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Offseason Spotlight On The Atlantic Division

By Matt Canamucio, NHL Editor

Philadelphia, PA -- (Sports Network) - Heading into August means a few things in the National Hockey League. Training camps will be opening sooner as opposed to later, and the season is just over two months from its start.

This offseason has been the first where we could really see how the new salary system effects each team individually. Some have had enough room to maneuver while others were limited to minor moves because they needed their cap space to re-sign restricted free agents.

In the first of our series of offseason spotlights, let take a look at the Atlantic Division. Three clubs -- the Devils, Rangers and Flyers -- made the playoffs in 2005-06, and this summer we have seen a little bit of everything from this group.


Like many playoff teams from this past season, the Devils haven't made a huge splash this summer by adding big name free agents or pulling off a slick trade. Instead they have focused on bringing back their own.

Winger Patrik Elias made it to the open market and was the best free agent forward available when July 1 hit. However, he didn't last very long as the Devils quickly locked him up with a new seven-year contract. The Czech forward is the club's perennial leading scorer, and his return from Hepatitis A sparked the Devils' run to the postseason in 2005-06.

In addition to Elias, GM Lou Lamoriello re-signed Jamie Langenbrunner and Colin White, and hired former Canadiens coach Claude Julien to stand behind the bench.
Again, Lamoriello and Co., in typical Devils fashion, haven't been flashy this summer. On the other hand, they can brag about signing one of the top players available.


The Rangers didn't go out and sign Ed Jovanovski and trade for Chris Pronger, but that doesn't mean Glen Sather has sat back and watched things go by in his beach chair. Fresh off the team's first playoff berth since 1997, Slats has added a three-time Stanley Cup champion in Brendan Shanahan, as well as fresh winners Aaron Ward and Matt Cullen, whom he plucked from Carolina.

Granted, Shanahan is 37-years-old, but he is coming off a season which saw him tally 40 goals and 41 assists in a complete 82 games. Is there any guarantee he will post those numbers again? Of course not, but it's dice worth rolling. A power play unit with Shanahan and Jaromir Jagr on the wings isn't a bad vision to have.

Aside from the Shanahan signing, the next best move for the club might have been allowing defenseman Tom Poti to leave for the rival Islanders. Poti, who was best known for drawing the ire of the MSG faithful and making bonehead plays with the puck, is finally out of the shadow left by Brian Leetch when he was traded.


The Islanders, after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2001, have been one of the more aggressive clubs this postseason. New York began by overhauling the hockey operations department with Charles Wang's dual hiring of GM Neil Smith and head coach Ted Nolan. Smith then went to work by adding the likes of Brendan Witt, Mike Sillinger and Poti.

Then, the bizarre happened. Smith was ousted by Wang because he couldn't conform to the owner's new "by-committee" approach to hockey operations. He was quickly replaced by quirky backup goaltender Garth Snow, who retired as a player to take the job.

No, this isn't a movie script for Slapshot 3.

Wang is obviously trying to re-invent the wheel by thinking a group of decision makers is better than one man in charge. His point of view is likely an over-correction after yielding all that power to Mike Milbury for years. But when there are too many cooks in the kitchen, there's usually a grease fire.

Of course, without a GM resume to back him up, the chances of Snow going on a power trip are very slim. He, Bryan Trottier and Ted Nolan are more likely to be on equal footing than if Smith were still there. Of course, it remains to be seen how often Wang will add his two cents.


The Flyers were picked by many to win it all after a seemingly fruitful 2005 offseason. While the signing of Peter Forsberg proved to be well worth it, the additions of defensemen Derian Hatcher and Mike Rathje didn't quite have the same effect. While both players played through injury woes, it just seemed as if the two blueliners didn't fit in with the "new NHL."

This summer the Flyers have been far less aggressive, due in large part to their cap situation. Anyone who was expecting a run at Zdeno Chara or Jovanovski was sadly disappointed. The biggest blueline additions have been Nolan Baumgartner and Lars Jonsson.

