The massive news involving this division came just a few weeks before the start of the season, when Erik Karlsson was traded from the Ottawa Senators to the San Jose Sharks, instantly making San Jose a Cup contender. But what about the other seven teams in this division?
Last season: 44-25-13, 101 points, second place
Key losses: Francois Beauchemin, Antoine Vermette, Kevin Bieksa
Key additions: Brian Gibbons, Luke Schenn, Andrej Sustr
Somehow, some way, the Ducks always seem to be there at the end of the season, making the playoffs in each of the last six seasons. But is this the year that streak ends? Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler and Patrick Eaves are all dealing with injuries. Ryan Getzlaf is 33 now and they’re asking him to do an awful lot. Can the young talent like Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson and Richard Rakell keep this franchise on the rails until the veterans get healthy?
Last season: 29-41-12, 70 points, last place
Key losses: Max Domi, Luke Schenn, Zac Rinaldo
Key additions: Vinnie Hinostroza, Alex Galchenyuk, Michael Grabner
The 2017-18 Coyotes never recovered from an 0-10-1 start to the season, but did earn points in 20 of their final 30 games. There’s hope with the young talent on the team like 2016 first-round pick Clayton Keller and the addition of forwards like Galchenyuk and Grabner should lighten the scoring burden. Old friend Antti Raanta will get the chance to prove he can be a true No. 1 and Oliver Ekman-Larsson has committed to eight more years in the desert. This rebuilding team could get up and running this winter.
Last season: 37-35-10, 84 points, fifth place
Key losses: Dougie Hamilton, Michael Ferland, Matt Stajan
Key additions: Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm, Derek Ryan, James Neal
One of the bigger trades (non-Karlsson category) this summer came when Dougie Hamilton was shipped to the Carolina Hurricanes with Michael Ferland for Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm, although arguments about whether or not that’s an upgrade on the blue line remain inconclusive. Calgary still boasts exciting young offensive talent in Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk, but needs more widespread production to make it in this division.
Last season: 36-40-6, 78 points, sixth place
Key losses: Yohann Auvitu, Laurent Brossoit, Mike Cammalleri, Patrick Maroon
Key additions: Kyle Brodziak, Mikko Koskinen, Tobias Rieder
Somehow, a team with Connor McDavid playing in all 82 games missed the playoffs by 17 freaking points last season. Oh, and Leon Draisaitl was no slouch either, with 70 points in 78 games. Edmonton did little in the offseason to amend their issues over the summer, too. After Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom the Oilers boast a lot of “not much.” Unless a slew of new assistant coaches can inspire change, it’s hard to fathom how Edmonton gets significantly better in 2018-19.
Last season: 45-29-8, 98 points, fourth place
Key losses: Christian Folin, Torrey Mitchell, Tobias Rieder
Key additions: Ilya Kovalchuk, Peter Budaj
After scoring just three goals in an entire playoff series against Vegas, GM Rob Blake convinced Ilya Kovalchuk to leave the KHL and join the Kings. But he’s 35 years old now and there’s no guarantee he’ll regain the form of a 30 and 40-goal scorer that he enjoyed in his 20s. Much of the same old group is here, with Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Tanner Pearson, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick and Alec Martinez all back. But their climb to the mountaintop got much steeper because of the next team on this list.
San Jose Sharks
Last season: 45-27-10, 100 points, third place
Key losses: Mikkel Boedker, Jannik Hansen, Paul Martin
Key additions: Erik Karlsson, Antti Suomela
San Jose was always one of those good-but-not-quite great teams that struggled to put it all together to win a championship. They were always so close to getting over that final hurdle between them and a Stanley Cup.
Consider Karlsson the rocket that can propel the Sharks to the top. San Jose’s defense corps now has Karlsson along with top-pairing guys like Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The forwards are no slouches either, with Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl all still here. San Jose’s core wasn’t getting any younger, and this was the perfect time for general manager Doug Wilson to go for broke.
And if it all falls apart for San Jose, it’ll be Joe Thornton’s fault.
Almost didn’t recognize you there, Jumbo. pic.twitter.com/56XcEKlPxX— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) October 2, 2018
Last season: 31-40-11, 73 points, seventh place
Key losses: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Jussi Jokinen
Key additions: Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel
For the first time this millennium (seriously, it was that long) the Sedin brothers will not be on the ice for the Canucks this season after retiring. But the Canucks certainly got more obnoxious in the offseason by signing Roussel. Still, this is clearly a team with an eye on the future. Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat are a good start, while Elias Pettersson looks to make his NHL debut after tearing it up in Sweden last season. Veteran Alexander Edler will probably be one of the top names around the trade deadline as Vancouver continues its rebuilding process.
Vegas Golden Knights
Last season: 51-24-7, 109 points, first place
Key losses: James Neal, David Perron, Luca Sbisa
Key additions: Nick Holden, Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty
The Golden Knights seemed to have every possible thing go their way during their inaugural season, resulting in a dramatic run to the Stanley Cup Final. They fell short of the prize, ultimately, but immediately proved that they belonged in the NHL. And Vegas also proved they have no intentions of a sophomore slump, adding legitimate top-six forwards like Stastny and Pacioretty in the offseason. Whether or not goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury can recapture his 2017-18 magic — those numbers were all above his career averages — seems like the biggest obstacle in the way of a repeat performance.