NHL Training camp is just a few weeks away, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been movement in the Metro Division’s balance of power.
While there hasn’t been much movement with the top teams in the division, some of the playoff-potential teams took a major step back over the course of the last week.
But with training camp less than a month away, it’s time to see just where the entire division lies before training camp.
8. Philadelphia Flyers
This won’t be changing. The Flyers had the worst off-season in the entire Metro division, and it’s not close. While teams like the Islanders may be criticized for not making a move, the Flyers made all the wrong moves throughout free agency.
The idea that resigning defensive players to lucrative extensions, and then saying there wasn’t enough money for Johnny Gaudreau is one of the biggest failings in Flyers history.
Don’t be surprised if Chuck Fletcher is out of a job early in the season while Philly is welcomed as the bottom-seller of the Metro division.
7. New York Islanders
First, they had Nazem Kadri. Lou Lamoriello just needed to clear some cap space for the star.
And then they didn’t. If New York had gotten Kadri, they are much higher on this list, but without him, this is a bad team in a loaded Metro division.
The miss on Kadri is massive. The Islanders need consistent goal scorers: something that seriously was lacking last season. Instead, the decision to ignore the forward position entirely changes the complexion of the team.
Lamoriello can defend himself all he wants, but if the only off-season move was to replace Chara and Greene on defense, then that’s just not good enough. The Islanders are still an old team and are in danger of being one of the worst teams in the Metro division.
6. New Jersey Devils
The Devils may not have the goaltending of the Islanders, but they will be a far more fun team to watch throughout the season.
The miss on Gaudreau is important but the additions of Ondrej Palat and trading for John Marino certainly add to a fun young core.
They won’t be favorites in the Metro, but they certainly could be a sleeper candidate for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They will be a far better watch than the Islanders as well.
5. Washington Capitals
I stand by my hot take from a few weeks ago: one of Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby will miss the playoffs this upcoming season.
The Capitals totaled over 100 wins in the Metro last year: an absurd number for a team only getting older.
The franchise also added Darcy Kuemper in free agency but will be without Tom Wilson and Nicklas Backstrom to start the season. Age isn’t an issue until it starts to show on the ice, and I doubt that the Capitals have the speed to keep up with some of these high-flying teams in the rest of the Metro.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets
Winning the Johnny Gaudreau means you get a spot as the final team in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the Metro division. Being paired with Patrik Laine to form a formidable duo will cause headaches for much of the Metro’s top teams.
I had serious doubts about Columbus’ ability to reach the playoffs just on the Gaudreau move alone, but the Islanders missing out on any and all positive players means that a spot is open for a young team like the Blue Jackets.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins
It could be the last playoff run for the Penguin’s celebrated core. Malkin and Crosby are back and the additions of Jeff Petry and Ty Smith will certainly help the Penguins stay aggressive on the more physical teams in the league.
As good as Pittsburgh was last season, it’s also clear that this team is one bad year away from beginning a very long rebuild. Could it happen this year? Certainly! But I trust Crosby and the new additions a little bit more than Ovechkin without Backstrom.
2. Carolina Hurricanes
There is a massive drop-off between the top two teams in the Metro and the rest of the six others. Carolina sits in second due to a playoff series, as well as not having the better goaltender.
That doesn’t mean that this team isn’t formidable. Replacing Vincent Trocheck with Max Pacioretty and Brent Burns was superb and the team is still loaded with talent.
Carolina isn’t the only team favored to win the Metro, but they are certainly one of the more consistent teams over the last few years.
It’s going to be a bloodbath for the top seed in this division.
1. New York Rangers
The better goaltender? Check.
A balanced offense? Check.
A loaded defense? Check.
The Rangers check off all the boxes that are needed to have to be the top team in the Metro division. New York can play anyway the other team wants to. They can grind down opponents with their physicality, they can also outscore others.
The question will come from the young talent, and if Gallant can get them to become consistent contributors on offense, but all the pieces are here to be the best team in the Metro division.