Kavan’s Crease: Western Conference Free Agency/Draft Recap
Welcome back, and thank you for checking out the second part of my Draft and Free Agency recap! Last time, we looked at the Eastern Conference; today, we’re going to have a gander at the West. So, same as last time, all recaps will be in this format:
Notable Ins: Player name, N/A
Notable Outs: Player name, N/A
In Limbo: Player name, N/A
After 2 years of being pestered about his name in trade rumors, former 30-goal scorer and 2005 2nd overall draft pick Bobby Ryan was finally dealt by the Anaheim Ducks. The flashy, American winger was traded to the Ottawa Senators just hours after the free agent window opened last Friday. In exchange, the Ducks received Swedish rookie Jakob Silfverberg, prospect Stefan Noesen and Ottawa’s first-round pick in the 2014 entry draft. Silfverberg is coming off a season in which he scored 10 goals in 48 games for the Senators. Over an 82-game season, that works out to 17 goals. Not awful for a rookie who is still trying to adapt to the North American style of play. Noesen was Ottawa’s first-round pick (21st overall) in 2011 and is a high-scoring prospect who has been tearing up the OHL in recent years. In the last 3 seasons, Noesen has played 182 games, scoring 97 goals and 135 assists for 232 points and should turn out to be a difference maker for the Ducks within the next 5 years. Teemu Selanne has yet to decide if he will return for another season and showed signs of slowing down last year. If he comes back, I doubt it will be with any team besides Anaheim.
I put the Flames down as a lateral movement, but they easily could be classified as losers if it weren’t for Sean Monahan and Kari Ramo. Leading up to last season, Calgary had 3 things going good for them: Jarome Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester and Miikka Kiprusoff. However, Iginla and Bouwmeester were given away at the dead line, and Kipprusoff has expressed his intent to retire. Now, GM Jay “What the hell is going on in Calgary” Feaster has done his best to replace those departed players with younger, core players like Ramo and Monahan. There are a few issues with this plan. Problems A and B are that Ramo has had a hard time finding work in the NHL And will never be Kipprusoff, and Monahan is still a year or 2 away from being an impact player in the NHL. Problem C is that Bouwmeester was dealt and Babchuk was allowed to walk without any real replacements. Kris Russell is a lateral swap for Anton Babchuk with a slight offensive upside but won’t put up Bouwmeester’s minutes and Shane O’Brien is a younger, cheaper version of Cory Sarich. Having 3 first overall picks should have been Feaster’s opportunity to jump on a top defensive prospect like Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov or Josh Morissey, but instead he elected to take 3 forwards. I’m a fan of Monahan but the decision to, yet again, go off the board and select Emile Poirier is a decision not too many Flames fans were fond of, especially with Hunter Shinkaruk dropping so far. Either way, unless there are some big surprises coming from Calgary, it seems as though it will be another long season at the Saddledome.
Chicago Blackhawks, Losers
In: Nikolai Khabibulin
Out: Ray Emery, Dave Bolland, Viktor Stalberg, Michael Frolik, Rostislav Olesz, Steve Montador
Once again, the post-Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks had a little bit of dismantling to do to their core. The last time the Hawks won the cup, numerous players such as Brian Campbell, Antti Niemi, Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky, among others, were either traded or allowed to sign elsewhere due to cap constraints and player bonuses. This time around, the players that were sent packing were Ray Emery (Philadelphia), Michael Frolik (Winnipeg), Viktor Stalberg (Nashville) and Dave Bolland (Toronto). Other depth players are still un-signed but it is unlikely the Hawks will bring them back since they are already right up against the cap. With these players gone and no cap space, Chicago will have to continue to explore the trade market or fill their roster from within the organization.
