Realignment has stirred the pot and the results in this division are curious at best. The big idea is clearly to draw fans into the arenas of all of the NHL’s second and third tier teams. In this case however, six of the teams are sorta close to each other, and the other two are at the other end of the continent. The shattering of the leagues second worst division brings the Florida Panthers and their Sunshine State companions the Tampa Bay Lightning into a division with all five members of the old Northeast division and a escapee of the former central division the Detroit Red Wings.

Boston: We know the Bruins would not have moved on from Tyler Seguin if they’d won the Cup this season, or if he’d actually shown up in games on a consistent basis. We know Iginla and Chiarelli are going to feel the heat if former Flames captain starts off with his usual October anemic start. We know who plays on the teams third line, and for that matter where Daniel Paille plays are questions that will be asked again and again all season long.

Buffalo: We know the first post Lindy Ruff season will not be same old same old. We know the team still hasn’t named a captain. We know that at least on paper it is hard to call this a better roster than last years. We know the hope that Tallinder will help turn Myers around might just be all that has kept Darcy Regier employed. We know that any 23 man roster that can find room for John Scott isn’t likely to be playing in May.

Detroit: We know that with their move east and the alleviated travel burden some of the older players might have better than expected seasons. We know that its likely Daniel Alfredsson will not get warm second, third and fourth visits to his old team. We know this team isn’t significantly better than it was last season, and that it is playing in a tougher division and conference than last year. We know that Lidstrom’s jersey retirement is likely to be nearly as lengthy and mind numbing as if the Habs were retiring a number.

Florida: We know that adding Steven Pinizzotto, Jesse Winchester, Scott Gomez, Bobby Butler, and Joey Crabb to a team does not constitute a significant upgrade of NHL talent regardless of where you finished in the NHL standings the previous year. We know they are hoping one or two prospects surprise the this year by earning a roster spot in camp. We know that with this roster we’re as likely to hear loud, boisterous fans of the visiting team in Sunrise as we are fans of the Panthers.

Montreal: We know the core of this roster should be better than it was last year in the playoffs, even allowing for injuries. We know that whatever tension there is in the locker room, most notably between a certain pair of long time forwards and an unnamed defenseman carries over to the ice and hurts the team. We know this team would be much better with a backup goalie who can be expected to play well in twenty or even twenty five games a year. We know Briere as a part of the package is probably the best improvement for the teams playoff chances they could have added. We know Emelin should go back to hitting and playing physically in exactly the manner he made a name for himself in, perhaps with one or two exceptions.

Ottawa: We know that Daniel Alfredsson will likely be cheered when he first takes the ice as a member of the Red Wings, and soundly booed after that. We know that if Jason Spezza ever wants to build a legacy for himself in Ottawa now is the time. We know that the team is better than it was last year by adding Ryan’s health, allowing for maturation of Zibanejad, Cowen, and Weircioch, even if they did bring back Joe Corvo. We know that Anderson is likely off to the Olympics in Sochi.

Tampa Bay: We know someone other than Steve Yzerman knows what he is doing, what we don’t is if anyone understands what he is doing. We know the best way to describe the teams defense would be Hedman, aging, aged, fragile and unknown. We know there are 157 inches of question mark in net, those inches answer to the names of Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback. We know that even with 5 NHL seasons to his name, including a run to the eastern conference finals, there are only four younger forwards on the Tampa Bay Lightning roster than Steven Stamkos.

Toronto: We know the off season deck chair shuffling didn’t address the teams major issues; resiliency, defensive coherence. We know Joe Colborne is unlikely to contribute as much in any zone as Grabovski, and certainly won’t be as much of an impact player overall. We know Phil Kessel will probably continue to light up Tuukka Rask as he couldn’t Tim Thomas. We that someday Leafs fans will get a general manager who can build a winner, won’t they?

The rumor mill insists that Peter Chiarelli is trying to move Brad Marchand. The Boston Bruins drafted Marchand 71st in the 3rd round of the 2006 draft. Taken ahead of him were Phil Kessel in the first round, Milan Lucic in the second, Yuri Alexandrov who has even sniffed the NHL. Kessel is second in scoring in that draft, Milan Lucic is sixth in scoring, and Marchand is 16th.

