Less than a month into the off-season and already the landscape has changed in the NHL. The draft, free agency and a couple of franchise-altering trades have shifted the balance of power, setting up some teams to take the next step in 2016-17... and others to drop into the abyss.
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1. washington capitals
2. pittsburgh penguins
4. new york islanders
There's always a chance that GM Garth Snow has a trade up his sleeve, but for now this team looks like it will be in tough to match last season's success.
5. philadelphia flyers
Maybe it won't amount to much in the end. Any boost Philly gets this season was expected to come from prospects Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny, along with rebound seasons from Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Still, this feels like a missed opportunity.
6. carolina hurricanes
Outside of the endless relocation rumors, this summer couldn't be going much better for the 'Canes. GM Ron Francis and his staff earned high marks for their drafting, adding goal-scoring winger Julien Gauthier and offensive-minded defender Jake Bean to an already promising pool of talent. Using their cap space to acquire Teravainen from the Blackhawks was a coup. He immediately upgrades their top nine and has long-term top-six potential. Stempniak is an underrated pickup. The veteran isn't flashy, but is a consistent contributor. Stalberg and Tennyson are solid depth additions. The decision to re-sign veteran netminder Cam Ward to a two-year extension was curious, but only a minor blemish on an otherwise excellent off-season.
7. new jersey devils
Just a year into the job, Ray Shero already has his signature moment. By pilfering Hall from the Oilers, the Devils GM has altered the fabric of the franchise and given new life to an offense that finished 30th last season (2.22 goals per game). Bennett, if he stays healthy, can help the middle-six, but history suggests that's a huge if. Fiddler is a great presence in the room and can help the fourth line and the penalty kill. Lovejoy will be hard pressed to replicate his playoff success, but the veteran will provide a steadying presence on the back end. Losing Larsson hurts, but the Devils finally look like a playoff team again.
8. columbus blue jackets
It's been a quiet summer in Columbus, where a cap crunch has limited GM Jarmo Kekäläinen's ability to improve his disappointing club. Tyutin, Boll and Bourque were easy cuts to make based on their contributions. The space their departures freed up was used (wisely) to re-sign defenseman Seth Jones long term and gives Kekäläinen some room to promote a couple of prospects. Dubois could be one of them. The team's decision to select the QMJHL center with the third pick stunned the draft floor, but may work out just fine given the need for an eventual replacement for Ryan Johansen on the top line. A trade involving winger Scott Hartnell is still a possibility before the season starts, but otherwise next year's team should look strikingly similar to last year's.