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NHL 2023-24: What Atlantic Division Teams Need

Wide Gap Between Haves, Have-Nots

The Atlantic Division has been a division of two halves: The upper-half dominated by Stanley Cup contenders like Boston, Toronto, Tampa Bay and Florida and the lower-half with Buffalo, Ottawa, Detroit and Montreal.

But with the also-rans beginning to show improvements, the elites must keep pace by not only stabilizing their cores but improving. NHL predictions for the upcoming season could get frisky with these teams’ moves.

NHL 2023-24: What Atlantic Division Teams Need
Brandon Montour #62 of the Florida Panthers - Christian Petersen/Getty Images/afp

Atlantic Division: Offseason Outlook

1. Bruins

  • 2022-23 Record (Finish): 65-12-5, 135 Points (Lost in First Round)
  • 2024 Stanley Cup Odds: +800

The Boston Bruins’ dream season quickly turned into a nightmare as Florida upset them in the opening round. While most of the Bruins’ core skaters are locked in for 2023-24, the team only has roughly $4.9 million in cap room to re-sign forwards Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, and defenseman Dmitry Orlov. Goaltender Jeremy Swayman is also a restricted free agent.

There have been reports out of Boston that Bergeron and Krejci are mulling retirement, complicating the team’s offseason approach.

Boston’s success came from its ability to sustain its two-way prowess through four forward lines. Losing several players will require the team to either trade or rely on prospects. However, the Bruins’ prospect pool is not the deepest due to trading away many early picks in recent drafts.

And speaking of the draft, Boston has no first- or second-round pick in the next two drafts. While the Bruins remain a top team to bet online this season, fans should moderate expectations.

2. Maple Leafs

  • 2022-23 Record (Finish): 50-21-11, 111 Points (Lost in Second Round)
  • 2024 Stanley Cup Odds: +1200

While the Bruins need to find a way to sustain its depth, the Toronto Maple Leafs need either more scorers or an upgrade in net. Toronto was better on defense than offense last season. But in the end, Toronto had another disappointing postseason despite finally getting out of Round 1.

The Leafs’ top players are back this season, but Auston Matthews’ and William Nylander’s contracts end after this coming season. So Toronto will need to show progress or both could leave for greener pastures. The team also needs to find replacements for forwards Ryan O’Reilly and Michael Bunting.

Goaltender IlyaSamsonov is also a restricted free agent while Matt Murray is in the final year of his contract. New general manager Brad Treliving could make a splash by dealing for Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck, who wants out.

3. Lightning

  • 2022-23 Record (Finish): 46-30-6, 98 Points (Lost in First Round)
  • 2024 Stanley Cup Odds: +1600

The Tampa Bay Lightning failed to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2019. But the team could still be shrewd online sports betting picks to contend. That early exit may have worked in this team’s favor as it has a longer offseason to recuperate. Most of Tampa Bay’s main players are locked up until 2025-26.

Captain Steven Stamkos is in the final year of his contract and Alex Killorn, who set career-best stats this past season, is a free agent. But as far as making moves, Julien BriseBois has his hands full with just under half a million of cap room. And thanks to consistently trading away picks and prospects, the Lightning don’t have anyone from the pipeline ready to contribute.

This team hardly has any glaring holes to fix. However. It does not need to make significant moves to “level up” like others in the division.

4. Panthers

  • 2022-23 Record (Finish): 42-32-8, 92 Points (Lost in Stanley Cup Final)
  • 2024 Stanley Cup Odds: +1400

The Stanley Cup runner-ups will look to avoid falling off, which happens to most who make it this far. To do that, the team needs to bolster its depth. It was evident in the series against Vegas that Florida can’t win it all with just a few members scoring. The team has over $10 million in cap space to sign some impactful scorers.

Notably, Florida could use help from the wing. It could even poach from its recent opponent, Vegas, with Ivan Barbashev. Otherwise, players like Evgenii Dadonov and Jonathan Drouin could all be targets. They are relatively “boom or bust” but could pay dividends in the playoffs.

In goal, Florida may also need to re-sign Alex Lyon (unrestricted free agent) or acquire support while Spencer Knight is checked in with the NHLPA Player Assistance Program.

5. Sabres

  • 2022-23 Record (Finish): 42-33-7, 91 Points (Missed the Playoffs)
  • 2024 Stanley Cup Odds: +4000

Could next season finally be the year that the Buffalo Sabres snap their postseason drought? Buffalo was this close to doing it in 2022-23 but just did not have the goaltending to do it. With Craig Anderson retiring, the Sabres’ most pressing need is to acquire a dependable netminder.

Trading for Hellebuyck is an option. But Buffalo, with its $14.5 million cap space, could overpay for someone like Adin Hill, who was Vegas’ playoff hero. Other veterans like Tristan Jarry and Frederik Andersen are solid choices provided Buffalo leaves enough to fill other needs.

The team also needs to bolster its defense. Rasmus Dahlin, Mattias Samuelsson and Owen Power are three of the best young D-men. But Buffalo should sign a veteran like Carson Soucy, Luke Schenn or even Radko Gudas to complement them.

6. Senators

  • 2022-23 Record (Finish): 39-35-8, 86 Points (Missed the Playoffs)
  • 2024 Stanley Cup Odds: +5000

The Ottawa Senators are in the same position as Buffalo and remain hipster NHL picks to be a contender. And like Buffalo, the team badly needs a goaltender. Cam Talbot is an unrestricted free agent so Ottawa could re-sign him or look elsewhere.

The team also finished 18th in goals scored and 20th in goals against so goaltending is not its only issue. For one, it also has a decision to make with restricted free agent Alex DeBrincat, who had 27 goals and 66 points for the Senators.

Ottawa already has its “Big 3” of Tim Stutzle, Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot locked up, but its bottom six is one of the worst in the NHL. The Senators need to sign low-cost veterans and get more prospects to contribute. If these work out, this team finally takes the next step.


7. Red Wings

  • 2022-23 Record (Finish): 35-37-10, 80 Points (Missed the Playoffs)
  • 2024 Stanley Cup Odds: +8000

Despite missing the playoffs for seven straight seasons, NHL news indicates that Detroit is not rushing to contend. The Red Wings have one of the best prospect pools and are loaded with draft picks, including having five in the first two rounds of this year’s talent-rich class.

The Red Wings will continue to patiently see what its prospects can do. The team has over $30 million in cap space ready to reward any prospective youngster. Or, Detroit can use it on a variety of veterans. Per Steve Yzerman, the team’s chief executive, the team could “get better everywhere.”

The Red Wings’ main need is in scoring. Detroit finished 28th in 5-on-5 goals and 31st in scoring chances created. Players like Bunting and Barbashev are both scorers who have a penchant for that gritty type of play that could be a good influence on a young team.

8. Canadiens

  • 2022-23 Record (Finish): 31-45-6, 68 Points (Missed the Playoffs)
  • 2024 Stanley Cup Odds: +25000

Montreal Canadiens fans may have to wait longer before this team can be considered a “contender.” The Canadiens were ravaged by injuries last season. Even if fully healthy, though, Montreal hardly figures to be in the running. Notably, the team is tied up when it comes to its salary.

Montreal locked up its young stars like Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki. But the team will need to find ways to unload some contracts. Forward Mike Hoffman ($4.5 million) is in his final year along with defenseman Joel Edmundson ($3.5 million).

The team could use a bit of everything from having another top-six forward to better defensemen on the right side. Goaltending also needs to be addressed if Jake Allen and/or Sam Montembault can’t stay consistent. Overall, betting online on Montreal remains trying.

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