NHL Offseason Vibe Check: The Kraken countdown
The first full edition of the NHL vibe check is here just in time to get in your feelings about how the Seattle Kraken are going to steal all your favorite players.
The offseason has already had it all, from wild front office decisions to the Oilers making a weird trade. Who could ask for more? Let’s check the vibes of the offseason needs and transactions with expansion on the horizon.
The vibe: Too Old to be a Duckling
The Ducks need to find a way to get offensive help to 22-year-old Max Comtois. He led them with, uh, 16 goals. Maybe Jack Eichel, future Duck? Maybe not. They need something though.
The vibe: The Arizona Coyotes, that’s it.
So you want to trade Conor Garland. Alright, I guess. Maybe they fleece some team for Oliver Ekman-Larsson. A lot of options and yet they’ll still be the Arizona Coyotes.
The vibe: Questions
The Bruins face their decade-long question again; how much longer will their window be open? It seems up to them. They have some cap space -- with consideration for the contracts they’ll have to dish out in 2022 -- and Tuukka Rask, David Krejci and Taylor Hall have all expressed a desire to stay.
The vibe: Eichel Watch
The Sabres were not the first team of the offseason to make a weird trade, so it’s off to a good start! The bad news is they have plenty of time to trade Jack Eichel for like a second round pick.
The vibe: How disappointing can it be Michael, it’s the Calgary Flames
They are going to lose part of their core. Maybe it’s Mark Giordano to the Kraken in the expansion draft. Maybe they actually trade Johnny Gaudreau this time. Either way, the Flames are still disappointing and probably will stay that way.
The vibe: More like Hurricane Tortilla
The Hurricanes have some choices to make on defense. Dougie Hamilton is talking to other teams, and they very well could lose him. With that in mind, how much do they risk during expansion? Leaving Brady Skjei unprotected? Being okay with Jake Bean being taken? There’s some choices!
The vibe: Duncan Keith Dunking on the Oilers
Well they traded Duncan Keith and didn’t retain any salary, so, uh there is that.
The vibe: So now what?
The Avalanche have been the cusp of being a Stanley Cup contender for years it feels like. They have Nathan MacKinnon. Their defense is so deep they’ll probably lose Devon Toews or Ryan Graves and just be like, fine. So what more can this team do? They’ve lost in the second round for three consecutive seasons.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The vibe: The right lane for Laine
The Blue Jackets have to figure out if they want Patrik Laine in their long-term plans. He didn’t vibe in his partial season there, like, at all. He’s a couple years away from being a UFA, so there’s another bridge deal possibility if the Jackets want to invest.
The vibe: Vibeless
The Stars went from a Stanley Cup finalist to just being pretty bad. They had their run at the end of the season but it wasn’t even close at the end of the day. So do they just dial it back? So much of last season was not really their fault with such a compressed schedule. But none of us know what vibe the Stars are going to have.
Detroit Red Wings
The vibe: Pinocchio yelling “you have potential” on that commercial
If the Red Wings get Moritz Seider to play that would make them fun maybe. They also have $48 million in cap space. They can do some stuff but they’re not going to get good in one offseason.
The vibe: Hahahahahahahaha
What is there to even say? They did it again.
The vibe: Bill Zito bonanza
The Panthers have to figure out their goalie situation but perhaps more interesting is how does Zito build on this team? They legit competed with Tampa Bay in the first round. They have a defending Selke winner. Do they make a big boom? Again, they have their own business -- like retaining RFA Sam Bennett -- but one wonders if there’s a big move to be had there.
Los Angeles Kings
The vibe: Cap space central
The veterans did a solid job keeping the Kings kind of in contention for a little bit. Anze Kopitar was once again one of the more underrated scorers in the league. Dustin Brown (???) was still fine. Where the Kings have a bit of an advantage here along with their $19 million plus in cap space is they also don’t really have anyone desirable in expansion to lose. Alex Turcotte and Quinton Byfield are the future, though, so we get to watch a lot more of them!
The vibe: Fishing in Serbia
The Wild are going to have to stave off the KHL if they want to keep Karill Kaprizov, which, might not be easy! Meanwhile, they have to figure out what’s going to happen with Zach Parise. If they can get him to waive his no movement clause it’ll make it a bit easier with the expansion draft.
The vibe: If you’re not first you’re last
If teams across the league copycat success, what is there to take away from the Canadiens? In a normal year they’re not a playoff team. Carey Price played out of his mind, but they got through objectively the easiest division. The Vegas series win counts for something, though, so we’re going to learn what the real takeaway is soon.
