Also in the Metropolitan division, the playoff grapes in the Eastern Conference hang very high. Nevertheless, three challengers do not have unjustified hopes. A preview…
Two prominent actors in a new guise: Paul Stastny (left) in Carolina, Johnny Gaudreau in Columbus.
East Coast Storm Alert: The Hurricanes are in attack mode and are increasingly among the inner circle of title contenders. It is true that two not insignificant players, offensive defenseman Tony DeAngelo (to Philadelphia) and Nino Niederreiter (Nashville), left in the summer. But the bottom line is that the team from Raleigh even gained depth and experience: In addition to Brent Burns (37), Paul Stastny (36), Ondrej Kase (26) and the strikers Max Pacioretty (33) and Dylan Coghlan (24) also came . However, Pacioretty will be out until the new year due to a torn Achilles tendon. Nevertheless: Carolina is not only to be expected when it comes to division titles in 2022/23.
New York Rangers
What is true of Carolina is similarly true of the “Broadway Blue Shirts”. However, the Rangers’ blood flow was a little greater than that of the Hurricanes: With Andrew Copp (Detroit), Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano (both Anaheim), New York lost three important attackers from the middle storm lines. The number two goaltender, Alexander Georgiev, moved to the champion Colorado – and the talented Swede Nils Lundkvist, who was forced out of the team by Braden Schneider, was transferred to the Dallas Stars at his own request (for a high draft right) . Even though Vincent Trocheck, a very solid player, was brought in as the number two center and Vitali Kravtsov is now supposed to start in the NHL after a year in the KHL, the Rangers have lost some of their substance. The play-off qualification should still be just a matter of form.
Above all, but not only in goal, the Capitals got an overhaul in the summer: the time of the two homegrown players Ilya Samsonov (after Toronto) and Vitek Vanecek (New Jersey) is over. Instead, champion goaltender Darcy Kuemper (32) came from Colorado, with Charlie Lindgren (28) as the new number two. While Erik Gustafsson (30), a pure offensive specialist, was appointed to the defense, general manager Brian MacLellan surprised with the signing of Dylan Strome (25) and Connor Brown (28), who are mainly replacements for Nicklas Bäckström (hip surgery). is. ) and Tom Wilson (cruciate ligament rupture). Marcus Johansson, 31, was also brought back for depth. If Bäckström and Wilson return to their former strengths from serious injuries, playoffs should once again not be a problem.
Unlike in Washington, the Penguins turned their defense a little upside down. Jeff Petry (34), two-time Stanley Cup winner Jan Rutta (32) and the talented Ty Smith (22) came. Justin Schultz (Seattle), John Marino (New Jersey) and Michael Matheson (Montreal) went in return. In attack, it was possible to keep Rickard Rakell, who was signed before the deadline in 2021/22, for the long term, but for this reason Evan Rodrigues (went to Colorado), who played strongly in 2021/22, had to leave go. The Crosby/Malkin/Letang trio still stands for quality, but whether the more cosmetic roster changes will make Pittsburgh a title contender again seems questionable.
THE PLAY-OFF CANDIDATES
New York Islanders
After two semi-finals in a row, the Islanders surprisingly missed out on the play-offs, but were unlucky in 2021/22 with injuries, Corona and a particularly tight schedule. With an almost identical squad but a new head coach – Lane Lambert replaces longtime boss Barrydiot – hopes of a return to the playoffs are now in sight – with a slightly rejuvenated and more mobile defense as Alexander Romanov (22) steps up . in the only notable summer transfer from Montreal. Veteran Zdeno Chara, on the other hand, ended his unique career. The Islanders still lack the real big attacking power, but a playoff return from the well-coached team still seems very possible.
New Jersey Devils
The young Devils strengthened themselves in the summer. Goalkeeper Vanecek (26) came into the goal as an alternative to Mackenzie Blackwood. Defensively, Marino, 25, should bring additional stability. On offense came Ondrej Palat (31), a versatile striker with a Stanley Cup resume from Tampa. Erik Haula (31), who was signed in exchange for Pavel Zacha from Boston, is also versatile and experienced. With the new purchases, the very talented and still young team in key positions (Hischier, Hughes, Bratt etc.) gained more depth and experience. A playoff return is getting closer.
Columbus Blue Jackets
With the sensational signing of Johnny Gaudreau (29), a new era dawns in Columbus. For a few days, the headlines of the NHL summer 2022 belonged almost exclusively to the Ohio club, which finally wants to shed its gray mouse image. With Oliver Björkstrand (Seattle), Max Domi (Chicago) and French international Alexandre Texier (surprisingly signed for a year in Switzerland), talented forwards have also left. Nevertheless: Gaudreau gives the Blues Jackets a boost in quality, which at least makes the road to the playoffs seem more realistic than before.
The Flyers are undergoing a change in personnel. Claude Giroux (via Florida to Ottawa) has been history since February. They didn’t even compete for prominent newcomers like Gaudreau, who hails from the region. Center Sean Couturier (intervertebral disc) could be out again for a long time, defender Ryan Ellis will even be absent for the entire season. With John Tortorella, an experienced coach should learn the proper structure and discipline for rebuilding. However, more than a few notable successes would be a surprise in 2022/23.
Preview: Atlantic Division