Some players already have begun their offseason training in preparation for the 2011-12 season, and the city of Boston still is celebrating its first hockey championship in nearly four decades, but a day that will alter the future season is coming Friday.
July 1 is a holiday in Canada, but it also is a jubilee of sorts for NHL fans everywhere. While this year's free-agent market is considered significantly thinner than normal, there are plenty of teams flush with salary-cap space.
Those two factors could make Friday -- and the days that follow -- pretty unique in the recent history of the NHL. Not only with the 2011-12 campaign likely be affected by key decisions in the next 48 (or more) hours, but teams that do not spend wisely could regret it in future seasons, as well.
The last time so many teams had this much salary-cap space at the start of free agency was 2007. There was more talent available that day, but many of the huge contracts handed out then (Chris Drury
, Scott Gomez
, Michael Nylander
) soon were considered regrettable decisions.
With that note of caution, here's a look at all 30 NHL teams (in order of where they finished the 2010-11 regular season), and what some of their top needs are as the 2011 edition of the free agent frenzy beckons. All salary-cap figures are courtesy of CapGeek.com.
1. Vancouver Canucks (117 points)
Key free agents: Jannik Hansen
(RFA), Chris Higgins
(UFA), Raffi Torres
(UFA), Sami Salo
Signing Maxime Lapierre was the first step toward rebuilding the bottom two lines, which could be in for a makeover if some of these players find better offers elsewhere. Christian Ehrhoff
no longer is the team's property, so finding a top-four defenseman would help. This is a team that has all the key components, but filling in the role players could be tricky (and the key players have plenty of questions for next season).
2. Washington Capitals (107 points)
Key free agents: Karl Alzner
(RFA), Scott Hannan
(UFA), Semyon Varlamov
(RFA), Troy Brouwer
Resolving the situation with Varlamov (KHL? Another NHL team? Staying put?) probably is the biggest thing, while adding one more veteran defenseman because the team doesn't know what it might get from Tom Poti
next season also is of high import. Then there is the big picture: Do they shake things up is the question. If the choice is major change, that answer might be a trade or two later in the summer.
3. Philadelphia Flyers (106 points)
Key free agents: Ville Leino
(UFA), Jakub Voracek
(RFA), Wayne Simmonds
The Flyers have made plenty of moves already, but they could use another defenseman. How much room they have if they re-sign their three top free agents will dictate the quality of said blueliner. GM Paul Holmgren
might need to do some bargain shopping -- or move another player off his roster.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins (106 points)
Key free agents
: Tyler Kennedy
(UFA), Maxime Talbot
(UFA), Michael Rupp
GM Ray Shero
's continued quest to find cheap options to skate next to Sidney Crosby
and Evgeni Malkin
continues. He didn't qualify Kennedy but still hopes to retain him after a breakout season. The possible return of Jaromir Jagr
has dominated the narrative in Pittsburgh for the past week.
5. San Jose Sharks (105 points)
Key free agents: Ian White
(UFA), Kent Huskins
(UFA), Benn Ferriero
Getting Brent Burns
likely was the biggest move of San Jose's summer, but the Sharks probably could still use one more top-nine forward (to replace Devin Setoguchi
, lost in the Burns deal), and one more defenseman.
6. Detroit Red Wings (104 points)
Key free agents: Jonathan Ericsson
(UFA), Ruslan Salei
(UFA), Mike Modano
(UFA), Chris Osgood
A No. 2 defenseman, for starters -- replacing Brian Rafalski
could define Detroit's offseason. If Ericsson and Salei don't re-sign, then it evolves into remaking the defense corps. Detroit also needs to find a backup goaltender.
7. Boston Bruins (103 points)
Key free agents: Brad Marchand
(RFA), Michael Ryder
(UFA), Tomas Kaberle
Can the Stanley Cup champions be a better team, at least on paper, next season? Absolutely -- given the cap space GM Peter Chiarelli has, he could upgrade instead of re-signing Ryder and Kaberle if he wants. Adding a quality defenseman should be the top priority, because the Bruins have kids ready for bigger roles up front (Tyler Seguin
, Jordan Caron
, Zach Hamill
8. Tampa Bay Lightning (103 points)
Key free agents: Steven Stamkos
(RFA), Teddy Purcell
(RFA), Simon Gagne
(UFA), Sean Bergenheim
Everything hinges on Stamkos. Bergenheim, a playof star, isn't expected back, and the Lightning could use another top-six forward if Gagne leaves, plus some reinforcements on the bottom two lines. Dwayne Roloson
is back to be the starter in net, but the Lightning could use a quality 1B because a) Roloson is going to be 42 years old and b) top prospect Cedrick Desjardins
might not be ready for the start of the season because of an injury.
