NHL Power Rankings: 1-32 poll, biggest offseason decisions

ByKristen Shilton ESPN logo
Sunday, March 26, 2023

While the playoff races head down the final stretch, it's never too early to ponder the moves that teams are going to be making this offseason. Whether it's decisions on which pending free agents to re-sign, trades to make or personnel changes behind the bench or in the front office, all 32 teams have some big questions to answer.

For this week's edition of the NHL Power Rankings, we identify those big summer questions for each club.

How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors rates teams against one another -- taking into account game results, injuries and upcoming schedule -- and those results are tabulated to produce the list featured here.

Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to the most recent edition, published March 17. Points percentages are through Thursday's games.

1. Boston Bruins

Previous ranking: 1

Points percentage: 80.99%

Next seven days: vs. TB (March 25), @ CAR (March 26), vs. NSH (March 28), vs. CBJ (March 30)

Boston's big summer decisions likely hinge on what happens in the next two months. If the Bruins go on a long playoff run, will that satisfy Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci into retirement? If Boston doesn't, will those veterans return for another season? And, after giving up a first-round pick to acquire Tyler Bertuzzi, will Boston attempt to -- or be capable of -- keeping him long term? The future isn't always so clear when a team's present is this exciting.

2. Carolina Hurricanes

Previous ranking: 2

Points percentage: 71.43%

Next seven days: vs. TOR (March 25), vs. BOS (March 26), vs. TB (March 28), @ DET (March 30)

Carolina has a choice to make in net. Both Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta are pending unrestricted free agents. Meanwhile, 23-year-old Pyotr Kochetkov is signed to a four-year, $8 million deal that kicks in next season. Is Kochetkov the Hurricanes' starter-to-be? If not, who is? And will GM Don Waddell look outside of Andersen and Raanta for that answer?

3. New Jersey Devils

Previous ranking: 3

Points percentage: 69.01%

Next seven days: @ BUF (March 24), vs. OTT (March 25), @ NYI (March 27), vs. NYR (March 30)

New Jersey swung for the fences getting Timo Meier at the deadline. But what's next? Meier is a pending restricted free agent owed $10 million on his qualifying offer. Can New Jersey lock Meier up on an extension instead? Or are the Devils prepared to pay such a high price for one more season -- with the same long-term status question looming down the road?

4. Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous ranking: 4

Points percentage: 66.90%

Next seven days: @ CAR (March 25), @ NSH (March 26), vs. FLA (March 29)

Toronto's GM Kyle Dubas is on an expiring contract. The most defining decision of the Leafs' offseason will be whether to renew Dubas' pact or bring on a new GM to take his place. It's no secret that how Toronto fares in the upcoming playoffs will play a major role in that outcome.

5. New York Rangers

Previous ranking: 8

Points percentage: 65.28%

Next seven days: @ FLA (March 25), vs. CBJ (March 28), @ NJ (March 30)

New York has three key pending RFAs: Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere and K'Andre Miller. That triumvirate stands to play a critical role in the Rangers' future. But how will each negotiation be handled? Does New York go long or short term on potential new deals? Will a single-year qualifying offer make more sense for one, but not another? How each scenario unfolds could reveal a lot about how the organization views each young star.

6. Dallas Stars

Previous ranking: 7

Points percentage: 63.89%

Next seven days: vs. VAN (March 25), @ CHI (March 28)

Dallas has done well handling its business. The NHL roster is solid, but GM Jim Nill has also inked key prospects eyeing a jump to the pros. Identifying who's ready could dictate the direction Nill goes this offseason. Does Dallas add from the outside again? Or will the Stars start counting on players from their prospect pool to step up?

7. Los Angeles Kings

Previous ranking: 6

Points percentage: 64.79%

Next seven days: vs. WPG (March 25), vs. STL (March 26), @ CGY (March 28), @ EDM (March 30)

Los Angeles projects to have two key offseason negotiations: one with RFA Gabriel Vilardi, and the other with UFA goaltender Joonas Korpisalo. The 23-year-old Vilardi is having a career-best season; what is he worth to the Kings moving ahead? And after acquiring Korpisalo at the deadline -- while trading Jonathan Quick away -- do the Kings see a slot for him in the future, possibly in tandem with Pheonix Copley? Would Korpisalo want that type of role?

