The 2022-23 NHL season won’t begin for another two months, but the majority of offseason moves have already been made. Other than a few last-minute depth signings and the fate of Nazem Kadri, we now have a clear idea of what each roster will look like this season. An offseason is evaluated based on an organization’s execution of a strategy that helps the team improve on the ice in 2022-23 and in future seasons.
A+: Columbus Blue Jackets
General manager (GM) Jarmo Kekäläinen acknowledged the unforgiving nature of the NHL and refused to sit around through a long-term rebuild while traditional powerhouses dominate the Metropolitan Division. The landmark signing of Johnny Gaudreau announced Columbus as an NHL destination, and the former Calgary Flame will team up with Patrik Laine for a lethal complement on the top line next season. The cost of doing business was Oliver Bjorkstrand, but a team that needed major additions to compete with the league’s best had to be willing to withstand the casualty.
A: Detroit Red Wings
Steve Yzerman is finally loading up in his fourth season back in Detroit. The “Yzerplan” included handing out contracts to Ben Chiarot, Andrew Copp, and David Perron, three players who have made headlines in recent Stanley Cup Playoffs, heading into the first year under head coach Derek Lalonde. The acquisition of Ville Husso will complement Alex Nedeljkovic in a goaltending tandem.
The organization was due to upgrade from departures Danny DeKeyser, Sam Gagner, and Marc Staal. Depth additions Dominik Kubalik, Olli Maatta, and Robert Hägg will slot into manageable roles. One year after the Eastern Conference playoff race was historically uncompetitive, the Red Wings have as good of a chance as any team to steal a playoff spot from the eight that qualified last year. Detroit has been irrelevant to the NHL landscape long enough.
A: Ottawa Senators
The acquisitions of Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux made the Senators one of the big winners of the offseason. The young talent assembled in recent seasons like Tim Stützle, Brady Tkachuk, and Thomas Chabot will now have a better chance to develop on an even playing field with their opponents. Veteran goaltender Cam Talbot provides an upgrade over Matt Murray, and the Senators have announced a new era and finally established themselves as formidable competition to be taken seriously against the traditional powers of the Atlantic Division.
A-: Los Angeles Kings
The Kings transitioned into a new era in 2021-22 with the help of newcomer Phillip Danault and a breakout season from Adrian Kempe. The addition of Kevin Fiala to the top line could help them take another step beyond just a team who snuck into the playoffs in a weak division. The move to bring in a point-per-game player from the Minnesota Wild cost them their first-round pick, but the forfeiture and the retirement of Dustin Brown are minimal setbacks in an otherwise hopeful situation in Los Angeles.
A-: Seattle Kraken
The Kraken caused hockey fans everywhere to scratch their heads last summer. Their lack of aggressive moves in the expansion draft burned them in a rough first season, but GM Ron Francis will hope his patience pays off this year. He added André Burakovsky, who finished with 61 points in the regular season in 2021-22, to a team whose leading scorer Jared McCann only notched 50 points. The acquisition of Bjorkstrand, who totaled 57 points last season, for minimal draft compensation indicates a more active strategy in the second season in Seattle.
Matty Beniers showed promise with nine points in 10 NHL games last season, and the Kraken might ultimately have stumbled onto the biggest steal of the draft in 2022 when Shane Wright slipped to the fourth spot. If the two youngsters can contribute to a more balanced lineup, goaltender Philipp Grubauer might not be exposed as painfully as he was in 2021-22. While there’s still work to be done, Francis lands just below the top GMs this summer.
B+: Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes lost key pieces Vincent Trochek, Nino Niederreiter, and Tony DeAngelo from a team that finished first in the Metropolitan Division in 2021-22. However, the organization has proven its ability to survive major turnover. Just look at the loss of Nedeljkovic last offseason and the flawless transition to Frederik Andersen in between the pipes.