9. Anaheim Ducks (99 points)
Key free agents: Teemu Selanne
(UFA), Andres Lilja (UFA), Jarkko Ruutu
If Selanne decides not to return, replacing him becomes priority No. 1. If he decides to play another season, the Ducks probably still could use one more top-six forward, but money might be tight after filling out the bottom two lines and paying the Finnish Flash.
10. Nashville Predators (99 points)
Key free agents: Shea Weber
(RFA), Sergei Kostitsyn
(RFA), Cal O'Reilly
(RFA), Joel Ward
As with the Lightning, everything this summer is secondary to locking up Weber -- they're headed to arbitration, but the Predators would like to lock him up long-term. The Predators always seem to be one game-breaking forward shy of being considered elite, but retaining their restricted free agents likely will exhaust GM David Poile's budget.
11. Phoenix Coyotes (99 points)
Key free agents: Keith Yandle
(RFA), Ed Jovanovski
(UFA), Radim Vrbata
(UFA), Eric Belanger
The Coyotes have to find a goaltender and sign Yandle. Beyond that, they could use a top-six forward but aren't likely to find one in this market. Just retaining most of their players and adding a No. 1 netminder should put Phoenix easily above the cap floor.
12. Los Angeles Kings (98 points)
Key free agents: Drew Doughty
(RFA), Michal Handzus
(UFA), Alec Martinez
As much as half of that cap space likely will be going to Doughty, and Handzus likely would need to take a pay cut to return as a bottom-six center. Adding Mike Richards
was the big move, but the Kings could use another top-nine forward (or two) to play on the wing, though space could be tight.
13. Chicago Blackhawks (97 points)
Key free agents:
Michal Frolik (RFA), Chris Campoli
(RFA), Viktor Stalberg
Trading Brian Campbell
opened some cap breathing room, but now the Blackhawks do have to replace him -- and maybe add another defenseman as well, if they can. The key players are in place for GM Stan Bowman, and after spending a summer in cap prison, he has retooled and can make some positive alterations for the Blackhawks.
14. Montreal Canadiens (96 points)
Key free agents:
D Josh Gorges
(RFA), D Roman Hamrlik
(UFA), D Paul Mara
If that last group of players doesn't tell the story, the Canadiens have some work to do this summer on the blue line. Newly re-signed Andrei Markov
is expected to be healthy and Alexei Yemelin
may help, but the Canadiens need to sign 2-3 defensemen, at a minimum. An upgrade at forward would be nice but might not be possible. Montreal will be looking for a backup goalie as well.
15. Buffalo Sabres (96 points)
Key free agents: Tim Connolly
(UFA), Andrej Sekera
(RFA), Mike Weber
(RFA), Rob Niedermayer
Adding Robyn Regehr
was a big move for the Sabres' defense corps, which probably could use another top-four player, along with retaining the restricted free agents. Replacing Connolly (or just adding a top-nine forward) and finding a backup goalie also are on the to-do list.
16. Dallas Stars (95 points)
Key free agents: Brad Richards
(UFA), Jamie Langenbrunner
Richards isn't coming back, and he's it when it comes to elite free-agent forwards. Dallas could try to replace him by adding two or three players up front to make the team deeper. The Stars also need another defenseman, but additions to the forward corps appear vital.
17. Calgary Flames (94 points)
Key free agents: Chris Butler
(RFA), Brendan Morrison
(UFA), Freddy Modin
The Flames are going to be in the market for a defenseman to go along with Butler, who came from Buffalo in the Robyn Regehr
deal. They have 13 forwards under contract, but could use an upgrade there that might have to come via trade. GM Jay Feaster has more wiggle room than his predecessor had recently, but don't be surprised if he makes another move similar to the Regehr trade to free up more space.
18. New York Rangers (93 points)
Key free agents: Ryan Callahan
(RFA), Brandon Dubinsky
(RFA), Mike Sauer (RFA), Brian Boyle
Any time the Rangers have this much cap space, there is an opportunity for just about anything. There are several key restricted free agents who need to be retained, which will eat up a chunk of that space, but Brad Richards
and a veteran defenseman likely will be the targets Friday for GM Glen Sather
19. Carolina Hurricanes (91 points)
Key free agents: Erik Cole
(UFA), Brandon Sutter
(RFA), Jiri Tlusty
There are only eight forwards under contract, though a couple of prospects might be promoted (namely Zach Boychuk
and Zac Dalpe
). Resigning Jokinen will help, and Cole has had more success in Carolina than anywhere else. The Hurricanes probably could use another defenseman, as well. They have to spend a little more than $7 million anyway, so a little added depth could come from that.
20. St. Louis Blues (87 points)
Key free agents: Ty Conklin
The Blues locked up Oshie on June 30, so aside from finding a backup goaltender, they are pretty close to complete. They could add another top-nine forward and/or a defenseman, and have plenty of cap space to do so. The biggest thing is getting everyone healthy so they can finally see if this core of young players has the goods.
