A Look at the Western Conference
Monday, 06.30.2008 / 2:40 PM CT / Feature
By Seamus O'Callahan - Hockey Historian
Anaheim Ducks – The good news for Anaheim: Scott Niedermayer is coming back and Teemu Selanne might as well. The bad news: they still have to sign restricted free agent Corey Perry. With 19 players already under contract for a $51.8 million cap hit, GM Brian Burke has some adjustments to make (and he just started by waiving Todd Bertuzzi with intentions of buying him out). If Selanne returns, this team is right back as a contender, no matter what choices Burke makes to fit it all under the cap (and trust that those moves will be good ones). But the Ducks will be quiet on the free agent front. Trades? That’s another story.
Possible Unrestricted Free Agents of Note: D Joe Dipenta, RW Teemu Selanne.
Needs: Teemu Selanne to follow Niedermayer’s lead and come back for one more year.
Should they Consider: Trading Mathieu Schnieder and/or Todd Marchant? (if they can find a dance partner to take them off their hands).
Calgary Flames – Count the Flames among the teams that will look a whole lot different this coming season than they did last. They acquired Mike Cammalleri and traded away Alex Tanguay. Kristian Huselius and Daymond Langkow might also hit the market, meaning three of Calgary’s top five scorers from last year may not return. Jarone Iginla, Dion Phaneuf and Miikka Kiprusoff are the cornerstones but who will be playing with them in 2008-09?
Possible Unrestricted Free Agents of Note: C Craig Conroy, LW Kristian Huselius, G Curtis Joseph, C Daymond Langkow, RW Owen Nolan, C Stephane Yelle, D Jim Vandermeer.
Needs: Skilled forwards.
Should they Consider: Michael Ryder, Niklas Hagman or Brendan Morrison?
Chicago Blackhawks – The NHL needs the Blackhawks to be good again. It looks like they might be getting there. A good nucleus of young talent starts with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, and there are many others to join them. So what’s missing? Veterans. An impact forward would help the improvement and the back end needs some depth. Plus a top QB for their power play would be advantageous to acquire. A couple of right moves and the Hawks are back in the playoffs, where they should be.
Possible Unrestricted Free Agents of Note: G Patrick Lalime, C Yanic Perreault, C Jason Williams.
Needs: Puck-moving defenseman, veteran leadership,
Should they Consider: Wade Redden?
Colorado Avalanche – The Avs’ possible list of UFA’s still reads like an all-star team despite the weekend re-signings of Adam Foote and John-Michael Liles. Francois Giguere has some more decisions to make and needs to be somewhat creative. Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg may or may not return, and much will revolve around those decisions. The team’s focus is mainly on re-signing their own guys and going from there.
Possible Unrestricted Free Agents of Note: LW Andrew Brunette, D Jeff Finger, C Peter Forsberg, C Joe Sakic, D Kurt Sauer, G Jose Theodore.
Needs: Decisions from Sakic and Forsberg. Filling holes that are uncertain right now.
Should they Consider: Buying a crystal ball? Keeping Jose Theodore?
Columbus Blue Jackets – Are the Jackets ever going to make the playoffs? They have to, says their ownership. The team only has $22 million committed to salaries but still have to sign some of their own guys. Still, the Jackets will be active in trying to acquire some scoring and possibly a quality D-man. It is put-up or shut-up time in Columbus and this season is a big one for the Jackets. They better make it count.
Possible Unrestricted Free Agents of Note: C Michael Peca, RW David Vyborny, D Ron Hainsey, D Dick Tarnstrom.
Needs: Scoring forwards and an impact defenseman.
Should they Consider: Jason Williams, Pavol Demitra, Michael Ryder, Mark Streit or Brad Stuart?
Dallas Stars – A trip to the Western Conference Finals has re-invigorated the Stars and their expectations for 2008-09. The team should look a lot like the one that played deep into May, with their sights set on another good run. Dallas will not be a huge player on July 1 (they don’t have to be) but will probably be interested in help for the third or fourth lines, especially with the possible departure of Niklas Hagman, Antti Miettinen and Stu Barnes. The team might also look at adding a depth defenseman with the retirement of Mattias Norstrom. One thing is for sure – it is better to get your work done early (as Jackson and Hull did) rather than have to fill holes on July 1.
Possible Unrestricted Free Agents of Note: C Stu Barnes, LW Niklas Hagman, RW Antti Miettinen, LW Brad Winchester, G Johan Holmqvist.
Needs: Forward depth.
Should they Consider: Craig Conroy, Michael Peca or Yanic Perreault?
Detroit Red Wings – The Stanley Cup champs have most of their team returning next season and look to be possibly even better. What’s scary is that they have some cap room too to possibly add someone (maybe even an impact player). They may not even need to go out and get a solid backup goalie since Jimmy Howard is waiting in the wings to replace the retired Hasek. They might need to add a defenseman. But the Wings should be back as a contender in 2009.
Possible Unrestricted Free Agents of Note: D Chris Chelios, RW Dallas Drake, D Andreas Lilja, D Brad Stuart.
Needs: A way to maintain the hunger and avoid the Cup hangover.
