NHL

Every NHL Team's Biggest Offseason Need in 2014

Steve MacfarlaneFeatured ColumnistJune 14, 2014

Every NHL Team's Biggest Offseason Need in 2014

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    So, what now?

    After one of the most exciting Stanley Cup playoffs in history, the drama is over. The Kings have been crowned and the race for next year's championship begins immediately.

    Your hockey withdrawal will be tempered by this month's draft and the July 1 free-agency kickoff but, in general, it will be a long few months before training camps begin again. 

    For an early peek at what could be coming in the weeks ahead, click through this team-by-team slide to see what each team's greatest need is at the moment—whether it's a new coach, a shakeup of players or a simple addition.

Anaheim Ducks: Second-Line Support

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    Why they need it

    The retirement of Teemu Selanne and potential loss of an aging Saku Koivu leaves the forward depth chart behind Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry with a lot of talented but unproven youngsters. Bringing in somebody with experience and the ability to support the top line with some secondary scoring would lead to even better matchups for guys like Nick Bonino and Kyle Palmieri, who have proven they have potential to contribute regularly as well.

    The defense could use more stability as well, with Cam Fowler the most notable young star and prospects Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen offering potential. With the uncertainty surrounding the health of Sheldon Souray, the team brought in Stephane Robidas from the Dallas Stars at the deadline, hoping he would solidify the group. When Robidas got hurt, that weakness was exposed.

    For now, though, the need up front is bigger because Francois Beauchemin, Ben Lovejoy, Bryan Allen, Luca Sbisa and Mark Fistric are good enough complementary defensemen if the other three play to their potential. Meanwhile, the forward ranks will have to compete often with the deep rotation of division rival and Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

     

    How they get it

    A couple of big name centers are available on the trade market and thanks to their deep pool of prospects and an extra pick in the first round from the Bobby Ryan trade to the Ottawa Senators, the Ducks are in position to be big players if they choose to go that route.

    Vancouver's Ryan Kesler would likely fit in better in the Western Conference with his gritty style and shutdown checking ability, but Jason Spezza is an intriguing name too. He would give the Ducks a dynamite one-two punch at center with Getzlaf leading the way and Spezza not having to face top competition every night.

Boston Bruins: Bring Back or Replace Jarome Iginla

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    Why they need it

    Unless they re-sign the veteran sniper Jarome Iginla who filled in so well on a line with Milan Lucic and David Krejci, the Boston Bruins will have a big hole on the right side.

    Iginla scored 30 goals for the 12th time in his career this season on a one-year deal with the Bruins after rejecting them in favor of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the trade deadline a few months earlier. He helped make the Bruins' top six as dangerous as any in the league and, just as importantly, allowed the third line to thrive with veteran Loui Eriksson playing his minutes against lesser competition.

     

    How they get it

    One option is to re-sign Iginla, which, according to Comcast Sportsnet's Joe Haggerty, is the Bruins' first choice. It makes sense because he knows their system and was successful last season, tying for top spot on the team in tallies. Also, his bonuses from an incentive-laden deal are tacked onto the cap for next season anyway, so the Bruins might as well keep him in the mix with a new contract if they can.

    If the Bruins can't come to an agreement before July 1, when Iginla hits free agency, the Bruins could look to the free-agent market and another aging sniper in Calgary's Michael Cammalleri or maybe even someone like Los Angeles' Marian Gaborik or Thomas Vanek of the Montreal Canadiens. Detroit's Daniel Alfredsson could also be a fit there if they want someone with leadership qualities. Ryan Callahan might be most similar to Iginla and his combination of physical presence and scoring potential would be suited to the Bruins' style of play.

    With a projected salary cap of just north of $70 million, space may limit the Bruins to more of a second-tier player as opposed to jumping in on Vanek or Gaborik.

     

     

Buffalo Sabres: Leadership

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    Why they need it

    There are holes aplenty in the Buffalo Sabres roster, as their 52-point season—dead last in the NHL—clearly indicates. Their leading scorer, Cody Hodgson, racked up 44 points in 72 games and was one of only two Buffalo players to net at least 20 goals.

