Every offseason teams lose players. That much is inevitable. Many of these teams just hope that they don’t lose their key players, stars or leaders of their team to the free agent market. Of course, it isn’t always possible to keep these guys because of salary cap considerations and the money they often demand. Alas, if you do lose one of these players, it’s bound to hurt. Not to mention, it’s even worse when you lose a player to free agency, rather than retirement, personal leave or injury. This essentially means that one teams loss becomes another teams gain. With free agency now winding down to a snails pace I’m going to give you my 3 winners and losers of the free agency period.
Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford went on a huge spending spree this summer, acquiring Jordan Staal from Pittsburgh and Alexander Semin from their division rival, the Washington Capitals in just over a months time. Rutherford also acquired Tim Wallace from an entirely separate division rival in Tampa Bay, and Joe Corvo from Boston. He was also able to address the Canes’ future, signing Charlotte Checkers goaltender Justin Peters along with AHL forwards Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk and Jerome Samson to name a few.
In 77 games with Washington last season Semin put up some outstanding numbers, although, not in comparison to previous years by scoring 21 goals, and totaling 54 points to go with an impressive plus-9 rating. He becomes another weapon in the Canes’ top six, giving new head coach Kirk Muller better defensive forwards to work with. Jordan Staal, the brother of Hurricanes captain Eric, also helps to provide Muller with some options on the top 2-3 lines. In 62 games last season with Pittsburgh, Staal was often found on the scoresheet despite centering the team’s third line, scoring 25 goals and adding 25 assists to total 50 points. He also posted a great plus/minus rating of plus-11.
Wallace, in 18 games with Tampa Bay, after being acquired mid-season from the New York Islanders, put up three goals and eight points to go with a respectable plus-4 rating. More than that, he gives the Canes a defensively solid third or fourth liner who’s capable of producing just enough.
Corvo, a defenseman, showed he’s also responsible defensively but can also help out offensively from the blueline if need be. In 75 games with Boston last season, he scored four goals and added 21 assists good for 25 points. More important, however, was his plus-10 rating, because they’re numbers that will help the Canes top six forwards flourish by taking the added defensive pressure off of them.
Quite honestly, after addressing the team’s pressing needs the Canes look to be the early favorites to not only win the Southeast Division but also go deep into the playoffs. That is, if there’s a season in 2012-2013.
A team that has bled of mediocrity for years has picked a great time to make a huge splash in free agency. They acquired this offseason’s top two free agents in former New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise and former Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter, one of the best blueliner currently in the game. They also acquired former Ottawa Senators tough guy Zenon Konopka and former San Jose Sharks forward Torrey Mitchell.Parise, after missing nearly all of the 2010-2011 season, was looking to come back strong last season. He did just that, putting up 31 goals and 69 points while playing in all 82 regular season games. Parise also came up big in the Devils’ 2012 playoff run, one that ended two wins short of Stanley Cup, by tallying eight goals and 15 points in 24 games.
Suter, meanwhile, was doing what he could to help the Nashville Predators in their Stanley Cup quest. In 79 regular season games Suter put up 46 points and a plus/minus rating of plus-15, both good for second among a strong Predators defense core. Suter’s 2012 postseason was less than expected of him, as he only put up four points and was a minus-3 in 10 games.
Mitchell and Konopka also prove to be good additions because they add some much needed toughness to the Wild lineup. Appearing in 76 regular season games, Mitchell tallied 19 points while accruing 29 penalty minutes. Not huge totals but they give him plenty of room for improvement. Konopka, on the other hand, put up five points while accruing 193 penalty minutes in 55 regular season games with the Senators. Obviously, Konopka’s not afraid to drop the gloves when need be, something that will only help the Wild’s new stars flourish.
To tell the truth this Wild team has the capability, and now the players, to make some major noise in the Western Conference for years to come, as they have added two fairly young NHL stars to go with a team that has historically been just short of playoff action for the past few seasons. Don’t be surprised to see them compete for the franchise’s first Stanley Cup as well.
The Dallas Stars just barely missed the playoffs last season after a strong start. They then made it their mission to fill last season’s missing pieces locking up some solid additions during free agency. They acquired two veterans with championship experience in Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney. Another acquisition they made was former Vancouver Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome. The Stars also made sure to re-sign players they didn’t want to lose; players like Jordie Benn, Mark Fistric, Richard Bachman, Ryan Garbutt and others.
