Thirty-one teams want what the Colorado Avalanche have. The journey to the Stanley Cup for the 2022-23 season has begun.
With the Champagne from the Avs' celebrations just drying (and more to come Thursday with their parade), every other team in the league will look to bolster its chances via the NHL draft, free agency or the trade market.
Evgeni Malkin Goes from the Steel City to the Big Apple
If we're going to be bold, then let's really be bold.
Where will Evgeni Malkin play next season? The smart bet would be with the Pittsburgh Penguins, of course. He has spent his career on the team and won three Stanley Cups.
While the Penguins have their problems, they are hardly in the sewer of the NHL. They finished third in a tough Metropolitan Division and were one goal away from beating the New York Rangers in the playoffs even with multiple key players missing for parts of the series.
But Pittsburgh is far from stable. There's a new ownership group. General Manager Ron Hextall has been on the job for only a year. The Penguins have failed to move beyond the first round of the playoffs in each of the past four seasons, and their contention window is about to close.
Most importantly, Malkin, who will turn 36 in July, is about to become an unrestricted free agent, and negotiations don't seem to be going well. That could be because of leaks intended to create leverage, but nobody seriously questioned whether Patrice Bergeron and the Boston Bruins would part ways.
If not Pittsburgh, then where might Malkin sign in two weeks? For a number of reasons, Manhattan makes a lot of sense. The Rangers' Ryan Strome and Andrew Copp will be unrestricted free agents, and there haven't been any indications they are close to re-signing either. New York will need to address the second-line center spot one way or another. The Rangers would add a point-per-game veteran with Cup experience without having to offer the five-plus-year contract required for other free-agent centers.