8. Vegas Golden Knights

Previous ranking: 5

Points percentage: 66.20%

Next seven days: @ EDM (March 25), vs. EDM (March 28), @ SJ (March 30)

Vegas has rising star Logan Thompson under contract for next season, but who will be the Golden Knights' second goaltender? Robin Lehner is under contract through 2024-25 but hasn't played this season following hip surgery. Can he make a comeback? The Golden Knights acquired Jonathan Quick at the trade deadline; is the pending UFA a veteran they'll want to retain?

9. Edmonton Oilers

Previous ranking: 12

Points percentage: 62.50%

Next seven days: vs. VGK (March 25), @ ARI (March 27), @ VGK (March 28), vs. LA (March 30)

Edmonton has a budding blue-line star in Evan Bouchard, who is also a pending RFA. Bouchard has built off last season's 43-point effort with another strong campaign, and has blossomed further since Tyson Barrie was traded. How will the Oilers reward Bouchard's standing as one of their top defensemen? Is there a bridge deal to come, or do they go all-in with a multiyear extension?

10. Colorado Avalanche

Previous ranking: 11

Points percentage: 62.86%

Next seven days: vs. ARI (March 24), @ ARI (March 26), @ ANA (March 27), vs. MIN (March 29)

Colorado has only 20 players signed for next season -- and about $13 million in cap space to use. How will the Avalanche wield their limited resources to remain a top competitor? Forwards J.T. Compher and Evan Rodrigues are playing significant roles this season, and both are pending UFAs; can Colorado retain them? Or will the Avalanche be seeking more economical options?

11. Minnesota Wild

Previous ranking: 10

Points percentage: 63.19%

Next seven days: vs. CHI (March 25), vs. SEA (March 27), @ COL (March 29)

Minnesota must find common ground with pending RFA goaltender Filip Gustavsson. The Wild have just over $11 million in projected cap space to work with, to spread among several players. But Gustavsson has been excellent this season, posting some of the league's best numbers. Does Minnesota lean into that and offer him a long-term extension? Or can the club only afford something shorter? And how much cash will be left to fill gaps elsewhere if UFAs Matt Dumba and John Klingberg walk off the blue line?

12. Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous ranking: 9

Points percentage: 61.64%

Next seven days: @ BOS (March 25), @ CAR (March 28), vs. WSH (March 30)

Tampa Bay's commitment to win-now mode has left the Bolts' with zero cap space and sparse draft capital over the next two seasons. When the offseason hits, GM Julien BriseBois will have to get real about whether the Lightning's current pattern remains sustainable. Can they afford to keep patching in players and attempt another run? Or is it time to start rebuilding with the long-term future in mind?

13. Seattle Kraken

Previous ranking: 13

Points percentage: 60.56%

Next seven days: @ NSH (March 25), @ MIN (March 27), vs. ANA (March 30)

Seattle will need to address its goaltending. Philipp Grubauer is signed through 2026-27 but has sporadically played a backup role this season to Martin Jones -- who's a pending UFA. Neither netminder has been an ace for the Kraken. Is Chris Driedger -- inked through next season -- the guy? Can Grubauer regain his form? And how might GM Ron Francis secure Seattle in net going forward?

14. Winnipeg Jets

Previous ranking: 15

Points percentage: 58.22%

Next seven days: @ LA (March 25), @ SJ (March 28)

Winnipeg could have a tough decision to make with Pierre-Luc Dubois. The pending RFA is one year out from being a UFA, and if he doesn't intend to sign a long-term contract with Winnipeg, is this the offseason he's traded? It happened with Matthew Tkachuk in Calgary. The Jets will have to get honest about Dubois' status -- and value on the trade market -- sooner than later.

15. Florida Panthers

Previous ranking: 18

Points percentage: 54.86%

Next seven days: vs. NYR (March 25), @ OTT (March 27), @ TOR (March 29), @ MTL (March 30)

Florida did literally nothing at the trade deadline. That seemed to indicate its focus was on the future -- as in, this coming offseason. What will GM Bill Zito have up his sleeve, and how much will his decision-making be impacted by whether or not Florida sneaks into the playoffs? Do the Panthers require an overhaul? Or will sliding into a postseason slot prove Zito was right to stand pat?

16. Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous ranking: 14

Points percentage: 55.56%

Next seven days: vs. WSH (March 25), @ DET (March 28), vs. NSH (March 30)

Pittsburgh has to see how this regular season plays out. If the Penguins don't make playoffs, their biggest offseason decision should be whether to start dismantling the roster. Pittsburgh is among the NHL's oldest teams. If the veteran-heavy roster can't drive success, getting younger -- via trades or free agency -- has to be a priority.

