Metropolitan Division Preview: Outlook, Predictions For 2022-23 NHL Season

Elite goaltending equals Stanley Cup contenders in the Metro

by

September 27

Don’t be surprised if, when the dust settles on the 2022-23 NHL season, a team from the Metropolitan Division is hoisting the Stanley Cup.

There are a legitimate Cup aspirations for at least half the Metro entering a new campaign. The division not only boasts arguably five of the best goalies in the world, but some significant offseason movement might have tipped the scales when it comes to chasing the Cup.

As it stands right now, four Metro division teams are among the 10 clubs that have Stanley Cup odds of 20-1 or shorter at DraftKings Sportsbook. Just getting out of the division will be an achievement for one of these teams, and it wouldn’t be shocking if the conference finals pit two Metro teams against each other with one club getting through as a wild card.

Carolina Hurricanes (Odds to win division: +200)
Notable additions: Max Pacioretty, Brent Burns
Notable subtractions: Tony DeAngelo, Vincent Trocheck

It’s not just that Carolina was able to land Pacioretty from Vegas; the Hurricanes basically stole the All-Star forward. The good vibes didn’t last long, though, as Pacioretty proceeded to suffer an Achilles injury and will be out until the All-Star break at least. But Carolina is as deep and as structured as any team in the league and should be able to withstand the loss. If Burns has anything left, he’ll improve an already solid D corps, and the young forward group headlined by Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov has really come into its prime. The best-case scenario for Carolina is Pacioretty is able to take his time in his rehab and joins the team as the ideal stretch-run addition.

Pittsburgh Penguins (Odds to win division: +280)
Notable additions: Jeff Petry, Ryan Poehling, Jan Rutta
Notable subtractions: John Marino, Mike Matheson

Tristan Jarry’s ankle injury might have derailed a Penguins team bound for the Stanley Cup Final last season. Hopes will be similarly high this season, as the Pens avoided disaster and found a way to keep Evgeni Malkin in the fold. He’ll likely center one of the best second lines in the league with Rickard Rakell should he stay on Malkin’s right after re-signing following a trade from Anaheim last season. Jarry at full health is one of the best goalies in the league, the defense is stout and Sidney Crosby is still, generally speaking, Sidney Crosby. The Penguins should once again be a very good hockey team.

New York Rangers (Odds to win division: +350)
Notable additions: Vincent Trochek, Jaroslav Halak
Notable subtractions: Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano, Alexandar Georgiev

The Rangers have a fascinating forward group with what they hope is the perfect mix of young and old. If Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere can continue their respective ascents, look out. Going out and signing Trocheck is a luxury move, and he should flourish alongside Artemi Panarin. There’s still room for growth on a youthful back end, but it’s a unit that also has the reigning Norris Trophy winner in Adam Fox. Oh, and that blue line has reigning Vezina Trophy winner Igor Shesterkin behind them. This team has no excuse to do anything less than contend for a Cup.

NHL Season Preview

Washington Capitals (Odds to win division: +700)
Notable additions: Darcy Kuemper, Charlie Lindgren, Connor Brown, Dylan Strome
Notable subtractions: Ilya Samsonov, Vitek Vanecek

The big question is whether Washington can survive the early season. The Capitals have some glaring injury problems with Nicklas Backstrom, Carl Hagelin and Tom Wilson out to start the season for a team that already has one of the older rosters in the league. The Caps completely overhauled the goalie position, so it’s going to be on Kuemper to carry his Colorado momentum to D.C. If they tread water, they’ll compete, but there’s also a slight house-of-cards (no pun intended) vibe here, too.

New York Islanders (Odds to win division: +1200)
Notable additions: Alex Romanov
Notable subtractions: Michael Dal Colle, Zdeno Chara, Andy Greene, Thomas Hickey

It was kind of a weird offseason for Lou Lamoriello and the Islanders, whose biggest headline was missing out on Johnny Gaudreau. It was a tough season on the Island last year with legitimate Stanley Cup hopes fizzling and the Isles missing the playoffs. Barry Trotz is gone, and only time will tell whether that’s ultimately a good thing. The roster has talent, but it didn’t really mesh last year, and the division is obviously stacked.

New Jersey Devils (Odds to win division: +1600)
Notable additions: Erik Haula, Brendan Smith, Vitek Vanecek, John Marino, Ondrej Palat
Notable subtractions: Pavel Zacha

The Devils are a kind of a forgotten team in a loaded division, but The Athletic’s projection model likes them to be a 90-point team. Feels high, no? New Jersey’s offseason priority was no secret. The Devils added Smith and Marino to the blue line while bringing in Vanecek to back up Mackenzie Blackwood. They even used their first-round pick on defense. If all the new pieces fit, then great, they’ll be a pain to play. Lindy Ruff will have his hands full making the pieces fit early on, but given his track record, this team will compete hard.

Columbus Blue Jackets (Odds to win division: +5000)
Notable additions: Johnny Gaudreau
Notable subtractions: Ryan Strome

One of the biggest surprises — and quite honestly, mysteries — was Gaudreau’s decision to sign with Columbus for less money than he could have made elsewhere. It was a coup for CBJ, as it not only signed the offensive dynamo but also kept him away from division rivals like the Islanders, Devils or Flyers. So, that’s the good news. The bad news, though, is there’s not a lot of talent elsewhere on the roster, and it feels like Gaudreau is a building block around which Jarmo Kekäläinen will build the next Columbus contender. Gaudreau and presumed linemate Patrik Laine will score a ton, but the question marks about defense and goaltending should keep the Blue Jackets from contending.

Philadelphia Flyers (Odds to win division: +7500)
Notable additions: Tony DeAngelo
Notable subtractions: Oskar Lindblom, Martin Jones, Keith Yandle

This thing has the potential to go off the rails in Philly. The Flyers made the surprising but also hilariously predictable move to hire John Tortorella as head coach. Maybe the veteran coach comes in, takes no prisoners and helps reestablish a baseline for the Flyers. But the ceiling is quite low, and there’s not a lot to build on from a team that finished last in the division a year ago. A return to health for Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes could help, and trading for DeAngelo is a talent boost assuming he keeps his head on straight. But the best-case scenario for Philly does feel like they’re eventually tabbed as a team that’s “tough to play against” with little to actually show for it.

Thumbnail photo via Jessica Alcheh/USA TODAY Sports Images
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