Winning the off-season doesn't often directly translate to success during the season. However, it does make for a lot of discussions when looking at the prospectus of the division next year. The Pittsburgh Penguins finished last season in third place in the Metropolitan division, but which teams could be candidates to challenge for that spot in 2022-23.
The Penguins finished behind the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers last season, and it appears that those two teams are the favorites to win the division heading into next year. With the Penguins retaining their core and reshaping their blue line, they should be in a position to at least challenge for a playoff spot. Which teams will Pittsburgh be battling with for a playoff spot?
Penguins versus Capitals seems like a tale as old as time. The Capitals are in a similar situation as the Penguins, having aging superstars attempting to get the most out of the late stages in their careers. After spending a half decade at the peak of the Metro division, the Caps have slightly fallen off. They have lost in the first round of the postseason each of the past four seasons.
This summer, the Capitals added depth forwards Connor Brown and Dylan Strome to bolster the middle of their lineup. They also underwent a complete overhaul between the pipes, sending out Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek to bring in Stanley Cup Champion goalie Darcy Kuemper.
The main story for the Capitals for the foreseeable future is Alex Ovechkin's pursuit of Wayne Gretzky for the all-time goals race, but the Russian star still showed his ability to carry the team early last year. However, injuries significantly hampered the Caps' season. Core players like Anthony Mantha, TJ Oshie, and Nicklas Backstrom missed extended periods. An improved bill of health and better goaltending will make the Capitals a dangerous team in 2022-23.
New York Islanders
The Islanders fell hard last season after two straight appearances in the Conference Finals. A season that started with 13 straight road games and was affected by severe injuries and covid kept the Isles out of the postseason for the first time in three seasons.
The turbulent year ended with the surprise firing of head coach Barry Trotz, signaling a changing of eras on Long Island. General manager Lou Lamoriello made one addition this offseason, bringing in young defenseman Alexander Romanov from the Montreal Canadiens.
After a horrid start to the year, the Islanders finished the year by going 17-14-2 to finish the season. With former assistant coach Lane Lambert taking the reigns, we could see a new-look Islanders team in 2022-23.
New Jersey Devils
The MVP of the last off-season, the New Jersey Devils, didn't make quite as much of a splash this off-season. The Devils added three veteran skaters in Ondrej Palat, Erik Haula, and Brendan Smith. As Penguins fans know, they also traded for John Marino, adding to an already solid defense core.
Goaltending was another area Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald addressed this off-season by bringing former Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek to share the starting duties with the incumbent Mackenzie Blackwood. Another significant change is the departure of PK Subban's $9 million contract. Subban spent last season primarily playing on the Devil's third defense pairing.
With young superstars Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes leading the way, the Devils are primed to make strides towards becoming a playoff threat.
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