Of the teams left who are expected to make the playoffs, or sell out to make a playoff some of them have yet to make a move, there are different pressures on all of them, and different asset sets.

The San Jose Sharks went as deep into the playoffs as you can go last year, and made some savvy moves in the off season adding some speed, and some playoff acumen. As it stands they are likely the third most dangerous team in the west. They could go out and make a move and add something now, but what? There isn’t as much pressure to do something as there has been in the past. They also lack assets. They don’t have either a second or third round pick in the next two drafts. The talent pipeline for the Sharks really isn’t good either. They are ranked as the 23rd best farm system. Don’t expect much.

The Edmonton Oilers made a minor move to add Henrik Samuelsson back on the first, but haven’t done anything that will impact their playoff prognosis, and nor should they. They have literally no pressure. Lucic, Maroon, and Talbot have all been to the post season before and can help mold how the team responds to the pressure, the highs, and the lows of the second season. They really shouldn’t make any moves, I can’t think of any available combination of players that would make them the best in the west, much less the favorite to win the Cup.

The Boston Bruins need to either commit to the rebuild and move out everyone they don’t expect to see on the roster in three years or just do nothing. They have decent to really good prospects in the system at both wing and defense, and they have some goalies who have high potential as well. If anything I think they should ask two of their biggest salaries (Rask, Krejci) to waive their movement clauses and see what they can get for them. I don’t expect a significant move, because this isn’t a contender.

If the Nashville Predators have decided this isn’t this year (and they should), they should move some older player for young assets. Fisher is well regarded, and at 36 he’s not got many more chances to go for a Cup. A contender who added him would be getting a better deal, and a guy with more miles left than Doan or Iginla. Vernon Fiddler is inexpensive, versatile, and playoff experienced. If he can be moved for anything he should be as I doubt the team brings him back next year. If they do want to make a move for a push into the second round, they are only short one fourth round pick in the next four years.

The Colorado Avalanche have two of the most talked about potential trade pieces of the last three months, and whatever they go after with those pieces, they players they bring back should be defensemen. Maybe they make a trade with the Hurricanes that brings them Faulk or a wealth of prospects from a team like Nashville. Sell, sell, sell should be the mantra of the team. Pretty much everyone on that team over the age of 25 should be made available, with the possible exception of Erik Johnson who would likely fetch as big a return as anyone but MacKinnon.

 

The departure of Ryan Suter hit the Predators hard. Their defense went from 9th in the NHL to 20th, their offense was 30th in the NHL as well. Despite the star power and impressive talents of Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne, the team finished 27th in the league. Injuries were a problem and only Shea Weber, David Legwand, and Roman Josi played the full 48 games. No one on the team broke 30 points, and only three players even managed double digits in goals; David Legwand with a dozen, Gabriel Bourque with eleven, and Mike Fisher with ten. Even promising sophomore center Craig Smith regressed in the abbreviated season.

For the Nashville Predator’s retooling includes bringing Matt Hendricks to music city. The left shooting center is an alumni of St. Cloud State, the Colorado Avalanche and most recently the Washington Capitals. Another college boy graces the roster in the form of University of Michigan left winger Eric Nystrom who has since played for the Calgary Flames, Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars. Filip Forsberg was added to the organization April 3rd via the Washington Capitals, the 2012 1st round  played in Sweden’s 1st division last year. It is likely Austin Watson, Joonas Rask and Taylor Beck will push for full time roster spots with the departure of Martin Erat. A backup goaltender will need to emerge to spell Pekka Rinne as well.

The season opens to a mixed schedule. The Blues are tough defensively and will open the season with a visit from the Predators, the Avalanche will be next on the opening two game road set the next night. Then they are home for five straight games at home. The home stand opens with Mikko Koivu, Ryan Suter, and the Minnesota Wild. Next to visit will be Jake Gardiner, Tyler Bozak, and the Maple Leafs. Next up are John Tavares and his New York Islanders. Their opening five have four team who were in last years playoffs, but all four were eliminated in the first round.

Number of days 1-5: 9

Number of cities: 3

Best opponent: Minnesota Wild

Weakest opponent: Colorado Avalanche

Home games: 3

Projected points: 5

If Barry Trotz can get all his meat eaters hungry and hunting together when camp ends the Predators opening sortie will tell us a lot about this years edition of the team. No one is particularly worried about Shea Weber or Pekka Rinne and their ability to bring their “A game” in the new season.  The questions revolve around Mike Fisher who’s frequently inform, Colin Wilson and the status of his recovery, as well as the integration of new players.

Some teams do well at of free agency, others are unmitigated disasters. Today we get pretty good ideas as to what teams will look like in the fall, and which teams are going for it now, next year or no time soon.

Anaheim Ducks: Win. Today they traded star forward Bobby Ryan to the Senators for the Ottawa 1st round pick, Jakob Silfverberg a 2nd round pick, and Stefan Noesen the Senators the 1st round pick out of Plano, Tx from 2011. Good move for the Ducks long term who have very little depth and lots of older players.

Boston Bruins: Win. Adding a hungry veteran who now has recent playoff experience, no bad contracts and overall a younger, hungrier  roster than they started last year with.

Buffalo Sabres: Lose Extending a new deal to Matt Ellis isn’t going to push the Sabres into the playoffs.

Calgary Flames: Lose While they didn’t make any horrible signings (for a change) the contracts they did sign for AHL players and guys who will never be stars don’t push the team forward. 

Carolina Hurricanes: Win They signed a very solid 2nd goalie in Anton Khudobin, and resigned Michal Jordan which is enough to make up for giving a contract to Mike Komisarek.