Colorado Avalanche, Winners
In: Nathan MacKinnon, Cory Sarich, Alex Tanguay
Out: David Jones, Shane O’Brien, Milan Hejduk Limbo: N/A
As sad as it is to see the Avalanche walk away from Milan Hejduk, you can’t help but be excited for the future in Colorado. Adding Nathan MacKinnon to an already talented group of young forwards including Matt Duchene, captain Gabriel Landeskog and Ryan O’Reilly, makes September seem a lot more than 2 months away. Although the depth at centre is nice, one has to wonder whether they will all still be playing in Denver next season. Ryan O’Reilly struggled to find his game after a contract dispute last season and has already been involved in trade discussions, so he could be expendable if he starts the season slowly. The Avs could use some help on D so it would make sense to deal O’Reilly to fill that need. If not, you can bet on seeing some high-scoring games involving Colorado next year.
The Dallas Stars have failed to make the post-season 5 straight years now, and it appears as though GM Jim Nill and owner Tom Gaglardi have had just about enough of that trend. Knowing full well that changes needed to be made, Nill made arguably the biggest trade of the offseason, acquiring Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and Ryan Button from the Boston Bruins for Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser. He also brought in Shawn Horcoff from the Edmonton Oilers in a trade and signed G Dan Ellis and 10th overall draft pick Valeri Nichushkin. Signing Nichushkin means that Stars brass has faith that the kid will be able to crack the lineup at some point next season and provide offensively. Seeing Nichushkin on a line with Seguin and Jamie Benn gives me goosebumps. With Kari Lehtonen and Dan Ellis between the pipes, the defense core already in place (Goligoski, Daley, Robidas) and young guns Jordie Benn, Kevin Connauton and recently acquired Ryan Button waiting patiently for their shot, the Stars seem primed to be a playoff contender once again.
Edmonton Oilers, Lateral
In: Andrew Ference, Boyd Gordon, Jason LaBarbera, Jesse Joensuu, Richard Bachman, Darnell Nurse, David Perron
Out: Shawn Horcoff, Nikolai Khabibulin, Eric Belanger, Magnus Paajarvi Limbo: Theo Peckham, Colton Teubert, Ryan Whitney
Defence!! Finally, an Oilers GM who understands the importance of the defence position. After drafting nothing but forwards the last 4 or 5 years, Craig MacTavish selected Darnell Nurse with the 5th overall pick in hopes that he can step in next season or in 2014-15 and make a difference. Nurse is a nimble skater and makes a great first pass which is sure to help Edmonton’s speedy snipers find the twine. In addition to Nurse, MacT signed former Bruins defender Andrew Ference to a 4 year, $13 million contract hoping that he can finally bring some defensive stability to the Oilers’ blueline. Ference is a strong, mean defensive defenceman that will make it difficult for opposing threats like the Sedins or any one of the Colorado Avalanche centremen to make it to the net. Having Nathan MacKinnon added to their conference must have had something to do with the decision to bring in Ference. Additionally, MacTavish made a big splash in the hockey world by dealing under-achieving forward Magnus Paajarvi and a second round puck to the St. Louis Blues for winger David Perron. Perron immediately brings 20-25 goals to the 2nd line and is a great player to bring in to help continue development on young superstars Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle and Yakupov. Goaltending is a bit of a question mark, as Devan Dubnyk has yet to prove he has what it takes to be a number one goalie in the NHL. It is believed that the Oilers are trying to complete a deal for Sabres’ goalie Ryan Miller, but if that doesn’t happen, it will be up to Dubnyk to try to carry this team into the playoffs.
Los Angeles Kings, Lateral
In: Jeff Schultz
Out: Rob Scuderi, Luke Richardson
Limbo: Dustin Penner
After bowing out in the Western Conference Finals to the eventual Cup winners in Chicago, the Kings seemed satisfied with their roster, opting to make minimal moves. Their only signing from the free agent market comes in the form of Jeff Schultz, who is older, but will do essentially the same thing Rob Scuderi did, for less coin. After re-signing defensemen Slava Voynov and Keaton Ellerbu, GM Dean Lombardi finally made Jonathan Bernier‘s request come to fruition by dealing him to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens and a second round pick in either 2014 or 2015. Frattin will be a solid 3rd line scorer and is a nice depth addition; however, with Bernier gone in favor of Scrivens, the pressure is on Jonathan Quick to maintain his elite status and deal with the possibility of playing even more games.