When looking at Marchand it is important to note he’s played about 190 less NHL games than Lucic and almost 300 less than Kessel. Kessel has recently been flipped for Eriksson, Smith, Knight, Hamilton. Lucic has turned into a solid two way player who’s skating is so improved over his first year in the NHL he’s almost unrecognizable. Lucic has also been put on the teams top offensive line for the past four seasons. Marchand started on the fourth line, and has worked his way to the teams premier two way line alongside Patrice Bergeron. In the past three years he’s played with the ‘still maturing’ Tyler Seguin, and two grey beards; Jaromir Jagr and Mark Recchi. Neither of whom managed even respectable speed two shifts in a month.

Pure points wise, there is so little reason to move Marchand it is absolutely silly to even discuss it.

Using the past three seasons his points per game start at .532 ppg over 77 games with 21 goals, 2 of them powerplay and five shorthanded. This is the season he spent the first 20 games or so on the fourth line.  Two season ago with regular time on Bergeron’s wing he jumped to .732 points per game, and 5 powerplay goals. In the lockout shortened season he again jumped up the points per game meter even though he spent the tail end of the season with Jagr and a couple games without Bergeron, this tail off left him with a slim and disturbing .8 points per game. This in a year where the compressed schedule brutalized players across the NHL.

Career wise, within the same system, Marchand handily beats Lucic. Lucic is a solid .59 ppg taking all regular season NHL games played into the measure, and Marchand is at .61. When you add in speed, the ability to play both shorthanded and on the powerplay, and a willingness to play physically clearly he has value. At 25, he’s in about the prime of his career, his .8ppg this year were probably among the most efficient in the NHL as he played just under 17 minutes a night.

Price wise he’s making a middling $4.5m. Other players in the range are Ryan Malone, David Legwand, Vincent Lecavalier, Erik Cole and Tomas Fleishmann

  • Marchand produced a point about every 21.19 minutes of ice time including over 57 minutes of short handed ice time.
  • Malone produced a point about once every 47.125 minutes of ice time including 19 minutes of short handed time.
  • Lecavalier produced a point about every 21.78 minutes of ice time including over 7 minutes of short handed ice time.
  • Cole produced a point about every 36.384 minutes of ice time including over 38 minutes of short handed ice time.
  • Legwand produced a point about every 35.36 minutes of ice time including over 51 minutes of short handed ice time.
  • Fleishmann produced a point about every 25.586 minutes of ice time including over 41 minutes of short handed ice time.

Of the players perpetually rumored to be available, some just don’t make sense even if you take theoretical off ice issues into consideration:

  • Evander Kane; very talented but has a cap hit that’s three quarters of a million dollars higher, just is as good defensively. And then there’s the Winnipeg media’s ever expanding repertoire of maneuvers to discredit him or drive him out of town.
  • Bobby Ryan; he was just moved and it highly doubtful the Senators would trade him within the division. He’s also a right wing where as Marchand has played his NHL career at left.
  • Dustin Byfuglien; a unique talent who can impact the game from defense or right wing. He’s got a larger salary than Marchand, and I just don’t see Julien configuring the lineup to play him at both wing and defense.
  • Kris Versteeg; a solid NHL forward who seems to wear out his welcome in short order, his salary is $100k smaller than Marchand’s.
  • Sam Gagner; while still unsigned, and a solid NHL player, I don’t see the Bruins trading for a player who is due a larger raise and hasn’t played in a system with a viable defensive element.
  • Keith Yandle; with ownership and the arena nailed down it is unlikely they start moving central pieces, especially not with the teams heavy reliance on their blueline.
  • Thomas Vanek; if the Sabres are really going to push their rebuild, he’s a logical player to move, but with one season left on a contract worth more than $7million, he’d create almost as many problems as he’d solve with just his contract.
  • Matt Duchene/Paul Stastny: both are solid offensive centers but neither fits the Bruins system, both need new contracts next year and both have question marks.

