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NHL Power Rankings: Who's on top entering 2015-16 season?

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NHL Power Rankings: Who's on top entering 2015-16 season?

The biggest challenge about putting together preseason NHL Power Rankings is separating where you believe teams stand entering the season as opposed to where you believe they'll finish.

Let's give it a crack anyways.
 
Check in with CSNChicago.com for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015-16 campaign.

 

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1   -

Three Stanley Cups in six years, it's only fair the defending champions claim the No. 1 spot entering the year despite an offseason roster makeover.

2   -

The Lightning should be the favorites to win this year's Stanley Cup, returning with virtually the same roster. The big question is, will Steven Stamkos' contract talks — or lack thereof — be a distraction and get in the way of another deep postseason run?

3   -

With the additions of Carl Hagelin (speed), Kevin Bieksa (toughness), Chris Stewart (depth) and Shawn Horcoff (leadership), this is by far Bruce Boudreau's best team, on paper, in Anaheim. Time to put it together.

4   -

The Capitals may feel the loss of Mike Green on the blue line more than they think, but Vezina Trophy candidate Braden Holtby should help ease the pain. The acquisition of T.J. Oshie relieves some offensive pressure off Alex Ovechkin, while Justin Williams, aka Mr. Game 7, gives Washington a big-time player in big-time moments.

5   -

Sidney Crosby finally gets the right-winger he's never had in Phil Kessel, who may surpass 40 goals for the first time in his career. The issue for the Penguins isn't on the ice; it's staying there. They're healthy ... right now.

6   -

It's been a whirlwind offseason for the Kings, but a recharged and hungry group after missing the postseason following three deep playoff runs — which included two Stanley Cups — and the additional spark of Milan Lucic makes Los Angeles as dangerous a team in the West as any.

7   -

The Blues have nothing left to prove in the regular season, and everything to prove in the postseason. Which is why the acquisition of Troy Brouwer was a sneaky good trade. 

8   -

Coach Jim Blashill gives the Red Wings a much-needed breath of fresh air behind the bench. Durability (and goaltending) might be their biggest issue, but unlike last year, depth isn't a problem. If — and it's a big if — they can stay healthy, Detroit can hang with anyone.

9   -

The Rangers won't be in the mix for the President's Trophy this season after losing some scoring depth up front, but their defense and goaltending is still great enough to make them a contender in the East.

10   -

The Canadiens sneak in at No. 10, simply because Carey Price is that good, but he can only take his team — that struggles to score — so far. At 31, can Alexander Semin resemble that 40-goal scorer he once was in Washington? They need him to be.

11   -

Four-time 30-goal scorer Patrick Sharp joins a Stars offense that scored the second-most goals last year, and gets a healthy Valeri Nichushkin back. With that fire power on offense, Dallas' defense just needs to be average and they'll be a playoff team.

12   -

The Blue Jackets began last season with a 6-15-2 record and lost a league-high 508 man-games due to injuries yet still were within reaching distance of a playoff berth during the final weeks. The question isn't if they'll make the playoffs, it's if they can win their first round in franchise history.

13   -

The Islanders are a team that's ready to take the next step, but they didn't do much in the offseason to help. Can Jack Capuano lead them there? Retaining him during an offseason that saw Mike Babcock, Dan Bylsma and Todd McClellan on the market was bold. 

14   -

The Sharks may have something left in the tank before they officially enter rebuild mode. A new voice under coach Peter DeBoer, a nice top-six addition in Joel Ward, a reliable top-four veteran defenseman in Paul Martin and potential sleeper Martin Jones in net could make San Jose a surprise team in the Pacific Division.

15   -

The Flames were bound to take a step back after defying analytics last year, until GM Brad Treliving prevented that from happening with the acquisition of rising star Dougie Hamilton and reliable penalty killer Michael Frolik.

16   -

The Predators rival the Rangers for best defensive unit, but Nashville relied too heavily on rookie Filip Forsberg to score goals and it did nothing to address that in the offseason. Defense wins championships, but you have to put the puck in the net as well, especially in the Central Division.

17   -

Nobody knows exactly what the Bruins' plan was this offseason. The loss of Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton will certainly hurt, leaving 38-year-old Zdeno Chara as the sole anchor of the blue line. Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Tuukka Rask should (barely) keep them above water.

18   -

The Panthers are filled with youngsters ready to explode, led by 19-year-old defenseman Aaron Ekblad. If it all comes together at the same time, watch out. But there may be more growing pains.

19   -

Don't expect to see the same Devan Dubnyk that dominated the second half of last year, but also don't expect the guy who suffered a meltdown in the second round to the Blackhawks. The Wild lived and died by Dubnyk last season, and it may be more of the same this year. They go as he goes.

20   -

After a rough start, rookies Mark Stone and goaltender Andrew Hammond spearheaded the Senators into a playoff spot on the final day of the regular season after finishing the season on a remarkable 23-4-4 run. Can they replicate that?

21   -

The Jets are fighting an uphill battle in the NHL's toughest division that got even better. Ondrej Pavelec must respond to his career year last season with an even better one if Winnipeg has a shot at returning to the playoffs.

