Every NHL Team's Best Option to Improve in the 2014 Offseason
With the NHL 2014 draft now history and all of the best unrestricted free agents signed, general managers must seek other means to improve their rosters for 2014-15. With nearly two months until training camps open in September, plenty of time remains in the offseason to fix their respective roster needs.
For some, glaring holes remain which could be addressed via trade or whatever talent remains in free agency. Others require only minor adjustments. Several clubs have key restricted free agents to re-sign, especially those heading to salary arbitration in the coming weeks.
Here's a look at the roster priority for each NHL club, the best option to address it during the offseason and the potential cost.
The priority: Improve their scoring punch on left wing. The Ducks lack a true top-line left winger. Such a move could provide a boost to their power play, which was 22nd overall last season (16.0 percent).
Best option: It could take a trade to suitably address this need. Left wing David Booth is available via free agency, but he has a lengthy injury history. GM Bob Murray could wait until training camp in September to evaluate his roster before deciding if he needs more scoring.
Potential cost: Murray drew upon his depth in young players and prospects to acquire Ryan Kesler from Vancouver. He could do so again to add a top-six left wing. Rivals clubs could have interest in young Ducks forwards like Emerson Etem, Devante Smith-Pelly or Jakob Silfverberg.
Best option: David Booth is available via free agency and can play both wings, but the Coyotes could seek a better option via trade. They have depth on their blue line to draw upon as bait for a scorer.
Potential cost: Puck-moving defenseman Keith Yandle. The Detroit Red Wings seek a top-four blueliner and the Detroit Free Press' Helene St. James suggested Yandle as a trade option. The Coyotes could get Tomas Tatar or Tomas Jurco as part of the return, though neither has yet established himself as top-six material.
The priority: Replace the departed Jarome Iginla. The Bruins have only $1.6 million in cap space. They could promote Loui Eriksson into Iginla's spot and move Reilly Smith to the second line, but that could leave a gap at right wing on their third line.
Best option: Find a right wing via trade. They have limited cap space to re-sign key free agents like Smith and Torey Krug. CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty reports they received a $4.75 million bonus overage penalty. Haggerty also suggested Lee Stempniak and Peter Mueller as affordable free-agent options. It could be more worthwhile going the trade route.
Potential cost: One of their nine defensemen under NHL contracts. NESN.com's Nicholas Goss reports Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli acknowledged he can't go into 2014-15 with that many blueliners. If Chiarelli has his eye on a right wing he could use one of his rearguards as trade bait. Johnny Boychuk ($3.26 million) or Adam McQuaid ($1.56 million) could become trade candidates.
The priority: Entertain offers for defenseman Tyler Myers. The 24-year-old blueliner remains under contract through 2018-19, earning an annual cap hit of $5.5 million. Though Myers has struggled since winning the Calder Trophy in 2010 as Rookie of the Year, he remains a valuable defenseman who can improve over time.
Still, the Sabres are currently undergoing a major rebuild. It wouldn't hurt to see what offers are out there which could significantly improve their overall roster.
Best option: Contact the Detroit Red Wings. The Detroit Free Press' Helene St. James suggests Myers as a trade target for the Wings, who seek a top-four defenseman who shoots right.
Potential cost: St. James speculates it could cost a promising young forward like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar or Tomas Jurco, along with a high draft pick and possibly another player to pry Myers out of Buffalo. If there's a chance to get such a return from the Wings for Myers, Sabres management should at least consider it.
The priority: Bolster their depth at right wing. Beyond Alexander Semin, there's not much scoring punch on the Hurricanes' right side.
Best option: Devin Setoguchi is available via free agency. Though he's struggled in recent years, the 27-year-old Setoguchi is a former three-time 20-plus goal scorer.
Potential cost: Setoguchi's coming off a three-year, $9 million contract. His struggles over the past two years could make him an affordable, short-term gamble for the Hurricanes, who have over $5.9 million in cap space. A one-year deal between $1.5-$2 million could be feasible.
