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Thursday, July 11, 2013

NHL Off-Season Needs

Wild on Sports
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NHL Off-Season Needs
By Wild on Sports Analyst Jason Gillson

There has been a ton of movement thus far in the NHL off season. With several big names still available it is time to take a team by team look at the biggest remaining off-season needs.  What is your team looking for as the missing piece to next year's magical Stanley Cup run?

Anaheim Ducks - A trade involving star winger Bobby Ryan was inevitable. Getting youngster Jakob Silverberg in return should make for a fairly seamless transition on the top line but still leaves a bit of a void in terms of secondary scoring. A lot of what the Ducks will be able to do hinges on whether or not Teemu Selanne comes back for another year. If Selanne does not come back expect the Ducks to look in the direction of guys like Damien Brunner or Brad Boyes to fill that wing/power play weapon position.

Boston Bruins - The Bruins have been very active this summer. They wanted to bring back Nathan Horton but what talks stalled GM Peter Chiarelli wasted no time turning to plan B. He shipped underachieving Tyler Segin to Dallas netting a very strong two-way player in Loui Erickson in return, then turned around and signed Jarome Iginla to a one year deal. Boston would like to add another offensive winger. There have been a lot of rumor swirling about the future of center Chris Kelly as he is the Bruins most likely trade chip at this point. Outside of the offense, Tukka Rask is a restricted free agent. Expect a long term deal to be done with him in the coming weeks.

Buffalo Sabers - The Sabers have an important decision on their hands -- do they blow it up and go into a full rebuild (trade Ryan Miller and/or Tomas Vanek) or maintain the status quo and hope some of their younger guys all take that next step this season. Regardless, a major priority will be to re-sign RFA Cody Hodgson. The Sabers see him as a key link to their future success so a 5+ year extension is not out of the question. Outside of that, they have been and I expect them to continue to be very quiet this off-season.

Calgary Flames - Jarome Iginla and Mikka Kiprusoff, the two faces of the franchise the past ten season are now both gone. The Flames are in the heart of a rebuild whether they are willing to admit it or not. Finding a 30-goal scoring on the open market to replace Iginla is unlikely. Finding a goaltender, whether it be via trade or free agency should be a much easier task. Chris Mason, Jose Theodore and Mathieu Garon, maybe even Ilya Bryzgalov are the most likely candidates.

Carolina Hurricans - GM Jim Rutherford has put together a nice complement of offensive talent. He has an established goaltender in Cam Ward coming back off injury and a pretty good insurance policy in Anton Khudobin should Ward not come back at 100%. All that stands between the Canes and a playoff berth is consistency on the blue line. Guys like Douglas Murray, Ryan Whitney or even Ryan O'Byrne could be on the radar in the coming weeks.

Chicago Blackhawks - The defending Stanley Cup champs will return next season mostly in tact. They did lose a could of depth/roll players that they will be looking to replace. Overall, team needs are minimal.

Colorado Avalanche - Colorado has a very nice nucleolus of young offensive talent and enough goaltending to get by. What they really lack is depth on the blue line. Douglas Murray would be a nice fit as a stay at home physical presence. There is a lot of talk that veteran center Paul Statsny could be dangled to helm shore up the back end as well.

Columbus Blue Jackets - It has been a busy off-season in Columbus. They made a big splash by signing winger Nathan Horton to a big money deal. He should fit in quite nicely on that top line with Marian Gaborik or David Backes. They also brought back goaltender Sergi Bobrovsky, the key to their success in 2012/13. All that remains now is a little more help on the back end. As good as Bobrovsky was, he could be even better if the team could cut down on one of the leages highest shot totals against. Guys like Ron Hainsey, Philip Kuba or Marek Zidlcky could on the radar.

