NHL Power Rankings: Where Every Team Stands After Start of Free Agency
The NHL's free-agency period has already changed the complexion of many teams. Some franchises, like the Chicago Blackhawks, are still in the process of building their squad. But many have filled out their rosters and are just about ready for 2015-16.
Are the Blackhawks, the NHL's defending champions, still the best in the league? What about the New York Rangers, last season's Presidents' Trophy winners? Are they still the top club, at least by regular-season standards? How did some of the league's worst teams improve after the draft and free agency?
This special edition of the power rankings looks at where franchises stand as of now. After all the trades, signings, departure and draft picks, who are the NHL's best and worst squads?
30-26: Arizona Coyotes-Philadelphia Flyers
30. Arizona Coyotes (29th, 56 points): After losing out in the McEichel sweepstakes, the Coyotes drafted center Dylan Strome No. 3, and he could help immediately. Antoine Vermette also returned via free agency after winning a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks. Otherwise, the Coyotes didn't make any major moves, which means they will be in the mix for top prospect Auston Matthews in the 2016 draft.
29. Toronto Maple Leafs (27th, 68 points): The Leafs made a bunch of nice little signings but dealt away Phil Kessel in return for mostly assets that will help them two or three years from now, maybe longer. The future isn't now for the Leafs, who will probably look to trade other players off their roster before the season begins in October.
28. New Jersey Devils (25th, 78 points): Kyle Palmieri and John Moore were the two big additions for the Devils. That won't do much for a team that had excellent goaltending but only averaged 2.21 goals per game last season. It should be another frustrating campaign for Cory Schneider.
27. Buffalo Sabres (30th, 54 points): The Sabres will be better next season, but how much better is the question. They will get a full season of Evander Kane, Ryan O'Reilly, Jack Eichel and Robin Lehner. The defense, led by Zach Bogosian, has a couple bright spots but is mostly shoddy. This shouldn't be a tanking year in Buffalo, but the playoffs won't be in the cards.
26. Philadelphia Flyers (24th, 84 points): General manager Ron Hextall took over a disaster of a roster, and he's making slow, steady progress improving it. He traded the legendary Chris Pronger for Sam Gagner, signed KHL defenseman Yevgeni Medvedev and brought in Michal Neuvirth as an upgrade behind Steve Mason. The rest of the team remains a mess, and as long as Vinny Lecavalier is on the roster, the Flyers will be limited in how much they can do.
25-21: Colorado Avalanche-Vancouver Canucks
25. Colorado Avalanche (21st, 90 points): The Ryan O'Reilly saga ended with a trade to Buffalo, but center Carl Soderberg should pick up the slack in his place. Francois Beauchemin will improve the defense, and Blake Comeau bolsters the bottom-six forwards. There shouldn't be much difference between where the Avs finished last year and where they'll end up next year.
24. Winnipeg Jets (14th, 99 points): The Jets retained Drew Stafford, but the price tag (five years, $21.5 million) on Michael Frolik was too great, so he left for Calgary. Otherwise, there weren't too many changes to the team's roster. The estimated drop in the standings has everything to do with not being willing to bet Ondrej Pavelec matches his career-best 2014-15 season in 2015-16.
23. San Jose Sharks (22nd, 89 points): The Sharks' two biggest moves were acquiring Martin Jones to serve as the No. 1 goaltender despite just 34 career games and singing Paul Martin to assume a second-pairing role on defense. The forwards remain almost entirely unchanged, although Joe Thornton, 36, and Patrick Marleau, 35, (and everyone, if we're being technical) are a year older. The Sharks were a middling offensive team last season and will probably be near that level next year.
22. Ottawa Senators (13th, 99 points): The Senators must believe they are the team that finished with a run of 23-3-4 because the roster is virtually identical. Erik Condra signed with Tampa Bay, and Robin Lehner and David Legwand are gone in a trade to Buffalo, but this is the group that made that playoff push behind Andrew Hammond. Consider this ranking as skepticism that they can do it again.
21. Vancouver Canucks (8th, 101 points): It's hard to explain how the Canucks reached the playoffs last season, but it will be harder to explain if it happens again next season. The team traded Kevin Bieksa and Zack Kassian for a draft pick and Brandon Prust in separate deals. Eddie Lack, the team's best goaltender last season, left in a trade to Carolina, leaving the unproven Jacob Markstrom behind Ryan Miller.
