With all the vacant coaching positions filled, the draft over and the free agent market pretty well dried up — except for a few big names like Sakic, Shanahan and the Swede (I'm so sick of seeing his name, I can't even bear to write it), it seems like a good time to look around the NHL and see the moves that will benefit and hinder each team for this season and beyond. We'll go from A to, well, W and analyze each team's best and worst. Here goes:
Best move: There wasn't much to get excited about this offseason in Anaheim, with the cap troubles, uncertain future of Teemu Selanne and disappointment of an early playoff exit. But the one move that may pay dividends is the signing of Brendan Morrison. When healthy (and he was an iron horse most seasons with the exception of last year), Morrison is good for at least 50 points and perhaps more if grouped with the right linemates. For one year and $2.75 million, he's well worth the risk
Worst move: Let me start by saying that I like, even love, Corey Perry's game. But to give a guy who scored 29 goals (only 18 at even strength) more than $5.5 million a year for five years is a bit much. Luckily, Brian Burke can just blame Kevin Lowe's offer sheets last offseason for the deal.
Best move: Another city where there's not much to be excited about. While the drafting of stud d-man Zach Bogosian is a big plus, it wasn't exactly a tough move to make. The only debate is whether the Thrashers should've taken Alex Pietrangelo instead, and most think you couldn't go wrong with either. For me, the smartest move was signing ex-Blackhawks center Jason Williams. Williams was near a point-per-game pace last year before injuries derailed his season, and at $2.2 million for one season, it's a low-risk, high-reward move by Don Waddell. The only question is whether Williams can produce surrounded by less talent on the Thrashers' second line.
Worst move: Easy. Giving Ron Hainsey $4.5 million a year for five seasons was desperation at its best. Hainsey's a serviceable blueliner, but to expect him to be a No. 2 or No. 3 d-man on a team thin with talent is not a recipe for success. Hainsey had the same role in Columbus, and we see how far the Jackets have gone the past few seasons.
Best move: While no one knows for sure what Blake Wheeler will turn in to, getting the fifth overall pick by the Coyotes in 2004 for nothing has to go in the "win" box for the Bruins.
Worst move: I think Michael Ryder will have a bounce-back year, especially with him being reunited with Claude Julien. But $12 million over three years for a guy who watched a lot of Montreal's season from the press box or end of the bench last year is just too much.
Best move: Personally, I don't consider Ryan Miller an elite NHL goalie. Good and above average? Definitely, but in my opinion he'll never compete for a Vezina. But from a public relations standpoint alone, Buffalo had to get Miller tied down. At $6.25 million a year for four seasons (kicking in next year), the Sabres did that and squashed the "Miller wants to play back home in Detroit" rumors. Canes fans should keep an eye on this deal because with a good season, Cam Ward is likely to get a similar one.
Worst move: Patrick Lalime may have redeemed himself some last season in Chicago, but his save percentage was still not in the .900s and his goals against hovered near three a game. Giving him $1 million a year for two seasons is OK, but if the Sabres are in the playoff hunt and Miller goes down, can Lalime lead them?
Best move: This one was tough for me because I personally didn't like a lot of Calgary's moves this offseason. But by trading away Alex Tanguay and getting Mike Cammalleri, the Flames saved cap space and got almost the same kind of talent. Cammalleri could have a big year with better teammates.
Worst move: There are quite a few I don't like (the length of Langkow's deal and handing the backup reins to unproven Curtis McElhinney, to name a couple), but the one that sticks out is giving up a second round pick for Rene Bourque. Bourque, with 33 career NHL goals, is an OK player and decent penalty killer, but it may be asking too much for him to possibly be the team's second line left wing.
Best move: In a summer of crazy spending, GM Jim Rutherford did the smart thing and focused on getting his own players signed to reasonable deals. Getting Tim Gleason locked up for four years at just $11 million and having the newly acquired Joni Pitkanen at $4 million a year for three seasons were both great signings given the out-of-control market. Another plus: resisting the urge to take Jared Staal with their second pick and choosing a possible steal in Zac Dalpe.
Worst move: While getting Pitkanen signed was great, dealing Erik Cole to get him may come back to bite the Canes. No one can question why the deal was made: the team needed more defense, had enough forwards, and Cole, in the final year of his deal, was set for a big payday next summer. But to lose a player many considered a catalyst for the entire offense and a fan favorite puts pressure on Pitkanen right out of the gate.
Best move: This is an easy one. Landing the Winter Classic in Wrigley Field is a slam dunk for Chicago sports. In one year, the Blackhawks have gone from laughingstock to trend-setters.