Is it possible to move Marchand and remain a contender? Yes of course. Is the return on him likely to be better at the same price or less? No, certainly not in terms of immediate NHL impact. If he is to be moved, there are only about five or six reasonable return, but it is unlikely anyone parts with them. Wayne Simmonds plays hockey perfectly to fit in Boston, Ryan Kesler shifted to wing would do well but Kesler’s injury history is long and distinguished, the Los Angeles Kings Matt Greene would be an instant fan favorite, and Marchand would give the Kings some much needed speed.

Is this a stupid rumor? Probably yes. But hey, when the hockey rumor mill gets boring, and you’ve analyzed stats  until your eyes cross there’s always People of Walmart, it is no better or worse than (most of) the NHL rumors but it is different.

Just about four years ago the US and Canada put on two of the best hockey games of the last quarter century. But, like all teams that team USA is not the one we’ll see in a few years. If I’m playing general manager, there are some players I do bring back, and others I just say no to, at least as of now.

The No’s:

  • Ryan Malone would not be on the short list today. His production has trailed off, he’s not been especially healthy the last few seasons, and he’ll be thirty four before this year is over. Great guy, if he hangs up the skates before the Olympics, he might get tapped for an assistant coaches spot.
  • Chris Drury, nice guy, already retired.
  • Tim Thomas, while its nice to think he’d be back to world beating shape after a year off, it is unlikely.
  • Ryan Whitney, hasn’t played even when healthy for a woeful Oilers club this season.
  • Jamie Langenbrunner, has experienced a notable decline in the past few years, will turn 38 this summer, and has had injury issues,
  • Brian Rafalski, retired.

The Maybe’s:

  • Erik Johnson, is admittedly playing on a poor team, but not especially productive offensively which isn’t how offensive defenseman earn their pay.
  • Phil Kessel enormously hot and cold, not a great two way player and has struggled to score goals this season which is what he’s paid to do.
  • Ryan Kesler, good faceoff man, good passer, physical, good skater, can’t stay healthy to save his soul.
  • Ryan Callahan, well above average for two way play, but prone to long slumps offensively, and injuries as well.
  • Joe Pavelski, seems to have declining returns in the playoffs. That could be the team, that could be his doing, but I lean towards team.
  • Paul Stastny, did not impress me during the last Olympic’s, has had declining production since them, but did have solid World Championship numbers in 2011-12.

The Shortlist:

  • Ryan Miller, while his heroics a the last Olympics seem ot be the last time he played at an elite level, you have to take into consideration the quality of the team in front of him. A quality that has gotten the longest tenured coach in the NHL booted this season.
  • Jonathan Quick, anyone who needs to know why should simply look at last seasons record, both his individual stats, Cup win and the number of games he only gave up one goal in.
  • Tim Gleason, anyone who can be a plus player with all the years he’s spent on the defensively woeful Carolina Hurricanes.
  • Jack Johnson has a boatload of international experience, will probably have been named Captain of the Blue Jackets by then, offensively talented.
  • Brooks Orpik solid two way defenseman with a double handful of physicality, some international experience and would be among the teams elder statesmen.
  • Ryan Suter a top ten defenseman in the NHL, no-brainer.
  • David Backes, certainly one of the best American forwards in the league.
  • Dustin Brown, great mix of skill and physicality.
  • Patrick Kane almost certainly the best pure goal score from the USA, and has a maturing game away from the puck. Knows how to win.
  • Zach Parise versatile, talented and lots and lots of international experience.
  • Bobby Ryan perennial thirty goal scores do not grow on trees, willing to play physical, willing to shoot.

That would be my starting point based on the 2010 Olympic roster. The next post will focus on filling the roster out. I’ve counted out as many as twelve players I expect to put together a pool of about twenty players including at least two or three goalies.

The perennial powers in the Eastern Conference are mostly living up to their potential. It is the bubble teams, and the wild cards that are making life so interesting.  I doubt anyone outside the Francosphere predicted the Canadiens would lead the Eastern Conference at any time, and yet they do. Predicting the Capitals as a basement dweller might have been a little easier, but it still counts as a surprise.