20-16: Edmonton Oilers-Carolina Hurricanes
20. Edmonton Oilers (28th, 62 points): The Oilers added a top coach (Todd McLellan), a top defenseman (Andrej Sekera) and a top pick (Connor McDavid), so there's no doubt this team will be better in 2015-16. But Edmonton has been singing the siren's song in offseasons for years, tricking people into picking it to make the playoffs. For now, let's say the Oilers will be a lot closer after this summer.
19. Dallas Stars (19th, 92 points): Antti Niemi has roughly the same career save percentage as Kari Lehtonen but was the Stars' big move in free agency. Otherwise, Dallas is banking on big improvements from its young defense and more consistency offensively behind Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. It's the mostly the same team, so expect nearly the same results (which could be the playoffs, because 92 points is a pretty good season).
18. Boston Bruins (17th, 96 points): Don Sweeney wanted to put his stamp on the team in his first year as a GM, and the stamp is a question mark. He turned Milan Lucic into two first-round picks (after a subsequent deal), which was great. But he also traded Dougie Hamilton when he didn't have to and got back middling picks. And he used a third-round selection in a swap to get human suspension machine Zac Rinaldo. Carl Soderberg left via free agency. The Bruins essentially freed money to sign Matt Beleskey to a five-year, $19 million deal. Good luck with all that.
17. Calgary Flames (16th, 97 points): After a luck-fueled playoff run, it's up to GM Brad Treliving to turn his team into one that's actually good. He landed Hamilton from the Bruins for next to nothing, and while he overpaid a bit, Michael Frolik should improve the offense. Karri Ramo getting $3.8 million is an unnecessary expenditure. But with a little luck (not even as much as last season), the Flames could be a playoff team again.
16. Carolina Hurricanes (26th, 71 points): The Hurricanes added James Wisniewski and Eddie Lack, and fifth pick Noah Hanifin could play immediately. They parted ways with Alex Semin via buyout, which is addition by subtraction. If the Hurricanes make a playoff run next season, it will likely have to do with goaltending and defense.
15-11: Florida Panthers-Columbus Blue Jackets
15. Florida Panthers (20th, 91 points): The Panthers are a team that will rise or fall based on their young talent. Aaron Ekblad, Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau (still a restricted free agent) will be the keys to getting over the hump. They traded Jimmy Hayes for Reilly Smith and will get a full season out of Jaromir Jagr. The lack of a quality backup goaltender is the biggest weakness, however.
14. Nashville Predators (6th, 104 points): After a great start that had the Predators atop the league standings on Feb. 17, they finished 6-12-3 to end the season and lost in the first round in six games. They retained Mike Fisher and Mike Ribeiro and added Barret Jackman to the blue line. It's understandable to be fearful that the Predators won't be able to replicate last season.
13. New York Islanders (10th, 101 points): The Islanders were a team that faded at the end of the regular season. They were 43-21-4 on March 9 but went 4-7-3 down the stretch and lost in seven games in the first round. After the splashy offseason additions of Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy a year ago, they've yet to do anything that major.
12. Los Angeles Kings (18th, 95 points): One paragraph for the Kings' summer (and it's only July) seems like not enough, but here we go. Mike Richards is gone (for now) after a reported drug-related incident at a border crossing, and Slava Voynov pleaded no contest to a domestic abuse charge yet is still on the roster. In non-legal moves, the team acquired Milan Lucic to essentially replace Justin Williams. Martin Jones went to Boston (then San Jose) as part of the Lucic deal, and Jhonas Enroth is the new backup goaltender.
11. Columbus Blue Jackets (23rd, 89 points): Injuries ravaged the Blue Jackets last season, but they finished 12-0-1 once they were mostly healthy. Their big move still isn't entirely completed—they sent Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano and two others to Chicago for Brandon Saad. The Blue Jackets are looking great for next season.
10. New York Rangers
Last season: (1st, 113 points)
Key additions: Viktor Stalberg, Raphael Diaz, Antti Raanta, Emerson Etem
Key losses: Martin St. Louis, Carl Hagelin
Forecast: The losses outweigh the additions, but the Rangers still have Henrik Lundqvist and a good group of defensemen, which should offset any declines in scoring. After a record that was mostly a product of a league-high 101.9 PDO, the Rangers will surely slip back in the standings this season. It would take a lot to slip out of the playoffs completely, though.
9. Minnesota Wild
Last season: (11th, 100 points)
Key additions: None
Key losses: Chris Stewart, Sean Bergenheim, Matt Cooke
Forecast: Devan Dubnyk doesn't count as an addition, but the Wild got him re-signed after he made all the difference last season. They should be regular-season dynamos and a lock for the playoffs. Minnesota is a youthful team that should see improvements as those young players mature.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins
Last season: (15th, 98 points)
Key additions: Phil Kessel
Key losses: Thomas Greiss, Nick Spaling, Christian Ehrhoff, Paul Martin, Max Lapierre
Forecast: The Penguins should improve on their 98 points, which was a product of all the injuries they suffered last season. They are still built to be a force in the regular season that burns out in the playoffs because of a lack of depth. The team's top two lines are so loaded that Pittsburgh will get to 100 points easy as long as Kris Letang stays healthy and the young defensemen shine.
7. Chicago Blackhawks
Last season: (7th, 102 points)
Key additions: Artem Anisimov, Mark Dano
Key losses: Brandon Saad, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, Johnny Oduya, Michal Rozsival
Forecast: When you type out the above lists, which doesn't include the potential trade of Patrick Sharp, one realizes this has been a particularly brutal offseason for the Blackhawks. Most didn't expect Saad to be traded, but Anisimov and Dano are fine additions. The Blackhawks' offseason is incomplete, so we'll say for now that they will finish close to where they did last season.
6. Montreal Canadiens
Last season: (2nd, 110 points)
Key additions: Zack Kassian
Key losses: Brandon Prust, PA Parenteau
Forecast: Montreal was in the bottom third in possession with a power play that finished 23rd. Essentially, GM Marc Bergevin's offseason moves say, "Carey Price will be the MVP again so don't worry about anything." The team re-signed trade deadline acquisitions Jeff Petry, Brian Flynn and Torrey Mitchell. The Canadiens should be fine next season, but simply a good year from Price could leave them fighting for a playoff berth.
5. St. Louis Blues
Last season: (4th, 109 points)
Key additions: Troy Brouwer, Kyle Brodziak, Robert Bortuzzo
Key losses: T.J. Oshie, Barret Jackman
Forecast: The Blues are probably destined to lose early the playoffs for a fourth straight year, but they are still good enough to be a dominant regular-season team again. St. Louis will again ride goaltenders Brian Elliott and Jake Allen. But if the team gets off to a slow start, don't be surprised to see Ken Hitchcock fired in a move that will come a few months too late.
4. Washington Capitals
Last season: (9th, 101 points)
Key additions: Justin Williams, T.J. Oshie
Key losses: Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer, Mike Green, Eric Fehr
Forecast: Braden Holtby emerged last season as an elite goaltender, so the Capitals are in position to be a playoff team for years to come. But can they get over the second-round hump? Williams and Oshie are upgrades over Ward and Brouwer. But losing Green, a 45-point defenseman on the bottom pairing, will hurt. Their moves aren't done yet.
3. Detroit Red Wings
Last season: (12th, 100 points)
Key additions: Mike Green, Brad Richards
Key losses: Dan Cleary, Erik Cole, Marek Zidlicky
Forecast: As is always the case with the Red Wings, as long as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are reasonably healthy, they will be a playoff team. They have two solid goaltenders in Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard, although who gets the bulk of the starts is a question. Green will help the power play, and Richards gives the team depth behind Datsyuk and Zetterberg.
2. Anaheim Ducks
Last season: (3rd, 109 points)
Key additions: Kevin Bieksa, Carl Hagelin, Anton Khudobin
Key losses: Emerson Etem, James Wisniewski
Forecast: The Ducks are again set up to lead the Pacific Division. And by adding Hagelin, they have more speed, something they were lacking last season. The only issue with Anaheim is goaltending and whether Frederik Andersen or John Gibson (why did the Ducks acquire Khudobin?) can become a true No. 1. Andersen had a .914 save percentage in the regular season and .913 in the playoffs, which isn't good enough.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
Last season: (5th, 108 points)
Key additions: Erik Condra
Key losses: Brenden Morrow
Forecast: See that Lightning team that got to the Stanley Cup Final? That's the team you're going to see next season, only Jonathan Drouin will be more of a factor. Condra may not seem like much, but he's a big improvement over Morrow. They should be the favorites in the East when the season begins.