NHL Free Agent and Trade Rumors: Each Team's Most Pressing Need This Offseason

Matthew FairburnCorrespondent IMay 23, 2011

NHL Free Agent and Trade Rumors: Each Team's Most Pressing Need This Offseason

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 30:  Goaltender Michael Leighton #49 of the Philadelphia Flyers reacts after giving up his second goal as the Los Angeles Kings celebrate at Staples Center on December 30, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.   (Photo by Stephen Dun
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Just four teams remain in the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the rest of the league is at home analyzing what they need to differently to get their team to the promised land.

    Since the introduction of the salary cap, the NHL offseason has become more active than ever before with free-agent signings and trades galore. 

    Between free agency, the trade market and the 2011 NHL draft, NHL front offices will have plenty of chances to bolster their personnel on the ice.

    Here is the biggest area of concern for each team in the NHL heading in the 2011 NHL offseason.

Edmonton Oilers: Defense

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    COLUMBUS, OH - FEBRUARY 05: Taylor Hall #4 of the Edmonton Oilers skates against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on February 5, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    When a team is drafting No. 1 overall for the second consecutive season, it is safe to say that it has quite a few needs.

    The Edmonton Oilers are loaded with talented forward prospects in Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi. However, the team lacks a stud at the center position capable of filling the void for a top line center.

    The more pressing need lies on the blue line for the Oilers. Without many prospects in the system, or talent in the NHL, Edmonton could use a blue chip defenseman to bolster the back end.

    The Oilers are on the right track as far as their rebuilding project is concerned, but there is still quite a ways to go out in Edmonton.

Colorado Avalanche: Defense/Goaltending

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    ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 5: Erik Johnson #6 of the Colorado Avalanche takes a shot on goal against the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center on April 5, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    The Colorado Avalanche have built a solid stable of forwards with Paul Stasny and Matt Duchene leading the way. Unfortunately, the talent on the back end is not quite as impressive.

    The midseason acquisition of Erik Johnson was a start, but the Avs still need to add some talent on the blue line. Plus, there is no guarantee that Johnson will develop into the type of player he has been hyped up to be since being drafted with the first overall pick back in 2006.

    In addition, Colorado needs to find a dependable solution between the pipes after curiously dealing Craig Anderson to the Ottawa Senators.

    Luckily, the Avalanche have a few first-round draft picks with which to work.

Florida Panthers: Youth

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    BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 25: Tomas Vokoun #29 and Jason Garrison #52 of the Florida Panthers defend against Drew Stafford #21 of the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena on March 25, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    The Florida Panthers are clearly in a transition.

    Tomas Vokoun is a free agent and will be tough to retain. The team dealt Bryan McCabe, Michael Frolik, Radek Dvorak, Cory Stillman and Dennis Wideman at the deadline and now has to work to acquire more young talent to fill in those gaps.

    Florida has the third overall choice in the 2011 NHL draft, which will be vital in the team's pursuit of young talent.

New York Islanders: A Physical Defenseman

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 08:  Mark Streit #2 of the New York Islanders prepares for a face-off against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena on April 8, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Penguins defeated the Islanders 7-3.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller
    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    The New York Islanders blue line was decimated by injuries this past season.

    That being said, there are plenty of promising young players on the back end for the Isles heading into next season. The club will also get Mark Streit back, who missed nearly all of last season with a shoulder injury.

    The Islanders would love to land a physical presence on the blue line to complement the offensive prowess of Streit and allow them to bring along the young kids like Calvin De Hann, Jack Hillen and Bruno Gervais slowly.

Ottawa Senators: Center

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    TORONTO, CAN - JANUARY 19:  Sean Couturier #7 of Team Cherry skates with the puck against Team Orr in the 2011 Home Hardware Top Prospects game on January 19, 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. Team Orr defeated Team Cherry 7-1. (Photo by C
    Claus Andersen/Getty Images

    The Ottawa Senators are in a full scale rebuilding effort.

    The first step in that process should be a franchise center that the team can structure its offense around. The Sens might be able to snatch a talented prospect in the first round of the 2011 NHL draft.

    With the sixth pick in June's draft, Ottawa will likely have a shot at Sean Couturier. If he's available, the Senators would be wise to rush to the podium with the pick.

Atlanta (Winnipeg) Thrashers: Scoring

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    ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 27:  Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Atlanta Thrashers skates against the Ottawa Senators at the Philips Arena on March 27, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Thrashers defeated the 5-4 in the shoot out.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Is anyone surprised that the Thrasher had difficulty putting the puck in the net in the wake of losing Ilya Kovalchuk to free agency? Didn't think so.