Worst move: GM Dave Tallon admitted he overpaid ($35.5 million over five years) to get defenseman Brian Campbell so the team could make a splash. There's no denying there's a buzz around Blackhawks hockey this offseason, but one has to wonder if Tallon set himself up for a fall by giving Campbell so much money, especially with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane inching toward their second deals.
Best move: Say what you want about Darcy Tucker, but getting him for two years at a total of $4.5 million could prove to be a coup for the Avs. At his best, Tucker's a 20-plus goal scorer and agitator that will take some pressure off Colorado's big guns like Ryan Smyth, Paul Stastny and (maybe) Joe Sakic.
Worst move: Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't have paid Jose Theodore $9 million over two seasons either, but having a combo of Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft in net doesn't look promising. If things start to really go downhill in Denver, don't be surprised if the Avs make a move for a young, up-and-coming goaltender (Cory Schneider anyone?).
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Best move: Nikolai Zherdev oozes talent, but getting him out of Columbus is addition by subtraction for the Jackets. Ken Hitchcock is a no-nonsense coach, and I'm sure GM Scott Howson got input from Hitch before dealing the Russian sniper. In doing so, Howson also dealt Dan Fritsche to the Rangers, but got back two blueliners in Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman.
Worst move: The worst move wasn't acquiring R.J. Umberger from Philadelphia, but the fact that Rick Nash will play another season without a proven pivot. The Jackets' only hope is that Derrick Brassard is up to the task sooner rather than later.
Best move: Since the signing of Fabian Brunnstrom officially happened last season, I have to go with Sean Avery as the team's top move. Say what you want about Avery, but when he suited up for the Rangers, the Blueshirts won. Co-GM Brett Hull knows Avery well from their time together in Detroit, so the $15.5 million over four years should be money well spent by the Stars.
Worst move: Johan Holmqvist, a piece in the Brad Richard-for-Mike Smith deal, left North America to play in the SEL this offseason. That leaves *drumroll* Tobias Stephan as Marty Turco's backup. Swiss goalies (Martin Gerber and Jonas Hiller, to name a couple) have fared well in the NHL in recent years, but for a team with Cup aspirations, an upgrade will likely be needed.
DETROIT RED WINGS
Best move: Signing Marian Hossa to a one-year Cup-quest deal was a brilliant move by the Wings' management. A line of Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Hossa could very well be unstoppable.
Worst move: Getting Ty Conklin was a decent move in my opinion, but passing over Jimmy Howard again has got to have Detroit's goaltender-of-the-future (for what seems like 10 years running) somewhat frustrated. Still, GM Ken Holland & Co. got Howard to re-sign through 2010-11.
Best move: Then-GM Kevin Lowe acquired Lubomir Visnovsky from L.A., making the Joni Pitkanen-for-Erik Cole deal possible. But Lowe's best moves this offseason were trades that infused more youth into Edmonton's forward ranks. Getting Ryan Potulny from Philly for Danny Syvret and Gilbert Brule from Columbus for Raffi Torres were moves that will help the Oilers down the road.
Worst move: Right after the season ended, Lowe gave rearguard Tom Gilbert $21 million over five years. Gilbert had a fine season last year, but ... well ... eek!
Best move: Olli Jokinen had to go, and getting Keith Ballard in a package for him could pay out huge for the Panthers. Ballard isn't going to win the Norris — I think — but he's a reliable d-man who could very well one day wear the "C" in Florida. Also, a tip of the cap for stealing goalie Jacob Markstrom at 31st overall at the draft.
Worst move: It pains me to say it, but giving Cory Stillman more than $10 million over three seasons is going to backfire. It's not that Stillman won't produce or turn in value for his money, but Florida now has the issue of breaking up their best line last year (David Booth-Stephen Weiss-Nathan Horton) and putting Booth on the second line with lesser talent, or keeping the line together and having Stillman toil with players who won't cash in on his creativity. The only way this works is if Shawn Mattias is ready to be any every-day No. 2 center and Richard Zednik can bounce back from his horrific injury. Two big ifs.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
Best move: Steve Stamkos was the consensus top pick in this year's draft, but who deserved to go second was up for debate. In taking Drew Doughty second overall, not only do I think the Kings picked the right guy, but I think they got the best player in the entire draft (yes, better than Stamkos).
Worst move: The worst thing the Kings did was fly the white flag on this season. Without a doubt, the Kings are the frontrunner to have the league's worst record. While GM Dean Lombardi is showing patience and brilliance in the way he's building the Kings (much like he did in San Jose), it's the fans who will suffer through the growing pains. The departure of Rob Blake is just another twist of the knife.
Best move: Andrew Brunette is not a replacement for the guys exiting Minnesota, but bringing him back to the Wild on a three-year deal for a total of just $7 million is one of the summer's best values. Brunette is always healthy and puts up points, two things the Wild need.
