With the 2022 NHL offseason officially underway, it seems like we could see a flurry of activity any day now.
This article will preview what each team in the Western Conference is expected to do. We’ll identify team needs, cap space, and the players likely to be moved.
In case you missed it, you can find the Eastern Conference offseason preview here.
The Avs have a ton of work to do once they’re ready to take a break from celebrating. Darcy Kuemper, Nazem Kadri, Valeri Nichushkin, Andre Burakovsky, and Josh Manson are all key free agents. Both Artturi Lehkonen and Nicolas Aube-Kubel are key restricted free agents. Depth players like Andrew Cogliano, Darren Helm, Nico Sturm, Jack Johnson, and Ryan Murray are also set to hit the open market. Expect plenty of turnover.
Colorado has about $25.5 million to work with, but it will be expensive to replace many of these players. They could free up $5 million in space by trading Samuel Girard, but he’s coming off a major injury and has five years of term left. They don’t have their first-round pick this year, and they don’t have their second-round pick for the next three years, so expect them to be active in free agency rather than the trade market.
They weren’t scared to let Philip Grubauer walk last offseason, so don’t be surprised if they balk at Kuemper’s asking price. They’ll be looking for players who are willing to take a discount. Marc-Andre Fleury is one option.
They’ll likely only be able to re-sign one of Nichushkin or Kadri, so expect them to try to find a slightly cheaper free agent to replace the other one. If Kadri leaves, look out for Evgeni Malkin, Vincent Trocheck, Andrew Copp, or one of the Strome brothers to end up there.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues should roll back a pretty similar team next season. Their only UFAs are David Perron, Ville Husso, Nick Leddy, and Tyler Bozak. Their only RFAs are Scott Purunovich and Niko Mikkola, and neither will be overly expensive. St. Louis is not shy about handing out a no-trade clause, so there are not many players who can move without their permission.
There is close to $10 million to work with to re-sign both RFAs and replace both Perron and Husso. They could choose to spend more at forward and find a cheap 1B option to pair with Binnington, or re-sign someone like Husso and find a cheaper replacement for Perron. They could try to upgrade on defense as well, but they don’t necessarily have to given that they already have Justin Faulk, Colton Parayko, Torey Krug, and Marco Scandella in their top four. Ultimately, the Blues roster will likely look almost identical to last year’s version.
The Stars have a lot of work to do. Both Jake Oettinger and Jason Robertson are incredibly important free agents. They have about $18.5 million to re-sign them and add a defenseman, but that’s assuming that they want to run back a nearly-identical team minus John Klingberg. Vladislav Namestnikov, Alex Radulov, Michael Raffl, and Andrej Sekera are all free agents as well, but they still have a rather full roster as it stands.
They’ll probably try to create more cap space by making a trade or two. Radek Faksa (3 x $3.25M) can only block trades to five teams, while Denis Gurianov (1 x $2.9M) doesn’t have any no-trade protection. Having Anton Khudobin (1 x $3.33M) in the AHL comes with a $2.2M cap penalty, so they could attach an asset to move him as well.
The Stars have just about all of their draft picks for the next three years plus a few interesting prospects. They can be aggressive in the trade market if they choose to do so. Perhaps they’ll look for a good young defenseman to help replace Klingberg. They probably can’t afford to be in on the top tier of free agents, but they could try to sign a mid-tier free agent or two. They could use more scoring depth behind the Robertson – Hintz – Pavelski line.
Even after trading Kevin Fiala, the Wild don’t have all that much to spend. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter combine to use up about $12.75M in dead cap space. That number increases by another $2 million next season, so don’t expect them to be overly aggressive in the free-agent market. Re-signing or replacing Marc-Andre Fleury will be their top priority. Their only other UFAs are Nick Bjugstad, Nicolas Deslauriers, and Jordie Benn.
Cam Talbot (1 x $3.67M) could be moved to help free up space for either Fleury or another #1 option. His actual salary for next season is just $3 million and he doesn’t have any no-trade protection, so it shouldn’t be difficult to move him.
