10 NHL GMs Who Must Make Moves This Summer

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2014

10 NHL GMs Who Must Make Moves This Summer

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    The NHL season may be over, but general managers now face their busiest time of the year.

    With the playoffs finally over, the GMs can now make trades with each other. They will also congregate in Philadelphia on June 27-28 for the 2014 NHL draft. They must attempt to re-sign their key free agents before the unrestricted free-agent period begins July 1. There's also the possibility of salary-arbitration hearings starting in late-July. 

    Several general managers will be busier than others this summer. The Globe & Mail's James Mirtle reports the salary cap could reach $70 million for 2014-15. Some general managers face shedding salary to free up cap space. Some must spend in order to reach the cap minimum, which TSN.ca projected could reach $52 million.

    Many on this list have glaring roster needs to address. 

    The moves made in the coming weeks by the 10 general managers on this list will significantly affect the performances of their respective teams in 2014-15. Factors such as salary-cap space, roster needs, players available as potential trade chips and possible free agent/trade targets factored into the ranking.

    All team salary information from CapGeek.com.

10. Kevin Cheveldayoff, Winnipeg Jets

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    Why He Must Make Moves This Summer

    Three years after relocating from Atlanta to Winnipeg, the Jets continue to spin their wheels, failing to qualify for a playoff berth. While the club remains well-supported in Winnipeg, Jets fans are growing impatient with the club's lack of progress. They need a scoring right wing, a true shutdown defender and a backup goalie.

    Sportsnet.ca's Mark Spector reports Cheveldayoff noted the difficulty in trying to find a trade partner willing to make a blockbuster deal.

    Potential Trade Bait

    TSN's Bob McKenzie speculates Cheveldayoff is open to moving any player, including winger Evander Kane. However, the Winnipeg Free Press' Gary Lawless doubts Cheveldayoff moves Kane unless it's for a substantial offer. Dustin Byfuglien is another possible trade option. Cheveldayoff could also shop his first-round pick (ninth overall) in this year's draft.

    Possible Trade/Free-Agent Targets

    If Kane is shopped, Cheveldayoff could move him to an Eastern Conference club. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Joe Starkey recommends a Kane-for-James Neal swap. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Sam Carchidi suggests the Flyers pursue Kane. The Jets, however, could seek Jakub Voracek, Matt Read or Sean Couturier in return. Chad Johnson could be a good backup option via free agency.

9. David Poile, Nashville Predators

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Why He Must Make Moves This Summer

    The Predators are a team in transition, having missed the playoffs the past two seasons and recently replaced long-time coach Barry Trotz with offensive-minded Peter Laviolette. While solid in goal and on defense, they must bolster their scoring depth to return to playoff contention. The Predators usually don't pursue expensive free-agent talent. Significant improvements could come via trades.

    Potential Trade Bait

    NHL.com reports Poile is willing to shop his first-round pick (11th overall) in this year's draft for a top-six forward. Forget about the Predators shopping star defenseman Shea Weber. Poile tells ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun Weber isn't going anywhere. Defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who struggled this season after joining the Predators following a midseason trade with the New York Rangers, could become a trade candidate.

    Possible Trade/Free-Agent Targets 

    The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch claims Poile has contacted the Senators about Jason Spezza. Though the Predators are on Spezza's no-trade list, Garrioch speculates Senators management could speak to him about changing his mind. CSNPhilly.com's John Boruk suggests Poile could have interest in Philadelphia Flyers center Vincent Lecavalier.

8. Craig MacTavish, Edmonton Oilers

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    JASON FRANSON/Associated Press

    Why He Must Make Moves This Summer

    The Oilers last made the playoffs in 2006. Their fans are growing impatient waiting for their young players to carry them into playoff contention. They need a power forward, experienced blueliners and depth on their checking lines. The Oilers have over $44 million invested in 16 players and must spend at least $8 million to reach the projected cap minimum of $52 million.

    The Edmonton Sun's Terry Jones reports MacTavish hopes to add “four or five players” in the coming weeks, one or two via trades and two or three via free agency.

    Potential Trade Bait

    The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson suggests shipping winger David Perron to a team with depth in defensemen, like the Buffalo Sabres. Center Sam Gagner and young winger Nail Yakupov could also be dealt to address weaknesses elsewhere.

