Top 5 stories to watch for in the 2022-23 NHL season
The 2022-23 NHL season is not too far off as the calendar crawls to September. A host of players are in France this week as the NHL’s European Player Media Tour gets the ball rolling on the upcoming campaign.
NHL Preseason action will get started with a Battle of Ontario as the Ottawa Senators and host Toronto Maple Leafs meet for a split-squad, day-night doubleheader at 1 and 7 p.m. ET on September 24.
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 season with ESPN and TNT hoping to improve on some good TV ratings.
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: Alex Ovechkin goal chase
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.
Will the Vegas Golden Knights rebound?
Head coach Peter DeBoer was let go at the end of the season after not making the playoffs, a first in the Golden Knights young franchise history. Of course, faulting just DeBoer isn’t fair after all the injury issues the team suffered.
New head coach Bruce Cassidy, who was fired by the Boston Bruins, takes over a veteran team that has a lot of questions. However, no one on the team has more individual pressure than Jack Eichel.
The Knights gave the Buffalo Sabres a nice package and took on his full $10 million cap hit. That forced them to trade fan favorite Max Paccioretty away to the Carolina Hurricanes for nothing this summer to become cap compliant.
Eichel will now need to be the new face of the franchise and become their best player if that trade is going to be deemed a success. Last season, after a year of not playing and having neck surgery, he scored 25 points in 34 games. The 25 year-old center will need to find that point per game pace he had before his neck issues began to plague him early in the 2020-21 season.
Getting back to the playoffs won’t be easy with the team’s top goalie Robin Lehner expected out for the season. The Knights will be looking for an answer via trade at some point but have elected to go with unproven net minders Laurent Brossoit and Logan Thompson to start the season.
Will Eichel be able to lead this team back to the playoffs? If he can, it will be the first time he’s tasted postseason action in his career.
Are the New York Rangers for real?
What do the New York Rangers have to do in order to get the respect they deserve? According to Covers.com and their latest Stanley Cup odds, the Blueshirts are tied for the 10th along with the Vegas Golden Knights. A team that doesn’t have a #1 goalie heading into the season!
The Rangers finished the regular season with 110 points on the strength of 52 wins. Igor Shesterkin posted a Vezina winning season with 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 there’s no reason to expect any regression.
So what gives? Yes, the Rangers could not 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, Kaapo Kakko, and Vitali Kravtsov.
Plus the defense is still young and improving led by Adam Fox, who is already a Norris Trophy winner at age 24.
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.
Can the Colorado Avalanche repeat?
What an incredible run for the Colorado Avalanche 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.
Listen, this 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? I think so, but only time will tell.
Will Patrick Kane get traded?
As soon as the Chicago Blackhawks traded away both Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach at the draft everyone started talking about Patrick Kane.
Multiple reports indicated that Kane and his agent would be speaking with Hawks management about his future after the draft. Apparently those talks have not produced a request for a trade at this point and time.
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 rebel, but come the NHL Trade Deadline, the itch to win will be there. I expect Chicago will once again be on the outside looking in and Kane will waive his clause and look for a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup.
The New York Rangers are considered a top destination for him. If that’s the case, maybe that one move answers several questions on this list.
Other teams that could jump on the Kane Train are the Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers.