Keys to the offseason: Free-agency, draft plans for the 15 non-playoff teams

    Emily Kaplan is ESPN’s national NHL reporter.

    Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.

The 2021 NHL season was — hopefully — the most unique campaign that any of us will witness. Arenas had reduced numbers of fans — or no fans — and as a result of the U.S.-Canada border being closed, the divisions had to be realigned to sequester the Canadian teams; that decision led to the league adopting intradivisional play throughout the regular season (and the first two rounds of the playoffs).

With all 16 playoff teams having clinched their spots, it’s time to look ahead to the offseason for those who didn’t make the cut. As with everything that happened in the NHL world during the past year-plus, this summer’s transactions might be different from many that have happened before. And oh yeah, there’s a 32nd team entering the league — the Seattle Kraken — who will have a chance to select one player from 30 others during the expansion draft in July (the Vegas Golden Knights are exempt, having just joined the league in 2017-18).

So read on for a look at what went wrong for each eliminated team, a breakdown of its biggest keys this offseason and realistic expectations for it in 2021-22.

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