The priority: Re-sign Joe Colborne. NHLPA.com listed Colborne among 20 NHL players who have filed for salary arbitration. As per the NHL CBA, that makes him ineligible to receive an offer sheet. It also sets a deadline (as per NHLPA.com, between July 20 - August 4) to continue contract talks before his arbitration hearing.
Best option: Avoid a messy arbitration hearing, and get Colborne re-signed to a fair deal. The 24-year-old posted decent numbers (10 goals and 28 points in 80 games) last season. The Flames are rebuilding with youth. A big forward (6' 5”, 213 lbs) like Colborne who can play center or wing could be a key part of their future.
Potential cost: Colborne's coming off a one-year, $600,000 contract. A two-year deal worth around $1.2 million annually seems reasonable for a young NHL player at his stage of development.
The priority: Shed salary without significantly hurting their overall depth. The addition of Brad Richards pushed the Blackhawks above the $69 million cap ceiling by over $2.2 million. Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman told CSNChicago.com's Tracey Myers the club has some options to address the situation over the course of the summer.
Best option: Trade one of their defensemen in a salary-dumping deal for a draft pick and/or prospect.
Potential cost: ESPN.com's Scott Powers reports Johnny Oduya (pictured above) was mentioned in trade rumors. Oduya carries a cap hit of $3.375 million, but Rogers reports the blueliner's agent claims his client hasn't been approached about a trade. Another option could be Nick Leddy ($2.7 million), who lacks a no-trade clause.
The priority: Re-sign Ryan O'Reilly, who is being taken to arbitration by the Avalanche. He's among the best two-way forwards in the league. Yahoo Sports' Sean Leahy revealed O'Reilly finished sixth among voters for the 2014 Selke Trophy.
Best option: Reach a contract agreement with O'Reilly and his agent before his arbitration date, which will be sometime between July 20 - August 4. An arbitration hearing can be bruising for a player's ego. It could result in O'Reilly to feel unappreciated by Avalanche management, leading to his potential departure when he becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency.
Having lost Paul Stastny this summer to free agency, the Avs would be wise to avoid that problem with O'Reilly. They're a better club with O'Reilly in the lineup.
Potential cost: O'Reilly's last contract was a two-year deal at an annual cap hit of $5 million, while his actual salary for last season was $6.5 million. He also won the Lady Byng Trophy this season for gentlemanly play. It could take a seven- or eight-year, front-loaded deal (within the current salary variance rules) worth an annual cap hit of $6 million to re-sign O'Reilly.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The priority: Re-sign center Ryan Johansen. The 21-year-old enjoyed a breakout performance last season. He tallied 33 goals and 63 points in 82 regular-season games followed by six points in as many playoff games. However, The Columbus Dispatch's Aaron Portzline reports the Blue Jackets want Johansen to sign a bridge deal, while the young center seeks a longer term.
Best option: Get this resolved as soon as possible to avoid an offer sheet. Portzline observes the Jackets have sufficient cap space to match any offer sheet but expressed concern over a rival club setting the value of Johansen's new contract.
Potential cost: Johansen's coming off an entry-level contract worth an annual cap hit (including performance bonuses) of $1.95 million. He has little leverage other than stage a holdout while hoping to receive an offer sheet from another club.
If the Jackets' patience pays off and Johansen doesn't receive an offer sheet, he'll have to settle for a two- or three-year deal worth perhaps $3.5 million annually. Still, it would be best to avoid a possible training-camp standoff which could adversely affect Johansen's performance next season.
The priority: Bolster their blue-line depth.
Best option: It could come from within their system. The Dallas Morning News' Mike Heika reports GM Jim Nill is excited about the Stars' promising young defensemen.
We’ve got three or four young kids that are knocking on the door from the Calder Cup championship down in Texas. We think we’ve got lots of different options. We know they’re all going to get better. We think we’re going to be just fine.
