The majority of trades and free agency moves have taken place heading into the 2023/24 NHL season, and we've broken down the top five teams that improved this offseason.
The Carolina Hurricanes won the Metropolitan Division last season and even made the Eastern Conference finals, so starting this list with them is a scary prospect for the rest of the NHL.
They made several key moves over the last couple of months, so let's start on the defensive end of the ice.
The 'Canes were already arguably the best defensive team in the league, as they allowed the fewest shots per game (26) and the second-fewest goals per game (2.56). Now, they'll be even stronger, as Tony DeAngelo has returned.
The former Hurricane joined the Philadelphia Flyers for just one season last year and has rejoined Carolina. Along with DeAngelo, the Hurricanes also signed Michael Bunting, one of the best young prospects, from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
On top of those two moves, Carolina also acquired Dmitry Orlov, who averaged nearly 23 minutes of ice time with the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins last season. As if that wasn't enough, the Hurricanes also re-signed both of their top goaltenders - Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta.
Carolina is currently +1000 to win the Stanley Cup and +550 to win the Eastern Conference.
Swapping to the Western Conference is a team that was already shining bright - the Dallas Stars.
Puns aside, Jason Robertson has proven to be one of the best young stars of the NHL, recording his second straight 40-goal season and his first 100-point season. Alongside a veteran like Joe Pavelski, Dallas didn't need much to improve.
Even still, the Stars snatched one of the top free agents on the market - Matt Duchene. The former Nashville Predator is extremely undervalued given the Preds' down year last season, but for just $3 million this year, Dallas fans should be thrilled.
He had the second-most points on Nashville last season and had an 86-point season the year prior. With the defense the Stars already have in place, they look to be one of the most balanced teams in the NHL.
Dallas is currently +1700 to win the Stanley Cup and +750 to win the Western Conference.
Right alongside the Hurricanes is the New Jersey Devils, who finished just one point behind Carolina in the Metro Division last season. They're also right alongside the Stars in terms of being one of the most balanced teams in the league.
Jack Hughes and company just had one of the most impressive year-to-year turnarounds last season, and they locked up several of the pieces that helped them do so. Hughes' linemate Jesper Bratt was vital to his success, and the Devils locked him up with a long-term deal.
Similarly, they also re-signed sharpshooter Timo Meier, who they traded for just prior to the deadline last year.
However, it doesn't end there. New Jersey also traded for Tyler Toffoli of the Calgary Flames. He may not be the caliber of Johnny Gaudreau or Matthew Tkachuk, but key players that leave Calgary have impressed.
To keep the comparisons going, the Devils are tied with the Hurricanes in terms of being +1000 to win the Stanley Cup and +550 to win the Eastern Conference.
Yet another Eastern Conference team, but in the Atlantic Division, that got better this offseason is the Detroit Red Wings. They're looking to get back to their prime of their 1990s run, as it feels as though they haven't made the playoffs in forever.
They have a great young core with Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond, and they took a step in the right direction last season. The Wings also have a handful of Michigan natives, which always bodes well in Detroit.
Speaking of which, their most significant acquisition was that of Alex DeBrincat. After leaving Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks for the Ottawa Senators two seasons ago, he's becoming a sniper for hire, now joining the Wings.
He's one of the best in the NHL in terms of creating goal-scoring opportunities, and to add to his signing, Detroit also added JT Compher and Daniel Sprong. That depth takes pressure off Dylan Larkin to carry the squad.
The Red Wings are currently +230 to make the playoffs and -300 to miss the postseason this year.
Finally, we have another Atlantic Division team that has had plenty of eyes on them in recent years. With one of the biggest payrolls in the NHL already, it's a bit surprising to see them on this list.
However, despite having Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander, they have continued to disappoint come playoff time. In fact, their postseason series win last year was their first since 2004. It's generally been their goaltending that has been lacking, but they were actually strong defensively in 2022-23.
Regardless, they tightened things up with Max Domi and John Klingberg - the latter being one of the more underrated defensemen in the NHL.
Along with those two is even more of a household name - Tyler Bertuzzi. He was excelling enough for the record-setting Boston Bruins to trade for him last season, and now he's a part of a different Original Six team. This puts pressure on new general manager Brad Treliving to breed success, but they certainly have the pieces.
The Maple Leafs are currently the betting favorites to win the Stanley Cup at +800 odds, and similarly the favorites to win the Eastern Conference at +450 odds.
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