Brent Seabrook

NHL Power Rankings: Top storylines for 2021-22 NHL Season (Part 3)

NHL Power Rankings
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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we continue our look at the top-30 storylines to watch for the 2021-22 NHL season.

We have been looking at 10 storylines each Monday. We continue today with the top-10 including Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Ovechkin‘s run at history, the Olympics, the Seattle Kraken, the Chicago Blackhawks, and Jack Eichel and the Buffalo Sabres.

Which stories make the cut this week?

[You can read Part 1 here] | [You can read Part 2 here]

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

10. Future of the Arizona Coyotes. As always, there is a lot going on here with the Coyotes. On the ice the team is going all in on a complete rebuild that has seen them overturn a significant portion of the roster, trade key veterans (Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Christian Dvorak) and stockpile a ton of draft picks in the near future. But they also have that pesky arena situation looming over everything with Glendale cutting ties with them after this season, the team submitting a bit for an arena in Tempe, and the team likely needing to find a temporary solution in between, all while remaining in the valley. It is never boring with this team.

9. Vladimir Tarasenko and the St. Louis Blues. Tarasenko made headlines over the offseason by requesting a trade, but as the 2021-22 season approaches he remains in St. Louis and is committed to playing his best as long as he is there. But what exactly happens here? Is a trade still on the table? And what sort of season is ahead for Tarasenko? Injuries have robbed him of most of the past two seasons, while his production plummeted this past season (almost certainly due to not being totally healthy). When he is 100 percent he should still be one of the most dynamic offensive players in the league, and getting that sort of production would be a huge boost for the Blues. Or a huge boost to his trade value.

8. The Maple Leafs core gets another run. After yet another disappointing First Round exit, the fifth in a row for this group, the Maple Leafs again only made minor tweaks to their roster. No major trades. No major changes. Bringing back the same core, same head coach, same general manager. This season has the feel of a true make-or-break season for pretty much all of them. They are now more than six years into this thing and simply making the playoffs is no longer an acceptable result. They have to do something, and if it does not happen this season there is no way they can bring back the same group next season.

7. Consecutive games streak record. Doug Jarvis’ record of 964 consecutive games played is in danger of not only falling this season, but being passed by three different players. Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Keith Yandle is the closest, needing just 42 games to match it (and 43 to pass it). Arizona Coyotes forward Phil Kessel is 64 games behind, while current free agent Patrick Marleau is 54 games away. Playing nearly 1,000 games in a row without missing any is truly magnificent accomplishment in the NHL.

6. Alex Ovechkin keeps climbing the goal scoring leaderboard. Ovechkin has a chance to make a significant leap on the goal scoring leader board this season and could find himself as high as third all-time by the end of the season. He enters the season in sixth place with 730 career goals, just one behind Marcel Dionne for the fifth spot. Brett Hull (741) and Jaromir Jagr (766) are also both well within reach this season as he continues to close in on Wayne Gretzky’s all-time record of 894 career goals.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

5. Tampa Bay Lightning three-peat attempt. The NHL has not had a three-peat since the New York Islanders back in the early 1980s, while there have only been a handful of teams (Edmonton, Pittsburgh on two different occasions, Detroit) that have even had a chance at it since then. The Lightning are the latest team to go for it. They lost quite a few key players this offseason in a salary cap crunch, but they are still returning a magnificent roster and core that has helped produce the league’s best team for the past seven seasons.

4. The NHL returns to the Olympics. After missing the 2018 Olympic games, the NHL is making its return for the 2022 Games in Beijing. That means Connor McDavid plays in his first Olympics, Sidney Crosby gets a chance to add another gold medal to his individual trophy case, and the United States team gets a chance to disappoint everybody again with its roster selection for an international tournament. Canada has won three of the past four golds in which NHL players have participated.

Derek Leung/Getty Images

3. The Seattle Kraken. The NHL’s 32nd team begins play this season as the Kraken enter the league. All eyes will be on them to see if they can come close to replicating the immediate success of the league’s most recent expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights. Maybe that is setting the bar way too high, but given the overall quality of the Pacific Division, and the fact Seattle should have some strong goaltending and spent big money on its defense, the window is open for the Kraken to be competitive this season.

