NHL Predictions: Projecting Each Team's 2012-2013 Opening Night Lineup

Jake WareCorrespondent IIISeptember 6, 2011

NHL Predictions: Projecting Each Team's 2012-2013 Opening Night Lineup

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    One of the most exciting times for a hockey fan is the offseason. Players move, teams change and the NHL generally has a new look at the back end of it all. 

    We have a long season ahead of us before the next offseason. A lot of things will happen between now and then, and at the end of it all we will have crowned a new Stanley Cup champion. After that, we'll have the same draft, the same free agency and the same trade window. It's always riveting.

    The 2012 free agency crop is a relatively thin one, but still includes names like Alexander Semin, Zach Parise, Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne. The summer will be exciting and, as mentioned, the NHL will come out with a new look.

    It is impossible to predict what the NHL will look like this year, and it is even more madness to even begin to imagine the teams a year from now. Nevertheless, this is a wild guess.

Anaheim Ducks

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    Trade: Anaheim Ducks acquire C Riley Sheahan from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for RW Dan Sexton 

    The Ducks appear to be in a youth movement, and acquiring young prospect Riley Sheahan from the Wings would further that. There is not too much depth in the prospect pool down the middle, but the 21st overall pick in 2010 would change that.

    Kristian Huselius comes in as the only significant free-agent signing. The Ducks will be looking to replace Teemu Selanne, and while Huselius is nowhere near that level, he'll definitely help carry the burden. He has proven he is an elite NHL scorer and will help the young stars on his line mature.

    Peter Holland, Devante Smith-Pelly, Rikard Rakell, Sami Vatanen and Timo Pielmeier will all be ready to become full-time NHLers. As mentioned, this is a transitional period for the Ducks, built around the youth, but everything will look a lot brighter on the other side.

    Greener pastures are ahead for the Anaheim Ducks.


    Bobby Ryan - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry

    Kristian Huselius - Peter Holland - Emerson Etem

    Devante Smith-Pelly - Andrew Cogliano - Rikard Rakell

    Matt Beleskey - Brandon McMillan - George Parros


    Cam Fowler - Lubomir Visnovsky

    Sami Vatanen - Toni Lydman

    Francois Beauchemin - Luca Sbisa


    Jonas Hiller

    Timo Pielmeier

Boston Bruins

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    The Boston Bruins will inevitably have a re-modelled left wing. Pouliot was a good signing. He adds grit and scoring while he is still developing. Khokhlachev will make the team as a rookie. Cody McLeod is a potential signing who would add more fighting spirit to one of the best fourth lines in the league.

    Tyler Seguin will be ready to step up and be the team's best player in this contract season. He will no longer be the fresh-faced rookie we know him as now. Dougie Hamilton joins Zdeno Chara to create one of the meanest defensive pairings in the NHL. Winger Jordan Caron is also ready for NHL action. He is Seguin's future winger, and is already a veteran of 23 NHL games. 

    Marc Savard may unfortunately never play again. The Bruins are going to have to take that into account as they move forward over the next few seasons. While they are out of "Toronto" picks, their key to success in the Stanley Cup Finals was a deep center corps. It is important they replenish that in the 2012 draft.

    This season is likely the last season for Tim Thomas.


    Milan Lucic - Tyler Seguin - Nathan Horton

    Benoit Pouliot - David Krejci - Brad Marchand

    Alex Khokhlachev - Patrice Bergeron - Jordan Caron

    Cody McLeod - Rich Peverley - Shawn Thornton


    Zdeno Chara - Dougie Hamilton

    Johnny Boychuk - Dennis Seidenberg

    Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid


    Tim Thomas

    Tuukka Rask

Buffalo Sabres

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    Trade: Buffalo Sabres acquire C Tyler Bozak from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for LW Tyler Ennis

    The Buffalo Sabres are rapidly growing into one of the NHL's most complete teams. Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr come in as two great signings, and Joel Armia will be ready for NHL duty. The team is so deep, in fact, that it is hard to find a place where they can improve.

    That said, with the team's new-found depth at the wing position, Tyler Ennis may become expendable. Tyler Bozak would come in and become a top-tier center for them, while adding more size to the team. The 25-year-old is ready to become an elite player on an elite team in the NHL.

    Some top prospects are ready to step in, including Armia, Mark Pysyk and Zack Kassian. 

    One question the Sabres are faced with is how long they can go on with Jason Pominville and Drew Stafford on the team. They have a lot of good young right wingers waiting for a chance, and we could see a trade involving one of those two players soon.


    Thomas Vanek - Derek Roy - Jason Pominville

    Ville Leino - Tyler Bozak - Joel Armia

    Nathan Gerbe - Luke Adam - Drew Stafford

    Matt Ellis - Paul Gaustad - Zack Kassian


    Christian Ehrhoff - Tyler Myers

    Mark Pysyk - Robyn Regehr

    Andrej Sekera - Marc-Andre Gragnani


    Ryan Miller

    Jhonas Enroth

Calgary Flames

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    Trade: Calgary Flames acquire C Antoine Vermette from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for D Brett Carson and a 2013 Third-Round Pick.

