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Plugging Holes (07/02)
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Plugging Holes (07/02)

July 2, 2009
Plugging Holes
Northwest Division

by Robert Vollman

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(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: Vancouver Canucks

The Hole: Top Six Forward

The Canucks have a lot of free agents, both restricted and unrestricted, including virtually all of their scoring (Mats Sundin, twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin) and all but four of their defensemen. Their scorers were the third worst in the league on the shootout, scoring on only 25 percent of attempts, worse than any team outside the state of Florida. They also took far too many penalties, recording more than any NHL team last season except Philadelphia and Anaheim.

The Fix: Sign F Ales Kotalik (UFA, Oilers)

Kotalik will add a great deal of offensive value, with an offensive GVT of +20.6, without adding to Vancouver's penalty trouble. The Canucks would benefit greatly from having one of the greatest shootout artists in the game today. Kotalik, who was second to Wojtek Wolski in shootout goals in 2008-09, could mean an extra 4-5 points and the difference between capturing the third seed and a first-round playoff exit.

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

Plugging Holes: Calgary Flames

The Hole(s): Defensive Forward

Some fans were quick to blame Miikka Kiprusoff for the dramatic rise in goals against this past season, but he saw 29.3 shots per game, more than 10 percent more than his Vezina-winning season in 2005-06. The truth is that the Flames were very poor defensively, with a GVT of minus-11.4, dead last among playoff teams. Their top forwards, such as Mike Cammalleri, Jarome Iginla, Olli Jokinen, Daymond Langkow and Todd Bertuzzi, combined for just a 3.2 defensive GVT. The Flames need more players like Craig Conroy, who posted a 5.8 defensive GVT all by himself.

The Fix: Sign F Chad LaRose (unrestricted free agent, Hurricanes)

While there are better available defensive forwards than LaRose, there certainly aren't any who can fit into Calgary's limited cap space. It makes sense to invest in a forward given that the Flames already have sunk more money in their defensemen than any other NHL team except Florida. LaRose is tough and can play a system, hopefully helping the Flames recapture what made them great five years ago. His defensive GVT was 3.2 this past season, and his playoff performance suggested he is poised for a breakthrough. He's one of the better values among unrestricted free agents and would be a great fit in Calgary.

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

Plugging Holes: Edmonton Oilers

The Hole: Penalty Killer

The Edmonton Oilers penalty killing was 77.5 percent, ranked 27th in the league. According to GVT calculations, that cost them more than 16 goals this season, only Toronto's penalty killing proved more costly.

The Fix: Sign F Blair Betts (UFA, Rangers)

Betts was part of the best penalty-killing unit in the league in New York last season. The Edmonton, Alberta, native's GVT ranked 10th in the NHL in penalty killing last season, and three of his 10 points last season were scored short-handed. Hopefully, Betts would help inspire the type of work ethic that brought the Oilers so close to the championship in 2006. You don't need big money to make a big difference. The Oilers would be wise to pick up a cost-effective, penalty-killing role player like Betts.

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

Plugging Holes: Minnesota Wild

The Hole: Secondary Scoring

Even if Minnesota comes to terms with potential free agent Marian Gaborik, they will be light on scoring. The Wild's offense had a GVT of -25.7 at even strength this past season, better than only the Islanders' and the Kings' offenses. Other than Mikko Koivu and Owen Nolan, the Wild had no forwards with a GVT higher than the mid-3s. It doesn't matter how well you play in your end of the ice if you create so few scoring threats on the other end.

The Fix: Sign F Ruslan Fedotenko (UFA, Penguins)

The Wild need a player such as Fedotenko who can contribute consistently at both ends of the ice. He has been overshadowed by his superstar teammates in Pittsburgh, so it's easy to miss how in just 65 games, Fedotenko had an impressive 6.6 offensive GVT. His 14-point efforts in two separate Stanley Cup-winning performances show that he can contribute at a higher level whenever called upon. The Wild could really score big by picking up an underrated secondary scorer like Fedotenko, and they wouldn't even need to break the bank.

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

Plugging Holes: Colorado Avalanche

The Hole: Goaltender

Of all the money spent on salary, the Colorado Avalanche spent the lowest percentage in the league on goaltending, and it showed. Since stopping 92.6 percent of shots in a remarkable 2003-04 rookie season, Andrew Raycroft has failed to stop even 90 percent. In that same timeframe, Peter Budaj's best is the 90.5 percent he stopped in 2006-07. Together, they formed the third worst goaltending tandem in the NHL last season, with a -18.8 GVT. Perhaps they should have asked Patrick Roy back as a goalie instead of as a coach.

The Fix: Sign G Craig Anderson (UFA, Panthers)

Given that even a great goalie won't be enough to make the Avalanche a contender for at least another season, there is no sense in giving up draft picks to get a restricted free agent. Anderson may not be a proven starter, but he was brilliant filling in for the injured Tomas Vokoun. Andy's +14.3 GVT was almost as much as vaunted free-agent goaltender Martin Biron, and in almost half the ice-time. His remarkable 0.924 save percentage last season is, unbelievably, the worst he has had in three seasons in Florida.

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

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

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

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