When the offseason shuffle looked like it wouldn’t favor Carolina, GM Don Waddell creatively maneuvered back into the conversation as a division favorite by acquiring Brent Burns for a minimal package and taking Max Pacioretty off the hands of the cap-strapped Vegas Golden Knights. The 37-year-old Burns could rejuvenate his career next to Jaccob Slavin to an even greater extent than DeAngelo did in 2021-22. The acquisition of a proven goal-scorer in Pacioretty helps offset the key losses up front. The impressive swindle also landed the Hurricanes with depth pieces Dylan Coghlan and Ondrej Kase for a team with a wide-open Stanley Cup window.
B+: Montreal Canadiens
First-overall pick Juraj Slafkovský will likely begin the 2022-23 season in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), but the addition of 21-year-old Kirby Dach provides young talent ready to make the jump to the NHL. Mike Matheson and Evgenii Dadonov will also help stabilize the franchise after arguably its worst season in over a century of existence. Jeff Gorton’s attempt to resurrect the Habs had to include some casualties, and the losses of Jeff Petry and Alexander Romanov won’t devastate a franchise with eyes on contending after 2022-23.
B+: Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks retained Bruce Boudreau and held onto J.T Miller after long periods of speculation that both would be out the door. They decided to forego any splashy offseason signings in favor of the confidence that resetting after their disastrous start to 2021-22 could lead to a better future. After Boudreau stepped behind the bench on Dec. 5, Vancouver had the second-best point percentage of all Pacific teams (from The Athletic, “Bruce Boudreau to return as Canucks head coach for 2022-23 season,” 5/13/22). The additions of Ilya Mikheyev and Curtis Lazar will help them back into playoff contention. Jonathan Lekkerimäki was also an excellent first-round pick, while the Canucks oddly found another Elias Pettersson in the third round.
B+: Nashville Predators
David Poile addressed priority number one this offseason in Nashville by locking up Filip Forsberg to an eight-year contract after the 27-year-old’s career year in 2021-22. They added Niederreiter to an affordable contract and an aging Ryan McDonagh to an organization that utilizes defensemen better than anyone. The losses of Nick Cousins, Matt Benning, and Luke Kunin will be withstandable.
Nashville should be encouraged just over a year removed from conversations about Poile selling off all veterans to start a long-term rebuild. Their draft results didn’t necessarily suffer after putting a competitive product on the ice either, as 5-foot-9 Finnish winger Joakim Kemell fell into their laps at 17th overall after some draft analysts projected him as high as the top five.
B+: Dallas Stars
The Stars hired retread Peter DeBoer and passed on splashy offseason moves with hopes that Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz can continue their development into core pieces and take the torch from Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. The loss of John Klingberg was the toughest part of their offseason. Although the gifted puck-moving defenseman won’t be replaced easily, Elliotte Friedman of SportsNet called Colin Miller an “interesting bet” as a low-cost replacement. The Stars also signed Mason Marchment at a $4.5 million average annual value (AAV) after an excellent season as a depth scorer for the Florida Panthers.
B: Calgary Flames
The Flames have made the headlines as much as any NHL team this offseason, for better or for worse. The situation in Calgary started to look like a nightmare when news broke that Matthew Tkachuk would be traded after Gaudreau had already signed with the Blue Jackets. To make matters worse, the organization had only made three picks at the draft.
GM Brad Treliving impressively put out the fire of losing two players in a month’s span who both scored over 100 points last season by sending Tkachuk for an excellent return that included MacKenzie Weegar and Jonathan Huberdeau. Head coach Darryl Sutter hopes that Huberdeau and Tyler Toffoli can sandwich Elias Lindholm on the first line and make up for the lost production while the addition of depth piece Kevin Rooney can help stabilize the bottom six.
B: Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay attempted to keep its championship core in place with eight-year extensions for Mikhail Segachev, Anthony Cirelli, and Erik Černák. The true mark of a franchise that can sustain long periods of success is the ability to plug in pieces to offset the inevitable losses of key players. Will Julien BriseBois continue to be able to adequately replace Ondrej Palat, Ryan McDonagh, and Jan Rutta in the same way he replaced a trio of gritty third liners that walked in free agency last year? The addition of Ian Cole might fill the void of an aging McDonagh, but the return of Vladislav Namestnikov and a lottery ticket acquisition like Philippe Myers are bigger question marks. A healthy Brayden Point should help the three-time defending Eastern Conference champions.
