1 Move Every NHL Team Not in Playoffs Must Make in the Offseason

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2021

1 Move Every NHL Team Not in Playoffs Must Make in the Offseason

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    Arrange the nameplate. Adjust the chair. Put the computer where you would like it.

    Do all the things necessary to make the desk your own.

    Comfortable? OK, now fix a team.

    Your mission is to take on the role of general manager with one of the 15 franchises that didn't make the ongoing NHL playoffs—plus the expansion Seattle Kraken—and start off by making the move that's got to be made to ensure you won't once again find yourself in a playoff-less position this time next spring.

    It should surprise exactly no one that B/R's hockey-writing types saw this as a chance to indulge their inner executives and shape the imminent future of the NHL's lower echelon. 

    For some teams, it's personnel. For others, it's coaching. And for the remainder, it's step one on a long list.

    Click through to see what we would get done on Day 1 in each locale, and let us know what you think in the comments section.

Nos. 1-4: Ducks, Coyotes, Sabres, Flames

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    Anaheim Ducks: Cut the Cord on Getzlaf

    No one would argue Ryan Getzlaf's status as a cornerstone of the Anaheim franchise. He was drafted in 2003. He played on a Stanley Cup winner in 2007. And he's been both a solid player and good soldier for more than 1,100 NHL games. But he's also 36 and had five goals in 48 games this season. Rather than spending weeks with it hanging over your head, announce that the team won't be re-signing him and move on.


    Arizona Coyotes: Hire the 1st-Time Coach

    Bill Armstrong enters his first full offseason as GM of the Coyotes with a list of immediate mandates that includes hiring a coach before the draft and free-agency seasons. Given that things didn't work out with Rick Tocchet in his second NHL stop, why not pull the trigger and set a new course with a first timer? We suggest Rocky Thompson. He's young. He's succeeded on the junior and AHL levels. He'll excite the fanbase.


    Buffalo Sabres: Take the Best Eichel Offer

    Oh, to be Buffalo GM Kevyn Adams. The Western New York native spends his day wringing hands, first over the state of his franchise—which hasn't seen a playoff game since 2011—and then about disconnected superstar Jack Eichel. Our suggestion? The two-birds-with-one-stone approach. Make it known Eichel's available for the right price. Take it and then clean the slate and get to the business of building.  


    Calgary Flames: Get Something for Gaudreau

    Every day Johnny Gaudreau remains on the Calgary roster brings GM Bred Treliving a day closer to losing him for nothing when his $6.75 million-per-year deal runs out after 2021-22. And even though the homegrown winger has expressed an interest in staying for the long term, the Flames are better served saving that cash for down-the-road expenses. Move him east and get a defenseman.

Nos. 5-8: Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Stars, Red Wings

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    Chicago Blackhawks: Sign a Mid-Range Goaltender

    The Blackhawks aren't exactly on the brink of Stanley Cup contention, but they are not exactly the dregs of NHL society, either. So while the slate of goaltenders isn't enough to fuel the future, it's not entirely without value. Given Kevin Lankinen's respectable performance as an NHL rookie, why not keep him around as a 20-to-30-game backup behind one of the many free-agent goalies who will be on the market.


    Columbus Blue Jackets: Give Paul MacLean a Call

    When it comes to NHL jobs, there's a lot to like in Columbus. The Blue Jackets have newly arrived NHLers like Patrik Laine, Jack Roslovic and Max Domi alongside a holdover mix of youth and veteran talent. Three first-round picks are in hand too. GM Jarmo Kekalainen's mandate is to hire a coach who will hold players accountable, so we'll suggest Paul MacLean, a former Jack Adams winner and Blue Jackets assistant.


    Dallas Stars: Go Long with Miro Heiskanen

    The Stars made Heiskanen the third overall pick in the 2017 draft, and he's been a reliable regular-season producer for three years, not to mention 26 points in 27 playoff games in the run to the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Final. He's one of those players around whom you can build a team, and Dallas ought to find a way to get that done across eight years—before another enterprising GM puts a target on him.


