10 NHL Offseason Moves That Could Haunt NHL Teams for Years

Matt CloudenCorrespondent IOctober 6, 2012

10 NHL Offseason Moves That Could Haunt NHL Teams for Years

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    Every offseason, at least one hockey team makes a move that makes the collective fans of the NHL scratch their heads. 

    Rick DiPietro, Alexei Yashin, Scott Gomez and Wade Redden all stand out as some of the shining examples of this, and as long as free agency and trades exist, other people will challenge Mike Milbury as the world's worst general manager.

    This 2012 offseason was full of moves that could play a big part in a club's future, either good or bad. Most of these moves are not bad ones, as they likely improved or solidified their new teams. Some of these are just high-risk moves that could end up backfiring. 

    Not quite the same as making the All-Milbury Team, but they could have a similar impact on a team long-term.

    Here is the list of the Top 10 moves that could end up haunting a team for a while. 

1. Boston Signs Milan Lucic to a $6 Million-Per-Year Extension

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    A few days prior to the expiration of the old CBA, the Boston Bruins signed forward Milan Lucic to a three-year, $18 million extension which kicks in after the 2013-14 season. 

    After signing, Lucic joined Tyler Seguin (six years, $34.5 million) and Brad Marchand (four years, $18 million) in signing substantial extensions during the offseason prior to the expiration of the CBA. 

    Let's be clear, this is not knocking this signing (or any of the three by the Bruins), as Lucic is an excellent player in the NHL.

    Is he a $6 million-a-year player? Probably not. But it's not an egregious overpayment by any stretch of the imagination. 

    The issue here is with the Bruins' treatment of the salary cap and apparent ignorance of its existence. Granted, Marc Savard's $4 million will certainly be off the books by putting him on long-term injured reserve, and Tim Thomas' $5 million could be moved if he is traded. But that may not be enough.

    Remember, during the process of the current CBA negotiations, the NHL has offered a revenue-sharing package that would put the salary cap at a hard $58 million for the 2012-13 season.

    According to CapGeek, and assuming a moderate increase for the 2013-2014 season, the Bruins have $57 million of that amount allocated already.

    That amount does not include Thomas' contract anymore. Nor does it include Nathan Horton, Tuukka Rask or Andrew Ference.

    The only relief the Bruins would have from that $57 million would be Savard's $4 million, assuming he is still unable to play. 

    General manager Peter Chiarelli certainly knows what he is doing, but his moves have left many scratching their heads as to how he plans to navigate the salary cap limitations with these signings.

    Losing players like Horton and Rask would certainly not be beneficial to a tightly-knit Bruins team. 

2. Colorado's Inability to Sign RFA Ryan O'Reilly Prior to CBA Expiration

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    The Colorado Avalanche are not a big-market team by any stretch of imagination. They have hovered around the salary-cap floor for the past few years, shying away from the monster contracts many clubs have been willing to dole out. 

    This thriftiness was exemplified in their signing of emerging star center Matt Duchene to a two-year $7 million deal in June. Duchene, who is widely considered one of the best young centers in the game, is now being paid less than Brad Marchand and Chris Kunitz, and a few dollars more than Paul Gaustad.

    The other major restricted free agent on the Avalanche's roster was fellow young center Ryan O'Reilly. O'Reilly is not the same player as Duchene, think Joe Sakic to Chris Drury, but he is just as important to the team's success. 

    Showing an offensive spark last season, O'Reilly proved himself as having captain material as well. Despite the captaincy's going to Calder Trophy-winner Gabriel Landeskog, having been vacated by Milan Hejduk, O'Reilly will certainly have a leadership role in the locker room. 

    It was very curious that O'Reilly remained unsigned as of September 15 when the CBA expired, especially with a comparable being set on his own team with Duchene. Very little has been revealed as to the negotiations with O'Reilly by Avs general manager Greg Sherman. 

    The expectation is that the Avs will be unable to sign O'Reilly to a longer-term deal due to CBA restrictions that many believe will be implemented. Although current contracts, and their level of recognition in the new CBA, are up in the air, the Avs may have lost a chance to lock up a big part of their future for the long-term.

    Never mind their potential whiff on signing Duchene long-term as well.  

3. Jay Feaster's Belief That Calgary Was Close with Last Year's Roster

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    Jay Feaster took a beating in the blogosphere in 2011-12. 

    In January 2012, Feaster refused to deal career-Calgary Flame Jarome Iginla and instead acquired Mike Cammalleri from the Montreal Canadiens, with the expectation that Calgary would then compete for the playoffs.

    The team was coming off of a solid 8-4-4 record in December 2011 and had a lot of hope, but the fact remained that the Flames' roster was simply not good enough to make the playoffs. 

