Assuming the top UFA’s to be like Suter and Parise are not available at the dead line, here’s a look at the best teams in the NHL and what could be done to put them over the top.
New York Rangers:
The Rangers lead the east in total points,Lundqvist is a beast and the team is in sync. What the could use is a little nitrous in the offensive tank. Of all six division leaders only the Panthers have less goals. The highest scoring left wing on the team is rookie speedster Carl Hagelin, making Ray Whitney a solid pick to slide in as an offensive upgrade who’s played well in a system that requires a defensive accountability. Better he’s old enough John Tortorella won’t hate him on sight.
Detroit Red Wings:
As always a well balanced team, but a look at the minutes played by defensemen says there is a clear divide between the guys Babcock and company trust and everyone else. A veteran defenseman who can contribute to the system is the item to covet. Jaroslav Spacek would slide nicely into the 5-6 if he get’s some powerplay time at worst he’ll provide a different look than the crew that has them 16th in the NHL.
It’s hard to tweak the defending champs when they have the best goals differential in the NHL, and have strong special teams. That said they’ve suffered some serious brain cramps lately, and Nathan Horton’s outlook is rather murky. Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli have a near fetish for depth on defense, and Marek Zidliky could almost certainly be talked into waiving his NTC, and there have been hints about Chris Stewart of the St Louis Blues being available. As short term stand-in for Nathan Horton he’s intriguing.
Statistically this team is very similar to some of the Red Wings teams of the past, but I don’t see the same mental makeup. Those teams could deal with other teams playing a more gritty style and still win, I’m not sure this team can. Someone who combines enough skill to be on the ice fairly often, and enough composure to roll with the punches as they come up against imposing teams. Bryan Allen might be an option, he’s likely to throw the body, and can eat up some of the PK time in the playoffs.
While many aren’t quite ready to put the word “contender” on the board next to their name, they’ve led their division most of the season. Upgrading a 23rd ranked penalty kill going into the second season is never a bad idea. For that Hal Gill could be a their savior. Offensively there are a number of players who could help them climb a bit closer to the top offensive teams in the NHL.
San Jose Sharks:
The 26th ranked penalty kill isn’t something any team wants going into the playoffs. Mark Eaton is a UFA to be, and currently plays a good bit of time shorthanded on the Islanders 8th ranked PK, so is Steve Staios.
A defensive upgrade is a must. If they want more than a rental, or someone who’s not discussed here it probably mean sacrificing a roster player like Briere or Schenn. Having given up the most goals of the top four teams in each conference they’ll be lucky to escape the first round without some sort of fix. If the Wild become sellers or swappers, Clayton Stoner might be a good fit, likewise if the Stars sell Souray could be on the table.
Pekka Rinne has been huge for this team, and Weber and Suter have put in their normal performances that earn superlatives like at rate similar to Scott Gomez’s dollars per point. What the team needs is a skilled goal scorer. They aren’t desperate for goals at 12th in the league which is one behind the New York Rangers, but they are led in goals by Hornquist and Fisher who each have fifteen goals. They very quietly have the 2nd best power-play in the NHL but as we saw last year special teams don’t always decide championships. Cap space not being a serious issue, taking a flyer on Alex Semin might not be the worst idea ever, but for a player who can add some playoff experience, Jason Blake has some attractions, as does Ray Whitney.