They don’t have any remaining RFAs now that Jacob Middleton is reportedly signed, but they do have eight NHL defensemen. Jon Merrill and Alex Goligoski signed recently, and I don’t expect them to trade Matt Dumba, so Dmitry Kulikov or Calen Addison could end up as the odd man out.
They’ll be relatively quiet and focused on the bargain bin. They only have $3-$3.5 million of cap space to work with at the moment.
The Preds have already started their offseason by trading for Ryan McDonagh. They should be fairly set on defense now. They’re also set in goal with Juuse Saros and Connor Ingram; even if they traded Ingram, they’d probably just replace him with another cheap backup to play behind their Vezina candidate. Their primary focus will be up front, where re-signing Filip Forsberg is their top priority.
They have $18-$19 million to work with to re-sign Forsberg as well as two RFAs in Yakov Trenin and Luke Kunin. I expect them to re-sign Forsberg, but if that falls apart they could be in on just about any top free-agent forward to help replace him. They should also have some money left over to add a little bit of scoring depth with a mid-tier free agent. I expect them to have a fairly similar team as they did last year.
This is certainly one of the teams to watch this offseason. Blake Wheeler (2 x $8.25M), Mark Scheifele (2 x $6.125M), and Pierre-Luc Dubois (RFA) have all been involved in their fair share of trade rumours. They only have about $18 million in cap space to re-sign Dubois and Mason Appleton; plus, Paul Stastny, Eric Comrie, and Zach Sanford are set to hit the open market.
Cap space won’t be an issue if they do a complete fire sale, but my guess is that they’ll hang on to key players like Scheifele, Connor, Ehlers, and Connor Hellebuyck. They’re fairly set on defense with Josh Morrissey, Neal Pionk, Dylan Demelo, Nate Schmidt, Brendan Dillon, Logan Stanley, and top prospect Ville Heinola, but both Demelo and Dillon could potentially be moved for help at forward.
They’ll need to find a cheap backup for Hellebuyck, but the rest of their attention will be up front. They could use at least one more top-six forward, and they need either a second or third-line center. They often have a hard time landing free agents, so expect them to focus on acquiring players who don’t have any no-trade protection. Dylan Strome, Kasperi Kapanen, and even someone like Ondrej Kase would make sense for them.
This team is in full fire-sale mode. They should be looking to acquire as many first-round picks as possible. They’ll be looking to take on bad contracts in order to add draft picks rather than spending their cap space on big-name free agents. It feels like they could trade just about anyone, but Alex DeBrincat is the big name to watch.
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews both have one year left until free agency. They have complete control over where they play, but it’s not clear if either of them wants to play elsewhere. Kirby Dach, Dylan Strome, and Dominik Kubalik are all RFAs who could end up playing elsewhere next season.
They make sense as a suitor for just about any bad contract. They’ll also be focused on adding free agents who they can potentially flip at the deadline. We can expect them to focus on overpaying the low-mid tier free agents. Both Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen are set to hit the free-agent market, so they definitely need to add goaltenders.
They have about $33 million in cap space and Lawson Crouse is their only major RFA. However, they almost certainly aren’t going to spend to the cap. They’re probably looking to tank this season given the strong draft class next year.
The Coyotes have taken on plenty of bad contracts in recent years in Andrew Ladd, Nick Ritchie, Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson, Antoine Roussel, Anton Stralman, and Shayne Gostisbehere. We can expect this to continue.
The Coyotes have seven picks in the first two rounds of this year’s draft. They only have two picks in the first two rounds next year (their own picks), but that should change in a hurry. Jakob Chychrun (3 x $4.6M) is a near lock to be traded. They could retain salary to move someone like Ritchie or Gostisbehere as well.
They’ll take on back-loaded deals for the right price, but their typical targets have a high cap hit without much remaining in actual salary. Look out for players like James van Riemsdyk and Milan Lucic. They’re also a main suitor for Petr Mrazek, even though that deal is slightly backloaded.