    The Calgary Flames are in a rebuilding phase, and they need to stick to it. Getting a player like Vermette gives you a good veteran to build around. Carson likely won't be in the team's long-term plans, and the Blue Jackets could use more defensemen.

    The Flames have three great lines. Now the next step is to fill out the defense and replace the veterans. They will likely have a high pick in 2012, a year filled with good defenseman. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Flames finally pick up a replacement for Dion Phaneuf.

    Top youngsters Sven Bärtschi and Greg Nemisz are ready to step up on the right wing. The Flames should now turn to filling out the left wing and center positions in the later rounds of the 2012 draft and hope for a gem.

    Rene Bourque - Mikael Bäcklund - Jarome Iginla

    Alex Tanguay - Antoine Vermette - Lee Stempniak

    Curtis Glencross - Matt Stajan - Sven Bärtschi

    Tim Jackman - Bryan Cameron - Greg Nemisz


    Jay Bouwmeester - Mark Giordano 

    Cory Sarich - Brendan Mikkelson

    Chris Butler - Anton Babchuk


    Miikka Kiprusoff

    Henrik Karlsson

Carolina Hurricanes

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    Trade: Carolina Hurricanes acquire RW Matt D'Agostini from the St Louis Blues in exchange for D Bobby Sanguinetti and a 2012 Third-Round Pick

    The Carolina Hurricanes will likely be active in free agency. They will be looking for help on the wing and on defense. Kostitsyn is a good first- or second-line goalscoring winger, while Barret Jackman is a good leader and would be great as a complement and a mentor to one of the younger defensemen. Speaking of younger players, several 'Canes prospects will be ready for NHL duty, including top defensemen Ryan Murphy and Justin Faulk and center Zac Dalpe.

    As for the trade, D'Agostini is a player on the rise and at least one of the youngsters will be expendable. At 24, D'Agostini is developing into a prime goalscorer in St. Louis. You give up a good young prospect and a decent pick, but the Ryan Murphy pick could well mean Sanguinetti drops further down the depth chart sooner than originally expected. 

    This Hurricanes team looks strong. They have good lines and a solid defense. They could surprise some people in 2012-13.


    Jussi Jokinen - Eric Staal - Tuomo Ruutu

    Andrei Kostitsyn - Jeff Skinner - Matt D'Agostini

    Alexei Ponikarovsky - Brett Sutter - Anthony Stewart

    Jiri Tlusty - Zac Dalpe - Chad LaRose


    Joni Pitkanen - Tomas Kaberle

    Barret Jackman - Ryan Murphy

    Justin Faulk - Bryan Allen


    Cam Ward

    Brian Boucher

Chicago Blackhawks

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    With a lot done in free agency this season, the Blackhawks are unlikely to be too active. That said, most of the signings were one-year contracts, so they have kept room for their prospects next season. It's obvious the 'Hawks are making an attempt to get tougher; it shows in the nature of those prospects they have picked up in the past few drafts. 

    It wouldn't be at all surprising to see four or five of their best youngsters on the team. Guys like Marcus Kruger, Mark McNeill and Brandon Saad should be around on the offense, with Dylan Olsen finally breaking through on the blue line. The Chicago Blackhawks have a treasure chest full off elite prospects ready for the NHL, and while the team might experience growing pains, it is only a matter of time before they are back on top of the world. 

    The top line will stay intact, while Michael Frolik will step into an increased role on the second line. Alexander Salak is the long-term backup goalie for the 'Hawks.


    Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane

    Rostislav Olesz - Michael Frolik - Marian Hossa

    Viktor Stålberg - Marcus Kruger - Bryan Bickell

    Brandon Saad - Mark McNeill - Daniel Carcillo


    Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

    Niklas Hjalmarsson - Nick Leddy

    Sami Lepisto - Dylan Olsen


    Corey Crawford

    Alexander Salak

Colorado Avalanche

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    The Colorado Avalanche will continue to build their team through youth. Their top three lines have only two players over the age of 25, and only one defenseman is over 26. They possess one of the league's top prospects in Landeskog and arguably its best young goalie in Semyon Varlamov. This will be a difficult year for the Avs, but the future is bright. With a couple more good draft selections, the Stanley Cup could be on the horizon sooner rather than later.

    The only place where they could realistically improve is on the bottom line, finding a grinding forward to complement the youngsters ahead. Blair Betts is a good Colorado-type player. Denver legend Milan Hejduk could leave the club in free agency in the hope of finding one last Stanley Cup. 

    Landeskog, Ryan Stoa, Duncan Siemens and Tyson Barrie should make an impact right away for Colorado. They have traded away their top pick in next year's draft, so the pressure on these players is high. They need to be able to handle it.


