Kyle Dubas, Maple Leafs
Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager

The 2022 NHL Offseason has officially begun, with a couple of big names already on the move in Kevin Fiala and Ryan McDonagh.

This article will preview what each team in the Eastern Conference is expected to do. We’ll identify team needs, cap space, and players likely to be moved via trade.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs have about $7 million in cap space to replace Jack Campbell and sign their three RFAs (Rasmus Sandin, Pierre Engvall, and Ondrej Kase). That’s going to be quite tricky. Management probably doesn’t want to run it back exactly the same, so we can expect them to start their offseason by freeing up some cap space. Justin Holl (1 x $2M), Alex Kerfoot (1 x $3.5M), and Petr Mrazek (2 x $3.8M) are the leading candidates to be moved. I wouldn’t be surprised if all three are traded.

Kyle Dubas will be looking for a player or two who is willing to sign for around the league minimum, allowing him to upgrade elsewhere. Hometown players like Sam Gagner and P.K. Subban are possible candidates. I could also see them seeking out cheap young forwards with upside like Morgan Frost or Emil Bemstrom via trade. Ondrej Kase might price himself out of their comfort range, so they could be looking to replace him as well.

Mrazek won’t be easy to move; his deal was slightly back-loaded, and he carries a 10-team no-trade list. However, they could certainly use the extra $3.8 million in cap space. It might be worth paying a hefty price to do so.

Kerfoot’s actual salary for next season is just $750k, which will help draw plenty of interest. They can get up to $16.5 million or so in cap space by trading Mrazek, Kerfoot, and Holl, but they’d have to back-fill those roles as well. They could also ask Jake Muzzin (2 x $5.635M) to waive his no-trade clause, but since he’s under no obligation to do so, I’ll assume that he’s staying put.

Goaltending is this team’s biggest need by a wide margin. They’ll want to address that first before using the remaining cap space to add at forward. If Campbell doesn’t return, free-agent options like Ville Husso or Marc-Andre Fleury could be in play. If they think Darcy Kuemper is the only quality starter, they could sign him to a deal that probably won’t age well. My guess is that they end up with two 1 A/B types that can compete for the role rather than a clear starter-backup situation.

Rasmus Sandin has the same agent as William Nylander, whose free-agent negotiation didn’t exactly go according to plan. If I was his agent, I’d be trying to make him the next Jesperi Kotkaniemi. A team can sign him to an offer sheet for $4.2 million and only give up a second-round pick, and it makes a ton of sense for a team to do that. The Leafs can’t really risk that, so if he doesn’t sign soon, don’t be surprised if he’s traded in a package for a pretty darn good player.

If Toronto trades Mrazek, one of the goalies that they acquire will likely be quite cheap. Someone like Anthony Stolarz (1 x $950k) or Connor Ingram (1 x $733k) would make sense. If they can save enough on goaltending, they’ll be able to afford a more expensive forward. If they spend their whole budget on goaltending, they’ll likely be limited to the bargain bin up-front. They could use a top-six winger, especially if they move Kerfoot.

The Leafs will also need a fourth-line center, assuming Colin Blackwell signs elsewhere. An option like Johan Larsson could work, or they could splurge a tad on someone like Vladislav Namestnikov or Calle Jarnkrok. Evan Rodrigues, who they tried to sign in the past, would also be a possible Kerfoot replacement given his ability to play both center and wing.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning had only $1.7 million to spend this offseason, but Ryan McDonagh and the Nashville Predators decided to do them a favour and bump that number up about $6 million. Just about everyone is set to come back for the Lightning next season, with the exception of McDonagh and pending free agent Ondrej Palat, so they don’t have many needs to address. Expect them to have a relatively quiet offseason.

They could free up more cap space by either trading or buying out Philippe Myers, but we’ll assume that he’s staying for now. They’ll likely shop for a cheaper replacement for McDonagh and then try to find some sort of Palat replacement as well if they can’t come to terms with him.

Tampa Bay does not have their first-round pick in 2023 or 2024 or their second-round pick in 2022 or 2023. They don’t have many great prospects to trade, either, so expect their focus to be on the free-agent market. They could go big and see if they can convince someone like Claude Giroux or Evgeni Malkin to take a big discount, or they could opt to spread the money between forward and defense. My guess is that they add a cheap left-shooting defenseman and then use their cap space to land a big free-agent forward.

Florida Panthers

Speaking of no money to spend, the Florida Panthers are cap-space broke. Keith Yandle and Scott Darling combine to make $6.575 million of dead cap space next season. Aleksander Barkov just received a big raise. Assuming they want to have enough cap space to activate Duclair off LTIR once healthy, they have about $3 million to fill three forward spots — and that’s without acquiring a seventh defenseman.

