Edmonton Oilers: 47-26-9, lost in second round, $8.3 million in cap space.
Biggest changes: After spending the past two seasons putting his imprint on the Oilers, general manager Peter Chiarelli decided not to mess with success. After defeating the defending Western Conference champion San Jose Sharks to give the franchise its first playoff series win in 11 years, the Oilers' roster remains mostly intact and awash in well-deserved buzz. Skilled forward Ryan Strome was acquired from the New York Islanders, offering greater versatility than the veteran he was traded for, Jordan Eberle. Veteran forward Jussi Jokinen was signed after being waived by the Florida Panthers. The Finn reached the 60-point plateau just two seasons ago and could provide important depth scoring to a group that leans heavily on some guy named McDavid. Fleet-footed French defenseman Yohann Auvitu was also signed as a free agent for depth.
Case for: Welcome to the Connor McDavid era. Having recently added a Hart Trophy as league MVP and Art Ross Trophy as scoring champ to his impressive collection of hardware, the 20-year-old captain is already being touted as the best hockey player in the world. And with that comes the expectation that the phenom will eventually bring the Oilers a sixth Stanley Cup victory. Those lofty expectations are made more palatable by the play of linemate Leon Draisaitl, whose 77 points last season were eighth in the league. Add a young defense that has established itself and a goaltender in Cam Talbot, who has truly emerged as an iron man in the crease, and the pieces appear to be in place for the Oilers to make the leap this season. "We expect ourselves to have a good team and do what we did last year," McDavid said as the Oilers opened training camp. "We expect ourselves to have a good year. Other people do too. I guess that's the only difference [from last season], that outside expectation."
Case against: It has been more than a decade since the Oilers had to contend with expectations this high. And this young team didn't seem to shy away from the moment in the previous postseason, going the full seven games in their second-round series against an Anaheim Ducks team loaded with playoff experience. But the target on McDavid and the Oilers will be far more prominent as teams key almost entirely on the league MVP. All of which blends seamlessly into the Oilers' issues with scoring depth. If they are forced to contend with injuries or inconsistency, times could be tough in the competitive Pacific Division. With so many depth players enjoying breakout 2016-17 seasons, including Oscar Klefbom, Patrick Maroon and Mark Letestu, the Oilers will need to work incredibly hard for those players to avoid a regression.
Trade bait: With McDavid's monster $100 million contract extension set to kick in next season, plenty of teams will be eyeing center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, along with the four seasons and $24 million remaining on his current deal. The top pick in the 2011 draft has established himself as a reliable two-way center, but with McDavid, Draisaitl and newcomer Strome probably signaling the team's future down the middle, Nugent-Hopkins could be expendable.
Goalie situation rating: 7. Talbot truly emerged as a franchise goalie last season, but backup Laurent Brossoit enters the season with only 14 games on his NHL résumé and could prove a liability should Talbot go down.
Scout's take: "I think McDavid represents this era so well. He's only going to get smarter. He's only going to get more sure in certain situations. Pete Chiarelli has put together a really good team. They have stuff behind [McDavid] that you have to have."
Prediction: 2nd in Pacific