2022-23 season, which begins Oct. 11.

    In the interim, it'll be prep time ahead of the annual entry draft set for July 7-8 in Montreal, Canada, and the free-agency signing period that begins July 13.

    The B/R hockey team sat down one final time to close the book on 2021-22 and list where each team stands looking ahead to next season.

    Take a look at what we came up with, and give us a thought or two in the comments.

Nos. 32-26: Coyotes, Devils, Canadiens, Kraken, Flyers, Sabres, Senators

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    AP Photo/Paul Sancya

    32. Arizona Coyotes

    There's almost nowhere to go but up for the Coyotes, who finished eighth in the Central Division and 31st overall, just two points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens. On the good side, Arizona has three picks in the first round and seven in the first two rounds, not to mention more than $33 million in salary-cap room.

    31. New Jersey Devils

    General manager Tom Fitzgerald took a big free-agent swing and landed defenseman Dougie Hamilton last summer, so there's at least precedent he could try it again with soon-to-be free agent and New Jersey native Johnny Gaudreau. Regardless, given the 10 players whose current deals are expiring, the roster will look much different in October.

    30. Montreal Canadiens

    With 14 picks in the draft, including the first overall selection, and nine players approaching free agency, it's bound to be a busy summer for GM Kent Hughes. Buyouts and/or trades are going to have to be a priority given the team's lack of wiggle room under the salary cap. Montreal is projected to have just $1.9 million to work with.

    29. Seattle Kraken

    Seattle's special teams were a significant drag in the team's inaugural season, with the power play finishing 29th and the penalty kill 31st. Making prudent decisions to address those areas is certainly high on the list for GM Ron Francis, who has nearly $23 million in cap room to work with.

    28. Philadelphia Flyers

    The arrival of John Tortorella behind the bench will provide a different vibe for the Flyers next season after the team had several prolonged losing streaks to finish last in the Metropolitan Division. The team is only projected to have $5.8 million to pursue free agents with, but some have suggested that they be willing to pay the price to acquire Chicago's Alex DeBrincat via trade.

    27. Buffalo Sabres

    There's optimism aplenty in Buffalo after the Sabres were in the top half of the league (16-9-3) for the final two months of the 2021-22 season. Getting restricted free-agent winger Victor Olofsson signed is a high agenda item, as is bringing in a goaltender to share the full-time role next season with Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who has 13 career starts.

    26. Ottawa Senators

    TSN's Elliotte Friedman suggested recently that 28-year-old forward Connor Brown may be looking toward free agency at the end of next season, which means the Senators might need to consider trade options rather than letting him walk for nothing. He has 47 goals in three seasons with the Senators after beginning his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Nos. 25-21: Sharks, Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Red Wings, Ducks

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    AP Photo/Reinhold Matay

    25. San Jose Sharks

    Getting a general manager in place is next up for the Sharks, who've interviewed several would-be hires, according to TSN's Pierre LeBrun. Also a hot-button item is the status of the arbitration process with Evander Kane, whose contract was terminated in January after the team said he violated AHL COVID-19 protocols. A final decision may not be made by the arrival of free agency.

    24. Chicago Blackhawks

    The Blackhawks are hiring Canadiens assistant coach Luke Richardson to be their new head man, according to ESPN's Greg Wyshynski. He'll replace Derek King, who had the job on an interim basis after Jeremy Collison was fired early in the 2021-22 season. Richardson played 1,417 NHL games with Toronto, Edmonton, Philadelphia, Columbus, Tampa Bay and Ottawa.

    23. Columbus Blue Jackets

    GM Jarmo Kekalainen has restricted free-agency work to do with Patrik Laine, who was brought over in a trade with Winnipeg early in the 2019-20 season and accepted a one-year, $7.5 million qualifying deal prior to 2021-22. "Our main thought is we want to make everything fit so that we can build a championship team," Kekalainen told Aaron Portzline of The Athletic.