2. The Chicago Blackhawks. The absolute biggest story here is what — if anything — comes from the investigations into the sexual assault allegations and lawsuits the team is facing. Two lawsuits were filed accusing a former assistant coach of sexually assaulting two former players during the 2010 season. The team has pledged to release the findings of its independent investigation, but nobody knows when that will be or what the end result will be. General manager Stan Bowman and several other executives were reportedly made aware of the incidents during that season, but nothing was reported at the time to the NHL or local police. Will any of it result in changes to the organization? Will it all be swept aside? That is what everybody should be watching this season regarding this team.

The secondary storyline here is on the ice, where the Blackhawks made major changes to the roster this offseason to add Seth Jones, Caleb Jones, Tyler Johnson, and Marc-Andre Fleury to the roster, while jettisoning the contracts of Duncan Keith (Edmonton for Caleb Jones) and Brent Seabrook (Tampa Bay for Tyler Johnson). They will also be getting team captain and top-line center Jonathan Toews back after he missed the entirety of the 2020-21 season. The Blackhawks’ only playoff appearance over the past four seasons was the 2019-20 bubble situation when they snuck in as the 23rd ranked team in the league.

1. Jack Eichel and the Buffalo Sabres. What a nightmare situation this has turned into for the Sabres. The team is lousy, it needs another massive rebuild to fix the mess of its previous failed rebuild (which was started to fix the mess of its previous rebuild) and now bridges seem burned with the best player on the roster, Jack Eichel. They can not agree on the best course of action for surgery to fix a neck issue, he has been stripped of his captaincy, it seems like a foregone conclusion that he has already played his last game in Buffalo, and now we just sit back and wait for some sort of resolution, both medically and on the ice. The two biggest questions now seem to be where is he going to be traded to, and how bad of a return are the Sabres going to get after all of this mess? This is not how this rebuild was supposed to go. The Sabres are likely to miss the playoffs for a 10th consecutive season.

Tampa Bay Lightning 2021-22 NHL Season Preview

Tampa Bay Lightning
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The 2021-22 NHL season is coming and it’s time to take a look at all 32 teams. We’ll examine best- and worst-case scenarios, looking at the biggest questions, breakout candidates, and more for each franchise. Today, we preview the Tampa Bay Lightning.

2020-21 Season Review

• Record: 36-17-3 (75 points) third place in NHL Central Division
• Postseason: Won Stanley Cup over Montreal Canadiens in five games
• Offensive leader: Brayden Point (56 games, 23 goals, 25 assists, 48 points

• Free Agent Additions: Corey Perry, Pierre Edouard-Bellemare, Brian Elliott, Brent Seabrook (LTIR)
• Free Agent Subtractions: Barclay Goodrow (trade to New York Rangers), Tyler Johnson (trade to Chicago Blackhawks), Yanni Gourde (Seattle Kraken), Blake Coleman (Calgary Flames), Luke Schenn (Vancouver Canucks)

Biggest question facing the Tampa Bay Lightning?

• Did they lose too much depth?

The Lightning are going to have a full season of Nikita Kucherov and are still loaded with all-stars all over the lineup. Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, Andrei Vasileskiy is still as good of a core as you will find anywhere in the NHL. But one of the driving forces behind the Lightning’s past two Stanley Cup wins was the line of Goodrow, Gourde, and Coleman, giving them a third scoring line that could not only score goals, but also shut down opposing offenses. When that trio was together, including regular season and playoffs, they controlled nearly 60% of the shot attempts and outscored teams by a 26-14 margin during 5-on-5 play. It was one of the most effective lines in all of hockey, and now all three of them are gone. Along with that trio, they also said goodbye to longtime standout Tyler Johnson in a salary cap clearing trade.