    They'll likely dump Ville Leino with a buyout (via John Vogl of The Buffalo News)—finally correcting their horrendous six-year contract offer to the former unrestricted free agent—leaving them with a very young group of forwards who will be in need of leadership inside the locker room. With 24-year-olds Hodgson and Tyler Ennis, 22-year-old Marcus Foligno and 20-year-olds Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons offering promise as a young core, they'll be looking to the likes of Drew Stafford and (gasp!) Chris Stewart for guidance if the roster remains largely unchanged going forward.

    Understanding the Sabres are years from being competitive, they still need veteran players who can help translate what the coach is teaching in order to help the youngsters mature.

     

    How they get it

    The good news for the Sabres is they have plenty of cap space to work with and there are plenty of names on the free-agent market who could fit that role. The bad news is most of those guys in the latter stages of their careers will have little interest in joining a rebuilding team and instead will seek jobs with Stanley Cup contenders.

    The Sabres will have to be patient and overpay to compensate for the obvious shortcomings that come with luring an established player to Buffalo—perhaps they can target someone like Michael Cammalleri or Minnesota's Matt Moulson, though, ultimately, they might have to settle for someone like Pittsburgh's Lee Stempniak.

    For a rebuilding team, the trade market wouldn't make much sense.

Calgary Flames: Truculence

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    Why they need it

    Because it's Calgary Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke's favorite word, and because the organization believes the team needs to play a heavy game to be competitive in the Western Conference.

    As the roster stands, there is little in the way of size. There is some skill in the cupboards with prospects like Johnny Gaudreau and Markus Granlund showing promise for down the road and the Flames want to surround them with bigger bodies who can keep up with the pace of the game as well.

    Burke told the Calgary Herald's Scott Cruickshank the Flames will play "black-and-blue hockey.":

    If you watch the playoffs, you see that size and hostility have a premium in our league right now. We started that arms race in Anaheim when we won (the Stanley Cup) in 2007 with a big, ugly team. Now, if you’re not big and ugly, you can’t win in the (Western Conference). I think the New York Rangers are finding out the hard way that they’re not big and ugly enough. That’s our goal this summer — to increase our hostility quotient.

     

    How they get it

    Don't be surprised to see Burke be active in the trade market this offseason, maybe as early as at the upcoming entry draft.

    The Buffalo Sabres' Chris Stewart would be the type of player Burke and new GM Brad Treliving coudl covet. He has size, proven scoring ability and is only 26 years old. Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds may also be a fit given his rugged style and propensity to dropping the gloves.

Carolina Hurricanes: A New Head Coach

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    Why they need it

    After a fifth straight season without a playoff appearance, new Carolina Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis fired head coach Kirk Muller as his first order of business this spring.

    Muller was 80-80-27 as bench boss over parts of three seasons at the helm and was turfed along with assistants Dave Lewis and John MacLean.

     

    How they get it

    Luke DeCock of the Charlotte News & Observer says Francis is content with the slow pace of the hiring process at the moment and that he wants to be diligent with the hiring:

    I’m more focused on trying to be thorough and comfortable with the guy we get than get this behind me.

    Part of the hold-up is that two candidates went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final with Ulf Samuelsson (New York Rangers) and John Stevens (Los Angeles Kings). Once all the potential interviews are complete, Francis will land his man.

Chicago Blackhawks: New Contracts for Kane and Toews

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    Why they need it

    Both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will be entering the final year of their current contracts this fall and either gentleman would instantly be the top of the 2015 free agent frenzy class if they don't get what they want from the Chicago Blackhawks.

    Toews is up for the Selke Trophy again as the game's best two-way forward, and Kane is a game-breaker. Neither one are expendable in any way. They each put up 40 assists and combined for 57 goals and 137 points in injury-shortened seasons.

     

    How they get it

    Open up the wallet and give them whatever they want.

