Cross Checks: Vancouver Canucks

Pacific Division wrap

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
9:22
AM ET
video Trending up
  • San Jose Sharks: The San Jose Sharks were on everyone’s radar considering the type of drama that threatened to submarine the team this past summer. But to many folks’ surprise, the Sharks have banded together in spite of all the scrutiny and doubt that has engulfed the team. A resounding shutout victory against the Los Angeles Kings, the defending Stanley Cup champions, was a firm start to the season. The Sharks followed that up with another blanking of the Winnipeg Jets. Both Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock have looked terrific in their season debuts, setting the stage for an intriguing goaltending battle this season.
  • Sedin twins: After a rough year under coach John Tortorella last season, Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin already “have their magic going,” according to Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins, who spoke of the twins’ production after his squad’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks this past weekend. Henrik chipped in with one goal and one assist, and brother Daniel finished with three helpers.
  • Corey Perry: Though the hat trick by the Anaheim Ducks winger couldn’t secure a victory in the team’s season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night, Perry is off to a productive start with four points in two games.
Trending down
  • Edmonton Oilers: Plenty of people were wondering whether this might be the year the Edmonton Oilers take the next step. It still might be, but they sit at the bottom of the Pacific Division standings with an 0-1-1 record to start the season.
  • Mike Smith: We said before the season began that the Arizona Coyotes' fate is directly tied to the play of goaltender Mike Smith, and things are not beginning well for the veteran netminder. Smith was lit up for six goals in his first start of the season against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. The Yotes already turned to journeyman Devan Dubnyk in Game 2.
Injury report
  • Bennett out long term: The Flames are expected to be without Sam Bennett for a good chunk of the season; the team announced that the rookie center will undergo shoulder surgery that will sideline him four-to-six months.
  • Muzzin, Lewis on the mend: Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin and forward Trevor Lewis sat out Saturday’s game against the Coyotes, though neither player is believed to be battling anything too serious.
What to watch for
  • Hitting the road: After a pair of wins to start the season, the Sharks hit the road for a five-game road trip out East that features stops in New York, Washington, Boston and New Jersey. Let the team bonding continue.
  • Central foes: Though the Kings are off to a slow start, they’ll have a chance to test their mettle vs. a couple of stiff opponents from the Central Division when the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild come to town this week. The Kings have five games remaining on a six-game homestand that should help them shake any lingering effects of a Stanley Cup hangover.


Offseason player movement of all 30 teams

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
1:59
PM ET
Ryan Kesler and Paul Stastny USA TODAY SportsRyan Kesler and Paul Stastny will be wearing different colors this season.
ANAHEIM DUCKS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
June 14: Acquired C Louis Leblanc from Montreal for a conditional pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
June 27: Acquired C Ryan Kesler and a 3rd-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft from Vancouver for C Nick Bonino, D Luca Sbisa, and Anaheim’s 1st- and 3rd-round picks in 2014.
June 30: Acquired C Nate Thompson from Tampa Bay for Tampa Bay’s 4th- and 7th-round picks in the 2015 NHL Draft.
July 1: Signed D Clayton Stoner (Minnesota) and G Jason LaBarbera (Chicago).
July 9: Signed LW Dany Heatley (Minnesota).
Offseason Departures
RW Teemu Selanne (retired); C Saku Koivu (retired); C Nick Bonino (traded to Vancouver); D Luca Sbisa (traded to Vancouver); D Stephane Robidas (unrestricted free agent, signed by Toronto); G Jonas Hiller (unrestricted free agent, signed by Calgary); C Mathieu Perreault (unrestricted free agent, signed by Winnipeg); C Daniel Winnik (unrestricted free agent, signed by Toronto); C David Steckel (unrestricted free agent); D Nolan Yonkman (unrestricted free agent).

ARIZONA COYOTES
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
June 29: Acquired C Sam Gagner and RW B.J. Crombeen from Tampa Bay for a 6th-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
July 1: Signed C Joe Vitale (Pittsburgh), G Devan Dubnyk (Montreal), G Mike McKenna (Columbus) and D Andrew Campbell (Los Angeles).
Offseason Departures
C Mike Ribeiro (unrestricted free agent, signed by Nashville); RW Radim Vrbata (unrestricted free agent, signed by Vancouver); G Thomas Greiss (unrestricted free agent, signed by Pittsburgh); C Andy Miele (unrestricted free agent, signed by Detroit); LW Tim Kennedy (unrestricted free agent, signed by Washington); LW Paul Bissonnette (unrestricted free agent); C Jeff Halpern (unrestricted free agent); D Derek Morris (unrestricted free agent); RW Brandon Yip (unrestricted free agent).

BOSTON BRUINS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
July 1: Signed D Christopher Breen (Calgary).
Offseason Departures
RW Jarome Iginla (unrestricted free agent, signed by Colorado); D Andrej Meszaros (unrestricted free agent, signed by Buffalo); LW Shawn Thornton (unrestricted free agent, signed by Florida); G Chad Johnson (unrestricted free agent, signed NY Islanders); D Corey Potter (unrestricted free agent, signed by Calgary); RW Nick Johnson (unrestricted free agent).

BUFFALO SABRES
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
July 1: Signed RW Brian Gionta (Montreal), LW Matt Moulson (Minnesota), D Andrej Meszaros (Boston) and C Cody McCormick (Minnesota).
July 1: Acquired D Josh Gorges from Montreal for a 2nd-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.
July 3: Signed D Tyson Strachan (Washington).
July 13: Signed C Zac Dalpe (Vancouver).
July 23: Signed D Andre Benoit (Colorado).
Offseason Departures
D Christian Ehrhoff (unrestricted free agent, signed by Pittsburgh); C Kevin Porter (unrestricted free agent, signed by Detroit); C Cory Conacher (unrestricted free agent, signed by NY Islanders); LW John Scott (unrestricted free agent, signed by San Jose); RW Matt D’Agostini (unrestricted free agent); C Zenon Konopka (unrestricted free agent); LW Ville Leino (unrestricted free agent); D Jamie McBain (unrestricted free agent); D Alexander Sulzer (unrestricted free agent); D Henrik Tallinder (unrestricted free agent).

CALGARY FLAMES
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
April 28: Named Brad Treliving general manager.
June 28: Acquired LW Brandon Bollig from Chicago for a 3rd-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.
July 1: Signed LW Mason Raymond (Toronto), D Deryk Engelland (Pittsburgh) and G Jonas Hiller (Anaheim).
Aug. 23: Signed RW Devin Setoguchi (Winnipeg).
Sept. 5: Signed D Corey Potter (Boston).
Offseason Departures
LW Mike Cammalleri (unrestricted free agent, signed by New Jersey); C Ben Street (unrestricted free agent, signed by Colorado); G Joey MacDonald (unrestricted free agent, signed by Montreal); D Chris Butler (unrestricted free agent, signed by St. Louis); D Christopher Breen (unrestricted free agent, signed by Boston); LW T.J. Galiardi (unrestricted free agent, signed by Winnipeg); C Blair Jones (unrestricted free agent, signed by Philadelphia); D Shane O’Brien (unrestricted free agent); D Derek Smith (unrestricted free agent); RW Kevin Westgarth (unrestricted free agent).

CAROLINA HURRICANES
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
April 28: Named Ron Francis general manager.
June 19: Named Bill Peters head coach.
July 1: Signed C Brad Malone (Colorado) and G Drew MacIntyre (Toronto).
July 2: Signed C Jay McClement.
July 3: Signed D Tim Gleason.
Offseason Departures
G Justin Peters (unrestricted free agent, signed by Washington); C Manny Malhotra (unrestricted free agent, signed by Montreal); LW Brett Sutter (unrestricted free agent, signed by Minnesota); LW Drayson Bowman (unrestricted free agent); RW Radek Dvorak (unrestricted free agent); D Mike Komisarek (unrestricted free agent); C Andrei Loktionov (unrestricted free agent); RW Aaron Palushaj (unrestricted free agent).

