The NHL season is coming.
It sounds very Game of Thrones, but several teams that had disappointing campaigns made some serious changes. The question is will it be enough to get them to the next level, or will they be walking the frozen tundra north of the wall come post season.
Let’s take a look at the teams that made the biggest offseason changes.
1. Chicago Blackhawks
(2020-21: 24-25-7, 55 points, 6th place)
The Blackhawks were the most active team this summer. Not only do they expect to have captain Jonathan Toews back after missing all of last season, they remade their roster.
With Brent Seabrook essentially retired, they traded his contract to Tampa Bay to acquire forward Tyler Johnson, netted goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from Vegas, signed free-agent defenseman Jake McCabe and forward Jujhar Khaira and dispatched veteran Duncan Keith to Edmonton to acquire defenseman Caleb Jones. But the big move was acquiring rising star defenseman Seth Jones — Caleb’s older brother — from Columbus to become a cornerstone player.
If this group can find cohesion early, they could very well climb the Central standings. At love will ride on the what Fleury can do in goal and Seth Jones as the new #1 defenseman.
2. Edmonton Oilers
(2020-21: 35-19-2, 72 points, 2nd place)
The Oilers belong on this list because once again, they failed in the postseason. This time it was a four game sweep at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets. In response, GM Ken Holland brought grit and leadership.
Edmonton’s lack of depth has been the Achilles heel, and adding free-agent forward Zach Hyman may allow Edmonton to use McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on separate lines. Acquiring Warren Foegele from Carolina and free agent Derek Ryan will also be helpful.
Adam Larsson’s departure to Seattle was a huge blow to the under-whelming defense corps that will likely be without Oscar Klefbom all season due to injury, and they tried plugging the holes by adding veterans Duncan Keith and Cody Ceci.
Edmonton could challenge for first in the Pacific, but are playoff bound. The question that needs to be answered is if these moves will give them that elusive postseason success.
3. New York Rangers
(2020-21: 27-23-6, 60 points, 5th place)
The Rangers will certainly be tougher, but will they be better? On top of firing coach David Quinn and hiring Gerard Gallant, the Rangers traded for Barclay Goodrow (from Tampa Bay) and Ryan Reaves (Vegas), which certainly adds grit. They did also had to trade RFA, Pavel Buchnevich to the St. Louis Blues for more cap space, so that’s a big offensive weapon gone.
President and GM Chris Drury really wanted to get players for defined roles and he was successful in doing so. The bottom six will be a lot more physical than it’s been for years. The defense too, with the addition of Patrik Nemeth and Jarred Tonordi. Although, prized prospect Nils Lundkvist will be the final piece to a formidable defense.
New York still has some high-end talent in Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad at forward and defenseman Adam Fox, but sorely need their young talent to produce secondary scoring. They also have plenty of cap space to add a top line forward if they choose but Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko need to step up.
Igor Shesterkin, who just signed a 4 year extension plays to his potential, the Rangers have enough talent to make the playoffs.
4. Philadelphia Flyers
(2020-21: 25-23-8, 58 points, 6th place)
The Flyers, like the New York Rangers, made some changes in an effort to get back into the playoff picture.
To no one’s surprise, Philadelphia was active after a disappointing season, acquiring defenseman Ryan Ellis from Nashville for Nolan Patrick, dealing away D Shayne Gostisbehere to Arizona for draft picks to clear up cap space to acquire D Rasmus Ristolainen from Buffalo and then dealing veteran forward Jakub Voracek to Columbus for Cam Atkinson.
They also signed UFA Keith Yandle to almost completely remake the defense corps in front of goalie Carter Hart — who signed a three-year contract extension — and newly signed backup Martin Jones.
Alain Vigneault has been given a vote of confidence by ownership, but another season with playoff action will likely cost him his job.
5. Vancouver Canucks
(2020-21: 23-29-4, 50 points, 7th place)
The Canucks made more moves than their Alberta rivals, with the boldest the acquisition of Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland from Arizona for a trio of depth forwards. They also added Jason Dickinson.
On defense, Nate Schmidt was dealt away after just one season and Alex Edler left via free agency, with newcomers Tucker Poolman and Luke Schenn hoping to take up the slack. Goalie Jaroslav Halak inked to serve as backup to Thatcher Demko.
Pressing is the need for RFAs Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes to sign a new contracts. The Canucks desperately need to get them in camp in order to turn things around in 2021-22.
-Field Level Media/Randy Sportak contributed to this article.