Saturday, June 07, 2008

What To Do Now- Northwest Division

Continuing the “What they should do now” series, I’ll take a look at the North West division.

(F)- forward
(D)- defenseman
(G)- goalie


Minnesota Wild
UFA’s- Pavol Demitra (F), Brian Rolston (F), Chris Simon (F), Keith Carney (D), Sean Hill (D), Petteri Nummelen (D)
RFA’s- PM Bouchard (F), Kurtis Foster (D)
Analysis:
The Wild had a disappointing first round, but they also saw little production from two of their big guns: Gaborik and Demitra. The latter is a UFA along with Rolston who has emerged as a true leader. The defense has mostly aging blue liners up for contract but is anchored by two young players in Burns and Schultz signed long term. The good news is that the Wild are a relatively young team with some young guns that will only get better, so there is definitely hope.

What they should do:
Rolston needs to kept pure and simple; he was the heart of the team. Demitra constantly seems indifferent and paired with his age the Wild should seek other options. All three of the UFA defenders are aging and would free up over $4mm, which can be put to better use for a scoring forward or better and younger defenseman.
The two RFA’s in Bouchard and Foster can be a central part of the Wild team for years to come so they should be retained. GM Risbrough got a bit of a head start this year by already signing Nick Schultz and Bret Burns to long term deals. Also keep an eye on Gaborik. With his constant injuries and lack of playoff production, he is only one year away from being an UFA and the Wild may be tempted to deal him for some other players.



Colorado Avalanche
UFA’s- Joe Sakic (F), Peter Forsberg (F), Andrew Brunette (F), Scott Parker (F), John-Michael Liles (D), Adam Foote (F), Kurt Sauer (D), Jose Theodore (G)
RFA’s- Marek Svatos (F), Wojtek Wolski (F),
Analysis:
It’s a bit hard to judge how successful the Avs really were as they were so injury riddled by the halfway mark of the Detroit series they had no chance to really keep up. Still, they have many big name UFA’s, but most are past their prime already. Giguere has an interesting off season ahead of him.

What they should do:
Kick Forsberg to the curb: they don’t need his drama. It’s not worth the few games he can even play. Sakic wont put on another uniform and he will return so they can hold off on signing him, but hopefully at a reduced deal to free up more space. Foote too is aging and should only be retained if at a much cheaper price than his current $4mm tag, but judging from his inability to get a deal with the blue Jackets done that’s not going to happen. Liles seems rather intent on testing free agency and is really the one UFA they should keep. Theodore was horrible in the playoffs and there is no need to even reconsider offering him a new deal. If Brunette and Sauer are willing to take relatively the same pay, keep them. If the Avs can get Wolski and Svatos signed to decent deals than they should be able to add another impact player, or at the very least some good depth players, but save room because Paul Stastny will need a big raise the next year.


Calgary Flames
UFA’s- Craig Conroy (F), Owen Nolan (F), Daymond Langkow (F), Kristen Huselius (F), Stephane Yelle (F), David Hale (D), Jim Vandermeer (D), Curtis Joseph (G)
RFA’s- none
Analysis:
Daryl Sutter has already locked up Iginla, Phaneuf and Kiprusoff long term, so the core of the team is set. Pretty much everyone up for a new deal is a contributor in some way save for Vandermeer, a deadline acquisition. Still Sutter will be busier than most other GM’s trying to decide which of these guys is most important to keep.

What they should do:
Hale, Vandermeer and Joseph are all replaceable so not much worry should be put to them. Yelle is aging as is Conroy who seems to only succeed in Calgary. Nolan can be let go with little recourse so the real tossup is between Langkow and Huselius. Of the two Langkow has shown more consistency through his career (yikes!) so he would be the better option. If Huselius can’t find any takers and can be kept at a decent price than go for him, but its unlikely. I still maintain dealing for Aucoin and his $4mm salary was a mistake. Regardless, don’t expect anything but a resigning for depth signing from the Flames this year.


Edmonton Oilers
UFA’s- Geoff Sanderson (F), Marty Reasoner (F)
RFA’s- Jarret Stoll (F), Marc Pouliot (F), Joni Pitkanen (D)
Analysis:
Edmonton has fallen far from when they came within a game of winning the cup, but sadly it is all GM Kevin Lowe’s doing as he quickly gave the good playoff performers deals they weren’t worth (Fernando Pisani and Dwayne Roloson come to mind). Pronger’s demand to be dealt after one season has seemed to have scared away potential free agents which has forced Lowe to give out offer sheets to RFA’s.

What they should do:
Pitkanen, Stoll and Pouliot can be staples for the future so Lowe should do what he can to get them signed long term. Reasoner is a reliable, and affordable third liner that should be easy to resign. Sanderson is winding down so the Oilers may want to look elsewhere for a replacement. A goalie is also needed as Roloson looked every bit his age this year and there were no takers for his contract. Don’t look for them to be big spenders, but they’ll probably be after a second tier free agent, unrestricted or otherwise.


Vancouver Canucks
UFA’s- Markus Naslund (F), Brednan Morrison (F), Trevor Linden (F), Aaron Miller (D), Curtis Sanford (G)
RFA’s- Ryan Shannon (F)
Analysis:
The Canucks hit a wall with injuries, though ownership decided to blame it on GM Dave Nonis and give him the boot instead. It’s a shame because the upcoming off season would have been a true test for him with the free agents he had which gave him the ability to give the team a good nudge in the right direction. Long time players Naslund and Morrison are both up for contract with a combined $9mm in cap space devoted to them. Aging defenseman Miller is very replaceable and Linden, long time Canuck fan favorite needs to finally hang them up. Cutting the latter two will free up almost $3.5mm.


What they should do:
All those guys I mentioned? Cut them loose. Naslund is fading and Morrison is a decent two way center, but nothing more and not worth what he will be asking. If new Gm Gilles can put that freed up money towards some replacements, including some scoring depth because frankly someone other than the Sedin twins need to score. The defense is locked up long term and if injury free is one of the better defenses in the league, and arguably the best goalie in Roberto Luongo mans the pipes. In other words: get some scoring forwards, it’s what’s holding this team back.

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