NHL Power Rankings way-too-early edition

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The Colorado Avalanche dethroned the Tampa Bay Lightning to become the NHL’s 2022 Stanley Cup champions. Hats off to the Avalanche! Well done, Lightning, on almost three-peating!

While Colorado gets to enjoy its parade, we’re already turning the page.

Here are our way-too-early NHL Power Rankings for the 2022-23 season. Plus, before the fun of free agency begins on July 13, we’re making one recommendation for each club on how it can improve its prospects heading into next season.

Don’t worry, Colorado is high on the list as a potential repeat champ. Where does everyone else fall in line with only three months (not that we’re counting) until the puck drops on the 2022-23 season? Find out below.

How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors rates teams against one another, and those results are tabulated to produce the list featured here.

Note: Stanley Cup odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.

2021-22 record: 56-19-7, 119 points
Result: Won Stanley Cup
2023 Cup odds: +450

Move to make: Re-sign Valeri Nichushkin

Nichushkin had a career-best regular season and excellent playoffs. The pending unrestricted free agent deserves a significant raise from the two-year, $5 million deal about to expire. Colorado should pay up. Nichushkin is a perfect fit for the Avalanche, and he’ll be more affordable than fellow pending UFA Nazem Kadri. Nichushkin stepped up when Kadri was out late in the postseason, and at 27, he’s four years younger than Kadri. In Nichushkin, you’re getting a high-end, 200-foot player who has room to grow. General manager Joe Sakic knows what to do.

2021-22 record: 51-23-8, 110 points
Result: Lost in Stanley Cup Final
2023 Cup odds: +1000

Move to make: Get some rest

Seriously. Tampa Bay needs a break. Breathe. Reset. Figure out what’s next for this franchise. Then start answering the big questions: Is this team capable of another Stanley Cup run? Is it time for a more significant retooling, particularly on the defensive side? Is there enough depth overall? The Lightning have been on a high these past two offseasons. Sitting in some disappointment can provide perspective.

2021-22 record: 54-21-7, 115 points
Result: Lost in first round
2023 Cup odds: +1200

Move to make: Trade Petr Mrazek

Mrazek’s three-year, $11.4 million contract (which includes a 10-team no-move clause) is aging poorly with two seasons to go. Also, Toronto is up against the salary cap with no starting goaltender signed for next season. Somehow, GM Kyle Dubas has to get out from under Mrazek. The veteran was injured too often last season and hardly stellar when he did play (12-6-0, .888 save percentage, 3.34 goals-against average). Toronto will need serious cap space to lock up a long-term No. 1 goalie, whether that’s Jack Campbell or someone else. Finding a new home for Mrazek — and adding a backup for a lower cap hit — would help there.

2021-22 record: 52-24-6, 110 points
Result: Lost in Eastern Conference finals
2023 Cup odds: +1000

Move to make: Keep Kaapo Kakko

It was weird that coach Gerard Gallant scratched Kakko in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. And even Gallant acknowledged after that loss it was a “possibility” the restricted free agent could have played his final game with the team. We’ve seen young, talented (and underappreciated) players receive offer sheets before. Kakko could easily be next. Given how Gallant treated him amid a decent overall postseason might make leaving seem favorable. It wouldn’t be for New York. The Rangers must repair the relationship and get a deal done.

2021-22 record: 54-20-8, 116 points
Result: Lost in second round
2023 Cup odds: +1000

Move to make: Explore the goalie market (again)

Frederik Andersen had a stellar regular season — until he was, again, derailed by injury. Andersen missed all of Carolina’s postseason run because of a knee issue, another ill-timed injury like those populating his past. Questions were raised about whether Andersen could have returned (at less than 100%) for the Hurricanes but didn’t. How is the rapport between team and player there? Then there’s Antti Raanta, who had his own injury woes. Can Carolina trust Andersen and Raanta to be a tandem again next season? Is Andersen’s health an issue? The Hurricanes might have due diligence to conduct on the open market either way.

2021-22 record: 58-18-6, 122 points
Result: Lost in second round
2023 Cup odds: +900

Move to make: Find their next Claude Giroux

Will Florida be able to re-sign pending UFA Giroux? Will they want to? The Panthers felt acquiring Giroux at the trade deadline was important despite already being the NHL’s highest-scoring team. All that production dried up come the playoffs, in which the Panthers were also an inexcusable 1-for-31 on the power play. If Florida has any doubt its regular season offense was a mirage, then adding — or keeping — a reliable top-six scorer should be prioritized.

