Free Agent Moves Around The NHL

So, in order to make it look like I frequently post to this blog, I'm going to try and spend more of my time thinking I'm bored writing about hockey.

Today; A quick look at each team in the NHL to grade their free-agent additions and subtractions.

Anaheim: (additions: Saku Koivu, Nick Boynton, Steve McCarthy / subtractions: Francois Beauchemin)
-The Ducks' biggest splash was signing long-time Canadiens center Saku Koivu. The Ducks didn't have a lot of offense down the middle after Ryan Getzlaf, so adding Koivu, who brings leadership, scoring, and defensive play, will really make a difference. However, after trading Chris Pronger to Philadelphia for Joffrey Lupul and Luca Sbisa, and losing Francois Beauchemin to the Maple Leafs, will the Ducks' defense be as dominating? Before, it was a top three of Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, and Francois Beauchemin. Now, it's a top three of Niedermayer (who's status of retired/active is debated every off-season), Nick Boynton, and Ryan Whitney. The top three remains a formidable group, but some of the intimidation factor has been lost.

Atlanta: (additions: Nik Antropov, Jason Krog, Drew McIntyre, Peter Mannino, Noah Welch, Anthony Stewart, Tim Stapleton, Mike Vernace, Josh Gratton / subtractions: Clay Wilson, Brett Skinner)
-Atlanta has stayed relatively low-profile this off-season, mainly acquiring minor leaguers and prospects. Nik Antropov was the only major name added, as the Thrashers continue to search for that secondary scoring they've needed so dearly. Antropov recently became a high-end scorer; can he do the same job in Atlanta? Noah Welch may also be able to help a defense corps that's becoming younger and younger.

Boston: (additions: Steve Begin, Dany Sabourin, Drew Fata, Drew Larman, Trent Whitfield, Derek Morris / subtractions: Steve Montador, Jeremy Reich, Shane Hnidy)
-Boston suffered relatively minor losses so far this off-season, and as a result, have added only fringe players and Derek Morris. Steve Begin may play a role as a checker and penalty killer, and Morris will be a good addition on defense, but the other additions will likely see time in the minors and as healthy scratches. The Bruins retained pretty much the same roster from last season, and will once again be a top contender.

Buffalo: (additions: Steve Montador, Cody McCormick / subtractions: Jaroslav Spacek, Mathieu Darche, Michael Funk)
-Despite an up-and-down season, the Sabres made very few moves to improve their team. When free-agent defender Jaroslav Spacek left, they quickly replaced him with veteran Steve Montador. Maxim Afineganov is also likely to leave the team, although he hasn't been signed by anyone yet.

Calgary: (additions: Jay Bouwmeester, Fredrik Sjostrom, Garth Murray, Riley Armstrong, Jason Jaffray, Staffan Kronwall, Nigel Dawes / subtractions: Jordan Leopold, Warren Peters, Adam Cracknell)
-The Flames went with big names up front the last time they underwent major revision; the result was another reasonably disappointing season. This year, after losing relatively nobody to free agency, and replacing Jordan Leopold with ex-Panthers star Jay Bouwmeester, the Flames went for depth and youth. Bouwmeester will obviously play a huge role on defense as the 3rd big name behind Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regeher. Sjostrom will be looked to provide a Rene-Bourque-esque season, and the other additions will be sparingly used.

Carolina: (additions: Steven Goertzen, Jay Harrison, Andrew Alberts, Zack Fitzgerald / subtractions: Mark Flood, Dwight Helminen)
-Carolina surprised a lot of fans by returning to the playoffs this season, despite having made very few major moves. The same thing occured over this summer, as Andrew Alberts will likely be the only addition to play a significant role on the team. However, a full season out of the Eric/Erik duo of Staal and Cole should boost the Canes up the standings once again.

