Five NHL teams with decisions to make this offseason

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The Stanley Cup Final is over and expansion is on the horizon. In the condensed, delayed 2021 season, the next few weeks are going to be mayhem. The Seattle expansion draft is July 21, with the NHL entry draft and free agency to follow soon after.

Every team has a lot to address with expansion and the questions that emerge from that, but some squads have more decisions to make than others. Here’s five teams who have some existential choices looming.

Boston Bruins

The goaltending situation remains the big question. Tuukka Rask is an unrestricted free agent. He’s said numerous times he doesn’t want to play anywhere but Boston. The Bruins have the cap space to get it done.

Rask is going to miss the start of the season, though, likely until at least January. Jeremy Swayman had a good showing when he started, but it’s a risk to assume he can just slide in and be the long-term starter. Jaroslav Halak is also a free agent, and could be a solid backup option for Swayman while they wait for Rask to be ready.

Then there’s Dan Vladar, who has been waiting in the wings of Providence as well. Swayman’s emergence was earlier than anticipated, so perhaps they rely more heavily on Vladar.

Rask’s future is the big question mark. They have others; there’s what to do with David Krejci, who similarly expressed a desire to stay un Boston. Then there’s Taylor Hall, their acquisition at the trade deadline who had chemistry with Krejci.

Florida Panthers

The Panthers will re-enter an Atlantic Division housing the Stanley Cup champions and runner ups, the Bruins, Maple Leafs, and an improving Ottawa squad, too.

Florida looked good last season. They competed with Tampa Bay in the First Round. General manager Bill Zito went out and got Sam Bennett at the deadline. The question now is how aggressive are they back in the Atlantic, and with a questionable goalie situation.

They have a ton of goalie depth with Spencer Knight and then Devon Levi waiting in the wings. They also barely have anyone signed long term beyond 2023, including Selke Trophy winner Aleksander Barkov. Zito and co. are going to have to make some decisions on rostered players and beyond, and soon.

Minnesota Wild

First and foremost they need to find a way to lock up restricted free agent and Calder Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov. Then they need to work out Kevin Fiala‘s contract.

Then? Perhaps get Zach Parise to waive his no-movement clause.

His cap hit of $7.538 million is rough. As of now, the Wild are projected to lose a good player in expansion no matter what format they use, whether they prioritize keeping Matt Dumba or let him float out there. Getting Parise to waive his deal could help them retain someone like Jordan Greenway, though.

There’s the Jack Eichel rumors, too, as pipe dream-y as they might be. The Wild were fun in 2021. They competed hard with Vegas in the First Round, too. They have some choices to make, especially after losing someone in expansion.

Nashville Predators

They’ve already moved Viktor Arvisson in a deal with the Kings. Afterwards, GM David Poile said, “I think we have to have some growth in our team and go in a little bit different direction. I’m not saying a whole bunch of changes, but I think it’s time to make some changes.”

They have some decisions to make. Goalie Pekka Rinne likely won’t be back after an emotional regular season finale before the Preds fell in the First Round to the Hurricanes.

Mattias Ekholm was a trade candidate at the deadline and he has another year left on his deal. Ryan Ellis could be moved if there’s no good deal on Ekholm. Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansson will be exposed to Seattle, but it’s asking a lot to think they might get out from under those contracts.

Poile is right; they need a shift in direction. What that might be, though, is unclear.

St. Louis Blues

Vladimir Tarasenko wants out. He’s had three shoulder surgeries in two seasons. He has two years left on his eight-year mega contract, but his value is certainly lower than it was in the first half of the deal. He has seven goals in his 34 games over the past two years.

So he’s asked to be traded, has a ton of health risk and carries a $7.5 million cap hit. The upside is there, though, even if the Blues don’t have much leverage in a trade. He has a no-trade clause, too, so he controls his own destiny where he ends up.

Factor in the other choice the Blues need to make on defenseman Vince Dunn, likely to be exposed to Seattle. Perhaps they make a deal to get some value on him first. Consider the Blues losing Tarasenko means they have to replace some offense, too.

Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

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    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

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    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

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    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

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    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

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