    Gabriel Landeskog - Matt Duchene - Peter Mueller

    TJ Galiardi - Paul Stastny - David Jones

    Ryan Stoa - Joey Hishon - Ryan O'Reilly

    Joakim Lindström - Blair Betts - Chuck Kobasew


    Erik Johnson - Jan Hejda

    Duncan Siemens - Matt Hunwick

    Tyson Barrie - Ryan Wilson


    Semyon Varlamov

    Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Trade: Columbus Blue Jackets acquire Brett Carson and a 2013 Third-Round Pick from the Calgary Flames in exchange for Antoine Vermette

    With Ryan Johansen coming into town, Antoine Vermette is not longer needed. Carson has good potential and the Jackets are in a rebuilding stage. Every pick makes a difference, especially for a team in the position that the Jackets are in. 

    Brad Boyes would be a good pick-up to create a good, fairly young first line.  They would complement each other well and have the potential to become one of the league's elite lines. The Jackets also need someone to back up Steve Mason. Scott Clemmensen could spot duty in that position until a more permanent option is found. That should be in the 2012 draft. The team's prospect pool is well-rounded, and it wouldn't be surprising to see them sacrifice a high pick on a talented goalie.

    Cam Atkinson, Tomas Kubalik and John Moore are ready for the NHL. 

    Rick Nash - Jeff Carter - Brad Boyes

    Maksim Mayorov - Ryan Johansen - RJ Umberger

    Matt Calvert - Derick Brassard - Cam Atkinson

    Jared Boll - Samuel Påhlsson - Tomas Kubalik


    James Wisniewski - John Moore

    Fedor Tyutin - Marc Methot

    Kris Russell - Brett Carson


    Steve Mason

    Scott Clemmensen

Dallas Stars

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    The biggest news is that Scott Glennie should finally be ready for the NHL. He'll come in on a strong third line and grow into a role while some of the other more experienced players take the ice time. Fellow youngster Jack Campbell should start his big-league career as a backup. Jamie Oleksiak will also be ready, and should step straight into his new role alongside Alex Goligoski.

    Jiri Hudler would be an interesting addition. He can still produce at the NHL level and could create a formidable second line alongside Jamie Benn and Michael Ryder. With the financial crisis in Dallas, it will be difficult for them to attract big-name players. They may have to make do and work with several small-name, productive players. Buffalo is a good example for them.

    Unfortunately, the loss of Brad Richards leaves the Dallas team looking a little bit weak. Improvements are needed in the drafts ahead. A high pick could be around the corner for the NHL's Texas team.


    Brenden Morrow - Mike Ribeiro - Loui Eriksson

    Jiri Hudler - Jamie Benn - Michael Ryder

    Steve Ott - Vernon Fiddler - Scott Glennie

    Krys Barch - Tom Wandell - Eric Godard


    Jamie Oleksiak - Alex Goligoski

    Nicklas Grossman - Trevor Daley

    Adam Pardy - Stephane Robidas


    Kari Lehtonen

    Jack Campbell

Detroit Red Wings

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    Trade: Detroit Red Wings acquire RW Shane Doan from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for C Cory Emmerton and a 2012 Second-Round Pick

    Trade: Detroit Red Wings acquire RW Dan Sexton from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for C Riley Sheahan

    Shane Doan becomes a free agent at the end of the season, but it's not likely the Coyotes let him go for free. Emmerton is a good prospect, but Doan could bring the Wings closer to another Cup. He's a great leader, and would be a phenomenal complement to Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk on the Wings' top line.

    They also acquire 24-year-old winger Dan Sexton from the Ducks. The Minnesota native is a growing player and will be Doan's eventual replacement on the top line. You give up top prospect Riley Sheahan, but the young depth down the middle allows for the move. 

    Wouldn't be at all surprising to see the Wings sign Jonas Gustavsson. He's an elite goaltender and would be the best backup in the league behind Jimmy Howard.

    Holding on to Niklas Kronwall will become the key offseason task for the Wings.


    Henrik Zetterberg - Pavel Datsyuk - Shane Doan

    Johan Franzen - Darren Helm - Dan Sexton

    Calle Järnkrok - Valtteri Filppula - Tomas Jurco

    Drew Miller - Justin Abdelkader - Patrick Eaves


    Niklas Kronwall - Ian White

    Jonathan Ericsson - Brendan Smith

    Brad Stuart - Jakub Kindl


    Jimmy Howard

    Jonas Gustavsson

Edmonton Oilers

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    Trade: Edmonton Oilers acquire C Dustin Jeffrey, D Ben Lovejoy and a 2012 Second-Round Pick from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for RW Ales Hemsky

    Trade: Edmonton Oilers acquire C Jason Spezza from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for C Sam Gagner, D Jeff Petry and a 2013 First-Round Pick

    Realistically, Ales Hemsky won't be around too much longer. At 28, he will leave to get a Stanley Cup chance. This is definitely a possible deadline-day trade, where the Oilers continue to build on their future with two good youngsters. 

    The other trade is another big one, with the Oilers creating a scary one-two punch down the middle. Spezza needs a fresh start, and while it costs a lot to get him, it will be well worth it.

    David Moss would be the only offseason acquisition as the fourth liner the Oilers need.