Chicago: (additions: Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky, John Madden, Richard Petiot, Danny Bois / subtractions: Matt Walker, Nikolai Khabibulin, Samuel Pahlsson, Martin Havlat)
-The Hawks made some major moves last summer on their way to a playoff run. This summer, they intend for their moves to do the same. In light of winger Martin Havlat's free agency, they went out and opted to sign the best replacement available, in the form of two-time Cup Finalist Marian Hossa. Hossa has been looking for a Stanley Cup win for several seasons, and made it to the Finals with Pittsburgh and Detroit in the past two seasons. He'll be expecting a Finals trip in Chicago. Chicago also added Tomas Kopecky, a Stanley Cup winner with the Wings two years ago, and John Madden, who's won several championships with New Jersey. Obviously, experience was the goal here. An interesting move however was letting Nikolai Khabibulin, the man who saved the Hawks season in goal, test the free agent market, while keeping the inconsistent Cristobal Huet, who must provide a much better season this year to prove his worth.

Colorado: (additions: Craig Anderson, David Koci, Darren Haydar, Brett Skinner / subtractions: Ian Laperriere, Lawrence Nycholat, Tyler Arnason, Andrew Raycroft, Ben Guite, Nathan Smith, Cody McCormick)
-After the worst season in the history of the Avalanche, team management decided it was time to build from within. Free-agent additions failed them last season (particularly Andrew Raycroft and Darcy Tucker), so they'll look mainly to prospects to step in this year. Craig Anderson was signed to attempt to find stability in goal, while the hole left by Tyler Arnason will likely be filled by 1st round draft pick Matt Duchene.

Columbus: (additions: Samuel Pahlsson, Mathieu Garon, Mathieu Roy / subtractions: Aaron Rome, Wade Dubielewicz)
-The Blue Jackets added most of their major pieces last summer, and it led to their first ever playoff round. Despite being swept by eventual Stanley Cup finalist Detroit, Columbus entered the off-season full of confidence. They added Mathieu Garon to be a veteran back-up to Steve Mason, while Samuel Pahlsson will strengthen the defensive play of the forwards.

Dallas: (additions: Alex Auld, Karlis Skrastins, Jeff Woywitka, Warren Peters / subtractions: Steve Begin, Chris Conner, Brendan Morrison)
-The Stars will be relying on the return of Brenden Morrow, Brad Richards, and Toby Petersen from injury, along with a revival by Marty Turco, to bring the team back up the standings. They replaced free agents Sergei Zubov and Darryl Sydor with Karlis Skrastins and Jeff Woywitka in the hopes that their younger defenders will take another step up. Alex Auld was brought in to be a solid back-up goaltender. They only lost two rental players and Chris Conner to free-agency, so the roster won't look a whole lot different in 09-10. (see previous blog post for more on the Stars)

Detroit: (additions: Jeremy Williams, Kris Newbury, Doug Janik / subtractions: Marian Hossa, Ty Conklin, Tomas Kopecky, Mikael Samuelsson, Darren Haydar)
-The salary cap finally caught up to the Wings this off-season, as the Wings lost four vital pieces of last season's roster to free-agency. Marian Hossa was one of the leading scorers on the Red Wings and had chemistry with the whole team. Ty Conklin was a solid back-up goaltender who salvaged much of the Wings' season when Chris Osgood got rusty. Tomas Kopecky was a rising young player who could've been worth a lot in a trade, and Mikael Samuelsson was a strong defensive player and secondary scorer. The Wings could only add minor league depth via the free agency market.

Edmonton: (additions: Nikolai Khabibulin, Chris Minard / subtractions: Dwayne Roloson, Dany Sabourin, Ales Kotalik, Mathieu Roy, Kyle Brodziak)
-The Oilers are depending on their young players to bounce back from disappointing seasons last year in order to move up the standings. They replaced a reliable goalie with another reliable goalie, and probably won't need to replace Ales Kotalik, who was only with the team for games after the trade deadline.

Florida: (additions: Scott Clemmensen, Clay Wilson, Jordan Leopold, Jeff Taffe / subtractions: Jay Bouwmeester, Craig Anderson, Karlis Skrastins, Nick Boynton, Anthony Stewart, Drew Larman, Tanner Glass)
-Florida's defense corps suffered some losses over the summer and they just didn't have the budget to re-stock with other free agents. Jordan Leopold will be a welcome addition, but he alone won't be able to replace Jay Bouwmeester, Karlis Skrastins, and Nick Boynton. A year ago, Scott Clemmensen would have been considered a step down from Craig Anderson. However, after Clemmensen saved New Jersey's season in 08-09, it may be a step up in goal.

