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NHL Complete Season Preview: Key Additions, Key Losses, & Predictions For Every Team

Pacific Division:

ANAHEIM DUCKS

  • Key Arrivals: Kevin Bieksa (Trade with Vancouver), Carl Hagelin (Trade with NY Rangers)
  • Key Departures: Emerson Etem (Trade with NY Rangers), Kyle Palmieri (Trade with NJ Devils), James Wisniewski (Trade with Carolina), Francois Beauchemin (Free Agent signed by Colorado)

The Anaheim CaDucks are hoping to make the next step to the Stanley Cup Finals as they have spent the last three years advancing to the next round only to lose in game 7 of each round.  The Ducks have made a splash to sign a few more Canucks-alum as they hope to build their depth as well as keep their stars around as they have signed Ryan Kesler to a 6 year extension.

Bieksa has been brought in to hopefully fill the void left behind by free agent Francois Beauchemin, but can Bieksa perform at the fast pace he’s expected to with the Ducks, or will his age show and reveal a fleeting defense on an offensive stacked team?

Carl Hagelin from the New York Rangers, on the other hand, won’t have problems showing he can run along with all-stars Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf as the speedster will be a big threat playing on the Kesler line.

Prediction: The Ducks are still a huge worry on the offense, but will Bieksa help improve a shallow defense?  Will their goalies find some stability? If the answer is “no” to either question, the Ducks will be scrambling for some defensemen before the trade deadline.

ARIZONA COYOTES

  • Key Arrivals: Antoine Vermette (Free Agent from Chicago)
  • Key Departures: Sam Gagner (Trade with Philadelphia)

Arizona is still in their rebuild as they were struggling to even hit the cap floor this season.  Arizona is hoping to build their team around star youngsters Max Domi and Oliver Ekman-Larsson as they continue to develop into some very strong players.

Arizona brought back Antoine Vermette who contributed to the Chicago Blackhawks’ successful season, but don’t expect him to turn the team around.  The Coyotes also traded Sam Gagner who was struggling as a Coyote, but didn’t grab much of a return to score goals.

Prediction: Expect Arizona to ride the bottom five again and not to make a “Calgary-esque” playoff run.  Arizona will continue to build a solid team when Domi and Ekman-Larsson hit their strides.

 

CALGARY FLAMES

  • Key Arrivals: Dougie Hamilton (Trade with Boston), Michael Frolik (Free Agent from Winnipeg)
  • Key Departures: None

If you told people this time last year that the Flames would go to the second round of the playoffs, you’d be a laughing stock, but that’s exactly what happened during Calgary’s huge run last season.  Not only did they have a solid year with over-performing youngsters, but they eliminated the previous Champions, the LA Kings.

Calgary’s young-gun Johnny “Hockey” Gaudreau had an incredible year as he won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the best-performing rookie in the NHL.  Veteran Juri Hudler was a big part of Johnny Hockey’s successful season as well as the rest of the Flames as he stepped up as the leader during Mark Giordano’s injury.

Calgary has only gotten better as they made a steal for Boston’s top young defender, Dougie “Probably Shouldn’t Have Been Traded” Hamilton as well as signing free agent Michael Frolik, a great middle-six player.

Prediction: Calgary is up in the air as there will be a lot of pressure on the young-guns to perform to the same level as last season, though they are capable of doing so.  This year, fans will not be so shocked that they make the playoffs again.

EDMONTON OILERS

Via www.cbc.ca

Via http://www.cbc.ca

  • Key Arrivals: Connor McDavid (First Overall Draft Pick 2015), Andrej Sekera (Free Agent from Carolina), Cam Talbot (Trade with NY Rangers)
  • Key Departures: None

The last five or so years of the Edmonton Oilers can be summed into one word: yikes.  The Oilers have been riding the bottom five for a while but have picked up some great players in the draft, as any tanking team should.  Taylor Hall, Daniel Nurse, and Jordan Eberle round out the last few years as the future of the Edmonton Oilers, but what about the present?

