NHL Free Agency: Teams That Will Be Busiest as Soon as Lockout Is Settled

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2012

NHL Free Agency: Teams That Will Be Busiest as Soon as Lockout Is Settled

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    This is among the most pessimistic moments of the lockout.

    Both sides seem to be in intractable positions, and the NHL Players' Association is taking steps to force the NHL's hand by filing a disclaimer of interest.

    This is a similar move to the one the NBA Players' Association made last year just before the NBA owners ended their lockout and that league was able to start its aborted season.

    If the two sides can put their angst and disagreements aside and find a way to come up with a new collective bargaining agreement, several teams will need to make key additions to their roster if they want to play competitively in the abbreviated season.

Anaheim Ducks

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    The Anaheim Ducks have a lot of work to do once the lockout comes to an end.

    They finished last in the Pacific Division last season (34-36-12 record) and won't turn their team around with a few free-agent signings once the lockout comes to an end, but at least they can get started.

    The Ducks struggle to put the puck in the net. If they are going to have any chance to become a a more competitive team, they are going to have to add more offensive firepower to head coach Bruce Boudreau's roster.

Buffalo Sabres

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    The Buffalo Sabres made it a point to try to change their personality in the last offseason by adding hard-nosed Steve Ott from the Dallas Stars.

    Ott will leave it all on the ice every night, and he will react with anger and nastiness if a player like Boston's Milan Lucic takes a run at goalie Ryan Miller like he did a year ago.

    Adding a player like Ott will help, but the Sabres need to get additional hard-nosed players who can also score. Ott is going to need some help in that area.

    The Sabres finished with 89 points last season and in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. They finished three points behind eighth-place Ottawa, and another key addition or two could put them back in the postseason.

Calgary Flames

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    The Calgary Flames are stuck in hockey's version of Ground Hog Day.

    The Flames are close to being a playoff team, but even if they could get there, they don't have the type of roster that would allow them to get past the first or second round.

    They have assets to sell in Miikka Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla, and if they made moves with those players, they could pick up young talent and valuable draft picks.

    That's unlikely to happen. If they are going to make one more run with the current roster and try to rise above the 37-29-16 record they had last year, they'll need to add some firepower to help them score more than the 202 goals they scored in 2011-12.

Montreal Canadiens

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    It was the worst of seasons for the Montreal Canadiens. Not only did they finish out of the playoffs in 2011-12, but they finished 15th and dead last in the Eastern Conference.

    The Canadiens made a complete changeover in their front office, bringing in head coach Michel Therrien and general manager Marc Bergevin to rebuild the franchise.

    The cupboard is not as bare as it seems, and the Canadiens may have enough talent to improve on their 31-35-16 record.

    Remember, they extended the eventual 2011 Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins to overtime of the seventh game in the first round of the playoffs before they succumbed.

    They have talent to work with in Max Pacioretty, Erik Cole, Lars Eller, Tomas Plekanec and goalie Carey Price.

    However, the Canadiens should make some additions on defense if they are going to show significant improvement and get back in the playoff picture.

Philadelphia Flyers

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    The Philadelphia Flyers have been a consistent playoff team in the Eastern Conference, and they made it to the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks.

    But they lost in the second round each of the last two seasons.

    The Flyers certainly have the offensive firepower to compete with the best teams in the Eastern Conference. However, their defense appears to be short.

    Start off with Chris Pronger's concussion-related problems, which are likely to keep him out of action for the season and may not allow him to resume his career. The Flyers also lost Andrej Meszaros to an Achilles injury, and veteran Kimmo Timonen has a lot of tread on his tires.

    The Flyers finished with a 47-26-9 record last year and may have a tough time reaching the upper levels of the Eastern Conference this season if they don't get some additional defensive help.

Tampa Bay Lightning

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning slipped out of the playoff picture after making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010-11.

    The talent level on the team is notable: Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Matt Carle, Victor Hedman and Sami Salo.

    Carle and Salo came to Tampa Bay in the offseason and should lift the team's defensive play.

    However, they may not have enough depth of scoring after their top two lines. Benoit Pouliot appears to be the left wing on their third line, and he is not going to help head coach Guy Boucher win many games.

    The Lightning should be better than the 38-36-8 record they had last year, but if they want to be a playoff team, they will need to be active in free agency once the lockout ends.


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