Potential cost: Promoting young defensemen will be affordable for the Stars, who have over $7 million in cap space. Heika lists rookies Cameron Gaunce, John Klingberg, Jyrki Jokipakka, Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak among those who could crack the Stars defense corps in 2014-15.
Detroit Red Wings
The priority: Acquire a top-four defenseman with a right-handed shot.
Best option: MLive.com's Ansar Khan speculates Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green could be available now that the Capitals have added blueliners Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. Despite Green's injury history, Khan cites the 28-year-old as a strong skater with solid offensive skills.
Potential cost: The Washington Post's Alex Prewitt reports Capitals GM Brian MacLellan claims Green still has a future in Washington. However, Green is one year away from unrestricted free agency and carries a cap hit of just over $6 million. He could be willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to Detroit.
The Red Wings have depth in affordable youngsters to tempt the Capitals, who have only $1.1 million in cap space for 2014-15. If the Capitals seek a second-line center, the Wings could try offering Stephen Weiss ($4.9 million annually) straight up for Green provided Weiss is willing to waive his no-movement clause. MacLellan could instead prefer one of the Wings' promising young forwards as part of the return.
The priority: Bring in an established center. The Edmonton Sun's Robert Tychkowski reports Oilers GM Craig MacTavish said he still needs to add a center.
Best option: St. Louis Blues center Patrik Berglund. Though he recently signed a three-year extension with the Blues, the recent addition of Paul Stastny could make Berglund expendable. The two teams have a recent trade history. Last summer the Blues dealt David Perron to the Oilers.
Potential cost: Tychkowski noted MacTavish recently added three defensemen, speculating he might be in position to move a blueliner in a trade. The Blues, however, are already deep on defense. It could take the Oilers parting with a prospect or draft pick or perhaps working out a deal involving a third team to acquire Berglund.
The priority: Re-sign restricted free-agent defensemen Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov.
Best option: Both could receive two-year contracts. Gudbranson, 22, is coming off an entry-level deal with no arbitration rights. Kulikov, 23, struggled over the past two years. Both could benefit the new coaching staff headed by Gerard Gallant.
Potential cost: Gudbranson's previous contract paid a $900,000 base salary along with bonuses which, if achieved, would've earned him $3.2 million annually. He could receive a two-year bridge deal at $3.5 million annually. Kulikov's previous deal was for two years at an annual cap hit of $2.5 million. He could receive a modest raise somewhere between $2.75-$3 million annually.
Los Angeles Kings
The priority: Re-sign restricted free-agent forward Dwight King. The Kings are coming off their second Stanley Cup championship in three years. They made their big offseason move by re-signing sniper Marian Gaborik to a lucrative seven-year contract. King is the only player left to re-sign. NHLPA.com listed him among the 20 players who filed for salary arbitration.
Best option: GM Dean Lombardi gets King inked to a new deal before the winger's arbitration hearing sometime between July 20 - August 4.
Potential cost: King just completed a two-year deal worth $750,000 annually. Last season was the 25-year-old left wing's best to date. In 77 regular-season games he tallied 15 goals and 30 points while notching 11 points in 26 playoff games during the Kings' Stanley Cup run. The Kings have $2.2 million in cap space for 2014-15. They have sufficient room to re-sign King to a two- or three-year deal worth around $1.4 million per season.
The priority: Find a physical defenseman. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Michael Russo reports the Wild lack physicality on their blue line and missed out on signing Willie Mitchell, who opted instead to join the Florida Panthers.
Best option: Among the options cited by Russo were Anton Volchenkov, Douglas Murray, Shane O'Brien and Cory Sarich. Volchenkov, however, recently signed with the Nashville Predators. Of the remainder, O'Brien would be the best bet.
At 30, he's younger than Sarich and faster than the plodding Murray. O'Brien can be undisciplined, but he's about the best available option via free agency to address the Wild's need for physicality on the blue line.
Potential cost: O'Brien completed a three-year, $6 million contract. After spending half of last season in the minors, he won't get near that much this time. A one-year deal for around $1 million might be the ticket.
