As the NHL heads into the offseason, the teams are all looking at what they can do to improve their chances of success and competitiveness heading into the 2017-18 season. With that in mind, here are some keys to the offseason for NHL teams, including draft, free-agent, and trade acquisitions.

Twenty-eight NHL teams enter the summer with a variety of goals. There are teams that are looking to improve, teams that are trying to lock up their roster for another year, and others that have nothing to play for.  Here is the initial list of NHL teams that are trying to improve this offseason.

The 2016 NHL offseason is upon us, and for the most part, it’s a time to prepare for the next year’s campaign. For the teams in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, the focus is to do what they can to get better, and, of course, to do whatever they can to defend their Stanley Cup titles. For the NHL teams that didn’t make the playoffs, the offseason is a time to look at the future, and see the players already in place and the prospects that will be joining them.. Read more about nhl game log and let us know what you think.The 2021 NHL season was — hopefully — the most unique campaign that any of us will witness. Arenas had reduced numbers of fans — or no fans — and as a result of the U.S.-Canada border being closed, the divisions had to be realigned to sequester the Canadian teams; that decision led to the league adopting intradivisional play throughout the regular season (and the first two rounds of the playoffs).

With all 16 playoff teams having clinched their spots, it’s time to look ahead to the offseason for those who didn’t make the cut. As with everything that happened in the NHL world during the past year-plus, this summer’s transactions might be different from many that have happened before. And oh yeah, there’s a 32nd team entering the league — the Seattle Kraken — who will have a chance to select one player from 30 others during the expansion draft in July (the Vegas Golden Knights are exempt, having just joined the league in 2017-18).

So read on for a look at what went wrong for each eliminated team, a breakdown of its biggest keys this offseason and realistic expectations for it in 2021-22.

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Note: Profiles for the East and Central Division teams are by Emily Kaplan, and the West and North Division profiles are courtesy of Greg Wyshynski.

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The Caps adjusted to Laviolette’s new system — which is predicated on puck possession, and getting plenty of pucks on net — but were held back by off-ice obstacles. It began when Henrik Lundqvist (whom the team signed as veteran insurance in net) was ruled out for the season because of a previously undetected heart condition. The Caps also lost Alex Ovechkin and three others because of COVID-19 protocol violations in January. Some of those same players (goalie Ilya Samsonov, center Evgeny Kuznetsov) would return to the protocol list later in the season.

Injuries also became an issue, and lingered through the first round. Perhaps some players were still banged up, which could explain why the Bruins looked like the faster and hungrier team. Washington did make strides on the ice and was a dominant regular-season team. But there’s a sadly familiar feeling as the team is packing up after a first-round exit for the third straight postseason.

Keys to the offseason

An extension for Alex Ovechkin. The captain is due for a new contract, and there’s not much doubt on how this is going to play out. Washington is going to get it done, the question now is: How much will it cost, and on what terms will the sides agree? Five years? Three? Would he be comfortable playing on a one-year deal? Ovechkin is coming off a 13-year, $124 million contract, which has aged extremely well.

According to sources, Ovechkin’s initial ask was for around $12.5 million per year in the new pact, but that was before the pandemic. In a new economic climate, in which the salary cap is remaining flat for the foreseeable future, the Caps might have budgeted for less. But make no mistake, Ovechkin will play in Washington next season. As owner Ted Leonsis told The Athletic last month: “Alex knows that if he plays five more years, 10 more years, whatever it is, we’ve got his back.”

A potential shakeup? The Caps will do some soul searching after they hired a new (and-high priced) coach but received the exact same results. Washington might need to clear some cap space for Ovechkin’s contract — or perhaps it will just do some general reshuffling. There’s a sense around the league the Capitals are getting frustrated with first-line center Evgeny Kuznetsov. The 29-year-old carries a $7.8 million annual cap hit through 2024-25. Could Washington find a change-of-scenery trade, like the one GM Brian MacLellan engineered for Jakub Vrana earlier this season? Kuznetsov has some agency in the situation, as his contract stipulates for a 15-team no-trade list.