    22. Detroit Red Wings

    The trickle of high-end prospects through the pipeline and to the NHL continued in 2021-22 for the Red Wings, whose 21-year-old defenseman Moritz Seider won the Calder Trophy. Looking ahead, some have suggested that the team could bring in additional assets by moving 27-year-old forward Tyler Bertuzzi, who has a year left on a deal paying $4.8 million.

    21. Anaheim Ducks

    It's a question of which version of the Ducks from 2021-22 is closer to reality. Anaheim was challenging for the Pacific Division lead early in the season but was 30th overall from January 1 to the schedule's end. More than $39 million in cap space will help enable progress, and the team is interested in bringing back Josh Manson, who played seven-plus years in Anaheim before being dealt to Colorado midseason, according to LeBrun.

Nos. 20-16: Blues, Capitals, Islanders, Bruins, Jets

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    AP Photo/Steven Senne

    20. St. Louis Blues

    To suggest GM Doug Armstrong has a lot on his plate these days is an understatement. Prolific forward David Perron and goaltender Ville Husso are on the verge of unrestricted free agency, and both Ryan O'Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko have one year remaining on their contracts. Some upheaval is surely imminent.

    19. Washington Capitals

    Center Nicklas Backstrom will have a long recovery after undergoing hip surgery, and there is speculation about whom GM Brian MacLellan might pursue to fill the hole. Backstrom has three years remaining on a deal paying $9.2 million annually, and Elliotte Friedman said earlier this week on Donnie and Dhali that the team was considering Nazem Kadri as a free agent or J.T. Miller in a trade.

    18. New York Islanders

    In need of another reliable scorer after finishing 23rd in the league in goals, the Islanders may be targeting Montreal forward Josh Anderson, who's signed through 2026-27 at $5.5 million per season. Stefen Rosner of NYI Hockey Now said the team could assemble a package of a draft pick and a player, possibly Anthony Beauvillier, to strike a deal.

    17. Boston Bruins

    The Bruins dodged a roster-replenishing bullet when team captain and top-six forward Patrice Bergeron decided to return to the team after completing an eight-year contract worth $55 million. Bergeron, who had 25 goals and 65 points, won the Selke Award earlier this month for a record fifth time.

    16. Winnipeg Jets

    The organization will be in catch-up mode for the time being after word that Manitoba native Barry Trotz, a Stanley Cup winner with Washington in 2017-18, turned down Winnipeg's head coaching job to take some time away from the game. "It doesn't mean I'm not going to coach," Trotz told Tim Campbell of NHL.com. "Just not going to coach right now."

Nos. 15-11: Golden Knights, Canucks, Predators, Stars, Penguins

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    AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

    15. Vegas Golden Knights

    Missing the playoffs for the first time in the organization's history kick-started what's already been a busy offseason for the Golden Knights. Vegas hired Bruce Cassidy to fill a coaching position left vacant when Peter DeBoer was fired, and the team has reached a verbal agreement to re-sign forward Reilly Smith to a three-year, $15 million contract, according to Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff.

    14. Vancouver Canucks

    The Canucks were 13th overall from Dec. 5 through the end of the season after the hiring of Bruce Boudreau as coach when Travis Green was let go. Personnel-wise, Vancouver got an unexpected addition when KHL export Andrei Kuzmenko agreed to terms with the team on a one-year deal. He had 20 goals and 53 points in 45 games for SKA St. Petersburg last season.

    13. Nashville Predators

    Alternate captain Filip Forsberg became a point-per-game player for the first time in 2021-22 after producing 42 goals and 84 points in 69 games. He's due to become an unrestricted free agent after completing a six-year, $36 million deal, and the team has offered him an eight-year contract to stick around. "We're still talking, still talking a lot," GM David Poile said.

    12. Dallas Stars

    The Stars were the only team that made the 2021-22 playoffs after allowing (244) more goals than they scored (233) during the regular season. "I don't think it's a secret," new coach Peter DeBoer told ESPN. "We want to unlock some of the offensive game to this group. What can we do better style-of-play-wise in order to be better?"

