By the end of this week, there will only be four teams left in the 2011 NHL playoffs. The other 26 teams will be thinking about the offseason and trying to figure out what moves they can make in order to improve for next season.
Trades do not happen in hockey as easily as other sports, but they are a way to improve a team. The hard cap in the NHL hinders a lot of trade talk between teams. However, teams still find ways to swap players and picks.
Some pretty good players may be on the market this summer, including Flyers forward Jeff Carter and one of the two young Washington goaltenders.
Here is a best-case scenario for each team heading into the offseason.
Shea Weber will be a restricted free agent at season's end. The Nashville captain may be the best player on the market this offseason and will command a ton of money.
One scenario that is being thrown around is if Nashville signed Weber to a one-year deal, it would then turn around and trade him because it does not have the money to keep him.
Edmonton has been linked to liking Weber and certainly has the cap space to afford him. The Oilers are in the rebuilding stage as a team but will have a good young core after having the past two No. 1 overall picks in the draft.
At the February trade deadline, Paul Stastny's name was being thrown around, along with that of Adam Foote, in trade rumors coming out of Colorado.
Stastny was one of the lone bright spots for the Avalanche this season, but they might need to trade him away in order to rebuild the franchise.
It may be hard to see a young player like Stastny leave, but the Avalanche could get a boatload of prospects and young guns in return for Stastny's services.
If the Blue Jackets were to somehow get rid of Steve Mason, their offseason would turn out to be a success. Mason, who still has two years left on his contract, has failed to live up to his AHL numbers.
Mathieu Garon seemed to emerge as the Blue Jackets' top goalie last season, but he is a free agent this summer. If Columbus re-signs Garon or goes after another veteran, Mason could be available.
The Flyers were rumored to be interested in Mason earlier this season.
The Edmonton Journal reported that the Wild could look to trade away Brent Burns, who had a breakout season this year. Was it a breakout year or just a good season?
It is no secret that the Wild need help on the offensive side of the puck. Kris Versteeg did not have the best second half of the season with Philly, and the Flyers could be interested in Burns.
The Blues have one of the better younger defensive units in the NHL. Their main goal this offseason should be to acquire a veteran who can complement the young defense.
The Blues could dangle Alexander Steen in order to get a top defenseman. He still has three years still left on his contract, though, so it may be hard to swap him.
The best-case scenario for the Flames would be to somehow hold on to Jarome Iginla. The captain is still one of the better players in the league, but could he be targeted by other teams?
The Flames only missed out on the playoffs by three points, so if the Flames trade away Iginla, they immediately downgrade their team for next season.
The Dallas Stars have plenty of free agents to deal with this summer. Some tough decisions will have to be made regarding Brad Richards, Jamie Langenbrunner and Brian Sutherby.
The Stars' primary goal this offseason should be to sign Richards to a long-term deal. He will command a lot of money, and there are definitely teams that would be interested in him (i.e. Rangers, Predators).
Dallas missed the playoffs by two points this season. It does not need to rebuild or blow up the roster. The Stars proved that they can go in streaks, and they have shown great chemistry among the players at times.
Corey Crawford played brilliantly in his rookie season. He is a restricted free agent who the Blackhawks need to re-sign to a long-term deal. Assuming this gets done, Chicago needs some depth from the forward position.
They could also use some help behind the blue line, especially since Chris Campoli's future with the team is uncertain. Edmonton Oilers defenceman Ladislav Smid was rumored to be a target at the deadline, so he may be a target this summer.
The good news is that the Kings have a great young goaltender in Jonathan Quick and give up the sixth-fewest goals in the league.
The bad news is that the Kings failed to consistently score in front of Quick, as they were towards the bottom of the league in goals scored for the season.
The Kings should have some cap room in order to sign a good free agent or two. Vaclav Prospal would be a good veteran addition; a younger player like Ville Leino would be suitable as well.
Ilya Bryzgalov may be the best goaltender on the market this summer. He will be an unrestricted free agent and will be able to sign anywhere he pleases.
If the Coyotes want to remain a contender in the West, they must keep him at all costs. He will get a pay raise from the $4.5 million he was paid this year.
If the Coyotes really want him, though, they will be in a bidding war with teams like Colorado and Philadelphia.
Joel Ward basically came from nowhere to be Nashville's key to a deep postseason run.
After scoring only 10 goals in the regular season, Ward scored seven in the playoffs. Ward finally seems to have found his role on this Predators team.
He is an unrestricted free agent, and Nashville must pay him for his great postseason.
After the All-Star break, Jonas Hiller played in only two games due to a serious case of vertigo.
Hiller signed a huge extension and is on the books for $13.5 million over the next three seasons. The best-case scenario is that Hiller comes back healthy and ready to play.
If not, the Ducks could look to move Hiller because they have two capable other goalies in Dan Ellis and Ray Emery.
Three of the Red Wings' top six defencemen will be free agents this summer. Whether they re-sign them or sign other free agents, the defense has to be addressed for Detroit.