Embrace a mini youth movement. The Caps are one of the oldest teams in the league, and that translates to veteran experience. But they also might need to start retooling on the fly, to make the most out of Ovechkin’s final years with the franchise (entry-level contracts are quite kind to a team pressed up against the salary cap). Connor McMichael, the Caps’ 2019 first-round pick, should get a good look to make the team next season. McMichael, 20, led the AHL in scoring eight-game winning goals for the Hershey Bears in 2021 (and 14 goals in 33 games overall).

Realistic expectations for 2021-22

Serious Cup contender. The Capitals might have stumbled through the first round yet again, but this is also true: As long as Ovechkin is around, Washington is going for it. And there’s already a very talented team around him, albeit one that could use an infusion of youth. As Leonsis said last month, “Our commitment to [Ovechkin] is to continue to have great teams. We’ll spend to the cap, we’ll try to win championships. And that’s what he’s focused on because that will be his legacy.”

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The Blues were good for stretches — notably a seven-game point streak in March and taking points in eight of nine games to end the season — but for the most part lacked the swagger and identity that defined them under coach Craig Berube. He called them “fragile” multiple times this season. When goalie Jordan Binnington is trying to goad opponents into fights to spark his team, it’s hard not to think there’s something malfunctioning here.

After last postseason, general manager Doug Armstrong said that 20% of his players had COVID-19 before they went to the bubble last summer, and he explained it was a factor in them losing to the Vancouver Canucks. The coronavirus impacted the Blues again this postseason, as leading scorer David Perron (58 points in 56 games) was in the league’s COVID-19 protocols for their series against the Colorado Avalanche. But ultimately, what went wrong could be simply drawing the Avalanche in the first round, as Colorado exerted its will against a lesser opponent.

Keys to the offseason

Roster refresh. The Blues could look very different next season at the forward spot. Schwartz is an unrestricted free agent, although the team has expressed a desire to keep him. Forwards Bozak and Mike Hoffman are unrestricted free agents, as is defenseman Gunnarsson. Center Thomas, forward Zach Sanford, defenseman Vince Dunn and this season’s breakout star Jordan Kyrou (35 points) are among the team’s restricted free agents. Does Armstrong look at this pandemic season as an anomaly due to its odd structure and the team’s numerous injuries? Or does he get aggressive in refreshing the roster? (One place the roster will undoubtedly be refreshed is in goal, where Ville Husso was not ready to back up Binnington.)

Ponder Craig Berube’s future. Berube, the coach who helped turn around the Blues’ season in 2019 en route to their first Stanley Cup, has gotten diminishing returns since then. Obviously, there are other factors at play here, as the past two seasons were impacted by the pandemic and his Blues teams struggled through injuries. But the lack of intensity and execution are not what you expect from Berube-coached teams. There seemed to be focus issues too: The Blues were plus-8 in goals in the first period and minus-11 in the second period. Berube is signed through the end of next season.

Prepare for the expansion draft. Perron also is signed through next season. He has seen this movie before: Perron had one year left when the Blues left him exposed in the Vegas expansion draft, and he had a career year in their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018. One year later, he was back in St. Louis. This time around, he has likely played his way onto the protected list for St. Louis.

Among the Blues who could be available for the Seattle Kraken: Schwartz, Blais, Barbashev, defenseman Marco Scandella and Dunn. Given his status in the Blues’ lineup, his RFA status and his puck-moving prowess, it’s widely assumed that Dunn is done in St. Louis. But if the Blues wanted to really make things interesting and they don’t believe he can ever be what he was again … would they dare leave Tarasenko (signed through 2022-23, $7.5 million AAV) unprotected?

Realistic expectations for 2021-22

Tough playoff out. There’s a lot to like about this Blues roster. When your starting point is Ryan O’Reilly, that’s a solid foundation Despite his critics, Binnington was 11th in goals saved above average (15.7). If Parayko is healthy, the Blues have a strong defense corps, especially with the emergence of Justin Faulk as a versatile leader this season. There are a lot of question marks and some fine-tuning that Armstrong must do in the offseason, but this group could have another run left in it.

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“I’ve been a bit upset about the ways things have been handled since I’ve been hurt,” Eichel said. “I’d be lying to say that things have moved smoothly since my injury. There’s been a bit of a disconnect between myself and the organization. It’s been tough at times. Right now, for me, the most important thing is just trying to get healthy, figure out a way to be available to play hockey next year, wherever that might be.”