Washington Capitals: We know Adam Oates is a first year head coach. We know he didn’t get a real training camp to break everyone in. We know if McPhee fires him the general manager is probably writing his own pink slip at the same time. We know Mike Green still can’t stay healthy to save his life.

Buffalo Sabres: We know that after hundreds of reminders as to how long he’d been in place Lindy Ruff who still has five years left on his contract is no longer the Sabres head coach. We know the team’s identity is still unknown even to the men on the roster. We know they desperately need to improve at faceoffs. We also know we’re not going to see major changes to way the team plays until the general manager departs and someone else brings in the right mix of talent and attitude.

Florida Panthers: We know that part of last years division championship was a perfect storm of divisional woes. We know that no team in the east has scored less. We know that some of their youngsters are starting to come along. We know the teams goaltending woes are a real big part of why they aren’t performing better despite the emergence of Huberdeau.

New York Islanders: We know that John Tavares is really god damned good. We know that Brad Boyes appears to have a pulse again. We know those two and Matt Moulson aren’t enough to save the team from god awful goaltending and substandard defense. We know Vishnovsky is very unlikely to stick around past the end of the season and tutor the teams young defenders.

Winnipeg Jets: We know the Southeast divisions least south or east team is not great offensively, but that their defense is worse. We know the Jets are somehow worse at home than on the road. We know that if only two of your top five goal scorers have a positive +/- 200 foot hockey probably isn’t happening.  We know that the last time a goaltending tandem let a team to the Cup without either of them having a save percentage north of .900 was probably before most of the roster were allowed to cross the street by themselves.

Philadelphia Flyers: We know that this team is unbareably burdened by eight no trade and no movement clauses. We know this team has more ability that it is showing.  We know the goaltending has again, been reminiscent of the 1980s. We know the tether for the front office and coach have got to be pretty short.

Tampa Bay Lightning: We know if the team could transfer 10% of the talent from their top forwards to their defense they’d be a juggernaut. We know if the team had a third and fourth line who anyone outside the city could name their defense might not matter.  We know that Vincent Lecavalier is playing point per game hockey for the first time since George W. Bush was president. We know that Matheiu Garon is one of the best goaltenders in the southeast division this year.

New York Rangers: We know that not many people picked this team as a bubble team. We know that their powerplay can’t be properly described without using what some would call “unprintable words”. We know the offense as a whole can be called mediocre at best. We know Rick Nash somehow managed to play two games over a couple of days before he felt the hit from Milan Lucic that is blamed for his getting taken out of the lineup.

Ottawa Senators:  We know this a very resilient team.  We know Craig Anderson’s name should be etched onto the Hart and Vezina by early April if he stays anywhere near his current 1.49 gaa and .952 sv%. We know that despite the resilience and the absurd goaltending the team needs to either make a trade or find someone in the system to contribute outside the crease.

Toronto Maple Leafs: We know the Leafs have a coach who can get the individuals on the roster to play like a team. We know James Riemer is still built out of balsa wood and bubble gum. We know Phil Kessel is probably due a goal scoring explosion sometime real soon. We know a 4.4 shooting percentage is not something anyone associates with Kessel, even when he has one. We know that Grabovski is either being unforgivably misused or just having an off year after having been in the top three in scoring for the team the last two years.

Pittsburgh Penguins: We know this team can’t hold onto a shred of discipline when playing their cross state rivals. We know they can score. We know balance isn’t how this team is build. We know they are going to have to do something really creative to get under the cap next year and have a contender.

Boston Bruins: We know Brad Marchand is contributing big time. We know Nathan Horton is a UFA at the end of the season. We know the powerplay is still “a work in progress” despite success in recent games. We know they’ve played the least games so far of any team in the NHL.

Carolina Hurricanes: We know the team has their fair share of offensive talent.  We know Justin Faulk is the future of the teams blueline. We know they lead their division by being more evenly mediocre than the other teams in their division.