    GM Stan Bowman told reporters recently "It's the highest priority for us looking at next year," via NBC Chicago's James Neveau:

    It’s the highest priority for us looking at next year. There’s no doubt that’s what we’re going to do. I’ve made it clear. We’ve never wavered from that. There’s no doubting the importance of those two players.

    The Anaheim Ducks were in a similar situation with stars Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf a year ago and shelled out nearly $70 million per player on similar eight-year deals. It's going to take comparable funds for Toews and Kane.
    Depending on what the final numbers are and how high the new cap ceiling is, the team may need to deal one of the support players to make up the difference.

Colorado Avalanche: Defensive Help

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    Why they need it

    The Colorado Avalanche were one of top scoring teams in the league last year, scoring the fourth-most goals per game on average (2.99) thanks to depth and youthful exuberance up front.

    The defensive group, meanwhile, was simply awful.

    The Avs finished in the middle of the pack when it came to goals against, sitting 15th with 2.55 goals against on average per game. But that was only because of the incredible play from goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who face the most shots in the NHL this season but posted a .927 save percentage (second-best in the league behind Boston Bruins' Tuukka Rask) to bail his teammates out often.

    Behind Erik Johnson, who is inconsistent in his own end, and Jan Hejda, who is already 35 years old, the Avalanche has no stability. Tyson Barrie showed promise but suffered a bad knee injury in the playoffs. Things go downhill from there.

     

    How they get it

    The Avalanche need to address the position in a couple of ways. One, they can go after a guy like Dustin Byfuglien of the Winnipeg Jets via the trade route; and two, they can shore up depth with a couple of the many aging veterans available in unrestricted free agency come July 1.

    Thanks to a great season under new head coach Patrick Roy, the Avalanche offer a chance at the Stanley Cup next year, which makes them an attractive landing spot for free agents in the mold of Dan Boyle, Andrei Markov, Sami Salo and Ron Hainsey — or someone with more years ahead like Matt Niskanen.

    They have lots of young talent and prospects in the system to make a move on the trade front.

Columbus Blue Jackets: A New Deal for Ryan Johansen

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    Why they need it

    The Columbus Blue Jackets were a force to be reckoned with down the stretch this year, driven by youth and tenacity. While Brandon Dubinsky was the team's playoff MVP, there's no way the Jackets would have even made it to the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins without Ryan Johansen's incredible season.

    The 21-year-old and pending restricted free agent had a breakout year in his third NHL season with 33 goals and 63 points, and he added another two goals and six points in the playoffs.

    His entry-level deal is up, and he's due for a massive raise.

     

    How they get it

    Either they work things out with Johansen before he becomes a restricted free agent by ponying up a hefty deal for their burgeoning star, or they face the potential of an offer sheet coming his way from another team with deeper pockets hoping to snatch him away.

    General manager Jarmo Kekalainen told The Columbus Dispatch writer Aaron Portzline he's not concerned about that possibility:

    If he signs an offer sheet, he signs an offer sheet. Our ownership is strong, and as I said before, we would match any offer he could possibly sign. If somebody wants to waste their time and effort on that, that's fine for them. We'd just match it and keep the player.

    Of course they'd match, but it might cost them more to do it. Better that they can agree to the raise in advance.

Dallas Stars: An Impact Defenseman

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    Why they need it

    The Dallas Stars traded away Stephane Robidas to the Anaheim Ducks at this year's trade deadline not knowing what their playoff situation might be. Turns out they made the right move, because Robidas got hurt again with a second broken leg this year.

    Still, one reason the Stars didn't make it past the Ducks in the first round of the playoffs is their lack of depth on defense. Actually, it's more of a case of having some depth but lacking talent at the top end.

    Alex Goligoski is their top blueliner. Sergei Gonchar is way past his prime. The Stars need someone who can contribute on both ends of the ice, but if they could pick between offense or defense they might lean to the former to support a forward group that leans heavily on one line.

     

    How they get it

    They could make a play for former Stars defenseman Matt Niskanen, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent after putting up career numbers with the Pittsburgh Penguins this season.