Vegas Golden Knights
It sounds like Reilly Smith has a verbal agreement on a three-year contract in the $5 million range. Assuming that’s true, the Golden Knights have about $200k of cap space to sign two forwards. Obviously, someone has to be moved out here.
Nicolas Roy and Keegan Kolesar are both restricted free agents, while Mattias Janmark is set to hit the open market. They’re pretty much set in terms of both defense and goaltending, but that could change if they trade someone away.
Alec Martinez (2 x $5.25M) carries a 12-team no-trade list, but he’ll be paid $5.75 million in actual salary in each of the next two seasons. Max Pacioretty (1 x $7M) carries a 10-team no-trade list and is set to earn $5.25 million in actual salary next season. Jonathan Marchessault (2 x $5M) carries a five-team no-trade list and is set to earn just $3.5 million in each of the next two seasons. Moving Laurent Brossoit (1 x $2.325M) and William Karlsson (5 x $5.9M) could also be considered.
My guess is that both Martinez and Marchessault will be shopped. They could also part with a small asset to trade Brossoit. Of course, whoever they trade will have to be replaced, so don’t expect them to go too crazy in free agency. Their main focus will be on the free-agent bargain bin.
Expect the Oilers to aggressively try to improve their defense and goaltending. Assuming Dylan Holloway and Stuart Skinner are on the team and Mike Smith does not return, they have just under $12 million to work with for one goalie, a seventh defenseman, and three forwards. Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, and Ryan McLeod are restricted free agents, while Evander Kane, Brett Kulak, Kris Russell, Josh Archibald, Derick Brassard, Colton Sceviour, and Kyle Turris are set to hit the open market.
They’ll likely try to create some extra cap space. Duncan Keith (1 x $5.54M) could retire knowing he’s set to earn just $1.5 million in actual salary next season. Tyson Barrie (2 x $4.5M) could be moved if they can find a taker. Warren Foegele (2 x $2.75M) could be traded, and Zack Kassian (2 x $3.2M) will likely be traded or bought out. Both of their key RFAs, Puljujarvi and Yamamoto, have been rumoured to be available.
They should be one of the main suitors for Jakob Chychrun. A good 24-year-old defenseman on a bargain contract is exactly what they need. They certainly have plenty of pieces to offer with all of their first-round picks, Puljujarvi, Yamamoto, Philip Broberg, Evan Bouchard, Dylan Holloway, and Xavier Bourgault. It’s also easy to see them signing one of Darcy Kuemper, Jack Campbell, or Marc-Andre Fleury. Trading for John Gibson is also an option.
I think they’ll re-sign Evander Kane, but they could be in on other top free agents if that doesn’t work out. Out of all the teams in the NHL, they might be the most likely buyer to make a big trade.
The Flames have about $27 million in cap space, but they also have a ton of work to do. Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, and Oliver Kylington are all restricted free agents. They’ll surely eat up the bulk of that cap space. Johnny Gaudreau is also set to hit the open market, and while it sounds like they could be close to an agreement, he’ll likely command north of $9 million per season. In the event that they don’t sign Gaudreau, they’ll look to replace him with another top free-agent forward.
Assuming they re-sign these four key free agents, they’ll suddenly be in a cap crunch. They’ll have a tough time saving enough money to re-sign Calle Jarnkrok and Nikita Zadorov, but they’ll need to add another two forwards and another two defensemen. You can bet that the Flames will be trying to add a player or two who make around the league minimum.
Milan Lucic (1 x $5.25M) can block trades to ten teams, but he can probably be moved given that he’s set to earn just $1 million in salary. Sean Monahan (1 x $6.375M) will be trickier to move; he’s coming off a major injury and is set to earn $6 million in salary. With a strong starting goaltender in Jacob Markstrom signed for the next four seasons, they could look to trade Dan Vladar (1 x $750k) or top-prospect Dustin Wolf in order to improve their team elsewhere, but they don’t necessarily have to unless they receive a great offer.
They’ll need to add a fourth-line center and perhaps a third-line center as well if they trade Monahan. They’re pretty much set in terms of top-six wingers (assuming Gaudreau is back), left-shot defensemen, and goaltending. They’ll focus on adding a center or two, a third-pairing right-shot defenseman (or two), and a fourth-line winger (or two).