Bob Clarke did add some punch on the wing with aging but capable forward Geoff Sanderson, who scored 25 goals for Phoenix this past season.

Clarke has been spending most of his time re-signing restricted free agents like Antero Niittymaki and Joni Pitkanen, and he still has to lock up Simon Gagne. The most important thing for the Flyers has yet to be determined, and that is the status of captain Keith Primeau.

Primeau is still trying to come back from lingering concussion symptoms, and he canceled a recent trip to Finland where he was supposed to work out. It seems to be a long shot at this point but the club is holding out hope.


Last summer the Penguins were the toast of the hockey world because they won the right to select phenom Sidney Crosby. A year later the team is close to being sold and still rebuilding. The beauty of it is that, in addition to Crosby, the Pens have other young studs coming in the pipeline, including Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Stall -- the latter of which was the team's top pick this year.

Pittsburgh also began a new era in the general manager's office this year, as Craig Patrick was replaced by Ray Shero. Shero has for the most part tweaked things with the likes of Jarkko Ruutu and Mark Eaton, who make you go "meh." However he did manage to sign Mark Recchi after the club essentially rented him to the Cup-champion Hurricanes in March.

The Penguins' success in the near future isn't going to be because of big-time free agent additions. Their first priority should be and is developing what they have in the works.


Best move, right now - The Devils bringing back their anchor in Elias.

Best move, come playoff time - What the Rangers did. Especially with the addition of Shanahan. It was obvious down the stretch and in the playoffs that they needed some winners on that bench.

Worst move - The whole front office fiasco on Long Island. Wang let go the only guy that knew what the heck he was doing.

Predictions right now - 1. NY Rangers; 2. New Jersey; 3. Philadelphia; 4. NY Islanders; 5. Pittsburgh.

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Offseason Spotlight on the Central Division

By Matt Canamucio, NHL Editor

Philadelphia, PA -- (Sports Network) - We continue our series of offseason spotlights with the Central Division.

Last season the group had a pair of representatives in the postseason -- Detroit and Nashville. The Red Wings won their fifth consecutive Central Division title, while the Predators made the playoffs for the second straight campaign.

The St. Louis Blues, meanwhile, had their 25-season playoff streak ended, and Chicago and Columbus continued the quest for respectability.


A chapter of Hockeytown history came to a close this offseason, as Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman ended his brilliant career. His departure, along with that of winger Brendan Shanahan, means that there isn't much left from the team's Cup days.

That said, one key member of the 2002 Cup champs is back in red, as goaltender Dominik Hasek returned as a free agent this summer. The Dominator played well for Ottawa last season, but suffered an upper leg injury at the Olympics and never returned to the Senators' lineup. He joins another champ, Chris Osgood, in the Wings' crease plans. Manny Legace, the primary backstop a season ago, signed on with St. Louis.

GM Ken Holland also bolstered his blueline with the addition of Danny Markov, who joins his fourth team in three seasons. However, the movement hasn't been because of a lack of productivity, as he easily fits in one of your top two pairings.

Heading into this season, the Red Wings' goal, like any club, is to win the Stanley Cup. Of course, they need to start smaller and just try to get out of the first round, unlike 05-06.


The Preds qualified for the playoffs for the second straight season, as Barry Trotz continued to lead his program. GM David Poile, meanwhile, has been busy this summer trying to tweak the roster.

The club's biggest move has been the acquisition of center Jason Arnott, who is coming off the most productive season of his career. Arnott not only gives the team a power presence in the middle of the top line, but he also alleviates some of the pressure off David Legwand, who has been counted on way too much since entering the league as a high draft choice.

Poile continued his focus on the middle of the lineup by obtaining center Josef Vasicek from Carolina in a trade for winger Scott Walker. Chances are that Vasicek will be inserted into the third-line center role.

Perhaps the biggest addition for the Preds will be that of goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who missed the end of the season and the playoffs with a blood clot condition. He has been cleared and is ready to build on what was the best season of his career before the injury.


