While we’re in the midst of the Stanley Cup Finals, there are 14-non playoff teams, the Vegas Golden Knights and eight teams eliminated from the first round are already looking towards the offseason. The NHL Draft is two months away, the trade market will begin once the Stanley Cup playoffs conclude and free agency will take place on July 1st — and this is one of the best classes in recent memory.
But even though the offseason gives every team a bunch of opportunities to make their team even better, plenty of squads find ways to mess it all up. Teams like the Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings keep spending big on free agents that underachieve when they should rebuild. Some teams only try to strengthen their strengths while ignoring their weaknesses. Some teams make bad trades, while others don’t make a trade when they should.
With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at 15 moves that these NHL teams would be silly to make in the offseason.
15. Dallas Stars: Adding Veteran Scorers
The Dallas Stars virtually have no problem scoring. They have two of the league’s top 15 forwards in Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, plus other quality scorers in Jason Spezza, Cody Eakin and offensive blueliner, John Klingberg. But this team’s defence is among the worst in hockey, and the goaltending tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi allowed 3.17 goals per game — second-most in the NHL.
Yet the Stars front office has completely ignored the need to add more depth on the blue line. There are plenty of quality scorers set to hit the free agent market in July — namely T.J. Oshie, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Justin Williams. The Stars need to stop looking for more scoring and get some help on the blue line. Kevin Shattenkirk, Brian Campbell, Dmitry Kulikov, Karl Alzner and Johnny Oduya round out a strong group of defencemen set to become free agents.
14. Vancouver Canucks: Re-Signing Ryan Miller
The Canucks were the NHL’s third-worst team a year ago. They were the NHL’s second-worst team this season. Though this team is a mess all over the ice, goalie Ryan Miller was definitely a reason this team has struggled over the past two seasons. In 2015-16, he went 17-24-9 with a 2.70 goals against average and .916 save percentage.
Miller then went 18-29-6 with a 2.80 goals against average and .914 save percentage in 2016-17. He’s set to become a free agent this offseason, and yet the rebuilding Canucks appear to have interest in keeping him.
Back in December, Ben Kuzma from the Vancouver Province wrote that the Canucks should extend him. But the Canucks have a young backup in Jacob Markstrom and a promising prospect in their system, Thatcher Demko. Since when do rebuilding teams use 37-year-olds as their number one goalies? Vancouver has to devote time to a full-on rebuild that should consist of a Markstrom-Demko tandem. Keeping Miller does nothing to help this rebuild.
13. Winnipeg Jets: Ignoring Defensive Woes
The Jets had one of the highest-scoring clubs in 2016-17. Mark Scheifele led the way with 32 goals and 82 points, while Blake Wheeler (26 goals and 74 points), Nikolaj Ehlers (25 goals and 64 points) and Patrik Laine (36 goals and 64 points), also added plenty of scoring.
And yet, the Jets finished with 87 points and weren’t in playoff contention all season. That’s because despite having standout blueliners in Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers, this team allowed 3.11 goals per game — fourth most in the regular season. That’s just unacceptable.
As is the case with Dallas, Winnipeg needs defencemen. Kevin Shattenkirk, Karl Alzner and Brian Campbell are all great options to help this team out. But the Jets haven’t made a big splash in free agency since relocating in 2012. If they decide to remain conservative in spending this offseason, they’ll only struggle more. Time to add some big names on the blue line.
12. Minnesota Wild: Avoiding a Trade For Scoring
The Wild scored 3.21 goals per game in the regular season, and the Pittsburgh Penguins were the only ones to score more. But Minnesota’s offence disappeared over the final month of the season — and it contributed to their first-round exit at the hands of the St. Louis Blues.
Minnesota can’t bank on 32-year-olds Eric Staal and Zach Parise to carry this offence much longer. They have plenty of defencemen in Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba, Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella. The Wild won’t be able to protect all their blueliners because of the Vegas expansion draft, and they need more scoring.
General manager Chuck Fletcher can’t risk losing a blueliner for nothing. He should look to trade either Dumba or Brodin for scoring help. A top-four defenceman can net a stud 20-30 goal scorer, so Fletcher should find plenty of teams willing to do business. If he stands pat all offseason, then the Wild can expect yet another early elimination in next year’s playoffs.