Los Angeles Kings
This is an incredibly fun and young team that’s already started off their offseason by acquiring Kevin Fiala from the Minnesota Wild. They still have about $12-$13 million in cap space to play with, but a fair number of RFAs in Adrian Kempe, Mikey Anderson, Gabriel Vilardi, Sean Durzi, and Carl Grundstrom. They also have Brendan Lemieux and Lias Andersson, but they should be quite cheap.
They have too many right-shot defensemen and need help on the left side. Drew Doughty and Matt Roy are staples on the right, where they also have three offensive defensemen in Durzi, Jordan Spence, and Sean Walker. Brandt Clarke (eighth overall in 2021) and Helge Grans (35th overall in 2020) also play on the right side, so this is a team you call if you’re looking for a right-shot defenseman. My guess is that they trade Sean Walker (2 x $2.65M) to free up some extra cap space.
They can continue to upgrade up front, but they look pretty much set in the top nine with Anze Kopitar, Phillip Danault, and Quinton Byfield up the middle as well as Fiala, Kempe, Alex Iafallo, Trevor Moore, Arthur Kaliyev, and Viktor Arvidsson on the wing. Left-shot defensemen Alex Edler and Olli Maatta are set to hit the open market; they could use an upgrade over them.
Like Edmonton, they’re a main suitor for Chychrun. They’d be a great fit for either Jake Muzzin or Rasmus Sandin if the Leafs decide to trade one. I could also see them taking Marcus Pettersson off of Pittsburgh’s hands (though the Penguins might have to attach an asset).
There are not a ton of high-end left-shooting defensemen on the free-agent market, so they’ll have to get creative. They have too many forwards, so names like Vilardi, Grundstrom, Alex Turcotte, and Jaret Anderson-Dolan are possibilities to move.
This is a tough team to get a read on. Before placing Chris Driedger ($3.5M) on LTIR to start the season, they’ll have just under $23 million to work with and their RFAs won’t be overly expensive. Victor Rask, Riley Sheahan, and Derrick Pouliot are set to hit the open market. Their RFAs include Ryan Donato, Morgan Geekie, Karson Kuhlman, Kole Lind, Daniel Spring, and Haydn Fleury. They have plenty of flexibility.
Here is where it gets tricky: Their biggest need is goaltending, but Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger are set to take up $9.4 million in cap space. Grubauer is signed for the next five seasons at a $5.9 million cap hit, and it’s going to be almost impossible to get out of that contract right now given that he just posted a .889 save percentage in 55 games. Do they add another goalie and then send someone down once Driedger returns? Probably.
They could use a replacement for Mark Giordano, but since a few of their defencemen can play on either side, they can be flexible in terms of handedness. They’re a good fit for John Klingberg and could use another depth defenseman as well.
Up front, they’re set up the middle with Yanni Gourde, Matthew Beniers, Alex Wennberg, Morgan Geekie, and Jared McCann, but they could certainly use another top-six winger. If they want to go the rebuilding route, they could potentially shop Jordan Eberle (2 x $5.5M), Yanni Gourde (3 x $5.17M), Alex Wennberg (2 x $4.5M), or retain salary to move Joonas Donskoi (1 x $3.9M).
All eyes are on the J.T. Miller situation. If they keep him, they have a real shot at making the playoffs next season if Thatcher Demko plays well and they find a way to improve their defense. If they trade him, they’ll likely be on the outside looking in, and it will probably be more of a transition year.
They have about $7 million in cap space with no major UFAs or RFAs. In theory, they could add a $7 million forward and call it an offseason, but they probably want to improve their defense. Behind Demko, they have 27-year-old Spencer Martin, who played well in his six-game tryout last season. I expect him to make the team given that he isn’t waiver exempt.
They could free up some extra cap space by trading Tyler Myers (2 x $6M), Tanner Pearson (2 x $3.25M), Jason Dickinson (2 x $2.65M), or Tucker Poolman (3 x $2.5M), but they probably don’t want to be giving up too many picks and prospects at this stage. It sounds like they could shop Conor Garland (4 x $4.95M) as well, but they’ll have a hard time improving next season if they do that.
