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NHL All-In Power Rankings: Bottom Five

The Hockey News 11/29/2022 Mike Stephens

These five NHL teams want nothing to do with the Stanley Cup playoffs this year and everything to do with many Cup runs after a hefty rebuild.

David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports © Provided by The Hockey News David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

There are a ton of NHL teams in win-now mode these days. It seems like everyone is going for it, with the pursuit of Stanley Cup glory being taken at all costs. Last Saturday, we even looked at five teams who are the most committed to winning the Cup.

But for the majority that are all-in, there's a minority on the other end of the spectrum working tirelessly to do the opposite. 

Let's take a look at the five clubs that are the least "all-in" in the NHL. 

5. Anaheim Ducks

Cap Space: $14,437,428

First-Round Picks: 2023, 2024, 2025

The Anaheim Ducks are bad this year. And while I don't think they necessarily expected to be good, per se, they definitely didn't intend on being this bad, either. At least, not bottom-of-the-NHL-standings bad.  

New GM Pat Verbeek inherited some intriguing assets upon taking the big job last season, presiding over a talented prospect group to go with a cupboard of draft picks that features three firsts, six seconds, and four thirds over the next three years. Each of those two surpluses paints the picture of a team in the midst of a rebuild – perhaps further along in theirs than most, but rebuilding nonetheless. 

Then, the off-season came, and everything went out the window. 

Adding John Klingberg as a one-year rental after handing Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano five and three-year deals of their own, respectively, is the opposite of what a rebuilding team does. So is opting to keep John Gibson despite the seller's market for goaltenders that unfolded over the summer, as well as waffling on dealing Cam Fowler and/or Kevin Shattenkirk for picks, and willfully trading for Dimitry Kulikov and his $2.25 million cap hit. 

Those are all-in moves – coming from a team that should, for the sake of its future, consider itself out. 

Alas, that doesn't appear to be the plan. And despite the talented young prospects and the stockpile of future assets the Ducks have at their fingertips (wingtips?), the club has oddly landed itself in purgatory for the time being. 

4. San Jose Sharks

Cap Space: $29,175

First-Round Picks: 2023, 2024, 2025

It's clear that GM Mike Grier would very much prefer to not be all-in. The Sharks need to rebuild. Desperately, in fact. And yet, they can't – not with how the various anvils weigh them down. 

To his credit, Grier already managed to get out of the final year of Brent Burns' contract this summer, more or less signalling his desire for his team to take their foot off the gas for the greater good. But Burns is not the only albatross he inherited. Not even close. 

Despite a scorching-hot start to the season, Erik Karlsson is still making far too much money, and his whopping $11.5 million price tag ensures that any trade he's involved in – which the Sharks are apparently willing to make if the reports are true – would require either some serious salary retention on the Sharks' end or be considered along the lines of a cap dump. 

That's not what a GM yearning for a rebuild wants to hear about his star asset. 

Not to mention, there are also the final four years remaining on Marc-Edouard Vlasic's deal, the five on Logan Couture's, and the eight-year extension Tomas Hertl signed under the previous administration that just kicked in this year. 

Grier's hands are tied. And the best he can do at this point is sell off everything that isn't nailed down and hope for something of a reboot on the fly. 

Those don't tend to work out so well. 

3. Montreal Canadiens

Cap Space: $10,154,337

First-Round Picks: 2023 (2), 2024, 2025 (2)

After a nightmare 2021-22 season that plunged the Canadiens into dead last in the NHL standings despite spending more actual dollars on their roster than any other team, Montreal is actually in a very cozy position at the moment. 

Would the front office prefer another basement finish in order to challenge for a second consecutive first-overall pick? Sure, but winning a few games with this young core wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, either. That core has shown more than a few signs of growth and potential throughout what has been labelled a developmental year, which should make fans and observers alike very happy. 

For the first time in forever, the Canadiens are run by a level-headed leadership team at the helm. The front office has a plan. That plan is to take one step back in the present to allow for two steps forward in the future. 

The team's draft cupboard is stocked with high picks. Their prospect pipeline is loaded. Their current cap space gives them roster flexibility at the moment, while the likes of Evgenii Dadonov, Mike Hoffman, Sean Monahan (if they don't choose to re-sign him instead) and Joel Armia afford Jeff Gorton & Co. a few trade chips to sell off at the deadline. 

The Habs are not a great team right now. But that's by design, and the signs for the future are as encouraging as anyone else's. 

2. Chicago Blackhawks

Cap Space: $5,984,565

First-Round Picks: 2023 (2), 2024 (2), 2025

If it weren't for a certain divisional rival located in the heart of the desert, the Blackhawks would be the runaway leader on this list. 

Alas, they'll have to settle for second place. I doubt they'll be too upset about it. 

While most people spent their summers waterskiing or whatever people with free time tend to do in good weather (I can't relate), the Blackhawks underwent one of the most aggressive selling sprees we've ever seen. 

After shipping out Brandon Hagel, Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Carpenter in trades for draft picks at the deadline back in March, GM Kyle Davidson followed that fire sale up with a draft to remember in June, dealing away star forward Alex DeBrincat, former third-overall pick Kirby Dach for futures and also taking on Petr Mrazek's bloated contract from the Maple Leafs in order to add an extra first-rounder to their collection. 

Pretty much everyone with any trade value outside of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane – who might end up being dealt at this year's deadline, too – has been sent out of town. And considering that the Blackhawks have an absurd $30.5 million tied up in those two plus Seth Jones, the fact that the club sits with nearly $6 million in cap space at the moment is a testament to just how deep their organizational roster purge has gone. 

1. Arizona Coyotes

Cap Space: $17,552,331

First-Round Picks: 2023, 2024, 2025

It's legitimately impossible to be less all-in than the Arizona Coyotes are this season. It simply can't be done. This team has taken punting to a new level – and it might just net them a generational talent. 

But at what cost? 

In a league in which half the teams are relying on LTIR to facilitate spending over the cap – some by eight figures, even – the Coyotes have nearly $18 million in cap space at the moment while carrying a maximum 23-player roster. 

Their function as the NHL's front through which other teams can launder dead contracts and overpaid veterans has netted them one of the most eye-popping collections of draft capital in recent memory: a combined three first-round picks, seven second-round picks, eight third-round picks, and four fourth-round picks over the next three years. 

Oh, and the average age of each Coyotes' positional group is among the youngest in the league, with most players over the age of 25 set to come off the books within the next two years. 

Not to mention, all of that will be taken to an entirely new extreme in three months when the trade deadline rolls around and GM Bill Armstrong almost certainly sells off each and every expiring asset at his disposal for another haul of picks and prospects. 

Buckle up, kids. The final stretch in Arizona this year is going to be like nothing we've seen before. 

Frankly, if the Coyotes were to lose every single game that remains on their schedule from now until the end of the season, it's unlikely anyone in the front office would bat an eye. 

And why would they? This is the plan, baby!

The 2023 NHL draft has been dubbed a "Kingmaker" by most due to its class of elite top picks. Even if the Coyotes miss out on Connor Bedard, they'll still walk away from the table with a potential franchise face on their hands – a player who they can then build a sustainable roster around with their endless future assets and cap space. 

That is if the organization keeps itself together until then. 

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