Los Angeles: (additions: Rob Scuderi, Brandon Segal / subtractions: Matt Moulson, Brian Boyle)
-The Kings didn't make very many moves by the way of free agency. Rob Scuderi will be a good stay at home defender for the team, although they may regret letting the young Brian Boyle develop in New York instead of Los Angeles.

Minnesota: (additions: Greg Zanon, Martin Havlat, Shane Hnidy, Wade Dubeiliwicz, Jon DiSalvatore, Nathan Smith / subtractions: Marian Gaborik, Corey Locke, Stephane Veilleux, Kurtis Foster)
-The Wild essentially played the replacement game, knowing which players they planned to lose to free agency, and replacing them with players of the same value. Marian Gaborik jumped ship to New York; Minnesota nabbed Martin Havlat from Chicago. Kurtis Foster bolted to Tampa Bay; the Wild signed Greg Zanon and Shane Hnidy to fill the gap. Stephane Veilleux was a good checking winger and might need a replacement, but his role wasn't so hard to replace. Wade Dubeiliwicz's signing has led to questions about the future of Josh Harding.

Montreal: (additions: Jaroslav Spacek, Hal Gill, Mike Cammalleri, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Mathieu Darche, Paul Mara, Travis Moen, Curtis Sanford / subtractions: Mike Komisarek, Chris Higgins, Alex Kovalev, Saku Koivu, Tom Kostopoulous)
-The Canadiens had a confusing season last year, starting off looking like they would ursurp the Red Wings as Cup champions (who were actually ursurped by Pittsburgh), and playing the entire first half as such. However, soon after the All-star game (which featured 4 members of the team), the Canadiens fell apart. They were one of the most inconsistent teams in the league, plummetted down the standings, and ended up in a battle for a final playoff spot.
To fix the problem, they went for a major revamp. Mike Komisarek and Alex Kovalev were two members that made it to the all-star game, Saku Koivu was the face of the franchise for many years, and Chris Higgins was an up-and-coming goal scoring winger. All of them were let off to free agency. Replacing Komisarek; Jaroslav Spacek, Hal Gill, and Paul Mara. The Canadiens are determined to have the best defense in the league, and a group including Spacek, Gill, Mara, Andrei Markov, and Roman Hamrlik is fairly intimidating. Up front, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Mike Cammalleri, and Travis Moen will fill the gaps left by Kovalev, Higgins, Koivu, and Tom Kostopoulous.

Nashville: (additions: Ben Guite, Peter Olvecky, Ben Eaves / subtractions: Vernon Fiddler, Greg Zanon, Scott Nichol, Jed Ortmeyer)
-The moves made by the Predators have been so largely insignificant that I almost forgot to write about them (sorry Preds fans!). They lost a few of their less-known players, but have the means to replace them. Alexander Sulzer will be taking over Greg Zanon's place on the blueline, while Vernon Fiddler's spot will be filled by Patric Hornqvist.

New Jersey: (additions: Yann Danis, Cory Murphy / subtractions: Scott Clemmensen, Mike Rupp, John Madden, Brian Gionta, Jon DiSalvatore)
-The Devils had an interesting season in 08-09, facing the obstacle of trying to win without Martin Broduer in net for a majority of the season. Luckily, Scott Clemmensen stepped in, and Zach Parise stepped up, and the Devils were able to salvage most of their season. However, the playoffs turned into yet another disappointment, and New Jersey management let several ex-key players test free agency waters. Gone are Clemmensen, scorer Brian Gionta, and long-time defensive specialist John Madden. Gionta and Madden haven't been replaced via free agency, so it's likely we'll see some young faces in the Devils' line-up this year. Yann Danis will be looked upon to be a sparingly used back-up as Broduer will return to his 70+ games/40+ wins status.

NY Islanders: (additions: Dwayne Roloson, Scott Munroe, Brett Westgarth, Jeremy Reich, Greg Moore, Matt Moulson, Greg Mauldin, Mark Flood, Martin Biron / subtractions: Chris Lee, Peter Mannino, Yann Danis, Joe Callahan)
-The Islanders mostly made small changes, bolstering their depth in the minors while hoping that their young players on the roster will continue to improve. The most interesting part of the Isles' off-season so far is the fact that, barring a retirement-due-to-injury by Rick DiPietro, New York will have 3 potential #1 goaltenders. Dwayne Roloson, Martin Biron, and DiPietro all have the potential to be top goaltenders, and have all been paid the money to do so. My guess? The Islanders will use one goaltender as trade bait to pick up a top forward, and have already warned the goaltender they plan to do so with.

