NHL Free Agency 2012: Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Each NHL Team

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IJanuary 11, 2012

NHL Free Agency 2012: Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Each NHL Team

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    In case you hadn't heard, the NHL has a trade deadline coming up and there are a lot of teams with big needs that will be trying to make something happen.

    Every team will approach the trade deadline looking not only at their needs for the current season, but also at the organization's long-term plan. Players that are going to become free agents this summer, and their willingness/ability to stay in their current city, will go a long way in determining which players are available for a trade.

    With the trade deadline in mind, let's look ahead to July of this year. Here are the best- and worst-case scenarios for every NHL team when free agency hits this summer.

Anaheim Ducks

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    Best Case: Teemu returns
    Worst Case: Teemu retires

    The Ducks have a few guys to make decisions on this summer, most notably defenseman Francois Beauchemin and forward Saku Koivu.

    There could very well be some major player movement on their roster before we get to the postseason.

    But the only guy on their roster they're worried about right now is Selanne. He's still a magician with the puck and one of the game's great personalities as well. The dynamic on that roster will be changed one way or the other depending on his decision.

Boston Bruins

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    Best Case: Tuukka Rask signs a multi-year deal
    Worst Case: Rask heads to arbitration

    Boston has most of their key players locked up, so the only real name of consequence this summer is their young backup netminder. The B's would prefer that Rask signs on for a relatively inexpensive multi-year deal that allows him to transition into the team's starter when Tim Thomas' deal expires in the summer of 2013.

    But if Rask doesn't agree to a multi-year deal, the next-best thing for the Bruins would be a desperate team giving him an offer sheet. The odds of that are long with a number of quality goaltenders hitting the market this summer.

    Worst case is Rask winds up in arbitration with the Bruins being forced to sign a one-year deal and then have both of their goalies needing a new contract in the same summer 12 months later.

Buffalo Sabres

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    Best Case: All of their UFAs go away; Tyler Ennis signs an affordable deal
    Worst Case: Patrick Kaleta and Ennis get big arbitration awards

    The Sabres have a lot of big money coming back next year, so the more free agents that want to leave, the better. In fact, just getting Brad Boyes, Ales Kotalik and Shaone Morrisonn off the books will be a victory.

    They would probably like to bring back Paul Gaustad, but just getting some cap relief is enough. Their worst-case scenario is a third party forcing them to pay Kaleta and Ennis more than they want to, limiting their options in free agency.

Calgary Flames

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    Best Case: Everyone leaves, management spends wisely on outside players.
    Worst Case: See summer, 2011.

    The roster in Calgary as it's currently put together is going nowhere, but there is some hope for the future. A couple well-placed trades and nearly $20 million in cap space could make them a player for younger, better players in the coming summer.

    Thankfully for the Flames, there really isn't anyone that stands to get a huge raise as a restricted free agent, and big cap numbers in Olli Jokinen, Cory Sarich and even Lee Stempniak are unrestricted. The Flames' front office shouldn't even pick up the phone when they call.

Carolina Hurricanes

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    Best Case: Trade away unrestricted free agents now to add assets, keep Jamie McBain long term.
    Worst Case: Don't trade Ruutu or Gleason, lose both for nothing and McBain asks for big money.

    Carolina's fallen apart this year and are already looking at the 2012-13 season. Tuomo Ruutu and Tim Gleason are two of the most popular names in trade rumors because they're going to be unrestricted free agents in July, and the odds that they're still in a Canes sweater after the deadline appear to be right around zero.

    It would take an unbelievable mistake by management for any of their veteran free agents-to-be with value to be in Carolina after the deadline.

Chicago Blackhawks

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    Best Case: Everyone walks (except maybe Jamal Mayers), sign a big-name free agent.
    Worst Case: Start 2012-13 with around $10M in cap space.

    The Blackhawks did something very few teams did last summer: signed almost all one-year deals. So any questionable additions (see: Carcillo, Brunette) were only an obligation for this season.

    So, on July 1, the Hawks have seven players coming off their NHL roster (not including Cristobal Huet) that can probably be replaced from within.

    With most of their core signed for at least two more years and roughly $10M in cap space to play with, the Hawks could be a major player in the free-agent market.

Colorado Avalanche

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    Best Case: Sign Duchene, Jones, O'Reilly, Johnson, Wilson. Unload Mueller.
    Worst Case: More than two RFAs go to arbitration.

    With all due respect to the Nashville Predators, the Avs have the most daunting free-agency roster coming up this summer. Colorado only has three forwards and three defensemen signed past this year.

