Biggest storylines to follow in the NHL for 2022-23 season

NHL storylines
Dec 8, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Colorado Avalanche right wing Mikko Rantanen (96) controls the puck against New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) and center Filip Chytil (72) during the third period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022-23 NHL season is upon us as the Nashville Predators swept the San Jose Sharks in Prague, Czechia last week at the Global Series.

Expectations are high for another big year as the NHL finally got back to some normalcy after dealing with the pandemic for two seasons. The league is entering its second year with ESPN and TNT hoping to improve on some good TV ratings and keep up their improving revenue numbers.

Let’s take a look now at some of the top stories to keep an eye on for the upcoming year.

2022-23 NHL Season: Can the Avalanche repeat?

colorado avalnache stanley cup gabriel landeskog
Jun 26, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) celebrates with the Stanley Cup after the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in game six of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Avalanche will be hard pressed to repeat their incredible run in 2021-22.

After an impressive regular season where they went 56-19-7 for 119 points, they crushed everyone in their path to win the Stanley Cup.

The Avs lost a grand total of 4 games in the playoffs by sweeping the Nashville Predators (RD 1) and Edmonton Oilers (RD 3). They followed that with a 6 games series win against both the St. Louis Blues (RD 2) and Tampa Bay Lightning (RD 4).

So can this young, fast, and super-talented team repeat? That’s not an easy question to answer even if the same exact group was coming back.

The Avs like many teams have to deal with a salary cap and it cost them Nazem Kadri, who signed with the Calgary Flames. His 87 points last season were not replaced by either free agency or trade.

Also, in goal is untested starter Alexandar Georgiev after watching Darcy Kuemper head to the Washington Capitals. They still have Pavel Francouz, who will challenge Georgiev for the job.

The Avs team still has enough firepower to get the job done and their speed on defense doesn’t require their goalie to be spectacular. The question still stands, can they repeat? Many oddsmakers believe the can since they are the favorites again, However, many teams improved in the offseason including the Edmonton Oilers who lost to the them in the Western Conference Final.

Where will Patrick Kane get traded?

Patrick Kane
Oct 15, 2021; Newark, New Jersey, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) carries the puck up ice against the New Jersey Devils during the first period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

As soon as the Chicago Blackhawks traded away both Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach at the draft everyone started talking about Patrick Kane.

Kane, 33, has one year left on a deal that hits the cap at $10.5 million. He registered 92 points in 76 games last season and will return a haul of picks and prospects when he’s ready to waive his full no-move clause.

The star forward has spent his entire career with the Blackhawks and isn’t against a rebuild, but come the NHL Trade Deadline, the itch to win will be there. That doesn’t mean it’s 100% decided but almost every insider and analyst believes it’s a sure thing.

“Like I said before, it’s not really something I’ve thought of or anything I’m thinking about right now,” Kane told The Athletic (subscription required). “It’s just a lot of noise right now. It was just all rumors. I don’t think there was really any legitimate discussions between any team or the Blackhawks, as far as I know.”

Kane has recorded 1,180 points (430 goals, 750 assists) in 1,107 career games since the Blackhawks selected him with the top overall pick of the 2007 NHL Draft. If he is made available at the NHL Trade Deadline there’ll be no shortage of suitors.

The New York Rangers are considered a top destination for him. Other teams that could jump in on the Kane Sweepstakes are the Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers.

There’s no doubt that there will be more as pretenders and contenders sort themselves out through the course of the season.

Alex Ovechkin goal chase

alex ovechkin
Mar 25, 2022; Buffalo, New York, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) celebrates his game winning goal during a shootout against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, Alex Ovechkin’s quest to become the NHL’s all-time leading goal scorer takes center stage.

Ovechkin, 36, recorded 50 goals and 90 points in 77 games last season after finding the fountain of youth. Can he post another 50 goal season and add to his current totals?

Heading into this upcoming season, Ovechkin has 780 career goals needs just 22 more to pass Gordie Howe for second all-time. And while he won’t catch Wayne Gretzky’s 894 goals this year, Ovechkin can put a sizable dent with a big campaign.

The superstar represented himself in negotiations last summer and signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract extension with the Washington Capitals. The deal carries a cap hit of $9.5 million next season, which extends through the 2025-26 campaign.

Plenty of time for him to break Wayne’s record.

Are the New York Rangers to win the Cup?

nhl storylines
Jun 1, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers center Filip Chytil (72) celebrates his second goal of the game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second period of game one of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers apparently still have some work to do in order to be considered top contenders. According to Covers.com and their latest Stanley Cup odds, the Blueshirts are tied for 9th along with the aging Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Rangers finished the regular season with 110 points on the strength of 52 wins. Igor Shesterkin posted a 36-13-4 record, and led the NHL in GAA (2.07) as well as SV% (.935). He’s just 26 years-old and many believe will repeat as the Vezina winner.

So why are the Rangers just cracking the top 10 with oddsmakers?

The main reasons are likely because they couldn’t re-sign their key trade deadline acquisitions in Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano, and Tyler Motte. But they have young forwards primed and ready to take their place in Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko.

New York also signed veteran Jimmy Vesey to bolster the fourth line and penalty kill units. Plus the defense is still young and improving led by Adam Fox, who is already a Norris Trophy winner at age 24. In addition to Fox, K’Andre Miller development continues to skyrocket and the 22 year-old may soon get his name into Norris consideration.

Yes, the Rangers have to prove last season was no fluke and I believe they will. The question is just how ‘for real’ they are.

Flames better after trading Matthew Tkachuk?

nhl recaps jonathan huberdeau
Sep 25, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames center Jonathan Huberdeau (10) skates against Vancouver Canucks during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Calgary Flames GM Brad Trelivig had one crazy and wild summer. To quickly recap, Johnny Gaudreau left for less money to sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets in free agency. That was immediately followed by Matthew Tkachuk telling Calgary he would not sign longterm leading to a trade.

Treliving didn’t dwell on it and went to work on making some important moves. First, he acquired forward Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman Mackenzie Weegar for Tkachuk from the Florida Panthers. He then locked up Huberdeau and Weegar to extensions. However, Treliving has one more trick up his sleeve by signing free agent Nazem Kadri. To make cap room, he dealt oft-injured center Sean Monahan to the Montreal Canadiens.

So with those moves are the Calgary Flames a better team?

Well, Jonathan Huberdeau scored 115 points for the Florida Panthers last season, tied with the now departed Johnny Gaudreau for second most in the NHL. Mackenzie Weegar absolutely bolsters their defense and Nazem Kadri, who scored 87 points last season, will certainly pick up some of the offense lost by trading Tkachuk and his 104 points.

In the end, the Flames may not have a lost much at all and there’s an argument that they actually got better.

The final verdict will ultimately come in the spring with what they do in the playoffs. After finishing first in the Pacific Division, it took them 7 games to knock off the Dallas Stars and then fall in 5 to the Edmonton Oilers.