Worst move: Let me direct this straight to GM Doug Riseborough: Why — WHY?! — did you let Brian Rolston get away? Rolston will earn more than $5 million a year for the next four years in New Jersey, but given that he was among the NHL's best values the past three seasons for the Wild, Rolston deserved — and wanted — to stay in Minnesota.
Best move: Getting Alex Tanguay from Calgary will be a boon for GM Bob Gainey and the Habs. Tanguay is among the league's best assist men and will even pot 20-something goals most seasons. He's a proven playoff performer (from his days in Colorado) on a team with Cup dreams.
Worst move: At what point will teams realize Georges Laraque is simply an enforcer who will never see ice time in the playoffs? Giving him a three-year, $4.5 million deal is money not well spent (but don't tell him I said so).
Best move: This a combo. By getting last year's starter Dan Ellis signed for a bargain-basement deal of $3.5 million total over two years and dumping Chris Mason's contract on St. Louis (and getting a fourth-round pick in return), GM Dave Poile freed up cap space and made room for Pekka Rinne to back up Ellis. Despite all the turmoil surrounding the Preds, the goalie moves (and a few subtle, but shrewd, trades) were smart transactions.
Worst move: It's hard to know if the Preds could do have done anything, but clearly Alexander Radulov wasn't happy in Nashville, and if he's green-lighted to leave for the newly formed Kontinental Hockey League back home in Russia, it leaves a gigantic hole in the Predators' attack.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Best move: New Jersey may have lost many mainstays in recent years, but GM Lou Lamoriello redeemed himself this offseason by bringing back ex-Devils Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik. They could bring the moxie the Devils have lacked in recent postseasons.
Worst move: While adding Rolston and Holik solidified the forward corps, Lamoriello didn't do much on the back end. Bryce Salvador was re-signed for fair money, and Paul Martin continues to improve, but this isn't the same Devils' D that won multiple Cups. First and foremost, Colin White needs to be healthy and anchor this group.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Best move: Time will tell if this will work, but hiring Scott Gordon over coaching carousel applicants Paul Maurice and Bob Hartley is at least an encouraging move. The Isles once gave Peter Laviolette a shot, and he turned into a Stanley Cup-winning coach — unfortunately for the Islanders, it was with Carolina.
Worst move: There's plenty to discuss here: signing Mark Streit for too much and too long; adding Doug Weight (for reasonable money, I'll admit) to a youth movement; and scaring off decent backup Wade Dubielewicz. But the worst was the departure of Ted Nolan. Who knows what went on behind the scenes (a running theme with Nolan), but at least he was a draw on a team with few draws.
NEW YORK RANGERS
Best move: While I'm sure some are sad to see them go, it was time for the Rangers to move past the Jaromir Jagr and Brendan Shanahan years and give ownership of the team Scott Gomez and Chris Drury. If Shanahan (who is still on the market) does come back, hopefully he can step back and let Gomez and Drury run the team.
Worst move: I don't think Wade Redden is done — remember, it was just two years ago that Ottawa decided he was better to hold on to than Zdeno Chara — but $6.5 million a year for five seasons is as short-sighted and foolish as moves come.
Best move: Ottawa needed more grit and got it with the signings of Jarkko Ruutu and Jason Smith, and both at reasonable prices ($3.9 million over three seasons and $5.2 million over two seasons, respectively). If Ottawa is going to bounce back, these two could be key.
Worst move: Not getting Andrej Meszaros signed yet is the cloud hanging over Ottawa. The Sens have five players signed through at least 2011-12, and none are defensemen. It's essential that the Meszaros deal gets done without any more bad blood brewing between the two sides.
Best move: R.J. Umberger was one of the Flyers' best players in the postseason, but getting a first-round pick for him was a smart move by GM Paul Holmgren. While Holmgren has been lauded for Philly's turnaround, he also realizes the consequences of that turnaround — a cap crunch. By moving Umberger now, Philadelphia probably got more than he's worth and also made enough room down the road to justify a $5 millon-a-year cap hit for RFA Jeff Carter.
Worst move: The Flyers gave journeyman Glen Metropolit $1 million a season for the next two years when they could've simply kept Ryan Potulny instead of dealing him to Edmonton for Danny Syvret. In case it's not clear yet, I like Potulny's game.
Best move: It was surely tough to let Keith Ballard go, but getting a proven No. 1 center like Olli Jokinen back in return eases the pain. With the addition of the big Finn, suddenly the Coyotes have a possible scary first line of Peter Mueller-Jokinen-Shane Doan. Add in the youngsters like Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker, ect. and Phoenix may be thinking playoffs.