22   - The Avalanche were a terrible puck-possession team last season. A bounce back year from Nathan MacKinnon and puck-moving defenseman Francois Beauchemin should improve those numbers, but will it be enough to catapult Colorado back to relevancy?
23   -

Henrik and Daniel Sedin will be enough to keep the Canucks from hitting the basement. That's about it.

24   -

Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek will again lead the team in scoring, but it won't matter as the Flyers have too many questions with few answers.

25   -

Finally, the Oilers bring in a No. 1 overall pick to a healthy environment under new leadership in GM Peter Chiarelli and coach Todd McClellan. Connor McDavid will change life in Edmonton.

26   -

There are still many holes on this roster that will take time to fill, but the foundation is set: Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly up the middle with Dan Bylsma at the helm is the right place to start.

27   -

The Hurricanes' roster is about as thin as it gets, and it may get even thinner after selling at the trade deadline, which could include captain Erik Staal, who's in a contract year. When it's all said and done, the Hurricanes may be the favorites to land the No. 1 overall pick.

28   -

Mike Babcock is the perfect man for this job, and his presence could accelerate the Maple Leafs' rebuild. But their roster is still at least two years away from playoff contention.

29   -

The only thing preventing the Devils from sinking is Cory Schneider.

30   -

Oliver Ekman-Larsson will have another Norris Trophy-type season, but nobody will notice.

Are the Blackhawks preparing to keep Kirby Dach on NHL roster?

Are the Blackhawks preparing to keep Kirby Dach on NHL roster?

The Blackhawks will eventually have a decision to make on No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach, whose clock is officially ticking after he made his NHL debut over the weekend and scored his first goal in his second game two nights later.

The Blackhawks, as we know, can give Dach up to nine NHL games before having to decide whether they want to burn the first year of his entry-level contract. Whether he makes it past nine games or not, if the Blackhawks don't feel like he's pro ready for the full season, the only other option for the team is to send Dach back to the Saskatoon Blades in the WHL because he's not eligible to play in the AHL full-time this season due to CHL rules.

That being said, it appears the Blackhawks are at least preparing for the possibility that Dach could be kept on the NHL roster beyond the nine-game tryout this season.

TSN's Bob McKenzie reported Wednesday on NBCSN that: "You don't have to make a decision on this right now, so Stan Bowman and the Chicago Blackhawks won't, but if you twisted their arm and said you do have to make a decision, I think they're definitely leaning towards this guy being an NHL player this season."

The roster move the Blackhawks made earlier in the day indicates the organization is making sure it can afford Dach's services in case he does stay the whole season.

Connor Murphy was placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) Wednesday with a groin injury, which means he'll be sidelined for a minimum of 10 games and 24 days. By putting him on LTIR instead of regular injured reserve, the Blackhawks get some cap relief and that’s noteworthy when you factor in Dach's potential performance bonuses that could reach up to $2.5 million.

When Dach was activated and recalled, the Blackhawks exceeded the 7.5 percent cushion in total amount of potential performance bonuses by $595,000, according to Cap Friendly. That number was then applied to the cap, which put the Blackhawks near the upper limit. So every dollar counts, considering the bonus money rolls over to next season's salary cap if there isn’t enough financial space at the end of the season to absorb the hits.

The other noteworthy item from McKenzie's report: The Blackhawks aren't too worried about burning the first year of Dach's entry-level contract. They're more-so looking ahead to the 40-game mark, which would put him one year closer to becoming an unrestricted free agent — a player must be 27 or older as of June 30 or accrue seven seasons to become a UFA, and hitting 40 games counts as a full season if they're on the NHL roster, injured or not.

The Blackhawks have said all along that there's no set plan on Dach's future and his performance will dictate what's going to happen. But the team is prepared for every scenario, and that includes keeping him past the nine-game tryout and 40-game benchmark.

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Connor Murphy placed on long-term injured reserve

Connor Murphy placed on long-term injured reserve

The Blackhawks have announced that defenseman Connor Murphy will be placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) due to a groin injury.

Earlier reports stated the 26-year-old Murphy would miss “a couple of weeks” after leaving the second period of the Blackhawks game against the Golden Knights last night. Murphy had previously sat out of the Blackhawks season opener in Prague for the same injury.

LTIR is designed for teams navigating the cap hit when a player is out with a long-term injury. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), this means the player will be out for at least 24 calendar days and 10 regular season games. While LTIR doesn’t create cap space, it does allow a team to replace the player on LTIR with any number of other players to fill the roster hole.

In the case of Murphy, the Blackhawks recoup his $3.85M cap hit for the duration he’s LTIR. The Blackhawks can go over the cap hit for the time being, but once they activate him his entire cap hit goes back on the books. Essentially, the Blackhawks can go over the cap for the time being up to what Murphy was making, plus whatever cap space they had beforehand.

As for who will take Murphy’s place in the lineup, the Blackhawks have a few options. So far, it has been announced they have recalled defenseman Dennis Gilbert from the Rockford IceHogs.

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