Montreal Canadiens: We know believers in karma will point to the last two season and say this is just an evening of the scales. We know those folks would be better served to point to the vastly underrated Tomas Plekanec and the rookie Alex Galchenyuk who have pushed the Habs offense from 20th last season to 9th th

More games, more hockey Americana to enjoy.

Tonight in God’s waiting room the Sunshine State the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning will square off, no word on early bird specials at the concessions:

  • Seeing Red are Scott Clemmensen, Peter Mueller, George Parros, Drew Shore, and Jack Skille
  • Flashing across the ice in White and Blue are, Ryan Malone, Nate Thompson, B.J. Crombeen, Adam Hall, Matt Carle, Brian Lee, and Matt Taormina.

Toronto’s home squad are hoping to be inhospitable hosts to their fellow Ontario team as the Karlsson and Speazza deprived Senators roll into town. The twoWant will be looking to leapfrog Montreal and tie Boston in points for a share of the Northeast lead.

  • Casting a vote is likely team USA goaltender Craig Anderson, backed up by Ben Bishop, Mike Lundin owns a piece of the blueline while Jim O’Brien and Erik Condra make their way as forwards.
  • Toronto’s Americans are rearguards John-Michael Liles and Mike Komisarek, the forwards are Phil Kessel, James Van Riemsdyk, David Steckel, and Mike Brown.

The Philadelphia Flyers will be bringing a very Canadian squad to Montreal:

  • The only American on the Flyers roster is Tom Sestito, the pride of Rome New York (we’re not counting the traitor Couturier who plays for Canada internationally.)
  • The 20% American roster of the Habs includes possible Olympians Alex Galchenyuk and Max “Tweets At The Movies” Pacioretty, team captain Brian Gionta, Eric Cole, and blueliner Francis Bouillon

Wang’s “not really for sale” Islanders host the equally financially stable Devils tonight:

  • Rick Dipietro is on pace to pass last years total games played, Joe Finley and Brian Strait will skate in front of the crease, Kyle Oksoso leads the American presence with Marty Reasoner as its elder statesman, and Colin McDonald and Keith Aucoin round out the roster.
  • First round draft pick Stefan Matteau and Stephen Gionta will be joined by Bobby Butler, Mark Fayne, Andy Greene, and Peter Harrold are the Devils Americans.

Anaheim will stop to roost in Nashville for the night.

  • Bobby Ryan and Nick Bonino will be in the lineup for the Ducks and Patrick Maroon, Kyle Palmieri, will be out there with Nate Guenin and Ben Lovejoy.
  • Hal Gill stands on the blueline for the Predators, the nearly as tall Paul Gaustad plays pivot, and with them are Colin Wilson, Craig Smith and the teams longest tenured American David Legwand.

The Blue Jackets are looking to look their best for their new General Manager, while the Coyotes hope to slip past the idle Wings.

  • Jack Johnson leads the blueline with James Wisniewski, John Moore and Tim Erixon, while the forwards are missing the injured Cam Atkinson, RJ Umberger, Brandon Dubinsky, Jared Boll, and Nick Foligno will all look to make their presence felt.
  • Keith Yandle, a probable Olympian, Chris Summers and David Moss are the American contingent for the desert dogs.

In a battle of bottom feeders the Oilers and Avalanche will square off.

  • Erik  Johnson leads the Avs blueline, assisted by Matt Hunwick while Aaron Palushaj represents the forwards.
  • Edmonton occasionally lets Ryan Whitney on the ice along with blueliners Core Potter and Jeff Petry and forward Chris Vandevelde.

This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.