    This is the year the rebuild is no more. They are now on the fast track to a long playoff run.


    Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

    Magnus Paajarvi - Jason Spezza - Shawn Horcoff

    Ryan Smyth - Anton Lander - Linus Omark

    Ben Eager - Dustin Jeffrey - David Moss


    Ladislav Smid - Ryan Whitney

    Oscar Klefbom - Ben Lovejoy

    Martin Marincin - Theo Peckham


    Devan Dubnyk

    Olivier Roy

Florida Panthers

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    The Florida Panthers have an interesting roster. Rather than have some elite players and some grinders, they seemed to have built an offense with all second-rounders. It's a good tactic for them, though, as when some of these young players get older, they'll get better and could push the Panthers over the edge.

    Michael Repik and Evgeny Dadonov will be ready to step up full time, but may be buried on the depth chart. Jakob Markström is the league's top prospect and will be ready to take it by storm. Dmitry Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson are paired up for the first time. They will be arguably the league's best defensive pairing somewhere down the road.

    Scott Hannan adds good depth on defense until some of the middling prospects are ready to play. He's the kind of veteran you like to have, and is a good player to help carry you through this rebuilding stage. The Panthers could bring him in on a one-year deal. 

    The team will be built around Jonathan Huberdeau.


    Tomas Fleischmann - Jonathan Huberdeau - Kris Versteeg

    David Booth - Stephen Weiss - Scottie Upshall

    Sean Bergenheim - Mike Santorelli - Tomas Kopecky

    Michael Repik - Marcel Goc - Evgeny Dadonov


    Dmitry Kulikov - Erik Gudbranson

    Ed Jovanovski - Brian Campbell

    Keaton Ellerby - Scott Hannan


    Jakob Markström

    Jose Theodore

Los Angeles Kings

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    Trade: Los Angeles Kings acquire RW Alexander Semin and C Cody Eakin from the Washington Capitals in exchange for C Anze Kopitar and LW Kyle Clifford

    The LA Kings find themselves at the center of the biggest blockbuster trade of the summer, sending first-line center Anze Kopitar and fourth liner Kyle Clifford to the Washington Capitals for the goalscorer they so badly need in Alexander Semin and top prospect Cody Eakin. While they give up a lot, they get one of the league's best players (when he's on) along with an underrated center who has a bright future. Semin joins Dustin Penner and Mike Richards to create a formidable first line.

    Some prospects will be ready to step up, most notably, Tyler Toffoli. Cody Eakin will also win a spot out of training camp. This will be the last year they go with their two goalies. Wouldn't be surprising to see either Jonathan Bernier or Jonathan Quick traded between now and opening night next season.

    Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Alexander Semin

    Justin Williams - Andrei Loktionov - Dustin Brown

    Simon Gagne - Cody Eakin - Tyler Toffoli

    Brad Richardson - Kevin Westgarth - Scott Parse


    Drew Doughty - Jack Johnson

    Matt Greene - Rob Scuderi

    Alec Martinez - Slava Voynov


    Jonathan Bernier

    Jonathan Quick

Minnesota Wild

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    Trade: Minnesota Wild acquire D Dennis Wideman from the Washington Capitals in exchange for LW Johan Larsson and a 2012 Fourth-Round Pick

    The acquisitions from San Jose will likely assume roles on either side of Mikko Koivu. It is not a great first line, but the Wild's key to success will be their depth and skill throughout.

    Speaking of Koivu, super prospect Mikael Granlund will be allowed to grow in his shadow. Charlie Coyle and 2011 10th overall pick Jonas Brodin should make the jump to the NHL as well.

    The one trade involves the Wild acquiring 28-year-old offensive defenseman Dennis Wideman for prospect Johan Larsson and a pick. Wideman is a great player and one to build around. He'd improve the defense a lot and, as he is a UFA, would come remarkably cheap. Would be a real steal for the Wild. Tough to lose highly touted prospect Johan Larsson, but the acquisition of Coyle from the Sharks and the drafting of Zack Phillips means he could be shipped away. 


    Dany Heatley - Mikko Koivu - Devin Setoguchi

    Matt Cullen - Mikael Granlund - Cal Clutterbuck

    Charlie Coyle - Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Guillaume Latendresse

    Eric Nystrom - Darroll Powe - Brad Staubitz


    Marek Zidlicky - Jonas Brodin

    Dennis Wideman - Nick Schultz

    Marco Scandella - Greg Zanon


    Niklas Bäckström

    Matt Hackett

Montreal Canadiens

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    Several top young players are ready to step up for the Habs. Louis Leblanc and Danny Kristo will be given roster spots among the forwards, while Lars Eller and David Desharnais will continue to develop. Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu should be ready on the back end.

    It's unlikely they do too much to the team through trade or free agency as they don't have too many spots available. They do, however, need to add a lot of toughness to their bottom six. 91 penalty minute-man Adam Burish will add a little bit. The return of Max Pacioretty also strengthens the team a good bit.

    As mentioned, the Montreal Canadiens will inevitably have a large group of prospects stepping into the NHL. That gives them a nice mix between veterans and youngsters. Will that be the formula for a Stanley Cup?


