NHL Free Agency/Trade Rumors: One Player Who Could Improve Each Team
Brad Richards and Joni Pitkanen have been replaced atop the list of available unrestricted free agents by the likes of Antti Miettinen and Bryan McCabe. Yeah, it's that time of year.
However, that does not mean that a move made in the homestretch of the offseason cannot return a solid benefit to a team looking to gain an extra edge heading into the upcoming season. Let's not forget Arron Asham, Andrew Ladd, and Ben Eager were all unsigned at this time a year ago and went on to have productive seasons.
The market isn't completely baron, and plenty of teams are still sifting through the available names in an attempt to plug holes, save a buck, or reach the salary cap floor. Don't be surprised if one of the signings the rest of the way ends up paying dividends when the NHL takes to the ice in October.
The following is one player each team could realistically add, either through free agency or the trade market, to benefit the team in 2011-2012.
Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter @MatthewFairburn for my thoughts on every signing that takes place from here on in.
The Anaheim Ducks realized late in the season just how important having a quality backup goaltender is. When Jonas Hiller went down with a concussion and the subsequent vertigo, the Ducks turned to Ray Emery, who provided solid play between the pipes down the stretch to preserve a playoff spot.
Now a free agent, Ray Emery has some options on the open market, though the Ducks would surely love to bring him back in case of any lingering injuries to Jonas Hiller. Dan Ellis simply isn't capable of handling backup duties the way Emery did this season.
The Boston Bruins have long been searching for a puck moving defenseman, but the addition of Joe Corvo appears to have quelled that desire a bit. However, Corvo is 34 years old and has had a bit of an up and down career in the NHL thus far.
Meanwhile, Anton Stralman, at just 24 years old, could come in and provide a high upside offensive talent for the Bruins' blue line. Not to mention, Stralman could come at a relatively cheap price tag due to his somewhat down year for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Buffalo Sabres are pressed against the cap and have made tons of moves to improve their roster this offseason, so expecting them to add anyone else is unrealistic. Instead, the Sabres will likely look to move some guys to the minors and free up a bit of cap space heading into the season.
Another top priority is locking up backup goaltender, Jhonas Enroth, to a contract extension. It may not be an addition per se, but Enroth is a restricted free agent and has played well enough in limited action to warrant an extension. If he's not locked up, Enroth would be in high demand on the open market.
The Calgary Flames are in a bit of a transition phase, with very little cap space and some irresponsibly hefty contracts. Among those with high price tags are Matt Stajan and Niklas Hagman, two of the most likely candidates to be moved, according to the Calgary Sun.
Obviously being pressed against the cap, the Flames would love to land draft choice compensation.
The Carolina Hurricanes are "basically done," according to Chip Alexander via Twitter, unless a good deal comes along. It's not that there are no players out there that could improve this team, but that the Canes are done wheeling and dealing this offseason.
That being said, I think Scott Hannon is exactly the type of player the Hurricanes could use on their blue line. He is a tough, physical leader with tons of experience on the back end. With all of the offensive prowess among Carolina rearguards, a bruiser would be ideal.
Once a highly touted youngster, Pascal LeClaire has suffered a serious fall from grace after a handful of injury plagued seasons in Ottawa and Columbus. The talent is still there with LeClaire, though. If he is put into a low-pressure situation in which he does not have to shoulder the load, LeClaire could be a solid contributor.
Thus, the Chicago Blackhawks seem like a solid fit. They are more than content starting Corey Crawford in net, but could use a quality backup netminder with Marty Turco's contract up. This could be an ideal match for each team.
The Colorado Avalanche have undergone a complete overhaul of their roster in the past six months. The team in place is younger and certainly has a bright future. However, a bit of leadership and experience up front never hurt anyone, and one guy on the market who could bring that to this team is Chris Drury.
Drury is a talented leader up front, but disappointed Rangers' fans after signing a deal worth $7 million a season. Now, Drury will come much cheaper and play a much different role, which will suit hm much better at this point in his career.
Columbus Blue Jackets
With the recent injury to Kristian Huselius, the Columbus Blue Jackets must once again hit the trade market to add some talent, and according to Sporting News, GM Scott Howson is willing to do so.
Ales Hemsky is a name being tied to trade rumors with Columbus. The talented center has had issues staying on the ice in his young career, but the Jackets would certainly love to add a player of his caliber to their top six.
But what else do they have to give up?
The Dallas Stars No. 1 priority this offseason was to find a new owner for the club. That hasn't happened yet, and as a result, Brad Richards took off for greener pastures. Meanwhile, the club added some talent on forward, but could still use a few guys on the backend to sure things up.
It may be unrealistic given the money tied into Dallas's blueline, but Scott Hannan has the experience and toughness the Stars could use in a rearguard.
Detroit Red Wings
Chris Osgood announced his retirement, leaving the Red Wings with a choice in terms of who will fill the backup goaltender void. Ty Conklin is currently an unrestricted free agent, and it's unclear whether or not the team will bring him back.
Another option for Detroit is Ducks' backup Ray Emery, who is currently a free agent. Having a dependable option behind Jimmy Howard is obviously very valuable, but which direction will the team head in?
It's no secret that the Edmonton Oilers have a bounty of young talent on their roster, especially up front. However, if the team was to deal Ales Hemsky after parting ways with Cogliano and Penner, the lack of experience up front would be mildy concerning.
Sergei Samsonov would be an excellent fit in Edmonton if the price is right. He started to find his groove towards the end of the year with Florida and is still just 32 years old. Maybe Samsonov has something left in the tank.