That is four significant depth pieces that are now playing someplace else.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

Corey Perry and Pierre Edouard-Bellemare were brought in as free agents, while their talent pipeline is going to be put to the test. Can players like Ross Colton and Alex Barre-Boulet step up and help fill that void in the lower half of the lineup? If they can, the Lightning will be a force to be reckoned with once again.

What’s the salary cap situation?

With big money all-stars all over the lineup the Lightning are as close to the cap as a team can get, and one of the biggest storylines of last season was the way they exceeded in the postseason due to Kucherov spending the entire season on long-term injured reserve. By the time the playoffs rolled around they were close to $10 million over the cap. Don’t blame them, though. The NHL allows it and it was all within the rules. Still, though, they did have to make some significant changes this offseason and had to say goodbye to the aforementioned forwards. Point just signed a new massive deal this offseason that will kick in next year, while their entire core is locked in place long-term. The only major UFA’s they have in the coming years are Ondrej Palat, Patrick Maroon, and Jan Rutta. They will probably lose all three of them given the cap, but they are replaceable players right now.

Breakout Candidate

• Alex Barre-Boulet

The Lightning always seem to have a couple of undersized, but wildly productive forwards that slipped through the NHL’s cracks on their roster. Boulet seems to fit the profile to be the next player to emerge from their farm system. Undersized? Check. Undrafted? Check. Scored a ton of goals at every level he played at? Check again. He has all of the boxes covered and should be able to get a real opportunity this season. He has absolutely dominated the American Hockey League the past three seasons, being one of the top goal scorers and point producers in the league, and scored three goals in his brief NHL action a year ago.

Best-Case Scenario

All of the stars stay healthy and players like Barre-Boulet and Ross Colton step forward to help fill the void left by the free agency/offseason departures of Johnson, Goodrow, Gourde, and Coleman. This should still be one of the best teams in the league and a top-five Cup contender. They have been the most dominant team in the NHL over the past seven years and there should be no sign of slowing down. The best case scenario? We get the NHL’s first three-peat since the New York Islanders 1980s dynasty.

Worst-Case Scenario

Since the start of the 2013-14 regular season the Lightning have been in the playoffs in seven out of eight years; won more regular season games than any other team (379 — 11 more than next closest team, while only two other teams, Pittsburgh and Washington, have more than 360); won more playoff games than any other team (70 — the next closest team has 49 playoff wins); been in the Conference Final/Semifinals five times; and have been in three Cup Finals, winning two of them. The roster is still absolutely loaded with superstars. They are a sure-fire playoff team. The worst case scenario here is probably running into a hot goalie in the First Round, or not having some young players step forward on the bottom of the lineup, or just having a team that is worn down after back-to-back Cup runs in a short period of time. After back-to-back Stanley Cups, you can probably accept that if you are a Lightning fan.

PointsbetTampa Bay Lightning Stanley Cup odds

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Trade: Lightning send Tyler Johnson, pick to Blackhawks for Seabrook contract

Tyler Johnson Trade

The Tampa Bay Lightning said goodbye to another key part of their back-to-back Stanley Cup championship roster on Tuesday night when they sent Tyler Johnson to the Chicago Blackhawks in another salary cap clearing move.

The trade: Johnson and a 2023 second-round pick go to Chicago in exchange for defenseman Brent Seabrook.

Obviously the key here for Tampa Bay is shedding the remainder of Johnson’s contract which runs through the end of the 2023-24 season (another three seasons) at $5 million per year. While he had a nice performance in the playoffs this season he is clearly a player in decline that the Lightning have been trying to shed for two years now. They went as far as to place him on waivers a year ago with nobody taking his contract. They paid a second-round pick to get rid of it this offseason.

In exchange the Lightning will take on the remainder of Seabrook’s contract, knowing he will not play in the NHL again. Seabrook’s deal runs for another three seasons with a salary cap hit of $6.875 million per season. The Lightning will simply place him on the Long-Term Injured List every season.

Johnson spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Lightning, playing in three Stanley Cup Finals (winning two of them) and scoring 161 goals with 200 assists (361 total points) in 589 regular season games.

He is another key player to be leaving the Lightning this offseason.