Last season the Minnesota Wild were the talk of the offseason, signing the 2 biggest names on the free agent market in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. This time around, not so much. The Wild either lost or traded some quality pieces from their club, and the replacements they brought in are not of the same caliber. First, GM Chuck Fletcher traded Cal Clutterbuck and a third round pick to the Islanders for prospect Nino Neiderreiter. Nino is a very skilled player with a ridiculous offensive upside, but never felt as though he was valued or would ever get a shot with the Isles. For that reason, he was obtained relatively inexpensively, but Clutterbuck plays a style that you can’t just replace with anybody. Just wait until you watch Matt Cooke’s first game in St. Paul. Cooke claims to have changed his ways from the guy who “accidentally” cut Erik Karlsson‘s Achilles tendon and nearly decapitated Marc Savard a few years back, effectively ending his career. Cooke has been suspended by the NHL 5 times and still, teams are paying this guy. Until he proves he can do something other than hurt people, Wild fans must be throwing up in their mouths a little knowing Matt Cooke will be on their teams starting roster. Also out are Justin Falk and Tom Gilbert. Now I’m not saying these guys are defensive stalwarts who should never be let go, but between the 2 of them, they’re better than Keith Ballard. There’s a reason he was bought out by a team lacking defense. After acquiring Niederreiter from New York, Fletcher then decided he had no more use for Devin Setoguchi, so he was shipped to Winnipeg for a second round draft pick. Really? A second round pick? He has had injury problems in the past, but this is a player who once scored 31 goals and 65 points. On top of that, he had two 20-plus goal seasons without even playing that whole season. And he was got for a second rounder. Well done Kevin Chevaldayoff.
If there was a trophy for the best offseason, my vote would be for the Nashville Predators this year. GM David Poile was active at the draft and throughout free agency solidifying his roster, starting with Seth Jones. Poile didn’t have much to do with Jones slipping to fourth overall, but he is definitely not complaining. Expected to go first or, at very least, second overall to teams who need defense, Jones was snubbed not twice, but 3 times as Colorado selected MacKinnon, Florida selected Barkov and Tampa Bay chose Jonathan Drouin. Jones is a huge addition to an already stable Predators blueline, and is expected to make the team out of training camp. If he does and plays with Shea Weber, the chances of the puck ever going into Nashville’s net again are slim to none because if opposing teams can manage to get past Jones, Weber, Kevin Klein, Ryan Ellis or any other Preds’ d-men for that matter, they still have the near-impossible task of beating Pekka Rinne. On the offensive side of things, Poile’s biggest addition was recent cup-winner Viktor Stalberg. This is a great move for both player and team since Nashville is desperate for scoring and Stalberg, who is a natural scorer, was stifled in Chicago because of their offensive depth. Additionally, Matt Cullen will provide some offense and win a few draws, and Matt Hendricks will put his heart on the ice every shift. One interesting note is unsigned RFA D Jonathon Blum. At one point, Blum was expected to be a pivot in Nashville’s top 4 but now he won’t even be receiving a qualifying offer from the team. The kid is only 24 years old and still hasn’t had a chance to make a name for himself. Any team who can get Blum for a reasonable price will be making a huge steal.
The Phoenix Coyotes are one of the teams who won by being relatively idle throughout the offseason so far. Their biggest accomplishment comes off the ice as there has been a deal put in place that will keep the Coyotes in Glendale for at least another 15 years. What this means is that the team, from the players to the ownership group, Renaissance Sports and Entertainment, can go forward focusing on solely their on-ice product. It’s about hockey in the desert now, and with ownership in place it gives the players the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and win some games. To start the new era of the Coyotes (soon to be re-named the Arizona Coyotes), GM Don Maloney drafted former Toronto Maple Leaf Tie Domi‘s son, Max, and signed free agent forward, Mike Ribeiro to a 4 year, $22 million deal. Even before being drafted, Max Domi had stated many times that his style of play is nothing like his father’s. Possessing great hockey smarts and incredible vision, Max has smooth hands and can put the puck on your tape in almost any situation. He should be ready to step in and help within 1-2 years. Having drafted a guy to get pucks in the opposition’s net, the next step was to keep them out of their own net. With the market for goaltenders drying up relatively quickly after Jon Bernier and Cory Schneider were traded, Maloney didn’t hesitate to throw cash at incumbent starter Mike Smith before another team had a chance to pounce. The deal is worth $34 million and will keep Smith in Arizona until 2019-2020.
