5 NHL Teams That Dramatically Improved During the 2022 Offseason

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured Columnist IVAugust 18, 2022

5 NHL Teams That Dramatically Improved During the 2022 Offseason

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    The 2022 NHL offseason has been a busy one thus far. Several notable stars, such as Brent Burns, Max Pacioretty and Alex DeBrincat, were traded to different teams. Others, such as Darcy Kuemper, signed lucrative contracts with new clubs via free agency.

    A number of teams made acquisitions in the hope of bolstering their rosters for the 2022-23 season. A handful, however, substantially improved their lineups compared to last season.

    Some, like the Ottawa Senators, brought in players mostly to boost their scoring punch. Others, like the Detroit Red Wings, made moves to upgrade their roster at almost every position.

    Trades and free-agent signings have slowed down approaching late August. With training camps opening in a month's time, it's a good opportunity to examine the five clubs that have dramatically improved.

    Did we miss a team? Is there a club that doesn't belong on this list? Let us know in the comment section below.

Carolina Hurricanes

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    The Carolina Hurricanes were among the NHL's best teams last season but failed to advance past the second round for the second straight year. After forwards Vincent Trocheck and Nino Niederreiter departed via free agency, general manager Don Waddell made two trades that should improve his club's chances for a deep postseason run next spring.

    Waddell's first deal was obtaining Brent Burns from the San Jose Sharks for the low price of checking-line forward Steven Lorentz, a goalie prospect and a draft pick. Burns, 37, is among the NHL's elite offensive defensemen, netting 54 points in 82 games last season. His skills and experience will make him a significant addition to an already formidable blue line.

    The Hurricanes GM followed up by landing veteran winger Max Pacioretty from the cap-strapped Vegas Golden Knights for future considerations. A six-time 30-goal scorer, the 33-year-old Pacioretty ranks third with 303 goals among all NHL left-wingers since 2011-12.

    Surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon will sideline Pacioretty until February. However, his eventual return to the lineup gives him about two months to return to game shape in time for the playoffs. With Pacioretty and Burns in their lineup, the Hurricanes should be considered among this season's Stanley Cup contenders.

Detroit Red Wings

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    Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman spent the past three years rebuilding his team with young players acquired through trades or the draft. This summer, however, he added several notable veterans through the free-agent market.

    The most notable were forwards David Perron, Andrew Copp and Dominik Kubalik. Signed to two-year contracts, the 34-year-old Perron and the 26-year-old Kubalik should provide a boost of experienced skill to the Wings' scoring lines. Copp, 28, signed a five-year deal and should bolster their second-line center position with his versatility and gritty, two-way game.

    Yzerman also signed defensemen Ben Chiarot and Olli Maatta. Inked to a four-year contract, the 6'3", 234-pound Chiarot brings size and a physical stay-at-home style among the Wings' top-four blueliners. Matta, 27, agreed to a one-year deal. He will provide additional mobility to the defense corps with his puck-moving skills.

    Turning to the trade market, Yzerman sent a 2022 third-round pick to the St. Louis Blues on the second day of this year's draft for goaltender Ville Husso. He then signed the 27-year-old to a three-year contract. Husso should bring reliable depth between the pipes and could challenge Alex Nedeljkovic for the starter's job.

Ottawa Senators

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    Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion has been rebuilding his roster since shipping out veteran stars Mark Stone and Erik Karlsson in 2018-19. After several years of adding young talent through drafts and the trade market, Dorion made several significant moves this offseason that could finally turn his club into a playoff contender.

    Before the first round of the 2022 NHL draft, Dorion shipped three draft picks, including the seventh-overall pick, to the Chicago Blackhawks for 24-year-old winger Alex DeBrincat. The two-time 40-goal scorer should fit in well on the Senators' second line alongside Tim Stützle and Drake Batherson, providing a significant boost to their offense.

    Dorion wasn't done bolstering his forward lines. When free agency opened on July 13, he signed Claude Giroux to a three-year contract worth an annual average value of $6.5 million. A skilled two-way forward and former captain of the Philadelphia Flyers, the 34-year-old Giroux will help this young team at both ends of the rink.

    After watching oft-injured Matt Murray struggle over the last two seasons, Dorion traded the 28-year-old goaltender to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He then acquired Cam Talbot from the Minnesota Wild as Murray's replacement. The 35-year-old Talbot may be older but he's more durable and put up better stats than Murray over the last three years.

Seattle Kraken

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    Unlike the Vegas Golden Knights, the Seattle Kraken's inaugural campaign followed the usual path for an expansion club by missing the playoffs. However, general manager Ron Francis made a series of moves this summer that could end up paying big dividends for this club's second season and beyond.

    The first was a bit of luck as highly-touted prospect Shane Wright fell into the Kraken's lap at fourth overall at the 2022 NHL draft. The 18-year-old center has been compared to Boston Bruins two-way star Patrice Bergeron and could make his NHL debut this season. He has the potential to become a franchise cornerstone for the Kraken.

    Last summer, Francis landed two significant free agents in goaltender Philipp Grubauer and winger Jaden Schwartz. He turned to the market again this year to buttress his lineup, adding invaluable experience by signing winger Andre Burakovsky and defenseman Justin Schultz. He also brought in some goaltending depth by signing Martin Jones.

    Francis also took advantage of the Columbus Blue Jackets' need to shed salary to add another scoring forward. On July 23, he acquired winger Oliver Bjorkstrand in exchange for two draft picks in 2023. The 27-year-old Bjorkstrand is a three-time 20-plus goal scorer and will be a welcome addition among their top-six forwards.

Washington Capitals

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    Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan faced some big issues this offseason. His club lacked an experienced playoff goaltender, Nicklas Backstrom's recovery from hip surgery would leave a big hole at center until his return, while Tom Wilson's knee surgery exposed a need for depth on the wing.

    After trading Vitek Vanecek to the New Jersey Devils and cutting ties with Ilya Samsonov, MacLellan signed goaltender Darcy Kuemper to a five-year contract. The 32-year-old Kuemper should be a significant upgrade between the pipes. He was among the NHL's best starters last season, backstopping the Colorado Avalanche to the 2022 Stanley Cup.

    The Capitals could give promising young center Connor McMichael more playing time in Backstrom's absence. However, MacLellan added some insurance by signing Dylan Strome to a one-year contract. The 25-year-old has had consistency issues but still managed 22 goals and 48 points in 69 games with the rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks last season.

    Strome can move to the wing when Backstrom makes his return. In the meantime, MacLellan acquired Connor Brown from the Ottawa Senators on July 13 for a second-round pick in 2024. A versatile forward who can play either wing, the 28-year-old Brown has scored at least 20 goals twice and recorded 39 points in 64 games last season.

    Stats via NHL.com with salary info and line combinations via Cap Friendly.


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