Now as we move onto the East, it’s time to look at the season preview for the Metropolitan Division!
8. New York Rangers
The Rangers had a really strong off-season with the additions of Jacob Trouba via trade, getting Kaapo Kakko with the second overall pick in the draft, and signing the big fish in free agency, Artemi Panarin.
Even with those additions though, the Rangers still have plenty of holes throughout their lineup. They won’t be able to score consistently behind their first line. Their defence is still very young and might struggle as the games start getting tighter as the season roles on, and Lundqvist isn’t what he once was in-between the pipes.
Expect more playing time for goaltender Alexandar Georgiev, and tougher ice time for young players Tony DeAngelo and Pavel Buchnevich. It’s a team on the rise, and they took a massive step forward in their rebuild this summer, but are still a long way away from being a force in the Eastern Conference.
7. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets had easily the worst off-season of any team in the NHL. They lost Panarin, Bobrovsky, as well as deadline pickups Duchene and Dzingel. They didn’t only lose them, but they lost them to free agency so they got nothing in return for them.
This team looks much more thin on star power without those four players. Korpisalo will be thrown into the starting role and even though he has shown some promise, he isn’t Bobrovsky. Up front they only added Gustav Nyquist, who is a solid piece but won’t even come close to replacing the offence they lost this summer.
The defence is still very talented and very young, especially the top four. Regardless, this team went all-in last year and couldn’t get past the second round, and now the downfall of going all-in will start to set in for Columbus.
6. New Jersey Devils
The Devils got aggressive this off-season and the result of it was them acquiring some serious talent. Obviously winning the draft lottery and getting Jack Hughes because of it is a huge bonus, but he wasn’t the only big name player they acquired this off-season.
They had loads of cap space, and were able to acquire P.K Subban from the Predators thanks to it. With Subban in the fold, this defence finally has it’s superstar defensemen they have been missing for some time now. They also signed free agent winger Wayne Simmonds, who is a strong power forward who can score 25 goals and provide some toughness in their top six.
Having your top two centres be Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes is an absolute gift, not to mention Taylor Hall playing with one of them, but this team is going struggle in one key area this season. The Devils just don’t have the goaltending to make the playoffs yet. Unless Schneider has a rebound of confidence, the Devils will have one of the leagues weakest duo in net with Schneider and Blackwood.
This team has the talent, but not the goaltending to grab themselves a playoff spot just yet. If Schneider though can somehow find a way to have a huge bounce back year, this is a whole different story.
5. New York Islanders
The Islanders were one of the biggest surprises of last season. Most people were counting them out after they lost John Tavares to free agency, but they rebounded with a 103 point season and made it all they way to the second round of the playoffs.
Everything that could go right for this team last year did. None-more-so than goaltender Robin Lehner having a career year with a .930 save percentage and being a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.
Lehner is now gone, and in comes Varlamov, who lost his starting job in Colorado to Phillip Grubauer. They also pushed extremely hard to sign Panarin this off-season, but he chose to go play in the big apple instead. The Islanders just don’t look as good on paper as they performed last year, and if Varlamov can’t post a save percentage above .920, this team will see a significant drop in points from last season, enough so to miss out on the playoffs.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (Wild Card)
The Penguins didn’t have a dominant regular season last year, and then went on to get swept in the first round by the Islanders. They then traded away point-per-game player Phil Kessel and only acquired Alex Galchenyuk and Brandon Tanev to replace that offence.
The defence isn’t the strongest around and Matt Murray has had injury troubles lately. This wouldn’t be the craziest choice for a surprise team to miss the playoffs.
However, it’s the Penguins we are talking about here. Somehow Crosby, Malkin and Letang are going to find a way to get this team into the playoffs. You can never count this team out of anything. They don’t look like a Cup favourite on paper, but they will sneak into the playoffs via the second wild card spot. Once they get into the playoffs, the Penguins could make a deep run even as a wild card team.
3. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers have been a very talented team for a number of years now, but have struggled to find a reliable goaltender to back it up. They finally have though in Carter Hart as this kid is the real deal and is only going to get better moving forward.
The Flyers have a very talented top six forward group, and added Kevin Hayes to that group this off-season (even if they had to overpay to sign him). They also added Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun to help round out their defensive group.
They still are a little weak on depth at forward as they won’t score tons of goals from their bottom six, but this team is good, really good. If Hart continues to prove he is a starting goalie in the NHL, the Flyers will find themselves back in the playoffs come spring.
2. Carolina Hurricanes
If we forget about goaltending for a minute, the Hurricanes have the best team in the division. A very underrated offence along with arguably the best defence in the league, the Hurricanes won’t be surprising anyone this season.
The storm surge was a massive storyline last season, and they deserve more respect coming into this season. Head coach Rob Brind’Amour has this team playing a very good style of hockey where they control the puck and outshoot their opponent almost every game.
Loosing Micheal Ferland and Calvin De Haan isn’t ideal, but when you look at players they added this summer in forwards Ryan Dzingel and Erik Haula, as well as defensemen Jake Gardiner, they are even better than they were last year. Re-signing Aho to a fantastic value contract makes things even better, and they can thank Montreal for help on that one.
The only reason the Hurricanes won’t be winning the division is because there are a lot of questions about the goaltending duo of Petr Mrazek and James Reimer. They would likely both be considered fringe starters, but if one of them has a huge season (like Robin Lehner last season) or they make a move to acquire a better goalie, this team might start becoming more talked about as real cup contenders.
For now this is a team that will be getting home ice advantage in the first round as they will be finishing second in the Metropolitan Division.
The Capitals have the offence, they have the defence, and with Braden Holtby in net, they have the goaltending. The last part there likely being the key reason why the Capitals will win the Metropolitan this season.
They made no big acquisitions this season, they more so added some depth players around the edges of their lineup like Richard Panik and Radko Gudas.
They have no glaring weaknesses, with a top 9 that can score at will and a very solid defensive group. Ovechkin is still a threat to score 50 with Backstrom, Kuznetsov and Carlson being elite talents surrounding him, and Holtby is still one of the league’s best in net.
If the Capitals can stay healthy and regain that motivation to win it all like they had in 2018, this team has a real shot at not only winning the division, but Lord Stanley as well.
Three divisions down, one to go. Hockey is so close you can almost taste it! The Atlantic Division is up next, then it’s time to let the teams themselves do all the talking.