Worst move: Getting Brian McGratton from Ottawa as your tough guy — hence freeing up Daniel Carcillo — makes sense. Signing Todd "A Facial Reconstruction Doctor's Dream" Fedoruk for three years doesn't. With the young talent Phoenix has and the toughness McGratton brings, signing Fedoruk just seems to take a spot away from a young player — or warm another seat in the press box — for the next thousand days or so.
Best move: Having Marc-Andre Fleury and Evgeni Malkin signed long term was the most important thing Pens GM Ray Shero could do this offseason. He did it. With Sidney Crosby, Malkin and Fleury all signed — and I'm sure the team has every intention of getting Jordan Staal inked to a nice, long deal — Pittsburgh may be stronger down the middle than any team in the league.
Worst move: Down the middle, they look great. On the wings? Not so much. Keeping Pascal Dupuis in the fold was a nice move, but the additions of Ruslan Fedotenko and Miroslav Satan are questionable at best. Surely, anyone's going to play better if centered by Crosby or Malkin, but those wingers don't scream "Stanley Cup champions."
SAN JOSE SHARKS
Best move: I'm not sold on Dan Boyle as a No. 1 defenseman, but the signing of aging, but still reliable, blueliner Rob Blake seems like a perfect fit. Blake probably won't score 50 points anymore, but he'll be well worth the $5 million the Sharks pay him this season.
Worst move: I won't say getting Boyle is a bad move, but giving up the team's first-round pick next year as part of the package is concerning. After not picking until No. 62 this year, San Jose will again have to wait until Day 2 of the draft to make a selection in 2009.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
Best move: Larry Pleau and John Davidson could've gone with dynamic Russian Nikita Filatov with the fourth overall pick in the draft, but they made the right move by taking the last of the elite blueliners available from the 2008 draft's amazing crop of top-end defensive talent. Alex Pietrangelo promises to be a force once he makes it to the NHL and, coupled with former No. 1 overall pick Erik Johnson, gives the Blues one of the best young D pools in the league.
Worst move: With Manny Legace set to start in net and Marek Schwartz and Ben Bishop in the minors, the trade to get Chris Mason — and his $3 million salary each of the next two years — is a head-scratcher. While Schwartz may be a reach as a future starting goalie, St. Louis could have tried him in the backup role and, if he didn't work out, still would have the option of rushing up Bishop (probably not the best move) or signing a cheap No. 2. Instead, they'll be shelling out big dollars to Mason.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Best move: While $10 million a year may seem like a lot, getting Vincent Lecavalier signed long-term was essential to the health of the franchise. The deal will likely take him to the end of his career.
Worst move: Where to begin? I could come up with six or seven of these, but in the end I'll choose the seven-year, $31.5 million deal signed by unrestricted free agent Ryan Malone. Malone's a nice player, someone who helps you win games in the regular and postseason. But this contract makes him a cornerstone player — something he's simply not.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Best move: Cliff "The Silver Fox" Fletcher made his best move on draft day, moving up and taking bruising blueliner Luke Schenn with the fifth overall pick. After trading first-rounders for goalies twice in the past few years, the Leafs moved into the right direction by trying to rebuild a system that's as dry as the numerous unsigned contracts waiting for Mats Sundin's signature.
Worst move: Jeff Finger: 94 career games, $14 million. I feel bad for Finger because what player of his skill would turn down such coin over four years? Still, I hope the media and fans of Toronto don't expect value on this contract.
Best move: Perhaps getting out of Toronto is just what Kyle Wellwood needs. Criticized for being out of shape and always injured, The Leafs parted ways with Wellwood and Vancouver was the beneficiary, getting him for less than a million dollars in 2008-09. While Wellwood could revert to his old ways, one would suspect he will try to get his career back on the right track with this second chance.
Worst move: Not only was firing Dave Nonis as GM a bad move, but replacing him with ex-player agent Mike Gillis further cast a dark shadow over Vancouver. Nonis was building the Canucks slowly, waiting for the right time to pounce on a Cup run. Instead, owner Francesco Aquilini pulled the rug out from under Nonis and replaced him with an agent who has no GM experience and probably a few enemies among his new peers. Gillis' big move thus far was offering Mats Sundin $20 million over two seasons, but Sundin's waiting game left Gillis and Vancouver twisting in the wind all offseason.
Best move: With puck-moving, point-producing defensemen at a premium, GM George McPhee was right in worrying about a possible offer sheet landing in blueliner Mike Green's lap. So McPhee opened up Ted Leonis' purse and gave Green a four-year deal worth $20.5 million. Oh, and he signed Alex Ovechkin for 13 more years.
Worst move: One can understand not overpaying for Cristobal Huet. It's hard, though, to grasp why Washington would let the netminder who carried them into the postseason walk only to sign Jose Theodore for $9 million over two years. No goalie has been more of a mystery year to year than Theodore, and Washington had better hope the good Jose shows up.