2021-22 record: 43-31-8, 94 points
Result: Missed playoffs
2023 Cup odds: +1200

Move to make: Decide on a starting goalie

Vegas dealt with heavy goaltending drama late last season. Robin Lehner played hurt and eventually underwent surgery. Laurent Brossoit was injured, too. Rookie Logan Thompson was a great story trying to get Vegas to the postseason with a 4-1-3 record, .905 SV% and 2.77 GAA down the stretch. The Golden Knights need a No. 1 to reliably stabilize the position long term under new head coach Bruce Cassidy.

2021-22 record: 49-27-6, 104 points
Result: Lost in Western Conference finals
2023 Cup odds: +1200

Move to make: Take care of your own

Edmonton has a lot to do this summer. Priority one should be pending RFAs Ryan McLeod, Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto. GM Ken Holland said he had to figure out if Puljujarvi is part of the Oilers’ future, and why not? Puljujarvi skated in the top six, took some much-needed strides and can own a checking line role. McLeod showed significant improvements the past eight months. And Yamamoto is as capable a forward as Puljujarvi in terms of versatility. Before Holland thinks about re-signing Evander Kane or finding Mike Smith‘s replacement in net, focus should be on securing the Oilers’ homegrown talent.

2021-22 record: 53-22-7, 113 points
Result: Lost in first round
2023 Cup odds: +1600

Move to make: Trade Kevin Fiala

Fiala could be a useful player on many teams. His biggest value to Minnesota is on the trade block. GM Bill Guerin wants Marc-Andre Fleury back. That won’t come cheaply. Guerin acquired Tyson Jost at the deadline. He extended Jordan Greenway. Guerin has spent (limited) Wild cap space, but not on Fiala. And there’s only about $8 million to spare going into next season. Fiala is a 25-year-old pending RFA who just completed a 33-goal regular season. Someone out there needs him. Guerin’s job is to find the fit.

2021-22 record: 49-22-11, 109 points
Result: Lost in second round
2023 Cup odds: +1600

Move to make: Extend David Perron

Did anyone expect Perron to be St. Louis’ leading scorer in the playoffs? Nine goals and 13 points in 12 games says he was. Even at 34, Perron is a worthy investment for the Blues. There’s natural curiosity about how GM Doug Armstrong will navigate the Vladimir Tarasenko trade request situation and whether he can shed Marco Scandella‘s contract. Perron is a layup. He loves being in St. Louis, and vice versa. Perron is productive, a strong leader and all-around asset. Done deal.

2021-22 record: 50-21-11, 111 points
Result: Lost in second round
2023 Cup odds: +1800

Move to make: Re-sign Johnny Gaudreau

This is so easy. Calgary needs Gaudreau. He’s not wearing a “C” but he could be. Gaudreau is the Flames’ best player, the face of their franchise and an exceptional all-around talent. The season he just had playing with Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm showed how Gaudreau has evolved into a more effective two-way player. This is Gaudreau at his best. To let him walk in free agency would be a mistake.

2021-22 record: 46-25-11, 103 points
Result: Lost in first round
2023 Cup odds: +2000

Move to make: Secure the top six (i.e., keep Evgeni Malkin)

Pittsburgh had a fantastic first line last season in Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust. What the Penguins lacked was a complementary second unit that could be just as effective come playoff time. Malkin remains their best option at center there; all he needs is a new contract. Then, Ron Hextall has to find the correct wingers. Malkin is best paired with guys who can hold onto the puck, cycle and score greasy goals.

2021-22 record: 46-30-7, 98 points
Result: Lost in first round
2023 Cup odds: +4000

Move to make: Let DeBoer guide the way

Dallas’ primary offseason issue was whether Rick Bowness should continue behind the bench. That question was answered when Bowness was fired and subsequently replaced by Peter DeBoer. Now the Stars need to start taking notes. Dallas has been wildly inconsistent the past couple of seasons, but there are great players in place. Goaltender Jake Oettinger is a cornerstone. RFA Jason Robertson will get his deal done. Miro Heiskanen is a top-tier blueliner. DeBoer just has to put the puzzle back together. He deserves support from the top down in doing it his way.

2021-22 record: 44-27-11, 99 points
Result: Lost in first round
2023 Cup odds: +2500

Move to make: Add some bite

Los Angeles could use a little sandpaper. Outside of Carl Grundstrom, the Kings don’t have many grinder types. It showed through against Edmonton in their first-round playoff series, in which the Oilers badly outhit Los Angeles and seemed to make the Kings more hesitant to engage. Edmonton is a skill team that can challenge physically; Los Angeles should emulate that. Maybe it’s a mindset shift, maybe it comes via new personnel. For years, the Kings were fearsome on the ice. Bringing back some heaviness goes a long way.