The Oilers drafted Connor McDavid this year, the big story there is the massive following for McDavid (or “McJesus” as many hockey fans are calling him) as he is expected to be quite the superstar.  McDavid tore up the OHL for the Erie Otters and is expected to make a huge impact right away as the reincarnation of Wayne Gretsky.

The Oilers also made some changes to their woeful defense and goaltending by signing Andrej Sekera and trading for New York Rangers’ back up goalie, Cam Talbot.

Prediction: McDavid will have a lot of pressure to put up similar stats to Crosby and Ovechkin right out of the gate, but it’s safer to say he will make a slight impact as an offensive threat.  While McDavid will be one of the favorites for the Calder Trophy, the Oilers will make a huge improvement but will still need another year or two before making the playoffs.

LOS ANGELES KINGS

  • Key Arrivals: Milan Lucic (Trade with Boston)
  • Key Departures: Martin Jones (Trade with Boston), Justin Williams (Free Agent signed by Washington)

The Kings showed a Stanley Cup hangover and missed the playoffs entirely this season as the entire team struggled to perform.  Stars Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Jonathon Quick had a shaky year and their depth players certainly weren’t much help.

Slava Voynov was missed as he was absent the entire year dealing with a domestic abuse case, and this offseason players Mike Richards and Jarett Stoll both were arrested with drug charges.

The Kings are struggling with a misbehaving locker room and bringing in a famous rough-houser, Milan Lucic, is a bit of an interesting move for them, but on the ice he can be a helpful piece.  The Kings also lost a strong second-line player in Justin Williams, as well as their backup goalie Martin Jones (traded to Boston and later traded to San Jose).

Prediction: The King are going to need their star players to get back to their regular routines before they can think about the playoffs.  Without bringing in much to improve their team, the Kings are going to be on the bubble when it comes to the end of the season.

SAN JOSE SHARKS

  • Key Arrivals: Joel Ward (Free Agent from Washington), Martin Jones (Trade with Boston)
  • Key Departures: Antti Niemi (Trade with Dallas)

The Sharks missing the playoffs showed that they are an aging team.  Leaders Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are only getting older and their replacements Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture are hitting their primes.  The Sharks will be looking to offload their old guys to build a team around Pavelski, Couture, and Tomas Hertl.

The Sharks picked up Joel Ward from free agency after he had a solid year with the Capitals, but can Ward be just as successful without Ovechkin and Backstrom padding his stats?  Martin Jones was another pick up that will certainly replace Antti Niemi in the net in hopes to keep their strong defense in a better mood.

Prediction: If they make the right line changes, the Sharks can make the playoffs.  If Jones can be solid in net, there shouldn’t be any reason this team should miss another post-season.  Expect them to be very active in the trade market to get rid of the angry old men.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

  • Key Arrivals: Brandon Sutter maybe? (Trade with Pittsburgh)
  • Key Departures: Eddie Lack (Trade with Carolina), Nick Bonino (Trade with Pittsburgh), Zach Kassian (Trade with Montreal), Kevin Bieksa (Trade with Anaheim)

Vancouver certainly lost a lot more than they brought in.  Trading their very solid back up goalie, Eddie Lack, for a terrible return of two draft picks (1 Third Round and 1 SEVENTH Round) from Carolina.  Unless Vancouver drafts the next Zetterberg in the seventh round next year, this was a terrible trade for a team that has a few solid goalies to trade in Ryan Miller and Jakub Markstrom.

The Sedin twins are only getting older and this is not the same team as they were in 2011 as they are constantly losing players without bringing in suitable replacements.  They have very little depth beyond the first line and their defense is going to rely on Ryan Miller doing circus tricks in the net to keep them in the playoff race.

Prediction: Vancouver drops substantially with losing too many assets.  When your highlight arrival is Brandon Sutter you have to put a lot of faith into your current players, which Vancouver lost a lot of.

