NHL Free Agent and Trade Rumors: Each Team's Most Pressing Need This Offseason
Just four teams remain in the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the rest of the league is at home analyzing what they need to differently to get their team to the promised land.
Since the introduction of the salary cap, the NHL offseason has become more active than ever before with free-agent signings and trades galore.
Between free agency, the trade market and the 2011 NHL draft, NHL front offices will have plenty of chances to bolster their personnel on the ice.
Here is the biggest area of concern for each team in the NHL heading in the 2011 NHL offseason.
Edmonton Oilers: Defense
When a team is drafting No. 1 overall for the second consecutive season, it is safe to say that it has quite a few needs.
The Edmonton Oilers are loaded with talented forward prospects in Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi. However, the team lacks a stud at the center position capable of filling the void for a top line center.
The more pressing need lies on the blue line for the Oilers. Without many prospects in the system, or talent in the NHL, Edmonton could use a blue chip defenseman to bolster the back end.
The Oilers are on the right track as far as their rebuilding project is concerned, but there is still quite a ways to go out in Edmonton.
Colorado Avalanche: Defense/Goaltending
The Colorado Avalanche have built a solid stable of forwards with Paul Stasny and Matt Duchene leading the way. Unfortunately, the talent on the back end is not quite as impressive.
The midseason acquisition of Erik Johnson was a start, but the Avs still need to add some talent on the blue line. Plus, there is no guarantee that Johnson will develop into the type of player he has been hyped up to be since being drafted with the first overall pick back in 2006.
In addition, Colorado needs to find a dependable solution between the pipes after curiously dealing Craig Anderson to the Ottawa Senators.
Luckily, the Avalanche have a few first-round draft picks with which to work.
Florida Panthers: Youth
The Florida Panthers are clearly in a transition.
Tomas Vokoun is a free agent and will be tough to retain. The team dealt Bryan McCabe, Michael Frolik, Radek Dvorak, Cory Stillman and Dennis Wideman at the deadline and now has to work to acquire more young talent to fill in those gaps.
Florida has the third overall choice in the 2011 NHL draft, which will be vital in the team's pursuit of young talent.
New York Islanders: A Physical Defenseman
The New York Islanders blue line was decimated by injuries this past season.
That being said, there are plenty of promising young players on the back end for the Isles heading into next season. The club will also get Mark Streit back, who missed nearly all of last season with a shoulder injury.
The Islanders would love to land a physical presence on the blue line to complement the offensive prowess of Streit and allow them to bring along the young kids like Calvin De Hann, Jack Hillen and Bruno Gervais slowly.
Ottawa Senators: Center
The Ottawa Senators are in a full scale rebuilding effort.
The first step in that process should be a franchise center that the team can structure its offense around. The Sens might be able to snatch a talented prospect in the first round of the 2011 NHL draft.
With the sixth pick in June's draft, Ottawa will likely have a shot at Sean Couturier. If he's available, the Senators would be wise to rush to the podium with the pick.
Atlanta (Winnipeg) Thrashers: Scoring
Is anyone surprised that the Thrasher had difficulty putting the puck in the net in the wake of losing Ilya Kovalchuk to free agency? Didn't think so.
Atlanta had only two 20 goal scorers this season, and one of them was defenseman Dustin Byfuglien.
The seventh overall pick may not be high enough to secure an elite goal-scoring prospect, but the Thrashers could acquire veterans in free agency to add some depth up front.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Defense, Defense and More Defense
The Columbus Blue Jackets need a ton of help on the blue line.
Offensively minded and physical defensemen alike are needed to bolster a group that allowed over three goals per game in 2010-2011 and has the second worst power-play unit in the entire league, converting just 14 percent of their chances.
New Jersey Devils: Puck-Moving Defenseman
The New Jersey Devils have needs across the board. They had issues scoring last season and have aging goalies on the roster.
However, the return of Zach Parise will help put more points on the board, and the goaltender position can wait another season as Brodeur will be back in the fall.