2021-22 record: 51-26-5, 107 points
Result: Lost in first round
2023 Cup odds: +1800

Move to make: Shore up the center position

Whether Patrice Bergeron plays again or not, Boston has to address its center depth. Erik Haula and Charlie Coyle are fine, but the Bruins need a long-term, top-end talent who can eventually replace Bergeron. Clearly, a No. 1 center isn’t easy to find and Boston has Jack Studnicka in the wings. The Bruins don’t have a great deal of time to get better down the middle. GM Don Sweeney has to start now.

2021-22 record: 45-30-7, 97 points
Result: Lost in first round
2023 Cup odds: +5000

Move to make: Get Juuse Saros some help

Forget free agent Filip Forsberg for a moment. Nashville really needs a capable No. 2 netminder. Saros was the Predators’ unquestioned MVP last season, and without him, their postseason hopes went belly up. David Rittich was awful in relief. Third-stringer Connor Ingram gave it a go, but Colorado had an easy sweep. GM David Poile will try to settle the dollars and cents to bring back Forsberg. Tougher — but just as important — is targeting the right complement in net.

2021-22 record: 40-30-12, 92 points
Result: Missed playoffs
2023 Cup odds: +6000

Move to make: Identify a third-line center

Vancouver is on the clock. The Canucks have nine forward contracts expiring over the next two seasons. There are tough decisions to come in a salary-cap world. Most immediately, the Canucks need to round out their center depth. Can it be with Jason Dickinson, who underwhelmed after Vancouver signed him to a three-year, $7.95 million contract last August? If not, then who? The Canucks have a talented young roster that should be challenging for a playoff berth. Stability down the middle is key.

2021-22 record: 37-35-10, 84 points
Result: Missed playoffs
2023 Cup odds: +4000

Move to make: Drill down on defense

The Islanders have five defensemen under contract for 2022-23. That’s not ideal. Zdeno Chara might not be back; ditto Andy Greene. Noah Dobson and Sebastian Aho require new deals. Even having them back in the fold requires further masterminding from GM Lou Lamoriello. The Islanders need a solid top-four rotation at least. Does that come through trades? Free agency?

2021-22 record: 44-26-12, 100 points
Result: Lost in first round
2023 Cup odds: +3000

Move to make: Address holes in the top six

The Capitals are looking for reinforcements. Nicklas Backstrom recently had hip surgery and faces a “lengthy” recovery process. Tom Wilson underwent knee surgery and is expected to miss six to eight months. Those are two top-six contributors who could be unavailable until halfway through next season. Washington’s window to win another Stanley Cup won’t be open for long. Alex Ovechkin won’t be this elite forever. And he can’t do it all alone for the Capitals. GM Brian MacLellan should be scouring the trade and free-agent markets for help.

2021-22 record: 31-37-14, 76 points
Result: Missed playoffs
2023 Cup odds: +8000

Move to make: Bolster scoring depth

The Ducks are noticeably top-heavy. Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras eclipsed the 60-point plateau last season. Cam Fowler and Adam Henrique hit 42 points each. To escape the ongoing rebuild, Anaheim needs more offensive production. Rickard Rakell is gone. Ryan Getzlaf has retired. Who replaces their contributions? What more can GM Pat Verbeek add to make the Ducks dangerous? Zegras and Terry are great talents who will only improve with more skill players around them.

2021-22 record: 39-32-11, 89 points
Result: Missed playoffs
2023 Cup odds: +5000

Move to make: Trade Blake Wheeler

Winnipeg is at an interesting crossroads. Pierre-Luc Dubois is mulling whether he wants to stay long term with the Jets. Mark Scheifele sounds increasingly negative about his own future in Winnipeg. Oh, and they still don’t have a coach. Where are the Jets going here? Trading Wheeler sends a message. It’s nothing against Wheeler or what he has delivered for Winnipeg. The Jets simply have to chart another course. The path they’ve been on in recent seasons hasn’t produced meaningful results. Moving Wheeler opens the door for a new direction and new voices to emerge.

2021-22 record: 32-40-10, 74 points
Result: Missed playoffs
2023 Cup odds: +10000

Move to make: Splashy signing(s) on D

Detroit gave up the second-most goals last season (310) and seriously lacked for defensive depth after Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider. It’s because of Seider that GM Steve Yzerman should make waves beefing up the rest of his defense. Serious improvements are needed and it’s not a patch-and-dash situation. Danny DeKeyser‘s contract is up. So is Marc Staal‘s. Now is the time to give this D corps a full makeover.

2021-22 record: 27-46-9, 63 points
Result: Missed playoffs
2023 Cup odds: +10000

Move to make: Stack the staff

Obviously, New Jersey is another team looking for a proper starting goaltender. But another game-changing decision to come involves the coaches. The Devils didn’t bring back assistants Alain Nasreddine and Mark Recchi. That means the Devils’ defense and power play will be under new management. Players are one thing, but the right coaches make a difference in how well that talent executes. New Jersey wanted a change. Whom can they bet on to turn the tide?

