Though the ending of the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks first round series made it seem like the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs were over, there are still three rounds to go—crazy, I know—before the offseason officially begins, but that doesn't mean we can't look ahead now.
It could be a wild offseason at that, with a number of teams who will be looking to fill the needs at various positions on their club, after either disappointing campaigns this season, or simply looking to build on an team that's already a contender.
The fact that an entire franchise could be on the move adds a little more flavour to this offseason as well.
Yes, though there's still plenty of hockey to be played—thankfully—before months without on-ice action, it never hurts to contemplate the future. Actually, it can hurt, but we're going to go ahead and do it anyway.
Here's some juicy possibilities—whether trade or free-agent signing—in the NHL this summer. And yeah, juicy.
If you made the argument that Vancouver Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider is the best back-up in the NHL, you wouldn't be alone. The fact is, he really is outstanding between the pipes, and the Canucks would be smart to move him while his stock is high.
That means one of the many clubs in need of a young, talented goalie could land themselves just that.
One team in particular who could use themselves some youth and talent in net is the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have Dwayne Roloson now, but at age 41 there isn't exactly a budding future with him between the pipes. The Lightning need a goalie next season and beyond, and have some assets they could give up to get Schneider.
Purely speculative at this point, but the move works for both clubs, as long as the Canucks receive equal value in return—not that they really have that much in the way of need these days.
The argument can be made that the Canucks should keep Schneider for next season, which is viable as well, but he deserves a shot at a number one job, and the Canucks should give him that chance. The Lightning seem like a team that could provide the opportunity on the other end.
There's a good chance that Shane Doan walked off the ice as a Phoenix Coyote for the last time in their first-round defeat—and not just because the team may be moving to Winnipeg. If the team moves, it's speculated that their long-time captain won't be coming with them.
Nor should he have to, frankly.
When it comes to players having to go through a lot as far as their hockey careers go, Doan is up at the top of the list with what he's been through in his 15 years in the NHL.
He started off with the Winnipeg Jets, but that only lasted one season as they moved to Phoenix, and Doan went with them. He became captain of the club in 2003-04, and has been their leader ever since. He epitomizes everything it means to be a leader, and he's been through it all with the franchise. But you've got to think the man has been through about enough.
It's not that he's leaving the club at their lowest, it's that he doesn't deserve to go through anymore with them. He's done all he cane for the city, the team, and the fans, and the fact is they can't really ask anything more out of him, since the team was run into the ground—again—as the players simply dangled by a string.
Doan deserves to get traded, and though he has a no-movement clause in his contract, there's word that if the right opportunity comes up, he'd waive it—and frankly, the club owes Doan to find him that right opportunity.
What team he goes to is entirely up in the air, and hardly even possible to speculate about at this point, but the chance of him moving grows with every rumour of the club moving. You just have to feel for the guy, who seems to have done everything right, yet plays for a franchise that can't catch a break.
Wait, a Brad Richards rumour? Weird.
Yes, the All-Star calibre center from the Dallas Stars is a free-agent this summer—probably the most sought-after league-wide—and could make some serious waves if he decides to move on to a new team.
One of the teams rumoured to be Richards' new home is the New York Rangers. Now, the shock value of big-name, big-money player going to the Rangers is like, um, zero, but the blue shirts need offense, and Richards would provide a boat load of that.
They're a playoff team without him, but add him into the mix with a young, talented defense, world-class goaltender, and an offense with a ton of promise, and you've got yourself a dangerous team. And that's not just because John Tortorella is liable to go off at any second.
Richards would be a huge addition to the club, and you know the Rangers would dump what they needed to as long as they landed this offseason's most talented, most wanted player.
The question isn't would the Tampa Bay Lightning trade Vincent Lecavalier—because to save a ton of money, they probably would—the question is, could they trade him?
The Lightning captain is signed through the 2019-20 season—a contract that pays him $10 million per year until 2015-16 before declining—and though that's an absolute ton of money to pay one player, there is a chance it could happen.
With the salary cap reportedly on the rise yet again, and a number of teams that have serious cap space, there is room for the former 50-goal scorer to fit in elsewhere. The question is, where?
There are 17 teams currently in the NHL with $15 million-plus in cap space, which guarantees nothing, of course, but it does show that thinking a player with a massive contract can't be moved is no longer the case—ask Scott Gomez, J.S. Giguere, and the list goes on.
