In a few short weeks, training camps will begin in the NHL. The regular season is set to kick off at the beginning of October, and the Metropolitan Division will be one to watch as the season unfolds. With all eight teams making some pretty big offseason moves, anything can happen – but which teams are currently the front runners?
8. Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers are having an interesting offseason but not in a good way, as they somehow missed out on the golden opportunity to bring forward Johnny Gaudreau to Philadelphia. Gaudreau, who scored 115 points with the Calgary Flames last season, is originally from South Jersey and reportedly wanted to play for the Flyers. He probably would have even taken a pay cut to make it happen.
The Flyers could have moved James Van Riemsdyk to create cap space in order to get Gaudreau. However, much to fans’ disappointment, the Flyers seemed to let him slip right through their fingers. The team seems to lack a sense of direction and fans are blaming general manager Chuck Fletcher for it. He has been on the hot seat for a while now and could be facing unemployment depending on how his team does this season.
7. New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils have had a decent offseason making some pretty interesting trades. That includes one with the Pittsburgh Penguins for defenseman John Marino. The Devils dealt a 2023 third-round draft pick and their former first-round pick, Ty Smith, in order to acquire him. His strong skating and ability to play on the right side are two big reasons why New Jersey wanted him on their roster.
Another offseason acquisition was former Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ondrej Palat, as he signed a five-year contract with an average annual value of $6 million. He helped the Lightning win back-to-back Stanley Cups, and the Devils are excited about the experience he brings to the table. He is a strong, versatile player and should fit nicely into their lineup.
6. New York Islanders
The biggest story coming out of New York right now is Nazem Kadri and whether or not he is going to sign a contract with the team. Kadri played in 71 regular season games last year with the Colorado Avalanche and scored 87 points. During the postseason, he also scored 15 points. He would bring some much-needed firepower to the Islanders’ offense which was severely lacking last season.
The Islanders are also betting on their dynamic pair on the defensive side of the ice. Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock are two of the best defensemen in the league and together they are a threat to any team. For the past three years, Pulock has led the team in ice time averaging 21:07 a game. New York will need to remain healthy and have strong performances from their top players if they want to make the playoffs next season.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets landed one of the biggest fish of the offseason in Gaudreau. Columbus signed him to a seven-year contract with an AAV of $9.75 million. The former Calgary Flames star who is coming off a career-best season shocked pretty much everyone with this news. However, his desire has always been to be closer to his South Jersey roots.
The Blue Jackets were also able to re-sign star forward Patrik Laine to a four-year, $34.8 million contract. He was a point-per-game player last season and scored 26 goals. He can score from pretty much anywhere on the ice, and Columbus is hoping that Gaudreau will complement him perfectly. They are still not a serious playoff contender, but it will be interesting to watch how they develop this season.
4. Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals are already having bad luck in the health department, as they will be without Tom Wilson, Nicklas Backstrom and Carl Hagelin to start the season. Wilson should be back relatively quickly, but Backstrom is battling a bad hip and Hagelin is dealing with an eye injury. What these players bring to the table for Washington cannot be replaced and missing them in the lineup could end up doing serious damage to their season and playoff hopes.
However, the team is pretty excited about their new starting goalie. Darcy Kuemper, who helped the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup last season, signed a five-year deal that has an AAV of $5.25 million. They were also able to sign former Chicago Blackhawks center Dylan Strome who scored a career-high 22 goals last season. The Capitals are excited about adding some youth to the lineup with him and are hoping he rejuvenates the veteran core and helps soften the blow of missing Backstrom.
3. Carolina Hurricanes
Obviously losing Vincent Trocheck to a division rival was not what the Carolina Hurricanes had in mind for their offseason. However, they did gain former Vegas Golden Knights star Max Pacioretty and defenseman Brent Burns. Pacioretty played in 39 games last season and had a total of 37 points. Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, they will have to wait to see how the star forward fits into their lineup, as he will be out for at least six months due to surgery. Burns, who was with the San Jose Sharks last season, can definitely be classified as an elite defensive player. He played in 82 games last season and scored 10 goals and 54 points. He also averaged a little over 26 minutes per game. He will bring not only physicality but experience to the Hurricanes’ blue line.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins had a quiet start to the offseason, but once the month of July hit, it was nothing but business. They re-signed Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Bryan Rust, keeping the old core together. They also brought back forward Rickard Rakell and revamped their blue line adding Ty Smith and Jeff Petry.
Smith played in 66 games last season with the New Jersey Devils and scored five goals and recorded 15 assists. His versatility is something the Penguins are excited about fitting into the rotation. Petry has spent the last eight seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, and the Penguins believe his heavy shot will be an asset on the power play, an area they desperately need to improve in. If Tristan Jarry, the Penguins starting goalie, can stay healthy, they have the potential to be a real threat in the division.
1. New York Rangers
The New York Rangers claimed perhaps the biggest prize of the offseason in Trocheck. He skated in 81 games last season for the Hurricanes and recorded 21 goals and 51 points. When you combine his talent with the likes of Mika Zibanejad and Alexis Lafreniere and throw in Igor Shesterkin in goal, the outcome looks promising. The Rangers will more than likely win the division, however, the Penguins and Hurricanes will definitely be making them work for it.
These eight teams have all had an interesting offseason thus far. There is little to no question about who sits on top of the division, however, there will be no lack of competition in the Metro throughout 2022-23.
My name is Sylvie McCarthy and I am a graduate of the University of North Florida. I have spent time as a sports writer for the Casper Star Tribune in Casper, Wyoming and the Picayune Item in Picayune, Mississippi. Sports is my passion, and I am so excited to be writing for The Hockey Writers where I will be covering the Pittsburgh Penguins.