Three NHL Teams Poised for a 2024-25 Playoff Return

Vince Carbonneau
July 7, 2024  (2:31 PM)

Seattle Kraken
Photo credit: The Seattle times

Parity in the NHL: A Path to the Playoffs for Three Teams

Parity in the NHL means that even decent teams miss the playoffs every year. One team might be a league leader one season and miss the playoffs the next. Another team might be emerging from a rebuild but still fall short in the postseason. This leads to disappointment and frustration.
However, after the NHL draft and the start of free agency, some teams are gearing up to end their playoff droughts or bounce back from tough seasons. Here are three teams with a strong chance.
New Jersey Devils
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2023-24 season: 38-39-5 (7th in the Metropolitan Division)
Everything went wrong for the Devils last season, with 288 man-games lost to injury and the most goals against per game in their division (3.43). They ranked 30th in team save percentage (.886). But the Devils are on the upswing, just two years removed from a second-round appearance.
GM Tom Fitzgerald signed top defenseman Brett Pesce to a six-year, $33 million contract and solid defender Brenden Dillon to a three-year, $12 million deal. These additions bring stability alongside young talents Simon Nemec and Luke Hughes. The acquisition of elite goalie Jacob Markstrom addresses their goaltending woes.
Fitzgerald also made smart moves up front, addressing the need for strong cycle scorers and hard-nosed forecheckers by acquiring Stefan Noesen and Paul Cotter. With key players like Jack and Luke Hughes, Nico Hischier, and Jesper Bratt a year older and hungrier, the Devils' core looks formidable.
Seattle Kraken
2023-24 season: 34-35-13 (6th in the Pacific Division)
The Kraken may not have the most glamorous roster, but they're a deep team with a high ceiling. After a season where they ranked 29th in goals per game (2.61), GM Ron Francis secured seven-year contracts for Chandler Stephenson and Brandon Montour, the top offensive defenseman available.
Seattle has a well-balanced roster but has lacked star power. Fortunately, they have two promising centers in Shane Wright and Matty Beniers. Wright, the 2022 fourth-overall pick, had a stellar rookie pro season, while Beniers, the 2023 Calder Trophy winner, is poised for a bounce-back year after a sophomore slump.
Utah Hockey Club (formerly Arizona Coyotes)
2023-24 season: 36-41-5 (7th in Central Division)
The Coyotes were competitive early last season, starting 23-19-3 and contending for a wild-card spot until relocation rumors surfaced. Coach Andre Tourigny identified January 24 as the tipping point when they began a 14-game losing streak.
Under a stable new ownership group, Utah's personnel is capable of a postseason run. They have a strong goalie tandem in Karel Vejmelka and Connor Ingram, who earn a combined $4,675,000. GM Bill Armstrong revamped the defense, acquiring top-pairing defender Mikhail Sergachev, top-four defenseman John Marino, and reliable Ian Cole. Sean Durzi is also coming off a breakout season.
While Utah's roster lacks star power beyond Clayton Keller, Logan Cooley could have a breakout year. With $23 million in cap space and ample draft capital, they have the flexibility to add another scoring forward before the season starts.
The Devils, Kraken, and Utah Hockey Club are all positioned to make significant strides in the upcoming season. With key acquisitions and emerging talent, they have a strong chance to end their playoff droughts or bounce back from challenging seasons.
Three NHL Teams Poised for a 2024-25 Playoff Return

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