NHL Free Agency 2012: 5 Teams That Look Absolutely Lost with Offseason Moves
When NHL teams fail to address their roster weaknesses in free agency during the months leading up to a possible lockout, they set themselves up for a potential disaster.
Teams still with a lot of holes on their roster that are already close to the salary cap might not have much financial flexibility under the terms of the new CBA.
The following teams have not made the necessary moves to get better as a team or replace important players who departed via free agency, through trades or retirement.
New Jersey Devils
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The New Jersey Devils were a top contender in the Zach Parise sweepstakes this summer, but a chance to play in his home state and sign a massive 13-year contract was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello has yet to make any significant changes to help make up for Parise's departure and might have to rely on better seasons from veteran Ilya Kovalchuk and young star Adam Henrique to help the team stay strong offensively.
Even without Parise, signing another top-six forward would have given the Devils another shot at making a deep playoff run next year.
New Jersey has taken a step back since last season because of its inactivity in free agency, while Eastern Conference teams like the New York Rangers, Carolina Hurricanes, Winnipeg Jets and Tampa Bay Lightning got a lot better during the offseason.
There is zero chance that the Devils make the conference finals next season unless they add another top-line forward to the mix.
Toronto Maple Leafs
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When the previous CBA expired on September 15, so did another disappointing offseason for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
According to Capgeek, the Leafs have about $6.7 million in salary cap space, but even if general manager Brian Burke is waiting until after the next CBA is finalized to make his big moves, the trade market might be his only avenue to explore ways that will drastically improve his team.
Every team in the Northeast Division made some nice improvements this past summer, except the Leafs.
Burke's decision to re-sign Nikolai Kumelin after his incredibly bad 2011-12 season, which included just seven goals scored in 70 games, was quite surprising. Burke should have let Kulemin leave the team through free agency and replaced him with a veteran who will bring leadership plus a little bit of scoring.
Right now, the Leafs will have to rely on young players such as Nazem Kadri and Joe Colborne to provide the team with what Burke needed to find in free agency this summer, which is consistent scoring, depth and toughness.
The Leafs have had an awful offseason, but there will be a little bit of time from when the lockout ends until the start of the new season where Burke can make the additions he has yet to make.
Ryan Suter's departure won't cripple the Nashville Predators because unlike a lot of NHL teams, they have a true No. 1 goalie and a franchise defenseman, but general manager David Poile's inactivity in free agency was a little puzzling this summer.
The team is only a few moves away from being a real contender in the West again, but none of the major weaknesses on the team, such as the lack of a No. 1 center and a top-line scorer, were addressed during the offseason.
Unless some of the Predators' top prospects such as Ryan Ellis perform at a high level next season, it will be difficult for Nashville to make the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
Having star defenseman Shea Weber and elite goaltender Pekka Rinne will help the team be in contention for a playoff spot, but Nashville still doesn't have enough offensive depth to win in the playoffs without a elite scorer.
The good news for Poile is that he will have some salary cap space to work with during the season if he finds a trade that can make his team better, even if the cap number goes down in the new CBA.
Detroit Red Wings
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The Red Wings tried to sign Ryan Suter, but once him and Zach Parise signed with the Minnesota Wild, general manager Ken Holland was very quiet in the free agent and trade markets.
This was a huge mistake because the Red Wings aren't in a position to take their time building a championship-caliber roster again.
Star forwards Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen don't have many of their prime years remaining, so the time to win in Detroit is right now.
Holland needed to make some impact signings this summer, either in free agency or via trades, but now he has a roster that has no chance to make the second round of the playoffs. The team's blue line is just too weak without veterans Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart.
The Red Wings' remarkable streak of 22 straight playoff appearances will be in jeopardy this season if they don't make a major deal before the trade deadline next year.
The Flames made a lot of interesting moves during the summer, and very few of them made any sense.
Which team was the biggest loser in free agency?
Calgary already had an overpaid offensive defenseman in Jay Bouwmeester, but general manager Jay Feaster decided to sign a similar kind of player in Dennis Wideman to a five-year deal worth $26 million. Wideman might be worth $5.75 million right now, but he probably won't be in the last three years of the deal.
The Flames made a number of signings in free agency that were quite surprising, both in terms of years and dollars. In the event that the salary cap going down in the next CBA, it's going to be interesting to see how the Flames get under the cap.
Instead of addressing some serious needs on the roster, such as a shutdown defenseman, a No. 1 center, and better backup goaltender, the Flames overpaid for a few veterans who may make an immediate impact, but won't improve the team in a major way.
Calgary has a good chance to make the playoffs this season, but the moves it made in free agency this summer won't help the team enjoy long-term success.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.
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