    The Stars might also want to get involved on the trade front and try to pry Dustin Byfuglien away from the Winnipeg Jets or Keith Yandle out of Phoenix.

Detroit Red Wings: A Top-Four Defenseman

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    Why they need it

    Some might argue the Detroit Red Wings' need for a better second-line center after the signing of Stephen Weiss failed miserably with the former Florida Panthers star undergoing surgery to repair a sports hernia. There's a chance Daniel Alfredsson might retire rather than return, which would leave the Wings really shy on proven top-six forwards.

    More importantly, though, the Wings need to improve their defense. Niklas Kronwall has been incredible taking on more responsibility since the retirement of Niklas Lidstrom but he needs more support on a back end that features Jonathan Ericsson, Brendan Smith and Jakob Kindl as the defacto top four.

     

    How they get it

    Matt Niskanen would be one of the more attractive names on the free-agent market. Don't discount a trade, either. Someone like Alex Edler could be pried away from the new regime in Vancouver and the Canucks defenseman would be a nice fit with the Wings, boosting the pairing potential.

    Dan Boyle is seeking a deal with a contender and might be convinced to join the cause in Detroit, but Tom Gilbert—toiling away in Florida—is a puck-savvy blueliner who might be a value signing come July 1.

Edmonton Oilers: An Elite Defenceman

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    Why they need it

    No team in the league allowed more goals per game than the Edmonton Oilers. They let in 267 in total—a number that would have been much worse if not for the play of goaltender Ben Scrivens.

     

    How they get it

    It might be time to split up some of those young guns. The Oilers have a lot of players with the same stature. Small, skilled and somewhat one-dimensional (although it's hard to criticize someone for being gifted offensively, isn't it?).

    One of their talented young forwards would have to be on the move to either move up to get Aaron Ekblad in this year's draft, or to grab one of the bigger names that could be available via trade.

Florida Panthers: A Stick of Dynamite

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    Why they need it

    The Florida Panthers have missed the playoffs in 12 of the last 13 seasons and have a few young prospects worth building around. They also have a few older players with some trade value whose contracts are set to expire after this coming season.

    It makes more sense to deal those guys away now for younger assets or draft picks than to hang onto them and hope the team can turn things around quickly. Let the core grow together and blow up the rest of the team while the value is still high enough on these veterans to get reasonable returns.

    They also need a head coach. Giving him a team full of young players would allow them to grow together.

     

    How they get it

    Deal 35-year-old Brian Campbell and/or 37-year-old Ed Jovanovski on the back end and replace them with free agents at cheaper salaries. Scottie Upshall and Tomas Kopecky are both over 30 but have trade value and expiring contracts—although their value might be higher during the season as rentals.

    Brad Boyes has a nice value contract and might fetch the most return of any of the other forwards.

Los Angeles Kings: Convince Gaborik to Stay

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    Why they need it

    The Los Angeles Kings' addition of winger Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline allowed them the flexibility to play with their forward lines and find some real magic in the postseason, going from one of the lowest-scoring teams in the regular-season to one of the most dangerous in the playoffs.

    His addition allowed Jeff Carter to move back to center and the formation of one of the team's most speedy and deadly trios was born with Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson on his flanks. That allowed Mike Richards to move down to center the fourth line—although head coach Darryl Sutter doesn't label his forward units that way—to create big mismatches.

    Gaborik becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1 unless he agrees to an extension with the Kings before then.

     

    How they get it

    They may have to wait and see what Gaborik attracts on the open market, and then offer to match up. Considering how strong the Kings are, if the money is equal, Gaborik would be crazy not to rejoin them.

    But he also might be a little nuts to take an early offer without seeing what else will be available after his incredible run put him in the driver's seat in free agency.

Minnesota Wild: Another Proven Scorer

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    Why they need it

    The Minnesota Wild showed they have some good players in the pipeline ready to contribute in the NHL and made a great playoff run as a result. To allow these prospects to develop without subjecting them to too much pressure, though, Minnesota coaches need to put these young players in situations where they can exploit mismatches rather than expose them in matchups against tough, daunting competition.