    The Flames finished ninth in the Western Conference and were "only" five points behind the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings at the end of the regular season for the eight spot. While seemingly close, the difference between the Kings and Flames was significant. Very few people would say that the Flames were a comparable team to the Kings, even prior to their unbelievable Cup run.

    Calgary was simply afforded the gift of playing in the Northwest Division, one that only sent a single representative to the Stanley Cup Playoffs (Presidents' Trophy-winners Vancouver Canucks).

    Minnesota, Colorado and the Edmonton Oilers were not the toughest teams on anyone's schedule, even with the Wild and the Oilers starting off extremely hot in October and November. 

    But that has certainly changed.

    Minnesota added two of the better players at their position in the game in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Edmonton won another draft lottery and selected Nail Yakupov at no. 1. Colorado should improve simply on the basis of their youth, with Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O'Reilly leading the way.

    What did Feaster do? Just prior to July 1, he sent a fifth-round pick and Jordan Henry to the Washington Capitals for Dennis Wideman, who promptly signed a five-year $26.25 million deal. That's a lot of cash for a guy whose favorite pastime of falling in his defensive zone is rivaled only by his love of defensive zone turnovers.

    Does Wideman make Calgary's defense better? Sure, but only marginally, simply because their current starting lineup includes Chris Butler. 

    Then Feaster signed Jiri Hudler to a four-year $16 million deal. Hudler has been criticized for his loyalty, especially after jetting to the KHL from the Detroit Red Wings in 2009-2010 and returning to them in 2010-11. 

    The additions of Hudler and Wideman are not enough to take a mediocre team back to the playoffs, especially in what should be an improved division. 

4. Edmonton Not Drafting Ryan Murray at Number One

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    It's not a secret that the Edmonton Oilers are somewhat bereft of defensive talent on their roster, and have been for some time. 

    Since they traded Chris Pronger to the Anaheim Ducks in 2006, the Oilers have not had a clear no. 1 defenseman. Tom Gilbert became the de facto no. 1, but would have a hard time making a case as that on any other team in the league. 

    So, when faced with their third NHL no. 1 draft selection in a row, the Oilers had a choice: Nail Yakupov or Ryan Murray.

    Having gone offense with the previous two selections in Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, there was a healthy debate in the days leading up to the draft as to whom the Oilers should take. 

    Many assumed Yakupov would be the pick simply because he was the type of talent Nugent-Hopkins was in the 2011 draft and either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin were in the 2010 draft. Yakupov is a pure scorer and skater and can create ice for himself as well as anyone. The Oilers, and every other team, saw him as a potential franchise player.

    The problem?

    The verdict was the same on Ryan Murray.

    TSN's Craig Button called him the "most NHL-ready player in the draft," and BJ MacDonald of NHL Central Scouting compared him to Scott Niedermayer and called him "the best skater in the WHL" who "never gets out of position."

    To hammer the point home, MacDonald continued on his Niedermayer comparison:

    He just does everything so seamlessly that he reminds me of Niedermayer only because he does everything so well at such a high level and after a while, you don’t even notice it.

    Basically, Yakupov has the ability to be a Stamkos-esque goal scorer, but Murray has the ability to be a top-line defenseman, which the Oilers sorely needed.

    Obviously the selection of Yakupov makes this Oilers team even more scary in the future than they were in 2011-12 with the likes of Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Sam Gagner leading the way. No one in their right mind thinks Yakupov was a bad selection.

    The question is whether or not Murray was the more prudent selection for the Oilers, given their lack of defensive talent or depth. Justin Schultz's signing certainly is a step in the right direction, but having Schultz and Murray could have put the Oilers in a very strong position at defense for a long time. 

5. Vancouver Signing Jason Garrison to a 6-Year $27.6 Million Deal

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    It may be a safe assumption that not many who lived outside of the Miami area knew who Jason Garrison was prior to the 2011-12 season. He was about to begin his second full season with the Panthers after posting a pedestrian five goals and 18 points in 2010-2011. 

    But starting a new system with a new coach in Kevin Dineen, Garrison found himself with increased responsibilities, especially on the powerplay. 

    After finishing the season with 16 goals, including nine on the powerplay, and 33 points, Garrison's market value as an unrestricted free agent increased dramatically.

    Although Ryan Suter was the best defenseman on the market by a wide margin, the second-tier-like Garrison still garnered a lot of attention from teams looking to shore up their blue lines. 

    It doesn't take much to get noticed when you go fishing with a six-year $27.6 million deal, and that's exactly what Vancouver baited Garrison with. 

    After losing Sami Salo and Aaron Rome to free agency, the Canucks had a pressing need for a defenseman in free agency.

