NHL Trade Talk: The Biggest Target for Each Team in the Offseason
As more teams begin scheduling tee times, more fans begin shifting their focus to the coming summer of free agency and trading in the NHL.
What follows is a look around the NHL at each team's potential needs and, in some cases, a specific player they could target.
Of course, any trade and free-agent speculation is hard to nail down without a collective bargaining agreement in place, but these are some early ideas of who might be staying or going in every NHL city.
The Ducks will be a fascinating play this summer on a couple fronts.
They were the hot team in rumors early last season when there was speculation Bobby Ryan could be dealt, but management then committed to the core group long-term and made a coaching change. Will they entertain offers for a core player like Ryan? Will the Ducks be a team that is targeted?
The other area of intrigue this summer is the decisions regarding Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne. Will either of them be back, or will the Ducks have to go looking for a couple top-six forwards this summer?
It's hard to say there's a specific player the Bruins will target this summer. Boston already has 18 players on their NHL roster under contract for next year, and that number doesn't include Tuukka Rask (an RFA who is expected to get a long-term deal). By my math, that leaves one to three roster spots available for a trade in Boston.
The one spot the B's might look to add via trade could be their bottom six forwards. Benoit Pouliot (restricted), Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell (unrestricted) will be free agents this summer. Boston might look to add a depth player if they don't feel there's one ready to promote from within the organization.
And then there are the Tim Thomas trade rumors...
Buffalo made a late charge at the playoffs but came up short in the end. They have a lot of money already on the books for next year, with 16 NHL players under contract. They also still have to deal with restricted free agents Patrick Kaleta and Tyler Ennis up front.
The Sabres might look to turn one of their veterans, specifically Derek Roy, into two to three depth players, simply because they don't have much salary-cap space available to fill the roster.
What do you do with the Flames roster if you're sitting in their GM's chair?
The five biggest contracts on their books all have no-move clauses of some sort in their contracts, and Olli Jokinen (an unrestricted free agent) had abdominal surgery when the season ended.
Meanwhile, the Flames made news by signing Roman Cervenka from the KHL to a one-year deal. If rookie Sven Baertschi and Cervenka can both step in and become top-six-caliber forwards, the Flames have something to work with.
But with only one year left on Jarome Iginla's contract, the odds are that there will be more general managers calling into Calgary than receiving calls out of the Flames' front office.
There's one rumor to follow in Carolina this summer: Jordan Staal.
The Canes have a lot of cap space, and despite rumors that they'll throw a king's ransom at Zach Parise, it isn't likely they'll land the Devils captain. However, with one year left on the contracts of Jordan Staal and Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh, the cap might force a move by the Pens at some point.
And, with brother Eric Staal already in Carolina, why not send him down the coast?
Chicago is another team that has some interesting options coming this summer. Obviously their core is locked up already, and they have some kids coming up from the AHL and juniors who are expected to fill a few holes on the roster.
But the Blackhawks showed a desperate need for a goalie and a top-six forward who can score in their playoff loss to Phoenix.
Reports in Chicago are that Dave Bolland could be on the trade block, as could Niklas Hjalmarsson. If the right deal for a top-six scorer and/or an upgrade in net becomes available, both of those guys could be gone.
We've already talked about a number of teams that have the bulk of their 2012-13 rosters locked-up.
The Avs don't fall in that group.
Colorado has only eight players under contract for next season, but they have to deal with nine restricted free agents. The good news in Denver is that they only have a little over $21 million committed to those eight players for next year. The bad news is that there are big-time names, including Matt Duchene and Erik Johnson, that need to get paid.
Paul Stastny might find himself in a new city next year, especially if an unrestricted free agent like David Jones leaves. But regarding trade targets, the Avs need to take care of their restricted free agents before they can go shopping outside the organization.
Columbus Blue Jackets
They'll worry about trading their captain. Who they'll target after that is up to whomever is the general manager in Columbus at the time. This is going to be a rough summer for Jackets fans.
Once Jamie Benn gets paid (he's a restricted free agent), the Stars should have around $15 million available with 18 players under contract for 2012-13.
They might look for depth in-goal and on the blue line this summer, but it's hard to know how free their front office will be to spend money with new ownership taking over in Dallas this summer.
Detroit Red Wings
Trade? Nah. The Red Wings will have a ton of cap space this summer and a couple of guys—Ryan Suter and Zach Parise—who will be unrestricted free agents with connections in Michigan.
The Oilers clearly have a lot of talent up front, and now they're sitting on the top overall pick in the draft (again). There will be debate over whether or not the Oilers use the pick on a defenseman until it's announced in late June, but they need to add depth on their blue line.
Further complicating matters in Edmonton is the reality that Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle will both be restricted free agents next summer. With both of them undoubtedly getting paid, could a swap of Sam Gagner for the Blackhawks' shot-blocking specialist Niklas Hjalmarsson be in the cards?