B: Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins have made the playoffs in 16 straight seasons and picked in the first round only twice in the past eight drafts. The decision to re-sign Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Bryan Rust, and Rickard Rakell to expensive long-term contracts will continue the avoidance of father time. Pittsburgh is willing to gamble the later years of a few big contracts to maximize the remaining years of 34-year-old Sidney Crosby, but the financial investment didn’t leave much room for acquisitions outside the organization.
B: Winnipeg Jets
The bizarre carousel of NHL coaches led Rick Bowness, who stepped down from the Stars, to the Jets, who lost Paul Maurice after a midseason resignation and went to the Panthers during the offseason to replace an interim coach who became a Jack Adams Trophy finalist. The Jets used a pair of first-round picks on Rutger McGroarty and Brad Lambert and retained Pierre-Luc Dubois and Mark Scheifele amidst swirling trade rumors.
B/Incomplete: Colorado Avalanche
Kadri shattered his career high with 87 points in just 71 games in 2021-22 and added 15 points in 16 playoff games for the Stanley Cup champs. While the 31-year-old likely won’t return to Colorado, it’s impossible to evaluate the offseason for GM Joe Sakic and the Avalanche without knowing his fate. If he walks away to another team, it will compound the loss of Burakovsky and Darcy Kuemper with a third major contributor out the door. If he stays in Colorado, the offseason becomes a solid A.
The Avalanche retained Valeri Nichushkin for a slightly higher AAV than Burajovsky and brought back playoff performers Artturi Lehkonen and Andrew Cogliano. The dissipation of a team with such incredible firepower is inevitable, and only time will tell if Sakic can match the wizardry of BriseBois in Tampa Bay and keep his team in contention despite the losses.
B-: Florida Panthers
The Panthers need to reach a point past the idea of fighting as an underdog against their cross-state rivals in Tampa Bay, but their active offseason doesn’t necessarily put them in position to do that. The acquisition and subsequent extension of Matthew Tkachuk adds an excellent first-line talent to the roster, but the losses of Huberdeau and Weegar significantly disrupt the chemistry that earned them the Presidents’ Trophy in 2021-22. Elliotte Friedman summarized GM Bill Zito’s logic of withstanding one year of pain with the longview in mind.
Marchment also walked in free agency after contributing to the offensive depth that helped Florida score more goals than any team in the salary cap era last season. However, sometimes replacement depth additions can push a team with success in the regular season to another level to compete with the league’s elite teams. Zito will pray that Colin White, Marc Staal, and Nick Cousins can help a franchise that got swept out of the second round after their only postseason series victory in over a quarter century.
B-: Edmonton Oilers
GM Ken Holland addressed the most glaring hole on the roster after the Oilers went down quietly in the Western Conference Final. The addition of Jack Campbell provides a clear top option at goaltender with Mike Smith facing major injury concerns. While the losses of Duncan Keith and Zack Kassian won’t kill the level of talent on Edmonton’s roster, a potential deal moving Jesse Puljujärvi would become just one more obstacle in stacking the proper depth behind top-end talent like Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. They didn’t exactly set themselves up to solve the issue in the future either with only four picks in the draft. Peter Barrachini of The Hockey Writers called Edmonton’s choice for Reid Schaefer with the final pick of the first round a reach.
B-: St. Louis Blues
Perron and Husso left for the upstart Red Wings, a former rival before recent division realignments. The Blues will need a bounceback season from Jordan Binnington, who posted career lows in save percentage (SV%) and goals against average (GAA) in 2021-22, and consistent production from Jordan Kyrou and Pavel Buchnevic to remain in contention as their core from the 2019 Stanley Cup team begins to trickle away. After consecutive playoff exits against the clearly established division powerhouse in Colorado, the Blues need to accept the reality that an arms race might be necessary to take down the defending champs. That arms race certainly didn’t take place this summer.
