Ranking the 10 NHL Teams Most in Need of More Changes in 2014 Offseason
Most of the 30 NHL teams made moves this summer via free agency, trades and the draft to address their respective roster needs. Ten clubs, however, are still in need of more changes.
One team must shed salary to become compliant with the NHL salary cap. One has a surplus of defensemen, while another carries three goaltenders. Some have specific weaknesses remaining within their rosters, while one club must determine the future of a promising young forward.
The following is an assessment of each club's need for further changes. Importance of the roster needs, ability to best address them and the salary cap factored into the ranking.
10. Dallas Stars
What must be addressed: Add one or two right-handed defensemen. The Dallas Morning News, citing Stars blog Defending Big D, indicated the Stars' top-six blueliners are all left-handed shots. It's a weakness rival clubs could exploit.
Options: General manager Jim Nill could consider promoting a right-handed shot from within his organization. Free agent possibilities include Derek Morris, Jamie McBain and Raphael Diaz. Nill could also examine the trade market. On the trade front, Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green might become available.
Likely moves: Nill doesn't have to rush into addressing this situation. He could evaluate his blue line during training camp and the preseason before deciding if a move must be made before the season begins. He could also wait for a trade opportunity to arise during the season if there is a pressing need to respond to this issue.
9. Minnesota Wild
What must be addressed: Sort out their goaltending logjam. The Wild currently have Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom under contract, plus they intend on re-signing restricted free agent Darcy Kuemper.
Harding battled multiple sclerosis symptoms last season, while Backstrom was sidelined by abdominal surgery. Kuemper showed promise when called up last season. Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Michael Russo reports Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher is willing to start the season carrying three goalies, but that could mean one ends up seeing little or no playing time.
Options: Much will depend upon the health of Harding and Backstrom. If both are good to go for this season, Kuemper could become the odd man out. The team can safely demote Kuemper as he's exempt from waivers this season. If Harding or Backstrom become sidelined for a significant period, Kuemper will replace either one.
Fletcher could also try trading Backstrom, who's carrying an annual cap hit of over $3.4 million through 2015-16. His age, injury history, salary and limited no-trade clause could prove difficult to move.
Likely moves: Fletcher will likely remain patient, re-sign Kuemper and see how things develop over the course of the season.
8. Florida Panthers
What must be addressed: Find an experienced scorer. In July Sun-Sentinel.com's Harvey Fialkov reported that Panthers general manager Dale Tallon was willing to shop some assets to add a sniper.
Options: In June, Tallon told Fialkov's colleague Dave Hyde he's willing to trade some prospects for a scorer.
“We have 12 kids over 6-3 who are under 23 in our system,” Tallon said. “So we have enough youth now that it won't affect our future. We have 10 picks next year. We have the No. 1 and No. 32 pick this year”.
Tallon entertained offers for the first-overall pick but ultimately used it to select defenseman Aaron Eklad.
Possible moves: If the Winnipeg Jets decide to trade left wing Evander Kane, Tallon could be among the suitors. Buffalo Sabres right wing Chris Stewart is another possibility, but he's an inconsistent scorer.
Ottawa Senators right winger Bobby Ryan could be available at the March trade deadline if he hasn't re-signed by then. He's eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer. Tallon could have a tough time selling him on re-signing with the rebuilding Panthers.
7. Detroit Red Wings
What must be addressed: Find a top-four defenseman with a right-handed shot. In July MLive.com's Ansar Khan reported the Wings were “desperately seeking” such a blueliner.
Options: The Red Wings have several promising young forwards to use as trade bait to address this need. Khan also reports that GM Ken Holland doesn't intend to add a depth forward or defenseman via free agency.
Possible moves: In July CSNWashington.com's Chuck Gormley noted rumors out of Detroit linked the Red Wings with Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green. The Capitals need depth at center and the Wings have some young centers (Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening, Joakim Andersson) they could offer up in return.
Earlier this summer the Edmonton Sun's Robert Tykchowski reported that the Oilers are also seeking depth at center. Holland could look into the availability of right-handed blueliner Jeff Petry. In addition to Green and Petry, Ansar Khan listed Buffalo's Tyler Myers, Toronto's Cody Franson and Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien as possibilities.
6. Winnipeg Jets
What must be addressed: Determine Evander Kane's future and the state of their goaltending. In July, The Winnipeg Free Press' Ed Tait reported that Kane's been the subject of trade speculation for months, doing little to silence the rumors.
Options: Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff could meet with Kane when training camp opens next month (if he hasn't already done so) to determine if the left winger still wants to be part of the Jets. If the 23-year-old wants to move on, Cheveldayoff could be forced to trade him. Decisions about the goaltending will likely await evaluation during training camp and preseason.
Possible moves: In July, CBC.ca's Elliotte Friedman speculated Kane will begin the season with the Jets. His future in Winnipeg could be determined by his performance and that of the Jets this season. Kane will attract considerable interest in the trade market, but the problem for Cheveldayoff is finding a deal that helps his club now and in the future. He could seek a good young forward as part of the return.
A possible trade partner could be the Florida Panthers. In July Sun-Sentinel.com's Harvey Fialkov reported Panthers GM Dale Tallon is in the market for a scorer. Tallon has depth in young players, which could interest the Jets.
As for goaltenders, the Minnesota Wild currently have 3 NHL-caliber goalies. They might be willing to move one of them later in the season. In June, Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos claimed there was speculation the Jets had interest in Toronto Maple Leafs backup James Reimer.
5. Edmonton Oilers
What must be addressed: Find a second-line center. Since trading away Sam Gagner in June, they haven't found a suitable replacement. In July the Edmonton Sun's Robert Tychkowski reported general manager Craig MacTavish was seeking a center.