The Jackets had a legitimate goal-scorer in Rick Nash, but that was hardly enough punch. So GM Doug MacLean pulled the trigger on a deal with Tampa Bay that brought in winger Fredrik Modin, who is typically good for 20-30 goals per-season. The swap cost the team goaltender Marc Denis, but his departure finally opened the door for former first-rounder Pascal Leclaire.

Summer player losses have been kept to a minimum, and the defense was also bolstered with the likes of Anders Eriksson and Tomas Kloucek. And the backup goaltending job will likely go to a respectable Ty Conklin, who was signed away from Edmonton.

The Blue Jackets and Atlanta Thrashers are the two members of the late '90s expansion class that have yet to make the playoffs. However, Columbus is coming off its best season from a win total standpoint and its best finish in the division. Another high draft choice plus a solid summer has this organization going in the right direction.


The Blackhawks shook things up this summer by obtaining one of the top restricted free agents on the list in Martin Havlat. A three-way trade with Ottawa and San Jose landed the talented winger in the Windy City. Havlat missed much of last season with a separated shoulder, but is a 30+ goal guy when healthy.

Chicago also dealt Kyle Calder to Philadelphia for versatile forward Michal Handzus, and solidified the backup goaltender spot with the addition of Patrick Lalime. Lalime, who hopes to return to his old form, provides improved insurance for Nikolai Khabibulin, who spent most of 2005-06 on the shelf after signing his hefty free agent deal.


It's a new era in the Gateway City, as the Blues were sold in late spring to a group headed by former Madison Square Garden president Dave Checketts. The offseason began with the selection of blue chip defenseman Erik Johnson with the first pick in the Entry Draft, and things went forward from there.

Doug Weight, who was traded to the Stanley Cup-champion Carolina Hurricanes, kept his word and returned to St. Louis once free agency hit, and the team also inked Weight's former Edmonton teammate Bill Guerin. Dan Hinote and Martin Rucinsky were also added to pad the forward corps, giving the team a suddenly respectable attack when you check it out on paper.

Perhaps the biggest addition was in net, where Legace will have a chance to be the No. 1. He finally received his shot as a full-time starter in Detroit last season, and was very successful before the playoffs began.


Best move, right now - The addition of Modin in Columbus. The offseason is all about filling needs, and Rick Nash needed a running mate.

Best move, come playoff time - The Preds signing Arnott. They weren't deep enough, especially up the middle, to matter much in the playoffs. Now maybe they will be.

Worst move - Shanahan's departure from Motown. While it was really unavoidable, seeing both Shanny and Yzerman disappear off the Wings' radar stings from a principle standpoint.

Predictions right now - 1. Detroit; 2. Nashville; 3. St. Louis; 4. Columbus; 5. Chicago.

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Offseason Spotlight on the Northeast Division

By Matt Canamucio, NHL Editor

Philadelphia, PA -- (Sports Network) - We continue our series of offseason spotlights with the Northeast Division.

The group qualified three clubs for the postseason, with Ottawa leading the charge. Buffalo and Montreal, two surprises, also advanced, while Toronto and Boston were the unexpected outcasts.

The Sabres became the feel-good story once the postseason began, moving all the way to the Eastern Conference finals before bowing out to eventual- champion Carolina.


The Senators are coming off yet another postseason failure, as they were upset by the Sabres in the second round. Now, heading into 2006-07 the team will have a decidedly different look in some key spots.

Entering the summer the Sens faced the possibility of losing their top two defensemen in Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara. Well, Redden decided to stick around as Chara fled for the Bruins. So head coach Bryan Murray will have to settle for one Norris Trophy candidate at his disposal instead of two. Redden is probably the more "textbook" defenseman of the duo, but it will be tough to replace a 6-foot-9 mammoth.

The second big name who will not be back is winger Martin Havlat, who was shipped to Chicago in a three-way trade that also included San Jose. Defenseman Tom Preissing, fresh off a breakout season, was the key cog that came back to the Sens in the deal. Preissing, while he can't replace Chara's presence, can account for some of the offensive production he took with him.