The priority: Re-sign superstar defenseman P.K. Subban, who's currently a restricted free agent. He's coming off a two-year, $5.75 million contract, and the 2013 Norris Trophy winner is in line for a significant raise. NHLPA.com listed Subban among 20 NHL players who filed for salary arbitration.
Best option: The best option for all concerned is avoid arbitration by agreeing to a long-term deal. By filing for arbitration, Subban is now ineligible to receive an offer sheet. Once his arbitration date is determined (sometime between July 20 to August 4), Subban and the Canadiens can continue negotiating toward a new contract.
Potential cost: The Pittsburgh Penguins' Kris Letang, a runner-up to Subban for the 2013 Norris Trophy, received an eight-year deal worth $7.25 million annually. It could cost the Canadiens between $7.5-$8.5 million annually to re-sign Subban.
The priority: Find a suitable replacement for center Mike Fisher, who is sidelined four to six months by a ruptured Achilles tendon. His injury leaves a gaping hole at center which the Predators must fill before the season starts. The Tennessean's Josh Cooper lists the Philadelphia Flyers' Vincent Lecavalier and unrestricted free agent Derek Roy as possibilities.
Best option: Mike Ribeiro. Lecavalier has four years left on his contract at $4.5 million annually. Even if the Flyers pick up part of his salary, the term remains too risky. His offensive numbers have been in steady decline in recent years, as has Roy's.
Ribeiro, recently bought out by the Arizona Coyotes over “behavioral issues,” could be a good, short-term fit until Fisher returns. He's still capable of putting up decent numbers and might be a good fit with new Predators right wing James Neal.
Potential cost: Ribeiro was earning $5.5 million annually on a four-year deal when he was bought out by the Coyotes. A contract similar to the one Brad Richards signed with the Chicago Blackhawks (one-year, $2 million) could be reasonable for Ribeiro.
New Jersey Devils
The priority: Re-sign goaltender Cory Schneider to a long-term contract extension. Schneider, acquired in June 2013 from the Vancouver Canucks, is considered the successor to longtime Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, who elected to become an unrestricted free agent. Schneider, 28, becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer. NJ.com's Rich Chere reports the two sides are getting closer to a deal.
Best option: A seven- or eight-year extension signed this summer. Get it out of the way now rather than having uncertainty carry over into the approaching season.
Potential cost: Yahoo Sports Greg Wyshynski reports hearing Schneider's new deal could be seven years long at an annual cap hit of $6 million. It's expensive, but that's what it could take to ensure Schneider remains a Devil.
New York Islanders
The priority: Acquire an experienced puck-moving blueliner. Lubomir Visnovsky turns 38 in August and has an injury history. Promising Griffin Reinhart could crack the lineup but lacks NHL experience. No one else on the their defense corps has first-pass capability or can anchor their power play.
Best option: Michael Del Zotto is available via free agency. He's only 24 and just two years removed from a 41-point performance with the New York Rangers. Having washed out with the Rangers and Nashville Predators last season, Del Zotto should be motivated to get his NHL career back on track.
Potential cost: The Islanders have over $14 million in cap space. Once they finish re-signing affordable restricted free agents like Anders Lee, Calvin de Haan and Casey Cizikas, there should be more than enough to sign Del Zotto. Though coming off a two-year, $5.1 million contract, Del Zotto's tumbling stock could make him an affordable short-term signing.
New York Rangers
The priority: Re-sign restricted free agents Mats Zuccarello, Derick Brassard and Chris Kreider. NHLPA.com lists the trio as having filed for salary arbitration, making them ineligible to receive offer sheets from rival clubs. Their hearings will take place between July 20 and August 4.
Best option: Re-sign the trio and avoid the ego-bruising arbitration process. The Rangers lost enough depth this summer to free agency with the departures of Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle and Benoit Pouliot. They don't need to risk pushing any of these three out the door when they become eligible for UFA status.
