The NHL Draft is less than a week away, free agency is set to open July 13, and the offseason trades are already coming.
Every team has some pressing need to address before the 2022-23 season opens, and the time to act has come.
What is the one thing each team must accomplish during this offseason, whether it’s in the draft, through free agency or with a trade? The Athletic asked the writers who know the teams best. Here’s what they said.
The Ducks are in serious need of a top-four defenseman after trading away Hampus Lindholm and Josh Manson. Cam Fowler can’t do everything for them, Kevin Shattenkirk is best suited for a third-pairing role at this stage of his career, and Jamie Drysdale is still learning how to handle the chore of playing big minutes night after night. They could also use another scoring winger in the worst way, but shoring up the blue line should be the first order of business.
If you add the players traded away at the deadline to the ones on expiring contracts (including Phil Kessel, Anton Stralman, Antoine Roussel, Loui Eriksson), the Coyotes have a need for more serviceable NHL players and the cap room to accommodate any team trying to dump a high-salaried, underperforming player. That was last summer’s blueprint, and it isn’t changing now.
Center. Even if Patrice Bergeron returns, the Bruins need help in the middle. Bergeron will be 37 and coming off elbow surgery. Erik Haula and Charlie Coyle are the second- and third-line centers. Haula is unrestricted at the end of 2022-23 and not guaranteed to return. Meanwhile, whether prospects Trent Frederic and Jack Studnicka can become full-time NHL centers is unknown.
The Sabres re-signed Craig Anderson to a one-year deal with a $1.5 million cap hit this week. But general manager Kevyn Adams was quick to point out that the signing won’t prevent them from making another move in net. Anderson is 41, and the Sabres’ only option behind him at the moment is Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who has promise but remains unproven. Buffalo needs to find another reliable goalie who can play a starter’s share of games, because there’s no guarantee Anderson or Luukkonen will be able to do that this coming season.
This depends on how free agency goes. If Johnny Gaudreau stays in Calgary, then the biggest need would likely be filling out the defense group and depth forwards. If Gaudreau leaves, the focus would shift to finding a way to replace his skill level and offensive production — or at the very least finding a replacement who can get close to it. In other words, the Flames will need to find a new top-line player.
The Canes have struggled with scoring through their past two playoff runs and could use a power-play weapon/scoring winger as they gear up for 2022-23. It seems unlikely that will happen in free agency considering their cap space predicament, so that piece might be best acquired in a trade.