NHL Free Agents: 8 Teams That Have Gotten Worse This Summer

Ryan DavenportContributor IJuly 12, 2011

NHL Free Agents: 8 Teams That Have Gotten Worse This Summer

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    The weeks following July 1 that is commonly referred to as the NHL Free Agency season is a time in which all 30 NHL teams attempt to strengthen their rosters for the upcoming season.  

    Each year, general managers across the league do this by orchestrating blockbuster trades and luring free agents to their clubs in order to improve the short and long-term fortunes of their franchise.

    The 2011 offseason has been a particularly busy one, as a number of big-name players have changed addresses, and some teams have emerged as big winners on the free agency market.  

    While many teams appear to have gotten stronger, there are a number who don't look nearly as good as they did prior to the NHL Draft.  Here are the top eight teams that fall into that category. 

8. Philadelphia Flyers

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    For the past two decades, the Flyers have failed to win a Stanley Cup in large part due to their inability to find a viable number one goaltender, so general manager Paul Holmgren opted to ink Ilya Bryzgalov to a massive contract.  

    However, in order to do so, the Flyers moved Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, two of the best forwards in the game, and didn't receive any game-breaking talent in return.  

    After losing Carter and Richards, Holmgren also moved plucky winger Kris Versteeg to Florida, so the team moved three of their biggest offensive weapons over the course of the summer.  

    While the Flyers signed former Penguins superstar Jaromir Jagr and 2009 Stanley Cup hero Maxine Talbot, it's unclear what kind of an impact either will have on the team's offense.  

7. Minnesota Wild

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    The Minnesota Wild entered the 2011 offseason with one goal in mind: acquire players who can put the puck in the net.  

    While the team did accomplish that mission by trading for Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley, they sacrificed a great deal by giving up franchise defenseman Brent Burns and Martin Havlat in the process.  

    Though Havlat didn't perform up to Minnesota's expectations, Heatley looked lost during the 2011 postseason and hasn't scored at the same clip since leaving Ottawa in 2009.

    Setoguchi is a talented forward, but he's not going to produce at the same level that Havlat did, so the Wild may still struggle to score in 2011-12.  

6. Dallas Stars

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    The Dallas Stars did make some interesting signings after July 1, but losing their best player automatically makes them a weaker team entering next season.  

    Brad Richards' departure was all but assumed in the weeks leading up to the offseason, so general manager Joe Nieuwendyk was forced to acquire some offensive talent on the free agent market.  

    Unfortunately for Nieuwendyk and the Stars, there was not an impact player like Richards on the market, so they had to settle for complimentary pieces like Michael Ryder, Radek Dvorak and Vernon Fiddler.  

    Sheldon Souray could bring some scoring punch from the blue line, but it won't be enough to compensate for the loss of Richards. 

5. Winnipeg Jets

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    The Winnipeg Jets are on this list because of what they didn't accomplish this offseason, which is acquire immediate scoring help for a team that lacks a bona fide offensive threat up front.  

    Though the Jets were able to ink captain Andrew Ladd to an extension, they didn't add any offensive pieces besides Eric Fehr, so it looks like they'll have trouble scoring again in 2011-12.  

    The Jets' management announced they wouldn't be making a large splash in the free agency pool in the weeks leading up to July 1, and they stuck to their word.  

    While the city is obviously extremely excited about bringing an NHL team back to Winnipeg, they may have to wait a few years before their Jets are challenging for a playoff spot.  

4. Montreal Canadiens

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    Entering the 2011 offseason, the Montreal Canadiens had a slew of defensemen up for unrestricted free agency, so the team was forced to make some difficult decisions.  

    In the end, the Canadiens said goodbye to two of their best rearguards in Roman Hamrlik and James Wisniewski, who each received big-money contracts on July 1.  

    While Montreal did add speedy forward Erik Cole to the mix, they lost size and talent on the back end, which makes the team less intimidating, at least on paper.  

    The Canadiens still appear to be a playoff team, but their blue line isn't as strong as it's been in previous years.  

3. Nashville Predators

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    After an impressive run to the Western Conference Semifinals, the Nashville Predators entered the most important offseason in the franchise's short history, as they hoped to build on last season's performance. 

    Captain Shea Weber is still unsigned, but with salary arbitration coming up, it seems that he will remain in Nashville for the foreseeable future.  

    However, they lost the best player from their 2011 playoff run, as Joel Ward was signed by Washington on July 1.  

    In addition to Ward, the Predators traded away their biggest prize from the 2010 offseason, shipping injured center Matthew Lombardi to Toronto.  While losing Lombardi will hurt, the Predators will also miss promising young defenseman Cody Franson who was also dealt to the Maple Leafs.  

    With no major signings besides Niclas Bergfors, who they inked to a one-year deal at a bargain basement price, the Predators lineup isn't as impressive as it was a season ago.  

2. Ottawa Senators

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    The Ottawa Senators have had bad luck with big-money free agents in recent years, as Sergei Gonchar and Alexei Kovalev both failed to live up to expectations.  

    So, instead of continuing to spend on aging veterans, the Senators have opted to basically stand pat during the offseason and hope that some of their younger players can step up and play big roles for the team in 2011-12.  

    However, this team is missing a lot especially up front, and the Senators could definitely use a secondary scoring threat, or even a primary one to play with Jason Spezza. 

    The only place the team looks good is in between the pipes, as Craig Anderson will give the Senators good goaltending on a nightly basis. 

1. Phoenix Coyotes

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    Like Dallas, Phoenix is on this list in large part because they lost their best player early in the offseason when they dealt Ilya Bryzgalov's rights to the Philadelphia Flyers.  

    Bryzgalov was instrumental in the Coyotes' run to the 2011 playoffs, and Mike Smith, his successor in between the pipes, is not a goaltender of the same calibre.  

    The Coyotes do deserve credit for managing to keep Keith Yandle, but losing veteran rearguard Ed Jovanovski doesn't help matters on the back end.