Another concern was in net, where the team relied way too much on rookie Ray Emery down the stretch and in the postseason. While Emery performed admirably, something more consistent was needed and the club reached out to Carolina's Martin Gerber for the answer. Dominik Hasek, whose injury at the Olympics ended his season, went back to Detroit as a free agent.

Whether or not Gerber, whose first full season as a starter was overshadowed by a rookie named Cam Ward come playoff time, is the answer remains to be seen.


The Sabres' biggest chore this summer was the re-signing of several key players, including, but not limited to, Daniel Briere, Maxim Afinogenov, Brian Campbell, Tony Lydman, Henrik Tallinder and Tim Connolly. A few players remain unsigned restricted free agents -- Ryan Miller, Dmitri Kalinin and Jeff Jillson come to mind -- while the club walked away from the arbitration deal awarded to J.P. Dumont.

The biggest loss for the club has been that of defenseman Jay McKee, and it remains to be seen if the Sabres found his replacement in former Oiler Jaroslav Spacek. Spacek played well for the Oilers during their Cup run, but that was as a supporting cast member.

One thing to keep an eye on is goaltender Martin Biron. It appears as if Buffalo has found their man in Miller, so it would make sense for Biron to finally get dealt for help in another area.


The Habs have solidified things this summer with the addition of forwards Mike Johnson and Sergei Samsonov. Johnson is a guy who adds some punch on one of your top two lines, while Samsonov, so long as he is healthy, can be a key member of your first unit.

GM Bob Gainey has also been busy re-signing his own, including the likes of Cristobal Huet and Mike Ribeiro.

Montreal will also have a new man at the helm, with Guy Carbonneau replacing Gainey as head coach. This will be Carbonneau's first go-around as a bench boss, after several years as an assistant.


Boston was among the NHL's disappointments last season, and it was obvious things needed to be re-tooled this summer. To say the Bruins have been busy is an understatement.

Not only did they steal Chara away from the Senators, but in the opening days of free agency they also added Marc Savard to bolster the club's crop of centers. Savard is a top-line guy who can play alongside sniper Glen Murray, while alleviating the pressure on young pivot Patrice Bergeron.

Aside from those big moves, the B's obtained offensive-minded defenseman Paul Mara in a trade for Nick Boynton and unloaded goaltender Andrew Raycroft in a draft-day deal with Toronto for prospect netminder Tuukka Rask.


Out of the playoffs isn't where the Leafs are used to sitting, but that's exactly where they were this past spring. Their biggest move was the re- signing of defenseman Bryan McCabe, who was playing at a Norris-caliber level early last season. They gave him some help with blueliners Hal Gill and Pavel Kubina, while signing former Selke winner Mike Peca as well.

While it appears as if stopping the opposition was a priority for GM John Ferguson, the club did say goodbye to veteran netminder Ed Belfour, who signed on with Florida. A draft-day deal brought in Raycroft, who, despite recent struggles, is a former Calder Trophy winner.

Oh, and by the way Pat Quinn's exit was finalized as missing the playoffs sealed his fate. Paul Maurice, who took Carolina to the finals in '02, comes aboard as his replacement.


Best move, right now - Has to be Chara going to Beantown. The Bruins were embarrassed after they watched what happened in San Jose following the Joe Thornton trade. Thornton's departure left the club without a dominating force, and that's exactly what they got in Chara.

Best move, come playoff time - Redden re-upping. There was no way the Sens could move on without both of their blue-chip blueliners. Expect them to be a top-three seed again.

Worst move - It flew under the radar in many respects, but when McKee signed with St. Louis the Sabres lost one of their top ice time eaters and penalty killers. You don't make it to the conference finals without a player like him.

Predictions right now - 1. Ottawa; 2. Boston; 3. Buffalo; 4. Toronto; 5. Montreal.