    Matt Moulson is an unrestricted free agent, and the Wild could use another goal-scorer to fill that role next year.

     

    How they get it

    The prevailing thought is the Wild will go after Thomas Vanek, who starred for two years in college with the Minnesota Golden Gophers and still has strong ties to the area. 

    Vanek has the ability to pick his team, a luxury that he is not taking for granted, according to his chat with reporters in Montreal at the end of the Canadiens' season (via Canoe.ca):

    A year ago I made a decision that it will likely be my only time to pick my own team, and hopefully pick a team where I have a chance to win. So once I made the decision, you can’t look back.

    Perhaps not wanting to wait until then, it's possible the Wild attempt to make a splash on the trade front.

Montreal Canadiens: Locking Up P.K. Subban Long-Term

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    Why they need it

    P.K. Subban proved during the playoffs to be the key cog in the Montreal Canadiens machine. He is their emotional leader. He makes things happen on the ice. He has matured a great deal in his play and far surpassed his current salary.

    It just so happens that he becomes a restricted free agent this summer. That sound you hear in the background is the Habs front office safe creaking open.

    Subban is going to get paid. The Habs have no choice. He's a player around whom you build a franchise.

     

    How they get it

    The sound you're hearing now is Subban making it rain with those bills from the Canadiens safe.

    He's likely to aim to become the highest-paid defenseman in the league, and it's hard to argue against that as a starting point in negotiations considering he's won a Norris Trophy and has now shined in the playoffs, too.

    Shea Weber's landmark deal for a defenseman is paying him an average of more than $7.85 million per season, and it would be shocking to see Subban's sticker price end up any lower than that.

Nashville Predators: A Top-Flight Forward

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    Why they need it

    Firing long-time coach Barry Trotz was difficult but necessary for the Nashville Predators to shed their skin and take a fresh look at the direction of the franchise. They've been a solid defensive club for years but that hasn't helped the small-market team move forward.

    Hiring Peter Laviolette would suggest the team is looking to become more dynamic on offense. Current center Mike Fisher just doesn't cut it when it comes to star power.

     

    How they get it

    With Ottawa center Jason Spezza now on the trade market, perhaps the Preds can work on acquiring him in order to boost their own lineup with some much-needed offense.

    The Predators have some good young players and could afford to part with future picks to get a player who both will help immediately and be a building block for the future.

    Failing a successful trade, they can afford to add someone via free agency like Michael Cammalleri, Thomas Vanek, Marian Gaborik—although they don't have the appeal of Spezza.

New Jersey Devils: A Top-Pairing Defenseman

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    Why they need it

    The Devils have a veteran-heavy roster with fairly deep collection of forwards but a narrowing window for success before the inevitable rebuild.

    Adding a key player or two could get them back into the playoffs, where anything can happen—just look at their surprise appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in 2012.

    The defensive group is thin, but the addition of even one more capable top-pairing guy will allow for some trickle-down minutes and offer more hospitable matchups.

     

    How they get it

    Free agency is probably the route most likely for the Devils, who could try to sway Dan Boyle over and point out their misfortune in shootouts (an 0-13 record) as the only reason they missed the playoffs this season.

    That, and the lack of quality defensemen, of course, which someone like Boyle could help solve.

    On the trade front, they could dangle former first-round pick who has been slow to develop and at age 21 could use a change of scenery.

New York Rangers: Make the Breakup with Brad Richards Official

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    Why they need it

    Demoted to the fourth line for the second straight playoff season, it's time for the Brad Richards contract to come to and end in New York. He has six years and $27 million remaining on his contract, but his skills are clearly in decline and he's simply no longer worth more than $6.5 million per season. 

    It's time for the buyout. 

    The Rangers considered it last year but chose instead to make a change at head coach, bringing in Alain Vigneault. Richards turned around his play, finishing the regular season with 20 goals and 51 points in the regular season, but after a three-point game against the Philadelphia Flyers in the opening contest of the first round, he managed just four goals and eight points in the final 25 games of the 2013 postseason.