[Related: Blackhawks acquire Marc-Andre Fleury as Golden Knights create salary cap space]

Yanni Gourde was taken by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, while Barclay Goodrow‘s free agent rights were traded to the New York Rangers where he signed a six-year deal. It is also likely that the Lightning will lose forward Blake Coleman when free agency opens on Wednesday. That line of Gourde, Goodrow, and Coleman was one of their best lines the past two years.

As for Chicago, it continues what has been an extremely busy offseason that has already seen them subtract Duncan Keith and Adam Boqvist, while also adding Seth Jones, Caleb Jones, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Johnson. It is certainly an interesting approach. The Blackhawks have been lousy for four years now and have spent a ton of money this offseason on one player that may not be as good as they think given his salary (Jones), one player that may not want to play there at all (Fleury), and one player that is simply on the decline with a contract the defending Stanley Cup champions were desperate to get rid of (Johnson).

Strange plan and spending for a team that is supposedly rebuilding.

Our Line Starts podcast: Brent Seabrook on retirement, defending the Sedins

Kathryn Tappen and Patrick Sharp are joined by special guest Brent Seabrook, who recently called it a career after 15 NHL seasons. The three-time Cup champion with Chicago spoke about a range of topics, including a trip down memory lane to reflect on the Hawks dynasty, their rivalry with Vancouver and the Sedin twins, where his nickname “Biscuits” came from, and how he’s enjoying retirement so far.

1:25-7:15 – Brent on his retirement so far
7:15-9:20 – How Brent got his nickname “Biscuits”
9:20-14:20 – Brent on this year’s Blackhawks
14:20-21:15 – Brent reflects on the Hawks’ dynasty
24:30-27:30 – Stanley Cup odds powered by PointsBet
34:20-36:10 – Cold Brew Check – is Connor McDavid the best player in the NHL?
36:10-39:15 – Brent on the hardest players to defend

Our Line Starts is part of NBC Sports’ roster of podcasts spanning the NFL, Premier League, NASCAR, and much more. The weekly podcast will highlight the top stories of the league, including behind-the-scenes content and interviews conducted by NBC Sports’ NHL commentators.

Where else you can listen:




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Brent Seabrook ends playing career after 15 seasons with Blackhawks

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Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook has announced he is ending his 15-year NHL career.

Lingering injuries to both of his hips and right shoulder have kept the 35-year-old Seabrook off the ice since Dec. 15, 2019. He underwent surgeries on all three areas, but according to team physician Dr. Michael Terry, the defenseman’s right hip has a long-term issue that will prevent him from playing again.

“We have tried all available conservative treatments, and nothing has worked well enough for him to live life as an athlete,” Terry said in a statement. “We support his decision to prioritize his long-term physical health.”

Because Seabrook isn’t officially retiring, his contract remains on the Blackhawks’ books, albeit on long-term injury reserve. The eight-year, $55M deal he signed in 2015 expires following the 2023-24 NHL season.

After placing Seabrook, Zack Smith, and Andrew Shaw on LTIR Friday, the Blackhawks are now able to exceed their ceiling by $26M in cap hit, per Cap Friendly.

Seabrook was the 14th overall pick in the heralded 2003 NHL Draft and made his debut in 2005. Over 15 seasons in Chicago he would play 1,114 games and score 103 goals and record 464 points. In the playoffs, he scored 20 more times and help the Blackhawks win three Stanley Cups. One of those postseason goals came against longtime rivals Detroit in 2013, keeping their quest alive for another championship.

Representing Canada on the international stage, he won gold at U-18s, World Junior Championship and the 2010 Olympics.

“I am so proud to have played my entire 15-year National Hockey League career in Chicago with the Blackhawks,” Seabrook said in a statement. “It was an honor to play the game that I love, with teammates I love, in front of fans I love, in a city that my family and I have grown to love.

“After several surgeries, countless hours of rehab and training to get back on the ice at the level of my expectations, it will not be possible for me to continue playing hockey. This is what is best for me and my family.”


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.