New-Look HP! Unfiltered Articles Stats Glossary Contact Us
Hockey Prospectus home

New Look Hockey Prospectus is available with new Premium Content!
Limited time offer: $9.99 for an entire year!

<< Previous Article
Plugging Holes (07/01)
Next Article >>
Plugging Holes (07/01)

July 1, 2009
Plugging Holes
Northeast Division

by Tom Awad


(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: Boston Bruins

The Hole: Veteran Forward

Despite their disappointing loss to Carolina in the playoffs, the Bruins have to be considered one of the best and most balanced teams in the league. They ranked second in offensive GVT, 10th in defensive and second in goaltending GVT among the 30 teams. In Tim Thomas, they have one of the most consistent goaltenders in the league; Thomas led the NHL in 2008-09 with a GVT of 35.9. With Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman, they have a solid blue line with offensive ability. Their supply of dangerous offensive weapons is impressive: Marc Savard, David Krejci, Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler, Michael Ryder and Milan Lucic (four of whom are under 23 and will only get better). If this team lacks anything, it is a veteran presence. While the Bruins have a true veteran and three-time Cup winner on the blue line in Aaron Ward, they could use another veteran forward to help mentor their younger players along with the gray-haired Mark Recchi.

The Fix: Sign F Michael Peca (UFA, Blue Jackets)

Peca, who has been an NHL captain with two different teams, would be a solid addition to a Bruins team that isn't lacking much. The Bruins' penalty-killing, at +5.0 GVT, ranked ninth in the league, and it is just about the only area in which the Bruins were not already dominant this past season. At 34, Peca is slower than he used to be, but his defensive skill and experience could be the missing ingredients Boston requires to push it to a championship level next season. Peca also is expected to ask for a reasonable salary, a key factor when GM Peter Chiarelli is trying to fit all his young stars under the salary cap.

For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the Boston Bruins, click here.

Plugging Holes: Montreal Canadiens

The Hole(s): Too Numerous To Mention

Plugging holes is the last of GM Bob Gainey's concerns as he deals with the 10 unrestricted free agents he has on the roster. The free agents at forward include captain Saku Koivu, Alexei Kovalev, Alex Tanguay and Robert Lang, as well as restricted free agents Chris Higgins and Tomas Plekanec. On defense, Francis Bouillon, Mathieu Dandenault and Patrice Brisebois are all unrestricted free agents, in addition to Mike Komisarek, who is likely to garner some attention as a restricted free agent. The most immediate concern is up front, with the team's four best forwards unrestricted. The Canadiens will have to quickly attempt to sign Koivu, Kovalev, Tanguay and Lang and then move quickly to obtain other players should any of them leave. The defensemen should be easier to sign, since only Komisarek is a standout.

One Fix (Among Many): Sign D Marek Malik (UFA, Lightning)

Once the roster has stabilized, it will be time to start fixing. The biggest weakness last season was on the blue line, which, with the exception of veterans Andrei Markov and Roman Hamrlik, was porous on too many nights. The Canadiens posted a defensive GVT of -12.6, ranking 24th in the league. While Gainey is unlikely to have much salary-cap wiggle room once he has signed all of his free agents, a stay-at-home veteran defenseman, such as Marek Malik, could be a welcome addition. Malik is coming off an awful injury-filled season in Tampa Bay and should come cheap, but in the six previous seasons Malik averaged 7.4 defensive GVT per year, eighth in the NHL over that period.

For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the Montreal Canadiens, click here.

Plugging Holes: Toronto Maple Leafs

The Hole: No. 1 Goaltender

As incredible as it seems for a team that has finished in the bottom third of the NHL the past two seasons, the Maple Leafs are just one goaltender away from contention. The Maple Leafs' goaltending GVT of minus-43 was far and away the worst of any team in the NHL this past seaosn. Vesa Toskala, the No. 1 for most of the year, was awful, and neither Martin Gerber nor Justin Pogge impressed in limited stints. Gerber and Pogge probably won't be back, and the Leafs badly need an alternative to Toskala.

The Fix: Sign Jonas Gustavsson (UFA, Färjestad, Sweden)

An unknown to many on this side of the Atlantic, Gustavsson was the best goaltender this year in the Swedish Elitserien, the same league that produced Miikka Kiprusoff and Henrik Lundqvist, and is now a free agent. While being the next Lundqvist is never a sure thing, Gustavsson already is very good and is only 24. His stats from Sweden, if we follow the trend of previous goaltenders who have made the jump, point to him as an above-average NHL netminder. As a rookie, he'll be eligible for only an entry-level salary, so he won't break the bank. There has been talk Toskala could remain the starter even if the Swede signs with the Leafs, but as discussed, Toskala's numbers don't support that move.