     

    How they get it

    Rangers general manager Glen Sather just needs to use one of his amnesty buyouts to make the player and the contract go away. 

New York Islanders: Find a Defenseman Who Wants to Play There

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    Why they need it

    The New York Islanders know their biggest offseason need is to shore up the defense. So they went out and acquired the rights to former San Jose Shark Dan Boyle. 

    The only problem there is Boyle wants to play for a contender, and may not view the Islanders as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. In any case, he so far has refused to negotiate with the Islanders in spite of the efforts of the team's front office. 

    St. Louis NHL reporter Andy Strickland tweeted that it's unlikely the two sides will be able to work something out: "There appears to be a very slim to no chance Boyle signs with the #Isles. At this stage of career he wants to play for contender."

    In that case, the Isles will be out a fifth-round pick in the draft and still missing the blue line presence they covet. 

     

    How they get it

    When at first you don't succeed, try to find someone with lower standards. 

    The Isles could make a play for one of the top elder statesmen available: Andrei Markov, Sami Salo, Joni Pitkanen, Stephane Robidas or maybe someone a bit younger like Matt Niskanen. Perhaps they'll see the Isles as more capable of contending.

Ottawa Senators: Get the Best Deal for Spezza

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    Why they need it

    Ottawa Senators center Jason Spezza asked for a trade out of town after 11 seasons, 686 games, 251 goals and 687 points. Despite the fact Kyle Turris appears to be ready to take over the role of top-line centre, Spezza's imminent departure means a substantial hole in Ottawa's lineup. 

     

    How they get it

    The best way to get the most out of any potential deal is to be patient. Spezza's limited no-trade clause means he picks 10 teams he can't be traded to, which leaves the Senators plenty of time and another 19 teams with which they can work out a deal. 

    However, any demands Spezza might make could limit the return on the deal because teams know he HAS to be moved, but the idea of setting up a mini-bidding war for the 31-year-old has to be somewhat appealing to Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray. 

Philadelphia Flyers: A Healthy Chris Pronger

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    Why they need it

    Ever since Chris Pronger's post-concussion symptoms knocked him out of the lineup for good in November of 2011, the Philadelphia Flyers' biggest need has been a reliable, minute-eating, two-way defenseman. 

    Get in line, Flyers.

    Oh, and I realize Pronger isn't ever coming back...but one can dream.

     

    How they get it

    An offer sheet made to Shea Weber during the 2012 offseason didn't work out, as the Nashville Predators matched that monster deal. 

    Aside from the occasional Ryan Suter steal, you don't often get franchise defensemen in free agency unless that player is well past his prime, and it's next to impossible to pick one up in a trade without giving up a great deal.

    That said, the trade route might be the team's best option with a few decent players who might be available. Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien and Phoenix's Keith Yandle aren't in the Pronger neighborhood, but they're certainly better than what the Flyers currently have atop the depth chart. 

Phoenix Coyotes: Find Some Scoring

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    Why they need it

    Scoring 2.56 goals per game on average, the Phoenix Coyotes finished 20th in the league. It wasn't enough to help them get into the playoffs, and they are looking at losing one of their top scoring forwards, Radim Vrbata, to unrestricted free agency. 

    The Coyotes' leading point-getter was defenseman Keith Yandle, which would be more impressive if he'd had a total of more than 53 points in 82 games. 

     

    How they get it

    Depending on which route they choose to go, the Coyotes could dangle Yandle, who is a defensive liability, to land a top forward. They could also do their best to re-sign Vrbata, or a suitable replacement, and look to add an offensive weapon from the free-agent pool. 

    Or they could do a combination of those things, making a deal for a forward and picking up a second one in free agency. 

    As it stands, the Coyotes have about $16 million under the projected salary cap to spend if ownership allows it. 