The deal would fill a need for both teams, and Hjalmarsson has only two years left on his current deal.
I'm not sure the Panthers are going to be as active in the trade market this summer as Dale Tallon was when he put together the roster that won the division this past season.
Kris Versteeg is a restricted free agent, and Jason Garrison is unrestricted. If Tallon brings both of them back, the Panthers will have 18 players under contract without including a few prospects—especially Jacob Markstrom and Jonathan Huberdeau—who could fill out the NHL roster.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings have 20 players under contract for next year and could have roughly $10 million in cap space. They might consider moving backup goalie Jonathan Bernier if the right offer comes across the board, and restricted free agent Dwight King might get an extension.
Last summer, the Wild made a couple of deals with San Jose that nobody saw coming.
Heading into this summer, they might look for a backup goalie but could get one in free agency (or stick with Matt Hackett). And they'll need to add some depth up front, but most people expect Charlie Coyle and Zack Phillips to be ready soon. If they do look to deal, it might be for help on the blue line.
The hot rumor on Sunday night is that the Habs might make a play for Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville. If that's the case, who knows where the summer could go for new GM Marc Bergevin and company.
This summer in Nashville will be ruled by Shea Weber and Ryan Suter discussion. What those two blue-chip defensemen do will determine the rest of the organization's moves this summer.
New Jersey Devils
Marty Brodeur is a free agent this summer. Will he retire or come back for a victory lap?
Zach Parise is a free agent this summer. Can the Devils afford to pay him what the Red Wings will?
Just as the Preds will have their summer plans determined by two superstar free agents, the Devils will need decisions from these two before they can look ahead. But with the majority of their roster hitting free agency in 2013, they might be in position to sell on a couple veterans if needed to keep Brodeur and/or Parise around.
New York Islanders
The Islanders could use a good stay-at-home defenseman and some veteran leadership in their bottom-six forwards.
They could also use a new home and decent ownership.
New York Rangers
If they don't win the cup, and even if they do, the rumors that they have interest in Rick Nash will be out there. He's a great player, and the Rangers could be a good Eastern Conference fit for him.
Once they pay Erik Karlsson, the Sens will have 16 players signed and around $20 million in available cap space for next year. How much they're willing to spend, and what their management is willing to move to add the "right player," is up for debate.
But another top-four defenseman might be their target, especially if they can get a shot-blocker to play 18 to 20 minutes per night.
Will Chris Pronger be back?
The Flyers' major concern this summer is going to be money. Including Pronger, Philly has 20 players signed and only around $3 million in cap space. If Pronger can't come back, they'll have to scramble to fill that hole on their roster with limited resources. If he does come back, they'll have a loaded blue line.
Let's target an owner to pay the bills before we aim for specific players.
As long as we're going with the whole "Jordan Staal is going to be too expensive" and "trade Jordan to play with Eric in Carolina" rumors, let's take the theory full circle.
The Pens' obvious need in the postseason was better play on the blue line, and Tim Gleason's cap number is the same as Staal. It would take more than just Gleason to get Jordan Staal out of Pittsburgh, but he's under control for four more years (three more than Staal) and would be a good asset for the Canes to center a deal on.
San Jose Sharks
If Doug Wilson moved Dany Heatley's contract last summer, clearly he can move anything (and anyone).
And after the Sharks' early exit this year, wholesale changes could be coming in San Jose. Who will they target? How about who will they keep?
St. Louis Blues
The Blues were swept out of the playoffs on Sunday and now face what could become an excruciating 15 months.
This summer, St. Louis has 16 players already signed but has to work with restricted free agents T.J. Oshie, Chris Stewart and David Perron.
In the summer of 2013, the list of restricted free agents in St. Louis is focused on the blue line, where Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk and Kris Russell are among the players needing a new deal. Also, forward Andy McDonald is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2013.
The Blues, with new ownership, might need to get creative to afford their talented young core.
Tampa Bay Lightning
It should come as no surprise that the Bolts will look to add between the pipes this summer, and target No. 1 will probably be Cory Schneider in Vancouver. That is, of course, unless the Canucks find a way to unload Roberto Luongo.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Everything I just said about Tampa is true in Toronto.
They'll be begging teams to take Roberto Luongo so they can re-sign Cory Schneider.
The Caps will have an interesting summer coming up, as both Mike Green and Jon Carlson will hit restricted free agency. Will they pay one of them long-term and deal the other? Or will they try to keep both?
Winnipeg could be interesting this summer. How much money will they be comfortable spending after only one year in their new home? And how will they deal with restricted free agent Evander Kane?
The Jets weren't far away from being a playoff team and have a good young core. But determining their future spending ability has to happen before they can target specific players .