Potential cost: The Rangers have over $14 million in cap space. Brassard earned $3.2 million annually on his recent contract, Kreider $1.325 million and Zuccarello $1.15 million. It could cost a combined $12 million to get these three locked up to new contracts.
The priority: Determining Bobby Ryan's future in Ottawa. Ryan has one year left on his contract and is eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer. The Senators must determine if he can be re-signed this summer. Such a move would eliminate uncertainty about his future hanging over the club throughout 2014-15.
Best option: The Senators re-sign Ryan to a five-year extension taking him up to age 33 when the deal expires. It's just long enough to ensure they still have Ryan in his playing prime but won't leave them on the hook for too long should his play tail off in his early 30s.
Potential cost: Ryan's in the final year of a five-year contract with an annual cap hit of $5.1 million, though his actual salary in the final year is worth over $5.5 million. He's a four-time 30-goal scorer who could attract considerable interest in next summer's free-agent market.
It could cost the Senators around $6.5 million annually to keep him. Should that prove too expensive, the Senators will have to consider shopping him either this summer or by next year's trade deadline.
The priority: Dump salary to free up valuable cap space. The Flyers are currently perched above the $69 million cap by over $3 million. While they'll get some cap relief at the start of next season by placing Chris Pronger ($4.9 million) on long-term injured reserve, it won't give them much wiggle room for significant additions to their roster.
Best option: The Philadelphia Inquirer's Sam Carchidi reports Flyers GM Ron Hextall's been trying to trade center Vincent Lecavalier, who has four years at $4.5 million annually remaining on his contract. Carchidi claims interested teams not only want the Flyers to pick up part of Lecavalier's contract but also include a player or prospect in the deal.
Potential cost: If it means picking up half of Lecavalier's remaining salary so be it, as long as the extra player or prospect isn't a highly coveted one. Lecavalier still has trade value this summer. Another season like 2013-14 could effectively kill it off. Hextall could then face a lengthy buyout of Lecavalier next summer.
The priority: New general manager Jim Rutherford must re-sign his remaining restricted free agents (Brandon Sutter, Nick Spaling, Simon Despres), then evaluate the roster during training camp and preseason. Rutherford's already made his significant moves this summer, shipping James Neal to Nashville for Spaling and Patric Hornqvist, then adding Christian Ehrhoff, Steve Downie and Thomas Greiss via free agency.
Best option: Hope the new additions jell with the rest of the roster under new coach Mike Johnston during preseason.
Potential cost: If roster needs arise, Rutherford could have limited cap space to address them. He's already got over $61 million invested in 18 players for 2014-15 and still has Sutter, Spaling and Despres to re-sign. If he tries to go the trade route, teams could try to pry away promising young defenseman Olli Maatta.
San Jose Sharks
The priority: Don't overreact to their playoff collapse against the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs by trading Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Being only the fourth team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 series lead justifies re-examining the roster, but it doesn't mean blowing it up. The Sharks remain a very good team.
Best option: Stand pat for now. San Jose has already cut loose Dan Boyle and bought out Martin Havlat. Though Thornton and Marleau have been mentioned in trade rumors, Yahoo Sports Nicholas J. Cotsonika reports the Sharks aren't trying to trade them or at least not yet. The pair are both under three-year contracts with full no-movement clauses. Evaluate their performance and the rest of the roster in the upcoming season.
Potential cost: The Sharks have over $10 million in cap space and 21 players under contract. There's no reason to shed salary. How the club performs in 2014-15 could determine if it's worthwhile trying to move Thornton and/or Marleau.
St. Louis Blues
The priority: What to do with Patrik Berglund? Though the Blues re-signed him to a three-year, $11.1 million contract, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeremy Rutherford speculated the 26-year-old center could still be dealt. Their recent additions of Paul Stastny and Jori Lehtera could push Berglund to left wing.
