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Senators and Red Wings improved, but still may miss playoffs again

July 26, 2022, 6:05 PM ET [30 Comments]
Kevin Allen
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The field is not set for the 2022-23 NHL season. Nazem Kadri hasn't yet found a home. John Klingberg is still a free agent. A handful of teams are still trying to trade players, although no one seems to getting anywhere.

But most of the dealing is done. Probably 90% or more.

With that in mind, here is a ranking of the teams that have helped themselves the most:

1. Ottawa Senators

GM Pierre Dorion may be the MVP of the offseason. With the addition of Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux, the Senators now have a top six forward group that rivals the top six groups on many top contenders. Dorion also solidified the goaltending by acquiring Cam Talbot from the Minnesota Wild.

Work still needs to be done to improve the Ottawa depth and strengthen the defense, but the top teams in the Atlantic lost some key players. Plus, the Boston Bruins could start the season with Charlie McAvoy and Brad Marchand recovering from injuries.

The Senators have younger players, such as Tim Stutzle, Jake Sanderson, Alex Formenton and Shane Pinto, who will also continue to improve this season.

If any of last season's Atlantic playoff teams falter, the Senators are getting closer to being ready to challenge. The Senators still have more than $10 million cap space.

2. Detroit Red Wings

GM Steve Yzerman signed seven free agents and traded for goalie Ville Husso. He added a new No. 2 center (Andrew Copp), a player to help the power play (David Perron), four new defensemen (Ben Chiarot, Olli Maatta, Robert Hagg and Mark Pysyk) and a one-time 31-goal scorer (Dominik Kubalik). Pysyk is out 4-6 months with an Achilles tear.

It's hard to know exactly how much better the Red Wings will be, but it is clear this will be an improved team.

The Red Wings also have a new coach (Derek Lalonde), plus there's an expectation that prize rookie defenseman Simon Edvinsson will make the team. The Red Wings hope he helps the team as much as Moritz Seider did last season. Edvinsson has grown since his draft year. He's now just a shade above 6-foot-6.

Like the Senators, the Red Wings will probably fall short of making the playoffs, but seem much closer than they were a year ago.

3. Los Angeles Kings

The Kings' ranking is based solely on the acquisition of Kevin Fiala. The Kings ranked 20th out of 32 NHL teams in scoring in 2021-22. Fiala is a 25-year-old Swiss forward who scored 33 goals last season for the Wild.

Giving up a first-round pick and a prospect (Brock Faber) seems like an acceptable price for a scorer in the prime of his career who scored 76 goals over the past three season.

Fiala totaled 85 points last season. The Kings are starting to infuse a quality collection of young players into their lineup. But Fiala will give the team its biggest boost.

4. Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets probably helped the team's reputation as much as their offense by signing Johnny Gaudreau.

Let's face it: the Blue Jackets were perceived as a team that can't retain their top players. Artemi Panarin. Sergei Bobrovsky. Seth Jones. Pierre-Luc Dubois. Some high profile players made it clear they didn't want to stay in Columbus.

Gaudreau was a hot property in the free agent marketplace, and he chose the Blue Jackets. This doesn't transform the Blue Jackets into a contender, but it makes them far more dangerous offensively.

More importantly, it says the Blue Jackets can be a destination for some free agents.

5. Carolina Hurricanes

The addition of Brent Burns adds another layer of discomfort for opponents trying to get through the Hurricanes' defense. He's a big man who can still deliver offensively and defensively.

GM Don Waddell also picked up Max Pacioretty for literally nothing. Pacioretty has scored 30 or more goals six times in his career. Last season, Pacioretty netted 19 goals and registered 37 points in 39 games last season. They also picked up forward Ondrej Kase and defenseman Dylan Coghlan, both of whom add to their depth.

6. Nashville Predators

GM David Poile's moves were strategic in impact. He wanted a second-pairing defenseman to stabilize the defense and take pressure off Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm. He needed a goal scorer with a reasonable price tag

He traded for Ryan McDonagh, one of the league's top shutdown defensemen and he brought in proven goal scorer Nino Niederreiter at $4 million per season.

Poile's best work was persuading Filip Forsberg to stay. He took a chance by letting Forsberg get close to free agency. Some critics believe he would lose him, but he didn't. Forsberg may feel like an acquisition even though he's a long-time Predator.

7. Seattle Kraken

It's hard not to pat Ron Francis on the back for his work this summer. He landed 22-goal scorer Andrei Burakovsky in free agency. He came from the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.

The Kraken may have slightly overpaid, $5.5 million per season over five seasons, but Burakovsky, 27, is in the prime of his career.

The better bargain was the securing of Oliver Bjorkstrand from the Blue Jackets for third- and fourth-round draft picks. He's 27 and scored 28 goals last season. The Kraken also picked up puck-moving defenseman Justin Schultz. He can help move the puck to the new forwards.

8. New Jersey Devils

GM Tom Fitzgerald helped his forward group by signing Ondrej Palat and Erik Haula, his defense by picking up John Marino and Brendan Smith and his goaltending by bringing in Vitek Vanecek.

He wanted to do more. He tried to get Gaudreau, made a good pitch, but Gaudreau had other ideas.

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