    11. Pittsburgh Penguins

    The status of the championship window is a seemingly annual question in Pittsburgh thanks to the team being loaded with veterans, though two of those players may not return in the fall. Both forward Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Kris Letang have played on three Stanley Cup-winning teams with the Penguins, but both are 35 and unrestricted free agents.

Nos. 10-6: Kings, Oilers, Hurricanes, Wild, Flames

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    AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

    10. Los Angeles Kings

    GM Rob Blake saw his Kings get to the precipice of the second round before a Game 7 loss to Edmonton, but the future looks bright for a team chock-full of young talent. That said, Blake has a lot of free-agency work to do with the likes of Adrian Kempe (restricted), Sean Durzi (restricted), Lias Andersson (restricted) and Gabriel Vilardi (restricted), among others. How that's handled will impact L.A.'s fortunes.

    9. Edmonton Oilers

    The Oilers finally played in relevant postseason games with Connor McDavid this season, advancing to the Western Conference title round after beating Los Angeles and Calgary. As mentioned earlier, the status of Kane's grievance with the Sharks may impact the situation. If he stays in Edmonton and they get a goalie, the Oilers are contenders. If not, they'll go backward.

    8. Carolina Hurricanes

    The Hurricanes were a game away from the Eastern Conference championship series before dropping two straight to the New York Rangers and taking a lot of the shine away from a strong season. They've given Ethan Bear, a restricted free-agent defenseman, permission to speak to other teams about securing a deal for next season, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

    7. Minnesota Wild

    The Wild finished with the fifth-most points during the regular season but flopped in the first round against St. Louis, scoring just five goals in the final three games after assuming a 2-1 series lead. Rookie forward Matt Boldy finished eighth in Calder Trophy voting after having 15 goals and 24 assists in just 47 games.

    6. Calgary Flames

    They could be better than sixth, or they could be worse. Much will depend on the ultimate whereabouts of Gaudreau, who posted career bests across the board in the final year of his contract. He's indicated he'd like to stay in Calgary, but David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period reported on the Upper Deck spotlight that the 28-year-old forward wants to at least get a feel for the free-agency process.

Nos. 5-1: Panthers, Rangers, Maple Leafs, Lightning, Avalanche

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    AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

    5. Florida Panthers

    The Panthers saw a President's Trophy-winning season end ingloriously with a four-game sweep by the Lightning in the second round. They'll get back at it in October with a new coach, Paul Maurice, who was hired to replace interim boss Andrew Brunette. "I felt the fit here," Maurice told reporters.

    4. New York Rangers

    The Rangers hadn't made the full-fledged playoffs or won a series since 2017, so it was understandably exciting in midtown Manhattan when they got within six games of the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Lightning. A significant reason for that progress was goaltender Igor Shesterkin, who won the Vezina Trophy as the league's best netminder.

    3. Toronto Maple Leafs

    The Leafs didn't make it past the first round against Tampa Bay, but there's still a lot to look forward to. At the front of the line, Auston Matthews scored 60 goals, won the Hart Trophy and is signed for two more seasons. As for priorities, making a call on goalie Jack Campbell (unrestricted free agent), who started a career-high 49 games, is an immediate one for GM Kyle Dubas.

    2. Tampa Bay Lightning

    No, they didn't get the three-peat, but it was another successful playoff run for coach Jon Cooper and Co., who rallied against Toronto, swept Florida and made a comeback against the Rangers before meeting their match in Colorado. Forward Ondrej Palat is the only significant core player not already signed for 2022-23, so it'd be no surprise to see the Lightning contend again.

    1. Colorado Avalanche

    They've had the best-combined record in the NHL across the last three seasons, so it was just a matter of time before the Avalanche broke through. Their 16-4 mark in the playoffs is tied for the second-best record for a Cup champion since the 1987-88 Oilers went 16-2. There'll be decisions to make on Nazem Kadri, Darcy Kuemper and a handful of depth players in free agency, but, like the Lightning, there's no reason to believe this group won't be playoff-relevant against next spring.

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