One Player That Could Take Each NHL Team to the Next Level
The NHL season is starting on Saturday, and with top name UFAs set to hit the market in July, there could be a very active trade season in which players like Alexander Edler and Jarome Iginla could be acquired in order to take an NHL team to the next level.
For each team, the "next level" is a different concept. For basement teams, the next level could be a step in the right direction, it could be making the playoffs for a bubble team and it could mean Stanley Cup contention for current playoff teams.
This list will feature players who are upcoming free agents, or players who could be available via trade to maintain a sense a realism. Although Evgeni Malkin would take almost every team to the next level, he won't be available for trade.
For many teams adding a veteran like Jarome Iginla, or a prized upcoming UFA like Corey Perry, Edler, or Ryan Getzlaf could put them over the top, so they might appear for multiple teams.
These players will be a first option for many teams who are setting their sights high to retool as a franchise.
Nonetheless, here is one player for each NHL team that could take them to the "next level".
Anaheim Ducks: Travis Zajac
The Anaheim Ducks are a team whose top priority will be retaining their free agents by the end of the year, but if the Ducks wanted to make a trade to take them to the next level it would be acquiring Travis Zajac.
Zajac is a young and talented forward who would add some serious center depth to the Ducks.
While Anaheim may have some some talented forwards in Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf, Zajac would add some scoring and playmaking ability that would take Anaheim to the next level.
Boston Bruins: Corey Perry
Corey Perry is a top-end scoring winger who would really make the Boston Bruins an overwhelming favorite to win the Stanley Cup.
Perry would add some serious offense to a Bruins' team that already featured some prominent names at forward, and it would be an amazing move if they were able to pull it off.
Buffalo Sabres: Ryan Getzlaf
The best trade the Buffalo Sabres could make would be adding a top center like Ryan Getzlaf. The Sabres lack talent and substantive depth in that position, so adding an top-end center like Getzlaf would take them to the next level.
Getzlaf is set to become a free agent next summer, and he is also coming off a down year. Anaheim likely would prefer to keep Getzlaf, but for the right price, there is a good chance Bob Murray would trade him.
Calgary Flames: Mike Ribeiro
The Calgary Flames could use some help at center, and although they would love to add someone like Ryan Getzlaf or Travis Zajac, a player like Mike Ribeiro would be a probable target for Calgary.
Ribeiro is a veteran center who is a solid top-six center, and he is a player who could really help a Flames squad that will be going through a transition in the next few years.
Carolina Hurricanes: Alexander Edler
Alexander Edler is a player set to become an UFA after this season, and the Carolina Hurricanes are a team that only needs to make some upgrades to their blue line.
The forward corp is solid and Cam Ward will hold down the fort between the pipes, but adding a defender of Edler's caliber would take Carolina to the next level.
Chicago Blackhawks: Roberto Luongo
The Chicago Blackhawks are a team that has a solid forward group and blue line, but they do need some serious help in goal.
Corey Crawford has not been a consistent netminder for Chicago, and adding a top-end netminder like Roberto Luongo would take the 'Hawks to the next level, and it would make the team a bona-fide contender.
Colorado Avalanche: Niklas Backstrom
Niklas Backstrom is a goaltender who is slated to become a UFA at the end of the season, and with Matt Hackett and Josh Harding ready to take over in Minnesota, there is no guarantee he will be re-signed.
Although Backstrom is getting a little older, he would be an automatic upgrade of J-S Giguere and Semyon Varlamov in net.
Columbus Blue Jackets: A Lottery Pick
In the case of the Columbus Blue Jackets, there is not one player who could take them to the next level, because they are a team that needs to rebuild and retool.
The best case scenario for the Jackets would be acquiring another lottery pick in addition to the one they should receive at the end of the 2013 season.
Dallas Stars: Ryan Getzlaf
After the upcoming season, Jamie Benn will be the Dallas Stars only top-six center signed through 2013, and that will leave a hole at the No. 2 center spot.