The vibe: Here We Go Again
It’s starting to sound like Pekka Rinne might not be done. And with no backup option to Juuse Saros imminently in front of them, maybe they might be smart to give the 38-year-old another run?
New Jersey Devils
The vibe: Rebuild city
There isn’t a better young duo in the league than Jack Hughes and Nico Hirschier, probably. That said, the Devils are a bit away. They have $36 million in cap space so they have a ton of flexibility.
New York Islanders
The vibe: The Pam from the Office “it’s the same picture” screencap
The Islanders were very similar to the year prior. They fell to Tampa Bay in the Stanley Cup Semi Finals and everything. So, what do they have to do to get over the hump? They have a little less than $6 million in cap space to play with and a couple of RFAs, so keeping that identity together for a third time might be difficult.
New York Rangers
The vibe: Tarasenko sweepstakes is on
The Rangers would be a tremendous fit for the Blues forward who reportedly wants out of St. Louis. Paired with Artemi Panarin, that could be the next piece the Rangers really need to make a leap. It’s a $7.5 cap hit, but then there’s the Jack Eichel possibility too. They wouldn’t be able to get both.
The vibe: Well, well, look who’s inside again
The Senators sure are being the Senators so far!
The vibe: When you get crab fries and it’s mostly just regular fries with not much on them
They have to retain RFA Carter Hart but also figure out what’s going on there. Maybe they make a splash for Gaudreau, maybe they focus on a better deal for defender Travis Sanheim. They need to figure out what went wrong last year, though, because that’s about as drastically a disappointing season they could have had.
The vibe: Hey look I made you some content
The Penguins were hit hard by injury luck for the second year in a row. So what do we take from that? They also had a rough showing from goalie Tristan Jarry. Maybe the window is closing as their stars age, but Ron Hextall has some choices to make. They aren’t going to know what to do at forward until after expansion where they’ll probably lose Jared McCann or Zach Aston-Reese.
San Jose Sharks
The vibe: man, it’s brutal out here
The Sharks actually had some vibes late this season. It wasn’t even close to enough, but they might be a couple of smart moves away from being, I don’t know, not awful? A veteran goalie would help, along with nailing a solid draft class. If they could dump a bad veteran contract somehow, even better.
St. Louis Blues
The vibe: Not Gloria that’s for sure
The Blues have to find a way to move Vladamir Tarasenko and get something good in return. Vince Dunn is probably going to have to be moved if they don’t want to lose him in expansion. So maybe a reset in general is in order, it doesn’t seem like this group can recapture the same magic as the 2019 run.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The vibe: No. 1 Bul- you know
Nikita Kucherov was sitting at the parade with an "$18 million over the cap” shirt and it was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s funny the same team won both Cups in the pandemic hockey era because it’s going to be the two easiest Cups to totally forget about, but it’s been a long time coming for this franchise. Their team building over the years earned this.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The vibe: The Amazon Leafs behind the scene thing coming out soon
The thing about the Maple Leafs is they always give us content. That means a lot of wild theories but in all reality, they probably shouldn’t do anything too drastic. Their First Round series loss came with John Tavares out. The Canadiens, as it turned out, weren’t bad! There’s choices to be made there but blowing it up probably isn’t the answer either.
The vibe: At least it’s not last season anymore
The poor Canucks trudging through a wildly unfair schedule at the end of last year. It’s tough to evaluate what that season was because they likely should have stopped playing much sooner. Alas. They have a core with Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson but obviously faith in general manager Jim Benning has been shaken more than a bit.
Vegas Golden Knights
The vibe: The last Panic! at the Disco album
It’s easy to see where things went wrong for the Golden Knights. Their power play dried up, and they didn’t have any answers for the Canadiens defense and forecheck. Where do they go from here? Well, they have to figure out how to wiggle some cap space free before their monster free agent class next season.
The vibe: How many times do we need to teach you this lesson, old man?
The Capitals were outmatched in the First Round against the Bruins but they also had a ton of injuries, and even the guys playing were banged up. They’ll probably extend Alex Ovechkin and move on from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Who they lose in expansion will lay out the rest of the blueprint.
The vibe: Their fake airport
The Jets need defense, just like they have for a bit now. They had the 14th ranked defense of the 16 playoff clubs. Maybe Ville Heinola and Dylan Samburg will get some real time next season. They probably have to make at least one more move on defense, though, and there aren’t a ton of stop gap options out there.