NHL Eastern Conference division rankings: Where Rangers, Islanders sit in Metro

NHL Eastern Conference division rankings: Where Rangers, Islanders sit in Metro
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Free agency has quieted down and the busy part of the NHL’s offseason is almost over.

That makes now, with two months to go before training camps kick off, as good a time as any to take stock of the league.

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The Post’s Ethan Sears ranks both divisions in the Eastern Conference based on rosters as of Friday (projected wild-card teams are denoted with an asterisk).

Metropolitan Division

8. Flyers (2022-23: 31-38-13, seventh place)

The new front office has embraced rebuilding, and we can expect the Flyers to feel some pain in the short-term.

7. Blue Jackets (2022-23: 25-48-9, eighth place)

No. 3-overall pick Adam Fantilli is a future star, and the Blue Jackets can’t possibly have injury luck as bad as they had this past season. Still, they’re a step behind the rest of the Metro.


Adam Fantilli, the No. 3 overall pick in 2023, could eventually turn into a star for the Blue Jackets.
NHLI via Getty Images

6. Penguins (2022-23: 40-31-11, fifth place)

General manager Kyle Dubas is an exciting hire, and Reilly Smith makes the second line much better. But bottom-six depth remains problematic, even with some new faces.

5. Capitals (2022-23: 35-37-10, sixth place)

Better health should get the Capitals closer to the playoffs than last season, but this is still an aging team built around aging superstar Alex Ovechkin.

4. Islanders* (2022-23: 42-31-9, fourth place, lost in first round)

The team that made the playoffs on the last day of last season brings back the same group, which looks just good enough to again spend the season fighting for a playoff spot.


Brock Nelson acknowledges the crowd following a game at UBS Arena.
Brock Nelson acknowledges the crowd following a game at UBS Arena.
Michelle Farsi for the NY Post

3. Rangers (2022-23: 47-22-13, third place, lost in first round)

We know the deal here: Thet have the same core that lost in the first round of the playoffs last season, only with Peter Laviolette behind the bench instead of Gerard Gallant and with a few new faces down the lineup. Will that be enough to win a Stanley Cup?

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Peter Laviolette took over as the Rangers' head coach following Gerard Gallant's firing.
Peter Laviolette took over as the Rangers’ head coach following Gerard Gallant’s firing.
Charles Wenzelberg

2. Hurricanes (2022-23: 52-21-9, first place, lost in conference final)

After a deep playoff run, Carolina added Michael Bunting at forward and Dmitry Orlov on defense. The Hurricanes also have been linked to Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson and wing Vladimir Tarasenko. Acquiring either of them would make Carolina the favorite in the Eastern Conference.

1. Devils (2022-23: 52-22-8, second place, lost in second round)

The Devils are young and full of firepower, with the Hughes brothers, Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt and Dawson Mercer all getting better. If Akira Schmid emerges as a true No. 1 goaltender or GM Tom Fitzgerald finds another way to address the position (John Gibson or Connor Hellebuyck) it would fill the only hole on the roster.


Jack Hughes and the Devils will compete for the Metropolitan Division title in 2023-24.
Jack Hughes and the Devils will compete for the Metropolitan Division title in 2023-24.
Getty Images

Atlantic Division

8. Canadiens (2022-23: 31-45-6, eighth place)

The Canadiens are still rebuilding and have the misfortune of playing in a division in which every other team could make the playoffs. Watching Juraj Slafkovsky and Cole Caufield develop should at least be fun.

7. Red Wings (2022-23: 35-37-10, seventh place)

After Detroit traded for Alex DeBrincat and signed J.T. Compher, Daniel Sprong, Justin Holl and Shayne Gostisbehere in free agency, it looks as if the Yzerplan has finally graduated from full-on tanking. A playoff berth might be a bit too much to ask, but the Red Wings should have a fighting chance.


The Red Wings acquired Alex DeBrincat from the Senators.
The Red Wings acquired Alex DeBrincat from the Senators.
NHLI via Getty Images

6. Senators (2022-23: 39-35-8, sixth place)

The Senators disappointed last year, but quietly played .554 hockey after the calendar turned to 2023 — good enough to put them in the wild-card race if they had sustained that pace for a full season. Losing Alex DeBrincat hurts, but a young core gets one year older, and GM Pierre Dorion will have the deadline flexibility to make a move.

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5. Sabres (2022-23: 42-33-7, fifth place)

The Sabres making the playoffs for the first time since 2011 would be an excellent feel-good story, and there’s a real chance it could happen. Buffalo brings back most of the same cast that finished a point out of a wild-card spot last year, with a dangerous, young core centered around Tage Thompson, who could challenge for the scoring title.


The Sabres will continue building around Tage Thompson entering the 2023-24 season.
The Sabres will continue building around Tage Thompson entering the 2023-24 season.
NHLI via Getty Images

4. Bruins* (2022-23: 65-12-5, first place, lost in first round)

Was the best regular season ever also the last ride for these Bruins? Boston is still waiting for Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci to announce whether they’ll return for another season, and it would be a massive loss if they retire.

3. Lightning (2022-23: 46-30-6, second place, lost in first round)

The cast that got the Lightning two straight Cups is mostly still around, but it’s starting to look a little like the late-seasons cast of “The Office.” Alex Killorn, the latest member to depart, left for Anaheim in free agency.


Alex Killorn, another member from the Lightning's Stanley Cup teams, departed for the Ducks in free agency.
Alex Killorn, another member from the Lightning’s Stanley Cup teams, departed for the Ducks in free agency.
NHLI via Getty Images

2. Panthers (2022-23: 42-32-8, fourth place, lost in Stanley Cup Final)

The Panthers were disappointing in the regular season and gangbusters in the playoffs, so this seems like a fair place to slot them. Anything from the Presidents’ Trophy to fighting for a wild-card spot would be a believable outcome for a team that — when it puts it all together — can beat anyone on any night.

1. Maple Leafs (2022-23: 50-21-11, second place, lost in second round)

New GM Brad Treliving seems to be on track to bring back the Core Four while changing the supporting cast in the name of getting tougher, adding Ryan Reaves, Max Domi and Tyler Bertuzzi. Check back in May to see if any of it matters.

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