They’re almost certain to make a trade to open up some cap space. Patric Hornqvist’s $5.3 million cap hit is the obvious choice; they should be able to attach assets to move him given that there is only one year left on his deal. Retaining salary to move part of Sergei Bobrovsky’s $10 million cap hit is another option, but there are four years left on his deal, so that won’t be easy.

They’ll have a very difficult time trying to bring back Claude Giroux, Mason Marchment, or Ben Chiarot. Expect them to bargain shop for both forwards and defensemen, especially forwards. They’ll be looking for players who are willing to accept around the league minimum.

Boston Bruins

Expect a rather quiet offseason in Boston. Assuming they want to have enough cap space to activate Marchand mid-season, they have about $2.3 million to bring Patrice Bergeron back, and that’s assuming they let Curtis Lazar walk in free agency. We don’t know what Bergeron is going to sign for, but they’ll likely be looking to offload salary elsewhere.

Brandon Carlo (5 x $4.1M), Derek Forbort (2 x $3M), and Nick Foligno (1 x $3.8M) are all trade candidates, although they’ll be tough to move. Jake DeBrusk (1 x $4M), Matt Gryzelcyk (2 x $3.69M), and Mike Rielly (2 x $3M) could also move, but they would be tough to replace. Perhaps they can trade DeBrusk for a good (but not as good) young player who makes closer to the league minimum.

They’ll likely be limited to the bargain bin in free agency. They have eight NHL-calibre defensemen right now, so if one of the more expensive players isn’t moved, someone like Jakub Zboril or Connor Clifton will be.

Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Boston Bruins
Photo: Canadian Press

Ottawa Senators

We never know how much Ottawa is willing to spend, but they have about $23.5 million in cap space to re-sign Josh Norris, Alex Formenton, and Matthieu Joseph. They’ll certainly be looking to take another step forward now that Jake Sanderson is in the fold. They can clear up more cap space by trading (or buying out) Colin White. Connor Brown ($3.6M) is also a candidate to be traded given that he intends to test the free-agent market next offseason.

They have Anton Forsberg, Matt Murray, and Filip Gustavsson in net; none of them are waivers exempt (Murray wouldn’t be claimed, but they probably don’t want to send him down anyway). Perhaps they can find a taker for Murray if they retain half of his $6.25 million cap hit. I can see them attaching an asset to get out of the last year of Michael Del Zotto’s deal as well.

I expect them to target the second tier of top free-agent forwards. They could use some help up the middle, where players like Nazem Kadri, Andrew Copp, Ryan Strome, Max Domi, and Vincent Trocheck could all make sense. They also make sense for mid-tier RFAs like Dylan Strome and Kasperi Kapanen. They’re one of a few teams I could see signing John Klingberg.

Detroit Red Wings

Steve Yzerman could do just about anything and it wouldn’t surprise me. They have tons of cap space ($35M or so) without having any overly expensive UFAs or RFAs to replace, but they have plenty of work to do at every position. Dylan Larkin will likely sign a big extension, but they don’t have a single player locked up beyond 2023-24 at this point.

I don’t expect them to give significant term to anyone north of 30 as it just doesn’t fit their timeline. They make sense for RFAs such as Dylan Strome, Kasperi Kapanen, Pavel Zacha, and Alexandar Georgiev as well as any young player who could be moved such as Alex Texier or Pierre-Luc Dubois. Younger free agents like Ville Husso and Eric Comrie make sense in goal.

They can overpay free agents as long as the term is short, but I expect a quantity over quality approach for the most part (think Ilya Lyubushkin, Calle Jarnkrok, Vladislav Namestnikov, Rickard Rakell). Expect them to have a busy offseason; they could trade plenty of players on short-term contracts while adding in free agency at the same time. Look out for them on Samuel Girard. I also suspect that they’ll consider signing Rasmus Sandin to an offer sheet.

Buffalo Sabres

Similar to Ottawa, they have plenty of cap space but won’t spend to the cap. I do expect them to be extremely aggressive; they’re in a great spot to take a big step forward next season. They have a whopping $38 million or so in cap space and Victor Olofsson is their only major free agent.

They need a starting goaltender and right-shot defenseman to play with Owen Power and Rasmus Dahlin. They typically have to overpay to land free agents, but they have plenty of cap space to do so. Expect a shutdown type like Ilya Lyubushkin or Justin Braun to end up there. They’d be a great fit for Justin Holl as well. They can take on bad contracts (as long as they’re short) in exchange for assets.

