As salary cap restrictions are loosened and teams find themselves armed with a bevy of cap space at their disposal, the NHL offseason – beginning with the annual Entry Draft – is often the most exciting time on the league calendar. The 2022 edition did not disappoint, with a meagre $1 million cap increase for 2022-23 forcing several teams to unload notable contracts for little to no return. As a result, the teams entering the offseason with clean books were poised to capitalize and capitalize they did, reminding everyone that cap space is the most valuable asset in the modern NHL.
Remember, this list only considers the talent difference between a team before and after the events of the offseason, not necessarily how they stack up to their competitors. With that, here are the five most-improved teams of the 2022 NHL offseason – let’s dig in.
Notable Additions: Alex DeBrincat, Cam Talbot, Claude Giroux, Jacob Larsson
Notable Subtractions: Matt Murray, Connor Brown, Filip Gustavsson, Colin White, Victor Mete, Chris Tierney
Has anyone enjoyed the 2022 offseason as much as Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion? First, he swung for the fences by acquiring sniper Alex DeBrincat from the now rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks in a draft-day deal with a package headlined by the seventh-overall pick. Although it’s not insignificant, a first-rounder outside the top-five in a weaker draft is a small price to pay for a two-time 40-goal scorer under the age of 25 who remains under team control next season.
The offseason could have been labelled a success if Ottawa stopped there, but they also managed to procure the services of Claude Giroux, a native of nearby Hearst, Ontario. Although he’s no longer at the peak of his powers, giving up nothing but cap space for a high-level playmaker who produced 73 points in 85 regular-season and playoff games is a win for the much-maligned Dorion. Furthermore, the Senators solidified their goaltending tandem for 2022-23 with the addition of Cam Talbot and sent Matt Murray to the Toronto Maple Leafs after several injury-riddled campaigns plagued by inconsistency.
Although DeBrincat has yet to sign long-term, he could be swayed by a rapidly accelerating project in Canada’s capital promising to take the Eastern Conference by storm. The hefty extensions recently awarded to Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, and Drake Batherson show the organization is willing to spend, suggesting a big payday could be in the winger’s future.
The Senators still lack depth, particularly on defence, but there is no question they are the most-improved team after a busy offseason. The playoffs remain uncertain due to an unforgiving Atlantic Division, but the pieces for a future Stanley Cup contender are slowly falling into place, which is welcome news for a long-tortured fanbase.