Players:

  • that with almost a quarter of the season gone, Rick Dipietro would have played more games than Phil Kessel had goals…
  • that Thomas Vanek would not only have a three point lead in the points of Steven Stamkos, but be in sole possession of first place in the points race…
  • that Tobias Enstrom of the Winnipeg Jets would be the only defenseman in the top 30 points producers in the NHL
  • that Teemu Selanne (age 42), Saku Koivu (38, discarded by the Habs back in ’09), and Daniel Winnik (9th round draft pick in 2004) would be three of the Ducks top five scorers and Anahiem would be in playoff position
  • 26 year old Leo Komorov of the Toronto Maple Leafs would lead the league in hits at almost 4 per game, on just 13 minutes of ice time a night and still find time for 2 assists, 10 shots, and 7 blocked shots
  • the Washington Capitals best player, Indiana Ice of the USHL alumni John Carlson would lead the league in blocked shots with 30 in ten games
  • Ryan Clowe of the red hot San Jose Sharks would lead the entire league in penalty minutes with 56 minutes through 10 games
  • Craig Anderson the American goaltender for the Ottawa Senators would be first or second in every goaltending category

Teams:

  • the San Jose Sharks would be the best goal differential in the west, and no one would be picking them for the Cup
  • the phrase “Stanley Cup hangover” had yet to be run into the ground anew despite the Los Angeles Kings being a 500 hockey team in the bottom third of the league for goal scoring (again)
  • the Edmonton Oilers would be tied for the 11th best defense in the NHL, in playoff position, and not have anyone notice
  • the Avalanche would prove to be more stubborn than smart by failing to resign their leading scorer from last season even though at the quarter pole they were a bottom third scoring team but only -2 in goal differential overall
  • with one fifth of the season gone, the Anaheim Ducks, New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Tampa Bay Lightning would all be in playoff position
  • last years Cup winners the Los Angeles Kings, the New York Rangers an eastern finalist, the Washington Capitals, and Philadelphia Flyers would all be out of the playoffs if the season ended today
  • the Tampa Bay Lightning would have an eye popping 4.44 goals for per game
  • the Washington Capitals who finished the playoffs 5th in goals allowed would be 27th in goals allowed
  • the NHL’s 5th best powerplay would belong to the leagues 29th place team, the Calgary Flames

The Edmonton Oilers have just inked Taylor Hall to a new contract. Despite the ownership demand in CBA negotiations, that contracts not exceed five years, Taylor Hall got seven. He also got six million a year. At six million, he’ll be making more than Selke Winner Patrice Bergeron, former scoring champ Martin St Louis, four time 30 goal man Phil Kessel, Calder winner Jeff Skinner, more than Ryan Kesler who is another Selke winner, and more than a few other names you might just recognize: Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Dustin Brown, all of whom have their names on the Stanley Cup.

Aside from being first overall pick, what has Taylor Hall done? Yeah, I can’t think of anything either. Yes, he’s played in two NHL seasons producing forty-nine goals which isn’t anything to sneeze at. However, on a team that isn’t that deep andhas to rely on its forwards producing oodles of goals to have a chance to win he’s also gotten a lot more ice time than other players his age. More importantly, he’s only managed to be on the ice for three quarters of each season. In two seasons he’s missed time for shoulder and ankle injuries and a concussion. That’s Simon Gagne or Martin Havlat level fragility.

What are the Oilers suits thinking? If they’ve signed him that long for that much, what is Jordan Eberle going to command? Eberle is hands down the most game impacting young forward they have, based on the last two seasons the race isn’t even close. Eberle produced more points in less time on ice while playing the penalty kill two seasons ago in a close race, and last year was a walk off winner of the points chase. Based on production and good sense, Eberle who smacked aside the thirty goal mark in his second season should be worth at least another million a year.

Except this is the Edmonton Oilers we are talking about, good sense is not only not required it will likely be used against you. This team has a drafted, developed and retained one defenseman worth naming in the last decade and a quarter; Theo Peckham. That’s it, he’s the best they’ve done since Taylor Hall was 8 years old. They let Matt Greene of the Kings escape, and therein lies the total of their claims to drafting and developing the players you need most in the current NHL. Out of more than thirty tries, they’ve produced two viable NHL defensemen.

If the Oilers compensate Eberle around what Hall has gotten, they will still need to find a way to retain Gagner, Nugent-Hopkins, a viable defense, and of course figure out what to do with Yakupov, Schultz, Paajarvi, and others in the not to distant future. Anyone predicting the Oilers will either have to sacrifice talent to get people under the cap, or spend years icing a very unbalanced team is clearly more qualified to run a hockey team than anyone of the current Edmonton suits.