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
July 1: Signed C Brad Richards (NY Rangers), C Cody Bass (Columbus) and LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie (Tampa Bay).
July 2: Signed D Kyle Cumiskey (Modo, Sweden).
Aug. 18: Signed G Michael Leighton (HC Donbass, KHL).
Offseason Departures
LW Brandon Bollig (traded to Calgary); G Jason LaBarbera (unrestricted free agent, signed by Anaheim); G Nikolai Khabibulin (unrestricted free agent); D Sheldon Brookbank (unrestricted free agent); C Michal Handzus (unrestricted free agent); C Brad Mills (unrestricted free agent).

COLORADO AVALANCHE
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
June 30: Acquired C Daniel Briere from Montreal for RW PA Parenteau and a 5th-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
July 1: Acquired D Brad Stuart from San Jose for a 2nd-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft and a 6th-round pick in 2017.
July 1: Signed RW Jarome Iginla (Boston), D Zach Redmond (Winnipeg), D Bruno Gervais (Philadelphia), C Jesse Winchester (Florida) and C Ben Street (Calgary).
Offseason Departures
RW PA Parenteau (traded to Montreal); C Paul Stastny (unrestricted free agent, signed by St. Louis); D Andre Benoit (unrestricted free agent, signed by Buffalo); C Brad Malone (unrestricted free agent, signed by Carolina); LW David Van der Gulik (unrestricted free agent, signed by Los Angeles); D Matt Hunwick (unrestricted free agent, signed by NY Rangers); G Jean-Sebastien Giguere (retired); D Cory Sarich (unrestricted free agent).

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
June 23: Acquired LW Scott Hartnell from Philadelphia for LW R.J. Umberger and a 4th-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
July 1: Acquired RW Jerry D’Amigo and a conditional pick in the 2015 NHL Draft from Toronto for RW Matt Frattin.
July 4: Signed C Brian Gibbons (Pittsburgh).
Offseason Departures
LW R.J. Umberger (traded to Philadelphia); D Nikita Nikitin (traded to Edmonton); RW Matt Frattin (traded to Toronto); C Derek MacKenzie (unrestricted free agent, signed by Florida); RW Jack Skille (unrestricted free agent, signed by NY Islanders); D Nick Schultz (unrestricted free agent, signed by Philadelphia); LW Blake Comeau (unrestricted free agent, signed by Pittsburgh); C Cody Bass (unrestricted free agent, signed by Chicago); G Mike McKenna (unrestricted free agent, signed by Arizona).

DALLAS STARS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
July 1: Acquired C Jason Spezza and RW Ludwig Karlsson from Ottawa for RW Alex Chiasson, LW Nick Paul, LW Alex Guptill and a 2nd-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
July 1: Signed G Anders Lindback (Tampa Bay), RW Ales Hemsky (Ottawa) and RW Patrick Eaves (Nashville).
Offseason Departures
RW Alex Chiasson (traded to Ottawa); C Chris Mueller (unrestricted free agent, signed by NY Rangers); C Dustin Jeffrey (unrestricted free agent, signed by Vancouver); D Maxime Fortunus (unrestricted free agent); LW Ray Whitney (unrestricted free agent); D Aaron Rome (unrestricted free agent); G Tim Thomas (unrestricted free agent); G Cristopher Nilstorp (unrestricted free agent).

DETROIT RED WINGS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
July 1: Signed C Kevin Porter (Buffalo).
July 2: Signed C Andy Miele (Arizona).
Offseason Departures
C David Legwand (unrestricted free agent, signed by Ottawa); RW Daniel Alfredsson (unrestricted free agent); RW Todd Bertuzzi (unrestricted free agent); C Cory Emmerton (unrestricted free agent); RW Mikael Samuelsson (unrestricted free agent); RW Jordin Tootoo (unrestricted free agent).

EDMONTON OILERS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
June 25: Acquired D Nikita Nikitin from Columbus for a 5th-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.
June 29: Acquired RW Teddy Purcell from Tampa Bay for C Sam Gagner.
July 1: Signed D Mark Fayne (New Jersey), LW Benoit Pouliot (NY Rangers) and D Keith Aulie (Tampa Bay).
Offseason Departures
LW Ryan Smyth (retired); C Sam Gagner (traded to Tampa Bay); D Taylor Fedun (unrestricted free agent, signed by San Jose); D Anton Belov (unrestricted free agent); LW Ben Eager (unrestricted free agent); D Mark Fraser (unrestricted free agent); D Denis Grebeshkov (unrestricted free agent); LW Ryan Jones (unrestricted free agent).

FLORIDA PANTHERS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
June 21: Named Gerard Gallant head coach.
July 1: Signed C Dave Bolland (Toronto), LW Jussi Jokinen (Pittsburgh), LW Shawn Thornton (Boston), C Derek MacKenzie (Columbus), D Willie Mitchell (Los Angeles) and G Al Montoya (Winnipeg).
Offseason Departures
D Tom Gilbert (unrestricted free agent, signed by Montreal); C Jesse Winchester (unrestricted free agent, signed by Colorado); G Scott Clemmensen (unrestricted free agent, signed by New Jersey); RW Krys Barch (unrestricted free agent); D Matt Gilroy (unrestricted free agent); C Scott Gomez (unrestricted free agent); D Ed Jovanovski (unrestricted free agent); D Ryan Whitney (unrestricted free agent); D Mike Mottau (retired).

LOS ANGELES KINGS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
July 1: Signed RW Adam Cracknell (St. Louis) and LW David Van der Gulik (Colorado).
Offseason Departures
RW Linden Vey (traded to Vancouver); D Willie Mitchell (unrestricted free agent, signed by Florida); D Andrew Campbell (unrestricted free agent, signed by Arizona); C Colin Fraser (unrestricted free agent, signed by St. Louis).

MINNESOTA WILD
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
July 1: Signed LW Thomas Vanek (Montreal), D Stu Bickel (NY Rangers) and LW Brett Sutter (Carolina).
July 11: Signed C Jordan Schroeder (Vancouver).
Aug. 1: Signed D Justin Falk (NY Rangers).
Offseason Departures
LW Matt Moulson (unrestricted free agent, signed by Buffalo); D Clayton Stoner (unrestricted free agent, signed by Anaheim); LW Dany Heatley (unrestricted free agent, signed by Anaheim); D Nate Prosser (unrestricted free agent, signed by St. Louis); C Cody McCormick (unrestricted free agent, signed by Buffalo); G Ilya Bryzgalov (unrestricted free agent); C Jake Dowell (unrestricted free agent); RW Carson McMillan (unrestricted free agent); LW Mike Rupp (unrestricted free agent).

MONTREAL CANADIENS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
June 30: Acquired RW PA Parenteau and a 5th-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft from Colorado for C Daniel Briere.
July 1: Signed C Manny Malhotra (Carolina), D Tom Gilbert (Florida) and G Joey MacDonald (Calgary).
Offseason Departures
C Daniel Briere (traded to Colorado); D Josh Gorges (traded to Buffalo); C Louis Leblanc (traded to Anaheim); LW Thomas Vanek (unrestricted free agent, signed by Minnesota); RW Brian Gionta (unrestricted free agent, signed by Buffalo); G Devan Dubnyk (unrestricted free agent, signed by Arizona); RW Mike Blunden (unrestricted free agent, signed by Tampa Bay); C Ryan White (unrestricted free agent, signed by Philadelphia); D Francis Bouillon (unrestricted free agent); D Douglas Murray (unrestricted free agent); RW George Parros (unrestricted free agent); C Martin St. Pierre (unrestricted free agent).

NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
May 6: Named Peter Laviolette head coach.
June 27: Acquired LW James Neal from Pittsburgh for RW Patric Hornqvist and C Nick Spaling.
July 2: Signed C Olli Jokinen (Winnipeg).
July 7: Signed D Anton Volchenkov (New Jersey).
July 15: Signed C Mike Ribeiro (Arizona) and C Derek Roy (St. Louis).
Offseason Departures
RW Patric Hornqvist (traded to Pittsburgh); C Nick Spaling (traded to Pittsburgh); RW Patrick Eaves (unrestricted free agent, signed by Dallas); D Michael Del Zotto (unrestricted free agent, signed by Philadelphia).

NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
July 1: Signed LW Mike Cammalleri (Calgary), RW Martin Havlat (San Jose) and G Scott Clemmensen (Florida).
Offseason Departures
D Mark Fayne (unrestricted free agent, signed by Edmonton); D Anton Volchenkov (unrestricted free agent, signed by Nashville); G Martin Brodeur (unrestricted free agent); LW Ryan Carter (unrestricted free agent); LW Rostislav Olesz (unrestricted free agent).

NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
May 1: Acquired G Jaroslav Halak from Washington for a 4th-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.
July 1: Signed G Chad Johnson (Boston), C Cory Conacher (Buffalo), RW Jack Skille (Columbus) and LW Harry Zolnierczyk (Pittsburgh).
July 2: Signed C Mikhail Grabovski (Washington) and LW Nikolai Kulemin (Toronto).
Offseason Departures
G Evgeni Nabokov (unrestricted free agent, signed by Tampa Bay); D Radek Martinek (unrestricted free agent).

NEW YORK RANGERS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
July 1: Signed D Dan Boyle (NY Islanders), D Mike Kostka (Tampa Bay), D Matt Hunwick (Colorado), C Chris Mueller (Dallas), LW Tanner Glass (Pittsburgh) and G Cedrick Desjardins (Tampa Bay).
July 16: Signed C Matthew Lombardi (HC Geneve-Servette, Switzerland).
July 19: Signed RW Lee Stempniak (Pittsburgh).
Sept. 11: Signed LW Ryan Malone (Tampa Bay).
Offseason Departures
RW Derek Dorsett (traded to Vancouver); C Brad Richards (unrestricted free agent, signed by Chicago); C Brian Boyle (unrestricted free agent, signed by Tampa Bay); D Anton Stralman (unrestricted free agent, signed by Tampa Bay); LW Benoit Pouliot (unrestricted free agent, signed by Edmonton); D Justin Falk (unrestricted free agent, signed by Minnesota); RW Arron Asham (unrestricted free agent); LW Daniel Carcillo (unrestricted free agent); D Raphael Diaz (unrestricted free agent); C Darroll Powe (unrestricted free agent).

OTTAWA SENATORS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
July 1: Acquired RW Alex Chiasson, LW Nick Paul, LW Alex Guptill and a 2nd-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft from Dallas for C Jason Spezza and RW Ludwig Karlsson.
July 4: Signed C David Legwand (Detroit).
Offseason Departures
C Jason Spezza (traded to Dallas); RW Ales Hemsky (unrestricted free agent, signed by Dallas); D Joe Corvo (unrestricted free agent); LW Matt Kassian (unrestricted free agent).

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
May 7: Named Ron Hextall general manager.
June 23: Acquired LW R.J. Umberger and a 4th-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft from Columbus for LW Scott Hartnell.
July 1: Signed C Blair Jones (Calgary).
July 2: Signed D Nick Schultz (Columbus).
Aug. 5: Signed D Michael Del Zotto (Nashville).
Aug. 7: Signed C Ryan White (Montreal)
Offseason Departures
LW Scott Hartnell (traded to Columbus); LW Tye McGinn (traded to San Jose); RW Steve Downie (unrestricted free agent, signed by Pittsburgh); C Kris Newbury (unrestricted free agent, signed by Washington); D Hal Gill (unrestricted free agent); RW Adam Hall (unrestricted free agent).

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
June 6: Named Jim Rutherford general manager.
June 25: Named Mike Johnston head coach.
June 27: Acquired RW Patric Hornqvist and C Nick Spaling from Nashville for LW James Neal.
July 1: Signed D Christian Ehrhoff (Buffalo), G Thomas Greiss (Arizona) and LW Blake Comeau (Columbus).
July 2: Signed RW Steve Downie (Philadelphia).
Offseason Departures
LW James Neal (traded to Nashville); D Matt Niskanen (unrestricted free agent, signed by Washington); D Brooks Orpik (unrestricted free agent, signed by Washington); C Joe Vitale (unrestricted free agent, signed by Arizona); D Deryk Engelland (unrestricted free agent, signed by Pittsburgh); C Brian Gibbons (unrestricted free agent, signed by Columbus); LW Jussi Jokinen (unrestricted free agent, signed by Florida); LW Harry Zolnierczyk (unrestricted free agent, signed by NY Islanders); LW Tanner Glass (unrestricted free agent, signed by NY Rangers); RW Lee Stempniak (unrestricted free agent, signed by NY Rangers); RW Chris Conner (unrestricted free agent, signed by Washington); G Tomas Vokoun (unrestricted free agent); RW Chuck Kobasew (unrestricted free agent); LW Taylor Pyatt (unrestricted free agent).

SAN JOSE SHARKS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
July 1: Signed LW John Scott (Buffalo) and D Taylor Fedun (Edmonton).
July 2: Acquired LW Tye McGinn from Philadelphia for a 3rd-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Offseason Departures
D Brad Stuart (traded to Colorado); D Dan Boyle (traded to NY Islanders); RW Martin Havlat (unrestricted free agent, signed by New Jersey); LW John McCarthy (unrestricted free agent, signed by St. Louis); LW Bracken Kearns (unrestricted free agent); RW Matt Pelech (unrestricted free agent).

ST. LOUIS BLUES
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
June 28: Acquired D Carl Gunnarsson and a 4th-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft from Toronto for D Roman Polak.
July 1: Signed C Paul Stastny (Colorado) and C Jori Lehtera (Sibir Novosibirsk, KHL).
July 4: Signed LW John McCarthy (San Jose).
July 16: Signed D Chris Butler (Calgary) and RW Benn Ferriero (Vancouver).
July 21: Signed C Jeremy Welsh (Vancouver).
July 22: Signed D Nate Prosser (Minnesota).
July 29: Signed C Peter Mueller (Kloten, Switzerland).
Sept. 5: Signed C Colin Fraser (Los Angeles).
Offseason Departures
D Roman Polak (traded to Toronto); C Derek Roy (unrestricted free agent, signed by Nashville); LW Brenden Morrow (unrestricted free agent, signed by Tampa Bay); RW Adam Cracknell (unrestricted free agent, signed by Los Angeles); G Ryan Miller (unrestricted free agent, signed by Vancouver); LW Vladimir Sobotka (restricted free agent, signed by KHL Avangard Omsk); C Keith Aucoin (unrestricted free agent); D Carlo Colaiacovo (unrestricted free agent).

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
June 27: Acquired D Jason Garrison, LW Jeff Costello and a 7th-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft from Vancouver for a 2nd-round pick in 2014.
July 1: Signed D Anton Stralman (NY Rangers), C Brian Boyle (NY Rangers), G Evgeni Nabokov (NY Islanders) and RW Mike Blunden (Montreal).
July 11: Signed LW Brenden Morrow (St. Louis).
Offseason Departures
C Nate Thompson (traded to Anaheim); RW B.J. Crombeen (traded to Arizona); RW Teddy Purcell (traded to Edmonton); G Anders Lindback (unrestricted free agent, signed by Dallas); D Keith Aulie (unrestricted free agent, signed by Edmonton); D Mike Kostka (unrestricted free agent, signed by NY Rangers); G Cedrick Desjardins (unrestricted free agent, signed by NY Rangers); LW Ryan Malone (unrestricted free agent, signed by NY Rangers); LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie (unrestricted free agent, signed by Chicago); C Tom Pyatt (unrestricted free agent); D Sami Salo (unrestricted free agent).

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
June 28: Acquired D Roman Polak from St. Louis for D Carl Gunnarsson and a 4th-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.
July 1: Acquired RW Matt Frattin from Columbus for RW Jerry D’Amigo and a conditional pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
July 1: Signed D Stephane Robidas (Anaheim) and C Leo Komarov (Dynamo Moscow, KHL).
July 3: Signed C Mike Santorelli (Vancouver) and C Petri Kontiola (Traktor Chelyabinsk, KHL).
July 22: Signed LW David Booth (Vancouver).
July 28: Signed C Daniel Winnik (Anaheim).
Offseason Departures
D Carl Gunnarsson (traded to St. Louis); RW Jerry D’Amigo (traded to Columbus); LW Mason Raymond (unrestricted free agent, signed by Calgary); G Drew MacIntyre (unrestricted free agent, signed by Carolina); C Jay McClement (unrestricted free agent, signed by Carolina); D Tim Gleason (unrestricted free agent, signed by Carolina); C Dave Bolland (unrestricted free agent, signed by Florida); LW Nikolai Kulemin (unrestricted free agent, signed by NY Islanders); D Paul Ranger (unrestricted free agent); C Jarred Smithson (unrestricted free agent).

VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
May 21: Named Jim Benning general manager.
June 23: Named Willie Desjardins head coach.
June 27: Acquired C Nick Bonino, D Luca Sbisa and Anaheim’s 1st- and 3rd-round picks in the 2014 NHL Draft from Anaheim for C Ryan Kesler and a 3rd-round pick in 2015.
June 27: Acquired RW Derek Dorsett from NY Rangers for a 3rd-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.
June 28: Acquired RW Linden Vey from Los Angeles for a 2nd-round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.
July 1: Signed G Ryan Miller (St. Louis).
July 2: Signed C Dustin Jeffrey (Dallas).
July 3: Signed RW Radim Vrbata (Arizona).
Offseason Departures
C Ryan Kesler (traded to Anaheim); D Jason Garrison (traded to Tampa Bay); LW David Booth (unrestricted free agent, signed by Toronto); C Mike Santorelli (unrestricted free agent, signed by Toronto); C Zac Dalpe (unrestricted free agent, signed by Buffalo); C Jordan Schroeder (unrestricted free agent, signed by Minnesota); RW Benn Ferriero (unrestricted free agent, signed by St. Louis); C Jeremy Welsh (unrestricted free agent, signed by St. Louis); D Andrew Alberts (unrestricted free agent); LW Pascal Pelletier (unrestricted free agent); D Yann Sauve (unrestricted free agent).

WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
May 26: Named Brian MacLellan general manager and Barry Trotz head coach.
July 1: Signed G Justin Peters (Carolina), D Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh), D Matt Niskanen (Pittsburgh) and RW Chris Conner (Pittsburgh).
July 3: Signed LW Tim Kennedy (Arizona).
July 4: Signed C Kris Newbury (Philadelphia).
Offseason Departures
G Jaroslav Halak (traded to NY Islanders); C Mikhail Grabovski (unrestricted free agent, signed by NY Islanders); D Tyson Strachan (unrestricted free agent, signed by Buffalo); D Julien Brouillette (unrestricted free agent, signed by Winnipeg); RW Dustin Penner (unrestricted free agent); C Nicolas Deschamps (unrestricted free agent); C Peter LeBlanc (unrestricted free agent); C Ryan Stoa (unrestricted free agent).

WINNIPEG JETS
Offseason Acquisitions (w/ previous rights)
July 1: Signed C Mathieu Perreault (Anaheim).
Aug. 1: Signed LW T.J. Galiardi (Calgary).
Aug. 8: Signed D Julien Brouillette (Washington).
Offseason Departures
D Zach Redmond (unrestricted free agent, signed by Colorado); G Al Montoya (unrestricted free agent, signed by Florida); C Olli Jokinen (unrestricted free agent, signed by Nashville); RW Devin Setoguchi (unrestricted free agent, signed by Calgary); C James Wright (unrestricted free agent).
Leon Draisaitl answers the Edmonton Oiler’s most pressing need. The question, however, is whether he’s going to fill it this season or next.

"Yes, the big question is center and how it all unfolds," Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish told ESPN.com on Tuesday evening.

With the trade of Sam Gagner to the Arizona Coyotes, the Oilers have a gaping hole at the No. 2 center spot.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is set at No. 1, and Boyd Gordon will likely pivot the No. 3 line.

[+] EnlargeLeon Draisaitl
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesThe Oilers made Leon Draisaitl, 18, the third overall pick in last June's draft.
Will it be Mark Arcobello, Anton Lander or the 18-year-old Draisaitl for the No. 2 spot? Or somebody else?

That will have to play out in camp and preseason over the next few weeks.

Those who were at the rookie tournament in Penticton, British Columbia, certainly got a glimpse of what Draisaitl, the third overall pick in last June’s draft, can bring.

"I like him a lot," one rival NHL team executive who was in Penticton said. "He needs to get quicker in the 200-foot game, but his strength out of the corner and protecting the puck, and his ability to make a play, along with the big body, is going to be a good package down the road. He will get stronger and with that should come his quickness, as well. Good kid, too."

That’s the first thing MacTavish mentions about the 6-foot-1, 208-pound German prospect.

"I love the character," MacTavish said. "Sure, the size and the skill, but the character, as well. The fact that he committed to being here throughout the summer is going to give him every chance to make it. He’s a really driven guy, with the high skill level, that’s a pretty good combination.

"But it’s a league not all that friendly to youth. He’s going to have to prove that he’s capable of handling it. All signs point to him being given great opportunity. Having said all that, we’ll make the decision based on what’s best for Leon and not our organization need."

It’s refreshing to hear that from the Oilers' GM. I felt the previous Edmonton regime made a horrible mistake in keeping Nugent-Hopkins on the NHL roster as an 18-year-old in 2011. His hockey IQ was ready for the NHL, yes, but as far as I’m concerned, not his body. He was so skinny. He took a pounding.

Draisaitl is heavier than Nugent-Hopkins was at 18, so perhaps he can endure it better this season if he makes the Oilers.

Either way, sounds as though Oilers management is going to do well by him. He’ll make the team only if he’s truly ready.

CANUCKS’ KIDS
Speaking of prospects, the Vancouver Canucks also insist they’re in no rush to promote their top young talent.

Nicklas Jensen, 21, played 17 games with the Canucks late last season, while Bo Horvat, 19, was Vancouver’s first-round pick in 2013.

They’re going to be given every chance to make the team, but there are no guarantees.

"We’ve talked to them, we’ve let them know that if they earn a spot on the team, we’ll make changes to accommodate them," Canucks GM Jim Benning told ESPN.com earlier this month. "It’s going to be up to them. They’re going to have to come in and prove they’re ready to play. Having said that, we’ve got depth now. We don’t want to rush guys. If they’re not ready to make the jump, we want to develop them properly."

One has to believe, barring injury, that Radim Vrbata, Zack Kassian, Jannik Hansen and Derek Dorsett are likely locked in on the right side, so not sure what that leaves for Jensen at this point.

At center, you’ve got Henrik Sedin, Nick Bonino, Brad Richardson and probably Linden Vey. The latter, acquired from the Kings at the draft, requires waivers to get sent down, so unless he has the worst camp/preseason ever, have to think the Canucks want Vey to start the year on the NHL roster. Benning is high on Vey, which is why Vancouver traded for him.

So that doesn’t leave much room for Horvat, either.

But one never knows, that’s why there’s a camp and preseason, right?

HONEST BIEKSA
Sticking with the Canucks, I loved Kevin Bieksa’s answer last week during the Player Tour interviews when I asked him about whether there’s any benefit in playing in a Pacific Division with the likes of L.A., Anaheim and San Jose, in terms of getting the best out of your team in those games and raising the standard.

Bieksa responded with the honest truth.

"I think I would prefer to be in an easier division and cruise to the playoffs, I’m not going to lie," said Bieksa, whose Canucks used to rule the old Northwest Division for years. "They’re tough games. Yeah they’re great to use as a measuring stick when you’re playing those teams and seeing where you stand. But they’re tough games. They take a toll on you. If you’re asking me if I love my division, the answer would be probably be no."

Don’t change, Kevin.
What happens in a hockey-crazed market when a hot start quickly dissipates into a dramatic downward spiral, highlighting a questionable coaching hire in the polarizing John Tortorella?

You have yourself an offseason rife with upheaval, just like the summer of 2014 for the Vancouver Canucks.

The brash and fiery Tortorella was axed after just one season. Longtime general manager Mike Gillis was dismissed, as well. Star center Ryan Kesler was shipped out of town in a trade to Anaheim.

None of it is surprising, according to former Vancouver Canucks player Geoff Courtnall, who spent five seasons playing for the club from 1990 to 1995.

[+] EnlargeGeoff Courtnall
Mitchell Layton/Getty ImagesGeoff Courtnall recorded 799 points in his 15-year NHL career, part of which was spent playing alongside Trevor Linden.
“Well, I think the owners have high expectations and want to win. They weren’t satisfied with how last season went, so they made some pretty drastic moves," Courtnall told ESPN.com in a recent phone conversation.

