The 2021-22 NHL season included a great deal of highlights, from the dominance of the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers to the goal-scoring prowess of Auston Matthews and Chris Kreider to spectacular goaltending from Igor Shesterkin, Frederik Andersen and Jacob Markstrom.

But there can be only one team that gets to raise the Stanley Cup. For the rest, this offseason will be a critical time to restock for another playoff run, make that big free-agent signing to get over the hump or continue the slow build back to contention. With 15 teams officially eliminated from the playoffs, it's time to identify their biggest needs as well as some solutions that can be explored.

Read on for a look at what went wrong for each eliminated team, along with a breakdown of its biggest keys this offseason and realistic expectations for 2022-23. Note that more teams will be added to this story as they are officially eliminated from the playoffs.

First-round exits

Nashville Predators

Projected 2022-23 cap space: $27,270,255

2022 draft picks: 1st, 3rd, 3rd (LA), 4th, 5th, 7th

What went wrong?

There's no way to sugarcoat this one: The Predators went as far as Juuse Saros could take them. That's nothing against Roman Josi, Matt Duchene or any of Nashville's other top performers. It was Saros who kept Nashville afloat during tough stretches of the regular season; and once he was ruled out to start the postseason due to a high ankle sprain, it was clear how much goalie depth was a problem for the Predators. David Rittich was quickly usurped by Connor Ingram after a poor Game 1 performance, and there was simply no way Nashville could go goal-for-goal with Colorado without Saros manning the crease.

 

Keys to the offseason

First and foremost, general manager David Poile has to work things out (or not) with upcoming free agent Filip Forsberg. Poile opted not to trade Forsberg before March's deadline, believing he would be a valuable asset in the Predators' playoff push and that there was time to get a deal done over the summer. But Forsberg turned up zero points in four postseason contests, and how much that impacts his value after a 42-goal, 84-point regular season remains to be seen. After Forsberg, the Predators have to examine their defense and decide if it's strong enough behind Josi. Rookie Alexandre Carrier should be able to make strides in the future, but Nashville's blue-line depth could use some veteran additions.

 

Realistic expectations for 2022-23

Nashville has a good core in place. Saros is an outstanding No. 1 goaltender, while Duchene, Josi and Ryan Johansen are around the prime of their careers. Forsberg is the true question mark. With him in the fold and a healthy Saros, there's no reason Nashville can't be in the playoff picture again next season. However, if Forsberg moves on, that's a massive hole Poile will need to fill in order for Nashville to stay on pace.

 

Non-playoff teams

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks have an ascending star in Troy Terry, and flirted with the playoffs for much of the season. What must they do to get back in the postseason mix? Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Projected 2022-23 cap space: $34,792,500

2022 draft picks: 1st, 1st (BOS), 2nd, 2nd (PIT), 4th, 5th, 5th (TOR), 6th (NSH)

 

What went wrong?

There's a concept in sports called "the rookie wall," in which young players will have extraordinary success for a portion of the season but are unable to sustain it. The Ducks had their share of young players in 2021-22, many of them making an impact to turn Anaheim into a surprising contender. But things changed in early March. The Ducks went winless in 11 straight games, and won only four times in a 23-game stretch.