Options: Pickings are slim for free-agent centers. 39-year-old Saku Koivu and 37-year-old Michal Handzus are available, but their best years are behind them. Andrei Loktinov is only 24 and has some NHL experience but hasn't proven himself capable of second-line duty.
The Oilers have some young wingers they could use as trade bait (Jordan Eberle, David Perron, Nail Yakupov) to bolster their depth down the middle. They could also try moving a defenseman. 2014 first-round pick Leon Draisaitl could be evaluated as a second-line center during preseason play.
Possible moves: MacTavish could be reluctant to part with any of his young top-six wingers. He could instead hope Draisaitl is NHL-ready and start the season with the youngster centering the second line.
Though the Oilers re-signed blueliner Jeff Petry this summer to a one-year deal, he could still be a trade chip. Petry's a right-handed shot, and the Detroit Red Wings are in the market for a top-four defenseman who shoots right. The Wings have depth in young centers to offer up for Petry.
4. Washington Capitals
What must be addressed: Determine defenseman Mike Green's role with the club and add depth at center. The Capitals' signings of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik this summer have raised doubt about Green's future. His cap hit this season is over $6 million and he's eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer. They also didn't find a suitable replacement for departed center Mikhail Grabovski.
Options: Niskanen, Orpik, John Carlson and Karl Alzner currently appear set as the Capitals' top-four defensemen, leaving Green as a very expensive third-pairing blueliner. Though they'll evaluate their defense corps during training camp and preseason, Green could become the odd man out.
As for their second-line center position, they could evaluate Marcus Johanson, Brooks Laich and rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov in that role during training camp and preseason.
Possible moves: Green has a modified no-trade clause, giving him some control over where he could be dealt. CSNWashington.com's Chuck Gormley reported earlier this summer the Wings were rumored to have interest in the 28-year-old Green.
The Wings possess depth in young forwards, particularly at center, to interest the Capitals. The Dallas Stars lack a right-handed shot on their blue line, but they could insist the Capitals to take back fading blueliner Sergei Gonchar as part of the return.
3. New York Islanders
What must be addressed: Acquire an experienced top-four defenseman. 38-year-old Lubomir Visnovsky is their most skilled blueliner, but his best seasons are behind him. Most of the Islanders defense corps (Travis Hamonic, Calvin De Haan, Thomas Hickey and Kevin Czuczman) are 25 and younger, as is highly-touted defense prospect Griffin Reinhart.
Options: The best best is to swing a trade for a skilled rear guard. There's no one remaining in the free-agent market to suitably address their needs. The National Post's Michael Traikos reports former NHL defenseman Tomas Kaberle is seeking a comeback, but at 36 his best years are also in the past.
Possible moves: Two trade targets could be Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green and Boston Bruins blueliner Adam McQuaid. Last month, CSNWashington.com's Chuck Gormley reported the 28-year-old Green was the subject of trade speculation. The Boston Bruins are carrying surplus defensemen. CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty recently suggested the 27-year-old McQuaid as a potential trade candidate.
The Dallas Morning News' Mike Heika reports that the Stars were willing to pick up half of Sergei Gonchar's $5 million salary for this season in order to trade him. They couldn't find any takers. Like Visnovsky, the 40-year-old Gonchar's career is winding down.
2. Boston Bruins
What must be addressed: Shed one or two surplus defensemen, plus re-sign restricted free agents Torey Krug and Reilly Smith.
The Boston Globe's Amelie Benjamin reports the Bruins currently have nine NHL-ready blueliners. GM Peter Chiarelli prefers not to enter the season carrying that many defenders. The Bruins are also above the $69 million salary cap by about $809,000, hampering their efforts to re-sign Krug and Smith.
The Bruins will receive cap relief by placing concussed center Marc Savard ($4.027 million) on long-term injured reserve when the season begins. Trading one or two of their extra defensemen could also provide additional cap space.
Options: NHL teams usually carry seven defensemen during the season. CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty believes Adam McQuaid and David Warsofsky could become trade candidates. Earlier this summer, veteran blueliner Johnny Boychuk was also mentioned as a trade option, but Haggerty believes Chiarelli prefers to retain Boychuk.
Possible moves: McQuaid or Warsofski could be on the move. Much will depend upon what shakes out during training camp and preseason.
Of the pair, McQuaid should attract the most interest in the trade market. Though oft-injured, the 27-year-old is a big (6'5”, 209 pounds), experienced shutdown defenseman carrying an affordable $1.566 million cap hit. McQuaid is also eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer. Chiarelli could replace him by promoting a younger, healthy and cheaper defenseman.
1. Chicago Blackhawks
What must be addressed: Becoming cap compliant before the season begins. The Blackhawks are currently perched above the league's $69 million salary-cap ceiling by over $2.2 million. Unless one of their players ends up on long-term injured reserve, they must shed salary before the NHL season opens in October.
Options: The best option is to trade one of their players without taking back salary in the deal. The return could be a draft pick or prospect.
Demotion of a salaried player is no longer an effective means to clear cap space. Under the current collective bargaining agreement, a portion of a player's salary—his cap hit minus the league minimum salary ($550,000) plus $375,000—still counts against the team's cap.
Likely moves: In July, ESPN Chicago's Scott Powers reported that Patrick Sharp ($5.9 million annual cap hit) and Johnny Oduya ($3.375 million) were mentioned as trade candidates. Both, however, have modified no-trade clauses.
ESPN.com's Craig Custance believes Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman prefers moving winger Kris Versteeg, who was acquired from the Florida Panthers last season. Though the Blackhawks carry only $2.2 million of Versteeg's $4.4 million cap hit, his struggles last season (36 points in 81 games) could make him difficult to move.
Custance suggested defenseman Nick Leddy ($2.7 million) as another trade possibility. He will be a restricted free agent next summer.