In the run-up to the 2021-22 NHL season, we take a look at some of the biggest stories to watch for this season, including Jack Aichel, the Seattle Kraken, the Olympics and some important pending uncontrolled free agents.
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Where will Jack Eisel end up?
Brad Penner-USA Today Sports
There doesn’t seem to be any reasonable way for Jack Eisel to return to the Buffalo Sebars and play for that team again. The constant loss, the lack of direction, and the bridge’s burning disagreement over his treatment seem to have made a situation suitable for divorce. The question is where will the Sabers trade him and how much has his trade value suffered? Anaheim, Los Angeles, New York, Calgary all seem to be reasonable alternatives.
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What will the Seattle Cracken do?
Joe Nicholson-USA Today Sports
The last time we saw a new team enter the NHL was when the Vegas Golden Knights were playing in the Stanley Cup Final in their opening season. This is going to raise the bar for the Seattle Kraken who came to the league with exactly the same expansion draft rules. The only problem: Vegas didn’t shrink the way other teams worked during the expansion draft, and Seattle doesn’t seem to be taking full advantage of the options available to it. The good news for Kraken is that they are playing in the weaker division, which will help them stay competitive. They also invested heavily in goal tendering. The Stanley Cup final is probably not a realistic goal, but the playoffs could be within reach.
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Alex Ovechkin continued to pursue 894 goals
Geoff Burke-USA Today Sports
Alex Ovechkin will not reach Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record this season but he can get himself a little closer. If he registers another 40-goal season, he will rise to No. 3 on the NHL’s all-time list and come close to the magical number of 894 goals. It won’t be easy in the next few years, but it’s certainly within reach.
Perry Nelson-USA Today Sports
Connor McDavid won another scoring title in the 2020-21 season and his second MVP at the top of 100 points in a 5 game game season. That’s close to 150 points from 82 games. Not only will he have the luxury of playing against a Canadian team this season, but he is entering his 25th year, which is usually the highest year for an offensive player. What is he capable of this season?
Douglas Defellis-USA Today Sports
After a great run in the Stanley Cup final, the Montreal Canadians made major changes to the offseason, losing to Philip Danault, Jasper Kotcaniemi and Thomas Tatar to the new team, as well as Shia Weber to injury. Then just before the start of the season, it was announced that the biggest reason to run for the Stanley Cup final was that goalkeeper Carrie Price had entered the league’s player support program and would miss time this season. Some of the most important players in the Stanley Cup final will not be at the start of the season.
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Blackhawks investigation and change
Aaron Doster-USA Today Sports
The Chicago Blackhawks are in the news all offside for two very different reasons. The most notable of which are two separate cases in which sexual harassment allegations were filed against former video coaches by former players. The team promised to release the results of its investigation and make appropriate changes, but General Manager Stan Bowman is in charge even though he was the General Manager at the time and knew about the allegations.
With the addition of Mark-Andre Fleury, Seth Jones, Caleb Jones, and Tyler Johnson, and the return of Jonathan Teuse, they also made headlines for rebuilding the roster.
Sergei Belsky-USA Today Sports
Goudreau has been Flame’s best player for the past seven years and is entering the final year of his contract. There are many doubts about his future with the team. He has been the subject of trade rumors for years, and when he said that all the right things he wanted to stay for was going to be a great opportunity to cash in and pick the team of his choice. He also has a non-trade clause that allows him to choose the five teams he wants to deal with during the season, so if the flames don’t work out he could lose him later in the season. A new deal.
Russell Labaunty-USA Today Sports
Last year, Columbus was sending Pierre-Luke Dubois to Winnipeg Jets for the Patrick line. It was a swap of dissatisfied players who wanted to get out of their current situation and coming back early was bad for both teams. Especially the line of Columbus. He struggled to make an impact, was constantly at coach John Tortorella’s doghouse, and didn’t play well. Now he’s off to a fresh start with a new coach and a full, normal with you. Returning to his -5-40 goals would be a huge development for the Blue Jackets, who need this type of player, and when the line speaks to his contract situation.
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Pittsburgh contract situation
Charles Leclair-USA Today Sports
Evgeny Malkin, Chris Letang and Brian Rust are all out of contract for the Pittsburgh Penguins after this season and this is going to be a big challenge for General Manager Ron Hextal. Malkin and Letang will be pressured to end their careers in Pittsburgh, and they should, but how much money can the Penguins allocate to them in a flat cap league for makeup for their age and the rest of the team? Looks like the rusty player who is most likely to go.
Winslow Townson-USA Today Sports
After not participating in the 2018 Olympics, the NHL is back in Beijing, China for the 2022 Games. It is always exciting to see the best represented countries in the world and see Canada as a heavy favorite in the tournament. This is the first time Connor McDavid will represent Canada at the Olympics, and he will do so with Sydney Crossby at the top of his roster.
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Bob Dichiara-USA Today Sports
Tukka Rusk has not yet been signed but is still not completely out of the picture. Until he returns (or if he does) the goal-tendering free-agent additions will fall on Linus Ulmark and Jeremy Soyman. Sowman has shown potential, and Ulmark is coming from a brutal situation in Buffalo, but it is certainly a question mark for a team that still has a lot of material to compete in the Stanley Cup.
Stan Sajeto-USA Today Sports
A lot is happening in San Jose right now, and most of it is not good. The team definitely needs a rebuild and a bigger deal with older players. There are also major questions about their two best players for very different reasons.
Why Evander is finding himself under investigation, ranging from allegations of his team throwing the game, to allegations of physical and sexual abuse of his ex-wife, to the investigation that he submitted a fake vaccination card. His future with the team, short-term and long-term, is much more doubtful.
Then there is Thomas Hartl, who is entering the final year of his contract and after this season he is an unregulated free agent. He could remove himself before the NHL trade deadline as the Sharks could miss the playoffs again.
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Will anyone beat Tampa Bay?
Douglas Defellis-USA Today Sports
The Tampa Bay Lightning has become the gold standard for winning the NHL at the moment, with regular-season wins and play-off wins topping the league for the past seven years. They have since won five conference finals, three Stanley Cup finals, and each of the last two Stanley Cup finals. They are going for the first three-pitches of the NHL since the New York Islands won four times in a row. They lost a bit from last year’s team, but they are still giving back all their superstars.
Dan Hamilton-USA Today Sports
This has not happened since the 200-0-04 season and the current core has lost the first round in five consecutive seasons. It’s just the talent level and not good enough for financial investment here. If they fail again, change will have to come, and whether they get an almost ruthless first-round matchup when they play in the Atlantic division is up to the Tampa Bay, Boston or fast-growing Florida Panthers.
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Records can be made to play consecutive games
Eric Heartline-USA Today Sports
Doug Jarvis ’record of 964 regular-season games in a row could fall this season as Keith Yandel and Phil Kessel came close to it. Patrick Marleau, if he signs with a team, could pass that mark this season as well. So it’s possible that Jarvis ’964 game mark could end this season as the fourth longest series in league history. Yandle will have the opportunity to pass it as the closest to Mark and a member of the Philadelphia Flyers.