NHL Power Rankings: Way-Too-Early edition for 2023-24

ByESPN staff ESPN logo
Thursday, June 15, 2023

The Vegas Golden Knights are the 2023 Stanley Cup champions, joining the distinguished list of the NHL's best.

And now, their title defense begins.

As we await the 2023 NHL draft, along with free agency and trade season, it's time for the Way-Too-Early edition of the 2023-24 NHL Power Rankings, voted on by the extended ESPN hockey family. Along with the ranking, we present the big things we're watching this summer for each club, courtesy of Ryan S. Clark, Kristen Shilton and Greg Wyshynski.

How we rank: A panel of ESPN hockey commentators, analysts, reporters and editors rates teams against one another, and those results are tabulated to produce the list featured here.

Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to the final regular-season edition, published April 7.

1. Vegas Golden Knights

Previous ranking: 5

2022-23 finish: Stanley Cup champion

Everything Adin Hill did in the Stanley Cup playoffs reinforces why the Golden Knights -- or any team in need of a goaltender -- would want his services for 2023-24 and beyond. And if the Golden Knights re-sign Hill, what does that mean for Robin Lehner and the two years he has left on his contract at $5 million annually? -- Clark

2. New Jersey Devils

Previous ranking: 3

2022-23 finish: Second-round loss

After a breakout season, the Devils have a lot of decisions to make in the offseason. They have only five forwards under contract for next season. Among their restricted free agents at forward are Timo Meier and Jesper Bratt; their unrestricted free agents are veterans Erik Haula, Tomas Tatar and Miles Wood. Finally, will the Devils seek an upgrade in goal? -- Wyshynski

3. Colorado Avalanche

Previous ranking: 8

2022-23 finish: First-round loss

How will they manage their cap space? Losing Gabriel Landeskog for what looks like the entire season will see their captain potentially miss two full campaigns, but moving his salary to LTIR does create a temporary solution for a team that has contract questions to answer elsewhere. -- Clark

4. Dallas Stars

Previous ranking: 6

2022-23 finish: Conference final loss

Being two wins shy of the Stanley Cup Final further proves the Stars are indeed in a championship window. Figuring out how they can take the next step is the focal point of their summer, starting with calls on pending free agents Evgenii Dadonov and Max Domi. -- Clark

5. Boston Bruins

Previous ranking: 1

2022-23 finish: First-round loss

Boston has a key negotiation looming with RFA Jeremy Swayman. The 24-year-old played in tandem with Linus Ullmark (signed through 2024-25) in a successful 2022-23 regular season that ended in playoff heartbreak. How will the Bruins balance their current and future goaltending situation in critical talks with Swayman's camp? -- Shilton

6. Carolina Hurricanes

Previous ranking: 2

2022-23 finish: Conference final loss

Carolina has potential to lose both top goaltenders -- Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta -- in free agency. How will the Hurricanes handle the mix in net moving forward? Upstart Pyotr Kochetkov likely isn't ready to be a full-time No. 1 for a competitive team. Carolina has to be eyeing veteran help in that department. -- Shilton

7. Edmonton Oilers

Previous ranking: 10

2022-23 finish: Second-round loss

Being in a championship window comes with both advantages and challenges. Now is the time to strike for the Oilers, who must not waste another year of Connor McDavid's and Leon Draisaitl's primes. Of course, they must improve the roster with less than $6 million in cap space -- and breakout defenseman Evan Bouchard needs a new contract. -- Clark

8. Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous ranking: 12

2022-23 finish: First-round loss

Tampa Bay has an aging core, critical free agent decisions ahead and sparse cap space to work with. Basically, it won't be easy for the Lighting to stay a contender. But can they make it happen? What Tampa does with RFA Tanner Jeannot and UFA Alex Killorn -- among others -- will determine what direction their ship sails. -- Shilton

9. Florida Panthers

Previous ranking: 17

2022-23 finish: Stanley Cup finalist

Florida stood pat at the trade deadline and wound up reaching the Stanley Cup Final. Will this offseason be similarly quiet -- or do they have another blockbuster deal in store like last summer with the Matthew Tkachuk trade? The Panthers have momentum and strong depth; that's worth capitalizing on. Can GM Bill Zito identify the missing piece that will allow Florida to run it back -- and then some -- next season? -- Shilton

