Between the salary cap and the immense competition between general managers, no team will ever fill every single one of their needs. There's always going to be something that they can improve on. Everything from acquiring a high end center, goal scoring winger, top pairing defenseman, shut down goalie to obtaining quality depth, maintain a strong prospect pool, or some of the more vague qualities such as toughness or leadership. Whatever it is, every team will always lack something.
Filling needs is a large part of the appeal of the NHL, or any sport for that matter. It adds excitement and entertainment when the games aren't even being played. Every fan loves to speculate about what their team might do in the draft and free agency. They want their team to be as talented as possible and so they follow their general manager very closely as he attempts to accomplish that.
This article will cover every team's biggest weakness and potential ways that that can address it. Some of the proposed moves are based off of strong rumors and others are wild speculation. But the off season would be quite boring if unfounded speculation didn't play a big role. So, here is your team's biggest need and how they can fill it.
29 Anaheim Ducks - Top 6 Winger
There is no doubt the Ducks have a highly talented roster. They managed to finish atop the Pacific, ahead of the Kings and the Sharks. While they have the core players it takes to make a deep playoffs run, but they still appear to be lacking strong secondary scoring. Having superstar talent is a requirement for a Stanley cup. However, having talented depth players is a just as important, though often overlooked.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the team is a closing window. Yes, they have several young, talented players, but their core offensive players are all on the wrong side of 30. If they miss this window it wouldn't require a full rebuild, but they should absolutely attempt to make the most of the shot they have now. It's hard to build a strong cup contender and the Ducks are very close.
28 Arizona Coyotes - Offense
Previously, Arizona was in need of defensive help. The recent signing of Alex Goligoski went a long way in solving that issue. They got their compliment to Oliver Ekman-Larsson and still have an insane amount of cap space. They could still use some more defensive depth, however their first round pick, Jakob Chychrun is likely the guy their counting on for that. It will be a year or two before he can break into the NHL, but the Coyotes can afford to wait a few years.
Arizona likely won't be making a big splash once free agency begins. Rather, they should focus on finding support for their young up-and-coming stars. When they hit their stride a couple years from now is when they should push harder in the trade and free agent market.
27 Boston Bruins - Top 4 Defenseman
Boston has been known for having one of the NHL's best defenses for a long while now. It seems a little weird to be talking about the position being an issue now, but it isn't surprising. Zdeno Chara is well past his prime and will likely be retiring soon. The 39 year old defenseman just isn't able to carry the defense anymore.
Boston knows they have an issue there too. Jimmy Murphy of VICE Sports reported that the team offered the Panthers their 29th overall pick in exchange for Dmitry Kulikov. Of course, he was eventually moved to Buffalo, but it does show that Boston is very serious about addressing this issue.
However, a star defenseman that will certainly be available is Kevin Shattenkirk. The Blues are limited in cap space and Shattenkirk will be an unrestricted free agent next year. While they would certainly love to keep him, it isn't vital to their success that they do. They already have a ton of talent at the position, in addition to solid defensive prospects.
26 Buffalo Sabres - A Top 6 Forward
It's a pretty exciting time to be a Sabres fan right now. The team has an insane among of young talent right now, none more impressive than Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. Beyond that, the team has a ton of cap space to give them an immediate boost.
Buffalo could be in the running for one of the NHL's top free agents, Milan Lucic. At 6-3, 233 lbs the winger is one of the best power forwards in the game right now. With his ability to get under the skin of his opponents, it would go a long way in opening up the ice for their young finesse players.
25 Calgary Flames - Defensive Depth
Calgary had four goalies start games last year. Karri Ramo was the best of the bunch with an unimpressive .909 save percentage and 2.63 goals against average. He's 29 years old and has been in the league since 2007, there isn't much potential there. Beyond that, Jonas Hiller posted a dreadful .879 SV% over 23 starts and Joni Ortio was a bit better with a .902 SV%. They also had Niklas Backstorm start a couple games, but he only barely managed to outperform Hiller.
Calgary answered their dire goaltending issue with the draft day deal for Brian Elliott. Over the past several years, Elliot has recorded one of the best save percentages in the NHL. However, that came behind an elite defensive roster. Calgary needs to turn their focus towards getting some talented depth in behind their stars to help out their new goalie.