Adding a power-forward center like Ryan Getzlaf would add another dimension to the Stars' offense, and it would give Dallas the firepower needed to become a strong playoff team.
Getzlaf would fit right in, and he would be a suitable replacement for the void left by Brad Richards. If Getzlaf was not an option, expect Dallas to consider players like Tyler Bozak and Travis Zajac.
Detroit Red Wings: Shea Weber
Shea Weber signed an offer sheet with the Nashville Predators, so he can not be traded for one year.
After failing to sign Ryan Suter this past summer, the Red Wings would love to get their hands on a defender like Weber, because he is a cornerstone-defenseman and one of the league's best.
Edmonton Oilers: Jake Gardiner
The Edmonton Oilers are a franchise that would love to strengthen their blue line so it would match the firepower and depth of their offense.
A defenseman like Jake Gardiner would be a great fit for the Oilers because of his age, skill set and upside.
With center Sam Gagner an RFA next year, Toronto and Edmonton could be potential trading partners at the deadline.
Florida Panthers: Roberto Luongo
Jacob Markstrom is a talented goaltending prospect for the Florida Panthers, but Roberto Luongo is a proven commodity.
If the Panthers were able to reacquire their former-netminder, it would take them to the next level as a team, and it would make them a contender in their division and the Eastern Conference.
Los Angeles Kings: N/A
The Los Angeles Kings' roster is all set, and as the defending Stanley Cup champions, they are already on top of the world.
At this point it wouldn't take much to take them to the next level, but they could retool in the offseason if they don't successfully defend their title.
Minnesota Wild: Travis Zajac
Travis Zajac is a player who would take Minnesota to the next level because of the chemistry he has with Zach Parise.
With Zajac in the final year of his contract, adding a player like Zajac would be something to think about because of his skill set, and his ability to make a difference in a shortened season.
Montreal Canadiens: Joffrey Lupul
Joffrey Lupul would be a player that would really improve the Montreal Canadiens' scoring depth. The team was one of the worst scoring teams in the NHL last year, and the roster doesn't currently feature any prominent goal scorers.
Lupul could cost the Canadiens a pretty package, but he would certainly be worth it because of what he brings to the table.
Nashville Predators: Stephen Weiss
Stephen Weiss is a nice secondary center who would be a nice addition for the Nashville Predators and he would be considerably cheaper than Ryan Getzlaf.
Weiss has been a steady and consistent performer with the Florida Panthers over the past few seasons, and he could really be a player that could elevate his game with a bigger role in Nashville.
New Jersey Devils: Ryan Getzlaf
The New Jersey were a team that was very interested in signing both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter this offseason before the duo ultimately inked matching deals in Minnesota.
The Devils could use a center with play-making ability, and a goal-scoring acumen, so that would make Ryan Getzlaf a top target.
Although Getzlaf is primarily a playmaker, he would add offensive depth to the Devils and would give the team a player who can set up their secondary wingers.
New York Islanders: Jimmy Howard
Jimmy Howard is a UFA in July, and although he could always re-sign with Detroit, coming to Long Island would take the team to the next level.
Adding Howard would give the Islanders a roster featuring John Tavares, Ryan Strome, Griffin Reinhart, and Matt Moulson among others youngsters who would be ready to make their debut in the coming years.
If the Isles got serious in net, they could become a playoff team that would continue to build for their arrival in Brooklyn.
New York Rangers: Scott Hannan
The New York Rangers are a solid Stanley Cup contender, and it is unlikely that they will look to make any major additions.
However, adding a veteran defender like Scott Hannan, a UFA in 2013, would give them serious defensive depth and it would put them even more over the top in the Eastern Conference.
Ottawa Senators: Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Daniel Alfredsson is likely in his last season, and that means the Ottawa Senators will need to fill that void on the wing.
With top center Jason Spezza in place, adding a forward like Pierre-Marc Bouchard would be an amazing fit, and low risk move for an Ottawa team with the makings of becoming a playoff contender.