    Here's the list of guys they'll have to consider this summer:

    1. Matt Duchene
    2. Milan Hejduk
    3. David Jones
    4. Peter Mueller
    5. Jay McClement
    6. Cody McLeod
    7. Daniel Winnik
    8. Ryan O'Reilly
    9. Kevin Porter
    10. Brandon Yip
    11. TJ Galiardi
    12. Joakim Lindstrom
    13. David van der Gulik
    14. Erik Johnson
    15. Kyle Quincey
    16. Matt Hunwick
    17. Ryan Wilson
    18. Shane O'Brien

    That's 18 players that, according to CapGeek, are currently on their NHL roster that will need a new deal this summer. Good luck with that.

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Best Case: Howson fired.
    Worst Case: See summer, 2011.

    It's hard to advocate for anyone to lose their job, but the job done by the front office in Columbus this past summer is among the worst in recent memory. They're the worst team in the league, and really don't have anyone of consequence to worry about retaining.

    They need a new GM and an owner that will let them make dramatic changes to get things turned around.

Dallas Stars

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    Best Case: Sign Jamie Benn and Alex Goligoski to long-term deals.
    Worst Case: Benn, Goligoski ask for more than the Stars can afford.

    Goligoski and Benn are the only players that will need a new deal this summer that the Stars really need to worry about.

    How much they'll be able to spend in free agency will be up to their new ownership.

Detroit Red Wings

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    Best Case: Lidstrom returns and is joined by one of the Predators' top d-men.
    Worst Case: Lidstrom retires, Suter/Weber go elsewhere, Parise goes elsewhere.

    A lot of their offseason will depend on Lidstrom's decision, but they'll have enough cap space to be an impact player with any of the top names on the market.

    Whether or not they want to bring back Jiri Hudler, Todd Bertuzzi, Tomas Holmstrom, Brad Stuart and/or Mike Commodore really won't matter until they have the top of their blue line settled.

Edmonton Oilers

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    Best Case: Sign two top-tier free agents.
    Worst Case: Bring back Ryan Smyth, Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky.

    With Smyth coming off the books and the likelihood that Gagner and Hemsky could be traded out of town before the deadline, the Oilers could look to spend some of their nearly $27M in cap space on adding a veteran leader to their young roster.

Florida Panthers

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    Best Case: Keep Kris Versteeg and Jason Garrison
    Worst Case: Jonathan Huberdeau and Quinton Howden aren't ready

    The Panthers spent big bucks last summer, and it's worked out well so far. They'll have a lot of cap space again this coming summer, but will have some young faces that want a piece of the NHL roster.

    It's hard to gauge how much money Dale Tallon will have to spend, but he will certainly have to consider keeping Versteeg and Garrison.

Los Angeles Kings

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    Best Case: Dustin Penner leaves, takes his pancakes with him.
    Worst Case: They start the 2012-13 season with $14M in cap space.

    The Kings will have around $14M in salary cap room to either fill out their roster with kids from inside the organization or go after a big-name free agent.

    There's plenty of top-end talent on their NHL roster to compete.

Minnesota Wild

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    Best Case: Bring back Kyle Brodziak, add a top-pair defenseman.
    Worst Case: Free agents leave, kids aren't ready, blue line doesn't get help.

    The Wild probably need to address their blue line the most after trading away Brent Burns last summer, but have some young talent working up through the organization and not many free agents of consequence on their current roster.

    The guy they probably want back the most is Brodziak.

Montreal Canadiens

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    Best Case: Sign Carey Price and PK Subban long-term, find someone who can score.
    Worst Case: Price and Subban take up too much cap space, start another season without a top scorer.

    The Habs desperately need to add scoring, but they'll have only around $18M in cap space to bring back Price, Subban and Lars Eller and then go find someone who can put the puck in the net.

    Good luck with that.

Nashville Predators

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    Best Case: Sign Ryan Suter, Colin Wilson and Jonathan Blum long-term. Let Weber sign an offer sheet.
    Worst Case: Weber signs, Suter stays in the division in Detroit and Blum heads to arbitration, getting one year closer to unrestricted free agency.

    The part of the equation everyone's ignoring in Nashville is that their top blue-line prospect, Jonathan Blum, is the guy they hope will replace either Shea Weber or Ryan Suter if/when one of them leaves, but he's a restricted free agent this summer as well. So the Preds need to deal with all three of them.

    Honestly, the best-case scenario long-term for the Preds is for Blum and Suter to stay and for someone to give Weber a ridiculous offer sheet.

    The compensation package of high picks the Preds could receive for Weber could provide a generation of talent to make the Preds competitive.

New Jersey Devils

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    Best Case: Strengthen blue line and goal.
    Worst Case: Parise walks away for nothing, Brodeur retires and isn't replaced.

    Zach Parise continues to make a case that he won't stay with the Devils, so he might be leaving before the deadline. With his current deal expiring, Marty Brodeur might call it a career.

    Those are two huge roster holes they'll have to fill, and they need to improve their overall depth all over the roster before they hit a Colorado-like Free Agent Armageddon in 2013, when they have eight forwards needing a new deal on their current roster.

New York Islanders

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    Best Case: Brian Rolston is never heard from again.
    Worst Case: Rick DiPietro is still there.