24 Carolina Hurricanes - Young Talent
Carolina has a fair amount of young stars already on the roster. Jordan Staal is only 27 years old, while Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk are just 24. In addition, they have a solid core of prospects. Alex Nedeljkovic is one of the better CHL goaltenders. At 32 years old, the Canes will likely look to move on from Cam Ward in the next few years. It appears that they may already have his replacement.
Furthermore, Haydn Fleury and Noah Hanifin are two of the most talented up and coming defenseman. Sebastian Aho is an impressive winger who shouldn't be too far away from getting a real shot in the NHL.
23 Chicago Blackhawks - Forward Depth
Any good team will have cap struggles. Chicago is no exception, though they have done an outstanding job managing it over the past several years. They're a team that's willing to make the hard decisions that will pay off in the long run.
While this offseason won't be as significant as some they've had in the past, it isn't going to be silent. Pierre LeBrun is reporting that Marcus Kruger may be on the move soon. The valuable special team stand out would leave a sizable gap in the team's bottom 6, but it would free up $3 million in cap space. It should also be noted that Kruger has a no-trade clause that will kick in shortly. If they don't move him now, they will be committed to him and his cap hit for another three years.
22 Colorado Avalanche - Defense
Colorado is severely lacking in the back end. Francois Beauchemin is a player they relied heavily upon this past season, but given that he's 36 years old, he isn't someone they should count on going into the season. In addition, Tyson Barrie is set to become an RFA and it's a question mark as to whether they'll be able to re-sign him. Failing to do so mean's they lose a highly talented scoring threat that had the highest average time on ice per game among Avalanche skaters.
Of course, the defensive situation isn't all bad. They thankfully already have their long-term solutions in their grasp. Chris Bigras and Nikita Zadorov are two 21 year old defensemen who both have an insane amount of potential. Unfortunately, having two (or 3 if Barrie re-signs) isn't enough. They need to add quality depth at the very least.
21 Columbus Blue Jackets - Number 1 Center
Ever since the falling out between the team and Rick Nash, the Jackets have been desperate for a legit offensive producer. Brandon Saad brings a lot of talent as a winger, but what they really lack is a stand out, number 1 center to tie everything together. While Pierre-Luc Dubois offers a potential solution, it's hard to say when he'll be NHL ready or even if he'll continue his career at center.
It would be interesting to see if they could pry Tyler Johnson away from the Lighting. He's a talented, young center that most teams would never trade away. But the Lightning have Stamkos to sign and if they decide to do, that they'll need to make sacrifices. Columbus should aim to take advantage of that.
The Dallas Stars finished with the 11th most goals against during the regular season, and the most of any playoff team. In the playoffs, their goalie tandem of Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen finished with a disappointing GAA of 3.29 and 2.81 respectively.
However, the problem doesn't seem to be as simple as a goalie issue. Historically, both goaltenders have put up very solid numbers, but over the past year or two. they have seen a sharp drop in their numbers. While coincidental regression was likely a factor, the larger problem is a lack of defensive support.
They will have a strong set of young players on the back end shortly. John Klingberg has already established himself as one of the more talented offensive defensemen, Stephen Johns broke out towards the end of the season, and it won't be long before Julius Honka gets a shot in the NHL.
Unfortunately, Dallas shouldn't sit back and waste two seasons. They shouldn't sell out the future, but they need to bring a boost to their defensive line up immediately. Surprisingly, they have quite a bit of cap space to work with, over $15 million this year and over $38 million next. While they need to be sure to keep money for their current players, they can afford to bring on significant talent.
20 Detroit Red Wings - Top 6 Forward
Detroit is in a very good cap situation this offseason. Currently, they have just over $19 million in free money after the Datsyuk deal, with only a handful of restricted free agents to sign plus Danny DeKeyser. In addition, with Petr Mrazek stepping up this past season, they can afford to move on from Jimmy Howard and his $5.3 million cap hit.
Of course, every Detroit fan is hoping the team lands Stamkos. Providing he elects to leave the Lightning and it makes sense for Detroit to be on the short list of potential landing spots. But first the Lightning have to fail to sign him, which is pretty hard to see actually happening.
19 Edmonton Oilers - Top 4 Defenseman
Edmonton famously has a lot of young, talented forwards and a lack of talented defensemen. They're certainly going to be very active in trying to address this issue this off season.