    Mike Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Brian Gionta

    Max Pacioretty - Louis Leblanc - Erik Cole

    Lars Eller - Scott Gomez - Danny Kristo

    Travis Moen - David Desharnais - Adam Burish


    Andrei Markov - PK Subban

    Jaroslav Spacek - Jarred Tinordi

    Nathan Beaulieu - Josh Gorges


    Carey Price

    Peter Budaj

Nashville Predators

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    Trade: Nashville Predators acquire LW Zach Parise from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for D Shea Weber

    The Nashville Predators' need for a top-line scorer remains, and that need far overpowers the need for a top defenseman like Shea Weber. They ship him to New Jersey for former 92-point man Zach Parise. One unsettled player for another.

    It wouldn't be surprising to see them take a run at a guy like Mikhail Grabovski, who is coming off a 29-goal, 29-assist season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. They have some great young centers ready to step up and he could become expendable. He would be a good partner for Parise, and putting Hörnqvist on the other side makes for a good combination.

    Bringing back Pekka Rinne is a priority.


    Zach Parise - Mikhail Grabovski - Patric Hörnqvist

    Sergei Kostitysn - Mike Fisher - Martin Erat

    Austin Watson - Colin Wilson - Niclas Bergfors

    Nick Spaling - David Legwand - Jerred Smithson


    Ryan Ellis - Ryan Suter

    Kevin Klein - Jonathon Blum

    Francis Bouillon - 


    Pekka Rinne

    Andres Lindbäck

New Jersey Devils

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    Trade: New Jersey Devils acquire D Shea Weber from the Nashville Predators in exchange for LW Zach Parise

    Trade: New Jersey Devils acquire C Joe Pavelski from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for RW David Clarkson and a 2012 Second-Round Pick 

    With the high wage bill, it will be difficult for the New Jersey Devils to do too much over the next year. Getting Zach Parise back will be a priority, but he could become trade bait if at the right price. The Devils could do with a rebuild, and returning to their defensive roots and grabbing one of the league's best would be welcomed.

    In a second trade, the Devils get a great center in Joe Pavelski. The price is steep, but he is still only 27 and would give the Devils a scary one-two-three punch down the middle.

    Several top prospects are ready, including headliner Adam Larsson, but the big news is that Martin Brodeur is no longer the starting goalie. Unless he has a big turnaround this season, the Devils will look for a new guy in net. 

    Ilya Kovalchuk - Travis Zajac - Patrik Elias

    Dainius Zubrus - Jacob Josefson - Nick Palmieri

    Mattias Tedenby - Joe Pavelski - Vladimir Zharkov

    Eric Boulton - Dave Steckel - Cam Janssen


    Adam Larsson - Shea Weber

    Anton Volchenkov - Andy Greene

    Mark Fraser - Jon Merrill


    Antero Niittymaki

    Martin Brodeur 

New York Islanders

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    Trade: New York Islanders acquire D Jeff Schultz from the Washington Capitals in exchange for RW PA Parenteau

    Trade: New York Islanders acquire RW Chris Neil and a 2013 Third-Round Pick from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for D Andrew MacDonald

    With some top-end talent approaching fast through the pipeline, the Isles will need to offload some of their older top-six guys. That starts with PA Parenteau, who heads to Washington for defenseman Jeff Schultz, a former league plus-minus winner with a need for a fresh start.

    One mistake the Isles could make is the same as the Oilers, putting everything on the young guns. You need to complement them with some veterans. Chris Neil comes with a good pick for Andrew McDonald, freeing up some defensive space. Another good fit is Marco Sturm, who is one of the fastest players in the league and will be able to keep up with the youngster. Michal Roszival is also brought in to help mentor some of the bright defensive prospects. 

    Finally, this is the year the Isles realize they can't keep depending on Rick DiPietro's fitness for their goaltending. They bring in an established NHLer to compete with DiPietro and to provide good cover when the former is out injured. 


    Nino Niederreiter - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

    Matt Moulson - Ryan Strome - Michael Grabner

    Marco Sturm - Josh Bailey - Blake Comeau

    Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Chris Neil


    Mark Streit - Michal Roszival

    Travis Hamonic - Jeff Schultz

    Calvin de Haan - Mark Eaton


    Rick DiPietro

    Tomas Vokoun

New York Rangers

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    Trade: New York Rangers acquire D Johnny Oduya and C Jim Slater from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for C Brian Boyle and D Mike Sauer

    In the trade, the Rangers get one of the NHL's most underrated players in Johnny Oduya. He would become a great complement to Dan Girardi and would give the team two top-tier defensive pairings. Jim Slater could become the solid fourth-line center that the team needs, and they'd be worth giving up Brian Boyle for that luxury.

    Derek Stepan steps up to create an intimidating second line. They have the potential to score a lot of goals with a simple, gritty style. Kreider, Richards and Gaborik begin what could be a decade of dominance as the team's first line.

    Jesper Fasth is a top talent and could be a dark horse. 