    The best-case scenario for the Islanders is a couple agents get really, really drunk in Vegas at the NHL Awards and consider a top-tier free-agent signing with the homeless Islanders.

    But that isn't likely to happen, so we'll look forward to a couple moral victories with Rolston coming off the books and Tavares not leaving any time soon.

New York Rangers

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    Best Case: Keep Michael Del Zotto, add depth.
    Worst Case: Marc Staal continues getting hurt, Del Zotto asks for too much money.

    The Rangers are in a great place right now, and have a lot of their key players locked up past this year. Depending on how their postseason turns out, they'll probably be looking to fine-tune an already-potent roster.

Ottawa Senators

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    Best Case: Sign All-Star Erik Karlsson to an affordable, long-term deal, add forward depth.
    Worst Case: Karlsson holds out for huge money after a huge season.

    The Sens' top defenseman is having an incredible breakthrough year and will start the All-Star Game in his home stadium.

    However, all of that might make him more expensive than the Sens were hoping he would be this summer when he hits restricted free agency.

Philadelphia Flyers

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    Best Case: Cap goes up by $3-5M.
    Worst Case: Labor unrest leaves Flyers with little cap space to fill gaps with a cap staying put.

    The Flyers have a few free agents, including Jakub Voracek, that they'd probably like to bring back, but only have around $5M in cap space for next year right now.

    They'll either need to make a couple moves to create cap space or will need the cap to go up by a good amount.

Phoenix Coyotes

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    Best Case: Someone buys the team.
    Worst Case: Status quo.

    They're bankrupt (still), don't have an owner (still) and will probably lose Shane Doan and Ray Whitney to free agency if/when the team moves (again).

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Best Case: Sidney Crosby is healthy.
    Worst Case: Sidney Crosby remains a question mark (or worse).

    With all due respect to free agents-to-be like James Neal and Eric Tangradi, nothing matters in Pittsburgh if Crosby isn't healthy.

San Jose Sharks

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    Best Case: Cap goes up $3-5M.
    Worst Case: Cap stays put.

    The Sharks have 14 players currently on their NHL roster under contract for next year, leaving them with roughly $8.7M to fill the bottom third of their roster. The good news is the top end of their roster is as good as any in the league.

    The bad news is they can only afford a little over $1M per player for one-third of their roster unless the cap goes up.

St. Louis Blues

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    Best Case: Find an owner, spend some money.
    Worst Case: Continue to be handicapped by lack of stable ownership.

    There are a few guys in St. Louis that will be interesting when July hits. Chris Stewart, TJ Oshie and David Perron will all be restricted free agents, while Brian Elliott and Barret Jackman will be unrestricted.

    They've been playing so well this year and will have a ton of cap space, so they could be a big player in the free-agent market if they figure out their ownership situation.

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Best Case: Find a goalie that can play, pay him.
    Worst Case: Dwayne Roloson.

    Scoring shouldn't be a problem for the Bolts, but they've been awful on the back end this year. They'll undoubtedly put any available resources into blue line depth and one (or two) new goalies.

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Best Case: Keep Mikhail Grabovski and one of Cody Franson/Keith Aulie. Add depth, maybe a superstar.
    Worst Case: Don't make a trade, don't land a top-tier free agent.

    The Leafs are in a great position right now as the league's top needs approaching the trade market are centers and defensemen and they have an excess of...centers and defensemen.

    They have a number of players hitting free agency in 2013, so that will undoubtedly have an influence on what they do this summer.

Vancouver Canucks

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    Best Case: Keep Cory Schneider.
    Worst Case: Lose Schneider and don't replace him.

    The offensive depth on the Canucks that's signed long-term is some of the best in the league, and the top end of their blue line is signed through at least next year. The biggest decision they'll have to make this summer is between the pipes.

    With so many teams desperate for a goalie, the market for Schneider will be strong. Even though Vancouver controls his restricted rights, there might be enough value out there that he's worth moving.

    But they must replace him if he doesn't return.

Washington Capitals

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    Best Case: Mike Green is healthy and stays, get value for Semin's rights.
    Worst Case: Green and Dennis Wideman both leave, Alex Semin leaves.

    Green's health makes him a huge question mark this summer, coming off a deal with a $5.25M cap number.

    They'll have to determine whether or not they make a play with his restricted rights or put them on the market and look elsewhere, while they'll also have to make a decision up front with Alexander Semin.

Winnipeg Jets

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    Best Case: Keep Evander Kane, sign a goalie, add quality depth (see Florida Panthers).
    Worst Case: Kane asks for too much money, don't get a goalie, don't add depth (see Tampa Bay Lightning)

    Both of their NHL netminders are free agents this summer, and they'll have to add depth on their blue line as well. They're having a good season at the ticket window, though, and should have some money to spend on players like Evander Kane that they want/need to keep and bringing in outside help.