The Good:

  • Anaheim is looking like the #1 in this division again with their arrivals this season.
  • Calgary built on their success by adding a much needed defenseman
  • Edmonton has possibly the next NHL legend in Connor McDavid, something fans are excited to see succeed or fail.

The Bad:

  • The Kings are dealing with a few criminal charges in their players and unsettled locker room, but they have the potential to bring it back together.

The Ugly:

  • The Coyotes are going to be rivaling Toronto for last place
  • Vancouver is looking like they’ll be dropping harder than beanie-babie prices

Central Division:

 

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CAYQjB1qFQoTCI3x-N62z8cCFcteFAod2msClA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fblogs.blouinnews.com%2Fblouinbeatsports%2Ftag%2Fpatrick-kane%2F&ei=0z3iVc27Bcu9UdrXiaAJ&psig=AFQjCNFZcOPNhjZDQPEpOaLikmGBWimcjw&ust=1440976716596025
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
  • Key Arrivals: [C] Marko Dano (Trade with Columbus), [C] Artem Anisimov (Trade with Columbus), [D] Trevor Daley (Trade with Dallas)
  • Key Departures: [RW] Patrick Sharp (Trade with Dallas), [D] Johnny Oduya (Free Agent signed by Dallas), [LW] Brandon Saad (Trade with Columbus)

The reigning Stanley Cup champs are having an interesting offseason by losing a lot of players.  Star players Toews and Kane have huge contracts taking effect this year and the GM was forced to make some cap room.

Losing high scoring player Patrick Sharp, defenseman Johnny Oduya, and youngster Brandon Saad will certainly hurt their depth but they are relying on their prospects to continue to make leaps and continue their dynasty.

Patrick Kane is still dealing with a serious rape allegation this offseason and that will certainly cause some concern in the locker room, one that’s had to deal with drama before with allegations that Patrick Sharp was having affairs with other players’ wives.  Neither allegation has been proven true, so they remain allegations to this day.

Prediction: The Blackhawks have lost a lot of big-name players, but they are by no means any less of a threat as a hockey team.  They may have some troubles to start the season as the new team gets in stride as well as the drama settling down.  It should be no surprise that they make the playoffs…again.

 

COLORADO AVALANCHE

  • Key Arrivals: [D] Francois Beauchemin (Free Agent from Anaheim), [C] Mikhail Grigorenko (Trade with Buffalo)
  • Key Departures: [C] Ryan O’Reilley (Trade with Buffalo)

The Av’s fell back into reality last season after making the playoffs in the 2013-2014 season.  Their core is still developing with the young captain, Gabriel Landeskog, and even younger stars Matt Duchene and Nathan Mackinnon.  The problem they had always faced was a strong defense.

Semyon Varlamov struggled without a solid defense in front of him, but the addition of Francois Beauchemin to play along Erik Johnson will definitely help.  This team’s success is going to depend on their hot and cold streaks as a team.

Prediction: Patrick Roy is going to have to make some smart line changes to get their team to the playoffs in a crazy division.  If the Av’s can find their play early they can certainly hit the wildcard spot in the West against a weaker Pacific division, but this team still has a few years before they become a terror in the NHL.

DALLAS STARS

  • Key Arrivals: [G] Antii Niemi (Trade with San Jose), [RW] Patrick Sharp (Trade with Chicago), [D] Johnny Oduya (Free Agent from Chicago)
  • Key Departures: [D] Trevor Daley (Trade with Chicago)

The Dallas Stars were making headlines last offseason with the signing of Jason Spezza and this year they made a big splash for Patrick Sharp.  Their offense is certainly scary in the front six with Art Ross winning Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Valeri Nichushkin, but that thing called defense is also important.

While Johnny Oduya is a great defenseman, he can’t do it all himself, and if the Stars’ goalies can’t get it together this year it’s just going to be another disappointing season in Texas.  Aside from Oduya, who is their next notable defenseman, Jordie Benn?