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My Predictions For Northeast Division

I would have to say that it would be:
1 - Ottawa Senators
2 - Montreal Canadiens
3 - Buffalo Sabres
4 - Boston Bruins
5 - Toronto Maple Leafs

Not because I'm just a sens fan but that is pretty on my part lol. I do think thats what will happen. but I would like to see toronto up there believe it or not. they've been waiting for a while for a cup.

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
senatorsfan1987 said:
I would have to say that it would be:
1 - Ottawa Senators
2 - Montreal Canadiens
3 - Buffalo Sabres
4 - Boston Bruins
5 - Toronto Maple Leafs

Not because I'm just a sens fan but that is pretty on my part lol. I do think thats what will happen. but I would like to see toronto up there believe it or not. they've been waiting for a while for a cup.
I really don't see Montreal finishing second, that's for sure? And I think Boston in second is a stretch as well? But who knows?? :dunno: Surprises do happen!!!

Going on 40 Years for Toronto, last cup, 1967!!!!

Ooooh the memories!!!! :laugh:

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Divisions Predictions

Northeast Division:

1 - Ottawa Senators
2 - Montreal Canadiens
3 - Buffalo Sabres
4 - Boston Bruins
5 - Toronto Maple Leafs

Atlantic Division:

1 - Philadelphia Flyers
2 - New Jersey Devils
3 - New York Rangers
4 - Pittsburgh Penguins
5 - New York Islanders

South East Division:

1 - Carolina Hurricanes
2 - Tampa Bay Lightning
3 - Atlanta Thrashers
4 - Florida Panthers
5 - Washington Capitals

North West Division:

1 - Vancouver Canucks
2 - Calgary Flames
3 - Edmonton Oilers
4 - Colorado Avalanche
5 - Minnesota Wild

Central Division:

1 - Detroit Red Wings
2 - Nashville Predators
3 - St. Louis Blues
4 - Chicago Blackhawks
5 - Columbus Blue Jackets

Pacific Division:

1 - Anaheim Ducks
2 - San Jose Sharks
3 - Phoenix Coyotes
4 - Dallas Stars
5 - Los Angeles Kings

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Offseason spotlight

Offseason spotlight on the Northwest Division

By Matt Canamucio, NHL Editor

Philadelphia, PA -- (Sports Network) - We continue our series of offseason spotlights with the Northwest Division.

The Northwest qualified three clubs for the postseason last spring, including the eventual Western Conference-champion Edmonton Oilers. The group was one of the strongest in the NHL, being one of only two divisions to sport five teams with over 80 points.


The Oilers barely had a chance to reflect on their shocking run to the Stanley Cup Finals before grumblings began that defenseman Chris Pronger wanted out of town. Well, the former Hart and Norris winner's wish was eventually granted as he was dealt to Anaheim. Adding to the issue of Pronger's departure was the exit of fellow blueliner Jaroslav Spacek, who logged key minutes during the playoff run.

Of course, general manager Kevin Lowe wasn't about to give away Pronger, who probably would have won the Conn Smythe Trophy if the Oilers had won Game 7. In return he received former first-rounder Joffrey Lupul, who tallied 28 goals in his sophomore NHL season. He also obtained defenseman Ladislav Smid and three high-level draft choices. So, long-term they might make out, but there is no way they can fill this hole in 2006-07.

One key retention Lowe did make was that of goaltender Dwayne Roloson. Roloson, who was acquired from Minnesota before the March trade deadline, was the other reason Edmonton was able to vault from eighth seed to conference champion. Had he not been injured in Game 1 of the Cup Finals, who knows?

Sergei Samsonov, who was also plucked at the deadline, will not be back, as he left via free agency.


Defense and goaltending has been the clear strengths of the Flames in recent years, and this summer general manager Darryl Sutter addressed the offensive end. In dealing defenseman Jordan Leopold to Colorado for Alex Tanguay, Sutter landed a top-tier forward who has tallied 79 and 78 points, respectively, in the last two seasons.