Among those drastic moves, Vancouver brought in a number of new people. Former Canucks captain Trevor Linden enters his first season as president of hockey operations. Jim Benning, long regarded as a star on the rise for his work under Peter Chiarelli with the Boston Bruins, is now general manager. And Willie Desjardins is on the precipice of his first season as an NHL head coach after spending the past two seasons in the AHL with the Texas Stars, who won the Calder Cup championship last season.

“I think he’s [Desjardins] obviously had success. I know some of the guys who have played for him in the Dallas organization and they all loved playing for him,” said Courtnall, who recorded 799 points in his 15-year NHL career. “He’s probably a guy that’s going to be tough, but will also be fair in giving guys an opportunity to play their best. I think that’s a fine line, to be tough on guys but give them confidence, because the biggest part of the game is mental.”

Walking that line may have been where Tortorella, known for his brash personality and demanding coaching style, faltered. He was widely criticized for leaning too heavily on his top players, who seemed to wear down as the season progressed.

“I think they overplayed some of the top guys in the first part of season and then had lots of injuries,” said Courtnall, who heads the Peruvian-based mining company Lupaka Gold. “They just looked like a team that flailed in the second half and they didn’t seem to be getting much leadership from much of the players.”

Courtnall wasn’t surprised to see Kesler traded to Anaheim, especially given the circumstances around his departure. Kessler was rumored to be unhappy in Vancouver and the Canucks shopped him, unsuccessfully, at the trade deadline last season. Now, the 30-year-old finds himself slotted in as the second-line center on a deep Ducks team.

“I like him. He’s a nice kid and a great player but no one guy can be bigger than the team,” Courtnall said. “I think it’s very difficult when a star player is not happy and you could pretty much see that. I think it’s a move that will maybe bring some of the best out of different players.”

The Canucks brought in some interesting pieces this summer, most notably signing goaltender Ryan Miller. They acquired center Nick Bonino in the Kessler deal, brought in youngster Linden Vey in a trade with Los Angeles and inked tough guy Derek Dorsett.

All the new personnel makes for an interesting combination, and Courtnall knows that Benning’s addition will only augment the team’s ability to scout and bring in new talent for the future.

“I’m very good friends with [Bruins team president] Cam Neely. I think Boston has had a lot of success since Cam Neely has taken over as president and he speaks very highly of Jim Benning,” Courtnall said. “He will definitely work hard and he knows a lot of players in the AHL, a lot of players coming up in junior that maybe people haven’t seen. That’s what it’s gonna take to find players where you least expect to find players. He’ll add to their roster with players that will play above expectation.”

As for Linden, Courtnall knows him well as a former teammate and linemate during their years with the Canucks. Knowing what he is like inside the dressing room, Courtnall has a good idea of what to expect from him as an executive.

“I sat beside him for five years. I think Trevor will not only demand a lot as president of the team, I think he’ll obviously also help Jim Benning,” Courtnall said. “He’s very serious and was an intense player and he came to play with a physical edge every night. He’s a good leader, very demanding, and I don’t think he'll change the way he sees the game now that he’s in management.”
The biggest name of the July 2015 UFA class might not be a player.

Mike Babcock enters the final year of his deal with the Detroit Red Wings, and the two-time Olympic champion head coach has some decisions to make.

Whether that decision is made in the next few weeks or after the season remains to be seen.

Babcock told Detroit media Wednesday that he’s either going to get something done with the Wings before the regular season starts, or he’s going to wait until after the season to figure things out.

[+] EnlargeHead coach Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings
Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty ImagesWings coach Mike Babcock could take the uncommon approach of putting himself on the free agent market.
Wings general manager Ken Holland is on the same page, agreeing that this isn't something that needs to be a focal point throughout the season. So they’ll talk this month about a contract and, if nothing gets done, reconvene after the season.

"At the end of the day, that makes the most sense," Holland told ESPN.com Thursday morning. "Our team doesn't need an everyday Mike Babcock watch all year long. We are going to talk in September, and we'll see where we go."

On his decision to shelve contract talks once the season begins, Babcock said it’s the only way to go:

"One hundred percent, because the players deserve my total attention and commitment to winning hockey games and not talking about contracts," Babcock told ESPN.com Thursday afternoon. "Ken Holland and I have a great relationship. I have a great owner. I like Detroit. I have no concern at all with my situation. We’ll find a way to get a deal worked out. But it’s not like I’m in any rush. If it happens, it happens, if not, we’ll get it done at the end of the year."

Holland and Babcock have a terrific working relationship. Sure, they push each other, but that’s what gets the best out of each other. There’s huge respect between the two successful hockey men, and I don't think there will be sour grapes no matter how this plays out.

Babcock, considered by many the best coach in the NHL, could take on a unique position. Very rarely does a coach puts himself on the market on purpose. Given the job security of an NHL coach and the fact there’s only 30 jobs, most coaches always want to extend with their current team; hitting free agency on purpose just rarely happens in their field.

And it may be that Babcock stays in Detroit. But there’s also a chance the coach with a Stanley Cup ring, two Olympic gold medals, a world junior title and an IIHF world men’s title puts himself out there next summer.

"The guy’s got an opportunity of a lifetime,” Holland said. "He’s an unrestricted free agent. He’s 52 years of age. His stock isn't going to get any higher. He’s coming off his second Olympic gold. He was finalist for coach of the year. People feel the job he did last year with our team was as good as he’s done here in a number of years."

So yes, Holland gets it. They’ll talk contract this month, perhaps get something done, but, if not, both men are secure enough in their relationship that they can pick up that conversation again after the season.

If high-profile teams such as Toronto and Pittsburgh struggle this season, you better believe the Babcock talk will intensify. Unfortunately for the Wings, it’s going to be a storyline all year long unless he signs an extension before the season, because you know his name will be the first to pop up in the NHL markets where things are going poorly.

Plan B for the Red Wings, should Babcock leave next summer, is potentially their AHL head coach Jeff Blashill. Or at least that’s one of the options. Other NHL teams contacted Detroit about wanting to talk to Blashill this summer, and the answer was, "No," according to sources. The belief here is that Blashill got a raise to stay on in Grand Rapids for at least one more year while the Wings figure out what they’re doing with their head coach at the NHL level. I don’t believe there have been any promises made to Blashill other than he would be a strong candidate for the NHL job. If Babcock signs an extension, then you have to believe the Wings would allow other NHL teams to talk to Blashill next summer.

AND WHAT ABOUT ALFIE?
Veteran winger Daniel Alfredsson is skating with the Red Wings regulars in Detroit. He’s still an unrestricted free agent and undecided about his future. This was the plan he agreed upon with Holland in late June.

"I said to Alfie: `I’ll do whatever I do on July 1, you train all summer like you’re going to play, get to Detroit in early September, skate every day for a couple of weeks and then right before camp, let’s see where you’re at,'" Holland said.

"If he’s healthy and wants to play, we can then sit down and talk about a contract."

Holland spoke with Alfredsson’s agent J.P. Barry last Friday, and they both agreed to let Alfredsson skate for two weeks and then re-evaluate the situation.

Alfredsson is coming off a year in which he earned north of $5 million. The contract counted $3.5 million against the Wings' cap last season, but there are bonuses that carry over to this year’s cap. Holland did not want to get into contract speculation, but one suspects that if Alfredsson wanted to return, it would have to be at a lower rate, yet again some type of bonus-laden deal that allows Detroit to carry some of the cap hit to next season.

But again, that’s a conversation for about 10 days to 12 days from now, depending on how Alfredsson feels after skating every day with the Wings.

At issue for Alfredsson is a back injury that gave him pause late last year.

"I had some issues with my back throughout the year, but nothing serious until the end when I started getting some tingling in the nerve down the right leg," Alfredsson told Detroit reporters Wednesday. "That's what worries me more than anything."

You can read more on Alfredsson here from Ansar Khan.

SURPRISE TEAMS?
My first week back on the job, and it’s interesting that both a Western Conference team executive and a Western Conference player mentioned the same team to me in separate conversations when the subject of surprise clubs came up.

"Vancouver is a better team than they were last year," the executive said a few days ago. "Until December, they were one of the top three or four teams in the conference. Willie’s a good coach. I think they're a better team."

Willie Desjardins is the new head coach in Vancouver.

