Big questions. Bold predictions. Top prospects. Strengths and flaws. Breakout fantasy candidates. This is what you need to know for every team for the 2019-20 NHL season.
The teams are arrayed here by division; click through the link for each team to read the full guide to the season.
The Bruins lost in the last possible game of the 2018-19 season to the Blues. Hey, it happens. The window remains wide open for coach Bruce Cassidy’s club to being a title to those poor, championship-starved Boston sports fans — at least for this season. But with Patrice Bergeron (34) and David Krejci (33) a year older and more fragile, with Tuukka Rask turning 33, with Brad Marchand turning 32 this season and with Zdeno Chara … OK, he’s basically immortal, but you get the point: The Bruins have an elite core that’s getting up in years. Luckily, they’re still elite, and surrounded by some brilliant young talent in players like David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk and Charlie McAvoy. Read the full Bruins preview.
Krueger, 60, returns to the NHL with a formidable reputation and a thin hockey coaching résumé. He spent 48 games with the Oilers in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season before unceremoniously getting fired, to the protest of his young players. He was successful as coach of the Swiss national team and led Team Europe, aka one of only two teams that cared, to the World Cup of Hockey finals in 2016. What can he provide the Sabres? Hopefully the kind of system, structure and discipline that will paper over the holes in the Buffalo lineup. Jack Eichel is a star. Jeff Skinner scored 40 goals skating with him. Sam Reinhart and new arrival Marcus Johansson are consistent scorers. Last year’s rookie sensation Rasmus Dahlin leads an improved defense, while Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark have potential in goal. But two and a half years into his tenure as general manager, Jason Botterill hasn’t put together a roster with the kind of quality depth you need to make the playoffs in the East. Can Krueger compensate for that? Read the full Sabres preview.
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Detroit fans have been clamoring for Yzerman’s return since he left for the Lightning’s front office. He’s preached patience since replacing Ken Holland, refusing to put a timeline on Detroit’s return to respectability. Which means Steve Yzerman can definitely read an organizational depth chart. While the Wings have some established young players — led by Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi, with Joe Veleno, Michael Rasmussen, Evgeny Svechnikov, Filip Zadina and Moritz Seider leading the next wave — they’re surrounded by some high-priced holdovers and veteran placeholders from the Holland era. (And, of course, Detroit goalie-for-life Jimmy Howard.) How many of these players are actually part of the Yzer-plan, as he puts his stamp on the Wings? Read the full Red Wings preview.
Joel Quenneville has 890 coaching wins, second all-time to Scotty Bowman. He won three Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks. He is, demonstrably, one of the best coaches in the history of the NHL. But what does that mean for the Florida Panthers? Can he sprinkle magic mustache dust on the roster and fix its general problems, like a defense that helped produced the second worst save percentage in the league (.891) last season and the sixth most goals against at even strength? This Panthers team is loaded with talent up front with Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman; some productive defensemen like Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad; and now they have one of the best goalies in the league after signing Sergei Bobrovsky. Can Q put it all together? Read the full Panthers preview.
The Canadiens are a confusing team, or in the more poetic French, an “Équipe déroutante.” They were one of the best even strength offensive teams in the NHL last season, finishing fifth in 5-on-5 goals (188), and a middle of the pack defensive team (15th). Their power play helped shot blanks, finishing 30th at a 13.2 percent conversion rate. One imagines they could have found three more standings points to make the playoffs had it not. There’s some real talent up front here: Max Domi, Tomas Tatar, Brendan Gallagher, Jonathan Drouin (maybe), Phillip Danault and the delightful trio of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Artturi Lehkonen and Joel Armia. So they should put some pucks in the net. Carey Price and an improved defense should bring down a good, not great, goals-against average (2.88). There’s a lot to like here, particularly under coach Claude Julien; the question is whether or not it’s their time yet. Read the full Canadiens preview.
The current over/under point total in Vegas for the Senators is 68.5, which honestly would be an improvement over their 64-point nadir last season. (One that, please recall, didn’t even result in them getting a lottery pick as Colorado owned theirs from the Matt Duchene trade). This isn’t a team expected to contend, nor built to do so: a collection of veteran placeholders (Artem Anisimov, Mikkel Boedker, Ron Hainsey), promising young players (Thomas Chabot, Brady Tkachuk) and an organization waiting on a top 10 collection of prospects with a slew more on the way with their war chest of draft picks, including five in the first two rounds in 2020. Read the full Senators preview.
“Utter humiliation” probably isn’t a strong enough phrase to describe how the Lightning felt after their first-round loss at the hands of the Blue Jackets after one of the most dominant regular seasons in NHL history. The Stanley Cup was being fitted for their hands, and instead they were handed a broom by the Blue Jackets. It was a study in lack of poise, execution and that extra gear that teams must find in the postseason to win by any means necessary. On paper, the Lightning are the best team in hockey, full stop. This was the most egregious playoff collapse under coach Jon Cooper, but not the first. How do they get past that adversity? How do they learn how to win it all? Read the full Lightning preview.
