The Metropolitan Division is always one of the toughest divisions in the NHL, and last year was no exception.
When the 2019-20 regular season was cut short due to COVID-19, the first-place Washington Capitals were just 11 points ahead of the seventh-place New York Rangers. It figures to be very close again this year, and the Blue Jackets are hoping to come out on top.
Let's get into the predictions.
1. Washington Capitals
Key Additions: G Henrik Lundqvist, F Daniel Sprong
Key Losses: G Braden Holtby
They won the Metropolitan Division a year ago, and they still have a very similar team. There's no reason why they can't go back-to-back, but the Flyers and Penguins will likely give them a very good run for their money.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
Key Additions: F Kasperi Kapanen, D Cody Ceci, F Jared McCann, D Mike Matheson, F Colton Sceviour
Key Losses: F Dominik Simon, D Justin Schultz, F Patrick Marleau, F Patric Hornqvist, G Matt Murray
The Penguins lost a good amount this offseason. If Conor Sheary, who is currently a UFA, doesn't sign with Pittsburgh, they'll have lost even more.
However, they've reloaded in a very impressive way. Kapanen, McCann, Matheson, and Sceviour were all acquired in trades, while Ceci was signed to a 1-year, team-friendly deal. The Penguins should be very good once again, and with a very different-looking roster at that.
3. Philadelphia Flyers
Key Additions: D Erik Gustafsson
Key Losses: D Matt Niskanen, F Tyler Pitlick
The Flyers are going to be very good. The addition of Gustafsson will bolster their defensive corps and helps mitigate the loss of Niskanen. With six players over 40 points last season in only 69 games, their balanced scoring attack will be very tough to deal with.
4. Carolina Hurricanes
Key Additions: F Jesper Fast
Key Losses: F Justin Williams, D Trevor van Riemsdyk
The Hurricanes should be fun to watch again this season. The addition of Fast will boost their scoring, and just about everyone is back from last year's campaign. Losing Williams, their leader, will hurt, but they're a team that's dealt with adversity quite well over the past couple of seasons.
5. New York Rangers
Key Additions: D Jack Johnson, G Keith Kinkaid, F Alexis Lafrenière
Key Losses: G Henrikh Lundqvist, F Jesper Fast
Artemi Panarin's burden will be eased with the arrival of Lafrenière, an elite forward with incredible talent. Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and Lafrienière will likely make up their first line, which is about as good as it gets. Defensively, however, is where the Rangers struggled last season, and they haven't taken any concrete steps to address it yet.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets
Key Additions: F Mikka Koivu, F Max Domi
Key Losses: F Josh Anderson, D Ryan Murray, D Markus Nutivaara, F Alexander Wennberg
The Blue Jackets had to clear cap room so that they were able to re-sign Pierre-Luc Dubois, which hasn't happened yet. If (and hopefully when) the two parties are able to come to an agreement, the sooner the better. There are still many forwards out there in the UFA market who could make a big difference in Columbus.
Losing Murray and Nutivaara means that the Blue Jackets no longer have the blue-line depth they're accustomed to. They'll need to rely on staying healthy, which was a tall task last season.
7. New York Islanders
Key Additions: None
Key Losses: G Thomas Greiss
The Islanders haven't added much, and they may be set to lose more if UFA Derick Brassard decides to go elsewhere. In a division where most teams have gotten stronger, the Islanders have stood pat. They don't have much cap space to work with, and they still need to work out a contract extension with RFA Mathew Barzal.
8. New Jersey Devils
Key Additions: D Ryan Murray, G Corey Crawford, F Andreas Johnsson, D Dmitry Kulikov
Key Losses: None
The Devils have added a good amount this offseason while losing virtually nothing. Murray and Kulikov will help solidify their defensive group, and Crawford will compete with MacKenzie Blackwood for the starting job. Johnsson will pitch in on the second or third line.
New Jersey is definitely trending in the right direction, but they're not ready to compete for a Metro crown just yet.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.