(Note: The following are moves that should be done or should have been done to benefit each particular team this offseason. These are not predictions of what moves will be done.)
Plugging Holes: Detroit Red Wings
The Hole: Penalty-Killing Forward
The Red Wings had only one real weakness in 2008-09: their penalty-killing. They ranked 25th in the NHL with a 78.29 percent penalty-killing rate. It's difficult to blame the defensemen, with Nicklas Lidstrom, Andreas Lilja, Brad Stuart and Niklas Kronwall doing solid work. The blame must fall on the forwards. The Wings' primary penalty-killers were Kris Draper (2:05 short-handed minutes per game) and Daniel Cleary (2:01), followed by Henrik Zetterberg (1:49), Valteri Filppula (1:45) and Pavel Datsyuk (1:36). Erstwhile, Draper's defensive crony Kirk Maltby played only 1:15 per game short-handed. The issues here are that Draper is getting old (38), and some of the team's main penalty-killers are also its best offensive players. No disrespect to Zetterberg's or Datsyuk's defensive skills, but they're more valuable at even strength or with the man advantage.
The Fix: Sign Samuel Pahlsson (UFA, Blackhawks)
Although Pahlsson's short-handed defensive GVT wasn't great (0.9 GVT, the same as Draper but better than every other Wings' forward), he ate up short-handed minutes last year like they were candy, playing 4:11 per game in that situation. He is much younger than Draper (31), and can be had relatively inexpensively (he made $1.4 million in each of the last two seasons). A $1.5 million investment here would free up Datsyuk and Zetterberg for more offensive roles and end the reliance on an aging Draper.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the Detroit Red Wings, click here.
Plugging Holes: Chicago Blackhawks
The Hole(s): Team Penalty-Killing
Chicago is a very good all-around team, and is likely to get better as its young core of talented players matures over the next few years. The one area where the Blackhawks are below average is killing penalties. They recorded an 11.8 team GVT on SH defense, compared to a league average of 16.3.
The Fix: Trade D Brian Campbell to the Rangers for D Michal Rozsival
This is a bold move, but necessary. While Campbell was a more valuable player overall than Rozsival last year (11.7 GVT versus 8.3), he simply doesn't compare when it comes to killing penalties. Rozsival led the NHL with a 5.4 GVT on shorthanded defense, while Campbell was barely called upon to kill penalties. The Hawks have such great young talent on the blue line in Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Cam Barker that they shouldn't really miss Campbell, and Rozsival is only one year older at any rate. Chicago also gains about $2.8 million in salary cap space, which is useful because many of the Hawks' young players will soon become restricted free agents (Barker, Kris Versteeg and Dave Bolland this year, and more importantly, Keith, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews next year). Expect these players to command substantial raises.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the Chicago Blackhawks, click here.
Plugging Holes: St. Louis Blues
The Hole: Offensive Defenseman
St. Louis suffered from an utter lack of offense from the blue line last year. Their top six defensemen (Carlo Colaiacovo, Barret Jackman, Jeff Woywitka, Roman Polak, Jay McKee and Mike Weaver) combined to score 12 goals, and none of them had more than 89 shots on goal. Worse, they combined for -2.2 GVT for even-strength offense, meaning they didn't even reach replacement level on even-strength offense. Colaiacovo did a good job on the power play (3.1 offensive GVT), but without the man advantage he didn't do much (0.4 GVT, best among the team's defensemen).
The Fix: Sign D Marc-Andre Bergeron (UFA, Wild)
Bergeron can be had fairly cheap; he has a poor defensive reputation and made about $1.7 million last year with Minnesota. His 1.9 even-strength offensive GVT blows the existing Blues defensemen out of the water, and his 3.4 power play offensive GVT would have been the best on the team, as well. The Blues should sign him, and make him the primary point man with the man advantage. Don't overextend him by relying on him too much defensively, though GVT sees him as being a fairly good defensive defenseman, as well. His even-strength defensive GVT was 2.7, which would put him just behind Woywitka (3.3) and Colaiacovo (2.8) and even with McKee.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the St. Louis Blues, click here.
Plugging Holes: Columbus Blue Jackets
The Hole: Playmaking Center
Rick Nash led the Blue Jackets in goals this past year, with 40. He also led the team in assists, with 39. Nash was basically Columbus' offense all by himself. He needs someone with the ability to feed him the puck.
The Fix: Trade C R.J. Umberger, D Kris Russell and a draft pick to Stars for C Mike Ribeiro
This deal might be tricky to pull off, but as long as Dallas recognizes its own need to rebuild, and the potential that Russell has, it should be doable. It's a good fit: Ribeiro doesn't like to shoot unless he absolutely has to, while Nash should be good for about 300 shots a year. Although Ribeiro's contract calls for $5 million, this move will only add about $1 million in salary for Columbus because Umberger's contract is also fairly hefty. Ribeiro should help prop up Columbus' sad power play, as well.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the Columbus Blue Jackets, click here.
Plugging Holes: Nashville Predators
The Hole: Second-Line Winger
Nashville has some good scoring wingers on the first line (J.P. Dumont and Martin Erat), and two good centers in David Legwand and Jason Arnott, but the second line is lacking in punch. Two of their top three players in even-strength offensive GVT were defensemen Shea Weber (6.4) and Ryan Suter (3.6). With an aging and fragile Steve Sullivan headed for free agency, the Predators have some money to spend on a winger who can put some pucks in the net.
The Fix: Sign RW Brian Gionta (UFA, Devils)
Considering his drop in production from a career-high 48 goals in 2005-06, Gionta can probably be had for less than he made in New Jersey ($4.5 million). An offer of $3 million should be plenty to acquire the diminutive forward, who should contribute at least 20 goals, if not more. His 5.4 even-strength offensive GVT would put him behind only Arnott on the Predators, and well ahead of Dumont (3.3), Legwand (2.9) and Erat (2.6). So perhaps he'd end up on the first line. The real secret to Gionta's declining production has been his power-play time. Put him on the first power-play unit, and you could easily get 30 to 40 goals out of him.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the Nashville Predators, click here.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .