The divisions have realigned yet again as a result of the COVID atmosphere, in attempts to lower travel across the nation and hopefully contain any spread which can exist. As a result, out are the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets and in are the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres. In this piece, we will look at the other seven teams, including what pieces they added over the offseason and what their outlook is for the following campaign.
The New Teams
The Bruins being added to the mix represents a daunting challenge for the Devils - they have qualified for the playoffs in each of the past 4 campaigns and 11 of the past 13. Led by star players such as David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins will likely place near the top of the NHL and serve as a menacing addition to the conference.
Key Offseason Additions: Craig Smith (3 Years/9.3 Million), Greg McKegg (1 Year/2-Way Contract)
Key Offseason Subtractions: Torey Krug (STL), Zdeno Chara (UFA), Alexander Petrovic (CAL)
The loss of Krug and Chara, two cog pieces in the roster for the past few seasons likely means that prospects such as Urho Vaakanainen and Jeremy Lauzon will be expected to see heavy minutes on the ice. None of the two are expected to fill the offensive hole that Krug leaves behind, which could hurt the Bruins in the long-term. If those two prove too raw, former Devil John Moore could be plugged in, but his potential is known at this point. The addition of Craig Smith is good value for their top-six, which saw a lot of their offense come from Pastrnak, Marchand and Bergeron. Pastrnak and Marchand both underwent surgeries in the offseason, so expect a Boston Bruins team that starts off a bit weaker off the gate.
Jack Eichel finally has a superstar teammate, and who else would it be but old partner Taylor Hall. After struggling through recent campaigns, this could be the season that the Sabres break through.
Key Offseason Additions: Taylor Hall (1 Year/8 Million), Cody Eakin (2 Years, 4.5 Million), Eric Staal (Trade), Brandon Davidson (1 Year, 2-Way Contract), Tobias Rieder (1 Year, $700000)
Key Offseason Subtractions: Marcus Johansson (Trade), Jimmy Vesey (TOR), Johan Larsson (ARI), Dominik Kahun (EDM), Wayne Simmonds (TOR), Vladimir Sobotka (Switzerland), Michael Frolik (MON)
A prospect that the Sabres organization is excited about, and who is likely to make his debut, is Dylan Cozens. Cozens, the 7th overall pick of the 2019 draft, had recently recorded an excellent season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL. He is expected to instantly jump into a top-six role in the club.
In terms of this team, there are a lot of moving parts to process. Many of their depth forwards departed the team and were replaced with quality forwards, which should benefit the team as the season progresses. However, expect some growing for the team as they get used to each other, as is the case with many newly restructured teams.
The Old Teams
The Rangers were the team that benefited the most from the lottery, as they were able to run away with super-prospect Alexis Lafreniere. That, coupled with an already excellent prospect pool, lead some to believe that the Rangers could be the surprise team of the season.
Key Offseason Additions: Jack Johnson (1 Year, 1.15 Million), Keith Kinkaid (2 Years, 1.65 Million), Kevin Rooney (2 Years, 1.50 Million), Colin Blackwell (2 Years, 1.45 Million), Anthony Bitetto (2 Years, Two-Way Contract)
Key Offseason Subtractions: Marc Staal (Trade), Henrik Lundqvist (WAS), Jesper Fast (CAR), Boo Nieves (UFA), Vinni Lettieri (MIN)
Out with the old and in with the news. The Rangers elected to move on from longtime Rangers Marc Staal, Henrik Lundqvist and Jesper Fast (as well as failed prospects Nieves and Lettieri) in a clear show of faith for their farm system. Lafreniere will likely start for the Rangers to open the season while Kevin Rooney and Colin Blackwell can open as depth pieces on the 4th line. Meanwhile, the Rangers will look for continued growth from Ryan Lindgren, Adam Fox and Tony DeAngelo as they look to climb back into relevancy. Some prospects to look out for - K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist and Vitali Kravtsov are all looking to book their names into the roster.
The Islanders saw some subtraction in their roster as a result of the cap crunch. Valuable defenseman Devon Toews was traded to Colorado for two 2nd rounders, as the Islanders looked to find room for resigning their RFA’s.
Key Offseason Additions: Dmytro Timashov (Trade), Austin Czarnik (Two Years, 1.45 Million), Ilya Sorokin (1 Year, 2 Million)
Key Offseason Subtractions: Devon Toews (Trade), Thomas Greiss (DET), Andy Greene (UFA), Johnny Boychuk (Retirement), Matt Martin (UFA)
The Islanders will see some change to their team, as star goalie Thomas Greiss departs for Detroit. Devon Toews and Andy Greene also depart as the Islanders find themselves with spots available on the roster. This means that guys like Otto Koivula and Oliver Wahlstrom will have the opportunity to break into the starting forwards while Bode Wilde, Parker Wotherspoon and Mitch Vande Sompel also look to break through. This Islanders team will be looking for growth from formerly touted prospects such as Noah Dobson and Michael Dal Colle in hopes of progressing further towards NHL silverware.
The Penguins saw massive change in their depth, as they traded for and signed a slew of new players, whilst simultaneously letting a bunch of old brass walk away.
Key Offseason Additions: Cody Ceci (1 Year, 1.25 Million), Frederick Gaudreau (1 Year, Two-Way Deal), Evan Rodrigues (1 Year, $700000), Mark Jankowski (1 Year, $700000), Kasperi Kapanen (Trade), Michael Matheson (Trade)
Key Offseason Subtractions: Justin Schultz (WAS), Conor Sheary (WAS), Matt Murray (OTT), Patrick Marleau (SJS), Patric Hornqvist (FLO)
While the Penguins can be commended for their acquisition of Kasperi Kapanen, I can’t help but wonder if this Penguins team will make the playoffs in the following season. Crosby and Malkin, if healthy, can realistically carry any team to the playoffs. However, this season saw some big losses in Hornqvist and Murray, while one must wonder if Ceci and Matheson are subtraction by addition. This could be the biggest hit-or-miss team next season.
The Flyers largely sat put in the offseason, as they are relying on development from within to help propel them forward.
Key Offseason Additions: Erik Gustafsson (1 Year, 3 Million)
Key Offseason Subtractions: Matt Niskanen (Retirement), Derek Grant (ANA), Tyler Pitlick (ARI)
Prospects are the buzz in Philly right now, as Joel Farabee, Phil Myers and Nic Aube-Kubel were all solid for the Flyers in their rookie campaigns. Morgan Frost, Linus Sandin and Mark Friedman could all easily break into the team right now as well. This is a young, exciting team to watch out for in both the short and long-term, with an expected impact for years to come.
Ovechkin’s Capitals are ready for another run. With a cap hit close to the edge, the addition of Schultz is likely the only meaningful addition to the team, as they run with their same lineup as last season.
Key Offseason Additions: Justin Schultz (Two Years, 8 Million), Trevor Van Riemsdyk (1 Year, $800000)
Key Offseason Subtractions: Braden Holtby (VAN), Ilya Kovalchuk (UFA), Travis Boyd (TOR), Radko Gudas (FLO)
The key for the Capitals is for growth from Samsonov and for Pheonix Copley or Vitek Vanecek to be viably playable. Lundqvist’s injury means he will not be joining the team, so there exists a massive hole in the backup position. Vanecek will likely get the first shot, as he performed reasonably well in the AHL level.