    Many will argue that their need wasn't that pressing. 

    Garrison's deal is strangely reminiscent of the Ville Leino deal in the 2011 offseason: A largely unproven player who had a great year in a friendly system gets signed to a $4.5 million-plus deal by a team with a need at the position.

    The Leino deal has been lampooned since the moment it was signed. Don't expect the Canucks to be allowed to forget this contract if Garrison struggles as Leino did last year. 

6. Toronto Trading Luke Schenn to Philadelphia for James Van Riemsdyk

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    Both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Philadelphia Flyers had huge needs this offseason.

    The Leafs needed more even-strength offense and any improvement to their awful penalty kill that ranked 28th in the league in 2011-12 with a 77.3-percent kill rate.

    The Flyers needed defense and badly. With Chris Pronger's status moving forward in the air and various other injuries, the Flyers were on the verge of starting an AHL team on their blue line. 

    On the second day of the draft, the general managers for the Leafs and Flyers, Brian Burke and Paul Holmgren, respectively, made a deal: The Leafs sent Luke Schenn, one of their top defenseman, to the Flyers in exchange for James Van Riemsdyk, the former second overall pick. 

    On paper, the deal makes a lot of sense. Van Riemsdyk will improve the Leafs' powerplay, as well as give them another option at even strength. His big body can be a force in front of the net for the Leafs, and he may be able to lend his hand on the penalty kill. 

    Schenn is the first defenseman to fill the void left when Pronger went down with a concussion at the beginning of last season. The Flyers may have gotten Schenn on his offensive upswing as well, as he tallied a career-high 22 points in 2011-12 with the Leafs. 

    While it became an internet joke that the Flyers traded yet another player they had recently signed to a long-term deal, the Leafs seem to be taking the biggest risk.

    Dion Phaneuf has not been the elite defenseman Burke hoped he was getting when he acquired him a few years ago. John-Michael Liles struggled last season, posting a plus-minus of minus-14. Jake Gardiner showed flashes of brilliance, especially with his great speed, but he had periods of ineptitude as well. 

    Schenn was a steadying force on the blue line for the Leafs. JVR will undoubtedly be a good pickup, but one has to wonder whether or not giving up Schenn in exchange for a bump on the offensive side will come back to bite them.

    Their selection of Morgan Rielly in this year's first round will mitigate that hit, but maybe not for a few years while he develops. 

    The Flyers have more offensive talent than most teams, so losing JVR will not be a huge loss, but their acquisition of Schenn will be a huge boon to their back end.

    The Leafs may have a huge hole for years to come. 

7. New Jersey's Concentration on Zach Parise and Not Their Other Impending FAs

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    It is safe to say Zach Parise's free-agency saga was, along with Ryan Suter's, the most-followed story of the 2012 offseason.

    It looks like the New Jersey Devils were just as ingrained in it.

    No one can blame the Devils for wanting their captain back, and no one is blaming them for making it their No. 1 priority. The issue is that now, the Devils' offseason next year could be even worse. 

    According to CapGeek, the Devils have seven unrestricted free agents heading into next offseason and two restricted free agents. Usually a potential free-agent class that numerous includes a lot of fourth line and depth players, but that is certainly not the case for the Devils. 

    Of their impending UFAs, the Devils could potentially lose Travis Zajac, Patrik Elias, Dainius Zubrus, David Clarkson and Marek Zidlicky.

    Their RFAs include Calder candidate Adam Henrique and touted prospect Jacob Josefson. 

    If that's not sinking in, let's frame it another way. Although unlikely, if all of those players were to leave, the Devils would be left with the following forwards for the 2013-14 season: Ilya Kovalchuk, Steve Bernier, Krys Barch, Cam Janssen, Ryan Carter and Steve Gionta. 

    That's a superstar, two enforcers and three role players. Good luck keeping up with the rest of the Atlantic Division (or whatever it's called if realignment goes through).

    Now, in reality, Zajac, Henrique and Clarkson should be locks to come back. With Henrique as an RFA, it makes it even more likely he'll be back.

    But Parise was a lock, too, if you talked to most people whose opinion you could trust prior to the 2011-12 season. 

    Elias is playing into the twilight of his career and Zubrus isn't far behind, but both could be productive for another few years, especially playing in a familiar system. Peter DeBoer's offensive focus was a breath of fresh air for Devils fans and players alike, so it would be to the benefit of an aging Elias to stick in the system. 

    The reality is that most of these players will be back in a Devils uniform, but it will likely be more expensive to do so. With the ownership issues the Devils have been facing, it throws an aura of uncertainty around who the Devils will be able to retain at the end of the 2012-13 season. 