    Possible Trade/Free-Agent Targets

    Given the Oilers difficulty in attracting top free agents, MacTavish could be forced to focus upon the trade market. Sportsnet.ca's Mark Spector speculates MacTavish could revisit his interest in Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn. He could also pursue Boston Bruins' blueliner (and Edmonton native) Johnny Boychuk.

7. Bryan Murray, Ottawa Senators

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    Why He Must Make Moves This Summer

    After two surprising playoff appearances, the Senators took a step back in 2013-14 and missed the postseason. Captain Jason Spezza has requested a trade. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports Murray's asking price is believed to be a top-six forward, a high-end prospect and a first-round pick. Murray must also find a replacement for right wing Ales Hemsky, who is headed to unrestricted free agency. 

    Potential Trade Bait

    Spezza's the only player Murray appears to be shopping. Garrioch reports the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues are considered front runners for the 31-year-old center. Murray could trade Hemsky's rights and perhaps Milan Michalek's for conditional draft picks.

    Possible Trade/Free-Agent Targets

    Murray could seek a center to replace Spezza, but it's possible he'll promote Kyle Turris to the first line and move Mika Zibanejad into the second-line center spot. He could have interest in Ducks center Nick Bonino and right wing Devante Smith-Pelly, or Blues center Patrik Berglund and prospect right wing Ty Rattie.

6. Jim Benning, Vancouver Canucks

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    Why He Must Make Moves This Summer

    As the new Canucks GM, Benning inherits a team which has regressed every year since reaching the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, missing the 2014 playoffs. The Canucks lack scoring punch, experienced goaltending and promising young talent. TSN.ca's Darren Dreger reports Ryan Kesler still wants to be traded.

    Potential Trade Bait

    The Province's Ben Kuzma reports the Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins had interest in Kesler at the trade deadline. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeff Gordon speculates the Blues could also pursue him. 

    Besides Kesler, the Canucks can draw upon their blue-line depth if necessary to address other areas. Kuzma also speculates Jason Garrison could be a trade candidate (though he carries a no-trade clause). Little-used winger Jordan Schroeder could also be shopped.

    Possible Trade/Free-Agent Targets

    Pittsburgh's James Neal, Anaheim's Nick Bonino and St. Louis' Patrick Berglund could be of interest for Benning as possible returns for Kesler. Free-agent goaltender Jonas Hiller could be an affordable option between the pipes.

5. Garth Snow, New York Islanders

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    Why He Must Make Moves This Summer

    The Islanders must spend over $9 million to reach the projected salary-cap floor of $52 million. They've made the playoffs only twice since 2006. As they'll be moving after next season to Barclay's Center, they'll have an easier time selling tickets in their new venue if they're a playoff contender. They lack experienced depth on defense and their checking lines. Snow must also replace departing backup Evgeni Nabokov.

    Potential Trade Bait

    Having failed to re-sign Dan Boyle, whose rights Snow acquired from the San Jose Sharks, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports the Isles' GM is now aggressively shopping Boyle. Snow also holds the fifth-overall pick in this year's draft. The Hockey News' Rory Boylen speculates he could package it with some prospects for immediate help in the trade market.

    Possible Trade/Free-Agent Targets

    The Globe & Mail's Eric Duhatschek suggests Snow circle back to former Isles Thomas Vanek and Matt Moulson in this year's free agent market. Snow could find an affordable backup via free agency, where Chad Johnson, Ray Emery and former Islander Al Montoya are available.

4. Dale Tallon, Florida Panthers

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    Why He Must Make Moves This Summer

    The Panthers have $40 million invested in 14 players, meaning they must spend over $12 million to reach the projected cap floor of $52 million. The Panthers made the playoffs only once since 2000. While the club is now under new ownership, Tallon must turn this club into a perennial playoff contender to ensure its long-term survival in Florida, as well as his continued employment as general manager.

    Potential Trade Bait

    NHL.com reports Tallon is willing to shop the first-overall pick in the upcoming NHL draft. He recently told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun he's had a couple of “concrete offers” thus far. If contract talks with restricted free-agent blueliner Dmitri Kulikov go south, he could end up on the trade block.