Eichel is under contract through 2025-26 (with an average annual value of $10 million) with a full no-movement clause that kicks in after next season. That means it’s time to hash things out this summer, or seriously consider trading the center — and let it be clear, there will be plenty of suitors.

Determine whether Don Granato is the guy. Granato inherited the Sabres amid an 18-game winless streak and helped turn things around for a 9-11-2 finish (pretty significant for hapless Buffalo). He got the players to buy in and helped players such as Rasmus Dahlin, Casey Mittelstadt and Tage Thompson turn things around. Here’s an endorsement from Mittelstadt: “A lot of guys, including myself, owe Donnie quite a bit. He challenged me when he took over and pushed me to become a better player. I think it’s that simple. I think a lot of the strides … made are partly because of him pushing me or a lot to do with pushing me. Obviously, we don’t know what’s going to happen, but I owe Donnie a huge thank-you.”

The Sabres have been through six coaches since 2013. Are owners Terry and Kim Pegula willing to spin the carousel yet again, or will they give this team a little stability?

Realistic expectations for 2021-22

The rebuild continues. Management tried to bandage over some problems last summer, leading many of us to believe that Buffalo was ready to take a step forward. But the team’s structural flaws were inherently exposed. The 2021 season should be all about restoring confidence into players like Dahlin who are critically important to the franchise’s success. If Eichel stays, the Sabres need to get better foundational players around him. If he goes, well, it’s going to get a lot worse before it can get better.

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Any players on the move? It’s been established that the team’s core veterans (this season, it was only Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane) have no desire to go anywhere. However, the Blackhawks can continue to shape the roster around them, especially considering they’re clearing a decent number of contracts in the next two years. To free up more flexibility, perhaps Chicago will part with Dylan Strome, who couldn’t earn the coaches’ trust. It would be a strategic subtraction, as Strome is coming off a down year and is due for a new contract in 2022. Ian Mitchell has struggled, so perhaps the Blackhawks will find him a new home?

Is the captain back? Before the season, the Blackhawks reported Toews was taking time away to deal with an unspecified illness that had him feeling “drained and lethargic.” Publicly, there hasn’t been much information since, but Bowman has hinted (and sources affirmed) that Toews is improving and that the Blackhawks are expecting him back for 2021-22.

Realistic expectations for 2021-22

On the playoff bubble. The Blackhawks might have been on the playoff bubble in 2021 if they had had Toews and Dach for the entire season. But now is not the time for what -ifs. For 2021-22, it will be all about taking strides, specifically with the young core coming up. For example, Philipp Kurashev was a revelation for Chicago, but it’s the Blackhawks’ job to make sure he keeps progressing. Next season will be another one of transitions in Chicago. After that, it’s crunch time for the Blackhawks to shape their future identity. Kane, Keith and Toews are all due to come off the books after 2023-24.

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Bernier has voiced a desire to come back, and given how hard the goaltender fought in 2021 — and how well he worked in tandem with Thomas Greiss at the end of the season — it makes a lot of sense. Gagner and Ryan will present tough choices for GM Steve Yzerman, who might be very active on the free-agent market.

Nailing the draft. Yzerman’s plan has been all about collecting draft picks so the team can build from the ground up. He has done well in the initial gathering phase. Detroit has 12 draft picks this season, including five in the first two rounds (the Red Wings hold the Capitals’ first-round pick and the Rangers’ and Oilers’ second-round picks).

It’s a central dilemma for the Red Wings: It’s essential for them to nail a draft like this, yet it’s one of the most challenging years for evaluation, given how many of the junior leagues have been shut down.

Make the right calls for the expansion draft. The Red Wings have some tough calls to make at the expansion draft. Of the forwards, for example, Detroit is likely able to protect only two of the following players: Adam Erne, Givani Smith, Vladislav Namestnikov and Evgeny Svechnikov. There will be tricky choices to make on defense too, but it seems clear Troy Stecher worked himself onto the protected list with a solid first season in Detroit.

Realistic expectations for 2021-22

The rebuild continues. Until Yzerman makes moves that suggest otherwise, it’s looking like yet another unmemorable season in Detroit ahead. The Red Wings hopefully will continue to improve, and could have a new voice behind the bench if the team elects to part with Jeff Blashill. But even making the playoffs would be completely unexpected in 2021-22.

