Only one more division to look at when it comes to this year’s offseason. That would be the Pacific Division, and here’s what I think about it:
Anaheim Ducks: I still don’t know how a team as talented as Anaheim missed the playoffs, but you can probably chalk it up to injuries and too much J.S. Giguere before they finally gave the starting job fully to Jonas Hiller. Aging veterans like Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, and Scott Niedermayer were still able to contribute last season, but will that be back this year? Selanne and Niedermayer are once again talking about retiring, and if they go, they need to be replaced. After all, Selanne still managed to score 27 goals in 54 games.
There’s also the issue of Bobby Ryan and James Wisniewski being restricted free agents. Wisniewski is a really good defenseman, and Ryan is already one of the better goal scorers in the league. However, there have been concerns as to whether or not the Ducks will be able to re-sign him. If they can manage to do it financially, he’s a guy that probably deserves a big pay day and they shouldn’t let him get away. If they don’t re-sign him, however, they’ll need to replace his goal scoring in free agency, and that might take a couple of players.
Dallas Stars: It’s a time of change in Dallas. Marty Turco will not be back, with Kari Lehtonon taking his place (until he gets hurt, of course). Additionally, Mike Modano will probably retire and Jere Lehtinen, as a free agent and 36, probably won’t be back either. Yes, things will look different for the Stars, and if they want James Neal, Matt Niskanen, and Nicklas Grossman to be apart of it, they’ll need to be re-signed. All three would be wise moves.
The most important thing for Dallas will probably be a reliable backup goalie, but some help on defense would also be wise. Niskanen and Grossman have ability, but they aren’t guys that can lead a team at this point or anything. Additionally, they don’t have anybody who can score on the blueline aside from Stephane Robidas, who only scored 41 points and managed a minus-10 when doing it. The Stars have pieces on offense, but when it comes to goal preventing they need a fair amount of work.
Los Angeles Kings: The Kings are a team on the rise, and with Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty likely to improve next season, they might be even more impressive. There is only one question with the Kings this offseason: Will they bother to re-sign Alexander Frolov? He has a ton of talent, but he was slightly disappointing last season (19 goals, 51 points) and the talk has been that he isn’t particularly motivated or particularly interested in staying in Los Angeles. If they let him walk, they’ll need to replace his goal scoring. With so much young talent and potential, the Kings could draw some real interest from the big name free agent goal scorers. Perhaps a certain free agent from the San Jose Sharks…
Phoenix Coyotes: Well, getting their owner situation settled would be nice. Otherwise, what can the Coyotes do really while still being owned by the NHL? Phoenix has a ton of free agents, and the question will be whether they can afford to re-sign them. Do they bother with Lee Stempniak after his impressive (and likely fluky) end to the regular season? How about veteran defenseman like Adrian Aucoin and Derek Morris? Do RFAs Scott Upshall and Wojtek Wolski get re-signed? The Coyotes don’t have the room to make a big splash, but they do need to try and improve their offense this offseason. Ilya Bryzgalov is great, but without more goal scoring they shouldn’t expect another playoff run next season.
San Jose Sharks: The Sharks had another great season and finally succeeded, to a degree, in the playoffs. Their reward? Rob Blake has retired and Evgeni Nabokov and Patrick Marleau are free agents. Oh, also Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi are RFAs. There are decisions to make to be sure. Pavelski needs to be re-signed, as he really came into his own last season and was their best player for a large portion of the postseason. Setoguchi’s number’s dropped this year, and he’s looking like he might be another Jonathan Cheechoo. However, he’s only 23 so he has room for improvement. Plus, both will command less money than Nabokov or Marleau.
If they have to let one of those two walk, and they just might, it should probably be Marleau. Yes, he’s a great player but they already are loaded with offensive talent. If they let their netminder go, what will they do? Sign a veteran like Marty Turco or Chris Mason and try and win now? That wouldn’t be a bad idea, but are either of those guys better than Nabokov? I don’t think so. No matter what, unless maybe they lose both Nabokov and Marleau, the Sharks should be one of the best teams in the league again. However, they aren’t likely to be as good as last season no matter what happens. For a team that has yet to get over the hump and make the Stanley Cup Finals, that’s a worry.