NHL Offseason Vibe Check: The Kraken countdown

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The first full edition of the NHL vibe check is here just in time to get in your feelings about how the Seattle Kraken are going to steal all your favorite players.

The offseason has already had it all, from wild front office decisions to the Oilers making a weird trade. Who could ask for more? Let’s check the vibes of the offseason needs and transactions with expansion on the horizon.

Anaheim Ducks

The vibe: Too Old to be a Duckling

The Ducks need to find a way to get offensive help to 22-year-old Max Comtois. He led them with, uh, 16 goals. Maybe Jack Eichel, future Duck? Maybe not. They need something though.

Arizona Coyotes

The vibe: The Arizona Coyotes, that’s it.

So you want to trade Conor Garland. Alright, I guess. Maybe they fleece some team for Oliver Ekman-Larsson. A lot of options and yet they’ll still be the Arizona Coyotes.

Boston Bruins

The vibe: Questions

The Bruins face their decade-long question again; how much longer will their window be open? It seems up to them. They have some cap space — with consideration for the contracts they’ll have to dish out in 2022 — and Tuukka Rask, David Krejci and Taylor Hall have all expressed a desire to stay.

Buffalo Sabres

The vibe: Eichel Watch

The Sabres were not the first team of the offseason to make a weird trade, so it’s off to a good start! The bad news is they have plenty of time to trade Jack Eichel for like a second round pick.

Calgary Flames

The vibe: How disappointing can it be Michael, it’s the Calgary Flames

They are going to lose part of their core. Maybe it’s Mark Giordano to the Kraken in the expansion draft. Maybe they actually trade Johnny Gaudreau this time. Either way, the Flames are still disappointing and probably will stay that way.

Carolina Hurricanes

The vibe: More like Hurricane Tortilla

The Hurricanes have some choices to make on defense. Dougie Hamilton is talking to other teams, and they very well could lose him. With that in mind, how much do they risk during expansion? Leaving Brady Skjei unprotected? Being okay with Jake Bean being taken? There’s some choices!

Chicago Blackhawks

The vibe: Duncan Keith Dunking on the Oilers

Well they traded Duncan Keith and didn’t retain any salary, so, uh there is that.

Colorado Avalanche

The vibe: So now what?

The Avalanche have been the cusp of being a Stanley Cup contender for years it feels like. They have Nathan MacKinnon. Their defense is so deep they’ll probably lose Devon Toews or Ryan Graves and just be like, fine. So what more can this team do? They’ve lost in the second round for three consecutive seasons.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The vibe: The right lane for Laine

The Blue Jackets have to figure out if they want Patrik Laine in their long-term plans. He didn’t vibe in his partial season there, like, at all. He’s a couple years away from being a UFA, so there’s another bridge deal possibility if the Jackets want to invest.

Dallas Stars

The vibe: Vibeless

The Stars went from a Stanley Cup finalist to just being pretty bad. They had their run at the end of the season but it wasn’t even close at the end of the day. So do they just dial it back? So much of last season was not really their fault with such a compressed schedule. But none of us know what vibe the Stars are going to have.

Carolina Hurricanes v Dallas Stars
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Detroit Red Wings

The vibe: Pinocchio yelling “you have potential” on that commercial

If the Red Wings get Moritz Seider to play that would make them fun maybe. They also have $48 million in cap space. They can do some stuff but they’re not going to get good in one offseason.

Edmonton Oilers

The vibe: Hahahahahahahaha

What is there to even say? They did it again.

Florida Panthers

The vibe: Bill Zito bonanza

The Panthers have to figure out their goalie situation but perhaps more interesting is how does Zito build on this team? They legit competed with Tampa Bay in the first round. They have a defending Selke winner. Do they make a big boom? Again, they have their own business — like retaining RFA Sam Bennett — but one wonders if there’s a big move to be had there.

Los Angeles Kings

The vibe: Cap space central

The veterans did a solid job keeping the Kings kind of in contention for a little bit. Anze Kopitar was once again one of the more underrated scorers in the league. Dustin Brown (???) was still fine. Where the Kings have a bit of an advantage here along with their $19 million plus in cap space is they also don’t really have anyone desirable in expansion to lose. Alex Turcotte and Quinton Byfield are the future, though, so we get to watch a lot more of them!

Minnesota Wild

The vibe: Fishing in Serbia

The Wild are going to have to stave off the KHL if they want to keep Karill Kaprizov, which, might not be easy! Meanwhile, they have to figure out what’s going to happen with Zach Parise. If they can get him to waive his no movement clause it’ll make it a bit easier with the expansion draft.

Montreal Canadiens

The vibe: If you’re not first you’re last

If teams across the league copycat success, what is there to take away from the Canadiens? In a normal year they’re not a playoff team. Carey Price played out of his mind, but they got through objectively the easiest division. The Vegas series win counts for something, though, so we’re going to learn what the real takeaway is soon.