Colorado Avalanche:

Chicago Blackhawks Draw. They reupped with Handzus on team friendly deal, but didn’t have the cap space to land any of the big fish on the market, and they lost their top end backup today.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Draw Nathan Horton is a great addition, the contract term is less than ideal. Signings other than Bobrovsky are non impacting.

Dallas Stars: Draw While there are defensive signings they could have made, and arguably better goaltenders, but with the moves they made on the fourth they don’t really need to do much to improve over last season.

Detroit Red Wings: Draw They opened the floodgates to renewed eastern conference rivalries by poaching Daniel Alfredsson, signed Stephen Weiss long term, but still didn’t shore up a mediocre defense. 

Edmonton Oilers: Win They improve their defense both by the addition of Ference and the subtraction of others, they didn’t give out any horrible contracts or let anyone of value get away.

Florida Panthers: Lose They are in a much, much tougher division this year and for the next couple years and did nothing to fix a woeful team.

Los Angeles Kings Draw No improvements, no idiotic contracts simply adding a depth defenseman.

Minnesota Wild: Lose There was no reason to add Matt Cooke to the roster, it won’t make them a better team, they already have a solid penalty kill and beyond that they traded a roster player for a draft pick and kept to depth defensemen.

Montreal Canadiens Draw Danny Briere is a good get for a pretty thin market. Compared to Mike Fisher and David Booth who have the same cap hit, Briere is not so bad. You can always do more, and you can clearly do worse.

Nashville Predators: Lose Victor Stalberg is a solid get. The other signings for the love of hockey why?

New Jersey Devils Huh? This is the team that was bankrupt not too long ago right? They sign Michael Ryder to a really solid contract, they sign Ryane Clowe to a contact that will be the NHL’s go to punchline for the next several years, they resigned Patrik Elias until he’s eligible for social security. On top of that they have Dainius Zubrus signed until a week past decomposition. These contracts are a bit much to get their hands on Centrum Silver’s advertising dollars.

New York Islanders Win Locking up Travis Hamonic long term for not much money is big enough that all their other moves are irrelevant.

New York Rangers Lose I think Glen Sather overslept and his secretary just signed guys that were once on good teams. Benoit Pouliot, Aaron Johnson, and other players 85% of Rangers fans won’t be able to name at the All Star/Olympic break.

Ottawa Senators Win Getting Bobby Ryan without having to give up any core pieces is pretty spiffy. Sure they lost captain Daniel Alfredsson but in fairness his ability was not at the same level it was five years ago, and he was looking for more money than Ryan who is still in his prime.

Philadelphia Flyers Win (I kid, I kid!) It almost doesn’t matter who they signed because they didn’t hand out an absurd contract on day one (they got Streit and Lecavalier handled early) oh wait, they gave Giroux (multiple concussions) that contract and an eminently redundant no movement clause, because those really mean something in Philly. Emery is a good get, and that’s about it for the positives.

Phoenix Arizona Coyotes Win Adding Ribeiro at center is an upgrade even if you only look at his Dallas years, adding Greiss as a solid backup means Smith might not have to play 70 games.

Pittsburgh Penguins Draw Correcting the mistake that lead to Rob Scuderi being let go after they won the cup is all well and good, but four years too late. They also don’t have enough cap space to add a 12th forward.

San Jose Sharks Lose Over the cap, and undertalented.

Saint Louis Blues Lose No viable movement, and a core that isn’t getting any younger.

Tampa Bay Lightning Lose Nothing says “cluefree” like signing a forward who has never topped 23 goals to a five year five million a year contract and failing to improve the teams biggest weakness.

Toronto Maple Leafs Lose The Clarkson signing is for about three years too long, the Bozak signing is so-so, and the Grabovski buyout is inexcusable.

Vancouver Canucks: Win Brad Richardson is a solid addition at a good price, and Yannick Webber may prove to be a find for their defense.

Washington Capitals: Draw Adam Oates made good strides with the team last year, prospects and getting Karl Alzner inked should get them to as good or better than their place last year.

Winnipeg Jets: Win No free agent signings (shocking I know) but they did pick up a solid forward addition in a trade for a reasonable price.

Goaltending wins championships.  Both teams have championship worthy goaltenders this season. The difference will come from the rosters between the masked men in this matchup. The two teams are quite similar. Both are built from the back out with the blueline and net minders making up the highest profile players. No one should expect this series to end early.

The Coyotes find themselves in highly unfamiliar territory. Not just in the second round for the first time since the franchise made tracks out of the great white north. But they are hosting a playoff series for the second time. While doubting the nerve of Doan is probably not the smartest bet, you have to wonder if the pressure will begin telling on young gun Oliver Ekman-Larsson, or if Mike Smith’s phenomenal run will come to an end.

The Nashville Predators revamped their lineup and altered their team chemistry hugely around the deadline. They brought back a KHL escape artist, a well traveled defensive guru, and the brother of a player. They had a stumble or two, but managed to finish off the shaky road warrior Red Wings. The Predators hope Gabriel Bourque can continue making hunting down goals, but will need Erat and Fisher to not merely step onto the ice but take it.

The Predators have a bit more depth, but the two teams finished very close in goal differential on the season with the Coyotes getting the nod although both special teams categories belong to the Predators.  Fun series in the offing.

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.

Boston Bruins:

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.

Vancouver Canucks:

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.

Florida Panthers:

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.

Philadelphia Flyers:

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.

Nashville Predators:

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.