Jimmy Howard is not the best goalie ever and needs some better support from his blueliners.
Tomas Kaberle will be a free agent and did not seem to fit Boston's system. He would be a hefty addition to the Red Wings' power play too.
The Sharks have a very potent offense and a very solid defense. They rank among the league leaders in both scoring and goals allowed. If the Sharks needed one position, I would have to say they should look at getting a veteran defenceman.
Bryan McCabe or Joni Pitkanen will be available and would solidify one of the better defenses in the league.
Christian Ehrhoff is one of the best defencemen in the NHL. He is definitely one of the top offensive ones. He tallied 50 points last season, which is pretty darn good for a blueliner.
The Canucks are probably going to have to make a decision between re-signing Ehrhoff or fellow free agent Kevin Bieksa.
The best-case scenario for Florida is to get rid of Tomas Vokoun. I understand that Vokoun is one of the better goalies in the league, but the Panthers need a whole lot more than a goalie. Plus Scott Clemmensen has proven that he can start in the NHL.
Vokoun will command a lot of money this summer. With the money it saves, Florida can go after three or four players that could help it improve after winning only 30 games last season.
Rick DiPietro has struggled mightily the past few seasons. Ilya Bryzgalov should be one of the better goalies on the market and would be a guy that New York could finally build a team around.
The Islanders only have money committed to seven players for next season, so they can make a splash for a big-time goalie like Bryzgalov.
The Ottawa Senators should have a lot of money to dangle to potential free agents this offseason. They desperately need a scoring complement to Jason Spezza.
Someone like Ville Leino could be that complement. Leino excelled in the Flyers' system, has great playmaking abilities and is great on open ice.
Do not rule out a goaltender pickup either. Pascal Leclaire is done in Ottawa.
With the future of the Atlanta Thrashers in doubt, the story must go on for the expansion franchise.
Atlanta had a terrible season last year and struggled mightily defensively. Chris Mason was supposed to be a franchise goalie, and he did not live up to those lofty expectations.
In order to help out Mason, the Thrashers need to improve their blue line, which gave up the second-most goals in the league last year. Kevin Bieksa would not be a bad option.
It is pretty safe to say that the Martin Brodeur era in New Jersey may be coming to an end very soon.
If the Devils think that Johan Hedberg is a suitable replacement, then the next priority for the Devils would be to add some scoring. The Devils were dead last in goals per game last season, averaging just over two per night.
Wouldn't it be interesting to see Simon Gagne in a Devils uniform?
Brian Burke has gone on the record to say that the Maple Leafs' biggest need this offseason is to sign a No. 1 center.
Brendan Morrison's season was cut short due to a knee injury. He may be one of the better No. 1 centers on the market.
Pat Dwyer and Erik Cole both are on Carolina's No. 1 line alongside All-Star Eric Staal. Both Dwyer and Cole will be unrestricted free agents this summer.
At least one, if not both, have to be signed for the Hurricanes to remain in the playoff hunt. A team losing two-thirds of its top scoring line will not be very good for the Hurricanes as a franchise.
If Dallas lets Brad Richards walk, expect the Rangers to be one of the teams bidding for his services.
The Rangers love taking on veteran playmakers. They have overpaid for some, and some have not worked out, but I think Richards in the Big Apple would be a good decision for the Rangers.
The Sabres need another scorer to go along with Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford.
Milan Hejduk will be a free agent and will require a team that has some cap space. Buffalo may need to free up some space by trading someone like Derek Roy.
Barring any long-term knee concerns, the Canadiens must re-sign Andrei Markov to a long-term deal.
Markov played in only seven games this season but has always been a team leader and the best defenceman on the team.
After putting together a strong postseason run, Dwayne Roloson should expect a nice little pay raise for next season. Roloson emerged as the Lightning's starter for the playoffs and has not disappointed.
So far he is 8-3 with a 2.01 GAA in the 2011 playoffs.
Roloson is the key signing that the Lightning must make this season. They are on the verge of a Cup.
The Penguins will have almost no room to make any moves this summer. Their defense is pretty much set with everyone returning barring any trades.
The best thing that the Penguins could do is try to re-sign as many of their free agents as they can. They will not be able to make a splash elsewhere unless they make a significant trade.
So far this postseason, the Tomas Kaberle experiment has not worked out so well. Boston is still terrible on the power play and has only scored one power play goal in the playoffs.
Give Kaberle a full year to develop and gel with his current teammates. He has only been there for a couple months.
This is how the Flyers would look at Ilya Bryzgalov every night if he were to come to Philly. The Flyers needed a No. 1 goalie since Ron Hextall left a decade ago.
Bryzgalov will command a lot of money, so Jeff Carter might be on the move, but this is the piece that gets the Flyers over the hump.
Washington has not had the greatest success in recent postseasons. The problem is hard to judge, but one thing could be the lack of veteran leadership.
I expect the Capitals to acquire an old veteran who can lead this team in troubled times. Washington is a very streaky team that needs to become more consistent. John Madden or Brad Richards would look awfully nice in the red and white.