Would a team like the Islanders, Panthers or Blue Jackets take a stab at the $10 million man? It's possible, and the offseason will tell a lot in Lecavalier's future in Tampa Bay.
Though it may seem like the Buffalo Sabres have a ton of cap space currently, they have a lot of money tied up in a small number of players, and need to re-sign more than a few this summer—not an easy task, and one that means all that cap space you thought you had is suddenly tied up in your bottom six players.
So they could use a little money management, especially because they pay each of their top five forwards $4 million per season or more—and $7.2 million to Thomas Vanek for the next three seasons—which isn't a lot by league standards, but is when you've got a lot of signing to do. Derek Roy might be the odd man out, even though he's been one of the best, most consistent players for the Sabres over the past few seasons—besides his injury-plagued season this year.
In the four years prior to this season, Roy scored 20-plus goals, and 60-plus points in each of them. His quick hands and quicker feet would look great on a number of teams, and you can bet he'll be amongst players-moving conversation in the offseason.
They've said they wouldn't trade him, and since every team whose ever said that has stuck to their word without fail, right?
Jarome Iginla could move. Not will move—so calm down, folks—but he could. It's possible. With things changing in Calgary, and not much success lately, the talented captain has a good a chance to be traded now than he ever has—despite Flames GM Jay Feaster denying it again and again.
The Flames are the league's third-highest paid team with no money to spare at this point. And when you're paying your club $53 million and not making the playoffs, you have a problem, and you need to fix that problem.
Fixing it might be blowing it up, and that would—you'd think—start by shipping out one of the most beloved players in Calgary's history. It would hurt, but it would be necessary. It would also be one of the biggest trades we've seen in the NHL in years, and you can bet there would be teams lining up for the services of Iginla, who has been the most consistent player in the league for the past ten seasons—the only player to have scored 30 goals in each of the last ten years.
It's safe to say that almost every team in the NHL could use a skilled center right now. The Pittsburgh Penguins have three of them—when they're all healthy, that is—of star calibre, and salaries that would suggest that.
And with the addition of James Neal to the club—who is signed through next season at a bargain $2.875 million—and the Pens needing to sign a whack of players with limited cash available, it's not a stretch to think they'll be on the lookout to ship out a guy like Staal to free up some cap space.
Without a doubt there would be teams piling up at their door sending in their offers for Staal. He's the third center for the Penguins, but would be much higher than that for a lot of teams, and would act as a huge boost to not only their offense, but defense and penalty kill as well. He's the kind of player that gets the job done, and helps his team win at both ends of the ice.
His $4 million salary for the next two seasons is reasonable for most teams, especially for what he can provide, and if the price is right, you just never know. Pittsburgh pays some big-name players big-time cash, and it could be time for them to shed some of that—Staal moving could be the answer. Like joining one of his brothers, perhaps?
He's been quoted as saying he'd rather move back to Russia than follow the Phoenix Coyotes franchise to Winnipeg—which is hilarious for a number of reasons—so there's a good chance Ilya Bryzgalov's not re-signing. That's good news for a lot of teams, because it means one of the best goalies in the league is about to be up for grabs. Bid away.
And there's more than a few teams that could use a steady netminder between the pipes—the most intriguing of which is the Philadelphia Flyers.
If there's one thing you've heard about this postseason, it's the goaltending in Philadelphia, or rather, the lack there of. Frankly, they don't have a starting goalie, really. Well, they did in Sergei Bobrovsky, until they decided he was no longer good enough to even sit on the bench during the playoffs. Nor have a locker. All this after the Russian went an impressive 28-13-8 during the regular season.
But that's up to them, and instead of rolling with three non-starters, you can imagine the Flyers would much rather have a guy they can rely on for 70-plus games a year. Insert Bryzgalov.
Now the Flyers have no money to spare—and I mean none—since they've managed to pay almost every player on their team enough to buy a small country. But they've got forwards to spare, especially with the emergence of potential stars in James Van Reimsdyk and Claude Giroux, so they can survive with losing some talent up front.
Moving one big-name, like Jeff Carter, Daniel Briere or Scott Hartnall will be tough because of the salaries, but possible because of their skill. And it will open up enough space to bring in the talented goalie.
And if the Flyers can be as good a team as they were without a rock in net, just imagine what they could be with one.