 

The Toronto Maple Leafs are a hot mess. Certain members of the family care way more about where players are from than how good they are. Some players just don’t show up very often. Then too, there is the question of what sort of maturity (if any) the roster possess as a whole.

Good News

  • Phil Kessel will almost certainly turn in another damn good October.
  • All of last years youngsters gained valuable NHL experience, and several of them got AHL playoff experience playing for the Marlies,
  • Their most important forward, Mikhail Grabovski is locked up long term.

Bad News

  • Goaltending is more than a question it’s a problem.
  • The issue of consistency for the whole team is still up in the air,
  • The defense needs to tighten up dramatically.

Forecast

High: Bubble team, finding some equilibrium in the neighborhood of their best play and shifting three of their overtime losses to regulation wins, and three regulation losses to wins would be a nine point swing. It’d be easy to point out six close games they could have done better in.

Low:  Afterthought/lottery. Injuries to Kessel or Grabovski up front, or Reimer failing to improve or getting worse will doom this team.

X-Factor

Neither the Sabres nor the Canadiens improved much, if at all this off season, and with the young players coming in a little more confident and experienced, this team could see a big bounce if Reimer returns to the .921sv% he put up over his first half season in the NHL. How much pressure Burke feels to make a good impression on the new ownership and keep his job will also be important. You also can’t forget the possibility of a big trade that improves the goaltending.

What is Jordan Staal worth on the open market? Simply put, a lot. After Parise he’s potentially the most impactful forward on the market. As far as players under contract if he is moved this summer he is the most desirable player likely to become available. Because of his playoff success, offensive ability, and defensive prowess  there is a lot to like. Two important things to remember, without a no trade or no movement clause Staal doesn’t have a say in where he goes, and second if whoever picks him up doesn’t convince him to stay he’ll only be there a year.

Using the Kessel trade as a low end value, two first round picks or (or high end prospects) and one second round pick as the return isn’t really beyond the ability of any team to spend. Assuming there’s no extension and trade deal worked out between the clubs let’s take a look at who is most in need of him first.

Because of his defensive ability and offensive potential, the first team to step up for him in the western conference should be:

The Minnesota Wild. Mikko Koivu is one of the ten or so most underrated players in the league and carries the burdens of captain, defensive and offensive leaders on a team that has struggled since it it was founded. Adding Staal as the second top two center allows the team to retain it’s identity as a defensive first team, and both lower the burden on Koivu shorthanded and increase the teams five on five strength. A return of Coyle, a 1st round pick and second is reasonable, although if the Penguins are looking at a backup goaltender Matthew Hackett might end up in the mix.

Staying in the west, two teams that are young and strong but  would likely want as much in the way of offense out of Staal as defense are:

The St Louis Blues and Dallas Star, Pietrangelo and Backes highlight the first, while Benn and Eriksson lead the latter. The two teams finished back to back in the low twenties in offense this season. Adding Staal’s offensive production over anyone internal gives either team the chance to level up. For the Blues who have to be considered to be in “win now” mode given their high finish, he’s got the potential to put them over the top. For the Star’s, he represents the difference between breaking up in mid April and having to worry about arena availability through at least one round of the playoffs.

The biggest question for either team is what is ownership willing and able to spend to keep him long term.

Staying in the Central, one of the NHL’s longest snipe hunts might be concluded if this team were to pickup on Staal:

The Columbus Blue Jackets might just find the center to compliment Rick Nash. With Johnson and Wisniewski to patrol the blueline, and Nash, Staal, and Umberger up front all that’s needed to get out of the lottery is an average performance in net to lift the team out of the lottery. Arguably it could be done with the goaltending they’ve gotten if you factor in Staal’s penalty kill prowess. Having taken on Carter and then Johnson’s contracts after signing Wisniewski’s it’s doubtful they’d be unwilling to sign Staal long term if he decided he liked the move about three hours drive west of his current team. There isn’t a great deal on the Jackets roster that could be traded out that is something the Penguins would need currently, so straight draft picks are most likely.

Coming up a look at the eastern conference possibilities.