The issue of a puck-moving defenseman is the most pressing for the Devils heading into next season. The power play, which was third worst in the league, and the previously mentioned scoring issues would both stand to improve with the addition of an offensively gifted defender.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Defensive Depth
The departures of Tomas Kaberle and Francois Beauchemin left a void at the third defensive pairing for the Maple Leafs. Mike Komisarek has done nothing to ease the concern in Toronto.
Brian Burke and the Leafs are constructing quite the defensive corps, but depth is needed.
Also, a bit of size up front wouldn't hurt the development of some of the team's young talented scorers.
Minnesota Wild: Offense
Since the departure of Marion Gaborik, the Minnesota Wild have struggled to find legitimate scoring threats up front.
Martin Havlat was a solid addition and Mikko Koivu is a dependable two-way forward but neither had the ability to shoulder the load offensively.
The Wild have some prospects developing overseas and will surely add more in the upcoming draft. One way or another, Minnesota has to solve their issue at the forward position.
St. Louis Blues: Veteran Defenseman
With as many young talented blue-liners as St. Louis has on its roster, a dependable veteran leader on the back end is a necessity.
Eric Brewer was dealt at the deadline and needs to be replaced in some capacity. Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo would certainly benefit from the presence of a solid veteran presence.
Carolina Hurricanes: Defense
It's time for the Hurricanes to improve their play in front of franchise goaltender Cam Ward.
Essentially, the Canes need to be more consistent in all three zones of the ice. They have some talented forwards in the system, so the focus this offseason should be on the blue line.
New York Rangers: Powerplay QB
The Rangers had 20 chances on the power play in their playoff series with the Washington Capitals. They managed to convert on just one of those chances.
Michael Del Zotto didn't solve the issue, and Bryan McCabe certainly was not the answer.
It appears the Rangers will have to go outside of the organization to find the power-play quarterback they desperately lack.
Calgary Flames: Pending
The Calgary Flames are working on re-signing Alex Tanguay and retaining the services of Jarome Iginla for at least another season.
If one of those things doesn't happen, the Flames will have a hole or two to fill on the top line.
In addition, Calgary is waiting for some younger players to step into bigger roles with the team. A lot of Calgary's offseason will be a wait-and-see approach.
Dallas Stars: Re-Sign Brad Richards
The entire future of the Dallas Stars revolves around their ability to re-sign Brad Richards.
If they are able to bring back the playmaking center, the Stars will once again contend for a playoff spot out west. Should Richards hit the open market, the Stars could be thrust into rebuilding mode yet again.
Buffalo Sabres: Center Depth
Derek Roy's injury illuminate Buffalo's lack of depth at the center position.
By the time the Stanley Cup playoffs rolled around, the Sabres had wingers playing center just to get all of the lines filled.
Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe are talented up-and-coming wingers. They will need a presence in the middle to reach their full potential.
Montreal Canadiens: Size
The Montreal Canadiens got muscled out of the first round of the 2011 NHL playoffs by the Boston Bruins.
Most of Montreal's forwards aren't six feet tall and are undersized. The Canadiens have speed, but a bit of physicality is necessary for a deep postseason run.
Chicago Blackhawks: Center Depth
Injuries were the downfall of the Chicago Blackhawks' season. A number of key contributors spent time in the press box this season and it exposed some soft spots on the roster, the most notable of which was the lack of depth at the center position.
Chicago should look to add a dependable center for the second line, preferably a guy who can grind it out and stay healthy all season long while playing a physical game.
Los Angeles Kings: Winger
The search for a winger to play alongside Anze Kopitar continues for the Kings this offseason.
The club traded for the services of Dustin Penner but the former Edmonton Oiler struggled switching uniforms and was a fourth liner by the end of the season.
Phoenix Coyotes: First Line Center
The Phoenix Coyotes are in severe need of a playmaker in the middle of that first line. Eric Belanger simply isn't cutting it.
Phoenix has a talented enough roster to contend for a playoff spot year in and year out. However, if the team wants to make a push for hockey's ultimate prize they have to add more talent up front.
Nashville Predators: Offense
It was a monumental season for the Nashville Predators. In addition to advancing to the Western Conference Semifinals, the Predators were able to excite the fanbase for the first time in a while.
Nashville plays one of the most sound defensive systems in hockey, and the trio of Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne makes them tough to score against.