Nashville Predators

The vibe: Here We Go Again

It’s starting to sound like Pekka Rinne might not be done. And with no backup option to Juuse Saros imminently in front of them, maybe they might be smart to give the 38-year-old another run?

New Jersey Devils

The vibe: Rebuild city

There isn’t a better young duo in the league than Jack Hughes and Nico Hirschier, probably. That said, the Devils are a bit away. They have $36 million in cap space so they have a ton of flexibility.

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New York Islanders

The vibe: The Pam from the Office “it’s the same picture” screencap

The Islanders were very similar to the year prior. They fell to Tampa Bay in the Stanley Cup Semi Finals and everything. So, what do they have to do to get over the hump? They have a little less than $6 million in cap space to play with and a couple of RFAs, so keeping that identity together for a third time might be difficult.

New York Rangers

The vibe: Tarasenko sweepstakes is on

The Rangers would be a tremendous fit for the Blues forward who reportedly wants out of St. Louis. Paired with Artemi Panarin, that could be the next piece the Rangers really need to make a leap. It’s a $7.5 cap hit, but then there’s the Jack Eichel possibility too. They wouldn’t be able to get both.

Ottawa Senators

The vibe: Well, well, look who’s inside again

The Senators sure are being the Senators so far!

Philadelphia Flyers

The vibe: When you get crab fries and it’s mostly just regular fries with not much on them

They have to retain RFA Carter Hart but also figure out what’s going on there. Maybe they make a splash for Gaudreau, maybe they focus on a better deal for defender Travis Sanheim. They need to figure out what went wrong last year, though, because that’s about as drastically a disappointing season they could have had.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The vibe: Hey look I made you some content

The Penguins were hit hard by injury luck for the second year in a row. So what do we take from that? They also had a rough showing from goalie Tristan Jarry. Maybe the window is closing as their stars age, but Ron Hextall has some choices to make. They aren’t going to know what to do at forward until after expansion where they’ll probably lose Jared McCann or Zach Aston-Reese.

San Jose Sharks

The vibe:  man, it’s brutal out here

The Sharks actually had some vibes late this season. It wasn’t even close to enough, but they might be a couple of smart moves away from being, I don’t know, not awful? A veteran goalie would help, along with nailing a solid draft class. If they could dump a bad veteran contract somehow, even better.

St. Louis Blues

The vibe: Not Gloria that’s for sure

The Blues have to find a way to move Vladamir Tarasenko and get something good in return. Vince Dunn is probably going to have to be moved if they don’t want to lose him in expansion. So maybe a reset in general is in order, it doesn’t seem like this group can recapture the same magic as the 2019 run.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The vibe: No. 1 Bul- you know

Nikita Kucherov was sitting at the parade with an “$18 million over the cap” shirt and it was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. It’s funny the same team won both Cups in the pandemic hockey era because it’s going to be the two easiest Cups to totally forget about, but it’s been a long time coming for this franchise. Their team building over the years earned this.

NHL Power Rankings
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Toronto Maple Leafs

The vibe: The Amazon Leafs behind the scene thing coming out soon

The thing about the Maple Leafs is they always give us content. That means a lot of wild theories but in all reality, they probably shouldn’t do anything too drastic. Their First Round series loss came with John Tavares out. The Canadiens, as it turned out, weren’t bad! There’s choices to be made there but blowing it up probably isn’t the answer either.

Vancouver Canucks

The vibe: At least it’s not last season anymore

The poor Canucks trudging through a wildly unfair schedule at the end of last year. It’s tough to evaluate what that season was because they likely should have stopped playing much sooner. Alas. They have a core with Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson but obviously faith in general manager Jim Benning has been shaken more than a bit.

Vegas Golden Knights

The vibe: The last Panic! at the Disco album

It’s easy to see where things went wrong for the Golden Knights. Their power play dried up, and they didn’t have any answers for the Canadiens defense and forecheck. Where do they go from here? Well, they have to figure out how to wiggle some cap space free before their monster free agent class next season.

Washington Capitals

The vibe:  How many times do we need to teach you this lesson, old man?

The Capitals were outmatched in the First Round against the Bruins but they also had a ton of injuries, and even the guys playing were banged up. They’ll probably extend Alex Ovechkin and move on from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Who they lose in expansion will lay out the rest of the blueprint.

Winnipeg Jets

The vibe: Their fake airport

The Jets need defense, just like they have for a bit now. They had the 14th ranked defense of the 16 playoff clubs. Maybe Ville Heinola and Dylan Samburg will get some real time next season. They probably have to make at least one more move on defense, though, and there aren’t a ton of stop gap options out there.

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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    Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

    The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

    Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

    Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

    Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

    The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

    Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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    ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

    Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

    These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

    In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

    “Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

    Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

    “He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

    Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

    “I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

    Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

    “I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

    Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

    “I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

    Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

    The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

    One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

    “It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

    Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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    SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

    Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

    “Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

    The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

    Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

    Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

    Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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    The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

    The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

    General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

    The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

    Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

    Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

    “I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

    Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

    “Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

    After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.