(In projected order of finish)
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
2018-19 record: 62-16-4
Coach: Jon Cooper
Key newcomers: Kevin Shattenkirk, Pat Maroon, Curtis McElhinney, Luke Schenn
Key departures: J.T. Miller, Anton Stralman, Adam Erne, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi
Outlook: It's Stanley Cup or bust for this juggernaut, which piled up 128 regular-season points last season and then suffered a four-game sweep from Columbus in the first round of the playoffs. This team has no discernible weakness, and Maroon will add grit and leadership. It's time for Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy to win.
2018-19 record: 49-24-9
Coach: Bruce Cassidy
Key newcomers: None
Key departures: Noel Acciari, Marcus Johansson
Outlook: The Bruins largely stood pat after playing for the Cup. They have a wave of good young forwards to support Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and David Krejci. The Bruins have several good young defensemen, too, and Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak form a solid tandem in goal. This team could make another run or two before its competitive window slams shut.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
2018-19 record: 46-26-8
Coach: Mike Babcock
Key newcomers: Tyson Barrie, Cody Ceci, Alex Kerfoot, Jason Spezza, Pontus Aberg
Key departures: Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner, Nikita Zaitsev, Patrick Marleau, Connor Brown, Ron Hainsey, Tyler Ennis, Garrett Sparks
Outlook: Babcock has earned lots of money to not lead the Leafs on Cup runs. So this might be his last chance to bring joy to long-suffering Toronto fans. No team can match the front-line power of John Tavares, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and Co., and the addition of Barrie adds even more offense on the blue line. Frederik Andersen is a reliable workhorse in goal. There are no excuses!
2018-19 record: 36-32-14
Coach: Joel Quenneville
Key newcomers: Sergei Bobrovsky, Anton Stralman, Brett Connolly, Noel Acciari
Key departure: Roberto Luongo
Outlook: Quenneville reunited with former Chicago Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon to make one more run at building a champion. The addition of Bobrovsky fixed the goaltending problem, and Coach Q will instill defensive structure in front of him, as Blues fans know from his time here. This team has lots of firepower, led by Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, so they will make noise.
2018-19 record: 44-30-8
Coach: Claude Julien
Key newcomers: Ben Chiarot, Nick Suzuki, Keith Kinkaid, Nick Cousins
Key departures: Andrew Shaw, Jordie Benn, Antti Niemi
Outlook: General manager Marc Bergevin, the former Blue, has done a nice job rebuilding this storied franchise with youth. Dealing for forward Max Domi triggered the turnaround, and the addition of Suzuki could pay off as soon as this season. But the Canadiens must develop the next wave of good young defensemen to play in front of elite goaltender Carey Price.
2018-19 record: 33-39-10
Coach: Ralph Krueger
Key newcomers: Marcus Johansson, Henri Jokiharju, Jimmy Vesey, Colin Miller, Curtis Lazar
Key departures: Jason Pominville, Matt Moulson
Outlook: It shouldn't take a hundred years to rebuild a team, but that's what the process feels like to Buffalo fans. Dealing Ryan O'Reilly to the Blues for Tage Thompson, Vladimir Sobotka and the ghost of Patrik Berglund slowed the process further. Now the Sabres are trying again, this time with the European mastermind Krueger behind the bench. Buffalo star Jack Eichel feels Connor McDavid's pain.
DETROIT RED WINGS
2018-19 record: 32-40-10
Coach: Jeff Blashill
Key newcomers: Adam Erne, Valterri Filppula
Key departures: Nicklas Kronwall, Thomas Vanek, Martin Frk
Outlook: Former Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman returned home to Motown to save his former franchise. He has a nice starting point with talented young forwards Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi and Andreas Athanisiou. But predecessor Ken Holland left him short on the blue line, and the franchise still has to locate its future goaltender to replace Jimmy Howard.
2018-19 record: 29-47-6
Coach: D.J. Smith
Key newcomers: Connor Brown, Nikita Zaitsev, Artem Anisimov, Ron Hainsey, Tyler Ennis
Key departures: Zach Smith, Mike Condon, Magnus Paajarvi
Outlook: Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is a modern-day Harold Ballard. Ottawa is stuck with him. City fathers haven't been eager to build him the needed new arena, so the franchise is sort of in limbo. Our town's Brady Tkachuk and defenseman Thomas Chabot are terrific pieces to build around, and Smith is a promising coach, but the Senators will be playing for lottery picks for the next two or three years.
