A few weeks ago we looked at the best and worst free agent, trade and draft moves of the Eastern Conference's three divisions. It's time to head out West and access the offseason that was in the Central, Northwest and Pacific divisions.
Best Move: Detroit added Jason Williams ($1.5 million), Todd Bertuzzi ($1.5 million) and Patrick Eaves ($500,000) on one-year deals. Those are pretty low-risk, high-reward moves for a team with a tight cap situation.
Worst Move: Take your pick out of Chicago: blowing the RFA qualifying offers to Kris Versteeg and Cam Barker and having to pay them big bucks sooner than they needed to, or signing an injured Marian Hossa to a 12-year deal when they need to get both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane re-signed following the 2009-10 season. They should fire their GM ..... oh.
Nothing to see here.
Best Draft: Nashville — Detroit's trio of Landon Ferraro, Tomas Tatar and Andrej Nestrasil is impressive given they were taken at Nos. 32, 60 and 75, respectively, but the Preds takes top honors here. They further bolstered their blueline with dynamic power play quarterback Ryan Ellis, plus drafted Zach Budish and Charles-Olivier Roussel in the second round and Michael Latta with their second pick of the third. In all, they used 10 picks in the draft.
Best Move: Yes, the Flames landed Jay Bouwmeester (see below), but their best free agency signing was the bargain-basement addition of defensive specialist Fredrik Sjostrom. At $750,000 a year for two seasons, Sjostrom will help the Flames PK and perhaps get a chance to fill a bigger role on the top-heavy Calgary front lines.
Worst Move: Edmonton shored up their goaltending issues by signing veteran Nikolai Khabibulin, but giving a 36-year-old with a history of injuries a four-year, $15 million contract — which will be on the cap even if he has to retire before the deal is up — came off as desperate, especially for a team that's a ways from seriously contending.
Best Move: Calgary's acquisition of the rights to Jay Bouwmeester (for Jordan Leopold, who was also an RFA, and a third-round pick) gave GM Darryl Sutter the jump on negotiating with the the gem of the 2009 free agent class. Yes, the price was steep and the need was questionable, but Sutter clearly wanted Jay-Bo and got him because he was willing to pay a price to talk to him before anyone else. Honorable mention to the Canucks for taking advantage of San Jose's cap mess and getting d-men Christian Erhoff and Brad Lukowich for next to nothing.
Worst Move: First Joe Sakic retires, then the Avs deal Ryan Smyth to Los Angeles for a fifth-rounder and couple OK defensemen in Kyle Quincey and Tom Preissing. Yes, Smyth's $7 million-plus salary was a burden, but right now there is no proven face to the Colorado franchise — except maybe Paul Stastny — and only a couple pieces in what will be a long rebuild.
Best Draft: Colorado — Yep, things look bad in the short term in the Mile High City, but this year's draft looks like a good start. Some think third-overall pick Matt Duchene might wind up being the best player in a draft hyped as the Tavares/Hedman sweepstakes. Tack on Ryan O'Reilly, Stefan Elliott and Tyson Barrie — all chosen by No. 63 — plus looking for an answer in net by picking two goalies in the late rounds, and the Avalanche have something to look forward to.
Best Move: There weren't many good moves made in the Pacific, but any time you can add a guy named Vernon Fiddler to your lineup, I'm on board. Well done, 'Yotes. Now if someone would bring back Epsen Knutsen.
Worst Move: I like Rob Scuderi just fine. Just not $3.4 million for four years fine, which is what the Kings gave him this offseason. With hot shots like Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson, Thomas Hickey and Colten Teubert all either with Los Angeles or on their way, the move seems short sighted and overly extravagant.
Best Move: It stinks to lose Chris Pronger — regardless what you think of him — but the Ducks got the equivalent of three or four first-round picks for a player with one year left on his contract. Luca Sbisa will provide youth on the back end, while Joffrey Lupul is a legitimate top-nine forward. Throw in two firsts and a conditional third and Anaheim has kept themselves competitive in the now plus helped their future.
Worst Move: The Coyotes must be desperate, because bringing back Radim Vrbata and his $3 million-a-year price tag certainly looks like it. For the next two years, they need to hope Vrbata looks like the 2007-08 version and not the one who skipped out on the Lightning after 18 games last season. The only good news they didn't give up much in David Hale and fist-absorber Todd Fedoruk.
Best Draft: — The Ducks picked twice in the first and again at No. 37, but I wasn't thrilled with the two first-rounders (Peter Holland way up at No. 15, Kyle Palmieri at No. 26). But the rest of the Pacific was simply OK, so by default we'll give it to the team that stockpiled some picks and used them.