He is set to become a UFA, and he could rebound with a new start in Ottawa on the right wing.
Philadelphia Flyers: Alexander Edler
The Philadelphia Flyers attempted to snag Shea Weber with an offer sheet during the past summer, but unfortunately for them the Nashville Predators matched it.
The Flyers may have recently added Kurtis Foster to the blue line, but his contract expires after the season so they are still a team that should be interested in Alexander Edler.
Edler would fit in with the Flyers, and it would put the defense in a new category in the Eastern Conference.
Phoenix Coyotes: Nathan Horton
The Phoenix Coyotes are a team that really needs a big star to become the face of the franchise, because Shane Doan will eventually retire.
Nathan Horton is a young and rugged power forward who plays a physical game similar to Shane Doan. The youngster is feeling great after recovering from a concussion, and he is the type of player who would fit in Phoenix.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Corey Perry
Evgeni Malkin already has James Neal as his flank on the top line, but Sidney Crosby could use a sniper of his own on his line.
Can you imagine how good a duo of Crosby and Corey Perry would be over the course of an 82 game season?
Something tells me that Ray Shero has already had this thought, and he will do his best to potentially acquire the Anaheim Ducks' sniper.
St.Louis Blues: Jarome Iginla
Jarome Iginla is a veteran forward who would really fit in with a young team like the St.Louis Blues. Iginla wants to win a Stanley Cup, and the Blues are a contender who really are a piece like Iginla away from having enough fire power to contend for the Cup.
With an amazing defense and goaltending tandem, Iginla would be the final piece to the St.Louis offense, and he could play a big role for the team in the playoffs and regular season in the future.
San Jose Sharks: Michael Ryder
Michael would also fit in with the San Jose Sharks, and he would be a great secondary addition to help put the team over the top in the final stretch run for the Stanley Cup.
Ryder was a key cog for the Boston Bruins during their Stanley Cup season in 2010-11, and his experience would be valuable for the Sharks.
The Sharks improved their blue line this offseason, and with a number of talented youngsters on the roster, they could stand to benefit from a player like Ryder would is motivated by experience to win the Cup.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Roberto Luongo
Roberto Luongo likes the state of Florida, and if he joined the Tampa Bay Lightning they would become a Stanley Cup contender.
Although Anders Lindback is a capable netminder who should be the starter in 2013, Luongo is an amazing starting goaltender that would be a rock for a Tampa team whose biggest weakness is goaltending.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Ryan Getzlaf
The Toronto Maple Leafs' most dire need outside of goaltending is a No. 1 center-man, and Ryan Getzlaf would address that issue.
Current GM Dave Nonis was an Asst. GM in Anaheim under Brian Burke, so he has some familiarity with Getzlaf. Adding Getzlaf would give the Leafs enough to be a playoff team in the East if they also addressed their goaltending.
Vancouver Canucks: Ryane Clowe
The Vancouver Canucks tried to add Shane Doan during free agency this past summer but they were unsuccessful in doing so.
The Canucks are a team that has looked to add a scoring winger with grit over the past few seasons, and Ryane Clowe could be the absolute perfect fit.
Washington Capitals: Valtteri Filppula
Valtteri Filppula is a forward currently with the Detroit Red Wings, and he is a left winger who has had a few nice seasons with the franchise.
He is a player who has a lot of creativity and he likes to score, and if he were to join the Washington Capitals, he would have some comparable linemate that would enable him to thrive.
Winnipeg Jets: Mike Ribeiro
Mike Ribeiro is one of the league's talented play-making-centers,who is very creative and talented. Although he has a notorious reputation for diving, his offensive abilities allow him to be a solid contributor.
Winnipeg is a team looking to add some pieces to build up the organization before prospects like Mark Scheifele are ready, and Ribeiro is a forward who would help bridge the gap and he could serve a role similar to Olli Jokinen.