    Atlanta had only two 20 goal scorers this season, and one of them was defenseman Dustin Byfuglien.

    The seventh overall pick may not be high enough to secure an elite goal-scoring prospect, but the Thrashers could acquire veterans in free agency to add some depth up front.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Defense, Defense and More Defense

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 22:  Goalie Steve Mason #1 of the Columbus Blue Jackets reacts and Matt Duchene #9 of the Colorado Avalanche celebrates after a shot by Daniel Winnik of the Colorado Avalanche scores with three seconds left in the game to tie the score
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The Columbus Blue Jackets need a ton of help on the blue line.

    Offensively minded and physical defensemen alike are needed to bolster a group that allowed over three goals per game in 2010-2011 and has the second worst power-play unit in the entire league, converting just 14 percent of their chances.

New Jersey Devils: Puck-Moving Defenseman

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    NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 02:  Zach Parise #9 of the New Jersey Devils waits for a faceoff during an NHL hockey game against the Montreal Canadians at the Prudential Center on April 2, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
    Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

    The New Jersey Devils have needs across the board. They had issues scoring last season and have aging goalies on the roster.

    However, the return of Zach Parise will help put more points on the board, and the goaltender position can wait another season as Brodeur will be back in the fall.

    The issue of a puck-moving defenseman is the most pressing for the Devils heading into next season. The power play, which was third worst in the league, and the previously mentioned scoring issues would both stand to improve with the addition of an offensively gifted defender. 

Toronto Maple Leafs: Defensive Depth

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    UNIONDALE, NY - FEBRUARY 08:  Tomas Kaberle #15 of the Toronto Maple Leafs takes a shot against the New York Islanders on February 8, 2011 at Nassau Colsium in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Lou Capozzola/Getty Images)
    Lou Capozzola/Getty Images

    The departures of Tomas Kaberle and Francois Beauchemin left a void at the third defensive pairing for the Maple Leafs. Mike Komisarek has done nothing to ease the concern in Toronto.

    Brian Burke and the Leafs are constructing quite the defensive corps, but depth is needed.

    Also, a bit of size up front wouldn't hurt the development of some of the team's young talented scorers.

Minnesota Wild: Offense

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    ST PAUL, MN - MARCH 22:  Martin Havlat #24 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Xcel Energy Center on March 22, 2011 in St Paul, Minnesota.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Since the departure of Marion Gaborik, the Minnesota Wild have struggled to find legitimate scoring threats up front.

    Martin Havlat was a solid addition and Mikko Koivu is a dependable two-way forward but neither had the ability to shoulder the load offensively.

    The Wild have some prospects developing overseas and will surely add more in the upcoming draft. One way or another, Minnesota has to solve their issue at the forward position.

St. Louis Blues: Veteran Defenseman

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    SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 8: Eric Brewer #4 of the St. Louis Blues skates prior to the NHL game against the Florida Panthers on February 8, 2011 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. The Blues defeated the Panthers 2-1. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Gett
    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    With as many young talented blue-liners as St. Louis has on its roster, a dependable veteran leader on the back end is a necessity.

    Eric Brewer was dealt at the deadline and needs to be replaced in some capacity. Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo would certainly benefit from the presence of a solid veteran presence. 

Carolina Hurricanes: Defense

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    NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 16: Joni Pitkanen #25 of the Carolina Hurricanes skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 16, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    It's time for the Hurricanes to improve their play in front of franchise goaltender Cam Ward.

    Essentially, the Canes need to be more consistent in all three zones of the ice. They have some talented forwards in the system, so the focus this offseason should be on the blue line.

New York Rangers: Powerplay QB

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    NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 20:  Michael Del Zotto #4 of the New York Rangers controls the puck against the Philadelpia Flyers at Madison Square Garden on February 20, 2011 in New York City. The Flyers defeated the Rangers 4-2. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty I
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    The Rangers had 20 chances on the power play in their playoff series with the Washington Capitals. They managed to convert on just one of those chances.

    Michael Del Zotto didn't solve the issue, and Bryan McCabe certainly was not the answer.

    It appears the Rangers will have to go outside of the organization to find the power-play quarterback they desperately lack.

Calgary Flames: Pending

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    CALGARY, CANADA - APRIL 6:Jarome Iginla #12 of the Calgary Flames is congratulated by teammate Alex Tanguay #40 on his hat trick goal against  the Edmonton Oilers in third period NHL action on April 6, 2011 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta
    Mike Ridewood/Getty Images

    The Calgary Flames are working on re-signing Alex Tanguay and retaining the services of Jarome Iginla for at least another season.

    If one of those things doesn't happen, the Flames will have a hole or two to fill on the top line.