The Devils would make a very nice trade partner. They need offense and have a surplus of defense. In particular, they have Damon Severson, a second round pick in 2012 who has quickly become a highly attractive prospect. He doesn't heavily favor one style or the other, as he's a balanced defenseman capable of contributing heavily on offense as well as shutting down the attack. He figures to be a top 4 defenseman at least, with even greater potential. He could end up being among the NHL's premiere defensemen.
18 Florida Panthers - Defensive Depth
Florida had a surprisingly successful regular season in which they finished atop the Atlantic division. Heading into the offseason, their biggest priority was addressing their defense. They wasted no time in trading for the rights to the Rangers' Keith Yandle, a highly talented offensive defenseman who is well deserving of a top pairing role. He joins a top heavy defensive line up that also features Aaron Ekblad.
At this point Florida needs to add depth players, both forwards and defensemen. With $15.5 million in cap space after the Yandle deal, the team should have no trouble accomplishing that. Re-signing veteran Brian Campbell would be a strong start. The 37 year old defenseman should take a somewhat reduced role instead of paying 23 minutes a game like he's done for the past couple seasons. It would also be attractive to pair him with a young prospect such as Michael Matheson, if the team decides to call him up.
17 Los Angeles Kings - Depth
Los Angeles is coming off a solid regular season. They finished second in the Pacific division, only a single point behind the Ducks. They were among the league's best teams in goals against, while a middle of the pack team in goals for.
The cap situation in Los Angeles is far from great, but they do have some wiggle room to make some moves. Thankfully, they have the core of their team pretty well set, between Quick in goal, Doughty/Martinez on defense, and Kopitar/Carter leading the offense. At this stage, the best move for them is to beef up their depth, putting a slight focus on the offense.
They'll be best off targeting 2nd/3rd line forwards such as David Perron or Troy Brouwer. Both would be solid role players for the team. They could also look to Radim Vrbata as a relatively risky pick up. He's a 35 year old forward but has remained reasonably productive thus far. Though, players like that are prone to having a sudden drop off.
16 Minnesota Wild - Top 6 Forward
The Minnesota Wild are in need of something fresh. After a disappointing year with a talented roster, something needs to change.
Fans got some good news recently as Michael Russo is reporting that the Wild have bought out Thomas Vanek, an overpaid and underperforming veteran. Dropping his $6.5 million cap hit will go a long way in helping the team have a productive off season.
However, another team that's looking for a reboot is the Edmonton Oilers. A team that has a former first overall pick in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and they would be willing to deal him. They could use defensemen and the Wild have quite a bit of talent at that position.
15 Montreal Canadiens - Secondary Scoring
Montreal's top three forwards in scoring were Max Pacioretty with 64 points, Alex Galchenyuk with 56, and Tomas Plekanec with 54. These are all solid numbers, but they take a significant drop off when you go through the next three. Brendan Gallagher had 40 points (though he was hurt), David Desharnais had 29, and Dale Weise had 26 (though he was moved at the deadline).
This team could absolutely use a solid second line forward. Every line, even your top line, is going to go through a rough patch at times. There have to be players behind them that can pick up the slack when that happens. Andrew Shaw is a great pick up, but they could stand to go further.
14 Nashville Predators - Offensive Depth
The Nashville Predators have among the strongest defenses in the NHL, in addition to solid goaltending and a talented first line led by Filip Forsberg. They're a team capable of making a deep playoff run, but to establish themselves as a true cup contender they first need to address their offensive depth.
Thankfully, this offensive free agent class is good for teams looking for secondary scoring. The Islanders Frans Nielsen or Kyle Okposo would both be amazing pickups. Andrew Ladd or Milan Lucic would both bring a physically presence to the ice.
13 New Jersey Devils - Offense
In what is perhaps the least surprising news ever, New Jersey had one of the best defenses last year to go with one of the worst offenses. In fact, they were dead last in the NHL in goals for. To make the problem worse, several of their top producers - Travis Zajac, Lee Stempniak, and Mike Cammalleri are all on the wrong side of 30.
It's not all bad though, as Kyle Palmieri and Adam Henrique combined for 107 points this past season and both are only in their mid 20s. In addition, they have Pavel Zacha and Reid Boucher who are highly touted prospects.
Four players aren't enough to make an offense. New Jersey won't be overly picky this offseason, young/veteran, goal scorer/playmaker, power/finesse it doesn't matter. Anyone that can bring offense to the team will be on the radar of the Devils.