Also new to the fold is left wing Jeff Friesen, who is coming off an absolutely dreadful campaign. Friesen, who managed a mere four goals in 51 games with Washington and Anaheim, hopes to get his career as a sniper back on track. It has been some time since Friesen came close to 30 goals, but if the Flames can squeeze close to 20 out of him it would be worth it.

Defensively the Flames brought in free agent Andrei Zyuzin to provide depth in a corps led by the likes of Robyn Regehr, Rhett Warrener and budding two-way stud Dion Phaneuf.

The other big move made by Sutter this summer was his dropping of the head coach title. Sutter remains the GM, but tagged assistant Jim Playfair as his successor behind the bench.


The Avs are no longer the dominant force they were last decade, but they were still a playoff team in 05-06. That said, they lost in the second round for the second straight campaign.

Colorado had some internal maintenance to do this summer, namely trying to re-sign both Joe Sakic and Rob Blake. Sakic is back once again as the club's face, while Blake inked a deal with his old club in Los Angeles. His departure, along with that of Tanguay, places further distance between the current era of Colorado hockey and the club's last Cup win in 2001.

Leopold's addition should help replace what Blake took with him, as the 26- year-old has decent offensive tools and can quarterback the power-play. To help pick up the slack left by Tanguay, new GM Francois Giguere hopes his signing of Tyler Arnason can do the trick. Arnason showed promise in his first two NHL seasons with Chicago, but was a brutal disappointment last campaign. He struggled in the Windy City and basically did nothing following a deadline trade to Ottawa.


The Canucks made their pre-free agency splash the night before the draft by trading controversial winger Todd Bertuzzi to Florida for former Vezina finalist Roberto Luongo. The Canucks went from having a netminding situation that has been mediocre for some time to having one of the elite backstops in the game.

That said, the corps of players skating in front of Luongo remains a bit of a concern. Ed Jovanovski left for Phoenix via free agency, leaving a gaping hole that proved tough to fill when he was injured last season. The Canucks did their best by bringing in the likes of Lukas Krajicek and Willie Mitchell, but the club now lacks a true anchor.

Vancouver also starts anew behind the bench, as Marc Crawford was let go in late April. Former Canadiens boss Alain Vigneault was hired as his replacement.


The Wild, who are trying to get back into the postseason, were to some surprise a big spender this offseason. Things began at the draft with the trade for dynamic forward Pavol Demitra, whom the club landed for prospect Patrick O'Sullivan. It hardly stopped there, though, as defensemen Kim Johnsson and Keith Carney followed, as did winger Mark Parrish. And, oh by the way, the Demitra acquisition helped in the re-signing of fellow Slovakian and club centerpiece Marian Gaborik.

Demitra was obviously the biggest pickup, but Parrish is coming off a 29-goal season with the Islanders and Kings. And Johnsson, if he can come back from a concussion that ended his season with Philadelphia, could provide anchor-type minutes in any situation.


Best move, right now - The Canucks getting Luongo. They had a hole and they filled it, in a gigantic way.

Best move, come playoff time - Tanguay to Calgary. The Flames had the back end solidified already, but this guy gives Jarome Iginla a legit running mate up front.

Worst move - The Pronger move was forced upon Lowe, but it pretty much eliminated any chance of another trip to the Finals.

Predictions right now - 1. Calgary; 2. Vancouver; 3. Colorado; 4. Minnesota; 5. Edmonton.

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lol why edmonton at no.5????????

oh this guy sucks. he never wrote a good thing

lol i think this is published back ago. it onyl has pronger thing. and roloson

i seriously think

itll be no.1 calgary

2.vancouver or edmonton
3.cancouver or edmontn

minnestoa hasnt been changed a.. and colorado they lost blake and tanguay

so theyll be no 4 or 5 maybe. edmonton could be no.2 or 3

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-Boston has improved but I don't think enough to put them in second!
-I wouldn't think that the loss of Pronger, Peca,Samsonov and Spacek would put Edmonton in 5th??:dunno: They brought in some good talent after them leaving.
-And the Flyers ahead of the Devils? I think the Devils 1st, Rangers 2nd and Flyers 3rd.
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