    In addition, Calgary is waiting for some younger players to step into bigger roles with the team. A lot of Calgary's offseason will be a wait-and-see approach.

Dallas Stars: Re-Sign Brad Richards

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 02:  Brad Richards #91 of the Dallas Stars skates against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on April 2, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The entire future of the Dallas Stars revolves around their ability to re-sign Brad Richards.

    If they are able to bring back the playmaking center, the Stars will once again contend for a playoff spot out west. Should Richards hit the open market, the Stars could be thrust into rebuilding mode yet again.

Buffalo Sabres: Center Depth

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 26:  Derek Roy #9 of the Buffalo Sabres looks on in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 26, 2011 in Philadelphi
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Derek Roy's injury illuminate Buffalo's lack of depth at the center position.

    By the time the Stanley Cup playoffs rolled around, the Sabres had wingers playing center just to get all of the lines filled.

    Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe are talented up-and-coming wingers. They will need a presence in the middle to reach their full potential.

Montreal Canadiens: Size

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    MONTREAL, CANADA - APRIL 21:  Lars Eller #81 of the Montreal Canadiens turns back with the puck in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Boston Bruins during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Bell Centre on April 21, 2011 in
    Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images

    The Montreal Canadiens got muscled out of the first round of the 2011 NHL playoffs by the Boston Bruins.

    Most of Montreal's forwards aren't six feet tall and are undersized. The Canadiens have speed, but a bit of physicality is necessary for a deep postseason run.

Chicago Blackhawks: Center Depth

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    VANCOUVER, CANADA - APRIL 26: Keith Ballard #4 of the Vancouver Canucks and Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks battle for the loose puck during the first period in Game Seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cu
    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    Injuries were the downfall of the Chicago Blackhawks' season. A number of key contributors spent time in the press box this season and it exposed some soft spots on the roster, the most notable of which was the lack of depth at the center position.

    Chicago should look to add a dependable center for the second line, preferably a guy who can grind it out and stay healthy all season long while playing a physical game.

Los Angeles Kings: Winger

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 03:  Anze Kopitar #11 of the Los Angeles Kings skates the puck into the Phoenix Coyotes zone in the second period during the NHL game at Staples Center on March 3, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The Kings defeated the Coyotes 1-0
    Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

    The search for a winger to play alongside Anze Kopitar continues for the Kings this offseason.

    The club traded for the services of Dustin Penner but the former Edmonton Oiler struggled switching uniforms and was a fourth liner by the end of the season.

Phoenix Coyotes: First Line Center

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    GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 20:  Shane Doan #19 of the Phoenix Coyotes reacts after being defeated by the Detroit Red Wings in Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Jobing.com Arena on April 20, 2011 in Gle
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Phoenix Coyotes are in severe need of a playmaker in the middle of that first line. Eric Belanger simply isn't cutting it.

    Phoenix has a talented enough roster to contend for a playoff spot year in and year out. However, if the team wants to make a push for hockey's ultimate prize they have to add more talent up front.

Nashville Predators: Offense

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    VANCOUVER, CANADA - MAY 7: Goalie Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators if congratulated by Shea Weber #6 after defeating the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 07,
    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    It was a monumental season for the Nashville Predators. In addition to advancing to the Western Conference Semifinals, the Predators were able to excite the fanbase for the first time in a while.

    Nashville plays one of the most sound defensive systems in hockey, and the trio of Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne makes them tough to score against.

    Unfortunately, Nashville lacks a dynamic player on offense. Just imagine what this team could do with a top line talent up front.

Anaheim Ducks: Defense

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    RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 30:  Jonas Hiller #1 of the Anaheim Ducks and Team Lidstrom takes a break during their game against Team Staal in the 58th NHL All-Star Game at RBC Center on January 30, 2011 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    It's no secret that the Anaheim Ducks were defensively challenged throughout the season. Jonas Hiller was able to bail the team out throughout the season, but once he went down with injury the team showed its true colors down the stretch, culminating in a first-round exit in six games in which they allowed 22 goals to the defensive-minded Predators.

    Cam Fowler is developing nicely, but a top four defenseman needs to be found in free agency.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Goalie

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    TAMPA, FL - MAY 21:  Dwayne Roloson #35 hugs Mike Smith #41 of the Tampa Bay Lightning after they defeated the Boston Bruins 5 to 3 in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at St Pete Times Forum on May 21, 20
    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    Dwayne Roloson has filled Tampa Bay's goaltending vacancy valiantly since being acquired in a trade with the New York Islanders earlier this season. Unfortunately, he is 41 and there is not much behind him on the depth chart, despite Mike Smith's heroic effort in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

    In addition to improving their play in front of their netminder, the Lightning need to find a suitable replacement for Roloson.

