As the final two teams battle for the Stanley Cup, the other 28 teams are preparing for the NHL draft and the big extravaganza that is July 1. Some teams may be one player away; others may need to fill in different areas of the team in order to just be competitive. The NHL salary cap is now at $59.4 million, but is reported to raise to $62.2 million, according to the New York Post. When I put the amount of room a team has, I will be using the $62.2 million amount. While I won't mention specific players for every team, feel free to comment on a player who would fit this team perfectly. As always, comment and argue what you believe.
Cap room- about $12.5 million
Need- Defensive defensmen
The Ducks have Lubomir Visnovsky, who scored 18 goals this season. Cam Fowler and Luca Sbisa are both young and prospering, but Toni Lydman is not a great defensmen. Getting a defensman to help on the back end would do wonders for this team, who has scorers and a very good goalie when healthy. A solid defensman, and this team might have won Game 5 against Nashville and made it out of the first round. They obviously need to sign Teemu Selanne, who is 40, and make a decision on Jarkko Ruutu, Todd Marchant and Brad Winchester. They need to make a change with one of these guys, but they have no problem scoring.
Cap Space- $17.4 million, 13 players signed
Needs- third and fourth liners
The Sabres have to sign some defensmen who are restricted free agents. Sekera, Gragnani, Weber and Butler are all RFA's, and some decisions will have to be made there. The Sabres got some unexpected scoring from Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Ennis and the trade deadline pick-up of Brad Boyes. This team just needs experience for the younger kids. They need to make a decision on Tim Connolly, who will probably be released, as well as Rob Niedermayer and Mike Grier. They will need to be replaced by new grinders who will add a new element of this team. The Sabres will always be in a game with Ryan Miller, and the scoring is there, but one minor addition could be the final piece for a long playoff run.
Cap Space- Around $6 million, 18 players signed
Needs- Defenseman, third and fourth liners
The Flames went on a nice second half run to barely miss the playoffs and one more addition may have given the Flames that additional push to make the dance. Well, the Flames don't have a lot of room to work with. With only $6 million to work with, the team is pretty much set in stone. With the Flames in need of youth in this rebuilding stage, this trade deadline may be a fire sale. This team doesn't look good enough to make a real impact in the playoffs, so the new management may try to get what they can for guys like Olli Jokinen, Niklas Hagman or maybe even Jarome Iginla. This team needs to get younger in order to rebuild. The penalty kill needs to improve, as they were ranked 21st this season. They could use a defenseman and a grinder to fill out the team, but if this team struggles in the beginning, it's time for a dump.
Cap Space- Around $32 million, 11 players signed
Needs- Defensive Defensemen
The Hurricanes have some work to do. They have a ton of cap space and decisions to make. Cory Stillman, Joni Pitkanen, Erik Cole, Chad Larose and Jussi Jokinen are all UFA's. Joe Corvo is on the first pair of defense for Carolina, and he was a minus-14 this season. He can certainly score, but he is not the best defensive-minded defenseman. The Hurricanes may need to sacrifice some scoring for the defensive part of the game. Carolina also needs to improve its power play, which ranked 24th in the NHL, as well as the 20th ranked penalty kill. A defenseman will do wonders for this team, who already have Cam Ward and Eric Staal to lead the team.
Cap Space- Around $8 million, 16 players signed
Needs- third and fourth liners, PK help
The Blackhawks have their top tier players signed for a long time. Tomas Kopecky is a UFA, but the rest of the roster is pretty much in stone. A trade may be necessary, but the Blackhawks are top-heavy. This can be seen in the PK ranking, which was 25th this season. The Blackhawks underachieved this season with a Stanley Cup hangover, but a good penalty killer and grinder would be a great help for this team. The Blackhawks have a good defensive corps, but Niklas Hjalmarsson may be on his way out in a salary dump. The cap space doesn't favor Chicago, so the players already there need to rebound to make Chicago better.
Cap Space- $30.6 million 13 players signed
Needs- Goaltending, PK, Defense
Oh, boy. The Avalanche had the 30th best PK in the NHL last season. They made a blockbuster trade by acquiring Erik Johnson from St. Louis, but this team is far away from being a winner. They NEED a goaltender. Brian Elliot didn't cut it, and Peter Budaj is not a starting goalie. My best suggestion is to draft a kid in this draft, let him develop, try and trade Stastny for a nice return and commit to rebuilding because this team is bare. Matt Duchene is a nice player, but the rest of the team is not good. Get younger, get a good leader such as Chris Drury to mentor the kids and let the year play out. It is not going to be pretty in Denver this season.