Unfortunately, Nashville lacks a dynamic player on offense. Just imagine what this team could do with a top line talent up front.
Anaheim Ducks: Defense
It's no secret that the Anaheim Ducks were defensively challenged throughout the season. Jonas Hiller was able to bail the team out throughout the season, but once he went down with injury the team showed its true colors down the stretch, culminating in a first-round exit in six games in which they allowed 22 goals to the defensive-minded Predators.
Cam Fowler is developing nicely, but a top four defenseman needs to be found in free agency.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Goalie
Dwayne Roloson has filled Tampa Bay's goaltending vacancy valiantly since being acquired in a trade with the New York Islanders earlier this season. Unfortunately, he is 41 and there is not much behind him on the depth chart, despite Mike Smith's heroic effort in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
In addition to improving their play in front of their netminder, the Lightning need to find a suitable replacement for Roloson.
Boston Bruins: Top Line Offensive Talent
The Boston Bruins are filled with muckers and grinders up front but lack a truly elite offensive threat. Tyler Seguin appears to be developing into such a player, but more offensively gifted forwards need to be added to the roster this offseason.
Unfortunately, Claude Julien prides himself on his defensive system and looks for defensively minded players across the board.
Boston just needs to hope that Seguin continues his development and is utilized effectively.
Detroit Red Wings: Defensive Depth
With Brian Rafalski reportedly considering retirement, and Nicklas Lidstrom heading down that road as well, the Detroit Red Wings need to give serious thought to upgrading their blue line.
The current crop of defenseman is solid, but a bruiser on the back end would go a long way towards solidifying this roster for the long term.
San Jose Sharks: Defense
Don't get me wrong, Dan Boyle is a terrific defenseman, but relying on him to carry your team's blue line play is not a recipe for success by any means.
The Sharks have been exposed for their defensive ineptitude during the Western Conference Finals, allowing 17 goals in a span of four games.
The defense needs a lot more work before the Sharks are going to hoist the Stanley Cup.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Winger
With so much talent up the middle, the Pittsburgh Penguins would be thrilled to add some talent on either wing for one of their top two lines.
The James Neal experiment predictably failed and has left the Penguins with a void to fill and very little cap space with which to do so.
That being said, if the Penguins return healthy in the fall, they will once again contend for a Stanley Cup.
Philadelphia Flyers: Goaltender
Surprise, surprise. With the amount of publicity and city wide anguish over the goaltending situation that the Flyers had during the 2011 NHL playoffs, can anyone be surprised that it pulls rank over any other needs the team has?
Sergei Bobrovsky has the potential to develop into a starter, and the signing of Niko Hovinen coupled with the continued development of Swedish prospect, Joachim Eriksson solidifies Philly's future at the position.
However, the here and now is still a huge issue. Brian Boucher is nothing more than a career backup, and Michael Leighton deserves to be in the AHL.
With free agents Ilya Bryzgalov and Tomas Vokoun on the market, Philly will certainly have an opportunity to sign a quick fix to their problems in net. Of course, it will take some creativity on their part given the lack of cap space, but players like Jeff Carter are more than expendable if it means grabbing a reliable backstop while the roster is still laden with talent.
Washington Capitals: Depth
On the surface, the Washington Capitals are as talented as any team in the NHL.
Unfortunately, the Capitals are unable to contributions from the third and fourth lines and need to add more depth to the blue line.
Washington is attempting to make a transition to a more defensive style of play, which will require depth and contributions from every player on the ice. Alexander Ovechkin can't do it all.
Vancouver Canucks: Damage Control
With a team as deep as the Canucks it is tough to pinpoint a glaring need for the team. Like any elite team though, Vancouver will be faced with the challenge of trying to keep it all together.
Backup goaltender Cory Schneider will be in the final year of his contract, and a decision has to be made about his future with the team. Meanwhile, Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo, Kevin Bieksa and Raffi Torres are all unrestricted free agents this coming offseason.
It won't be easy, but the Canucks have to attempt to keep as much of their core of players together to avoid as steep a drop off as the Chicago Blackhawks suffered this past season.