NHL Players Who Will Have the Biggest Skates to Fill in the 2013-14 Season

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor IJuly 15, 2013

NHL Players Who Will Have the Biggest Skates to Fill in the 2013-14 Season

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    The departure of Mike Ribeiro from the Washington Capitals will put Brooks Laich in a tough spot this season, and other players such as Michael Ryder and Ryane Clowe will have big skates to fill in New Jersey. 

    It is never easy for a team when it loses a key player, and replacement players can have a tough time filling the void. It is never easy to be in the shadow of former players, and these old faces will try to impress in new places.

    Here are the NHL players who have the biggest skates to fill during the 2013-14 season.

Brooks Laich

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    Skates to Fill: Mike Ribeiro

    According to general manager George McPhee, Brooks Laich is Mike Ribeiro's replacement as the Washington Capitals' second-line center. This is going to be a burden for Laich, because he is not the same type of player that Ribeiro is.

    Laich is a great defensive two-way stalwart who can play an effective three-zone game. Ribeiro, on the other hand, is a skilled puck mover and power-play ace. The Capitals' newest second-line center does not have the offensive arsenal to replace Ribeiro, and he will have a tough time filling his skates this season.

Ryane Clowe and Michael Ryder

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    Skates to Fill: Ilya Kovalchuk, David Clarkson

    They probably didn't know it at the time, but Ryane Clowe and Michael Ryder no longer will be expected to be secondary scorers with the New Jersey Devils.

    Clowe knew his task was going to fill the void left by David Clarkson, but he probably expected to have Ilya Kovalchuk as a linemate. Michael Ryder might have expected to be a secondary scorer who would have his chance to play in the top six, but now he will have a larger role.

    Now that Kovalchuk is gone and Clarkson is in Toronto, the Devils' summer acquisitions will be looked upon to earn their paychecks and file some overtime. 

Ray Whitney

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    Skates to Fill: Loui Eriksson

    The Dallas Stars upgraded their center depth by dealing winger Loui Eriksson for center Tyler Seguin, but they sacrificed the strength they had on their left wing.

    Ray Whitney is now a prime candidate to fill Eriksson's void on the second line, and it could be a tough task for the 41-year-old journeyman.

    Jamie Benn will remain the team's No. 1 left winger, but losing an offensive two-way winger like Eriksson will have repercussions this season. While Whitney is a talented player who has shown he can still contribute, a 41-year-old can't replace a 27-year-old.

Bobby Ryan

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    Skates to Fill: Daniel Alfredsson

    Bobby Ryan is a skilled forward who is an offensive upgrade over Daniel Alfredsson, but he is going to be under pressure in Ottawa. No matter how he is playing, Ryan will be known in Ottawa as the Senators' response to losing Alfredsson.

    That stigma is a heavy burden to carry, and despite Ryan's talent, Alfredsson is a future Hall of Famer. Ryan may be a great scorer with a bright future, but he hasn't accomplished what Alfredsson has done to date.

    Ryan is signed for two years with the Senators, and it will be interesting to see what happens when his contract is up.

Valtteri Filppula

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    Skates to Fill: Vincent Lecavalier

    Valtteri Filppula was inked to a five-year deal worth $25 million, and it is a contract that implies he is going to be a fixture with the Tampa Bay Lightning. With a cap hit of $5 million per year, Filppula is going to be a top-six center, and he will be a pseudo-replacement for Vincent Lecavalier.

    Steven Stamkos has already taken over as the team's franchise player and face, but Lecavalier had become a secondary contributor over the past few years. Injuries impacted the former Lightning captain's ability to be an elite player, but Filppula now will be in the role vacated by Vinny L.

    The contract will also add some pressure to the situation. For GM Steve Yzerman's sake, Filppula better pan out in Tampa.

Alexander Barkov

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    Skates to Fill: Stephen Weiss

    The Florida Panthers didn't re-sign Stephen Weiss after drafting Alexander Barkov, and the newest center will have a tough role to fill.

    Weiss was a career Panther, and he did almost everything for the Panthers. He could score, play two-way hockey and he played in all situations on special teams. Nick Bjugstad will slot in as the team's No. 2 center, but Barkov will be looked upon to step in as the team's first-line center this season.

    Barkov has the talent to be successful, but replacing Weiss will be tough in his inaugural season. It is always hard to make the transition from amateur to professional hockey, but Barkov will have some added pressure this season.

Jarome Iginla

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    Skates to Fill: Nathan Horton

    Jarome Iginla is a future Hall of Famer, but this season he will be filling the skates of another player instead of being an addition. Iginla was signed to fill the role Nathan Horton had, and he will be looked upon to play like he did in Calgary.

    With the Pittsburgh Penguins, Iginla was slotted in a role that required him to play an offensive game that required speed. The Bruins' newest second-line winger was never fleet of foot, and he will be asked to play a physical offensive game.

    Injuries may have impacted Horton's game, but he was still a very good player who was a great fit with the Bruins' system. Iginla is older and his game has dropped off. It will be a tall order for him to replace Horton's production.