"I think they’ll do better than people think," the Western Conference player said. "It wouldn’t surprise me if they made the playoffs at all."

Another surprise team?

"People may not believe this, I think Winnipeg has a pretty good foundation there, I think they may surprise people," the veteran Western Conference executive said. "They’re big, they’re fast, they’ve got some good, young defensemen."

Hair bands and hockey hair: a marriage made in heaven. So, we're dropping the needle on 30 songs that say something about each of the 30 teams -- using nothing but cheesy videos from the 1980s. The Western Conference list is below, so feel free to mullet over. (Eastern Conference is here.)



ANAHEIM DUCKS: "Maniac," Michael Sembello

Those crazy kids on the left coast will try pretty much anything. Which means it's all or nothing for the Ducks, who, if it weren't for their downtown neighbors, might be living the high life instead of never seeing the third round. But real life is hard, so that's why the Ducks went out and got Ryan Kesler and are sticking with young hotshots John Gibson and Fredrik Andersen in net, no matter what. And they mean it this time. Carpe diem, ducklings!

On the ice-blue line of insanity, it's a place most never see
It's a hard-won place of mystery, touch it but can't hold it
You work for your life for that moment in time, it could come or pass you by
It's a push of the world, but there's always a chance




ARIZONA COYOTES: "Livin' On A Prayer," Bon Jovi

Arizona Coyotes, Phoenix Coyotes ... does it really matter? With the team's arena deal hitting an unexpected bump in the road recently, this team's off-ice fortunes continue to cloud the future. Not to mention that said arena is still so far out in the boonies that no one goes to the games.

We've got to hold on to what we've got
'Cause it doesn't make a difference
If we make it or not
We've got each other and that's a lot



CALGARY FLAMES: "Holding Back The Years," Simply Red

What's the deal with these perennially lousy teams in Alberta? Not all the Brian Burkes in the world seem to able to fix this broken franchise. Jarome Iginla must be so happy he's not there anymore.

Holding back the years
Chance for me to escape from all I've known
Holding back the tears
'Cause nothing here has grown
I've wasted all my tears
Wasted all those years
And nothing had the chance to be good
Nothing ever could yeah



CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: "U Can't Touch This," MC Hammer

"The Blackhawks are so good." "Break it down, ESPN.com!" "They are so good, no one in the West will be able to touch them. Er, until the playoffs." "You had me and then you lost me, ESPN.com!"

Cold on a mission so fall them back
Let 'em know that you're too much
And this is a beat, uh, you can't touch



COLORADO AVALANCHE: "Beat It," Michael Jackson

Time to see what you're made of, Avs. You had an overachieving season followed by a disappointingly early departure from the playoffs. How you respond after all the Patrick Roy glass-pushing and novelty wears thin will reveal your true character. Show us how funky strong is your fight. And, by the way, let's see you do it without Paul Stastny.

Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky strong is your fight
It doesn't matter who's wrong or right
Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it



DALLAS STARS: "Hip To Be Square," Huey Lewis And The News

We're watching you, Tyler Seguin. The fate of the Stars rests on your considerable shoulders. Show us what you've got.

I used to be a renegade, I used to fool around
But I couldn't take the punishment and had to settle down
Now I'm playing it real straight, and yes, I cut my hair
You might think I'm crazy, but I don't even care
Because I can tell what's going on



EDMONTON OILERS: "We're Not Going to Take It," Twisted Sister

All those high draft picks, all those low places in the standings, all that disappointment for a passionate fan base, all those seasons of missing the playoffs. Will the fans bail on the Oil?

If that's your best
Your best won't do



LOS ANGELES KINGS: "We Are The Champions," Queen

C'mon, you knew this one was coming: Kings, Queen, defending champions. But, seriously, can anyone dethrone the Kings?

We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions



MINNESOTA WILD: "Abracadabra," Steve Miller Band

Who's playing net here? Is it a revolving door again? That never works.

I heat up, I can't cool down
You got me spinnin'
'Round and 'round
'Round and 'round and 'round it goes
Where it stops nobody knows



NASHVILLE PREDATORS: "Notorious," Duran Duran

The Predators never seem to learn. A couple of years ago, they brought in bad boys Andrei Kostisyn and Alexander Radulov late in the season, and their late-night carousing -- in the playoffs, no less -- helped bring the previously rolling Preds machine to a grinding halt. Now, they sign Mike Ribeiro and his ambiguous "behavior issues." Ribeiro -- whose camp sought out the Predators -- says he's changed his ways. Whatever. GM David Poile must be the king of second chances, or he likes living life on the edge.

That's why I've done it again
No-no-Notorious



ST. LOUIS BLUES: "Don't You Want Me," Human League

"Sorry, Ryan Miller, but we've decided to go in another direction. It just wasn't a good fit. No, no, it was us, not you. Yes, we can certainly be friends."

Don't, don't you want me?
You know I can't believe it when I hear that you won't see me
Don't, don't you want me?
You know I don't believe you when you say that you don't need me



SAN JOSE SHARKS: "The Breakup Song," The Greg Kihn Band

Some feel the underperforming Sharks would be best to start from scratch. Will fans forgive them if they don't?

Now I wind up staring at an empty glass
Uh uh uh, uh uh uh uh uh
Cause it's so easy to say that you'll forget your past
Uh uh uh, uh uh uh uh uh



VANCOUVER CANUCKS: "Separate Ways," Journey

Poor Canucks fans. Too many good goalies, not enough good goalies, fired coach goes to the Cup finals with another team ... so confused by the unrequited love they have for their mixed-up team. Everyone who comes to this team and isn't a twin seems to eventually go his separate way.

Troubled times
Caught between confusions and pain, pain, pain
Distant eyes
Promises we made were in vain
In vain, vain



WINNIPEG JETS: "The Way It Is," Bruce Hornsby and the Range

You know the Jets aren't really that far away from being the Thrashers, right? And you remember how crappy the Thrashers were, right? This team seems to spin its wheels no matter where it is or who is coaching it. Shame, really.

That's just the way it is
Some things will never change
That's just the way it is

#ESPNplayerNHL: Best of Canada's teams?

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
8:46
AM ET
Ice hockey is Canada's game. So we expect passionate responses when we ask about the seven NHL teams north of the border.

The question is very simple: Who is the all-time franchise player for each team in Canada?

In Montreal, Maurice "Rocket" Richard's accomplishments are well-known. And there is a reason the trophy for the leading goal scorer is named after him.

[+] EnlargeCanadiens
AP PhotoIs Maurice "Rocket" Richard the most important player in Canadiens history?
Toronto has had plenty of stars wear the Maple Leaf -- Wendel Clark, Doug Gilmour, Dave Keon, Mats Sundin, just to name a few.

Jarome Iginla and Daniel Alfredsson have since moved on, but their legacies were created with the Flames and Senators, respectively.

Trevor Linden is back with the Canucks as team president, but his playing days might have made the biggest impact in Vancouver.

The Jets are a two-part question because a large part of their history now belongs to the Coyotes and the rest comes from the Thrashers.

Lastly, Wayne Gretzky is the obvious choice for the Oilers, but can anyone top The Great One?

Now it's time for you to vote. Who is the most important player for each Canadian team?

You can cast your ballot in three ways: in the comments section below, through our Facebook page, or hit us up on Twitter @ESPN_NHL using the hashtag #ESPNplayerNHL.


There is something equally perfect and sad about the Vancouver Canucks ponying up $6 million a year for three years for goalie Ryan Miller.

If you believe in things like karma -- or just weirdness -- then maybe this was how it was all supposed to work out for one of the NHL’s most mercurial franchises. Not that you’d have imagined this a year ago, when the Canucks had two top-end goaltenders in Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider.

Of course, the team for whom dysfunction didn’t become just a word but a way of life didn’t manage to hang onto either one, trading Schneider for the eighth overall pick in the 2013 draft, and sending Luongo to Florida at the trade deadline for a marginal goalie in Jacob Markstrom and marginal winger in Shawn Matthias.

That left them with Eddie Lack, who showed only hints that he could be the Canucks' goaltender of the future, as they missed the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.