    Chris Kreider - Brad Richards - Marian Gaborik

    Brandon Dubinsky - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan

    Christian Thomas - Artem Anisimov - Mats Zuccarello-Aasen

    Brandon Prust - Jim Slater - Jesper Fasth


    Marc Staal - Tim Erixon

    Dan Girardi - Johnny Oduya

    Michael Del Zotto - Dylan McIlrath


    Henrik Lundqvist

    Martin Biron

Ottawa Senators

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    Trade: Ottawa Senators acquire C Sam Gagner, D Jeff Petry and a 2013 First-Round Pick from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for C Jason Spezza

    Trade: Ottawa Senators acquire D Andrew MacDonald from the New York Islanders in exchange for RW Chris Neil and a 2013 Third-Round Pick

    The Ottawa Senators are in the early stages of a rebuild, and Jason Spezza isn't one of the players they are planning on building around. To get a return like this would be a great deal for the Sens. Sam Gagner is one of the best young players in the league and is very much on the rise. He would be the team's future second-line center.

    This is the year the Senators' future first line (built completely in the 2011 draft) takes shape. Matt Puempel, Mika Zibanejad and Stefan Noesen join forces for the first time and create a formidable line. Some other top prospects step up, with Rundblad and Lehner leading the group.

    Milan Michalek - Sam Gagner - Daniel Alfredsson

    Matt Puempel - Mika Zibanejad - Stefan Noesen

    Nikita Filatov - Peter Regin - Stephane Da Costa

    Nick Foligno - Zenon Konopka - Bobby Butler


    Erik Karlsson - Jared Cowen

    David Rundblad - Chris Phillips

    Andrew McDonald - Patrick Wiercioch


    Robin Lehner

    Craig Anderson 

Philadelphia Flyers

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    Claude Giroux will likely move to right wing eventually with the top great young prospects in the Flyers' system. James Van Riemsdyk and Danny Briere join him on a strong first line. Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier will be ready to step up into full time NHL roles.

    With the good young players, the Flyers need to find some good veterans to help them grow. Jason Blake is a 38-year-old NHL veteran (who could well retire) but he has shown his ability to produce offensively and he is one of the few veterans in the league who would be able to keep up.

    It is unlikely the Flyers try too much through trade or free agency. Some good youngsters are ready to step up and the key to building a successful NHL team is to give the kids a roster spot and a chance to grow. 


    James Van Riemsdyk - Danny Breire - Claude Giroux

    Jason Blake - Brayden Schenn - Jakub Voracek

    Scott Hartnell - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds

    Jody Shelley - Max Talbot - Jason Akeson


    Kimmo Timonen - Chris Pronger

    Matt Carle - Erik Gustafsson

    Andrej Meszaros - Oskars Bartulis


    Ilya Bryzgalov

    Sergei Bobrovsky

Phoenix Coyotes

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    Trade: Phoenix Coyotes acquire LW Mason Raymond and G Cory Schneider from the Vancouver Canucks for LW Lauri Korpikoski, G Mark Visentin, and a 2013 2nd Round Pick

    Trade: Phoenix Coyotes acquire C Cory Emmerton and a 2012 2nd Round Pick from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for RW Shane Doan

    The Phoenix Coyotes solve all their goaltending problems for the next decade. They give up top prospect Mark Visentin, but Cory Schneider is the best back-up in the NHL and is more than capable of being a full time goalie. Mason Raymond is a good young player who is developing fast and could be a solid first liner as soon as next year.

    The other trade sees the Coyotes acquire a 23-year-old veteran of three AHL seasons. Shane Doan almost certainly won't stay around longer than next year, and Emmerton could develop into a player of a similar role. 

    Veteran Vaclav Prospal is the one free agent signing. He is a top end veteran who would be a good presence around the young guys on his line.

    Mason Raymond - Kyle Turris - Mikkel Boedker

    Radim Vrbata - Martin Hanzal - Viktor Tikhonov

    Vaclav Prospal - Daymond Langkow - Andy Miele

    Raffi Torres - Cory Emmerton - Boyd Gordon  


    Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Keith Yandle

    Brandon Gormley - Rostislav Klesla

    Derek Morris - Maxim Goncharov


    Cory Schneider

    Mike Smith 

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Trade: Pittsburgh Penguins acquire RW Ales Hemsky from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for C Dustin Jeffrey, D Ben Lovejoy, and a 2012 3rd Round Pick

    The Pittsburgh Penguins are now pushing for another Stanley Cup. You have to sacrifice your future somewhat to be able to win now. They do that in the trade. Trading away two top youngsters and a pick, the Pens finally bring in Sidney Crosby's elite winger. Ales Hemsky is one of the league's elite playmakers, and with Crosby's emergence as a premier goalscorer the partnership could be deadly. Malkin moves to the other wing to create the best line in the league.

    You have to complement your youngsters with good, seasoned veterans. That is what Saku Koivu would do. The 36-year-old Finn has never won a Cup and would head to Pittsburgh for one last chance.