Pittsburgh Penguins: Cut the Flower

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    Why they need it

    Marc-Andre Fleury's save percentage was .915 in the regular season and .915 in the playoffs for the Pittsburgh Penguins. His goals-against average in the regular season was 2.37. In the playoffs, it was 2.40. 

    The difference? Mediocre goaltending doesn't win in the postseason. Where other teams had net minders step up—Henrik Lundqvist guiding the New York Rangers past the Pens after trailing the second-round series 3-1—Fleury was his usual shaky self. 

    While it's true the team needs to give the bottom six forwards a makeover—which will happen anyway since half of the forwards are free agents anyway—solving the weak link in goal is a bigger need and something that isn't self-correcting.

     

    How they get it

    It's a tricky situation because the Pens have no suitable replacement, and while they could pick up a free agent like Jonas Hiller or Ryan Miller—or even Martin Brodeur—the Penguins have very little cash to spend without dumping bodies in return.

    A trade would be ideal. Maybe something for Cam Ward in Carolina, where new GM Jim Rutherford spent more than two decades. Fleury would have to be traded or bought out. But you don't want to make either of those moves without first having a replacement.

St. Louis Blues: Stable Goaltending

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    Why they need it

    Ryan Miller was supposed to be the difference-maker for the St. Louis Blues. The team was one of the top clubs in the Western Conference before stumbling into the postseason and then being knocked out of the first round by the Chicago Blackhawks. 

    Miller didn't have a great playoff, and I'm not sure the combination of Brian Elliott and Jake Allen is going to cut it this year.

    Elliott performed well in a limited role last season, posting an 18-6-2 record, 1.96 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. But he will be battling for time with Allen, a star in the American Hockey League.

     

    How they get it

    With the money they save by employing the journeyman and the rookie for the first half of the season, the Blues could make an upgrade down the stretch should neither member of the platoon steals the starting role. 

    The only other option is to make a move in July if they like any of the free-agent goaltenders. 

San Jose Sharks: A Changing of the Guard

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    Why they need it

    The San Jose Sharks proved to be toothless in the playoffs once again this season, giving up a 3-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Kings and falling in Game 7. 

    Kings defenseman Drew Doughty was pretty blunt during an interview, via the Canadian Press on TSN.ca, during the Stanley Cup Final describing the fear he saw during the epic comeback, noting that he didn't want the same to happen to his Kings in the Cup final against the New York Rangers after staking out a 3-0 lead:

    Once we won that first game of the San Jose series, we kind of had a feeling we were going to come back and win that series. And you could see it in their eyes and their team and their captains and leaders that they were worried about us coming back. So we don't want to give these guys any life.

    The surprising quotes were damning of the Sharks locker-room makeup.

     

    How they get it

    Changes have already begun with the decision to trade the rights to defenseman Dan Boyle to the New York Islanders. But something big needs to happen to really bring a new attitude to the Sharks.

    They could deal Patrick Marleau and/or Joe Thornton to shake up the room and still have a solid young core to carry the team forward with a fresh outlook.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Another Puck-Moving Defenseman

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    Why they need it

    The Tampa Bay Lightning's patience for 23-year-old defenseman Victor Hedman has paid off in spades, with the Swede producing a career-high 13 goals and 55 points this past season.

    But the depth behind him is in need of an upgrade.

    Matt Carle and Eric Brewer provide veteran leadership and Radko Gudas might be the best fit on Hedman's side because of the grit and defensive responsibility he brings. But none of them any longer have the same sort of first-pass or rush-joining skills of a top-pairing defenseman.

    Picking one up will allow the pairings to be more balanced and give the 'Bolts even more firepower.

     

    How they get it

    With the extra first-rounder they picked up in the Martin St. Louis trade, the Lightning could put a package together to move up to grab Aaron Ekblad, the consensus top blueliner in the draft.

    Failing that, they could take a stab at someone like Anton Stralman or Nikita Nikitin on the UFA market or attempt to snag someone like the Boston Bruins' Torey Krug with an offer sheet.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Team Defense

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Why they need it

    Advanced stats fans and traditionalists alike could tell how bad the Toronto Maple Leafs were in the possession game last season, allowing the most shots against per game (35.9) and finishing second to last in five-on-five play when the game is close.

