Five NHL teams that still have big questions this offseason

NHL Free Agency
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The NHL offseason is nearly a month old, and while there are still some intriguing free agents to be signed and some potential trades still lurking, most of the big moves have already been made.

Even though the season is still (at least) a couple of months away we are starting to get a good sense for what each roster will look like whenever the 2020-21 season begins.

Some teams are clearly better (Colorado), some teams look weaker (Chicago), and others still have some pretty significant questions that need to be answered.

Let’s explore some of those questions.

Will Edmonton’s goaltending be enough?

For as long as the Oilers have been bad and a league wide punch line, there is a lot to like about this team.

They have two MVP winners and two of the four best offensive players in the league in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. They also had a pretty nice offseason by acquiring Kyle Turris on a cheap deal to give their bottom-six a little added scoring punch and signing Tyson Barrie to a low-risk, potentially high reward one-year deal. He should be a fantastic addition to what is already the league’s most dominant and terrifying power play. And then you still have the potential of Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi if they can figure out what to do with him.

The defense is still a big question, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Oscar Klefbom, but with Barrie and some of the young players (Ethan Bear? Evan Bouchard?) there is some potential.

The biggest concern still might be the goalie duo of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen. In a goalie-rich offseason the Oilers decided to stick with the same duo. Smith has not been particularly good for two years now and is entering his age 38 season. Those are two big red flags. Koskinen had a better-than-expected 2019-20 performance, but he is still 32 years old and nobody really knows how good of an NHL goalie he is.

There is a lot to like about this Oilers team, but goaltending could undo all of it in a hurry. Missing out on Jacob Markstrom isn’t the end of the world given that contract, but there were so many other potential options this offseason.

Do the Jets need more on defense?

You could also ponder Patrik Laine‘s future as a big unanswered question for the future, but that solution seems obvious (try to make it work!).

In the short-term it is all about the defense.

That was the Jets’ biggest Achilles heel a year ago, and it still looks to be an issue heading into this season.

They re-signed Dylan DeMelo, which is fine, but this is still the biggest weakness on the roster. The forwards are very good. Their goalie is outstanding. And while there are some intriguing pieces on the blue line (Josh Morrissey, Neal Poink) they are clearly lacking a No. 1 defender and maybe even another top-four option beyond that.

They have a couple of No. 2 defenders, and then a bunch of bottom pairs defenders around them.

Who is going to score the goals for Nashville?

This is a roster that has very quietly taken a bit of a hit.

With the departures of Craig Smith, Mikael Granlund, and Nick Bonino three of the top-four goal scorers from last year’s team are gone, along with Turris.

That quartet scored 62 goals for the Predators a year ago.

That is not only a pretty big raw number, you also have to remember those goals are leaving a team that was only 17th in the league in scoring with them. Will the additions of Brad Richardson, Nick Cousins, and Luke Kunin be able to improve that? Given their track records, it seems unlikely. They desperately need big years from Viktor Arvidsson and Matt Duchene.

How does Boston replace Torey Krug?

This might be the most significant departure among Eastern Conference contenders.

Krug was the Bruins’ fourth-leading scorer a year ago, was third on the team in ice-time, and simply one of their best players.

While Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo can still be big parts of the defense, they are still losing a major impact player with — at the moment — no one coming in to replace him.

The free agent market at this point is ridiculously thin. Sami Vatanen is still available, and Slater Koekkoek is an intriguing project. But none of them are going to play the minutes and offer the production that Krug does. The Bruins still have a fantastic team — and salary cap space to work with — thanks to their forwards and goalies, but they still have a massive hole on their blue line.

Why did Buffalo ignore its goaltending?

The Sabres did a lot of work this offseason to add some forward help around Jack Eichel with the additions of Taylor Hall, Eric Staal, Cody Eakin, and Tobias Rieder.

While the defense is not overly impressive on paper, the team’s defensive performance a year ago was a lot better statistically at even-strength than it gets credit for being. The biggest problem was goaltending and the penalty kill. Both were lousy. The question here is the same one that you can ask in Edmonton: Why, in an offseason that was overflowing with goaltending options, did the Sabres stick with the same duo that struggled so much a year ago? Linus Ullmark was solid, but Carter Hutton has been a flop since arriving as a free agent and if they do not get that position solved none of the offseason additions will matter.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

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    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.