What Lies Ahead for the Teams in the Eastern Conference
Thursday, 06.26.2008 / 4:56 PM CT / Feature
By Seamus O'Callahan - Hockey Historian
Atlanta Thrashers – They’ve added an impressive young head coach (John Anderson) and are a team that is looking for long-term answers rather than plugging up holes with high-priced free agents (after all, they let Marian Hossa go at the trade deadline). Expect the Thrashers to target younger free agents with moderate price tags.
Possible unrestricted free agents of note: C Bobby Holik, RW Mark Recchi.
Needs: Playmaking center, defensive depth.
Should they Consider: Ladislav Nagy or Jan Hlavac?
Boston Bruins – Last season was an unexpected playoff campaign for the B’s. They’ll be expecting more in Beantown this season. They have a lot of good young players to build on. Boston’s biggest need is a pure sniper to score some goals (no Bruin had more than 27 goals last season). Goaltender remains a question mark if they want to contend.
Possible unrestricted free agents of note: G Alex Auld, C Glen Metropolit.
Needs: Scoring forward.
Should they Consider: Ryan Malone or Brian Rolston?
Buffalo Sabres – They won the Presidents’ Trophy in 2006-07 and lost some key players that sent them to non-playoff status last season (but by only 4 points). They lost another good player – Brian Campbell – at the trade deadline. Expect the Sabres to be looking for trade partners rather than free agents, as the team is heavy on NHL-ready forwards but need help on the blue line. There’s some talent in the system but tweaks will be needed.
Possible unrestricted free agents of note: D Teppo Numinen,D Nolan Pratt, G Jocelyn Thibault.
Should they Consider: John-Michael Liles or Brad Stuart? (how about a big deal with Florida for Jay Bouwmeester?)
Carolina Hurricanes – They won the Stanley Cup in 2006 and then missed the playoffs the last two seasons. Go figure. Injuries had a lot to do with it this past season but the Canes need to find a way to get back in the playoffs. They could use an offensive defenseman to move the puck and be a QB on the PP. Depth would obviously help too.
Possible unrestricted free agents of note: D Bret Hedican, RW Trevor Letowski.
Needs: Offensive defenseman and forward toughness.
Should they Consider: Michal Rozsival, Brad Stuart or Paul Mara?
Florida Panthers – Seven seasons. That’s how long it has been since Florida was in the playoffs. They have a new head coach (Peter DeBoer) but lost their best player (Olli Jokinen) in a trade with Phoenix. The good news for Florida is that their blue line is in solid shape. The forwards are young with some talent. Could the Panthers be in the market for a veteran or two to help it come together?
Possible unrestricted free agents of note: D Jassen Cullimore, D Steve Montador.
Needs: Scoring winger and puck-moving defenseman.
Should they Consider: Michael Ryder, Miroslav Satan or Paul Mara?
Montreal Canadiens – The Canadiens are one of the most talented teams in the league and added to that with the addition of Alex Tanguay from Calgary (tip for fantasy players – bump Tanguay up a few notches on your draft board after this move. He’ll have a good season – bank it.) Bob Gainey knows the time to win is now, as he also would love to add Mats Sundin (working out a deal with Toronto to negotiate prior to July 1). Expect Montreal to sign a talented forward; if not Sundin then someone else (Hossa?) .
Possible unrestricted free agents of note: RW Michael Ryder, D Patrice Brisebois, C Bryan Smolinski, D Mark Streit.
Needs: Top offensive forward.
Should they Consider: Mats Sundin or Marian Hossa?
New Jersey Devils – Devils management say that they like their team, but I think they need a big signing if they want to take a step towards winning again. Their history includes re-signing their own guys and signing complimentary players, which I guess is OK when you have Martin Brodeur between the pipes for you. Expect the Devils to once again be relatively quiet.
Possible unrestricted free agents of note: RW Arron Asham, D Bryce Salvador, LW Jay Pandolfo.
Needs: Scoring forward, possible defenseman.
Should they consider: Ryan Malone or Brian Rolston?
NY Islanders – This team needs talent, bottom line. The Isles have some good young players who have overachieved (to be honest) but need some proven talent to add to the mix. Offensive forwards would be just what the doctor ordered. Signing a goalie would not be advised, as Rick DiPietro is under contract for another 13 seasons.
Possible unrestricted free agents of note: D Bryan Berard, RW Miroslav Satan, C Josef Vasicek
Needs: Offensive forwards and possibly an offensive D-man.
Should they Consider: Ryan Malone, Andrew Brunette or Jason Williams?
