NHL 2011-2012 Predictions: Five New Playoff Contenders After Free Agency

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NHL 2011-2012 Predictions: Five New Playoff Contenders After Free Agency
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Only two weeks into the month of July and the 2011 NHL Free Agency period, much of the activity that was bound to occur has already happened. With players like Ray Emery and Sergei Samsonov now the "highlights" of the free agents, most teams are now beginning to review their new roster for the upcoming 2011-2012 season and look towards training camp.

However, that's not to say that there still haven't been enough signings over the past 14 days to thoroughly shake up the league. Hundreds of players have switched teams, entire rosters in some cities have been transformed, and over a billion dollars (according to CapGeek.com) has been spent.

For teams who failed to make the postseason last April, the offseason was an especially important time as they looked to solve their issues and create a completely re-formed lineup capable of being consistent playoff contenders for years to come.

Unfortunately, not nearly all of the 14 non-playoff teams in '10-'11 were able to do that. Still, at least a few, in our minds, did. We've picked out five franchises over the span of both conferences who used an abundance of quality signings throughout the free agent period to become a team that appears, at least on paper, to be a legitimate playoff contender.

This is the first installment in a two-part series recapping the 2011 NHL offseason to date. Part Two discusses four teams who might be falling off the playoff picture after their [lack of] free agent signings.

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