Up front, there are not a ton of open spots in their top nine, but that could change after a trade or two. If a need opens up, expect them to be interested in younger players like Dylan Strome, Kasperi Kapanen, or Alex Texier. I don’t see all that many high-end defensemen available, but they could look to add a veteran or two who they could potentially flip at next year’s deadline (think Olli Maatta or Ilya Lyubushkin). I could see them adding Ethan Bear. I could also envision them flipping Luke Schenn for a pick or prospect.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks went with the “play the kids” approach down the stretch, but it’s tough to tell whether a lot of their players are NHL or AHL bound. They just finished hiring a General Manager, so they might not know, either. They pretty much have a full roster as it stands with $7 million or so in cap space, but they have plenty of restricted free agents to sign.
Kaapo Kahkonen, Mario Ferraro, Noah Gregor, and Jonathan Dahlen are their main RFAs. They just acquired Kahkonen at the deadline and also have James Reimer (1 x $2.25M) and Adin Hill (1 x $2.175M), so one of their goaltenders won’t be back. It’s tough to know what a new General Manager will do, but they should probably work towards rebuilding more than contending. I expect more of a “soft” rebuild than a fire sale.
Kevin Lebanc (2 x $4.725M) has underperformed greatly; it’s going to be difficult to move him given that his contract is backloaded. Both him and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are buyout candidates, but given that they won’t be all that good next year anyway, I’d wait at least a year to do that.
Nick Bonino (1 x $2.05M) and Radim Simek (2 x $2.25M) could be moved in order to play the kids more. I’d love for the Leafs to take Rudolfs Balcers (1 x $1.55M) off of their hands, but he’s only 25. They should seriously consider trading Brent Burns (3 x $8M) if they can; they might be able to given that he only has a three-team no-trade clause, and he is owed “only” $13 million in actual salary over the next three seasons. I wonder if Arizona or Ottawa would take him if the Sharks attached an asset. Like most rebuilding teams, they’ll likely turn their attention to younger free agents and trade targets.
The Ducks have almost $39.5 million (!) of cap space with no major unrestricted free agents. They have four RFAs in Isac Lundestrom, Sonny Milano, Sam Steel, and Urho Vaakanainen, but they won’t exactly break the bank. This team likely won’t spend to the cap, especially since they have a few big RFAs next offseason, but there’s plenty of room for activities here.
Most of the trade speculation comes from their goaltenders. John Gibson (5 x $6.4M) is coming off three straight down seasons, but he was arguably the best goaltender in the world for a multi-year stretch at one point and is still only 28. It sounds like they want to move him, but if teams want them to retain too much salary, they could keep him and see if he’ll bounce back.
Anthony Stolarz (1 x $950k) has a career save percentage of .915 in 62 NHL games. They could keep him and try to extend him as their goaltender of the future, but they may not want to pay him if they decide to keep Gibson; plus, he’s not even a full year younger than Gibson. Contending teams would be willing to pay extra for his bargain cap hit, and given how much cap space they have, the Ducks aren’t exactly getting the full benefit of that deal. I’d try to trade both goalies.
They definitely need help on defense after trading away Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson at the deadline. They’ll probably be focused on younger players, but they could also add a veteran or two on a short-term contract. It seems like they want to add some toughness to surround their young core, so players like Calvin De Haan, Nikita Zadorov, and Justin Braun are options.
They could be fairly set up-front, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Lundestrom, Adam Henrique, Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish, and Derek Grant can all play up the middle. Since there probably won’t be any number-one centers available, their focus should be primarily on the wing.
Like Arizona, they could look to take on bad contracts in exchange for picks or prospects, but they’ll likely be looking for deals where the salary is less than the cap hit. Like most rebuilding teams, expect them to be in on younger players such as Dylan Strome, Kasperi Kapanen, and Alex Texier. I bet Milan Lucic ends up here to provide some toughness.