Since then, general manager Mike Gillis was given the heave-ho, as was John Tortorella after his first season as the coach. And they were replaced by president Trevor Linden, Jim Benning as GM and Willie Desjardins as coach, who curiously turned down a chance to coach Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And then there was Miller, the former Vezina Trophy winner and MVP of the 2010 Olympics in (where else?) Vancouver. Miller was acquired at great expense by the St. Louis Blues from Buffalo at the trade deadline in the hopes that he might help them erase decades of Stanley Cup frustration.

But after the Blues went up 2-0 in their first-round series against Chicago, they lost four straight, with Miller turning in just adequate performances in allowing 12 goals in the final three losses. It was a performance that brought his tenure in St. Louis to an abrupt end and sent him to the free-agent market with his reputation in need of some serious rehabbing.

Will that get done in Vancouver?

Well, it would make for some serious storytelling if Miller is somehow able to resuscitate the Canucks’ flagging fortunes, what with center Ryan Kesler gone after demanding a trade, and the team in a definite state of flux and rebuilding.

Just as Luongo is being counted on to somehow lift the Panthers back to respectability in the Eastern Conference, Miller will get a chance to show that his turn in St. Louis was a blip on the radar and that he has the goods to help an average team be so much more.


So imagine for a minute that Ryan Kesler was wearing an Anaheim Ducks jersey this past spring. Do the Ducks prevail over a Los Angeles Kings team they had on the ropes but couldn’t quite put down?

Maybe it’s a moot point, but in our books the answer is yes, the Ducks win that series. And then? We know how the Kings finished up the playoffs, beating Chicago in a seven-game thriller and then storming through the New York Rangers in a five-game series that ended with the Kings’ second Stanley Cup in three years.

Could such glory be within reach of the Ducks now that they have acquired the highly sought-after Vancouver center?

[+] EnlargeRyan Kesler
AP Photo/Chris SzagolaRyan Kesler, who is coming off a 25-goal season for the Canucks, has two years remaining on a six-year, $30 million deal.
Again, a moot point perhaps. But what isn’t moot, not after Friday afternoon’s pre-draft blockbuster trade between the Ducks and the Canucks, is that Kesler is now a Duck and the balance of power in the mighty Western Conference and in hockey’s toughest division (Pacific Division) has shifted, and perhaps more than a little.

There will always be durability issues with Kesler, who asked out of Vancouver as the Canucks embark on a remaking of what not so long ago was the top regular season club in the NHL. But when he’s healthy -- and he was for most of last season -- Kesler is among the premier two-way centers in the game. The former Frank J. Selke Trophy winner is the prototypical 200-foot player, hard to play against and blessed with excellent offensive skills that saw him collect 148 point between 2009 and 2011.

Playing behind Hart Trophy finalist Ryan Getzlaf as the Ducks’ No. 2 center, Kesler gives the Ducks the one-two punch they will need to traverse the rocky Western Conference playoff road, the kind of punch they lacked against the Kings this past spring.

Immediately after the trade was announced, there was condemnation on social media for the return new Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning realized in trading Kesler. But in obtaining Nick Bonino, the Canucks got an emerging center who should fit in nicely behind Henrik Sedin in the Canucks' lineup. The 26-year-old had a breakthrough year last season with 22 goals and added four more in 13 postseason games.

Defenseman Luca Sbisa also went in the deal, as did the Ducks’ 24th overall pick in Friday night’s draft, plus the teams swapped third-round picks. Sbisa has not developed the way the Ducks hoped when they acquired him in another draft day deal with Philadelphia in 2009 for defenseman Chris Pronger.

Could the Canucks have gotten more for a player of Kesler’s caliber?

Tough when Kesler held all the cards in this situation with a no-trade clause that essentially left the Canucks with only two teams to deal with: Anaheim and Chicago.

And kudos to Anaheim GM Bob Murray, who gave up a lot but still managed to keep core youngsters like defenseman Sami Vatanen, Devante Smith-Pelly and Emerson Etem. He also managed to acquire a player in Kesler who, at 29, is still in his prime and has two years left on a contract with a very cap-friendly $5 million annual cap hit.

Speaking of Chicago, the Blackhawks have been scouring the NHL landscape looking for a second-line center to fall in behind Jonathan Toews on their depth chart as they too were over-matched by the Kings down the middle in the conference finals. Missing out on Kesler is a blow, but it also means they will no doubt redouble their efforts to impress free agent center Paul Stastny and/or take a run at Ottawa center Jason Spezza, who has asked to be traded out of the Canadian capital.

The much-anticipated Kesler deal has the potential to drive up Ottawa GM Bryan Murray’s asking price, as the options for teams looking for help down the middle have now been greatly diminished.

One thing's for sure: With the Kesler domino falling, what many believed would be a wild and woolly draft weekend got off to a roaring early start.
UPDATED: 6:04 p.m. ET

The Ryan Kesler trade talks have taken an interesting twist on the eve of the NHL draft’s first round.

Sources around the NHL have told ESPN.com that the list of teams pursuing Kesler has grown over the past 24 hours.

We reporter earlier this week that Anaheim and Chicago were the two known front-runners on a short list. But it appears more teams have tried to jump into the race.

The question is, will Kesler allow them to? Armed with his no-trade clause, Kesler controls his destination and may not approve of some of these teams.

Stay tuned.

STASTNY UPDATE
The No. 1 center on the unrestricted free-agent market continued to generate a lot of interest on Day 2 of the window to talk to free agents, and as of late Thursday afternoon around 15 NHL teams had communicated in one way or another with Paul Stastny's camp led by agent Matt Keator.

We reported Wednesday that the St. Louis Blues were among the inquisitive teams, add the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks to the long list of teams that have checked in on the Stastny camp. The Jets could certainly use a top-six center and their interest in Stastny is said to be quite legitimate. The Blackhawks have spoken to Vancouver about Ryan Kesler in their search for a No. 2 center. Imagine Stastny centering Patrick Kane? Problem is, not really sure how the Hawks could afford Stastny under their cap when you consider that the Stastny camp is telling clubs they don’t intend on taking a pay cut from the $6.66 million a year the Team USA Olympian was making on his expiring contract.

For the Blackhawks, the more people you talk to around the league the past few days, the more you hear about Chicago making calls and looking at a number of different scenarios. They might very well be an active team here over the next seven to 10 days.

However this process plays out for Stastny -- likely going right to July 1 -- the Stastny camp will certainly circle back to the Colorado Avalanche to give them a chance to improve their offer and try to retain Stastny.

WILD IDEAS
A year ago the Minnesota Wild had so little cap room they had to essentially sit on the sidelines while the free-agent market played itself out.

Now with the cap going up plus Dany Heatley’s $7.5 million hit coming off the books, GM Chuck Fletcher can get back in the game.

"Yes, it’s nice to be able to get involved more, I spoke with several agents yesterday," Fletcher told ESPN.com on Thursday morning.

Fletcher would not say who he spoke to, but a separate source confirmed he had spoken with, among others, agent Steve Bartlett, who represents UFA winger Thomas Vanek. Whether or not that gets done -- as so many have been predicting for a year -- remains to be seen. I think it’s really going to depend on term, not sure the Wild want another super long-term deal on their books. If Vanek signs in Minnesota, it’s not for more than three or four years in my estimation.

As of late Thursday afternoon, we’re told eight to 10 teams had communicated some level of interest in Vanek, although at this point I’d rate about four teams with series interest.

While Fletcher would not comment on specific UFA targets, he did identify general needs.

"If we don’t re-sign [winger] Matt Moulson and [defenseman] Clayton Stoner, then we have to replace those players," Fletcher said of his two pending UFAs. "In an ideal world, we’re looking for a guy who can chip in offensively up front and a fifth/sixth defenseman. Obviously there’s options in both those areas where the price tag might vary a little bit."

It doesn’t sound very probable for Moulson to re-sign.

"I think he’s got to look at what the best fit for him is. We do, too," Fletcher said. "I think it’s fair to say both sides are looking at what’s out there."

Elsewhere:
  • Veteran agent Don Meehan and his Newport Sports team met Thursday with Montreal Canadiens management regarding RFA star blueliner P.K. Subban. There have been people speculating about a possible offer sheet but that appears to be a waste of time, a Habs source telling ESPN.com that the club would match it in no time.
  • The Edmonton Oilers acquired and signed defenseman Nikita Nikitin on Wednesday but they’re far from done. Or hope not to be. A source says the Oilers still want to acquire another established defenseman and also upgrade at center.
  • Matt Niskanen, one of the top UFA defensemen, informed the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday that he was going to the July 1 market to see what’s out there.