If they fail to land Gustavsson, the Leafs would do well to keep looking. One longshot possibility is Jean-Sebastien Giguere, with whom Leafs GM Brian Burke has a prior relationship from their time together in Anaheim, but Giguere would come with a $6 million contract and would be hard to move.

For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the Toronto Maple Leafs, click here.

Plugging Holes: Ottawa Senators

The Hole: Puck-Moving Defenseman

How the mighty have fallen. The Ottawa Senators -- who for years seemed like they should be Stanley Cup contenders -- were the second-best offensive team in the league as recently as two years ago, with an offensive GVT of +49.9 in 2006-07. This year, they were 23rd in the NHL, with an offensive GVT of -20.5. This has happened even though the team's No. 1 line of Heatley, Alfredsson and Spezza is the same as it was two years ago, and many of the depth scorers are still the same. Part of this drop in production has been due to the team's morale, a fallout from the Ray Emery debacle of 2008; indeed, when coach Cory Clouston took over in February, the Senators rediscovered some of their punch. But the drop in offense can partly be attributed to a lack of offensive skill on the blue line: While in 2007 the Senators had offensively talented defensemen like Tom Preissing, Joe Corvo and Wade Redden (before Redden's recent collapse), they now only have Filip Kuba.

The Fix: Sign D Derek Morris (UFA, Rangers)

Morris is reliable on the blue line, and was one of Phoenix's top penalty-killers in his four years there. In addition, he has good offensive talent, but his point totals have dropped in recent years as he has gotten less power-play time. His 4.2 GVT last year was a career low, and he can be expected to rebound closer to 7 or 8 next year, which has been his average in recent years, especially if he is used to man the point on the power play. At 29, Morris is still near his peak and has several good years left in him.

For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the Ottawa Senators, click here.

Plugging Holes: Buffalo Sabres

The Hole: Backup Goaltender

The Sabres' playoff hopes this year were doomed by an ankle injury to Ryan Miller. Miller posted a team-leading 23.6 GVT, eighth in the NHL, while his replacement, Patrick Lalime, managed only a meager -2.6 in 24 games. Going forward, the Sabres would do well to have a better insurance policy as well as a strong backup goaltender to give Miller some nights off and keep him rested for the playoffs, which the Sabres aim to be participating in next season.

The Fix: Sign G Scott Clemmensen (UFA, Devils)

Clemmensen had a breakout season in 2008-09 when Martin Brodeur went down, and he performed admirably, not only keeping the Devils in the playoff hunt but actually leading them to the division title. Clemmensen's 13.3 GVT was 15th among NHL goaltenders, pretty good for a guy who began and ended the season in the AHL. While expecting Clemmensen to maintain this level of production would be unrealistic given his past performance, he would still be a reliable backup and would give the Sabres an alternative to the streaky Lalime.

For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the Buffalo Sabres, click here.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

Tom Awad is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Tom by clicking here or click here to see Tom's other articles.

0 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Plugging Holes (07/01)
Next Article >>
Plugging Holes (07/01)

Annoucements: Where Are The New Articles?
Zamboni Tracks: Who's That Guy? Special Edmo...
Hall Of Fame: My 2014 HHOF Inductees
On The Horizon: Four Nations And Junior "A" ...
A Closer Look: MacArthur-Turris-Ryan Keeping...

Plugging Holes: Southeast Division
Plugging Holes: Atlantic Division
Ice Actions: The NHL Draft Experience
NHL Entry Draft: Evaluating The Draft Pick T...
Behind The Net: Joe Thornton's Giveaways

2009-07-14 - Numbers On Ice: How Does The Draft Affect On...
2009-07-03 - Plugging Holes: Chicago Blackhawks Sign Mari...
2009-07-03 - Numbers On Ice: Numbers On Ice: Team Draft R...
2009-07-01 - Plugging Holes: Northeast Division
2009-06-30 - Numbers On Ice: Team Draft Report Cards, Par...
2009-06-19 - Numbers On Ice: The Top 10 Greatest Drafts E...
2009-06-18 - Numbers On Ice: The Top 10 Greatest Drafts E...