NY Rangers – The big newsmakers last July, what can the Rangers do for an encore? Probably not much, especially when they have to concentrate on possibly signing Brendan Shanahan and Jaromir Jagr. If they go elsewhere, the Rangers may be more active to replace them. There will probably be some turnover on defense, so don’t be surprised if they look at adding a blue-liner.
Possible unrestricted free agents of note: LW Sean Avery, D Paul Mara, D Michal Rozsival, RW Brendan Shanahan, C Martin Straka.
Needs: Flexibilty, more than anything.
Should they Consider: John-Michael Liles, Jeff Finger or Aaron Miller?
Ottawa Senators – A great start and a terrible finish. That was the story for the Sens last season. After getting to the Cup Finals in ’07, how does Ottawa get back? A shakeup might be needed. A top-6 forward might help, as would a defenseman with the expected departure of Wade Redden. Goaltender is somewhat of a mess; Ottawa probably needs a true #1 guy before they can dream about contending again.
Possible unrestricted free agents of note: Mike Commodore, RW Shean Donovan, G Ray Emery, RW Martin Lapointe, D Wade Redden, D Luke Richardson, C Randy Robitaille, LW Cory Stillman.
Needs: Top-6 forward, depth defensemen, goalie.
Should they Consider: Markus Naslund, Craig Conroy, Ryan Malone, Cristobal Huet or Jose Theodore?
Philadelphia Flyers – The Flyers are the opposite of the Senators - a team on the rise with a seemingly bright future. Yet they are a lot like the Rangers too – not enough flexibility. The team had to trade R.J. Umberger because of it. They’ll probably need another defenseman before it is over. They should be OK again in 2008-09, but the future could get muddy with all of the money that is tied up in certain players.
Possible unrestricted free agents of note: LW Riley Cote, C Jim Dowd, D Jaroslav Modry, D Jason Smith.
Needs: Depth defenseman.
Should they Consider: Jason Smith (their own free agent)? Probably too pricy to keep.
Pittsburgh Penguins – A nice run to the Cup Final leads to the challenge of keeping this team together. Marian Hossa will test the UFA waters, as will Ryan Malone. Inexpensive alternatives are probably the answer for the Pens. Long-term extensions are desired by management for Jordan Staal, Evgani Makin and Marc-Andre Fleury, so Pit needs to keep its power dry.
Possible unrestricted free agents of note: C Kris Beech, G Ty Conklin, RW Pascal Dupuis, RW Georges Laraque, RW Marian Hossa, LW Ryan Malone, D Brooks Orpik, LW Gary Roberts, LW Jarkko Ruutu.
Needs: Offensive depth.
Should they Consider: Michael Ryder, Martin Straka, Andrew Brunette or Ladislav Nagy?
Tampa Bay Lightning – Steven Stamkos, meet Vincent Lecavalier. That’s what this team revolves around. After trading Brad Richards to Dallas, the Bolts have been looking for the right forward combination and that will continue into July. The team needs to sign a defenseman or two as well. Stability is what has been lacking in Tampa for the last two seasons and new ownership might be willing to give them the time to find it.
Possible unrestricted free agents of note: LW Mathieu Darche, C Chris Gratton, D Doug Janik, LW Vaclav Prospal, RW Andre Roy.
Needs: Defensemen and offensive depth.
Should they Consider: Jeff Finger, Jan Hejda, Antti Miettinen or Cory Stillman?
Toronto Maple Leafs – A proud franchise is determined to return to glory. It will take time but they are willing to go through the growing pains to do it. Darcy Tucker and Kyle Wellwood were let go and more changes are on the way. New Head Coach Ron Wilson will have a lot of work to do, but he looks like the right fit. Will Sundin return? Doubtful but never say never.
Possible unrestricted free agents of note: C Mats Sundin, C Dominic Moore.
Should they Consider: Jaromir Jagr, Marian Hossa, Daymond Langkow, Adam Foote, Brooks Orpik, or Aaron Ward?
Washington Capitals – A great season for the Caps with greater expectations for the future. This is a young team with a lot of talent. The Caps don’t have any glaring needs among their skaters, though depth can always be helpful, especially veteran players. Goaltending is probably the biggest question mark. No doubt the team would like to hang on to Cristobal Huet, but can they keep him from taking a bigger offer from a rival? (Ottawa?)
Possible unrestricted free agents of note: LW Matt Cooke, C Sergei Fedorov, G Cristobal Huet, G Olaf Kolzig.
Needs: Goaltender, overall depth
Should they Consider: Cristobal Huet, Jeff Finger or Ray Emery?