C+: New Jersey Devils
After signing big-ticket free agent Dougie Hamilton last summer, the Devils passed on the lumination of Gaudreau and DeBrincat. The difficulty of the flat cap doesn’t allow teams to break the bank every year, but the acquisition of Ondrej Palat to a five-year, $30 million deal still signals an aggressive approach to climb back into contention. While the status of Šimon Nemec for 2022-23 is still undetermined, any contributions at the NHL level in 2022-23 should be considered a bonus. New Jersey’s six goaltenders finished with a -54 goals saved above expected (GSAx) in 2021-22, and the addition of Vitek Vanecek might not offset the weakness drastically enough to spark a major turnaround in just one year.
C+: New York Rangers
The Rangers proved they could do more than ride the superb play of Igor Shesterkin when they fortified their offense by acquiring Frank Vatrano and Andrew Copp ahead of the trade deadline. They let both forwards walk in free agency despite their enormous contributions to New York’s run to the Eastern Conference Final. Ryan Strome and Kevin Rooney also signed elsewhere, and uncertainty surrounding the future of Alexis Lafrenière still looms. The move to send Alexander Georgiev to the Colorado Avalanche will heighten the stakes of Shesterkin’s health and durability.
Stealing Trocheck from a division rival looks like a major net gain at a glance, but the lucrative seven-year contract signed by the 29-year-old might not look so great down the road. The Rangers advanced to the Eastern Conference Final in 2011-12 and acquired Rick Nash during the ensuing offseason. The major investment cost them valuable depth when they took a step backward in 2012-13, and they’ll need to fight history repeating itself in 2022-23.
C+: Anaheim Ducks
GM Pat Verbeek added Vatrano and Strome to avoid the full, bottom-out rebuild after the retirement of Ryan Getzlaf. While their decision not to offer Sonny Milano a contract was questionable, they hope for former third-overall pick Mason McTavish to make the jump to the NHL at some point next season. While the Ducks aren’t likely to compete for a playoff spot, they’re slowly assembling the pieces to build around Trevor Zegras and Troy Terry. The late addition of Klingberg in free agency sent a message of a more aggressive approach than expected.
C+: Minnesota Wild
The Wild re-signed 2020-21 Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury and flipped Cam Talbot to the Senators for Filip Gustavsson. Fleury will make $3.5 million in AAV on a two-year deal at age 37 coming off a poor season. They lost Fiala, a key cog on the first line that helped them score the fifth-most goals in the NHL last season. Minnesota can breathe a sigh of relief after avoiding a potentially devastating blow when Kirill Kaprizov returned to the United States last week after facing a complicated issue in world affairs.
Related: Wild Extend Marc-Andre Fleury
There is some reason for optimism in Minnesota. They came together last year and sat towards the top of the Western Conference through portions of 2021-22. Peter Baracchini even said that they had the “best draft out of all the playoff teams” with the selection of Swedish winger Liam Öhgren with the 19th pick and Danila Yurov with the 24th pick. However, their offensive struggles in the postseason left them with nothing to show for the strong season facing an uphill battle in a Central Division dominated by the Avalanche with no tangible upgrades in the offseason.
C+: Washington Capitals
The interchangeable tandem of Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov didn’t benefit the Capitals in recent playoff runs. The acquisition of reigning Stanley Cup champion Darcy Kuemper gives them their most formidable goaltender since Braden Holtby circa 2018. The careers of Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin continue to align similarly, but Wahington will hope that injuries to Nicklas Bäckström and Tom Wilson don’t come back to bite them. The additions of Dylan Strome and Connor Brown could help keep them afloat while Bäckström and Wilson are sidelined to begin the season, but the Capitals simply don’t look as threatening as they did four years ago.
C: Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs seemingly lost the goaltending shuffle of the 2022 offseason. GM Kyle Dubas moved out of the first round of the draft to shed the undesirable contract of Petr Mrázek. He recouped some of the draft capital by taking on Matt Murray, but is a tandem with Murray and Samsonov really going to offset the loss of Campbell? If the pressure turns up in Toronto, don’t count out wild card Erik Källgren getting his shot in the crease.
The real grade for the Maple Leafs is incomplete because offseason moves simply pale in comparison to what happens in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Adding Nicolas Aube-Kubel or Jordie Benn won’t take enough attention from the elephant in the room for a franchise with arguably the most scrutinized drought of playoff success in NHL history.