The Maple Leafs tend to get more attention than most teams, but the ongoing drama around their team for the past month has made the Leafs the talk of hockey:
Is Kyle Dubas in over his head, or has his constructed a one-and-done championship roster on a capped-out team?
Can Toronto, and its fans, trust Matthews after his idiotic decision not to inform the team about his charges of disorderly conduct back in Scottsdale, Arizona, as his employer had to find out about it on Twitter?
What happens if they have to play the Bruins in the playoffs again?
Is Frederik Andersen a Cup-calber goalie?
So many questions. Win or lose, it’s never boring in Toronto. Read the full Maple Leafs preview.
The Hurricanes shocked the league in the season’s second half, and then in the playoffs as they not only snapped a nine-year playoff drought, but made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals, including knocking out the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals in the first round and sweeping the Islanders in the second. “This year is really important,” coach Rod Brind’Amour told ESPN in training camp. “We had a good year, but we have to back it up. You gotta keep it going. We’re starting to get players who want to play here. The word’s out. We have something special down here. If we build on that momentum, we’re going to be OK. But if we go backwards, it’s going to take longer to dig out.” Read the full Hurricanes preview.
By now you’ve heard, ad nauseum, about how the Blue Jackets decided to go all-in last season and mortgaged a bit of their future to do it. Now it’s the aftermath. Yes, the Blue Jackets lost Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky (as expected), and no, Matt Duchene didn’t re-sign. But it’s not total doom and gloom on this roster. There is enough depth to keep this team competitive and maybe even shock some people. Read the full Blue Jackets preview.
Taylor Hall, the 2018 league MVP, becomes a free agent next summer, and he says his biggest deciding factor will be playing for a team that’s close to winning a Stanley Cup. So it doesn’t feel like a coincidence that the Devils made significant upgrades this offseason. General manager Ray Shero accelerated his team’s timeline after winning the 2019 draft lottery and the chance to select Jack Hughes. Shero then traded for P.K. Subban, a true top-pairing defenseman the Devils previously lacked, and added veteran power forward Wayne Simmonds and scoring winger Nikita Gusev. Is it enough? And can we expect the same MVP-level Hall after a season cut short due to a mysterious knee injury? Of course, all of it will be moot if goaltending cannot hold up. Read the full Devils preview.
Perhaps one of the summer’s most shocking moves was the Islanders letting contract talks fall apart with Robin Lehner — a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last season. (Lehner signed a one-year, $5 million deal in Chicago). The duo of Lehner and Thomas Greiss won the William Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the league. The Islanders clearly have faith in their system and heralded goaltending coach Mitch Korn, as they opted to sign Semyon Varlamov (three years older than Lehner, and five years removed from his Vezina finalist season). Can Greiss maintain his .927 save percentage, or is he due for a fall-back-to-Earth regression? Read the full Islanders preview.
The Rangers infamously decided their winning window had closed in February 2018, as management parted with many familiar faces and stockpiled draft picks. Just 20 months later, is it possible they’re back in the mix? An excited flurry of offseason moves has the Rangers at least relevant again. In the best-case scenario, the youngsters take a step forward and New York emerges as a dark-horse playoff team. More realistically, we see promise, but 2020-21 is when the Blueshirts actually level up. Read the full Rangers preview.
The Flyers were one of the league’s biggest disappointments in 2018-19, and a lot of the blame fell on the cast of rotating goaltenders (rightfully so). No team should have to cycle through eight netminders in a season. Of course that masked other issues, like slumping seasons for several players and an overall leaky defense. The blue line did play with more structure and confidence when Hart finally got in net. GM Chuck Fletcher says he expects a 70-30 split between Carter Hart and Brian Elliott; it’s unclear who gets the larger load just yet. But Hart, the vaunted prospect, finally gets his chance to show he can be the true No. 1. Does that mean a decades-long problem is finally solved? Read the full Flyers preview.
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The Penguins never found their stride last season, and their worst deficiencies were exposed in an ugly first-round sweep at the hands of the Islanders. GM Jim Rutherford knew he needed to make a change to the culture. So he sent Phil Kessel, one of his most productive forwards, to Arizona. “It was just time to make a change with him,” Rutherford said after the deal. “I tried to accommodate him with a place he wanted to go, so it worked out that way.” In return, Pittsburgh got Alex Galchenyuk, a 25-year-old who was the No. 3 pick in 2012 and is brimming with potential — but has yet to translate it to NHL success. Read the full Penguins preview.