10. New York Islanders

Previous ranking: 16

2022-23 finish: First-round loss

The Islanders have 20 players under contract for next season. GM Lou Lamoriello would like to bring back Scott Mayfield, Semyon Varlamov, Pierre Engvall and Zach Parise, if the latter chooses not to retire. The only player that seems like he's on the outs is forward Josh Bailey, who was a playoff scratch. Can this team use its core to create more offense or will it seek goal scoring from elsewhere? -- Wyshynski

11. Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous ranking: 4

2022-23 finish: Second-round loss

Toronto's top priority is negotiating an Auston Matthews extension ASAP. Is new GM Brad Treliving up to the task? The Leafs will pull out all the stops to keep Matthews happy and in the fold (it's no coincidence they targeted Shane Doan as an advisor), but the key is actually getting that new deal over the line. -- Shilton

12. New York Rangers

Previous ranking: 7

2022-23 finish: First-round loss

The Rangers fired coach Gerard Gallant after losing to the Devils in the first round and hired Peter Laviolette to spark this star-laden roster. With rentals Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko off to free agency, who will the Rangers target to bolster their offense and get faster? -- Wyshynski

13. Buffalo Sabres

Previous ranking: 19

2022-23 finish: No playoffs

Owen Power is entering the final season of his rookie contract. Buffalo will want to talk extension sooner than later -- but what will that look like? Power could go the bridge-deal route, or go long-term for a little less money per season. The Sabres are undeniably on the rise, and Power is part of that. The question is: What price will be right? -- Shilton

14. Minnesota Wild

Previous ranking: 9

2022-23 finish: First-round loss

Even with veteran players hitting free agency, the Wild remain cap-strapped in their attempt to boost a roster that went out in the first round of the playoffs. Especially with starting goalie Filip Gustavsson needing a new contract. -- Wyshynski

15. Los Angeles Kings

Previous ranking: 11

2022-23 finish: First-round loss

CapFriendly projects the Kings will have a little more than $7.3 million in cap space to improve a team that has the bulk of its roster under contract. Of course, there is a goaltending situation to sort out: Trade acquisition Joonas Korpisalo is a free agent, leaving Pheonix Copley on his lonesome for now. And how does Michigan alum Erik Portillo fit into the plan for this season? -- Clark

16. Seattle Kraken

Previous ranking: 14

2022-23 finish: Second-round loss

There are a few captivating situations to monitor for the Kraken this summer. How will they structure a new deal for Vince Dunn? In general, how will they deploy a projected $20.3 million in cap space to improve the roster? Perhaps most importantly, how can the team get Philipp Grubauer to harness his postseason success into something more consistent? -- Clark

17. Ottawa Senators

Previous ranking: 21

2022-23 finish: No playoffs

It looks like the Senators might have a new owner. Now, Ottawa needs a new plan. Alex DeBrincat isn't planning to re-sign, which means his rights could be traded away. Continued instability around the Senators future could drive other players -- including UFAs -- away. Ottawa has a burgeoning young core to support; the faster its other business gets handled, the better. -- Shilton

18. Calgary Flames

Previous ranking: 15

2022-23 finish: No playoffs

In missing the playoffs by three points, the Flames showed they were close. Could a new coach in Ryan Huska do the trick? Or will new GM Craig Conroy attempt to make roster improvements -- despite having a projected $1.25 million in cap space? -- Clark

19. Detroit Red Wings

Previous ranking: 24

2022-23 finish: No playoffs

The Red Wings are desperate to add more scoring. How aggressive is GM Steve Yzerman willing to be to give the team a boost up front? Does he go after someone like Alex DeBrincat in a trade? Target a veteran like Alex Killorn in free agency? It feels like the Red Wings could be on the cusp of contention, but only if Yzerman can pull on the right threads. -- Shilton