NY Rangers: (additions: Donald Brashear, Marian Gaborik, Tyler Arnason, Corey Locke, Chris Higgins, Brian Boyle, Ales Kotalik, Enver Lisin / subtractions: Colton Orr, Fredrik Sjostrom, Nik Antropov, Greg Moore, Doug Janik, Paul Mara, Lauri Korpikoski)
-The Rangers are in the midst of remodeling, and although many agree that Glen Sather is the man who needs to be away from the team, he insists the problem lies in the team, and so New York has endured yet another summer of player shuffling. Out goes Nik Antropov, who was added at the trade deadline for scoring but let go in order to acquire more of the same in the form of Marian Gaborik. Definitely an upgrade, although Gaborik's health is eternally questionable. Paul Mara abandoned the big city's defense, and while nobody from free agency (unless Brian Boyle returns to the blueline, an unlikely situation) can replace him, prospect Bobby Sanguinetti may finally be ready to join the big leagues. Chris Higgins, Tyler Arnason and Ales Kotalik come in to bolster a forward group that released Lauri Korpikoski, Donald Brashear replaces Colton Orr as resident thug, and one ex-highly touted-Coyote (Fredrik Sjostrom) for another (Enver Lisin).

Ottawa: (additions: Alex Kovalev / subtractions: Greg Mauldin, Drew Fata, Danny Bois, ?Dany Heatley?)
-The biggest off-season news in Ottawa has yet to finish playing out. Other than the strange choice by Alex Kovalev to sign with the Sens, Dany Heatley has been the only major player to be involved in rumors. The right-winger is apparently unhappy with his situation in Ottawa, and has been approached by several teams with contract/trade offers. He's also apparently picky, as no firm decision has been reached as to what his status will be at the start of next season.

Philadelphia: (additions: Ray Emery, Brian Boucher, Ian Laperriere, Lukas Kaspar, Krys Kolanos, Jason Ward / subtractions: Mike Knuble, Scott Munroe, Antero Nittymaki, Andrew Alberts, Martin Biron)
-The Flyers underwent several big changes during the off-season. They entirely restocked their goaltending, letting Antero Nittymaki and Martin Biron walk and bringing in Ray Emery and Brian Boucher. They also gave up points (Mike Knuble, Joffrey Lupul) for toughness and defensive responsibility (Ian Laperriere, Chris Pronger).

Phoenix: (additions: Vernon Fiddler, Jason Labarbera, Adrian Aucoin, Lauri Korpikoski / subtractions: Garth Murray, Steven Goertzen, Nigel Dawes, Enver Lisin, Ryan Lannon)
-Wherever the Coyotes end up after the NHL season starts, they'll have a relatively solid roster to take with them. Adrian Aucoin was added to bolster the defense, Jason Larbarbera will solidify the goaltending, and Vernon Fiddler will be a good checking center. GM Don Maloney is still considering making an offer to free-agent Alex Tanguay, but the main drama of the team's summer has been the financial situation and whether or not someone will buy the team.

Pittsburgh: (additions: Nate Guenin, Chris Lee, Chris Conner, Jay McKee, Brent Johnson / subtractions: Hal Gill, Mathieu Garon, Rob Scuderi, Jeff Taffe, Chris Minard)
-Last season's Stanley Cup champions spent the summer trying to retain the majority of their roster to make another run next season, and just like the Red Wings before them, they were successful. Hal Gill was substituted with Jay McKee, while the Penguins expect a prospect to fill in Rob Scuderi's spot. Mathieu Garon's spot on the team will be filled by Brent Johnson, unless John Curry takes a major step up.

San Jose: (additions: Scott Nichol, Joe Callahan, Jed Ortmeyer, Dwight Helminen / subtractions: Brian Boucher, Riley Armstrong, Brett Westgarth, Travis Moen, Lukas Kaspar)
-The Sharks kept up on their pattern of being regular-season dominators and post-season failures, and GM Doug Wilson demanded major changes. Surprisingly though, the team made relatively minor changes, spending money on resigning the majority of last year's roster, only losing Brian Boucher, and replacing Travis Moen with Scott Nichol.