Prediction: The Stars were close to the playoffs last year even with a struggling goaltending and a shallow defense.  Kari Lehtonen is going to have to bounce back to his old ways to keep this team in the playoff race, but this is also a team to watch in the final weeks of the season for that wildcard spot.

MINNESOTA WILD

  • Key Arrivals: None
  • Key Departures: None

Not really sure what to say about the Wild, they just didn’t do anything….wild.  Goaltender Devin Dubnyk surprised many last year as he led the Wild on a great run to the playoffs and he just resigned with the Wild.

Aside from a few minor free agent signings and extensions, there weren’t any highlight trades or signings that made this team better, but they certainly didn’t get worse.  Stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter will keep this team a threat along with a good core of players, but will that be enough to make it to the playoffs again?

Prediction: The Wild didn’t make any additions or subtractions, not that they needed any.  However, most teams  in the West certainly got better, and the Wild just kind of stayed stagnant.  The Wild are probably going to just miss the playoffs this year, but a good trade before the deadline can definitely change that.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

  • Key Arrivals: [D] Barret Jackman (Free Agent from St. Louis)
  • Key Departures: None

The team from Smashville made a huge jump forward last season even with a new coach.  This was because of a few things: Pekka Rinne was healthy; Filip Forsberg had his breakout season making Ex-Washington GM, George McPhee, look foolish for trading him; and their strong defensive core.

It’s no hidden fact that Nashville has an incredible depth at defense with arguably the best lock-down defenseman, Shea Weber, and young-gun, Seth Jones.  Nashville’s major problem was offense, and Filip Forsberg has answered their prayers.

With the addition of Barret Jackman to their solid defense Nashville will certainly be in a good position to have another successful season.

Prediction: If the offense can perform just as well as last year (specifically Forsberg, Ribiero, and Fisher) and Rinne can stay healthy, Smashville will be back in the show in May and might make the jump to the second round.

ST. LOUIS BLUES

  • Key Arrivals: [RW] Troy Brouwer (Trade with Washington), [G] Pheonix Copley (Trade with Washington)
  • Key Departures: [RW] T.J. Oshie (Trade with Washington)

The Blues fell short of making it past the first round last year and hope that shaking up the roster will get them over the hump.  A huge headline trade with Washington saw one of the Blues’ most loved players, Oshie, depart to DC as Oshie just wasn’t performing to their expectations in the post season.

The Blues plan on using Troy Brouwer as the Oshie replacement and are banking on Vladimir Tarasenko to have another big year, certainly not far-fetched of expectations.  Copley is also a highly rated prospect that will be a great goaltending option in the future.

Prediction: Brouwer will be a good replacement for Oshie on the physical side, but not on the scoring side.  Luckily the Blues have Tarasenko to worry about that.  A solid, but aging, defense will keep the Blues in the race for the playoffs but it’s hard to see them past the first round.

WINNIPEG JETS

  • Key Arrivals: None
  • Key Departures: Michael Frolik (Free Agent signed with Calgary)

Winnipeg was another surprise playoff team last year, but unlike the Flames they were swept in the first round by the Ducks.  The “True North” Jets did not do much this offseason except lose a solid middle six player in Michael Frolik.

While most teams got better in the West, Winnipeg did not.  The Jets will have to work even harder to reach the same level of surprise from last year, and it doesn’t seem likely it will happen twice in a row.

Prediction: Even with essentially the same core, the rest of the West only got better and the Jets’ competition only got more difficult.  It will certainly be an uphill battle, and it is more than likely the Jets will fall out of the playoffs unless they make some trades.