17. New York Islanders

Previous ranking: 16

Points percentage: 56.94%

Next seven days: @ CBJ (March 24), vs. BUF (March 25), vs. NJ (March 27), @ WSH (March 29)

New York's critical offseason decision -- and possible negotiation -- will be with goaltender Semyon Varlamov. He and Ilya Sorokin have been an excellent tandem for the Islanders. Obviously the Islanders would want Varlamov to stay, but at what cost? New York needs cap space to shore up other parts of the lineup, too. Will that preclude the Islanders from keeping pace with other offers Varlamov might receive?

18. Nashville Predators

Previous ranking: 17

Points percentage: 57.14%

Next seven days: vs. SEA (March 25), vs. TOR (March 26), @ BOS (March 28), @ PIT (March 30)

Nashville has Barry Trotz coming in as GM. Will that lead to a new head-coaching hire too? Trotz will want to evaluate the Predators from top to bottom and put his own stamp on the club. And if Nashville fails to make playoffs under current bench boss John Hynes, could Trotz opt to make a quick switch to give the Predators a fresh voice to get behind?

19. Calgary Flames

Previous ranking: 19

Points percentage: 54.11%

Next seven days: vs. SJ (March 25), vs. LA (March 28)

Calgary could face an offseason coaching conundrum. Will Darryl Sutter stay put if the Flames don't make playoffs? GM Brad Treliving did his best stacking up Calgary last summer withJonathan Huberdeau and Nazem Kadri, but is Sutter still the right guy to get the most of out this roster?

20. Washington Capitals

Previous ranking: 20

Points percentage: 52.05%

Next seven days: @ PIT (March 25), vs. NYI (March 29), @ TB (March 30)

Washington has to rebuild its defense. The Capitals have four current NHL blueliners under contract for next season, and it was clear once John Carlson went down last December with injury that their back-end depth is lacking. That combination should lead to some seriously high-profile free agency adds from GM Brian MacLellan. That is, if Washington intends to keep its potential contending window open, which is a whole other discussion.

21. Ottawa Senators

Previous ranking: 22

Points percentage: 52.08%

Next seven days: @ NJ (March 25), vs. FLA (March 27), vs. PHI (March 30)

Ottawa has a looming saga on its hands with pending RFA Alex DeBrincat. GM Pierre Dorion turned heads acquiring DeBrincat last July, and while the winger hasn't produced like he did in Chicago, Dorion didn't attempt to trade DeBrincat at the deadline either. Now the 24-year-old will be an arbitration-eligible RFA owed $9 million on his qualifying offer. To afford that, Ottawa would have to clear cap space elsewhere. Is DeBrincat worth that for one more year? Do the Senators sign him long term or just let him go? It's a pivotal choice.

22. Buffalo Sabres

Previous ranking: 21

Points percentage: 51.43%

Next seven days: vs. NJ (March 24), @ NYI (March 25), vs. MTL (March 27)

The Sabres' primary offseason objective could be simple as this: How much do we lean into our youth? Captain Kyle Okposo is a pending UFA. Ditto veteran Zemgus Girgensons. GM Kevyn Adams didn't do a ton of adding at trade deadline. Will he opt to keep these familiar faces in the fold come summer to complement the Sabres' rising core? Or does Buffalo target new additions instead?

23. Detroit Red Wings

Previous ranking: 23

Points percentage: 50.00%

Next seven days: @ PHI (March 25), vs. PIT (March 28), vs. CAR (March 30)

Detroit needs a reliable No. 2 behind goaltender Ville Husso. The Red Wings leaned on him too often this season, to their own detriment. Alex Nedeljkovic and Magnus Hellberg are both UFAs. Who will GM Steve Yzerman target to give Husso the support he deserves?

24. St. Louis Blues

Previous ranking: 24

Points percentage: 49.30%

Next seven days: @ ANA (March 25), @ LA (March 26), vs. VAN (March 28), @ CHI (March 30)

St. Louis must address its defense corps. GM Doug Armstrong didn't boost the back end last offseason, and this disappointing 2022-23 campaign has only highlighted how much St. Louis needs a blue-line revamp. The Blues have nearly $24 million tied up in Nick Leddy, Justin Faulk, Torey Krug and Colton Parayko, though. Armstrong might have to seriously work the trade market to make needed defensive improvements.