20. Nashville Predators

Previous ranking: 20

2022-23 finish: No playoffs

New head coach Andrew Brunette is expected to crank up the offense in Nashville. Will the Predators seek to play that way with its core, or will new GM Barry Trotz seek to remake this roster? -- Wyshynski

21. Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous ranking: 18

2022-23 finish: No playoffs

New team president (and interim GM) Kyle Dubas has over $20 million with which to build a new supporting cast around Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin -- the Core Three? -- while helping to transition the Penguins to whatever comes next after their playing days are done. -- Wyshynski

22. Winnipeg Jets

Previous ranking: 13

2022-23 finish: First-round loss

Will the Jets decide to run it back in the hopes of making the playoffs, or blow it all up in the hopes for a better future? Arbitration-eligible RFA Pierre-Luc Dubois wants out, and other longtime Jets such asBlake Wheeler could be on the move, too. -- Clark

23. Washington Capitals

Previous ranking: 22

2022-23 finish: No playoffs

The Capitals have a new young head coach in Spencer Carbery and some interesting calls to make about veteran players such asEvgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson and Anthony Mantha. Expect GM Brian MacLellan to make some bold moves to keep Washington competitive during Alex Ovechkin's record chase. -- Wyshynski

24. St. Louis Blues

Previous ranking: 23

2022-23 finish: No playoffs

Goaltender will be one of the primary positions to monitor when it comes to what might happen with the Blues. Mainly, can Jordan Binnington find a way to regain the consistency that eluded him in 2022-23? And who could be the best option to work in tandem with him? -- Clark

25. Vancouver Canucks

Previous ranking: 25

2022-23 finish: No playoffs

Getting the salary cap situation in order is a top priority for Canucks; as of now, CapFriendly projects the team to be $668,750 OVER the salary cap for 2023-24. Yes, this is a team that missed the playoffs by 12 points. -- Clark

26. Montreal Canadiens

Previous ranking: 29

2022-23 finish: No playoffs

Can the Canadiens actually land Pierre-Luc Dubois? It's clear Dubois won't be signing a contract extension in Winnipeg. The Montreal native has been tied to his hometown team for months. Will there be a trade? Dubois would be an ideal support for the Canadiens' talented young cast and would seriously expedite the rebuilding efforts. -- Shilton

27. Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous ranking: 31

2022-23 finish: No playoffs

The Blue Jackets have been busy already adding players (such asDamon Severson and Ivan Provorov) and coaches (Mike Babcock). How much further is Columbus willing to go to be a playoff contender? Coming off a horrible season, and being aggressive out of the gate this offseason, indicates Columbus is far from finished retooling. -- Shilton

28. Chicago Blackhawks

Previous ranking: 30

2022-23 finish: No playoffs

The Blackhawks stripped their roster down to the foundations in an attempt to secure the first overall pick. Now that Connor Bedard is on the way, how hard will GM Kyle Davidson go to surround him with talent this early in his career? -- Wyshynski

29. Philadelphia Flyers

Previous ranking: 26

2022-23 finish: No playoffs

The Keith Jones and Danny Briere regime has already started to shake up the team's roster. Expect names such asCarter Hart, Scott Laughton and Tony DeAngelo to be among those in the Flyers rumor mill as the makeover continues. -- Wyshynski

30. Arizona Coyotes

Previous ranking: 27

2022-23 finish: No playoffs

The Coyotes lost out on a new arena in Tempe, lost out on one of the top two overall picks in the draft and lost longtime executive Shane Doan to the Maple Leafs. Could star forward Clayton Keller be what they lose next? -- Wyshynski

31. San Jose Sharks

Previous ranking: 28

2022-23 finish: No playoffs

What will happen on the Erik Karlsson front? The Sharks have a 100-point-scoring defenseman that playoff teams would like to have -- with the caveat that Karlsson has four more years on a contract at $11.5 million annually (and a full no-movement clause). -- Clark

32. Anaheim Ducks

Previous ranking: 32

2022-23 finish: No playoffs

This will be one of the most important offseasons in recent franchise history. Beyond hiring a teacher in coach Greg Cronin and whatever the Ducks decide to do with the No. 2 pick, there's also the matter of signing Jamie Drysdale, Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras to new contracts. -- Clark