Jagr spent many years in the NHL, winning a few Stanley Cups, before spending the 2010-2011 season playing overseas. He returned this past season, signing a one year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. While he is no longer in his prime, Jagr managed to score 54 points and put up a respectable plus-5 rating in 73 regular season games last season. Jagr took a slight step back in the playoffs, however, managing only eight points and a minus-5 rating in 11 games.
Whitney, on the other hand, never left the NHL, winning a Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 before heading to the Phoenix Coyotes. Whitney led the Coyotes with 77 points and a plus-26 rating while not missing a single game last season. He also registered eight power play goals, good for second on the team behind Radim Vrbata.
Rome probably doesn’t need an introduction as some may remember him for the hit that knocked out Boston Bruins forward Nathan Horton during the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. He was suspended, probably deservedly so, for the hit but that doesn’t mean he’s not a good player. He actually put up 10 points while playing in only 43 games last season due to injury. Since that probably doesn’t give you much hope, let’s also look at his 2010-2011 campaign. During that season, Rome tallied five points and a plus-one rating in 56 games played. That doesn’t tell us a ton except that he is great defensively and hits hard. Rome has also been able to stay relatively healthy, so he can contribute on the timesheet.
With these new additions, along with their re-signings, the Stars should have no problem making it back to the postseason. They also have a good chance of going deep in the playoffs.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils lost Zach Parise’s numbers and leadership, traded defensive prospect Matt Taormina to Tampa Bay and only have Martin Brodeur for another year or two before he heads for retirement. Yeah, Adam Henrique’s a great player and Patrick Elias/Ilya Kovalchuk have leadership capabilities. Kovalchuk also has captain experience, serving as the Atlanta Thrashers captain before being traded to the Devils. However, the numbers Parise puts up when healthy are hard to replace. In non injury-plagued seasons he routinely put up over 30 goals and more than 65 points. Last season, he was the Devils’ second highest goal scorer with 31 goals, just behind Kovalchuk’s 37.
Losing a guy like Parise would be difficult for any team to overcome. However, with Brodeur still aging, Henrique still very young and Kovalchuk’s streakiness, it might be completely devastating to a team that struggles to score goals as it is. Hopefully, Lou has something up his sleeve soon.
The Preds lost one of their top defensemen in Ryan Suter to Minnesota. Last season, Suter was the Preds’ 2nd highest scoring defenseman with 46 points and a plus-15 rating in 78 games. The only Preds defenseman with a higher point total than Suter was Olympic gold medalist Shea Weber with 49 points. The Preds also had to pay up just to keep Weber because of the Philadelphia Flyer’s offer sheet–something that might end up costing them in the future.Another player the Preds lost was backup goaltender Anders Lindback to Tampa Bay. Obviously, they still have Vezina nominee Pekka Rinne. However, if Rinne were to get injured, the Preds have no proven NHL caliber goalie behind him to carry the load. With Lindback, they at least knew they had someone who has proven his ability to put up decent numbers.
With these losses the Preds might still be OK next season. In the near future, however, the team could pay for the moves they made this offseason.
The Flyers lost one of their top defenseman on an already shallow blueline in Matt Carle, one of their top offensive forwards last season in Jaromir Jagr and so far haven’t been able to address their defense. They also aren’t sure about the status of captain Chris Pronger, who was sidelined much of last season with a concussion and is unlikely to return.
Carle, who signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay, put up 38 points and a plus-4 rating while suiting up in every game last season. Meanwhile, Jagr signed as a free agent with the Dallas Stars. Pronger was only able to play 13 games before being sidelined, but still managed to put up 12 points and a plus-1 rating.
If that weren’t bad enough, the Flyers received news in early August that defenseman Andrej Meszaros tore his right achilles tendon while working out in his home country of Slovakia, and is out indefinitely. Meszaros tallied 25 points with a plus-6 rating in 62 games last season.
Losing key players, whether to injury or free agency, always hurts. However, if you combine that with the Flyers past goaltending woes, the fact they lost one of their top point producers in Jagr, and their recent string of bad luck on the blueline, you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
By: Lauren Burg
**Feel free to contact me, Lauren, on Twitter @TBLightning491 or Daily Shootout, @DailyShootout. **
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