The Good:

  • Chicago is still the team to beat in the NHL
  • Dallas’ offense is scary
  • Nashville will only get better especially if Rinne stays healthy

The Bad:

  • Minnesota and Winnipeg didn’t add much to their rosters while everyone else did

The Ugly:

  • Dallas’ defense is scary

Atlantic Division:

Via www.thehockeynews.com
Via http://www.thehockeynews.com

 

BOSTON BRUINS

  • Key Arrivals: [LW] Matt Beleskey (Free Agent from Anaheim)
  • Key Departures: [LW] Milan Lucic (Trade with Los Angeles), [D] Dougie Hamilton (Trade with Calgary)

Oh boy did the Bruins have some headlines this offseason, for all the wrong reasons.  The front office for Boston made a surprise trade with Calgary dealing the Flames a young defenseman, Dougie Hamilton, for a few draft picks.  Milan “I’m going to punch you in the face” Lucic was traded to the LA Kings, but was replaced by Zac “I’m also going to punch you in the face” Rinaldo.

Now that we have had a while to calm down, let’s really look at the Bruins’ roster after these trades.  They still have their strong core in Bergeron, Chara, Marchand, Rask, and Krejci.  This is still the big and bad Boston Bruins, sure they traded some solid pieces, but to think they will drop down to the bottom five is wishful thinking for any anti-Boston fans.

Prediction: Sure they made some questionable trades with two big contributors, but let’s remember the reason Boston barely missed out on the playoffs last year was because of a certain Hamburgler in Ottawa.  Expect Boston to be on the bubble again this season.

BUFFALO SABRES

  • Key Arrivals: [F] Jack Eichel (2015 2nd Overall Draft), [C] Ryan O’Reilly (Trade with Colorado), [C] David Legwand (Trade with Ottawa)
  • Key Departures: None

Buffalo had a very rough year. Aside from losing the majority of their hockey games, they also lost the draft lottery which would have given them Connor McDavid.  The Sabres did not come out empty-handed as they drafted the next-best player, Boston U’s Jack Eichel.  Eichel won’t be facing the same pressure to perform as McDavid will in Edmonton, but he will be seeing plenty of minutes on the top 6.

Buffalo will continue to develop their young-guns as well as finally get Evander Kane, who was injured for the second half of the season when traded from Winnipeg, some top-line minutes.  Buffalo is surely going to take their time in developing their team and getting the right pieces together to make Jack Eichel into a franchise player.

Prediction: Buffalo has a long way to go in their rebuild.  They won’t make the playoffs this year, but that’s not a bad thing at all.  Buffalo needs to take it slow, figure out what they need to build their team around Eichel, and be a major threat for the Cup in a few years.

DETROIT RED WINGS

  • Key Arrivals: [D] Mike Green (Free Agent from Washington), [C] Brad Richards (Free Agent from Chicago)
  • Key Departures: [Head Coach] Mike Babcock (Free Agent signed by Toronto)

The Motor City has shown no signs of slowing down with some great signings this offseason.  Mike Green will make Detroit’s powerplay a nightmare for opposing teams as he will bring his expertise from Washington to work with Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and Nyquist.

Losing their prolific head coach, Mike Babcock, may cause a small stir in the locker room.  However, the leadership of Datsyuk and Zetterberg will be enough to keep Detroit a team to watch.

Prediction: Mike Green will be a huge help to the powerplay if he is healthy.  Green has been known to be injury prone when worked too hard so he will need to stay on the ice to make an impact.  Don’t expect Detroit’s long playoff-streak to come to an end this year as their young prospects are only getting better and Pavel “Magic Man” Datsyuk still has tricks up his sleeve.

FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • Key Arrivals: None
  • Key Departures: None

Florida had a quiet offseason aside from a few trades that gained them some draft picks.  Panthers’ goalie, Roberto Luongo, stated in an interview that this was the year for the Panthers to make the playoffs, but does the lack of moves this offseason show their level confidence?

Florida was on the bubble last year, also falling to the hands of the Hamburgler, but certainly showed they can make the wildcard spot.  Florida will be relying on their players to continue their development as well as Luongo’s performance in net.

Prediction: Will Bobby Lou be right about his team making the playoffs this year?  A nice winning streak at the end of the year can definitely clinch them a spot in the wildcard.