Boston Bruins: Top Line Offensive Talent

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    TAMPA, FL - MAY 21:  Tyler Seguin #19 of the Boston Bruins watches a bruins goal get past Dwayne Roloson #35 of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first period of Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at St Pete T
    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    The Boston Bruins are filled with muckers and grinders up front but lack a truly elite offensive threat. Tyler Seguin appears to be developing into such a player, but more offensively gifted forwards need to be added to the roster this offseason.

    Unfortunately, Claude Julien prides himself on his defensive system and looks for defensively minded players across the board.

    Boston just needs to hope that Seguin continues his development and is utilized effectively.

Detroit Red Wings: Defensive Depth

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    SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 08:  Kyle Wellwood #20 of the San Jose Sharks tries to stop Brian Rafalski #28 of the Detroit Red Wings in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 8, 2011 in San Jose
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    With Brian Rafalski reportedly considering retirement, and Nicklas Lidstrom heading down that road as well, the Detroit Red Wings need to give serious thought to upgrading their blue line.

    The current crop of defenseman is solid, but a bruiser on the back end would go a long way towards solidifying this roster for the long term.

San Jose Sharks: Defense

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    VANCOUVER, CANADA - MAY 18:  Dan Boyle #22 of the San Jose Sharks follows through on his shot from the point in Game Two of the Western Conference Finals against the Vancouver Canucks during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Arena on May 18, 2011 in
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Don't get me wrong, Dan Boyle is a terrific defenseman, but relying on him to carry your team's blue line play is not a recipe for success by any means.

    The Sharks have been exposed for their defensive ineptitude during the Western Conference Finals, allowing 17 goals in a span of four games.

    The defense needs a lot more work before the Sharks are going to hoist the Stanley Cup.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Winger

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    TAMPA, FL - APRIL 20: James Neal #18 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates with the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the St. Pete Times Forum on April 20, 201
    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    With so much talent up the middle, the Pittsburgh Penguins would be thrilled to add some talent on either wing for one of their top two lines.

    The James Neal experiment predictably failed and has left the Penguins with a void to fill and very little cap space with which to do so.

    That being said, if the Penguins return healthy in the fall, they will once again contend for a Stanley Cup.

Philadelphia Flyers: Goaltender

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    BOSTON, MA - MAY 06:  Milan Lucic #17 of the Boston Bruins scores at 12:02 of the first period against Sergei Bobrovsky #35 of the Philadelphia Flyers  in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Surprise, surprise. With the amount of publicity and city wide anguish over the goaltending situation that the Flyers had during the 2011 NHL playoffs, can anyone be surprised that it pulls rank over any other needs the team has?

    Sergei Bobrovsky has the potential to develop into a starter, and the signing of Niko Hovinen coupled with the continued development of Swedish prospect, Joachim Eriksson solidifies Philly's future at the position.

    However, the here and now is still a huge issue. Brian Boucher is nothing more than a career backup, and Michael Leighton deserves to be in the AHL.

    With free agents Ilya Bryzgalov and Tomas Vokoun on the market, Philly will certainly have an opportunity to sign a quick fix to their problems in net. Of course, it will take some creativity on their part given the lack of cap space, but players like Jeff Carter are more than expendable if it means grabbing a reliable backstop while the roster is still laden with talent. 

Washington Capitals: Depth

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    TAMPA, FL - MAY 03: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals loses an edge against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at St Pete Times Forum on May 3, 2011 in Tampa, Flori
    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    On the surface, the Washington Capitals are as talented as any team in the NHL. 

    Unfortunately, the Capitals are unable to contributions from the third and fourth lines and need to add more depth to the blue line.

    Washington is attempting to make a transition to a more defensive style of play, which will require depth and contributions from every player on the ice. Alexander Ovechkin can't do it all.  

Vancouver Canucks: Damage Control

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    SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 20:  Alexander Edler #23 and Kevin Bieksa #3 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrate Bieksa's third period goal in Game Three of the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on
    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    With a team as deep as the Canucks it is tough to pinpoint a glaring need for the team. Like any elite team though, Vancouver will be faced with the challenge of trying to keep it all together.

    Backup goaltender Cory Schneider will be in the final year of his contract, and a decision has to be made about his future with the team. Meanwhile, Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo, Kevin Bieksa and Raffi Torres are all unrestricted free agents this coming offseason.

    It won't be easy, but the Canucks have to attempt to keep as much of their core of players together to avoid as steep a drop off as the Chicago Blackhawks suffered this past season.