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

Minnesota Wild

Projected 2022-23 cap space: $9,719,745

2022 draft picks: 1st, 2nd (VAN), 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th

What went wrong?

When it mattered most, Minnesota's stars did their job. The Wild simply didn't get enough out of their depth players. That wasn't a glaring issue for Minnesota in the regular season, but was a defining factor in their first-round loss to St. Louis. And it wasn't just an offensive problem either; it was all over the ice.

Minnesota needed more defensive buy-in, more confidence on special teams, and more key saves from goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. That's why general manager Bill Guerin acquired Fleury at the deadline, to make Minnesota a true Cup contender with rock-solid, reigning Vezina Trophy winner level goaltending. Fleury was shaky when the Wild needed him to be inspiring. And since coach Dean Evason gave the crease to Fleury over Cam Talbot, despite the latter's excellent play all season, Minnesota couldn't switch goalies so late in a playoff series. They needed Fleury to rebound along with his teammates, and the bet didn't pay out.

Keys to the offseason

To be honest, the Wild are in pretty good shape roster-wise. The largest hurdle ahead is that starting in 2022-23, Minnesota is carrying $12,743,588 in dead cap space from the Ryan Suter and Zach Parise buyouts. That's around 15% of their space, and will absolutely impact what the Wild can do moving forward.

Guerin's most high-profile negotiation projects to be with pending restricted free agent Kevin Fiala. The forward tallied 85 points in 82 games and, is arbitration-eligible again after playing on a one-year, $5.1 million contract in 2021-22. Is this when Guerin makes a long-term with Fiala?

After that, the biggest question mark for Minnesota might be -- surprise, surprise -- goaltending. Fleury will be a free agent this summer, but Talbot is signed for another season. The Wild have a solid option at starter, but who supports Talbot? Also, what's the next contract for pending RFA defenseman Jacob Middleton? He was brought in from San Jose at the deadline and moved all the way up to Minnesota's top pairing in the playoffs. Another deal for Guerin to get done.

Realistic expectations for 2022-23

Depending how Minnesota navigates its cap-space concerns, the Wild could retool and take another shot at a long playoff run. They have sensational talents in Kirill Kaprizov, Mats Zuccarello and others. There are strong pieces on the back end, including Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon and Middleton. The Wild should learn from disappointment and build off of it.