12 New York Islanders - Top 6 Winger
The New York Islanders are in a great position right now. They have a solid core of young players, centered by the 25 year old superstar John Tavares. While there's a good chance they'll lose some of their talented supporting players in free agency, they have a plethora of highly talented young prospects waiting to get a shot in the NHL.
Even still, the Islanders have a need for a top 6 winger than should be addressed this off season. They have $14.6 million to throw around minus the cost of locking up a few pending free agents.
11 New York Rangers - Defense
The loss of Keith Yandle was unfortunate but not unexpected for the Rangers. On the bright side, they were at least able to snag a few picks in exchange for a player they didn't even have under contract. Even still, there's a very noticeable gap on the blue line now.
Nick Forrester, a Sports Illustrated writer, claims there are rumors of a deal involving Rick Nash for Cam Fowler plus change. While the rumors are nothing more than rumors, it's an interesting proposal to consider. Losing Nash's scoring and defensive play would hurt, but Fowler would give the defense a much need boost.
New York would be giving up a forward past his prime in exchange for a defenseman who still has yet to hit his. It would also lighten up New York's cap situation. Nash makes nearly $8 million and Fowler is on the books for half that.
10 Ottawa Senators - Top 6 Forward
Between Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Bobby Ryan, Mika Zibanejad, and Kyle Turris, Ottawa has five of their top six pretty well set heading into next season. However, they lack a strong winger to top off their second line. The team is still very young and developing, so it's very unlikely that they'll go all in on a major signing, but they should be expected to find an adequate forward to fill the gap.
9 Philadelphia Flyers - Goal Scoring Winger
Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and Sean Couturier have all earned a spot on the team's top two lines. However, there is a glaring hole in the sixth spot that can't be filled by anyone on the roster at the moment. They need a goal scorer on the wing to complement their playmakers. Simmonds is a talented finisher but they still need another.
Many fans are hopeful that 2015 24th overall pick Travis Konecny will be able to fill the void. Though while he's been developing far faster than anyone could have expected, counting on a late first round pick to instantly become a top six forward is not a move that will work out too often.
The ideal situation for Philadelphia would be making a deal for Tampa Bay's Jonathan Drouin. The former third overall pick has the natural goal scoring ability required and has demonstrated that talent at the NHL level.
8 Pittsburgh Penguins - Top 6 Winger
At the moment, Pittsburgh likely has the most talented offense in the NHL. The bulk of that results from having superstars like Sidney Crosby and Evengi Malkin. While they get strong support from wingers Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist, they still could use another.
They lack a strong winger on their second line. It could be filled by Nick Bonino if he performs anything like what he did in the playoffs, but based off of what we've seen throughout his career thus far, it wouldn't be a smart move to count on it. Carl Hagelin has potential, but people have been saying that his entire career. Both those players would be best suited on the 3rd line.
There's strong speculation that Marc-Andre Fleury will be one the move. It makes a lot of sense, as you have to believe that Matt Murray is the long term solution. In addition, Fleury has a cap hit of $5.75 million which would provide much needed relief for a team with exactly 0 dollars in cap space.
7 San Jose Sharks - Offensive Depth
Many of San Jose's top scorers this past season we're all over the age of 30, including their top scorer Joe Thornton, who is 36 years old. Fans always like to believe their veteran players will have just one year left in the tank, but performance drop offs tend to happen very suddenly. For a team that's going to be in Stanley Cup contention, San Jose will need to add some offensive depth; ideally young offensive depth.
The team has a several impressive prospects, most notably Timo Meier. In addition to him, they also have Dan O'Regan and Nikolay Goldobin. While they'll likely get a shot in training camp, all signs point towards the team giving them more time to develop. San Jose won't get their offensive boost this year from within.
The Sharks will likely have one of the quieter off seasons, but they will be able to make a strong move of two. The best case scenario would be signing Mikkel Boedker. He is 26 years old and scored 51 points last season. However, he's going to be in high demand and could quickly get bid out of San Jose's range.
They might turn to some of Anaheim's free agents for an answer. Jamie McGinn and David Perron are 27 and 28 years old respectively. McGinn has struggled to stay healthy over the past several years but has been productive when he does manage to stay healthy. Signing him would be a modest risk.