St. Louis: (additions: Ty Conklin, Barry Tallackson, Adam Cracknell, Brendan Bell / subtractions: Jeff Woywitka, Jay McKee, Trent Whitfield)
-The Blues made it to the playoffs after a long hiatus last season, and kept the majority of their roster this season. Ty Conklin will be the next attempt at stabilizing the goaltender position, while a return from injury by Erik Johnson and a step up by Steve Wagner should fill in the gaps left by Jay McKee and Jeff Woywitka.

Tampa Bay: (additions: Mattias Ohlund, Matt Walker, Stephane Veilleux, Kurtis Foster, Antero Nittymaki / subtractions: David Koci, Richard Petiot, Brandon Segal, Noah Welch, Cory Murphy, Jason Ward)
-Many things held Tampa back from being an improved team last year, but a major one was a lack of defensive strength. So the Lightning went out and signed Mattias Ohlund, Kurtis Foster, and Matt Walker to bolster the blueline. They also signed Antero Nittymaki to help out the goaltending, and Stephane Veilluex will buff up the forward lines.

Toronto: (additions: Colton Orr, Francois Beauchemin, Mike Komisarek, Garnet Exelby / subtractions: Jeremy Williams, Kris Newbury, Jay Harrison, Tim Stapleton)
-The Leafs decided to boost their young defensive corps with veterans Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek to give the team some stability while they develop from within. Look for Luke Schenn, Mikhail Grabovski, and Lee Stempniak to take big steps up.

Vancouver: (additions: Aaron Rome, Lawrence Nycholat, Andrew Raycroft, Tanner Glass, Mike Funk / subtractions: Mattias Ohlund, Jason Labarbera, Jason Krog, Drew MacIntyre, Jason Jaffray, Zack Fitzgerald, Curtis Sanford)
-The Canucks made a lot of minor changes to their roster, but also let Mattias Ohlund leave the defense corps slightly weaker. They're hoping that a prospect or minor leaguer can step up, unless a free agent and/or trade presents a better opportunity.

Washington: (additions: Mike Knuble, Brendan Morrison / subtractions: Donald Brashear, Brent Johnson)
-The Caps had an outstanding season last year, although they fell short of their desire for the Stanley Cup. However, they only improved their roster as Brent Johnson left the team due to the sudden surge of prowess shown by Simeon Varlamov, and they added Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison for just a little bit more scoring.

This report came out way later than I expected, but I'm pretty sure it's up to date as of August 2nd, 4:10 PM.


Long Absence—Stars report

For quite some time now, various things have prevented me from blogging, school and working with my band, Drayned (myspace.com/drayneband) amongst them.

However, tonight I managed to secure some time to write.

Let's start with examining the changes made by the Dallas Stars since I last checked in:

New Players: The Stars have added Alex Auld, Karlis Skrastins, Jeff Woywitka, and Warren Peters through free agency/trade over the summer so far.

With Tobias Stephan and Brent Krahn failing to provide a steady back-up presence in goal, and prospects Tyler Beskorowany, Matt Climie, and Richard Bachman needing seasoning with the new Texas Stars AHL team, the Stars brought in Alex Auld from the Ottawa Senators. Auld was a surprise last season, coming from a reputation of inconsistency to ursurp Martin Gerber as the Sens starter. However, he failed to stay at that level of performance, and became expendable after Brian Elliot showed some strong play and the Senators traded for Pascal Leclaire. With Marty Turco perfectly capable of bouncing back from last season's poor play, Auld will be a reliable veteran back-up, the likes of which haven't been seen in Dallas in several seasons.