MONTREAL CANADIANS

  • Key Arrivals: [RW] Alex Semin (Free Agent from Carolina), [RW] Zack Kassian (Trade with Vancouver)
  • Key Departures: None

The Montreal Carey Prices are looking to take another crack at the playoffs this year as they have brought in a few players to fix their lack of scoring depth.  Montreal’s defense was certainly outstanding last year as they were led by NHL MVP Carey Price and Norris winner P.K. Subban, but it was very obvious that Montreal was struggling on offense.

Alex Semin has had a lackluster career at Carolina and is looking for redemption at Montreal, while the addition of Kassian can also help get the puck in the net rather than relying on the puck staying out of their own.

Prediction: It’s no secret that Carey Price was the reason for Montreal’s success last season.  Can Price be a brick wall again this year?  If no, can the rest of the Habs pull their weight? If Montreal can gain some offensive power, they will be a favorite to win the Stanley Cup when we get to the all-star break.

OTTAWA SENATORS

  • Key Arrivals: None
  • Key Departures: [C] David Legwand (Trade with Buffalo)

I’ve referenced a famous McDonald’s mascot a few times this article and his identity belongs to this Ottawa team.  Andrew Hammond helped Ottawa on a great run to the playoffs solidifying his spot on the team full-time.  Norris winner, Erik Karlsson, and Calder-nominee Mark Stone were both a big help in Ottawa’s literal robbery of the Bruins’ playoff hopes and are looking to continue their success into next year.

No big pick-ups this offseason means the front office is confident in their team to repeat their playoff appearance, but can Hammond play a full NHL season?  While he did help the Sens get to the playoffs, he struggled against the Montreal Canadiens who eliminated the Sens in 5 games.

Prediction: The Sens are going to need a bit more help if they want to make the playoffs this year with Boston and Florida looking for revenge. Hammond has shown he can perform well, but he also showed he can’t do it all himself.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

  • Key Arrivals: None
  • Key Departures: None

The NHL Runner-ups won’t need to make any moves after a very successful season only to be dealt with by the Chicago Blackhawks.  Stamkos and the Triplets will be coming back for more as losing in the finals left a bitter taste.

Tampa Bay could have been eliminated in the first round after a controversial suspension of Detroit’s Nicklas Kronwall, but they handled both the Candiens and Rangers in the next two rounds to get to the finals, proving that they belonged there.

Prediction: Tampa Bay has proved that with a healthy Stamkos that they are dangerous.  No moves were needed to keep potential high as many expect the Lightning to strike twice and get to the finals again this season,

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

  • Key Arrivals: [RW] P.A. Parenteau (Free Agent from Montreal), [Head Coach] Mike Babcock (Free Agent from Detroit)
  • Key Departures: [RW] Phil Kessel (Trade with Pittsburgh)

The Maple Leafs’ fans were very disappointed last season and weren’t afraid to show it with protests and tossing jerseys onto the ice.  For those fans who threw their Kessel jerseys on the ice, they made a good call as Kessel was traded away to the Penguins.  Without a star player, Toronto will hope to build a solid core and build for the future.

Coach Babcock received a hefty paycheck to come to Toronto and that will keep him motivated to get the Leaves Leafs back on the map.

Prediction: Babcock is going to need a lot of time before the Leafs can get back to the playoffs.  Expect Phaneuf to be a trade target for a lot of teams at the deadline, which can bring in some more core players as they’ll want to get an early draft pick this year.

The Good

  • Detroit’s powerplay is going to rival Washington’s as the best in the league
  • Jack Eichel will be working hard to prove he should have gone number 1 in the draft
  • Tampa Bay will be coming back for more

The Bad

  • Boston traded some strong players, but they are still able to make a comeback this year
  • Ottawa is relying heavily on a young, unproven goalie

The Ugly

  • Toronto is going to be criticized for every move they make after trading their superstar

 

Metropolitan Division:

Carolina Hurricanes

  • Key Arrivals: [G] Eddie Lack (Trade with Vancouver), [D] James Wisniewski (Trade with Anaheim)
  • Key Departures: [RW] Alex Semin (Free Agent signed by Montreal)

Carolina has almost fallen off the face of the Earth since their Stanley Cup winning season in 2006, but it’s looking like they want to get back to the playoffs soon.  The ‘Canes made some great trades for two solid players in Eddie Lack and James Wisniewski to improve their defense.