11. Montreal Canadiens: Letting Alexander Radulov Walk
The Canadiens signed the former KHL star to a one-year deal last summer for just $5.75 million. Alexander Radulov turned out to be one of the biggest steals of free agency last year, scoring 18 goals and 54 points — helping the Habs win the Atlantic Division after missing the playoffs last year.
Radulov was also the only Habs’ player to score in the playoffs, scoring two goals and seven points in their first-round elimination to the New York Rangers. The thing is, Montreal cannot score. Radulov was one of their few players who could. It’s simple: General manager Marc Bergevin has to negotiate hard with Radulov and get a deal done.
If Radulov prices himself out of Montreal, then Bergevin should try to trade him for a draft pick. Either way, he cannot lose the Russian star for nothing. It’d be best if he kept the speedy sniper, though.
10. Detroit Red Wings: Signing Joe Thornton
The Red Wings playoff streak ended this season at 25 years. They have too many bad contracts on their hands — namely Henrik Zetterberg, Jonathan Ericsson, Frans Nielsen, Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Jimmy Howard. It’s evident they have to rebuild, but general manager Ken Holland said he’s not going to go that route (per Ansar Khan of MLive.com).
Holland used to be hockey’s best general manager, but it’s been a while since he made a big investment in free agency that paid off. We can guess he’ll try to throw money at a fading star like Joe Thornton, who’s slated for free agency.
And is a 38-year-old Thornton going to take Detroit to that next level? Nope. He probably has two years left in the NHL and isn’t the star he once was. Detroit may feel enticed to take him on, but signing a past-his-prime standout like Thornton would be the wrong move for Holland.
9. Toronto Maple Leafs: Signing Pricey Forwards
The Maple Leafs went from the NHL’s worst team in 2016 to a team that was so close to defeating the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Washington Capitals in the first round of this year’s playoffs. That was thanks in large part to an offence that averaged 3.05 points per game.
Auston Matthews, James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri, Mitch Marner and William Nylander all scored 60-plus points. Five Maple Leafs scored at least 20 goals. Toronto’s young offence is only going to score more, too.
Though Toronto traditionally throws money around in free agency, they have no reason to do it this year. They have more than enough forwards who can score in bunches, and they need to save cap space to extend guys like Matthews, Marner and Nylander down the road. If they decide to spend big on a veteran like Joe Thornton, T.J. Oshie or Patrick Marleau, they’ll likely regret it.
8. Calgary Flames: Miss Out on Bishop or Fleury
The Calgary Flames overcame a miserable 2015-16 season to reach the playoffs this year. Despite having 12 different players score double-digit goals while rounding out a solid defensive core of Dougie Hamilton, Mark Giordano and Dennis Wideman, the Flames were swept by the Anaheim Ducks in the opening round of the playoffs. Why was that?
Well, goalie Brian Elliott was a huge disappointment in the postseason. He posted a woeful 3.88 goals against average and .880 save percentage, including a disastrous performance in Game 3 that saw Calgary blow a 4-1 lead.
Fortunately for the Flames, two-time Vezina Trophy candidate Ben Bishop and two-time Stanley Cup champion Marc-Andre Fleury could be available. Bishop is set to become a free agent and Fleury will be shopped by Pittsburgh (more on him later). If the Flames fail to land one of these two goalies, then they can expect to avoid the second round of the playoffs again in 2018.
7. Arizona Coyotes: Re-Signing Vrbata and Doan
The Arizona Coyotes were the NHL’s third-worst team this season and have now missed the playoffs five-straight years. This team hasn’t been able to draft well and they haven’t been able to attract any big names in free agency. But they’ve decided to hold onto veteran Shane Doan for way too long, while fading standout Radim Vrbata can’t seem to stay away from the hot weather.
Doan (40), scored just six goals and 27 points this season. Vrbata (36 in June), had 20 tallies and 55 points. Arizona is holding onto veterans when it’s unnecessary; they should be trying to get as young as possible. Instead, they feel the need to hold onto these guys who’ve been Coyotes for a long time.
6. Vancouver Canucks: Signing an Expensive Veteran
The Canucks haven’t been a true Stanley Cup contender in five years, yet the front office has thrown money around in free agency as if they’re one piece away from winning it all. This team has handed out disastrous contracts to the likes of Jason Garrison, Loui Eriksson, Ryan Miller and Radim Vrbata. This has happened while the front office tries to say they’re “rebuilding on the fly.”