    Prospects Beau Bennett, Eric Tangradi, and Simon Despres are ready to step up.

    Evgeny Malkin - Sidney Crosby - Ales Hemsky

    James Neal - Saku Koivu - Beau Bennett

    Matt Cooke - Jordan Staal - Tyler Kennedy

    Eric Tangradi - Mark Letestu - Arron Asham


    Kris Letang - Brooks Orpik

    Paul Martin - Zbynek Michalek

    Simon Depsres - Deryk Engelland


    Marc-Andre Fleury

    Brent Johnson

San Jose Sharks

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    Trade: San Jose Sharks acquire RW David Clarkson and a 2012 2nd Round Pick from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for C Joe Pavelski

    The Sharks need to ease the logjam down the middle, and shipping Joe Pavelski to the Devils would certainly help. In return you get one of the league's best fourth liners and a good pick.

    The deal makes sense because it has long been known the Sharks need to add some grit to their bottom lines. Jason Chimera also brings that as a free agent from the Caps. All of a sudden, the Sharks have a go-to-the-net, fighting, scoring fourth line.

    Nick Petrecki and Thomas Greiss are welcomed to the big leagues permanently. Martin Havlat creates one of the best lines in the world with Thornton and Marleau, while Brent Burns does the same with Dan Boyle. The Sharks need to find an elite right winger from somewhere, and Hejduk will likely leave the Avalanche in search of one last Stanley Cup.


    Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Martin Havlat

    Ryan Clowe - Logan Couture - Milan Hejduk

    Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Benn Ferriero

    Jason Chimera - Torrey Mitchell - David Clarkson


    Dan Boyle - Brent Burns

    Douglas Murray - Marc-Edouard Vlasic

    Jason Demers - Nick Petrecki


    Antti Niemi

    Thomas Greiss

St Louis Blues

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    Trade: St Louis Blues acquire D Bobby Sanguinetti and a 2012 3rd Round Pick from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for RW Matt D'Agostini

    Trade: St Louis Blues acquire D Zach Bogosian from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for RW TJ Oshie

    The St Louis Blues continue their defensive rebuild by acquiring top young defensemen Bobby Sanguinetti and Zach Bogosian. They have drafted extremely well at forward in recent seasons, but, with the expection of Alex Pietrangelo, the same can't be said on defense. TJ Oshie and Matt D'Agostini have been rumoured to be on the way out, and now those deals are completed to bring in two great youngsters. 

    Vladimir Tarasenko is ready to step up, and should become a big player right away. Dmitrij Jaskin and Stefan Della Rovere are also good prospects, and they could both see time coming straight out of training camp.


    David Perron - David Backes - Vladimir Tarasenko

    Alexander Steen - Patrik Berglund - Chris Stewart

    Vladimir Sobotka - Jason Arnott - Dmitrij Jaskin

    Stefan Della Rovere - Scott Nichol - BJ Crombeen


    Zach Bogosian - Alex Pietrangelo

    Kevin Shattenkirk - Bobby Sanguinetti

    Nikita Nikitin - Roman Polak


    Jaroslav Halak

    Brian Elliott

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    The future is bright for the Tampa Bay Lightning, but as mentioned countless times before without seasoned veterans you will get nowhere. Tomas Holmström is perfect for the Lightning. He would come in as a drive-the-net force on the first line, and would leave Steven Stamkos flanked by two Stanley Cup winning players. You would have to work hard to find better support.

    One interesting possibility is an all prospect third line, as Carter Ashton, Slava Namestnikov, and Brett Connolly step up. These are future top six players for the Bolts, and to have them develop and get to know each other on the ice is a tantalizing prospect for the Bolts. They all come from successive drafts.

    Dustin Tokarski will be given a chance to become the goalie of the future in Tampa. 

    Tomas Holmström - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis

    Ryan Malone - Vincent Lecavalier - Teddy Purcell

    Carter Ashton - Vladislav Namestnikov - Brett Connolly

    Alexandre Picard - Nate Thompson - Steve Domnie


    Victor Hedman - Mattias Ohlund

    Marc-Andre Bergeron - Eric Brewer

    Pavel Kubina - Matt Gilroy


    Dustin Tokarski

    Mathieu Garon

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Trade: Toronto Maple Leafs acquire LW Tyler Ennis from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for C Tyler Bozak

    The Maple Leafs have constructed a good, young team, and they now set their sights on a return to the playoffs. 

    They have a lot of good centers in the team, so offloading one wouldn't hurt. They go get Buffalo winger Tyler Ennis, who is a big talent and a future first liner. Giving up Tyler Bozak hurts, but there are some good young centers in the pipeline ready to step up and fill the hole.

    One of those is Nazem Kadri, who takes the first line spot for good. Some other good young players are ready for NHL duty, most notably Jake Gardiner and Jussi Rynnas.