Cap Space- Around $26 million, 13 players signed
Needs- Special teams help, goaltending
The goaltending let this team down in the stretch run. Steve Mason was average this season after a breakout season to lead the Blue Jackets to their first playoff berth. He either needs to find his game or Columbus needs to get a goalie. The special teams were terrible. The power play was 29th at a dreadful 14 percent and the PK was 22nd. We have all heard the rumblings of Jeff Carter for the eighth pick in the draft and Jakub Voracek. Rick Nash is a superstar, and Jeff Carter would be a great help for him. Jeff Carter would certainly help the Blue Jackets, but a good grinder and good penalty killer would help Columbus climb back into the playoff picture
Cap Space- $23.5 million, 17 players signed
Needs- Center, PK help
Brad Richards is not going to sign with Dallas, and Dallas may not get more help with their ownership questions. The Stars had the 23rd best PK and could use a grinder for this team. The Stars defense is fairly young, with most of the players around 30, and they could use another defensive player, but it may not be as necessary, as replacing the offense lost with Richards. The Stars are going to be weaker next season, and Jamie Langenbrunner will probably not be back either. Not making the playoffs last season hurt, and I think the Stars are in for a rough season.
Cap Space- $20 million, 16 players signed
Needs- Defense, Backup goalie
The Nick Lidstrom and Kris Draper situation should be interesting. The only question with Lidstrom is will he play? The Red Wings will definitely sign him if he is willing to play. Draper is going to be a question that Detroit needs to answer. Should they sign him because of his past contributions, or go forward and thank him for his contributions while letting him walk? The PK ranked 17th, which could be improved. The Red Wings have one of the best coaches in the NHL and players overachieve in Detroit. They need a quality back-up goalie in case Jimmy Howard slips up. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are two of the best players in the game and will lead this team for years to come. This team may be a grinder and defensive replacement away from a Stanley Cup.
Cap Space- $25 million, 14 players signed
Needs- Defense, Special Teams help
The special teams were dreadful for the young Oilers this season. 27th in PP and 29th in PK. Yikes! The Oilers are on the right track. With the number one pick coming up in the draft, there is another piece of the puzzle solved. Next season, a lot of cap room will open up, and the Oilers can try to improve after next year. Also, Khabibulin can be bought out probably after next year, and getting a young goalie may be good for this team. Andrew Cogliano is the big decision of this offseason. I personally like him, but I don't watch the Oilers everyday. The Oilers are going to win; it will just take patience.
Cap Space- $43 million, 12 players signed
Needs- Power play help, goaltending, defense
Tomas Vokoun will not be a Panther next season. A new goalie needs to come, and Scott Clemmensen is a good goalie but not of the quality of Vokoun. The defense is young, but not that impressive, so that definitely needs to be improved. The biggest problem was the power play, which was 30th in the NHL. Scoring was a problem, and with Stephen Weiss on his way out possibly, the Panthers need to find some scoring. The PK was surprisingly fifth in the NHL, but scoring needs to improve for the Panthers to be relevant next season.
Cap Space- $14 million, 16 players signed
Needs- PP help
Brad Richards may be a very good fit for the Kings. They need a power play quarterback and scoring help. Alex Ponikarovsky did not help the way that the Kings had hoped, and he is now a UFA with a decision to be made on his future. Drew Doughty is an RFA and needs to be signed. He is one of the corps of this team. The Kings are close and are young. Experience is there, and the right fit could propel this team to bigger things. The PK was fourth this season. One thing the Kings need to improve on is regulation wins, as they led the league in shootout wins. You can't win the shootout in the playoffs, and I think that hurt them in the playoffs.
Cap Space- $10 million, 20 players signed
Needs- Scoring and defense
Third and fourth line needs to improve. Martin Havlat needs to step up his game. Do you resign Andrew Brunette? I don't think so. The special teams were middle of the road for Minnesota. The defensive depth is shallow and needs to be deeper. A secondary scorer needs to emerge either from within the organization or through a trade or free agency. Havlat needs to step up his game, and the loss of Mikko Koivu hurt the playoff run. The Wild don't have a lot of room to maneuver, but if the scoring is there, this team could get over the edge and make the playoffs.