Alex Ovechkin, 34, is under contract for the next two seasons, so we have at least a year until speculation begins on whether he wants to re-sign or head home to Russia. However, Nicklas Backstrom, 31, and Braden Holtby, 30, are both free agents next summer; they both would like to stay in Washington but have yet to work out extensions. The Capitals are still expected to be a dangerous team in 2019-20, but the next few months will be telling for GM Brian MacLellan’s long-term vision for his franchise, and if he’s ready to embrace a more youthful movement. Read the full Capitals preview.
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It’s no secret that defense was an issue for the Blackhawks, who allowed 3.55 goals per game, second worst in the league, and missed the playoffs for the second straight year. (They also endured massive change, moving on from the legendary Joel Quenneville to rookie head coach Jeremy Colliton early in the season.) GM Stan Bowman, constantly strapped by the salary cap, made a few tweaks to make the blue line better, including trading for Calvin de Haan (Carolina) and Olli Maatta (Pittsburgh). The real issue is that the Blackhawks are overcrowded and need to eventually pave the way for bright young prospects like Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell. Read the full Blackhawks preview.
In the 2017-18 season, the Avs arrived ahead of schedule and made a surprise playoff run. In 2018-19, they showed they could sustain it, and again exceeded expectations. The challenge this season? Living up to the hype. The Central is a grinder of a division, so the Avalanche don’t have an easy task. Cale Makar looked like a natural in the playoffs, jumping in days after his college season ended and scoring in his first game. Colorado is excited to welcome the rookie defenseman for his first full season as a pro. Also new this season: Philipp Grubauer finally assumes the No. 1 role in net. Read the full Avalanche preview.
Despite being a playoff team, the Stars’ offense stank in 2018-19. Dallas finished 29th in the NHL with just 209 goals. Getting more goal scoring was a priority for general manager Jim Nill this offseason. He made a splash, inking former Sharks captain Joe Pavelski to a three-year deal — one of the best moves of the summer, for any team — and also took a flier on Corey Perry, who was bought out by the Ducks and looking to fully rebound after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus and MCL last season. That should definitely help the offense, but is it enough? There’s no question the Stars got better for 2019-20. The problem is, so did a lot of the Central Division. Read the full Stars preview.
OK, that sounds a little dire. But Fenton’s 14-month tenure as GM was memorable — for the wrong reasons. Between a trade that immediately didn’t age well and trades that didn’t happen (and immediately got leaked), the morale and talent level on the Wild aren’t as great as they should be. Owner Craig Leipold recognized this and moved on from Fenton just one month after free agency, hiring Bill Guerin as a replacement. Guerin has an excellent reputation from his time as an assistant general manager in Pittsburgh, but nobody knows how he will do now that he’s in charge. The bright side? He has a low bar to clear. Read the full Wild preview.
After advancing to their first Stanley Cup Final in 2017, the Predators were never able to live up to expectations thereafter. In fact, over the last two seasons, it felt like their product got stale — especially in the playoffs, when the Preds fizzled out in back-to-back years. We know Nashville has long had its heart set on a dependable No. 2 center. When it became apparent that Kyle Turris wasn’t going to be that guy, GM David Poile attempted again. This time, Poile signed Matt Duchene, a player he had long coveted, but the cost was significant. To free up cap space, Poile shipped P.K. Subban to New Jersey. Duchene told ESPN he doesn’t think he’ll be compared to Subban because it’s not like they were traded one-for-one … but it’s hard not to draw a correlation. (The team also has to save cap space for an eventual Roman Josi extension). Read the full Predators preview.
Catch more than 180 NHL games streaming live this season on ESPN+. Click here for the upcoming schedule and to learn how to subscribe.
We all know just how hard it is to repeat in the modern NHL. There’s a reason so few teams can do it (and why it was so rare the Penguins pulled it off recently). The Blues’ 26-game playoff run was taxing — especially since they were playing such a heavy brand of hockey — and many players spent the summer not only celebrating but recovering from significant injuries. If there’s anyone who can inspire a group to plow through a shortened offseason, have faith in Craig Berube, who whipped this team into a disciplined shape after taking over as interim coach in the middle of the season. Read the full Blues preview.
It feels like nothing in the Jets’ offseason went well. Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine were the two important restricted free agents, and neither signed a deal by the start of training camp (though both have signed since). The Jets traded one of their best defensemen, Jacob Trouba, to New York (they knew they likely wouldn’t re-sign him) then saw another two blue-line regulars (Tyler Myers and Ben Chiarot) sign elsewhere in free agency. And then on the eve of training camp, it was announced that top defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was taking a leave of absence from the team, reportedly to ponder his future. A team that looked like a juggernaut just one year ago is riddled with uncertainty. Read the full Jets preview.