21. Minnesota Wild (86 points)
Key free agents:
Darrell Powe (RFA), Andrew Brunette
(UFA), Antti Miettinen
(UFA), John Madden
There could be more space depending on what happens with Cam Barker
, but the Wild also would need another defenseman if that happens. Minnesota is an intriguing team -- GM Chuck Fletcher finally has some cap space, and outside of backup goalie, has no glaring holes. Can the Wild finally take a big step forward this offseason?
22. Toronto Maple Leafs (85 points)
Key free agents: Luke Schenn
(RFA), Tyler Bozak
(RFA), Clarke MacArthur
(RFA), Jean-Sebastien Giguere
Top needs: Brian Burke
will make a strong push for Brad Richards
, but if he doesn't get him, here's guessing he focuses on re-signing his restricted free agents and looking for a trade. Toronto isn't short on role players, and beyond maybe adding another low-priced goalie, Burke likely is looking for an impact player or two.
23. New Jersey Devils (81 points)
Key free agents: Zach Parise
(RFA), Andy Greene
(UFA), Anssi Salmela
The Devils need another defenseman or two, but Parise's contract likely will eat up a large chunk of New Jersey's cap space -- he and the Devils are headed for arbitration. So, too, would Adam Larsson
; the fourth pick of the 2011 Entry Draft could fill a spot on the blue line, but isn't going to be cheap if he plays immediately. This is another team that needs a backup goalie.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets (81 points)
Key free agents: Jan Hejda
(UFA), D James Wisniewski
(UFA), Scottie Upshall
(UFA), Marc Methot
(RFA), Anton Stralman
The Blue Jackets need defensemen. Depending on how confident GM Scott Howson is in a couple of his prospects, it's likely he still needs three or four defensemen (though Methot and Stralman could count as two of them). He traded for the rights to negotiate with Wisniewski, who would certainly help Columbus' power play. Assuming Ryan Johansen
makes the team, the Blue Jackets suddenly are strong at center, but one more top-nine forward wouldn't hurt. The Blue Jackets also will be in the market for a backup goaltender.
25. Winnipeg Jets (80 points)
Key free agents: Andrew Ladd
(RFA), Zach Bogosian
(RFA), Blake Wheeler
If there was more talent available, the Jets really could go on a shopping spree. They still might. Winnipeg is pretty close to set on defense and in goal, so expect to see the Jets in on some of the top forwards available. If they're willing to spend near the salary-cap ceiling, the Jets could be one of the winners of this offseason.
26. Ottawa Senators (74 points)
Key free agents: Marek Svatos
(UFA), Pascal Leclaire
Another tough team to gauge -- the Senators have plenty of cap room to make improvements, but GM Bryan Murray is committed to rebuilding with youth, and there isn't going to be a lot of impact talent available anyway. The Senators might add a veteran or two (and could go with a backup goalie to keep Robin Lehner
playing full-time in the minors), but otherwise they likely will promote a few prospects and go with what they've got.
27. New York Islanders (73 points)
Key free agents: Josh Bailey
(RFA), Blake Comeau
(RFA), Zenon Konopka
The Islanders have pretty specific needs, and the list isn't nearly as lengthy as it has been the past couple of seasons. A veteran defenseman or two (Ehrhoff would be a huge coup, but he declined theiir offer), a top-nine (preferably top-six) forward with some size, and clarity in net. Only one of those seems plausible via the free-agent market, unless GM Garth Snow
makes a play for a forward like Erik Cole
28. Florida Panthers (72 points)
Key free agents: Tomas Vokoun
(UFA), Marty Reasoner
(UFA), Sergei Samsonov
GM Dale Tallon
will be one of the most-discussed people in hockey during the next few days. He is trying to rebuild the Panthers with youth, and he has lots of prospects to give playing time to. He also has to spend more than $22 million just to get the cap floor. Top draft picks Erik Gudbranson
and Jonathan Huberdeau
could make the team, and their contracts likely would eat up in the neighborhood of $5 million in cap space. The Panthers' needs are many -- a goalie (especially since top prospect Jacob Markstrom
might not be ready for camp because of an injury), multiple defensemen and a bushel of forwards. It could be a wild summer in South Florida.
29. Colorado Avalanche (68 points)
Key free agents: Kevin Porter
(RFA), T.J. Galiardi (RFA), Tomas Fleischmann
(UFA), Ryan Wilson
Goaltenders -- the Avalanche need more than one. They might go with what they have (plus their restricted free agents) on defense, but the Avalanche also are short on the wings. Obviously there is plenty of cap space to work with for Colorado.
30. Edmonton Oilers (62 points)
Key free agents: Andrew Cogliano
(RFA), Ladislav Smid
The Oilers probably will look to add a veteran defenseman or two, but unless a better long-term solution in net presents itself, expect Edmonton to be pretty quiet. Ryan Smyth
was a perfect addition -- a short-term contract that alleviates the concern other rebuilding teams have about getting to the cap floor while still giving their kids ample playing time.