Free-agent-wise, I’ll copy and paste this line from the Red Wings section:

“I don’t expect them to give significant term to anyone north of 30, as it just doesn’t fit their timeline. They make sense for RFAs such as Dylan Strome, Kasperi Kapanen, Pavel Zacha, and Alexandar Georgiev, and any young player who could be moved such as Alex Texier or Pierre-Luc Dubois. Younger free agents like Ville Husso and Eric Comrie make sense in goal.”

They could go after younger free agents like Andrew Copp, Ryan Strome, Vincent Trocheck, Max Domi, or Andre Burakovsky. They can throw a bunch of money at Josh Klingberg or Josh Manson if they want to, although I wouldn’t recommend that. They’re in a great spot to add.

Montreal Canadiens

Assuming Carey Price is planning on playing, they have virtually no cap space and a full roster. Expect them to sell aggressively as a result. Players like Jeff Petry, Jake Allen, Joel Edmundsson could be moved elsewhere. I’d strongly consider moving Josh Anderson, Mike Hoffman, and Christian Dvorak. They could also retain some salary to trade Evgeni Dadonov or Jonathan Drouin.

Don’t expect them to be in on any major free agents, but they could look for one-year deals that they could flip at the deadline. They could also look to target young players like Dylan Strome and Alex Texier through trade. They’ll be selling and attempting to get younger.

Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes will have plenty of holes to fill. Nino Niederreiter, Vincent Trocheck, Max Domi, and Ian Cole are all key free agents. They also have key RFAs in Martin Necas, Ethan Bear, and Anthony DeAngelo, and all three could be moved. They have about $19 million in cap space to work with, but they could look to offload the last year of Jake Gardiner’s contract if needed.

They don’t have their first-round pick this year, but they do have plenty of prospects to offer in a trade. It’s easy to see them getting involved in a big trade for someone like Conor Garland, Alex DeBrincat, Pierre-Luc Dubois, or Jesse Puljujarvi. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see them go after Mason Marchment in free agency. Claude Giroux or Evgeni Malkin would make sense as well. They’ll be chasing the Cup again next season.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins have about $23 million to work with, but plenty of work to do. Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Evan Rodrigues, Rickard Rakell, and Casey DeSmith are all free agents. They can’t possibly afford them all. Kasperi Kapanen and Danton Heinen are restricted free agents, and I’d be surprised if the former is back.

They’ll try to move the last year of Jason Zucker’s contract, which comes with a $5.5 million cap hit. They may trade one of their $4-5 million defensemen as well (Marino, Pettersson, Matheson). I’d love for the Leafs to take Teddy Blueger and his $2.2 million cap hit off their hands, but they may opt to keep him.

They’ll likely see who signs elsewhere and then fill in the gaps. Nazem Kadri, who Brian Burke drafted, would be a great fit to replace Malkin. Vincent Trocheck or Ryan Strome could work there as well. They’ll need to find a relatively cheap partner for Tristan Jarry, and we can expect them to bargain hunt for free-agent forwards (which they’re quite good at!).

I don’t think they’ll be shy about moving picks to help them get better, but they’ll be looking for players with a low cap hit. They will need a top-six winger if Rodrigues and Rakell both leave.

Jake Muzzin, Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Photo: Associated Press

New York Rangers

Expect them to try to add aggressively after they reached the Eastern Conference Final. However, they only have about $10 million in cap space and their free-agent list includes Ryan Strome, Andrew Copp, Justin Braun, Tyler Motte, and Frank Vatrano, among others. Their roster is fairly set, but they could use two centers (including a top-six center), a backup goalie, and a third-pairing defenseman.

I don’t think they can pay Alexandar Georgiev, a restricted free agent, north of $2 million given that they have Igor Shesterkin. Expect to see him traded. It also wouldn’t be a total surprise if their other key RFA is traded in Kappo Kakko. Nazem Kadri might be out of their price range, but they could try to re-sign Strome or Copp. The other Strome, Dylan, is also an option as well as Vincent Trocheck and Pavel Zacha. They could look to trade Patrik Nemeth and his $2.5 million cap hit, but that’s not a huge game-changer.

Washington Capitals

This team is about to go all-in. Just about the entire team is north of 30, and they probably only have two or three seasons left before they’re over the hill. The time to go for it is now. Their next two first-round picks, plus top-prospect Hendrix Lapierre, should be on the table.

They’re the perfect team to sign Darcy Kuemper knowing the last couple of seasons of his deal won’t matter much to them anyway. They can’t possibly go into next season with an Ilya Samsonov – Vitek Vanecek tandem again; one of them will be traded. They’re also the perfect team to take a shot on John Gibson, although maybe they’ll call Marc-Andre Fleury first.