Dallas Stars - The Stars already made one huge off-season move acquiring Tyler Segin and Rich Peverly from Boston for Loui Erickson and prospects. They have an established #1 goaltender in Kari Lehtonen. What they lack is a solid top shutdown defensive pairing. They have plenty of second tier guys at the position that they may have to make due with due to cap restrictions. If new GM Jim Nill can swing it, another blockbuster trade may be in order for a top two defensemen. It would be interesting to see what the asking price would be for a guy like Kris Letang in Pittsburgh.

Detroit Red Wings - Detroit is tight up against the cap now after signing Daniel Alfredson to a $5mil, 1 year deal and Stephen Weiss for 5 years at $4.9mil per. NHLCapGeeks has them at a shade over $2mil left to play with. They have a bunch of RFA's to try to resign and they need to find a reliable back-up goaltender to help spell Jimmy Howard from time to time. GM Ken Holland will certainly have his hands full filling out the roster. A trade or buy-out very well may be in order.

Edmonton Oilers - The Oilers have been linked to heavy trade talks to help their goaltending situation. Frankly, Devin Dubnik has a pretty respectable year by most accounts. In any case, they fell short int he Corey Schneider sweepstakes now may be left to decide if Dubes is their guy or if they want to take a flyer on Tim Thomas or Ilya Bryzgalov. Also at the top of their to-do list will be finding a top line d-partner for Justin Schultz.They did sign former Bruin Andrew Ference, but he is more of a hard nosed bruiser than a skilled puck mover. They did make a splash via trade on Wednesday picking up winger David Perron from St.Louis.

Florida Panthers - The Panthers have needs across the board. They are most is need of some help at the back-end but at this point are likely to kick the tires on anyone they can get a reasonable deal on. They appear to be actively shopping Tomas Fleischmann but with a $4.5mil cap hit he probably won't garner a whole lot in return.

Los Angeles Kings - The Kings have a number of players who are young RFA's (Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis, Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez). Their top priority will getting deals done with each as all five figure to be big pieces of the future in LA. They did make one notable move already this off-season sending goaltender Jonathan Bernier to Toronto for a nice little return. Bernier was a nice luxury but with RFA status was going to command a prettier penny than the Kings could comfortably pay for a back-up goaltender.

Minnesota Wild - After inking Matt Cooke and Keith Ballard the Wild really have no glaring areas of need. They would probably like to ship Nicolas Backstrom out of town for a younger option in net. That may not be realistic at this point. Expect little movement over the next couple of weeks for Minnesota.

Montreal Canadiens - The Canadiens were a big surprise in 2013 taking the top spot in the Eastern Conference before getting bounced in the 1st round by Ottawa. They already made one big move in signing center Daniel Briere, a solid veteran presence and postseason extraordinaire. They have been linked to hard nosed forward Branden Morrow as well. Expect them to add another top six winger before all is said and done.

Nashville Predators - The Predators have already been active adding forwards Viktor Stalberg, Matt Cullen  and Filip Forsberg. They would like to add another high scoring forward and need to find a back-up goaltender to replace the departed Chris Mason. With $7+ in free cap space expect them to be prominent players in free agency moving forward.

New Jersey Devils - The Devils have been busy signing Ryan Clowe and Michael Ryder while trading for Corey Schneider. While all are very strong moves the Devils are now faced with a bit of a cap crunch as they attempt to re-sign RFA's Andrei Loktionov, Adam Henrique and Jacob Josefson. Guys like Dainius Zubrus, Bryce Salvador or even Andy Greene could be on the market as the team looks to free up some cap space.

New York Islanders - The Islanders have a bunch of really good young defensemen who are all still probably a year away from making an impact at the NHL level. In the short term they are going to need to find some answers on the back end, particularly in the top 4. They made a wise move in bringing back goaltender Evgeni Nabokov who was one of their most consistent players in 2013. With a decent complement of young offensive talent the Islanders could be just a couple of defensemen away from being strong playoff contenders down the road.

New York Rangers - The Rangers have made one minor move in bringing in winger Beniot Pouliot. They would love to add another top six winger. The obvious answer would be to buy out Brad Richards and use that money on a guy like Mikhail Grabovski, Jaromir Jagr or Damien Brunner.