Best option: Ship Berglund to the Edmonton Oilers. The Edmonton Sun's Robert Tychkowski reports Oilers GM Craig MacTavish is in the market for a center. The two teams have a recent trade history. Last summer the Blues shipped winger David Perron to the Oilers.
Potential cost: The Edmonton Journal's David Staples cited a report by TSN's Ryan Rishaug claiming the Oilers were shopping Jeff Petry. This was prior to Petry recently re-signing a one-year, $3 million deal. The Blues, however, are already deep on defense.They could seek a promising prospect along with a draft pick for Berglund.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The priority: Look forward to 2013 first-round pick (third overall) Jonathan Drouin making the lineup this fall. GM Steve Yzerman already made his significant offseason moves. He re-signed Ryan Callahan, signed Callahan's former Rangers teammates Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman via free agency, acquired Jason Garrison via trade and brought in veteran goalie Evgeni Nabokov as Ben Bishop's backup.
Best option: Drouin, a skilled playmaker, might be a good fit on Steven Stamkos' line. A gifted playmaker, Drouin won a Memorial Cup championship on the Halifax Mooseheads with Nathan MacKinnon in 2013 and led the Mooseheads in scoring last season with 108 points in 46 games.
Potential cost: Accounting for Drouin's entry-level salary, the Lightning have over $67 million invested in 21 players for 2014-15.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The priority: Find an established checking-line forward. Bringing back Leo Komarov should help, but there's still a lack of experienced skill on their bottom-six lines.
Best option: Steve Ott is still available via free agency. Only 31, Ott can play every forward position, plays an aggressive physical style and can chip in offensively. He would bring experience and leadership to the Leafs checking lines, two qualities sorely lacking last season.
Potential cost: With $13.2 million in cap space and James Reimer, Jake Gardiner and Cody Franson among their notable restricted free agents, the Leafs have room to sign Ott. A two- or three-year deal around $2.5 million annually is feasible.
The priority: Resolve the goaltending logjam. The Canucks' recent signing of Ryan Miller gives them three goalies under one-way NHL contracts, joining Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom.
Best option: Try to trade Markstrom. The Vancouver Province's Jason Botchford reports it's believed Markstrom has requested a trade. “That situation could work itself out over the summer,” said Benning, claiming teams which are interest in Markstrom might have to move out another player first.
Potential cost: Markstrom is in the final year of his two-year contract at a cap hit of $1.2 million. Benning could try to move him out for a draft pick or prospect, freeing up additional cap space for other moves in 2014-15. However, there currently isn't much of a market for backup goaltenders. The Canucks could be forced to wait until training camp or preseason to address this.
The priority: Add an experienced second-line center to fill the void left by Mikhail Grabovski's departure via free agency.
Best option: Mike Ribeiro tallied 49 points in 48 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Following that season he signed a four-year, $22 million contract with the Phoenix Coyotes. They recently bought him out, citing behavioral issues, but a return to Washington might prove beneficial for Ribeiro and the Capitals.
Potential cost: Considering the reasons surrounding his buyout, Ribeiro might have to prove himself. An affordable one-year deal worth around $2 million could be possible. The Capitals, however, have only $1.1 million in cap space. They must shed some salary to make the dollars fit.
The priority: Add a top-six forward. The Winnipeg Free Press' Tim Campbell reports Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff wants to address that need.
Best option: If Cheveldayoff hopes for a top-six forward, he'll have to give to get in the trade market. That could shopping defenseman/winger Dustin Byfuglien.
Potential cost: MLive.com's Ansar Khan suggested Byfuglien as a trade target for the Detroit Red Wings, who seek a right-handed top-four defenseman. Cheveldayoff could seek Tomas Tatar or Tomas Jurco as part of the return, though neither has fully established himself yet as a top-six forward.
The Winnipeg Sun's Ken Wiebe reports Byfuglien was also on the Flyers' radar along with teammate Evander Kane. The Jets could seek Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds or Matt Read in return, but the Flyers are shopping Vincent Lecavalier.