8. Nashville Matching Philadelphia's Offer Sheet for Shea Weber

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    Shea Weber is probably the best defenseman in the NHL. If you find yourself in an argument to the contrary, it probably includes Zdeno Chara, and then Weber is no. 2. If it's any lower than that, the argument is not worth your time.

    So when the Philadelphia Flyers signed Weber to a ridiculous 14-year $110 million offer sheet this summer, no one was surprised.

    What was the surprise? The Nashville Predators matching.

    Nashville has never been known as a spendthrift, and general manager David Poile immediately began tempering expectations when the offer came in, which made everyone think that Weber was going to be in a Flyers uniform when the season started.

    Yet the Predators, after the media weighed in on the subject a thousand times, maintained hat they would match the Flyers' gargantuan offer.

    Again, no one in their right mind thinks that this was a bad move personnel-wise for the Predators.

    Weber got robbed of the Norris Trophy this year by a forward masquerading as a defenseman, and he will continue to improve.

    But this may become a financial barrier to bringing in more talent in the future, something Weber has been critical of in the past.

    Also, an aspect of the contract that has flown under the radar for most is that Weber does not have a no-trade clause in the contract. That means that once he is able to be moved next summer, the Predators may be shipping him off to the Flyers or any other team willing to ante up for his services.

    That would then deprive the Predators of their two best players in two consecutive years, which would put them squarely in rebuilding mode. That transition would be frustrating for fans who have finally started to see their team compete. 

9. Columbus Trading Rick Nash to the New York Rangers

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    At the trade deadline in February, the Rick Nash saga dominated the coverage. Would he go somewhere? If so, where would he be going? Who was on his list?

    But the price for Nash at that time was absolutely insane, and no deal materialized. 

    Then, as the draft approached, the feeling among many hockey pundits was the price had to come down for Nash. This put the New York Rangers back into the conversation for Nash's services.

    Sure enough, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Rangers were able to come to an agreement on the second day of the draft, with Nash heading to the Big Apple in exchange for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-round pick in 2013. 

    In short, Columbus' price came way down. 

    Dubinsky is a good player who found himself in coach John Tortorella's dog house in 2011-12, and his production suffered because of it.

    Anisimov has tons of talent but is a bit aloof at times and tends to lack passion in the defensive zone.

    Erixon was the big score for the Blue Jackets, with his two-way defensive play likely being a great complement to Ryan Murray's. The two young blue chippers should anchor the Jackets' blue line for years to come. 

    But, in reality, the Jackets got two second line talents for Nash, who has shown in his time in Switzerland with Joe Thornton that he can dominate with a capable center. The Blue Jackets were never able to give him that, and with the Rangers having Brad Richards and Derek Stepan, he'll be surrounded by tons of talent. 

    Yes, Columbus got plenty of talent in return, but the deal lacked a home run like Michael Del Zotto or Ryan McDonagh coming back to fill that superstar hole left by Nash.

    Nash may help the Rangers to a Stanley Cup in 2013-14. The Blue Jackets are really in no better position than they were at the end of last season.

10. Minnesota Signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to Huge Contracts

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    It was the biggest coup in the history of free agency in the NHL. The top forward and defenseman in the year's class headed to one team, never mind a team that could barely get out of its own way as the 2011-12 season progressed. 

    But Zach Parise and Ryan Suter decided to head home, signing identical 13-year $98 million contracts with the Minnesota Wild.

    The Wild immediately went from a meddling team to a division contender, especially with the amount of young talent they have coming through their farm system, including Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund.

    Again, as it is with many of these signings, no one can say that personnel-wise this was a bad move for the Wild. In a matter of minutes they went from the basement to contenders.

    The issue is the fact that the Wild's depth is still questionable, at best, and they don't have much latitude to do anything about it right now.

    Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley both made over $6.75 million a year already, which now gives the Wild four players over that mark.

    Forwards Coyle and Granlund are creating a lot of excitement, as they should be, and Devin Setoguchi is still improving, but beyond that, the talent drops off. 

    On defense, Tom Gilbert is really the only solid guy the Wild have to complement Suter.

    2012 first-rounder Matt Dumba will likely be expected to make a contribution as soon as possible, but he still will be an 18-year-old rookie. 

    If Parise and Suter have great seasons and make everyone around them better, the Wild's depth issues will not be as pressing.

    But if they are unable to bring the production every Wild fan hopes they can, the lack of secondary scoring could destroy their hopes for not only a division crown, but a playoff spot. 

    With Niklas Backstrom's $6 million coming off the books next year, they may have a bit more room to improve the depth then, but this may be an issue that hampers the Wild moving forward for sometime.