2018-19 record: 48-26-8
Coach: Todd Reirden
Key newcomers: Radko Gudas, Richard Panik, Garnet Hathaway
Key departures: Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Andre Burakovsky, Brett Connolly, Dmitrij Jaskin, Devante Smith-Pelly
Outlook: High-scoring winger Alexander Ovechkin wants to play for quite a while longer, it seems, so the Capitals will stay in contender mode. If top center Evgeny Kuznetsov gets his career back on track after his brief cocaine-related suspension, the Capitals will have enough firepower to make another Stanley Cup run. Goaltender Braden Holtby is in the walk year of his contract, so he has ample motivation to star.
2018-19 record: 44-26-12
Coach: Mike Sullivan
Key newcomers: Alexander Galchenyuk, Dominik Kahun, Brandon Tanev
Key departures: Phil Kessel, Olli Maatta, Matt Cullen
Outlook: The Penguins are putting off their rebuild as long as they have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang on board. The moody Malkin seems in better spirits with the enigmatic Kessel gone. Look for winger Jake Guentzel to pick up Kessel's power-play slack and post big numbers. Whether Galchenyuk can make the most of his golden opportunity remains to be seen.
2018-19 record: 46-29-7
Coach: Rod Brind'Amour
Key newcomers: Joel Edmundson, Jake Gardiner, Erik Haula, James Reimer, Ryan Dzingel
Key departures: Justin Faulk, Justin Williams, Michael Ferland, Curtis McElhinney, Scott Darling
Outlook: The Storm Surge washed over the division last season, in part because so many other teams suffered adversity. Brind'Amour, a yesteryear Blue, will be hard-pressed to lead the Canes on another deep playoff run. The retired Williams will be sorely missed as captain. McElhinney was a great tag-team partner for goaltender Petr Mrazek and he, too, was a notable loss. Edmundson will give the blue line needed grit, but the loss of scoring defenseman Faulk will be tough to overcome.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
2018-19 record: 48-27-7
Coach: Barry Trotz
Key newcomers: Semyon Varlamov, Derick Brassard
Key departures: Robin Lehner, Valterri Filppula
Outlook: The Islanders played willy-nilly hockey under coach Doug Weight, another former Blue. Trotz cured them of that in a hurry, instilling tremendous defensive discipline. But then general manager Lou Lamoriello ran off Lehner after his Vezina-worthy performance and gambled long-term money on Varlamov instead. That curious decision and the refusal to make notable upgrades could cost the team in a big way.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
2018-19 record: 31-41-10
Coach: John Hynes
Key newcomers: Jack Hughes, P.K. Subban, Nikita Gusev, Wayne Simmonds
Key departures: None
Outlook: Last year the Islanders came out of nowhere to make a run. This season the surprise team could be the Devils, thanks to the arrival of Hughes, the first overall pick, along with Subban, Gusev and Simmonds. Winger Taylor Hall and goaltender Corey Schneider look frisky after recovering from surgical repairs, and center Nico Hischier is poised for an offensive breakout. Suddenly this team is loaded.
2018-19 record: 37-37-8
Coach: Alain Vigneault
Key newcomers: Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun, Nate Prosser
Key departures: Radko Gudas, Michael Neuvirth, Cam Talbot, Jori Lehtera
Outlook: The Flyers stopped just short of using Craigslist to locate fill-in goaltenders when injuries decimated that position. Now they have their goaltender in promising Carter Hart, backed by former Blue Brian Elliott. The addition of Hayes as the No. 2 center creates a strong second scoring line, something they have missed since mindlessly dealing Brayden Schenn to the Blues. And hiring Vigneault gives them a chance to contend before Claude Giroux slips over the hill.
NEW YORK RANGERS
2018-19 record: 32-36-14
Coach: David Quinn
Key newcomers: Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Kaapo Kakko, Adam Fox
Key departures: Kevin Shattenkirk, Jimmy Vesey, Neal Pionk
Outlook: Former Blues president John Davidson is running the show in New York after his successful stint in Columbus. The rebuild started before he arrived and accelerated with the additions of Trouba, Panarin and second overall draft pick Kakko. If venerable Henrik Lundqvist can bounce back from a bad season in goal, the Blue Shirts could get back into the playoff race.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
2018-19 record: 47-31-4
Coach: John Tortorella
Key newcomer: Gustav Nyquist
Key departures: Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Keith Kinkaid, Mark Letestu
Outlook: The Blue Jackets went "all in" last spring and finally had some postseason success, upsetting the Lightning. But a massive free-agent exodus from Central Ohio thrust the team back into rebuilding mode. Relying on career back-up Joonas Korpisalo to take over in goal is risky, so import Elvis Merzlikins could be the X-factor for the Jackets.