    Detroit Red Wings: Bring Janmark Back to Hockeytown

    Get GM Steve Yzerman in a private moment, and he will concede the Red Wings' needs are many. So it's not as if one free-agency signing will trigger a parade. While getting free-agent center Mattias Janmark won't guarantee a Cup, it will bring a versatile, middle-six forward who can produce in a number of roles—an important skillset on a young team. He was a Detroit draft pick in 2013 but never played there. Maybe now he'll get the chance.

Nos. 9-12: Kings, Devils, Rangers, Senators

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    Los Angeles Kings: Get Kevyn Adams on the Phone

    Compared to other teams, it's not been too long since the Kings were the class of the NHL—Cup wins in 2012 and 2014—but it's been long enough that some of the holdover vets are getting antsy. Given that reality and a bucketful of salary cash to play with, we would suggest a call to Buffalo and a willingness to go to great lengths to get Eichel to SoCal. If it costs Quinton Byfield, another No. 2 overall pick, so be it.


    New Jersey Devils: Give Blackwood Some Help

    No one would suggest Mackenzie Blackwood had a banner season tending the New Jersey nets. In fact, his .902 save percentage across 35 starts was downright ordinary by NHL standards. But he's just 24 and had a bout with COVID-19, so it's not time to give up on a former second-rounder. Helping him, though, isn't out of the question. Kick the tires on Jaroslav Halak, a 36-year-old with 281 career wins who is about to hit free agency.


    New York Rangers: Make a Splash Behind the Bench

    Like Columbus, the Rangers will provide a prime opportunity for coaches looking to step right into talent-laden situations. And given that it's Madison Square Garden, the mandate for the organization to create some buzz with a hire is obvious. But while a John Tortorella reunion might not be the right call, how about a similarly fiery and clearly familiar guy like Tocchet or even Patrick Roy?


    Ottawa Senators: Keep It at the Other End

    The Senators didn't win a lot in 2020-21. They also gave up a lot of shots. And not surprisingly, they didn't score much, either. But they do have a lot of young talent, which would seem to mean that a few prudent acquisitions could turn around the numbers. Getting teenage winger Tim Stutzle an NHL-savvy, two-way center is first on the list, and former No. 1 overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins makes sense.

Nos. 13-16: Flyers, Sharks, Kraken, Canucks

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    Philadelphia Flyers: Get Creative, Get Hamilton

    GM Chuck Fletcher said the team has to get creative to improve, so we will leave it to him to find a way to get it done. But the target is clear: Carolina defenseman Dougie Hamilton. The Flyers allowed more goals than any team in the NHL and never found a blue-line mix after Matt Niskanen retired. Hamilton is 28 and in his prime, plays the right side and has been consistently productive. He's the guy to get.


    San Jose Sharks: Make Jones Share the Load

    Given the skid Martin Jones endured while posting a 3.26 goals-against average and a .896 save percentage across 34 starts, he's ceded his role as San Jose's No. 1 goalie. Problem is, he's signed for three more years at $5.75 million per. A buyout would be nice if GM Doug Wilson can swing it, but at the very least bringing in a complement like Chris Driedger, who's a free agent after making $850,000, could work.


    Seattle Kraken: Hire Gerard Gallant as Coach No. 1

    Had the Kraken been entering the NHL five years ago, Gerard Gallant would not have been the odds-on man for the job. In fact, at of the close of the 2016-17 season, he was a twice-fired coach with one full plus-.500 season on his resume. But then the Vegas Golden Knights happened, and his reputation changed. There's not a coach with a more proven record in an expansion scenario. He's the one to get. 


    Vancouver Canucks: Buy Out Braden Holtby

    Given their on- and off-ice struggles, it's not hyperbolic to suggest Vancouver's 2020-21 was among their worst-ever seasons. So GM Jim Benning has work to do, much of it amid a salary-cap nightmare that can't be relieved with one move. So at the start of a busy summer, we'll buy out the remaining season on Braden Holtby's bloated contract. It's Thatcher Demko's net now. Spend the cash elsewhere.