    Nikolai Kulemin - Nazem Kadri - Phil Kessel

    Tyler Ennis - Tim Connolly - Joffrey Lupul

    Clarke MacArthur - Matthew Lombardi - Colby Armstrong

    Jay Rosehill - Philippe Dupuis - Colton Orr


    Luke Schenn - Dion Phaneuf

    John-Michael Liles - Cody Franson

    Keith Aulie - Jake Gardiner


    James Reimer

    Jussi Rynnas


Vancouver Canucks

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    Trade: Vancouver Canucks acquire LW Lauri Korpikoski, G Mark Visentin, and a 2013 2nd Round Pick from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for LW Mason Raymond and G Cory Schneider

    The Canucks form half of the year's biggest 'hockey trade'. They give up Cory Schneider, but they get their goalie of the future in return with Mark Visentin. You could argue that Lauri Korpikoski is an improvement over Mason Raymond. 

    One of the main reasons the Canucks faltered in the 2011 Stanley Cup finally was that they were always outmatched when their fourth line went out. Simply put, they don't have one. They failed to address that this offseason, but that will be one of the key things for them. Pinizzotto would certainly bring the necessary grit to the fourth line. Gregory Campbell is the prefect candidate as well. he has emerged as one of the premier grinders in the game and is literally just what the 'Nucks are looking for.

    Cody Hodgson should finally have a spot, along with Niklas Jensen, Sebastian Erixon, and Chris Tanev.

    Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows

    Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - Mikael Samuelsson

    Lauri Korpikoski - Cody Hodgson - Niklas Jensen

    Gregory Campbell - Manny Malhotra - Steve Pinizzotto


    Kevin Bieksa - Dan Hamhuis

    Alexander Edler - Sebastian Erixon

    Chris Tanev - Keith Ballard


    Roberto Luongo

    Mark Visentin

Washington Capitals

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    Trade: Washington Capitals acquire C Anze Kopitar and LW Kyle Clifford from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for RW Alexander Semin and C Cody Eakin

    Trade: Washington Capitals acquire RW PA Parenteau from the New York Islanders in exchange for D Jeff Schultz

    Trade: Washington Capitals acquire LW Johan Larsson and a 2012 4th Round Pick from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for D Dennis Wideman

    General Manager George McPhee has remained steadfast in that he will not trade Alexander Semin. You have to think, though, that if a trade comes along that blows his socks off he'll have to accept. He gets such an offer from the Los Angeles Kings. Giving up Semin and top young prospect Cody Eakin, the Caps get in return center Anze Kopitar and winger Kyle Clifford. Kopitar, 24, has established himself as one of the league's premier two-way centers and would be a brilliant complement to Nicklas Bäckström. Clifford, 20, is a fast developing grinder who will be a fix on the third or fourth line for a long time to come.

    In the second trade, the Caps pick up a gritty goalscoring winger for a depth defenseman. He'll continue the Caps' recent trend of picking up good players who 'do the little things right'. Finally, the Caps ship defenseman Dennis Wideman to the Wild for a good prospect in Johan Larsson and continue to build on their stock for the 2012 draft with a fourth rounder. 

    McPhee makes one major splash in free agency, nabbing defenseman Brayden Coburn from the Flyers. The underrated 26-year-old becomes Mike Green's partner. Prospects Mattias Sjögren, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, and Braden Holtby win spots.  

    Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Bäckström - Troy Brouwer

    Brooks Laich - Anze Kopitar - Evgeny Kuznetsov

    Joel Ward - Marcus Johansson - PA Parenteau

    Kyle Clifford - Mattias Sjögren - Matt Hendricks


    Karl Alzner - John Carlson

    Brayden Coburn - Mike Green

    Dmitry Orlov - Roman Hamrlik


    Michal Neuvirth

    Braden Holtby

Winnipeg Jets

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    Trade: Winnipeg Jets acquire RW TJ Oshie from the St Louis Blues in exchange for D Zach Bogosian

    Trade: Winnipeg Jets acquire C Brian Boyle and D Mike Sauer from the New York Rangers in exchange for D Johnny Oduya and C Jim Slater

    The Jets are in the center of two big trades, most notably bringing in right winger TJ Oshie from the Blues for unsettled defenseman Zach Bogosian. The 24-year-old comes in and solidifies what will be one of the league's premier lines for the next decade. The other trade sees them get top third-line center Brian Boyle and a solid defenseman for Johnny Oduya and Jim Slater. 

    In free agency, the Jets add a veteran D-man in Willie Mitchell. He'll come in and help mentor the Thrashers' best defensive prospect, Paul Postma. They'll also look to pick up a cheap backup goalie, that man being journeyman Alex Auld.

    Carl Klingberg and Patrice Cormier will join Mark Scheifele as the team's rookies. 

    Evander Kane - Alexander Burmistrov - TJ Oshie

    Andrew Ladd - Mark Scheifele - Eric Fehr

    Carl Klingberg - Brian Boyle - Blake Wheeler

    Tanner Glass - Patrice Cormier - Spencer Machacek


    Dustin Byfuglien - Toby Enström

    Ron Hainsey - Mike Sauer

    Paul Postma - Willie Mitchell


    Ondrej Pavelec

    Alex Auld