25. Vancouver Canucks

Previous ranking: 25

Points percentage: 48.59%

Next seven days: @ DAL (March 25), @ CHI (March 26), @ STL (March 28)

Vancouver has to point itself in one direction. Are the Canucks retooling, rebuilding or trying to make the playoffs? This offseason is a time to decide. New coach Rick Tocchet is in place. He'll be able to really put a stamp on this team. Vancouver must sort through an abundance of wingers and figure out whether veteran defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson -- signed through 2026-27 at $7.26 million per season -- can still play a role. But it all starts with how the Canucks approach a critical crossroads and define where the franchise is headed.

26. Arizona Coyotes

Previous ranking: 26

Points percentage: 45.83%

Next seven days: @ COL (March 24), vs. COL (March 26), vs. EDM (March 27)

Arizona is stacked with draft capital. What is it going to do with it? The Coyotes want to be a competitive team and have even exceeded expectations this season. With seven picks in the first three rounds of this upcoming draft, is there an opportunity for Arizona to use that as leverage in acquiring players to make them better now? The Coyotes' cupboards have been stocked; is this the offseason they start taking a big step forward?

27. Philadelphia Flyers

Previous ranking: 28

Points percentage: 46.48%

Next seven days: vs. DET (March 25), vs. MTL (March 28), @ OTT (March 30)

Philadelphia already made a major in-season decision, replacing fired GM Chuck Fletcher with interim GM Daniel Briere. The Flyers' offseason focus will revolve around restructuring the front office in full. Will a hockey operations guru come into the mix? They also must figure out a path forward -- via total rebuild or something on a smaller scale. Trades and free agent acquisitions should take a back seat until then.

28. Montreal Canadiens

Previous ranking: 27

Points percentage: 43.06%

Next seven days: vs. CBJ (March 25), @ BUF (March 27), @ PHI (March 28), vs. FLA (March 30)

Montreal must get Cole Caufield signed long term. The pending RFA is a face of the franchise now and was arguably the Canadiens' best player before having season-ending surgery. GM Kent Hughes knows what value Caufield brings, and Caufield's next contract should reflect that. But in a salary cap world -- with highly paid veterans on the Canadiens' payroll -- it's easier said than done getting negotiations over the line.

29. Chicago Blackhawks

Previous ranking: 29

Points percentage: 38.03%

Next seven days: @ MIN (March 25), vs. VAN (March 26), vs. DAL (March 28), vs. STL (March 30)

Chicago's biggest decision will be whom they select in the draft if that No. 1 overall pick doesn't fall to them in the lottery. It would be a devastating blow for the Blackhawks' rebuilding prospects not to come away with Connor Bedard. If the top selection lands with another team, does Chicago try to trade up anyway to pick at No. 1? Or settle on someone else? It'll be fascinating to see what happens.

30. San Jose Sharks

Previous ranking: 31

Points percentage: 36.81%

Next seven days: @ CGY (March 25), vs. WPG (March 28), vs. VGK (March 30)

San Jose could be stepping into an optimal offseason to trade Erik Karlsson. The veteran blueliner is a Norris Trophy front-runner after years of struggling through injuries. Karlsson has four years remaining on his contract at a $11.5 million average annual value, which is not an easy burden for any team to absorb, but the Sharks must know to strike when the iron -- and Karlsson -- are hot.

31. Anaheim Ducks

Previous ranking: 30

Points percentage: 38.89%

Next seven days: vs. STL (March 25), vs. COL (March 27), @ SEA (March 30)

Anaheim's primary concern of the summer should be how much to pay pending RFA Trevor Zegras. That's not a terribly tough decision; the Ducks need their star player in place for seasons to come. A major issue is what Anaheim's blue line will look like. With a landslide of defenseman becoming UFAs, what path will GM Pat Verbeek take in putting those units back together? Are there internal options to grow? Or does Verbeek fast track with free agent signings to accelerate the Ducks' process?

32. Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous ranking: 32

Points percentage: 36.43%

Next seven days: vs. NYI (March 24), @ MTL (March 25), @ NYR (March 28), @ BOS (March 30)

Columbus is purposefully waiting for the offseason to retool a lackluster blue line. The Blue Jackets failed to reel in Jakob Chychrun via trade, but there will be more options available on the market come summer. How GM Jarmo Kekalainen rebuilds that unit will be a big deal for the Blue Jackets' competitive prospects next season and beyond.