Cap Space- $21 million, 13 players signed
Needs- Defensive defensemen
Benoit Pouliot, Max Pacioretty and Yannick Weber are all RFA's. I think they should sign all three, as they are intricate parts of the team. Then Wisniewski, Markov, Hamrlik and Brent Sopel are UFA's. I think Markov needs to come back even with his injury concerns because of his contribution to the power play. The rest can be spared in favor of a more defensive minded game. This team can definitely score, but I don't know if they can shut teams down while not relying on Carey Price. The special teams ranked seventh in both categories. Montreal needs more production from Scott Gomez, who is making a ridiculous $7 million a year. The Habs need to get stronger defensively and then might have a chance to get back the magic of 2010.
Cap Space- $21 million, 17 players signed
Needs- Big time scorer, Shea Weber
Shea Weber needs to be signed. No question about it. He is one of the best defenseman in the league and needs to come back to Nashville for them to continue their progress through the Western Conference. The Predators have had a scoring by committee approach for the past couple of years with no superstar who can take over a game. This team is deep and has a proven goalie who was a Vezina Finalist. The bad thing about the Preds is if the scoring isn't there, they don't have that one player who can take over a game. Mike Fisher should help in his first full season in Nashville. I think Sergei Kostitsyn should be re-signed, and so should Marcel Goc. The Preds made strides this season, and expect more coming.
Cap Space- $10 million, 17 players signed
Needs- PP help, Zach Parise
The Devils had a disappointing season in 2010-11. Not making the playoffs hurt the franchise, and Kovalchuk took most of the blame. The power play ranked 28th in the NHL and not having Zach Parise for the year hurt. Without Parise, the Devils struggled. Now as an RFA, will the Devils be able to afford him with their cap space? They also need a backup goalie for the aging Martin Brodeur and prepare for Brodeur's free agency after next season. With the fourth pick in the draft, the Devils draft pick probably won't be able to make a difference now, but the Devils should be in contention for a playoff spot this year if they can sign Zach Parise
Cap Space- $25 million, 18 players signed
Needs- Defensive defenseman
The Islanders are young and budding. The Rick DiPietro contract hurts them for a long time. John Tavares is an RFA next season, and a decision needs to be made on Josh Bailey this year. Mark Streit was missed last season, but he is more of an offensive minded defenseman. The kids in the minors may be able to help the Islanders this season, and an early draft pick will help the future. The Islanders special teams were middle of the road. They can compete for the playoffs this season with Okposo coming back and Taveras' experience. With the new arena situation being settled on August 1, they may finally be able to lure in big time free agents next season.
Cap Space - $21 million (maybe more with Chris Drury's buyout), 13 players signed
Needs- PP quarterback, Center
Stay away from Brad Richards. The Rangers are a young team and are not ready for a serious Stanley Cup run now. There is no need to give Richards that much money to hinder future offseasons when they are ready to win the Stanley Cup. The Rangers need a center, but let that go for this year. Let Kreider, Stepan and the young defense develop and then make the decision a few years from now as to what the needs are. Dubinsky and Callahan need to be resigned, along with Michael Sauer. I would personally buy out Sean Avery to get rid of him. Lundqvist is entering his prime, and Marc Staal is a stud. Gaborik needs to turn it on, and with a great system, the Rangers will be ready in two or three years to make a serious run
Cap Space- $17.5 million, 17 players signed
Needs- Defensemen, secondary scoring
Ottawa needs some defense. Sergei Gonchar isn't cutting it anymore. They need to get younger and rebuild. Craig Anderson is a good goalie, but I am not crazy about him. Ottawa needs to get some other scorers to supplement Spezza and Alfredsson. The Senators are not a deep team. The special teams were middle of the road, and a grinder would be good for this team. The Senators are probably not going to contend this season, and trying to start rebuilding is probably the right direction for them
Cap Space- $3 million, 18 players signed
That's it. Ilya Bryzgalov needs to be signed for a reasonable price. They can't overpay for him for another long contract to constrict the Flyers even more. They will need to shed salary, and Jeff Carter will probably be on his way out if Bryzgalov is signed. Ville Leino will probably be on his way out. The Flyers are ready to make a run to the Stanley Cup if they can sign Bryzgalov. He is the missing piece from the Flyers being the favorites in the Eastern Conference next season. Special teams could be improved, but can be managed with the strength of this team at even strength.
Cap Space- $30 million, 15 players signed
Needs- Special Teams help, goaltending
With the trade of Ilya Bryzgalov, the Coyotes are in some trouble. Bryzgalov was their saving grace last season, leading them to their playoffs. Now the flaws of this team will come through. The special teams are weak, both in the bottom two-thirds of the league. Keith Yandle and Kyle Turris are both RFA's, and I would re-sign both. With the franchise in disarray, Ed Jovanovski probably won't be back, and they need to add defense to their team. Don Maloney needs to be creative on how to make this team as good as they were last year in order to save the franchise from moving from Phoenix.