Dallas Eakins has one key advantage in taking over the Ducks as head coach, in that he’s not Randy Carlyle. GM Bob Murray let his beleaguered coach linger behind the bench far too long, as an injury-plagued Ducks team lurched to a 21-26-9 record before his dismissal. Eakins was promoted after a few strong seasons with the AHL San Diego Gulls, and many of the players on the roster have already played for him, which is always an advantage. Can he and assistant coach Darryl Sutter — still getting used to that, by the way — find a way to meld the teams’ returning veterans like Ryan Getzlaf, Adam Henrique, Jakob Silfverberg and Richard Rakell with their younger forwards? Is the talented blue line plus goalie John Gibson a sturdy foundation on which to build a contender this season? Or is this a franchise in transition? Read the full Ducks preview.
The Coyotes scored 2.55 goals per game last season, which ranked 28th in the NHL. Part of the problem: a woeful 8.3 shooting percentage, which was third worst in the league. Need goals? Go get a goal-scorer, which is what GM John Chayka did in acquiring right wing Phil Kessel, who had fallen out of favor with the Penguins after helping them to two straight Stanley Cups. Only 14 players in the NHL have scored more goals than Kessel’s 172 since 2013, and the trade reunites him with Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet, who helped get the best out of Phil in Pittsburgh as an assistant. He may not solve all the Coyotes’ problems, but the durable forward — our sweet Phil hasn’t missed a game since 2010 — certainly addresses their hunger for goals. Read the full Coyotes preview.
The Flames were a huge surprise last season in Bill Peters’ first campaign behind the bench, earning 107 points before getting absolutely rolled in the playoffs by the Avalanche in five games. The problem in the postseason was the offense, which sputtered to seven goals in four straight losses. Mike Smith played all five games and was actually not bad, as the Flames had a .947 even-strength save percentage in the series. He’s in Edmonton now, with Cam Talbot in Calgary to back up last season’s regular-season darling David Rittich (27-9-5, .911 save percentage). Both of their underlying numbers last season don’t encourage much confidence, as Rittich was just 2.5 goals saved above average and Talbot is sub-replacement. Outside of the Hurricanes, no team has a more promising lineup potentially sabotaged by shoddy goaltending than the Flames. Read the full Flames preview.
When Dave Tippett was the head coach of the Coyotes, he was famous for taking reedy rosters and molding them into respectable playoff contenders, usually by solidifying their defense. He replaces Ken Hitchcock after the Oilers finished 25th in goals against in consecutive seasons. Edmonton does not have a playoff-caliber roster, despite having the best offensive hockey player on the planet, Connor McDavid, on it. Can Tippett get more out of this group than Hitchcock and Todd McLellan could? Read the full Oilers preview.
The Kings are caught in that purgatory between their years as a veteran championship contending team and having their next generation of players ready for the NHL. The names you know: Forwards Anze Kopitar (32), Ilya Kovalchuk (36), Dustin Brown (34), Jeff Carter (34), defenseman Drew Doughty (29) and goalie Jonathan Quick (33). The names you’ll know in a couple of years: Forwards Alex Turcotte (18), Rasmus Kupari (19) and Arthur Kaliyev (18), and defenseman Tobias Bjornfot (18). It’s a team in transition. But having a few players reverse their substandard performances from last season could mean the Kings are a bit more respectable under new coach Todd McLellan. Read the full Kings preview.
There were times last season when it felt like the Sharks’ year, and not only because of that Game 7 major penalty miracle against Vegas and other breaks that fell their way in the postseason. But their loss to the eventual Cup champion Blues led to an offseason of significant change for the Sharks: center Joe Pavelski, a heart and soul player for the franchise since 2006, left for the Stars. The Sharks are going to be good, but they’re going to be different, even if Joe Thornton still has the locker closest to the door for another season. Read the full Sharks preview.
Despite some strong young offensive players, the Canucks were 26th in the NHL last season in goals per game (2.67). They’ve added some pop to their forward group and their defense corps in the offseason that should help address that. Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko can be a solid goaltending battery. The pieces are starting to come together under one of the NHL’s best young coaches in Travis Green, but can the Canucks level up and contend for a playoff spot? Read the full Canucks preview.
The Golden Knights shocked the world by making the Stanley Cup Final in Year 1. They bolstered their lineup in their second season with veteran standouts — Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty in the summer, Mark Stone at the trade deadline — and then were stunned by the Sharks in that epic penalty killing fail (on a penalty that shouldn’t have been called) in Game 7 of the first round. As their third season dawns, does it all come together? Two great lines, quality depth and a goaltender that can still carry this team deep in the postseason. Underlying stats, like a 54.66 expected goals percentage. Is it Knight time? Read the full Golden Knights preview.