Should they Consider: Mats Sundin (yikes!), Mike Commodore or re-signing Brad Stuart?
Edmonton Oilers – A young team that should improve, the Oil still has a ways to go. They will be active in talking to free agents but the trick is getting them to pull the trigger on Edmonton. The team needs a scorer (or two) to help take the team to the next level. This core is deep but needs some seasoning. Acquiring Lubomir Visnovsky from LA on Sunday was an interesting move.
Possible Unrestricted Free Agents of Note: LW Curtis Glencross, C Marty Reasoner, LW Geoff Sanderson.
Needs: Veteran scorer
Should they Consider: Brian Rolston, Markus Naslund or Pavol Demitra?
Los Angeles Kings – The Kings have a lot of talent in the system. The problem is that it will take a few years (probably) before they start reaping the rewards of that depth. Goaltending is a big hole – for now and the future, until someone steps up and proves they can do the job. The Kings will probably look within to fill the goaltending void rather than free agency or a trade. The biggest immediate need is on defense, and the Kings will be active (especially after trading Visnovsky to Edmonton over the weekend).
Possible Unrestricted Free Agents of Note: D Rob Blake, G Dan Cloutier, LW Ladislav Nagy, LW Scott Thornton, RW Brian Wilsie.
Needs: Defensemen and veteran depth.
Should they Consider: Jaroslav Modry, Ron Hainsey, Brooks Orpik or Aaron Ward?
Minnesota Wild – The Wild finds itself at a crossroads. Winners of the Northwest Division last season, the team has a lot to juggle to get their roster in order. Brian Rolston’s rights were traded to Tampa over the weekend and Pavol Demitra is unrestricted so Minny should be in the market to sign some offense. The blue line is in need of depth too, so look for the Wild to try and add veterans for the back end.
Possible Unrestricted Free Agents of Note: RW Pavol Demitra, D Keith Carney, D Sean Hill, LW Aaron Voros, LW Todd Fedoruk.
Needs: Scoring forwards and defensemen.
Should they Consider: Kristian Huselius, Andrew Brunette, Paul Mara, Bret Hedican or Brendan Morrison?
Nashville Predators – Stability has returned to Nashville, with a ton of credit to GM David Poile. He’s done a good job of taking home-grown talent and mixing in veteran free agents to form a good team. Signing Dan Ellis to an extension in June was another solid move to keep this team competitive. They might be in the market for a scoring winger. Otherwise, this team has a lot of depth across the board for now and the future.
Possible Unrestricted Free Agents of Note: LW Martin Gelinas, RW Brandon Bochenski.
Needs: Scoring winger.
Should they Consider: Cory Stillman or Markus Naslund?
Phoenix Coyotes – The Coyotes are going to be good at some point and this might be the year they take the next step. There is youth everywhere but they might need some support. Trading for Olli Jokinen definitely helped up front but their back end is now weakened because of the deal. Look for Phoenix to be in the market for a defenseman or two. A scoring winger could help too, but the team will probably look internally to fill that void. Goaltender is a deep position for possible trade.
Possible Unrestricted Free Agents of Note: RW Radim Vrbata, G David Aebischer, C Niko Kapanen, LW Mathias Tjarnqvist, LW Michael York.
Should they Consider: Kurt Sauer or Brian Campbell?
San Jose Sharks – Could this solid core of players be headed towards somewhat of a shakeup? Rumors have the Sharks willing to deal a veteran or two and change the direction a bit. The team is tired of having solid regular seasons and falling short in the playoffs. If a Marleau or another veteran is moved, the Sharks might look to add a top-6 forward. If Brian Campbell bolts, the team will definitely be looking for a top D-man. Should be interesting to watch.
Possible Unrestricted Free Agents of Note: D Brian Campbell, C Curtis Brown, D Sandis Ozolinsh, LW Jody Shelley.
Needs: Defensemen (possibly an impact blue liner + depth), a top-6 forward if a deal is made.
Should they Consider: Sean Avery, Michael Peca, Rob Blake or Wade Redden?
St. Louis Blues – The Blues have a bright future and they know it. They won’t be looking for a quick fix this summer. They have a lot of young talent that they want to grow. But they will keep their eyes open for a possible veteran to add to the mix. The defense looks stocked for the future. St. Louis is looking to Paul Kariya and Lee Stempniak to have bounce-back seasons. They might be a year away, but the Blues are on the right track.
Possible Unrestricted Free Agents of Note: LW Martin Rucinsky, D Matt Walker.
Needs: Possible veteran additions up front.
Should they Consider: Jason Williams or Yanic Perreault?
Vancouver Canucks – The Canucks have some big decisions to make and the changes could be significant. Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison are unrestricted and may not be back. It looks like the Sedins will stay but who knows? Van has some dough to spend and could target an impact forward or two. They might go for a veteran blue-liner as well. These Canucks will look much different once the summer is through.
Possible Unrestricted Free Agents of Note: LW Markus Naslund, C Brendan Morrison, C Byron Ritchie, D Aaron Miller, G Curtis Sanford, D Mike Weaver, LW Brad Isbister.
Needs: Scoring forwards
Should they Consider: Marian Hossa, Mats Sundin or Pascal Dupuis?