Preview: Metropolitan Division

Friday, 27.09.2013 / 4:00 PM canadiens.com

Lost in the web of offseason trades and free-agent signings? Let us walk you through what happened in the NHL over the summer.

Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes didn’t have the season they’d hoped for in 2012-13. After a strong start to the year, Carolina lost momentum when goaltender Cam Ward was injured. Young gun Jeff Skinner will undoubtedly like to rebound after a disappointing campaign that saw him register a minus-21 differential, the worst plus-minus rating among all forwards in the NHL. On the whole, the Hurricanes’ defense corps, which conceded a less than sparkling 3.31 goals on average per game and ranked second to last in that category, should improve with the arrivals of experienced defensemen Mike Komisarek and Andrej Sekera. Both joined the Hurricanes as free agents over the summer.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Things are looking up for the Blue Jackets heading into the 2013-14 campaign, despite letting last season’s leading scorer, Vaclav Prospal, walk as a free agent this summer. After posting an all-time franchise-best .573 win percentage in 2012-13 with a 24-17-7 record, the Blue Jackets will look to snap a four-year playoff berth drought with a move into the East in the newly-formed Metropolitan division this year. Highly-coveted free agent acquisition Nathan Horton will join two-time NHL All-Star Marian Gaborik up front, while reigning Vezina Trophy-winner Sergei Bobrovsky will attempt an encore performance after finishing second in the league with a .932 save percentage and a fifth-best 2.00 goals-against average.

New Jersey Devils

Following the sudden departure of star forward Ilya Kovalchuk during the offseason, general manager Lou Lamoriello and his team wasted little time taking advantage of free agency to strengthen their offensive capabilities. Ryan Clowe, former Hab Michael Ryder, Rotislav Olesz and 19-year NHL veteran Jaromir Jagr are among a number of players that made their way to New Jersey. In goal, Martin Brodeur will be joined by Cory Schneider, who was acquired over the summer in a deal with the Canucks. Schneider’s arrival provides security for the Devils at the goaltending position when Brodeur ultimately decides to hang up his pads and retire.

New York Islanders

John Tavares might be the most visible face on the team, but is by no means the only effective player on the Islanders’ roster. General manager Garth Snow has made several shrewed moves via free agency and waiver wire in the past two seasons, allowing the team to quietly build up a young core of players who practice an up-tempo style of offense. In 2012-13, the Islanders snuck into the playoffs in 8th place and pushed the top-seeded Pittsburgh to the limit before falling in overtime of Game 6. Captain Mark Streit, a free agent, now plays for the Flyers, so Snow and coach Jack Capuano will need to figure out which defenseman in the system can handle the additional minutes on the ice in 2013-14.

New York Rangers

Despite high expectations, the New York Rangers could not manage better than a 6th-place finish in the Eastern Conference this past season. The addition of Rick Nash to the team failed to help the team progress beyond the second round of the playoffs, where it lost in five games against eventual Cup finalists Boston. After the playoff exit, team management decided to replace incumbent coach John Tortorella with Alain Vigneault, formerly of the Vancouver Canucks.

Philadelphia Flyers

This past season, the Flyers missed the playoffs for a first time since 2006-07, which prompted general manager Paul Holmgren to shop around in the off-season. At the blueline, Holmgren added offensive defenseman Mark Streit to take pressure off Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn and Luke Schenn, Offensively, he bought out Daniel Briere’s long-term contract and inked Vincent Lecavalier to a five-year deal.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Sidney Crosby’s troops have once again set the bar high for the upcoming season. 2012-13 marked another successful season for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not only did the team rack up 15 consecutive wins, but it also finished first overall in the Eastern Conference and advanced to the conference finals during the postseason. Despite losing Jarome Iginla (Boston), Matt Cooke (Minnesota) and Douglas Murray (Montreal), the team’s chances will be bolstered by the return of Rob Scuderi, a two-time Cup winner, from Los Angeles. The biggest question mark facing the team lies in nets. Tomas Vokoun displaced Marc-Andre Fleury as the team’s starter during the past playoffs, but his status is unclear after undergoing surgery to remove blood clots in his abdomen during pre-season.

Washington Capitals

After a slow start to the season under new coach Adam Oates which left the team nearly out of playoff contention, the Capitals caught fire in the second half of the calender, outperforming nearly every other team in the NHL. Lead by Alex Ovechkin, who took home the Hart Trophy as league MVP, the Caps won 17 of their last 23 matches to finish third in the conference. However, they fell to the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs.

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