6 St. Louis Blues - Offense
This past season St. Louis boasted the fourth fewest goals against in the NHL. While their defensive side of the game will take a strong hit with the likely loss of Kevin Shattenkirk, they have several young and talented players who will be itching to step up and fill his void.
Instead, they should focus the bulk of their resources on addressing their lackluster offensive production. Robby Fabbri and Jaden Schwartz are two very young and highly talented players. The team can use Shattenkirk to get even more youth in beside them. Boston makes a lot of sense as a trade partner; they have a need for a strong first-pairing defenseman and they will be able to make an intriguing offer.
5 Tampa Bay Lightning - Steven Stamkos
Steven Stamkos has been a point-per-game player his entire career, with well over half those points coming from goals. At only 26 years old, he's an established superstar center and vital to the success of the Tampa Bay Lightning. That kind of player is an invaluable asset in the NHL. When you have one, you can't let him leave, especially for nothing in return.
The cap situation for the Lightning is far from great. They have $18.8 million in cap space but only 15 players under contract. In addition to Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn still need new contracts. Furthermore, Tyler Johnson, Victor Hedman, Jonathan Drouin, and Ondrej Palat will all be looking for a sizable raise next offseason. It isn't quite as simple as just writing a blank check for Stamkos, as many teams would do.
4 Toronto Maple Leafs - Defense
Everyone on the Leafs is excited about the team's selection of Auston Matthews, one of the most exciting prospects to come out in a while. But while everyone is focused on the offense, Toronto made a very significant move on the back end of the ice. The Maple Leafs acquired playoff standout Frederik Andersen from the Anaheim Ducks. Now that they have a strong answer in net moving forward, they'll need to turn their attention towards getting him some defensive help.
At the moment, Toronto doesn't have a ton of cap space; only around $3 million. But they can make some moves to free up some money. Between buying out Jared Cowen and likely placing Nathan Horton on LTIR, they should be able to free up $7 million at least.
3 Vancouver Canucks - Scoring
Vancouver is a team with quite a few needs. Their goaltending situation could be worse, but it also could be much better. Thankfully, they have one of the more exciting goaltending prospects in Thatcher Demko. At only 20 years old. it will likely be at least a couple years before he's ready for the NHL, but Vancouver isn't in win-now mode, so that isn't much of an issue.
Defensively, the addition of Erik Gudbranson was a great move that will greatly help the team moving forward. Many Canucks' fans weren't overly happy with what the team gave up to acquire him. But many Panthers' fans were absolutely livid with the trade. That alone should be quite the encouragement.
That leaves us with offense. Vancouver finished second to last in goals for this past season. Many of their top scorers are getting up there in age as well. Daniel and Henrik Sedin are both 35 years old, Jannik Hansen just turned 30. They don't just need scorers, they need young scorers who can still be highly effective in 5-6 years.
2 Washington Capitals - Depth
For a team as good as Washington, their cap situation is far better than many might expect. With $14 million in free cap space and no players that will demand star-level contracts, they have some room to work with. However, at the same time, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov will need new contracts next offseason, they won't have quite the freedom to do just anything they want. But it will still be enough to have a big impact on the team.
Darren Helm and Frans Nielsen would be great pickups. The team certainly had no lack of scoring last year, but depth is required to win in the playoffs - and winning in the playoffs is all that matters in the end.
1 Winnipeg Jets - Defense
Winnipeg is in rebuilding mode right now. Scoring was far from a strength last year, but it surprisingly isn't something they'll have to worry about too much this offseason. The second overall pick Patrik Laine will give them a nice boost and Kyle Connor is among the best prospects in the game right now. Both players may not even play in the NHL next season, but that won't be an issue for a team that has some time on their side.
They instead should turn their attention towards defense. They have a need for a strong defensive-minded defenseman which makes Minnesota a good trade partner. After a disappointing year they'll be looking to change things up. They have several defensemen that should interest the Jets.
Jonas Brodin would be far and away the best case scenario. He's a 22 year old defenseman who puts defense first. He'd be a player the team could build around. Though, he wouldn't be cheap to acquire, if the Wild make him available at all.
Marco Scandella would be another option. His claim to fame is what he brings to the physically aspect of the game. He will continue to contribute in both the offensive zone and the defensive zone, but he'll make sure the opposition knows when he's on the ice. At just 26 years old, he would be a nice pickup for the Jets.
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