Losing Alex Semin is probably a good thing as he just could not perform to the same level that he did in Washington, and we don’t need to get into the many stories about his unfavorable locker room behavior.

The Staal brothers will continue to lead this team, but unless they make a trade for the one Staal brother that plays defense in New York, the ‘Canes will be playing catch up.

Prediction: There isn’t much to write about Carolina as they have been very forgettable lately, but a strong 2015 draft can keep a small light of hope alive for the future.  Carolina is more than likely going to miss the playoffs again this year, especially in this division, but they certainly made the right moves to gain some momentum.

Columbus Blue Jackets

  • Key Arrivals: [LW] Brandon Saad (Trade with Chicago),
  • Key Departures: [C] Artem Anisimov (Trade with Chicago), [C] Marko Dano (Trade with Chicago)

The Blue Jackets were incredibly plagued by injuries last season as they set a record for most games missed from injuries.  The Jackets were more than capable of making the playoffs when they had a healthy team, and many aren’t expecting this season to be any different.

Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen will be leading the forwards with newly acquired Brandon Saad, while Jack Johnson and Sergei Bobrovski will hold the backbone.  The Jackets traded hot prospect Marko Dano for an older version, Brandon Saad, in hopes to speed up the process of getting back to the post season.

Prediction: The Jackets are going to be extra careful this season to avoid injuries, but unfortunately hockey is a contact sport.  If the extra padding the players wear doesn’t slow them down, the Jackets can be in the wildcard race but they’ll be facing some hard challenges in this division.

New Jersey Devils

  • Key Arrivals: [C] Kyle Palmieri (Trade with Anaheim)
  • Key Departures: [D] Bryce Salvador (Retired)

New Jersey has jokingly been named the “retirement home” of the NHL and they certainly haven’t done much to change that.  Bringing in Palmieri to help Travis Zajac and Mike Cammalleri on the attack won’t do a whole lot to fix their problems at depth at forward.

Captain Bryce Salvador has retired, meaning the team loses a lot of leadership in the locker room, but some strong defensive prospects can help keep their defense solid in front of star goalie Cory Schneider.

Prediction: New Jersey has some great defensive prospects as well as Cory Schneider, one of the most underrated goalies in the league, to keep them out of last place.  Unfortunately New Jersey is going to struggle to stay out of the bottom five this year as the rest of the division they are in has certainly more to compete with.

New York Islanders

  • Key Arrivals: None
  • Key Departures: None

A badly timed injury to Travis Hamonic certainly didn’t help the Islanders in their seven game elimination to Washington, but the front office is certainly confident that the Islanders can make it back to the playoffs without any major transactions this offseason.

Captain Tavares, Johny Boychuk, and Jaroslav Halak will continue to improve as the Islanders are still as deadly as they were last year.  The Isles will be aiming to bring the playoffs to their new arena and make it past the first round as this team has a lot of potential.

Prediction: The Islanders are going to be a team to worry about for everyone else in the East, even if they end up as a wildcard.  Don’t expect them to win another four Stanley cups in a row, but the playoffs? YES! YES! YES!.

New York Rangers

  • Key Arrivals: [RW] Emerson Etem (Trade with Anaheim), [C] Jarret Stoll (Free Agent from Los Angeles)
  • Key Departures: [LW] Carl Hagelin (Trade with Anaheim), [RW] Martin St. Louis (Retirement)

King Henrik and the Rangers aren’t done terrorizing the East as they are still hungry for the Cup.  The Rangers have arguably the best defensive core in the league as well as a solid scoring depth up front, and that will not change this year.

