Here’s my predictions on the Metropolitan Division this season.
Key Additions: Bryan Bickell, Teuvo Teravainen, Viktor Stalberg, Lee Stempniak
Key Loss: Riley Nash
Don’t call the Carolina Hurricanes the Blackhawks Rejects this season. They were the beneficiary of a team that needed to shed cap space. This team is in the middle on not a rebuild, but a retool. Thanks to the emergence of their young defense core, and young stars like Victor Rask and Phil Di Giuseppe, there should be a sense of optimism for Caniacs. Heck, they almost made a playoff push, but they’re still a long ways to go in the second-most competitive division in the NHL.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Key Additions: Sam Gagner
Key Loss: Fedor Tyutin
Not a lot of turnover happened in Columbus, but the Blue Jackets are gonna have a full season under John Tortorella. Whether this leads to a successful season or not depends on the health of Sergei Bobrovsky. If Bob remains healthy, maybe the Jackets have a shot.
New Jersey Devils
Key Additions: Taylor Hall, Ben Lovejoy, Vernon Fiddler, Kyle Quincey
Key Loss: Adam Larsson
This, by far, should be the most improved team in the Eastern Conference. The Devils finally have a top-line forward that could play with Kyle Palmieri. Add in a rising star netminder like Cory Schneider, and maybe the Devils will have a chance to contend for a playoff spot this season.
New York Islanders
Key Additions: Andrew Ladd, Jason Chimera, P.A. Parenteau, Dennis Seidenberg
Key Losses: Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, Matt Martin
The New York Islanders had an amazing first season at Barclays Center. They won their first playoff series since knocking out the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1993. So how do you top that? You get experience. Andrew Ladd, a two-time Stanley Cup champion and former team captain, brings experience to the table. So to does Jason Chimera. But despite the departures of Kyle Okposo, Matt Martin, and Frans Nielsen due to free agency, the Islanders restocked with unknowns who proven themselves in the playoffs last season in Shane Prince and Alan Quine.
New York Rangers
Key Additions: Jimmy Vesey, Michael Grabner, Mika Zibanejad
Key Losses: Viktor Stalberg, Dominic Moore
The championship window for the New York Rangers is slowly starting to close. Call it natural regression. After all the success the Rangers had the last few years, eventually, time catches up to you. But despite all of this, the Rangers still are not willing to close that window shut. Especially not on Henrik Lundqvist’s watch. They also added 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner Jimmy Vesey to the roster, so don’t expect any major regression.
Key Addition: Dale Weise
Key Loss: Sam Gagner
No one thought the Flyers would make it to the playoffs in Dave Hakstol’s first season as head coach. But thanks to the emergence of Calder Trophy finalist Shayne Gostisbehere and play from goalie Michal Neuvirth, the Flyers made it in as a Wild Card..The Flyers have one of the best up-and-coming defensemen in their system in 2015 first-round draft pick Ivan Provorov. If Gostisbehere and Provorov are paired together, this pair could be just as effective as any good defensive pair in the NHL.
Key Addition: Ben Lovejoy
Key Loss: None
The penguins have a legitimate shot to become the first repeat Stanley Cup champion in 20 years all because of one reason: most of the team that helped win the Stanley Cup in 2016 are still in Pittsburgh. With the exception of the 2014 Chicago Blackhawks, nearly ever Stanley Cup Champion in the last 8 seasons has had a tough time defending the Cup the following season because of massive turnover occurring during the offseason. When you see the Penguins on the ice this season, what you see is practically the same team that won 16 games when it mattered most en route to their fourth Stanley Cup in 50 years.
Key Addition: Lars Eller
Key Loss: Jason Chimera
Last season, the Capitals had their best season ever. They had the best goal-scorer (Alex Ovechkin), best coach (Barry Trotz), and the best goalie (Braden Holtby). They had everything you could imagine for, except they were beten by the eventual Stanley Cup champions in the second round in six games. but much like their rival, there’s little to no turnover in the offeseason in Washington. So I’d expect nothing less for the Capitals to still be the dominant team in the Metropolitan Division.
Prediction: Metropolitan Division Champions