The Sharks were another Western team who were relatively inactive this summer, their 2 moves being rather minor ones. The first was a deal to bring in Tyler Kennedy from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 2nd round pick. The second was sending TJ Galiardi to his hometown Calgary Flames for a fourth round pick. Kennedy is a slight upgrade from Galiardi and should provide decent secondary scoring.
Initially, I had the Blues down as winners; that was until the Perron for Paajarvi trade was announced. If I’m GM Doug Armstrong, I can understand why you would need to trade Perron, since the Blues are mighty close to the salary cap; however, I personally don’t see Magnus Paajarvi and a second round pick as fair compensation. Paajarvi has struggled in Edmonton and has been back and forth between the Oilers and their AHL affiliate, the Okalahoma City Barons ever since being drafted. While he is definitely a talented and skilled player, until he can show that he can put those talents and skills to good use, I think Edmonton wins this trade. One move I thought was smart was to bring in C Derek Roy. Roy is a 10-year NHL veteran with playoff experience who can shoot, pass, skate and lead by example. He is a great guy to have in your dressing room and will be a great help bringing along youngsters like Vladimir Tarasenko, TJ Oshie and Patrick Berglund. The Blues have somewhat of a traffic jam in their crease, so expect a goaltender to be moved before the season starts as well. Jaroslav Halak has expressed his displeasure with coach Ken Hitchcock, so it is not unreasonable to believe he will be donning a new sweater come October.
Oh boy.. If I am the only who thinks the Canucks are heading in the wrong direction, please let me know. After 2 and a half years of drama, controversy and “sucky contract” talks surrounding Roberto Luongo, GM Mike Gillis made the genius decision of trading Cory Schneider instead, to New Jersey for the 9th overall pick in this year’s draft. They then chose Bo Horvat with that selection. So, Schneider straight up for Horvat. Wow. Now, I’m not knocking Horvat; he’s a talented kid and should score a few goals for the Canucks in the future, but one can’t help but think that the return could have been much larger had Gillis jumped on the deal the Maple Leafs had offered. At least that deal included roster players. However, hindsight is always 20/20, and what’s done has been done. Now, Luongo has to deal with the fact the he may very well have to play out the next 8 years of his wonderful contract in Vancouver. Hey, at least he’s starting again…. right? Furthermore, since someone decided David Booth and Alex Burrows are worth $4.25 million and $4.5 million, respectively, the team has little cap room to work with, leaving Mason Raymond without a job. Personally, I love Mason Raymond. I’m the furthest thing from a Canucks fan (despite living in Vancouver), but Raymond is a gritty forward who has hands and loves to to the net. The guy can shoot and has potential, but has always had to fight for a job with Daniel Sedin, David Booth and Chris Higgins ahead of him on the ‘Nucks depth chart. I’m perplexed at how he is still unemployed and will be had at a steal for any team willing to take a chance on him. Defensively, the Canucks are so clogged they are basically sending out flyers and coupons for every one of their blueliners not named Chris Tanev or Jason Garrison. Alex Edler carries a $5 million cap hit, and Kevin Bieksa‘s is $4.6 million so those 2 names are being actively shopped, assumedly for draft picks and prospects, since Vancouver can not really afford to take back any salary. So that’s a wrap on the Western Conference offseason recap. I want to know what you guys think, so leave a comment in the box below and let me know where I went wrong! Thanks for reading, come back soon, and don’t forget to follow me on twitter @younggunshockey!