C: San Jose Sharks
New GM Mike Grier and new head coach David Quinn won’t get to work with Burns after 11 seasons as one of the best players in franchise history. They drafted high-upside prospects Filip Bystedt, Cameron Lund, and Mattias Hävelid and added inspirational story Oskar Lindblom to the NHL roster. However, the Sharks might be more likely to move out additional veterans behind Burns in March than to compete for a playoff spot in 2022-23.
C-: New York Islanders
Lou Lamoriello’s long track record of success an an NHL GM is the only reason for the benefit of the doubt for the decision to fire Barry Trotz after a tumultuous season for the Islanders. The future belongs to Lane Lambert, but the rookie head coach won’t have much new firepower on a roster that finished 22nd in scoring last season. The future of the blue line became a major priority for the Islanders this offseason. They selected Calle Odelius and Isaiah George in the draft and sent the 13th-overall pick to Montreal for Alexander Romanov. They will need to officially secure the future of 22-year-old puck-mover Noah Dobson as the big piece.
C-: Boston Bruins
The decision to fire Bruce Cassidy leaves the Bruins with even more uncertainty than they already had with an aging core of franchise heroes who don’t sit in the best positions to play at their career peaks in 2022-23. Patrice Bergeron will return on a one-year deal, and a possible return of David Krejčí after a year overseas seems like a stretch for a team desperate to keep a remarkable 15-year period in franchise history alive. Injuries to Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk won’t help new head coach Jim Montgomery hit the ground running.
C-: Buffalo Sabres
The Senators and the Red Wings acknowledged the need to be aggressive if there is any hope of matching up against the four returning playoff teams from the Atlantic Division, and the Canadiens took smaller steps forward. The Sabres did not. The improvement of Tage Thompson and Rasmus Dahlin and the promise of Owen Power in 2021-22 will not progress tangibly in 2022-23 with only minor additions like Ilya Lyubushkin and goaltender Eric Comrie.
D: Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas impulsively fired Peter DeBoer after missing the postseason for the first time in franchise history. Pacioretty, Mark Stone, William Karlsson, Jack Eichel, and Robin Lehner were among core contributors who missed significant time in 2021-22, but perhaps the hope is that new head coach Bruce Cassidy can help guide them into a new era after major roster turnover. The losses of Pacioretty, Coghlan, Dadonov, and Mattias Janmark point to serious salary cap concerns and the possibility of trouble finally finding its way to paradise after five seasons.
D-: Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers began the offseason by hiring firebrand John Tortorella to restore an attitude lost in recent seasons and selected Cutter Gauthier with the fifth-overall pick to inspire optimism about a prospect with tremendous upside. However, their roster decisions dramatically damaged expectations because of major inconsistencies. GM Chuck Fletcher has invested exorbitant resources trying to improve a blue line that still doesn’t look particularly threatening, and his questionable investments all around destroyed salary cap flexibility and made it unreasonably difficult to acquire Gaudreau or any other first-line caliber player who would’ve considered a move to Philadelphia.
F: Arizona Coyotes
The selection of Logan Cooley provides one reason for optimism in Arizona, but the third-overall pick will spend next season at the University of Minnesota in front of home crowds about twice the size of the home arena of the NHL’s most battered organization. The willingness to take another castoff contract like Zack Kassian won’t mean anything if the draft compensation that came with him is used by an organization that doesn’t make a serious effort to compete. If veteran Phil Kessel leaves in free agency, the idea of underdogs who aren’t being taken seriously will be about the only thing the Coyotes can rally around.
F: Chicago Blackhawks
The idea of a rebuild as big as the one Kyle Davidson is planning exists on the premise that an estimated period of five years without realistic hopes for contention might produce enough talent to reenter the discussion as contenders. The strategy hurts the NHL product and puts a bad look on an Original Six franchise that has fallen hard off the ice already.
Dach and Debrincat had the potential to be building blocks for the future. Davidson’s focus should’ve been finding a way to make things work with the organization’s most talented young players, but a commitment to earning a higher draft pick in 2023 just indicates his concern with all the wrong things. How can he expect rookie head coach Luke Richardson to succeed with the roster assembled?