    Possible Trade/Free-Agent Targets

    While the Panthers have promising youth, they're lacking experienced scoring punch and skilled defenders. The Sun-Sentinel's Harvey Fialkov reports Tallon has the green light from ownership to spend up to the cap ceiling if needed to improve the roster. He could pursue Thomas Vanek, Brad Richards, Paul Stastny, Marian Gaborik, Dan Boyle, Matt Moulson or Andrei Markov if they're available on July 1.

3. Ron Hextall, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Why He Must Make Moves This Summer

    With over $66.6 million invested in 18 players, the Flyers have $4.2 million in projected cap space. They must re-sign Brayden Schenn and re-sign or replace backup Ray Emery. CSNPhilly.com's Tim Panaccio believes the Flyers need a No. 1 defenseman and a scoring left winger.

    Potential Trade Bait

    Hextall could try to shed the salaries of center Vincent Lecavalier and defenseman Braydon Coburn, though both carry no-trade clauses. Teams could inquire about Jakub Voracek, Matt Read and Sean Couturier. Hextall may be loathe to part with any of them, but it could be necessary to move one to address his roster needs.

    Possible Trade/Free-Agent Targets

    Among blueliners, trade options could include Boston's Johnny Boychuk, NY Islanders' Dan Boyle and Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien. Pittsburgh's Matt Niskanen is this summer's best available free agent defenseman but could prove too expensive. Andrei Markov could be a more affordable option if he doesn't re-sign with the Montreal Canadiens.

    Among free-agent left wings, Thomas Vanek, Mike Cammalleri and Milan Michalek could be available. The latter two will be more affordable than Vanek, who's coming off a seven-year, $50-million contract. Winnipeg's Evander Kane is a tempting trade target, but the asking price could prove more than Hextall is willing to pay.

2. Peter Chiarelli, Boston Bruins

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    Why He Must Make Moves This Summer

    The Bruins have over $66 million invested in 17 players for 2014-15, leaving only $4.3 million in projected cap space. CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty reports they could receive a $4.75 million penalty for bonus overages in 2013-14. That will effectively wipe out any cap relief they receive by placing injured forward Marc Savard on long-term injured reserve for 2014-15.

    Haggerty also reports they're attempting to re-sign Jarome Iginla. They must also re-sign restricted free agents Reilly Smith, Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski, plus re-sign or replace backup Chad Johnson.

    Potential Trade Bait

    Depending upon how negotiations go with Iginla, TSN.ca's Bob McKenzie believes the Bruins could draw on their blue-line depth as trade bait for a forward. Haggerty believes Chiarelli could try to move blueliner Adam McQuaid or center Chris Kelly, but that could prove difficult with both coming off injuries. Rival clubs could have interest in Johnny Boychuk.

    Winger Brad Marchand is another option, but Chiarelli recent told the Boston Globe's Amalie Benjamin he's not shopping Marchand.

    Possible Trade/Free-Agent Targets

    They'll be in the market for a top-six right wing should they fail to re-sign Iginla. Free-agent options include Marian Gaborik, Ales Hemsky and Ryan Callahan, but they could prove too expensive for the cap-strapped Bruins. Pittsburgh's James Neal could be a trade target, but only if the Penguins pick up part of his annual $5 million cap hit.

1. Tim Murray, Buffalo Sabres

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    Why He Must Make Moves This Summer

    Coming off one of their worst seasons in franchise history, the Sabres are staging a significant rebuild. Since taking over as GM earlier this year, Murray made some savvy deals at the trade deadline, but he's yet to fully put his stamp on the Sabres. The club also has just over $34 million invested in 15 players—meaning Murray must spend over $18 million to reach the cap minimum of $52 million.

    Potential Trade Bait

    Considering how much Murray must spend to become cap compliant, he could be unwilling to move a salaried player. ESPN.com's Craig Custance (subscription required) believes Murray could get calls about veteran defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. Right wing Chris Stewart could also attract some interest.

    Possible Trade/Free-Agent Targets

    The Buffalo News' John Vogl reports Murray is seeking an additional first-round pick in this year's draft.

    The Sabres could become significant spenders in this summer's free agent market. Given the Sabres are a rebuilding club, Murray could have difficulty attracting top free agents like Marian Gaborik, Paul Stastny, Matt Niskanen, Brad Richards and Mike Cammalleri. Murray's not expected to bring back former Sabres Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek or Matt Moulson.