A combination of age and salary cap limits have forced the Stars to let longtime fan-favorite defenders Sergei Zubov and Darryl Sydor test the free agent market. Zubov, facing the trials of age and injury, managed only 10 games this past season. However, his leadership will be sorely missed. Darryl Sydor is a consistent defenseman who will surely have a solid NHL job in another location this coming season. He's been on a couple Stanley Cup teams.
To make up for the loss of these two defenders, the Stars have brought in Karlis Skrastins and Jeff Woywitka. Skrastins is a servicable defender who had an iron man streak for many seasons. He'll be a solid veteran addition. Woywitka had a tough time breaking into the NHL, but last season he was a steady presence for the St. Louis Blues.
However, the Stars have a serviceable crew of Trevor Daley, Stephane Robidas, Nicklas Grossman, Matt Niskanen, Mark Fistric, and Andrew Hutchinson already signed. Skrastins will surely get a role, perhaps replacing Fistric, but Woywitka and Hutchinson will have to vie for ice time in training camp, and one of Fistric, Woywitka, and Hutchinson will have to accept a role as a veteran leader in the AHL.

Up front, the Stars only added Warren Peters, who is likely to accept an AHL job. The Stars will have Brenden Morrow and Brad Richards returning from injury, leaving the following players vying for ice time (listed by official stars.nhl.com positions):
CENTER: Mike Ribeiro, Mike Modano, Brad Richards, Brian Sutherby, Toby Petersen, Tom Wandell
LEFT WING: Brenden Morrow, Steve Ott, Loui Eriksson, Fabian Brunnstrom, James Neal
RIGHT WING: Jere Lehtinen, Krystofer Barch

Now, obviously, a couple players will swing over to play right wing, most likely Steve Ott and Brian Sutherby. Left wing presents a problem, as Morrow, Eriksson, Brunnstrom, and Neal can all play roles as scorers. Morrow and Neal can play top line roles, but Brunnstrom is the only one suited for a third-line-scorer role. Wandell will be a top center with the Texas Stars, and Ribeiro, Richards, Modano, and Petersen had no problems last season being on the lines they were.
The lines could then play out as such:


Last season developed some chemistry which will be interesting to work out. While Morrow was injured, Steve Ott took a role as enforcer/scorer on his line. Not long after, the line of Ott-Ribeiro-Lehtinen became one of the Stars' most productive, and most efficient at creating scoring chances. Ott reached career highs of 19 goals and 27 assists for 46 points. Whether he can return to that level on a line with Eriksson and Richards remains to be seen, if the lines are formed as predicted above.

The other major change the Stars made during the summer was the decision to no longer go with the dual GM role of Les Jackson and Brett Hull. Replacing the duo is former Maple Leafs, Panthers, Devils, Flames, and Stars center Joe Nieuwendyk. Nieuwendyk's hiring was accepted happily by many fans, as he was a fan favorite during his days with the Stars, and won the Conn Smythe trophy in 1999.

In the 2009 NHL draft, the Stars chose Scott Glennie, Alex Chiasson, Reilly Smith, Tomas Vincour, and Curtis McKenzie. While none of those players had big enough names to come out from under the shadow of John Tavares and Victor Hedman, they caught the eyes of Stars personnel.
Scott Glenie: A right winger for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL for the last two seasons, Glennie is a speedy playmaker. Last season he scored 28 goals and 42 assists in only 55 games. He also cut his penalty minute total in half, from 50 PIMs in his first season (during which he scored 26 goals and 32 assists) to 25 PIMs in 08-09. He'll likely play another year of junior before enduring some AHL seasoning.
Alex Chiasson: Another right winger, Chiasson played for the Des Moines Bucaneers in 08-09. A tough playmaker, Chiasson scored 17 goals and 33 assists for 50 points in 56 games, while garnering 101 PIMs. He'll need a few more years of seasoning before attempting to crack the lineup.
Reilly Smith: In light of the lack of true right wingers with the Stars, Smith, yet another right winger, was drafted out of the OPJHL as a long-term project. In 08-09, Smith played in 13 games with the St. Michael's Buzzers, scoring 2 goals and 7 assists. He also had 22 minutes.
Tomas Vincour: Drafted out of the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL, Vincour is a low-scoring center. In 49 games last year, Vincour scored 17 goals and 19 assists.
Curtis McKenzie: A left-winger for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL, McKenzie is another long term project for the Stars. He scored 3 goals and 7 assists in 49 games for the Vees, while recieving 81 PIMs.

While most of the changes made by the Stars aren't terribly major, the biggest impact will be from captain Brenden Morrow returning from an injury-riddled season. Expect a steadier season from Marty Turco, and a younger, more mobile defense corps.