Cap Space- $5 million, 19 players signed
Needs- PP help
The Penguins are a complete team with Crosby and Malkin in the lineup. The power play struggled without these two superstars, and what team wouldn't when losing their two best players? The PK was number one in the NHL. Max Talbot and Pascual Dupuis are both UFA's, and a decision needs to be made. They might opt to go in a different direction and let one of these players walk away. The defense is set, and aside from those two players, everything is pretty much set in stone. The health of Crosby and Malkin will provide this team with everything they need to make a Stanley Cup run.
Cap Space- $10 million, 14 players signed
Needs- Leadership, grinders
The San Jose Sharks are one of the best teams in the regular season and on paper. What I think they need is a leader for the locker room who has won a Stanley Cup. Chris Drury would be the perfect fit for this locker room if he is bought out by the Rangers (someone else wrote an article on this). A lot of the third and fourth line guys are free agents, so Doug Wilson should try to rebuild those two lines. A good faceoff guy and good penalty killers would be perfect for this team for their playoff run. The penalty kill needs to improve after being 24th in the regular season. Also, Dany Heatley deciding to show up in the playoffs would help a lot. The window is closing on the Sharks, so they need to get their act together soon.
Cap Space- $24 million, 14 players signed
The Blues need to sign some players. TJ Oshie needs to be traded or signed. The defense is set in place for this season, and Carlo Colaiacovo may be traded at the deadline if the Blues are not in the playoff race. The Blues are young and need experience to get better. Halak proved he can win in the playoffs with Montreal and had a bad year last year. If he plays well, he can mask the flaws of this team. The Blues have David Backes and Chris Stewart to build the team around. The Blues have a shot at the playoffs this year, but Halak will need to step up.
Cap Space- $25.6 million, 11 players signed
Needs- Steven Stamkos, goaltending
Steven Stamkos is an RFA, and this is Tampa's first priority. He is one of the best young players in the game and a key reason Tampa made its run this year. He will take up a lot of cap space though, so players like Sean Bergenheim and Adam Hall may be on the way out. Both Roloson and Smith's contracts are up, so they need to decide on a goalie. Tampa had a magical run, but will need some magic to figure out the cap situation. Eric Brewer needs to be signed too as well as Marc Andre Bergeron. Steve Yzerman needs to figure this out if Tampa is going to be good for a long time.
Cap Space- $22 million, 15 players signed
Needs- Special Teams
The Maple Leafs seem to be on the right track with their second half turnaround with the emergence of Reimer. With him signed, the Leafs can focus on bringing back Luke Schenn and Justin Gunnarsson, who are RFA's. In addition, a decision needs to be made on Clarke MacArthur and Tyler Bozak. I think all should be signed except for Bozak. There have also been rumblings about Brad Richards, and the decision may not be a bad one. Phil Kessel needs a center.
But I am skeptical just like I am with the Rangers. The Leafs are not ready to win the Stanley Cup yet, so don't waste the $7 or $8 million Richards will demand just yet. Toronto needs penalty killers, as their penalty kill was 28th this season. A playoff team needs to get that better and address this. The power play was not good as well. The Maple Leafs are ready to make the playoffs for the first time since the lockout, but Brad Richards is the question.
Cap Space- $11 million, 18 players signed
Needs- Re-sign Penalty Killers
Who knows what to do with the Capitals? Trading Semin may be the best option because he seems to be bringing the team down. The Caps need to re-sign Brooks Laich. He is an indispensable part of this team. He is more important than Semin. Ovechkin committed to playing a more defensive game, which did not work, although he had a great playoffs. Washington now has a good goalie to depend on and some solid defenders. This team is like the Sharks, where they look really good on paper but cannot seem to put it together on the ice. Getting more grinders may be the key to this team, and trading Semin to make room for them could be the first start.
(that's right, the Jets)
Cap Space- $26 million, 15 players signed
Needs- Penalty Kill, defense
The Jets are going to try and bring back key players like Zach Bogosian and Andrew Ladd. The penalty kill struggled, ranking 27th next season. The goaltending was solid, but the defense was really weak. The defense needs to be revamped around Byfuglien, and some defensive defenders need to be signed. I also buy that a new home could buy this team more wins. A good scorer could always be used, but defense is the key if the Winnipeg franchise wants to make the playoffs.
Comments, arguments? Thanks for the read and enjoy the game tonight.