NHL Power Rankings: Rating the Offseason for Western Conference Teams
Unlike past years, this offseason has been quite unique, and it can be attributed to two things.
First, there are so many unrestricted free agents that remain unsigned in the first week of August, which is unheard of, and second, the future of the biggest prize on the market still hasn't been decided yet either, as the Ilya Kovalchuk saga continues.
Despite all of this, there have been some moves made by certain teams, so let's take a look at the West, and see who has done what up to this point.
15. Los Angeles Kings
If things had gone GM Dean Lombardi's way, the logo in the above picture would have been replaced by the Kings logo.
From the start, it seemed like Ilya Kovalchuk would be the ideal match to head to Hollywood, as the Kings had a ton of cap space, and the need for a big sniper, while Kovy wanted a payday, while also getting to be part of a true Cup contender with his addition.
Instead, Kovalchuk got greedy, Lombardi didn't want to screw things up for locking up Wayne Simmonds, Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson down the road, and a guy with the first name Lou had to throw a wrench into everything.
After all is said and done, the Kings did not land Kovalchuk; they also got the cold shoulder from Alexander Frolov, and eventually settled on Alexei Ponikarovsky.
This, after trying to land Paul Martin on July 1st. Things have not gone LA's way so far.
14. Colorado Avalanche
For a team that had a great rebound season, and also some cash to play with, it was disappointing to see the Avs not go after a big UFA on July 1st.
A blueliner such as Martin, Volchenkov, or Hamhius would have been a welcome addition, but it seems like the ownership group is happy with the way the team is, and also being at the cap floor seems to be their goal.
Unfortunately, in the competitive West, that probably means a step back in the wrong direction.
13. Phoenix Coyotes
Although adding Ray Whitney helps, the club did lose Robert Lang, Matthew Lombardi, Lee Stempniak, and Zbynek Michalek.
Similar to the Avs, the Coyotes might take a step back after a great regular season run.
12. Minnesota Wild
No disrespect to any of the players signed, but when Matt Cullen and Eric Nystrom are your biggest free agent acquisitions, and you are desperate for scoring. You are in trouble.
The main reason the Wild are even ranked higher is because at least they locked up their captain Mikko Koivu to a long-term contract, meaning he will continue to play with nobody for the next seven years.
11. Calgary Flames
In the most bizarre signing of the offseason, Calgary Flames GM Darry Sutter brought back Olli Jokinen, just four months after trading him away for basically nothing.
Of course, he also got nothing out of Jokinen when he acquired him from Phoenix. Then, on top of all that, he also gave him a two-year deal, with a no-movement clause—huh?
On the other hand, the one-year deal awarded to Alex Tanguay could pay huge dividends, as he could get Jokinen and Jarome Iginla both going in terms of scoring goals.
10. San Jose Sharks
The team parted ways with the best goaltender the franchise has ever seen in Evgeni Nabokov. However, that was going to happen eventually, and Nabby had seen his skills erode over the last few seasons.
The biggest concern for Sharks fans was that Patrick Marleau might walk, but GM Doug Wilson was able to get him signed before July 1st even rolled around, and also locked up Joe Pavelski to a great cap-friendly deal.
Oh, and throwing an offer sheet Chicago's way also created some problems for the Blackhawks.
9. Anaheim Ducks
Ranking the Ducks this high might be considered silly, but let's look at the big picture.
The team will head into the season with a clear-cut No. 1 goaltender, Bobby Ryan is still unsigned but wants to stay in Anaheim, and you still plan on adding pieces before the regular season rolls around.
This is more of a conditional ranking, as the team has added Toni Lydman and Andy Sutton to the blueline, but probably still needs to add another piece or two to that back end.
8. Dallas Stars
Yes, the Stars did nothing in terms of any big moves, but the ones they didn't make were the biggest.
There were rumblings that either Brad Richards or Mike Ribeiro would be traded due to budgetary issues. In the end, both are still in Dallas, and that will help the scoring load with James Neal and Jamie Benn both expected to improve upon last season.