Assuming Carl Hagelin is in the lineup rather than LTIR, the Capitals have close to $10 million to spend on two goaltenders and a defenseman or two. They could look to move Hagelin’s $2.75 million cap hit in a trade, but other than that, they don’t have many bad contracts to move.

I expect them to add a starting goaltender, sign one of their current goalies for cheap, and then use their remaining funds on a left-shot defenseman. Someone like Alex Edler, Ben Chiarot, Nick Leddy, or Olli Maatta could end up there. Goaltending might be their only major addition.

New Jersey Devils

This might be the team to watch this offseason. To start, Jesper Bratt, Miles Wood, and Pavel Zacha are all RFAs, none of which are a complete lock to return. MacKenzie Blackwood is also on the trade block, while Andreas Johnsson could easily be moved to a non-cap team given that his base salary is just $750k for next season.

Despite having plenty of trade chips available, this team is looking to add. They have a great young core with Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Alexander Holtz, Dawson Mercer, Luke Hughes, and the second-overall pick. They have an anchor on the back-end in Dougie Hamilton, with Damon Severson right behind him. They have about $25 million in cap space at the moment, but that will fall if they sign their RFAs. They could probably move Tomas Tatar’s $4.5 million cap hit by attaching him to Johnsson.

They’ll be in the market for a number-one goalie. Players like Kuemper, Campbell, and Husso will be options, but they have plenty of young talent to offer if any big names become available on the trade market. They could look to add on the left side of their defense, where names like Jakob Chychrun and Rasmus Sandin may be of interest.

The Devils could be in the market for the top free-agent forwards, especially if they trade Bratt elsewhere. Johnny Gaudreau, Filip Forsberg, Valeri Nichushkin, and Claude Giroux are all options. I could also see them going after two-way wingers like Nino Niederreiter, David Perron, Ondrej Palat, and Mason Marchment. I’ll be surprised if they don’t make three or four big additions.

New York Islanders

As it stands, the Islanders have $12 million to spend to re-sign Noah Dobson and Kieffer Bellows. They also need to add 2-3 left shot-defensemen. Their cap situation could easily change, though, as they have 14 NHL forwards and two number-one goalies. I don’t see them committing to a full rebuild, but I expect to see some hockey trades to address their positional needs.

Ilya Sorokin is the clear number-one starter, so the Islanders could shop one year of Semyon Varlamov and his $5 million cap hit. I’d bet that one of Anthony Beauvillier or Josh Bailey will be traded as well, which would free up $4-5 million to spend elsewhere.

On defense, this team is set on the right side, but they’re dying for options behind Adam Pelech on the left side. Expect them to be in on veteran free agents like Alex Edler, Ben Chiarot, Olli Maatta, Nick Leddy, and Nikita Zadorov.

Columbus Blue Jackets 

This team has way too many forwards. I count 15 NHL bodies, which goes up to 17 if they plan on keeping Brendan Gaunce and Carson Meyer in the big leagues. Given that they aren’t close to contending, they’ll also want to either extend or trade Vladislav Gavrikov, who only has one year left remaining on his deal.

They have close to $20 million of cap space to work with, but they probably don’t want to spend to the cap. They could potentially retain a significant salary to move Jakub Voracek (two years) or Gustav Nyquist (one year), but they won’t fetch much in return. Alex Texier, 22, seems like he is going to receive a change of scenery, and I expect that Emil Bemstrom could be traded as well. They should consider trading two years of Eric Robinson’s services; he’s the exact type of player that contending teams are looking for.

In terms of possible additions, they’ll likely focus on younger players. They could use help on defense, particularly on the right side. If they move Gavrikov, they’ll need help on the left side as well.

Philadelphia Flyers

This is a bad team with little cap space, but I’m not sure if they know that they’re a bad team with little cap space. They made some questionable moves last offseason, to say the least, so I wouldn’t be surprised by just about anything. A healthy Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis in the lineup would be great start, but this team needs to become way better defensively.

They have $5-6 million to spend, and their only RFAs (Owen Tippett, Morgan Frost, and Zack MacEwen) won’t command much of a raise. They could potentially move one of James van Riemsdyk (1 x $7M), Cam Atkinson (3 x $5.875M), or Travis Sanheim (1 x $4.675M) to free up some space, but they’ll have their work cut out. Sanheim’s deal is a bit backloaded, and Atkinson’s deal is relatively flat. However, van Riemsdyk is owed just $4 million in actual salary next season and doesn’t have any no-trade protection, so he’ll likely go to a non-cap team. The Flyers need the space, and moving him would help them improve defensively.

In terms of needs, they could use help in just about every area.