The Florida Panthers were among the biggest spenders during free agent frenzy, and for good reason, as the team was attempting to reach the new cap floor imposed by the league. Thus, there's reason to believe that the Florida Panthers are done shelling out money, for now.
However, the bottom three of the Panthers defense looks suspect at best. Adding another capable rearguard capable of playing in the top six would be wise for this team.
Los Angeles Kings
For the Los Angeles Kings, the concern has always been finding capable wingers to play alongside Anze Kopitar. This offseason, the club brought in Mike Richards and Simon Gagne, who will presumably play with one another given their history. So, that leaves the situation with Kopitar unchanged.
J.P. Dumont is nothing special, but depth on the wings is crucial for this team. The more wingers they have, the more creative they can be finding someone to play with Anze.
Bringing in Dany Heatley is team chemistry suicide. However, with the right cast of characters around him, perhaps Heatley could get motivated to be a bit less selfish on and off the ice.
Leaders like Chris Drury could be a part of the leadership in the Minnesota locker room, as well as provide a bit of production as a two-way forward in the later end of his career.
The Montreal Canadiens had tons of free agents this offseason and still have a few unsigned defensemen, leaving the blueline in an undesirable spot. Something tells me Montreal will look to address this as the offseason moves along.
Steve Staios is a player that will likely come very cheap and with tons of experience. He's an easy plug-and-play type of guy capable of fitting into any scheme.
Alexei Kovalev may not fit into the defensive style of play the Nashville Predators bring to the table, but his offensive ability is something the Preds would love to bring into the fold.
Kovalev had a rough start to the season in Ottawa, and Pittsburgh didn't treat him a whole lot better. However, Kovalev still has the ability to put up 40 or 50 points, and that's all the Predators would need.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils are in need of a sixth defenseman to round out their third pairing. There's a very good chance first-round pick Adam Larsson could immediately take a spot in the lineup, but the Devils could use an insurance option. There's no sense in rushing Larsson into action.
Brent Sopel is still an excellent edition as a third pairing defenseman.
New York Islanders
The New York Islanders have built a solid nucleus of young talent to build around for the future, but it's too early to consider them legitimate playoff contenders at this point. The club needs to add a few more forwards to the roster and spend some money to reach the cap floor.
Antti Miettinen is a solid fit, if he doesn't bolt for the KHL. He plays an excellent two-way game and can provide quite the offensive punch at times.
New York Rangers
The New York Rangers attempted to bring in the puck-moving defenseman they needed at the deadline by trading for Bryan McCabe. That experiment failed, so it's time for the club to look elsewhere to fill their needs.
It's a wonder that Anton Stralman is still on the market. He's young, he's talented, and he's been mildly productive in his short career. The Rangers would be wise to take a shot on him.
As mentioned before, J.P. Dumont is still available on the open market after being bought out by the Nashville Predators.
He would be an excellent fit with the Ottawa Senators, who could use some veteran wingers after undergoing a roster rebuild.
The Philadelphia Flyers have reached the contract limit after their signings today, and thus, cannot add anymore players to their roster even if they wanted to.
Of course, they could always make some trades or cut some cap space in other ways, but it appears that Paul Holmgren and the Flyers are finally going to stay put, for now.
The Phoenix Coyotes have been pretty active this offseason, but they still only have 11 forwards under contract for the upcoming season, with two restricted free agents still unsigned.
Everyone is wondering whether or not Antti Miettinen is going to stay in the NHL or not. Well, if he does, the Coyotes would likely be willing to give him a decent paycheck, given his terrific two-way game.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are both pressed agains the cap and short on roster space for the upcoming season.
Normally, I don't like to consider a team done for the offseason, but the Penguins look like they are ready for the season.
San Jose Sharks
Given the flurry of offseason activity in San Jose, the final piece to the puzzle is likely to be re-signing Kyle Wellwood or his replacement.
Considering Wellwood will likely come cheap, and with the money they have spent this offseason, finding a cheap option will be ideal.
St. Louis Blues
A season ago, the St. Louis Blues did not get exactly what they had hoped for in Jaroslav Halak. Sure, he had a pretty productive season, but he didn't shoulder the load as expected.
His 57 games played was pretty solid, but the .910 save percentage and 2.48 goals against average leave something to be desired.
Perhaps Halak would be more productive with a capable backup behind him. Ray Emery fits the bill.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The monkey is off Tampa Bay's back with the signing of superstar Steven Stamkos. However, the team still needs to add some experienced depth forwards to round out the roster and get the club ready for a deep postseason run.
One guy not yet mentioned in this article is Jarkko Ruutu, who is still on the open market. He's a high energy, bottom of the depth chart kind of player who could make an impact with the Lightning.
Toronto Maple Leafs
With most of Brian Burke's offseason work complete, signing restricted free agent Luke Schenn becomes the top priority for this team.
Scheen is obviously the future of this blue line, and pretty much every area of the ice has been secured for the Leafs.
A common theme in this article is teams done with their offseason maintenance that just needs to re-sign some key restricted free agents. With arbitration upcoming for many players, extensions will be reached with many of this players.
For the Canucks, Janik Hansen is the final piece that needs to be re-signed by the Vancouver Canucks.
Trade rumors are swirling about that the Capitals are interested in trading away Alexander Semin. Semin has been a productive winger for years with the Capitals and would bring back quite a return.
One such return that has been rumored is Zach Bogosian from the Winnipeg Jets. A presence like Bogosian on the blue line could take the Caps to a new level.
With the Alexander Semin trade rumors picking up steam, the Winnipeg Jets are one of the teams most commonly linked to the superstar winger.
The Jets would have to give up tons to get him, but there is little doubt that Semin would bolster the Winnipeg lineup in a big way.