Ottawa Senators - The Senators made their major off-season move trading for star winger Bobby Ryan from Anaheim. They still have a need for a scoring wing, preferably on the right side. Jaromir Jagr or Damien Brunner would be good fits there.

Philadelphia Flyers - The Flyers have been pretty active this off-season already adding Mark Streit, Vinny Lecavalier and Ray Emery. They now find themselves tight up against the cap. They signed Claude Giroux to a major extension but will have a number of pressing RFA's next season. The big question mark is still in goal. They are planning to go with tandem of Emery and Mason after buying out Bryzgalov. Adding a player like Tim Thomas would seem to make a good fit but with what money?

Phoenix Coyotes - The Coyotes have made the right moves thus far signing Mike Robeiro and re-signing Mike Smith. They have one big name left to re-sign in young winger Mikkel B√łedker. Outside of that, it should be a quiet summer in the desert.

Pittsburgh Penguins - The Penguins went all-in at the trade deadline for Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray. All three will walk via free agency leaving some sizable holes to fill. They took care of their first major task in resigning Kris Letang and brought back Rob Scuderi, a stalwart from their Stanly Cup season. Now the attention shifts to finding another winger for Sidney Crosby to play opposite the re-signed Pascal Dupuis. They also need to decide what they are going to do with their goaltending situation after Marc-Andre Fleury's late season melt down. With the team tight against the cap GM Ray Shero will have his hands full this summer.

San Jose Sharks - The Sharks have done a nice job re-upping their own guys thus far this off-season signing both Raffi Torres and Scott Hannan. All that really is left is finding a back-up goaltender to replace the departed Thomas Greiss. A veteran like Jose Theodore or Chris Mason could be a good fit there or they could go young and promote from within. Either way it is likely to be a fairly quiet summer in San Jose.

St. Louis Blues - The Blues have made some noise this week shipping winger David Perron to Edmonton. They previously signed center Dereck Roy, a player who should fit in well with that group. The Blues would like to add another top six forward. They have a nice luxury in having three goaltenders who each could start for most teams in the NHL. Expect them to dangle one of the three, most likely Jared Allen in an effort to shore up the top two lines.

Tampa Bay Lightning - The biggest move for GM Steve Yzerman and the Lightning thus far has been the decision to buyout now former captain Vinny Lecavalier. They replaced him in the line-up by signing center Valterri Filppula. The Lightning have finally found a reliable goaltender in Ben Bishop but still need a little help in front of him. They have some nice offensive defensemen in Matt Carle, Victor Hedman and Eric Brewer. They would love to add another top four guy to round out that unit.

Toronto Maple Leafs - The Leafs may have been the most active team this off-season. They made a big trade for goaltender Jonathan Bernier and made one of the better off-season signings in the league in David Clarkson. The only real question mark at this point remains at the blue line. Rumors have been swirling regarding a potential buyout of overpaid captain Dion Phaneuf. With Cody Franson, Carl Gunnarsson and Mark Fraser all currently RFA's there are some serious decisions to be made on the blue line this summer.

Vancouver Canucks - The Canucks have a new coach in John Tortorella and for the first time in years will head into the season without a goaltending controversy. That of course is due to the trade of Cory Schneider to New Jersey in exchange for the #9 overall pick. The biggest need for Vancouver will be a quick adaptation to Tortorella's new defense first system. He has a track record of coming in and giving teams a nice boost. He also has a track record of alienating star players. It will be interesting to see how the Sedin brothers react  under their new coach.

Winnipeg Jets - The Jets have the 2nd most cap space of any team currently in the NHL. By no coincidence, they also have among the fewest players currently under contract. They currently have eight players with RFA tags, making resigning their own guys a top priority. Beyond that, they are believed to be taking offers for some of their bigger name players, most notably Dustin Byfuglien who by all accounts was over weight and out of shape for the majority of the 2013 season. What they can get for him remains to be seen, but rest assured there is going to be a lot of action in Western Canada this summer.

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