3 bold predictions in the NHL after All-Star Weekend

Vegas Golden Knights, Alex Pietrangelo #7, Calgary Flames, Tyler Toffoli #73. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Vegas Golden Knights, Alex Pietrangelo #7, Calgary Flames, Tyler Toffoli #73. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /

A lot of attention in the NHL lately has gone toward the All-Star Weekend festivities, but with those now wrapped up, teams across the league are getting ready for the most important part of the regular season.

The trade deadline is less than a month away, and teams will surely be jockeying to make moves that give them an upper hand in the postseason or the race to get there. On the other side of that is a battle to extend the season and contend for the Stanley Cup.

What can fans expect in the second half of the NHL season?

To say it another way, things are getting real. Which teams will prove to be contenders, which teams will prove to not have what it takes to succeed in the playoffs, and which players rumored to be on the move will relocate, and to where?

Here are three bold predictions for the NHL now that the All-Star Game is in the rearview mirror.

Vegas Golden Knights Miss Playoffs

After missing out on the postseason last year for the first time in franchise history, the Vegas Golden Knights came out of the gates in the 2022-2023 season on a mission.

It seemed early on as though this team was undoubtedly going to return to the playoffs, possibly as the Pacific Division champions. That’s not exactly a given at this point.

The Golden Knights are in a tight race with both the Seattle Kraken and Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific. Not only has their hot start been counteracted by some poor play recently, but captain Mark Stone is going to miss the remainder of the season.

With ultra-talented teams like the Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers currently in wild card spots, and typical playoff teams like the Calgary Flames, Nashville Predators, and St. Louis Blues as the first three teams out, Vegas can’t afford to make a wrong move.

There’s not a lot of room for error right now in Sin City, and that will keep the Golden Knights away from the postseason for the second straight year.

Calgary Flames Win Pacific

Entering play on Wednesday, the Flames are barely outside of the playoff picture. Their 24-17-10 record leaves a lot to be desired, but I still believe that the sky is the limit for this team.

So far, offseason acquisitions like Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar have not yielded the offensive output that they did a year ago as members of the Florida Panthers. That has largely led to an offense that ranks in the bottom half of the NHL this season.

Even more surprising, goaltender Jacob Markstrom has struggled mightily this season. He is coming off the best season of his career, but this time around, the 33-year-old owns a 2.93 goals against average (GAA) and an .892 save percentage.

With over half of the season gone, it’s fair to wonder whether or not the Flames have as high a ceiling as fans thought possible after the blockbuster trade with the Cats. Still, the Pacific Division is winnable, as the Golden Knights lead the way with 64 points, only six more than Calgary has.

It won’t be easy to leapfrog the Kraken, Kings, Golden Knights, and Edmonton Oilers, but I’m not yet ready to give up on my preseason pick to win the Stanley Cup.

Erik Karlsson Gets Traded to Buffalo

The season that defenseman Erik Karlsson is having is otherworldly, and it will probably be the reason that he leaves the San Jose Sharks by the March 3 deadline.

As much as the Sharks would love to contend for a championship with the star blueliner, those days have come and gone, and the 32-year-old no longer fits what the Sharks want or need to do. It’s time for a full rebuild in San Jose, and Karlsson should not be a part of that.

Many teams could benefit from adding an elite scorer on defense, and I like the Buffalo Sabres as a team to step into the mix.

The Sabres are a fit for a variety of reasons. First, they’re one of the few teams that CapFriendly projects would have enough cap space to take on Karlsson’s $11.5 million contract.

Second, Buffalo has been back and forth this season but is currently knocking on the door of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

While the Buffalo offense has not been the problem this year, an established player like Karlsson, who would not be a rental, could be a great complement to the team’s young stars. Buffalo would have young assets that could intrigue the Sharks in return.

More. How Can the New Jersey Devils Become True Stanley Cup Contenders in 2023?. light

There’s going to be a lot of action between now and the end of the season, and it will be exciting to see where things go in the NHL in 2023.