    Captain Dion Phaneuf was ranked ninth worst in the league with a Corsi for percentage rating of 40.8 percent.

     

    How they get it

    Considering that Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle appears safe after inking a contract extension following the hiring of new president of hockey operations, Brendan Shanahan, a change in philosophy seems like a tall order.

    If not the coach, then maybe a shakeup in player personnel is the way to go here, which is why the Leafs trade rumor mill is heating up, according to the Toronto Sun's Mike Zeisberger.

    Everyone from Phaneuf to Nazem Kadri and Jake Gardiner are rumored to be available. Especially with Brendan Shanahan, the new president of hockey operations in charge, the front office might be considering sweeping changes to help get the organization back on track.

Vancouver Canucks: The Right Coach

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Why they need it

    Former coach Alain Vigneault took the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final in his first year behind the bench in the Big Apple. First-year Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella flamed out completely after moving from New York to the West Coast last season.

    The Canucks roster didn't adept to Tortorella's style and finished eight points out of the playoffs in the Western Conference.

     

    How they get it

    New GM Jim Benning tells Joshua Clipperton of the Canadian Press, via the National Post, that he's looking for a coach who fits in with a skilled style:

    This organization needs to play an up-tempo, fast-skating, skilled game. Before last season, this team had almost a relentless attitude about them that they were going to skate and to wear teams down and to score, and for whatever reason that didn’t happen last year.

    Former Canucks player Mike Johnston, who currently coaches the WHL's Portland Winterhawks, could be a good fit and is one of the candidates to take the reins, according to Brad Zeimer of the Vancouver Sun.

Washington Capitals: Bonding with Ovi

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    Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

    Why they need it

    Alexander Ovechkin scored 51 goals and 79 points in 78 games for the Washington Capitals last season but was a minus-35—third worst in the NHL. He's on his fifth coach since coming into the league, and new head coach Barry Trotz needs to get a handle on how he's going to use Ovechkin very quickly.

     

    How they get it

    No doubt Trotz will be establishing his relationship with Ovechkin. But can Trotz, who was hired in part because of his ability to get the Nashville Predators to succeed with team defense and timely scoring, tame the wild Russian sniper and get him to backcheck?

    Will he even try, or will he scheme around Ovechkin's cheats and let him roam? For either to stick around in Washington long-term, they'll have to find some common ground.

    Trotz knows it's the key to the Capitals' offseason, via Alex Prewitt of the The Washington Post:

    He does something special and he scores a lot, but you can contribute in so many other ways too. My job as a coach is to find a way to allow Alex and the other players to reach their potential as a group and be able to play together. One of the very fundamental things, if you have a kindergartner, they give you your report card and they say do you play well with others? My job is to get everybody to play well together.

Winnipeg Jets: Figure out Future for Kane and Byfuglien

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    Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images

    Why they need it

    The Winnipeg Jets have a couple of personality problems on their hands with defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and winger Evander Kane. Kane's off-ice issues have people debating whether or not they should trade the 23-year-old who has been a 30-goal scorer in the NHL. When it comes to Byfuglien, it's a question of where he should play. He prefers defense but at midseason was moved up to the wing.

     

    How they get it

    It will take some serious internal talks to figure out how to handle the two possible high-interest trade assets. You only do it if it makes your team as good or better in the short-term and absolutely improves the franchise in the long run. 

    General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff told Sportsnet's Mark Spector his team could be big players at the draft:

    Maybe we’re the team that makes that blockbuster. You always have that zest, that desire to see if there’s that elusive deal that can help you. But when you do get on the phone, you quickly find out your counterparts are trying to find that same deal. It is a difficult thing.

     

    All stats via NHL.com or ExtraSkater.com unless otherwise noted.

    Steve Macfarlane has covered the NHL for more than a decade, including seven seasons with the Calgary Sun. Follow him on Twitter @macfarlaneHKY.

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