Flyers preview: Predicting and examining the Metropolitan division
Here are the comings, goings and offseason headaches for the eight teams in the Flyers' division.
The Flyers are in a maddening cycle of making the playoffs every other year since 2012. If the trend continues, this will be a postseason year.
But getting there isn’t the goal. At least it shouldn’t be. The Flyers haven’t won a playoff series in seven years, the longest drought in franchise history. But the arrival of coach Alain Vigneault and what seems to be some stability in net with Carter Hart has fostered some optimism.
Here is our look at the Metropolitan Division.
Odds to win division: 5-2.
Biggest additions: D Radko Gudas (Flyers), RW Richard Panik (Arizona).
Biggest losses: D Matt Niskanen (Flyers), LW Brett Connolly (Florida), Brooks Orpik (retired).
Who’s the goalie?: Braden Holtby, who led the Caps to the Cup two years ago, is in the final year of his contract, and rookie Ilya Samsonov is the future.
In the spotlight: There are two dozen guys in the locker room, but it always starts with Alex Ovechkin, who led the NHL in goals (51) for the sixth time in the last seven years.
Bottom line: The window is closing on the Ovechkin era, but it isn’t shut just yet. FanDuel had them at 18-1 to win the Cup, which is definitely intriguing.
Odds to win division: 7-2.
Biggest additions: LW Alex Galchenyuk (Arizona), RW Dominik Kahun (Chicago).
Biggest losses: RW Phil Kessel (Arizona), RW Brandon Tanev (Winnipeg), D Olli Maatta (Chicago).
Who’s the goalie?: Matt Murray who married his girlfriend, Christina, over the summer. The only guests were their two dogs. “We don’t love the attention. So we did it quick, just the two of us at our lake house," Murray told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It was a little different, but that’s our style. And that’s what’s important.”
In the spotlight: Evgeni Malkin had 21 goals in 68 games, the fewest he’s had when he’s played at least 50 games. He also turned 33 over the summer but has vowed “to show everyone I’m not done.”
Bottom line: The Pens looked vulnerable getting swept by the Islanders in the first round last spring, which has tails wagging throughout the rest of the division.
New Jersey Devils
Odds to win division: 13-2.
Biggest additions: C Jack Hughes (rookie), D P.K. Subban (Nashville), LW Nikita Gusev (Vegas), RW Wayne Simmonds (Nashville).
Biggest losses: Nothing significant.
Who’s the goalie?: Corey Schneider was 6-13-4 last season but played well down the stretch.
In the spotlight: Hughes, the No. 1 overall pick in June, is among the early favorites for rookie of the year.
Bottom line: If Subban and former MVP Taylor Hall rebound from disappointing seasons, the Devils could be the division’s surprise team.
»FROM THE ARCHIVES: Wayne Simmonds signs with the Devils
Odds to win division: 10-1.
Biggest additions: C Kevin Hayes (Winnipeg), D Matt Niskanen (Washington), D Justin Braun (San Jose), coach Alain Vigneault.
Biggest losses: D Radko Gudas (Washington).
Who’s the goalie?: Carter Hart, fans are praying, will be here for the next 10 years.
In the spotlight: Shayne Gostisbehere has committed himself to a turnaround after posting a minus-20 in the plus/minus ratings last season. “I’ve worked a lot on the mental side of my game,” he said in August. “Just being a good pro and really taking care of my body this summer."
Bottom line: This is Alain Vigneault’s fourth coaching stop. He’s made the playoffs in the first season each time.
»READ MORE: Sam Carchidi’s bold predictions for the Flyers
Odds to win division: A shade over 3-1.
Biggest addition: LW Ryan Dzingel (from Columbus), G James Reimer (Florida)
Biggest loss: RW Justin Williams (retired).
Who’s the goalie?: Petr Mrazek rebounded from a mediocre 2017-18 (which included 17 games with the Flyers) and Reimer
In the spotlight: Sebastian Aho is coming off his first 30-goal season and was nearly poached by Montreal. He stayed put when Carolina matched the Habs’ 5-year, $42.27 million contact.
Bottom line: Rod Brind’Amour did a terrific job in his first season as head coach, but the 'Canes haven’t made the playoffs in consecutive seasons in 16 years.
New York Islanders
Odds to win division: 12-1.
Biggest additions: C Derick Brassard (Colorado), G Semyon Varlamov (Colorado).
Biggest losses: C Valtteri Filppula (Detroit), G Robin Lehner (Chicago).
Who’s the goalie?: Thomas Greiss and Lehner split the regular-season work last year, though Lehner took over in the playoffs. Coach Barry Trotz indicated he’d have a similar set up this year, with Varlamov stepping in for Lehner.
In the spotlight: Jordan Eberle was given a 5-year, $27.5 million deal following a strong finish, which included 6 points in the surprising first-round sweep over the Penguins.
Bottom line: Didn’t make any significant moves even though they could have used a scorer.
New York Rangers
Odds to win division: 14-1.
Biggest additions: LW Artemi Panarin (Columbus), D Jacob Trouba (Winnipeg), RW Kaapo Kakko (rookie).
Biggest losses: LW Jimmy Vesey (Buffalo).
Who’s the goalie?: Looks like the sun is setting on Henrik Lundqvist’s Hall of Fame career. Expect to see him cede more often to backup Alexandar Georgiev. Lundqvist turns 38 in March.
In the spotlight: Panarin signed a seven-year deal with an AAV of $11.6 million.
Bottom line: A playoff push could come, especially if Kakko — the second overall pick in June — is an effective top-6 forward.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Odds to win division: 19-1
Biggest additions: C Gustav Nyquist (San Jose).
Biggest losses: G Sergei Bobrovsky (Florida), LW Artemi Panarin (N.Y. Rangers), C Matt Duchene (Nashville), F Ryan Dzingel (Carolina).
Who’s the goalie?: Joonas Korpisalo takes over for Bobrovsky with rookie Elvis Merzlikins also in play. He’d be the NHL’s first player named Elvis, but won’t be enough to prevent a season destined for the Heartbreak Hotel. (Groan.)
In the spotlight: LW Nick Foligno, the team’s captain, has just 68 points combined in the last two seasons. The Jackets need more from him now that Panarin (87 points last season) is gone.
Bottom line: Lost too much to build off the amazing end to last season, which included a stunning first-round sweep of Tampa.
Carolina – Thought they lost budding star Sebastian Aho when he signed a contract tender with Montreal. He eventually returned.
Columbus – Franchise goalie Sergei Bobrovsky finally bolted. So did leading scorer Artemi Panarin.
New Jersey – A minor one, but they were unable to get a contract done for star Taylor Hall, who can walk after this season.
N.Y. Islanders – New arena groundbreaking at Belmont Park met with lawsuits questioning process.
N.Y. Rangers – Artemi Panarin gives Vladimir Putin a headache with stinging (and courageous) criticism.
Flyers – The Kate Smith statue. No more of those posthumous “God Bless America” duets with Lauren Hart, either.
Pittsburgh – Sidney Crosby left the final preseason game with a foot injury (gasp) after blocking a shot. But he’s OK.
Washington – Evgeny Kuznetsov tested positive for cocaine at the World Championships and is suspended for the first three games.