Canucks president Trevor Linden recently admitted to fans that the team is now “rebuilding.” They have some bad veteran contracts in Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Alexander Edler and the aforementioned Eriksson. What good does it do to spend a ton in free agency again? Nothing.
Vancouver has enough salary cap woes on their hands, which isn’t ideal for a rebuilding team. For once, they need to stay away from free agency and simply devote towards a long-term rebuild. No ifs, ands or buts.
5. Washington Capitals: Lose T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams
The Capitals won their second-straight Presidents’ Trophy this season, but that’s not what matters in America’s capital. It’s Stanley Cup or nothing at this point, and this may be the last prime opportunity in the Alexander Ovechkin era for the Capitals to win their first championship.
Two of their top defencemen in Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner are set to become free agents, and it’s extremely likely the former has a asking price well beyond the Capitals’ reach. But Washington also has two top forwards in T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams slated to hit free agency. Oshie had a career year with 33 goals and 56 points this season, while Williams added 24 tallies and 48 points. Both play great two-way hockey and are high-energy players that produce big time in the playoffs.
It’s unlikely the cap-strapped Capitals can keep both, but they have to ensure at least one of Oshie or Williams stay. If they lose both, that puts more burden on a 31-year-old Ovechkin to do the scoring again.
4. San Jose Sharks: Letting Both Thornton and Marleau Walk
The San Jose Sharks did just about everything right in the Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau era…except win the Stanley Cup. These two will go down as the greatest players in franchise history and it would be great if both veterans could lead San Jose to that one championship, but it’s highly unlikely at this point.
Both are prepared to become 38-year-old unrestricted free agents, and the Sharks appear ready to hand over the leadership reigns to Logan Couture, Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski. Thornton’s 50 points were his worst totals in nearly two decades, though Marleau managed to pot 27 goals.
Marleau and Thornton could each decide to play for a better team in hopes of winning the Cup, and it’s possible the Sharks choose to move on from both guys. It makes sense to let one of them go to get younger and use cap space to fill other needs, but losing both would be a huge blow to the Sharks’ championship hopes. San Jose has to keep at least one of those veterans. No excuses.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins: Keep Fleury over Murray
The Pittsburgh Penguins are facing quite a goalie dilemma. They have a 23-year-old stud in Matt Murray who has outplayed Marc-Andre Fleury in the past two years, with the former leading them to the Stanley Cup last season. And while Fleury does have a pretty impressive track record, his performances in the playoffs have been incredibly frustrating since 2010.
Murray is 10 years younger, better and cheaper. It should be a no-brainer for general manager Jim Rutherford to roll with Murray in the future. But with the Vegas expansion draft coming up, the Penguins can only protect one goalie. Fleury has a no-movement clause and could easily decide to stay in Pittsburgh.
That could mean Murray is left available to Vegas, who would undoubtedly take the 2016 Stanley Cup hero. If Pittsburgh decides (for whatever reason), to keep Fleury and lose Murray, they’ll be silly. Like I said above, Murray is way younger, way cheaper and significantly better.
2. New York Islanders: Fail To Extend John Tavares
The New York Islanders haven’t been able to do much since drafting world class star John Tavares first-overall in 2009. They’ve made the playoffs three times but have won just a single postseason series and have been fishing for top-five picks in the other years. Tavares has one year left on his contract and could decide to sign elsewhere in the summer of 2018.
Whatever happens, the Islanders need to do everything to keep Tavares around. Elite centres don’t grow on trees, and the Isles will struggle big time without him. If they fail to get a contract done with Tavares, then New York will be setting themselves up for disaster. If Tavares plays 2017-18 without an extension and the Islanders miss the playoffs, you can expect Tavares to go elsewhere.
1. Montreal Canadiens: Trade Carey Price
The Canadiens once again failed to give Carey Price any support in the playoffs. He stood on his head and gave his team every opportunity to win, but the Habs couldn’t score and the defence was far from responsible in their first-round elimination at the hands of the New York Rangers.
With the Habs failing to advance past the second round once again, many are speculating that Price is fed up with Montreal and may get traded as he enters 2017-18 in a contract year. Well one, Price told reporters last week that he wants to stay and win championships here.
Second, the Habs should be banned from the NHL if they trade Price. He’s the best goalie in the world and is a franchise star to build around. Unless they’re trading Price for Corey Crawford, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, then Marc Bergevin shouldn’t even think about it. The P.K. Subban trade already looks bad on him. Imagine trading this team’s only consistent player away.
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