The Rangers will be taking a chance on Jarret Stoll (recently arrested for drug possession and let go from LA) as well as Viktor Stalberg to replace the retired Martin St. Louis.  Both Stoll and Stalberg had very disappointing seasons last year, but they will have the tools in New York to have comeback seasons.

Prediction: Losing Hagelin may diminish their speed, but this team is still backed by a strong defense and goaltender.  Expect the Rangers to make the playoffs again, and more than likely playing the Washington Capitals at some point in the post season.

Philadelphia Flyers

  • Key Arrivals: [C] Sam Gagner (Trade with Arizona), [G] Michal Neuvirth (Free Agent from NY Islanders)
  • Key Departures: None

Last year proved that it is NOT always sunny in Philly, but Jakub Voracek certainly brightened their season.  Varacek was recently signed to a huge extension as he and Claude Giroux had great years, but it wasn’t enough to get the Flyers to the playoffs.

The Flyers couldn’t seem to find their defense and struggled last season keeping the puck out of their net.  The Broad Street Bullies will need a bit more on their backbone in order to compete in this division, but they definitely have the tools on offense to put points on the board.

Prediction: Expect Philly to be active in the trade market as they will be on the bubble.  If Mason can stay on top of his game, Philly is one defenseman away from making the playoffs in a very tough division.

Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Key Arrivals: [RW] Eric Fehr (Free Agent from Washington), [C] Nick Bonino (Trade with Vancouver), [RW] Phil Kessel (Trade with Toronto)
  • Key Departures: None

The Penguins made headlines all around the world announcing a stellar trade with the Leafs for Phil “the Thrill” Kessel.  Kessel will be joining elite players Sydney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin to make up possibly the best top 6 in the NHL.

Let’s look at the rest of this trade, however.  Pittsburgh traded a lot of prospects to get Kessel, as well as sacrifice a lot of defensive depth in paying the contracts of their star players.  Many are expecting Kessel to score over 40 goals this season as well as the team to glide into the playoffs.  No pressure, Phil.

Prediction: The Penguins are impressive to say the least, but are they too top-heavy?  Overall depth will be a huge concern for the team as many teams will be preparing strategies to match-up against their top 6.  It will be the season’s biggest disappointment if the Penguins don’t make it to the playoffs this year.

Washington Capitals

  • Key Arrivals: [RW] Justin Williams (Free Agent from Los Angeles), [RW] T.J. Oshie (Trade with St. Louis)
  • Key Departures: [RW] Eric Fehr (Free Agent signed by Pittsburgh), [RW] Joel Ward (Free Agent signed by San Jose), [LW] Troy Brower (Trade with St. Louis)

The trade in Pittsburgh overshadowed the huge pickups that the Caps made this offseason.  A team that has been known to crumble in game sevens added “Mr. Game 7” himself, Justin Williams, a three-time Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe winner.  The Caps also added T.J. “Sochi” to play along side Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

The Capitals have great depth overall as well as Braden Holtby, who just came off of an incredible season in net.  While having an incredible top 6, they have what Pittsburgh lacks in depth to make a very dangerous and well-balanced team.  The Caps will be looking to get over the hump of the second round after dropping a 3-1 lead to the Rangers and finally get to the conference Finals.

Prediction: The Caps arguably have the best team on paper in this division.  If Ovi can continue his streak of scoring over 50 goals, it’s very tough to see this team missing the playoffs.  If Oshie and Williams gel with their respective lines, the Caps will be towards the top of the power rankings all season.

 

The Good

  • The Metropolitan will be the favorite to represent the East in the Stanley Cup Finals
  • Pittsburgh and Washington made big trades to have what will be the two highest scoring Top 6 in the league
  • Intense competition with some very big rivalries in this division

The Bad

  • The Hurricanes will probably stay irrelevant this year.
  • The Blue Jackets might be passive-aggressive to stay healthy

The Ugly

  • New Jersey is looking like they will ride the bottom of the standings since most of their players go to sleep at 5pm

 

 

Categories

Featured, NHL

Mike Ziegler View All

Hockey and Lacrosse writer for International Sports Hub

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