A panel of NHL players, coaches, GMs and other front-office personnel ranked the best players at each position:


There are now six RFAs to sort out. Combine that with the buyout allocation (which will likely include DeAngelo this summer) and the Rangers don’t have a ton of cap space with which to work. But there is some. The Rangers aren’t in need of high-end talent, but they could use some bottom-six help, and maybe a defenseman.

Destination Eichel? The Jack Eichel saga in Buffalo isn’t going away, and it could only intensify this summer. The Rangers are going to be mentioned as front-runners, a status only amplified because Eichel’s agents were the same agents who represented new GM Chris Drury when he was a player.

Nonetheless, this would be a massive commitment for the Rangers to make, if they can lure him away. While figuring out how to work in Eichel’s $10 million cap hit through 2025-26 is plausible, a bigger priority for the Rangers should be extending Zibanejad — which could cost them more than $8 million annually.

Coaching calls. The Rangers elected to fire David Quinn, who signed a five-year deal with New York in 2018. The Rangers’ only playoff experience under Quinn was a three-game sweep in the 2020 bubble qualification round. He was in place to usher the Rangers through the rebuild and help develop young players. But entering a new phase, owner James Dolan appears to prefer a new voice. If the Rangers decide to go in-house, their AHL coach, Kris Knoblauch, is a good candidate.

Realistic expectations for 2021-22

On the playoff bubble. However, the stakes are high, as players are feeling the pressure to accelerate through this stage of the rebuild. “That message has been sent and received,” forward Ryan Strome said at his end-of-the-season news conference. “We’ve just got to get into the playoffs.”

The 2021 campaign didn’t go as planned for Elias Pettersson and the Canucks. Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire

What went wrong?

Everything. Everything went wrong.

The Canucks were expected to follow their impressive run through the Stanley Cup playoffs bubble last summer by contending in the North Division. Despite losing goalie Jacob Markstrom to free agency, they brought in Braden Holtby, and allegedly learned about the value of team defense; instead, the Canucks had the worst expected goals against at 5-on-5 (2.63 per 60 minutes) and their goaltending wasn’t always there to save them. They let Tyler Toffoli walk in free agency, assuming their offense could withstand the loss; instead, their goals-per-game average dropped from 3.25 last season to 2.64, while Toffoli scored 28 goals for Montreal.

Vancouver started the season going 8-14-2. It never recovered. Then COVID-19 hit the team and the Canucks went 24 days between games. The NHL mandated that the team finish its season, when ending it and seeding the division through points percentage would have been the humane thing to do, on several fronts. Yet the team battled on, and actually made a short-lived playoff push. There are some hopeful takeaways.

Keys to the offseason

Whither Jim Benning? Many fans are calling for the removal of the Canucks’ GM, with some having funded a plane that flew a “FIRE BENNING” banner over metro Vancouver. Is this disastrous season, after a series of personnel missteps in the past few years, a tipping point? Or will Benning, signed through the 2022-23 season, get another offseason to “fix” the Canucks?

Whither Travis Green? The Canucks coach is in his fourth season with the team and is in need of a new contract. He has missed the playoffs in three of those seasons, and the coaching staff didn’t acquit itself well when Vancouver was staggering at the start of the season. But he wants to stay with the Canucks, and there seems to be a fit there — if the money’s right.

Whither Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes? The two young pillars of the Canucks’ foundation are due new contracts this summer. Hughes can’t be given an offer sheet; Pettersson can. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of deals the two young stars sign — especially Pettersson, coming off a season limited by a “serious” upper-body injury, in the words of Green.

Realistic expectations for 2021-22

Tough playoff out. We’re believers in the Canucks and are willing to chalk up this season’s mess to a bad start, some key injuries, the COVID interruption and … well, their GM’s rather misguided offseason plan. Hopefully Green will return to help Vancouver return to being one of the NHL’s most promising young teams, and hopefully Benning — or someone else — can make the necessary changes to foster that return.The NHL offseason is a time that teams have to make decisions about which players they want to keep and which to let go. The NHL Entry Draft provides teams with a chance to improve their team through the draft and free agency.. Read more about nhl qualifying round stats and let us know what you think.

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