The National Hockey League will begin its 106th season this week, with a number of clubs looking to unseat the Colorado Avalanche after their Stanley Cup victory earlier last June, while others are preparing to make a run at getting the best odds to select presumptive first overall pick, Connor Bedard. With the NHL salary cap going up only $1 million, many clubs had to make difficult roster decisions. Nearly half the league is currently over the $82.5 million limit and will be using LTIR (long-term injured reserve) to get under the cap, while budget clubs used their cap space to add draft capital.
Here is the preview of an aging contender hoping to make the playoffs for one more shot at a championship and a Western Conference squad looking to find themselves after struggling last season:
Washington Capitals (44-26-12 – 4th place in the Metropolitan Division – Lost to Florida Panthers in the First Round)
Who’s Out – Vitek Vanecek, Ilya Samsonov, Justin Schultz, Daniel Sprong, Brett Leason, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby
Who’s In – Darcy Kuemper, Dylan Strome, Connor Brown, Erik Gustafsson
The Capitals offseason featured a wholesale cleaning of their goaltending and reinforcing up the middle in the wake of Nicklas Backstrom’s career-threatening hip surgery. After not qualifying Samsonov and swapping Vanecek to New Jersey for a pair of draft picks, they signed Cup-winning free agent Kuemper to a five-year, $26.25 million deal and former Canadien Lindgren as a backup for three years. Strome was not offered a qualifier by Chicago and signed a one-year, $3.5 million free-agent deal, and Brown was acquired from Ottawa for a 2024 second-rounder after a subpar 10-goal season.
2022-23 Potential impact prospects
C – Hendrix Lapierre
Lapierre was given a six-game NHL tryout last season and after being returned to junior, the 20-year-old scored 51 points in 40 QMJHL games. Alexeyev is a big Russian defenseman who scored 19 points in 68 games with Hershey(AHL) and earned an NHL callup last season. Miroshnichenko was selected 20th overall at the 2022 Draft even after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma last year, but the 18-year-old has had a favorable diagnosis and may resume playing in the KHL soon.
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Winnipeg Jets (39-32-11 – 6th place in the Central Division)
Who’s Out – Paul Stastny, Evgeni Svechnikov, Eric Comrie
Who’s In – Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Sam Gagner, Kyle Capobianco, David Rittich
The Jets were possibly the most disappointing team last season, as they struggled to find their way, saw head coach Paul Maurice resign during the season, and were hampered by bad locker room chemistry, which resulted in a sixth-place finish behind Dallas and Nashville in the Central. Instead of opting for significant roster changes, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff brought in veteran coach Rick Bowness in hopes of generating getting more out of a talented but disorganized group. The only significant change was the loss of Stastny to Carolina in free agency, and Rittich replacing Comrie as start Connor Hellebuyck’s backup.
2022-23 Potential impact prospects
C – Cole Perfetti
D – Dylan Samberg
D – Ville Heinola
Perfetti benefitted from playing with the AHL Moose as a 19-year-old with the Ontario Hockey League shut down due to COVID in 2021, and split time between Manitoba and the Jets last season. Samberg played three seasons at Minnesota-Duluth and is expected to push for more playing time after 15 games with Winnipeg. Heinola was a 2019 first-round pick and after scoring 26 points in 41 games in Manitoba got called up twice in the second half last season.
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