2021-22 record: 37-38-7, 81 points
Result: Missed playoffs
2023 Cup odds: +8000

Move to make: Ink Patrik Laine to a new deal

If Laine was sincere this spring in saying he wants to stay in Columbus, the Blue Jackets should get a long-term deal done ASAP. It’s no secret Columbus has had retention issues in the past with top-tier talents. Laine will put butts in the seats (and raise them back out with many, many goals). Maybe we haven’t even seen the best of Laine yet. If he can keep improving in a stable environment, that’s a win for everyone. The Blue Jackets should covet those who covet being with them.

2021-22 record: 28-42-12, 68 points
Result: Missed playoffs
2023 Cup odds: +10000

Move to make: Sign an NHL goalie

It’s incredible that Chicago does not have an NHL goaltender under contract. How does that happen? Point being, GM Kyle Davidson needs to fill out his goaltending depth chart ASAP.

2021-22 record: 32-39-11, 75 points
Result: Missed playoffs
2023 Cup odds: +10000

Move to make: Franchise goaltender needed

It’s a theme for teams that don’t make the playoffs: Goaltenders wanted. Buffalo is on the lookout for a new No. 1. Craig Anderson was an incredible story last season, but he’s not a long-term solution. This franchise is on the upswing again — or it will be with some consistency in the crease. The Sabres scrolled through six different goalies in 2021-22 and only two of them had a save percentage north of .900. That can’t be the case again next season.

2021-22 record: 32-37-13, 77 points
Result: Missed playoffs
2023 Cup odds: +8000

Move to make: Pick the right GM

San Jose lucked out having a successful long-term general manager like Doug Wilson. Now the Sharks have to find his successor. Interim GM Joe Will has been handling recent business, which gives San Jose time to reflect on who best can fill Wilson’s shoes. San Jose is turning its keys over for the first time in almost 20 years. This is a monumental move that they have to get right.

2021-22 record: 25-46-11, 61 points
Result: Missed playoffs
2023 Cup odds: +12500

Move to make: Make a play for Nazem Kadri

Listen. We all want to see John Tortorella coaching Kadri. Purely from a personality perspective, it could be great theatre. But Kadri could seriously help the Flyers in a big way. He’s coming off a career regular season and just won a Stanley Cup. Kadri deserves to cash in on a long-term deal, and he’s the type of personality Flyer fans will love having after a tough couple of years for the franchise.

2021-22 record: 22-49-11, 55 points
Result: Missed playoffs
2023 Cup odds: +10000

Move to make: Trade Jeff Petry

It wouldn’t be easy for GM Kent Hughes to move Petry and the three years remaining (at $6.25 million per season) on his contract. But it would be the best thing for everyone. Petry is a constant source of trade rumors, and the saga has gone on long enough. If Montreal can find a suitor for the defenseman, it’d clear up some cap space and continue the rebuild in earnest. And Petry would get a fresh start.

2021-22 record: 33-42-7, 73 points
Result: Missed playoffs
2023 Cup odds: +10000

Move to make: Part with Matt Murray

The Matt Murray era in Ottawa has been dramatic and mostly unsuccessful. The Senators’ best option moving forward would be finding another partner for Anton Forsberg. Easier said than done, of course. Murray has a 10-team no-trade list and is only halfway through his four-year, $25 million contract. However, there are plenty of teams in the market for goaltenders. Ottawa would have to retain some salary, but the right trade partner could be out there. It would be a weight off the Senators to close that chapter and open a new door for Murray to rebound.

2021-22 record: 27-49-6, 60 points
Result: Missed playoffs
2023 Cup odds: +15000

Move to make: Draft like a champion

GM Ron Francis stated his commitment to “building a team through the draft.” Time for Francis to do it. He’s got 12 picks to work with (so far) in the 2022 draft, five of which are in the first and second round. Francis has to hit on those to achieve his ultimate goal of crafting a contender via the slow and steady route. It will take years before draftees turn into impact players, but if Francis can inject hope into the team — and fan base — for a bright future ahead, that’ll be a win.

2021-22 record: 25-50-7, 57 points
Result: Missed playoffs
2023 Cup odds: +25000

Move to make: Have some fun

It’s going to be strange watching NHL games in a (comparatively) tiny college arena. The Coyotes have to lean into the weirdness and make it a good time — whatever that looks like. Capitalizing on the uniqueness of their long-term arena uncertainty is a good way to take some of the pressure off questions about this organization’s future — and the many dramas surrounding this ongoing project in Tempe. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense.

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