The only issue I had was watching Mike Modano leave like that—what a shame.
7. Chicago Blackhawks
We all know the tale of the Hawks, so I'm not going to get into details.
However, the bottom line is this—for all of the hoopla that was surrounding the team that they had to lose so many pieces, everybody seemed to forget who they still do have: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Oh, and adding a solid veteran in Marty Turco doesn't hurt.
If you know a team that has a core that strong, please let me know. In the end, Chicago is going to be fine, and will still be a strong Stanley Cup contender once again.
6. Nashville Predators
GM David Poile does it every year. He makes the Predators competitive on a very low budget.
He moved out an expensive and slow Jason Arnott, and picked up a cheaper and speedier alternative in Matthew Lombardi.
That move alone is worth some bonus points.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets
Adding Ethan Moreau through waivers was a smart move, as he'll provide grit and leadership on the third line.
However, the return of Nikita Filatov was probably the biggest move for the club of the offseason, as there were rumblings that he wouldn't return to the NHL.
With Brassard and Voracek expected to take the next step, and a rebound anticipated from goaltender Steve Mason, the Jackets should be in good shape come October.
However, GM Scott Howson still needs to grab another veteran blueliner, whether it is via trade or the free agent market.
4. Detroit Red Wings
Yes, the club is getting old, and yes, this might be a higher rating than what most of you might give this squad. Regardless of the age thing though, a 40-year-old Lidstrom is still better than about 95% of the blueliners in the league.
Also, Modano will still be able to contribute as a third-liner, while the return of Jiri Hudler will also be a boost to the team offensively. Don't forget, Johan Franzen also missed a big chunk of the season, so if everybody stays healthy this season, the Red Wings might be the team to beat again in the Western Conference.
3. St. Louis Blues
The Blues took a few steps back last season, after making the playoffs the year before. However, a lot of that could be blamed on the fact that the youngsters on this team suffered through the sophomore slump.
The team's biggest need was in net, and although Chris Mason did well, picking up Jaroslav Halak vaults STL up the rankings in terms of offseason acquisitions, as it was by far one of, if not the biggest made this summer.
Re-signing RFAs David Perron and Erik Johnson to reasonable contracts doesn't hurt either.
2. Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers had a dreadful season last year, but it paid off at the draft when the team secured the No. 1 pick and landed Taylor Hall.
Now, he is no Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby, but the kid can play. Add in the fact that at the rookie development camp Hall played with Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, and the trio showed great chemistry.
Signing blueliner Kurtis Foster was also one of the shrewdest, underrated moves of the summer, as at $1.8 million, he was a steal.
The team would've been No. 1 if the Sheldon Souray situation had been resolved, but there is still time for something to happen between now and the first game of the season in October.
1. Vancouver Canucks
Heading into the 2010-11 season, the Canucks have to be considered the strongest Stanley Cup contender in the West.
GM Mike Gillis made a couple of key moves, and they will be very beneficial to the club this season, as well as the future.
First, he made a deal with the Panthers to land Keith Ballard, who is a very strong top four defenseman, who can log key minutes.
Second, he landed the best blueliner on the free agent market, as Dan Hamhuis signed with the team as well, automatically becoming the top dog in Vancouver.
With Hamhuis and Ballard joining Alex Edler and Christian Ehrhoff, the team has one of the best young defensive quartets in the game. Add in the fact that Sami Salo, Kevin Bieksa and Shane O'Brien are still on the roster as well, and you can see that Roberto Luongo has some great support.
In addition to the blueline, Gillis also addressed some needs up front, as he signed Manny Malhotra to provide sound penalty killing and checking duties on the third line. Malhotra can also shift to the wing, if a guy like Cody Hodgson makes the team due to a huge training camp.
The Sedins and Ryan Kesler are still around up front, so to me, the Canucks are the team with the strongest offseason to date.