This division is still going to be dominated by the Red Wings (most likely), but could there be a new team making strides?
Signs point to yes in Ohio, where the Columbus Blue Jackets have been busy and the Chicago Blackhawks are eager to get back to their winning ways.
This division might be one of the best in a year or two, but there is still growing pains to go through for some of the teams.Chicago Blackhawks
Additions: F Andrew Ladd (2-year contract), Cristobal Huet (4-year, $22.4 million contract), Brian Campbell (8-year, $56.8 million contract), C Tim Brent (trade w Pittsburgh).
Subtractions: Patrick Lalime, Jason Williams, David Koci, Yanic Perreault, Andrei Zyuzin, Danny Richmond, Rene Bourque.
Restricted Free Agents:
Bottom Line: Movers and shakers once again, the Hawks went out and grabbed Campbell and Huet, giving them a couple of big fish to go with their young phenoms on a very talented roster. Will Chicago make the playoffs this season? They’ll be a popular pick and should be good for a few years with this kind of talent. The management change has been an effective on in the Blackhawk front office.Columbus Blue Jackets
Additions: R.J. Umberger (Trade w Philly), D Mike Commodore (5-year, $18.75 million contract), F Kristian Huselius (4-years, $19 million contract), LW Raffi Torres (trade w Edmonton), D Fedor Tyutin & D Christian Backman (trade w NY Rangers).
Subtractions: Ron Hainsey, Dick Tarnstrom, David Vyborny, Duvie Westcott, Dan Fritsche, Nikolai Zherdev.
Restricted Free Agents: None
Bottom Line: Columbus was the trendy pick for several seasons around the league for the team that was ready to bust out. It’s never happened as the team is looking for its first playoff berth. But I like the roster shakeup that they have done in Columbus and this could be a great year for them. But the West is tough and they have their work cut out for them. I pick them second in the division though.Detroit Red Wings
Additions: F Marian Hossa (1-year, $7.4 million contract), G Ty Conklin (1-year, $750,000 contract).
Subtractions: Chris Chelios (?), Mark Cullen, Dallas Drake, Dominic Hasek, Darren McCarty,
Restricted Free Agents: D Kyle Quincey
Bottom Line: the Champs signed the biggest fish out there in Hossa. Goodness, just when you thought this team was talented enough… This team has one of the best coaches in the league and will once again be favorites to repeat. But will the motivation to win one for Hossa be enough or will the “Cup hangover” get them in the end? I think they’ll make a substantial run once again but there are no gimmes in the West during the playoffs.Nashville Predators
Additions: Triston Grant (trade w Philadelphia), Ryan Jones (trade w Minnesota).
Subtractions: Martin Gelinas, Alex Henry, Brandon Bochenski, Darcy Hordichuk, Chris Mason, Janne Niskala, Marek Zidlicky
Restricted Free Agents: None
Bottom Line: This team has lost some good players over the last two years and you wonder if they will slip back into the non-playoff group. They didn’t last year and a lot of that had to do with Dan Ellis in net. Ellis is signed and that’s good for Nash. But I think Columbus passes the Predators this season and leaves them on the outside looking in come April.St. Louis Blues
Additions: G Chris Mason, D T.J. Fast
Subtractions: Petr Cajanek (?), Mike Glumac, Martin Rucsinsky, Jamal Mayers
Restricted Free Agents: Hannu Toivonen
Bottom Line: The Blues have done a good job in stocking the pond with some good young talent. The only problem – they’re young. But that’s OK. This team is still a year away but they are building it very intelligently and have a plan that will probably bear some fruit in future seasons. But they still have Kariya and Tkachuk, among others, and will battle in every game. Doug Armstrong will have a good situation on his hands once he takes over as full-time GM.