    "Matt has decided to see what the free-agent market is," Niskanen’s agent, Neil Sheehy, told ESPN.com on Thursday. "He’ll make a decision after he’s seen all the teams interested and decide what’s the right fit. Pittsburgh isn’t out by any means, but I think where the market is going to be and what they’ll be able to do is going to be a contrast. So we’ll see where this all leads."
  • Former Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr. will be joining the Boston Bruins front office, a source told ESPN.com. Ferguson has been with the San Jose Sharks for a number of years.


John Stevens knew he had a decent shot at being a head coach again, and most of the rest of the hockey world did, too.

It’s believed the Vancouver Canucks, Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins, for example, would have wanted to chat with him as part of their coaching searches.

But the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Sticking with a Stanley Cup champion isn’t such a bad thing, and the Los Angeles Kings made sure staying was a really good thing by promoting Stevens on Wednesday from assistant coach to associate head coach (read: pay raise).

[+] EnlargeJohn Stevens
Abelimages/Getty ImagesJohn Stevens stayed with the Kings because he's happy, not because of a succession plan.
And with that, a fairly hot name was taken off the coaching market.

"I think the promotion, the confidence the organization has shown in me, they pulled me off the scrap heap and brought me out here four years ago, I feel indebted for that," Stevens told ESPN.com Wednesday night.

"But I love being part of this group. I’ve never been in a hurry to move on to something else. I was more than willing to put my time in the minors because I loved what I was doing. And to me it’s not about the next step always, it’s about being with good people and doing what you love to do. That’s certainly my situation right now and that’s why I chose to stay."

He’ll be a head coach again one day in the NHL, just not now.

"I think I’ll get those opportunities one day, but it’s not something I wake up thinking about," Stevens said. "I love to coach, and I love being in a position where we have a chance to win, and we certainly have that here."

We talk a lot about championship teams trying to keep their players together, but it’s just as important to keep the front office and coaching staff together.

On May 9, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi promoted Mike Futa to vice president of hockey operations and director of player personnel, a step up from co-director of amateur scouting. The Buffalo Sabres earlier in the season (before they hired Tim Murray as GM) and the Canucks this spring (before they hired Jim Benning as GM) had sought permission to talk with Futa. The Canucks never got to. Lombardi made sure of it with the promotion.

Now he’s done the same with Stevens.

It tells you a lot, too, about coach Darryl Sutter. Stevens had been brought to L.A. four years ago to work alongside coach Terry Murray.

"And that was terrific working with Terry again," said Stevens, who worked with Murray in Philadelphia.

When Murray was fired midway though the 2011-12 season, Sutter inherited Stevens. That’s not always a great situation, but the two veteran coaches formed a solid relationship, evidenced by Stevens’ decision to stay put.

"You get to know Darryl, he’s just an honest man, right?" Stevens said. "There’s no B.S. with Darryl. If you’re committed to winning and committed to doing everything for the team to help them win, I think you’ll get along fine with Darryl."

One of the popular theories out there is that Stevens stayed put because there’s some sort of succession plan for him to eventually replace Sutter as coach. Not so, Stevens said.

"I stayed because I wanted to stay with this group in my current role -- period," he said.

A Kings front office source also said that no such plan exists, that this was simply Sutter and the Kings wanting to keep Stevens -- and the feeling was very much mutual.

Elsewhere ...

-- Talks between Paul Stastny’s camp and the Colorado Avalanche are expected to continue next week in Las Vegas at the annual NHL awards. Stastny is a pending unrestricted free agent and easily would be the top center available on the July 1 market. The Avs also have the Ryan O'Reilly contract situation on their hands (he’s a restricted free agent and the team elected club arbitration on him), so there’s a few hot potatoes the Avs are juggling right now.

-- The Florida Panthers continue to entertain inquiries for their first overall pick for next week’s draft.

"We've had one, maybe two, concrete offers," Panthers GM Dale Tallon told ESPN.com. "About 8-10 teams have showed interest but at this point nothing I would do. We'll see what happens next week."

Tallon also said he hoped to have a new coach in place by Monday. Gerard Gallant, Tom Renney, Dan Bylsma and Marc Crawford are among the candidates.


LOS ANGELES -- The latest scuttlebutt on who's going where and why as another big season of free agency approaches:

Kesler-Spezza-Thornton Update
It has the potential to be quite the offseason when it comes to high-profile centers changing teams.

We always say top centers don’t grow on trees and are hard to come by; well, there are at least two on the market in Ryan Kesler and Jason Spezza and it remains to be seen how it plays out on the Joe Thornton front.

First, in Vancouver, where the Canucks went a fair ways down the road in trade talks involving Kesler before the March 5 trade deadline, in particular with the Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins, before deciding the offers weren’t good enough and pulling him back.

The question is, what’s the deal with him now given the new management in place in Vancouver?

Sources said new Canucks GM Jim Benning has already taken calls from teams on Kesler, if for no other reason than they’re wondering if he’s still available or not.

He is, but the price remains high.

Kesler has two more years on his deal at a reasonable $5 million cap hit and will be a hot commodity again if Vancouver steps up trade efforts.
My sense is that the Canucks, in any package, would want both an asset who can help them right now (preferably a center) plus future assets. And, yes, I think Kesler still wants out of Vancouver. TSN colleague Darren Dreger reported Friday that it's believed Kesler has a list of six teams he’d be willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to.

Spezza, with a year left on his deal, indicated to Senators management that he would welcome a change if a deal that makes sense comes Ottawa’s way. I suspect talks will heat up on that front closer to the draft later this month.

And, in San Jose, the Sharks have indicated they are entering a rebuilding mode. What does that mean for Joe Thornton, who signed a three-year extension earlier this season? Does he want to be around for a rebuild? Either way, Thornton holds all the cards with a no-movement clause. Same goes for Patrick Marleau, for that matter.

Hawks Talks Update
Agent Pat Brisson has had preliminary discussions with Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman regarding new deals for stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, although the meaty stuff still has yet to happen.

[+] EnlargePatrick Kane, Jonathan Toews
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe agent for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews hopes to get extensions done for his players by July 1.
"I have spoken with Stan a few times already, we’ve obviously talked about extending both players," Brisson told ESPN.com Friday. "We’re working to get something done by July 1, if possible."

Both stars are a year away from unrestricted free agency. Under the terms of the CBA, players can sign extensions one year out as of July 1.

They’ve each got one more year at $6.3 million per season and obviously will be getting lucrative raises in their new deals.

Callanan-Vanek-Gionta Update
Veteran agent Steve Bartlett will be a busy man over the next few weeks with pending UFAs Ryan Callahan, Thomas Vanek and Brian Gionta, among others, to deal with.

On Callahan, Bartlett said Friday that talks remain ongoing with the Tampa Bay Lightning regarding the possibility of a new deal.

"Talks are well-intentioned by both parties, so we’ll see if we can get something done or not. But I can’t handicap at this point," Bartlett told ESPN.com.

Vanek, as has been the case since the beginning, remains slated to hit free agency July 1.

"I don’t think anything has changed there," said Bartlett.

As for the Habs captain, Gionta, there will be talks with Montreal.

"The team has reached out and said they’d definitely want Brian back," said Bartlett. "It’s a matter of whether the role for the player and the dollars are still a match. We’ll have those discussions with Montreal between now and July 1."

The Latest In Carolina
I think had Jim Rutherford stayed on as GM in Carolina, he would have entertained offers for captain Eric Staal. That doesn’t mean he would have moved him, but I think he would have listened rather intently.

I don’t get the sense that’s the case with new Hurricanes GM Ron Francis. What I’m hearing from talking to other teams is that Francis has not put Staal out there whatsoever.

On the coaching front, Francis has been busy, according to sources, already interviewing about half a dozen candidates, and that number might get all the way up to 10 before he’s done. The idea is to get someone in place before the draft.

Jacques Martin is among those who has interviewed with Carolina, and we’re hearing Francis will want to speak with New York Rangers assistant Ulf Samuelsson (a former teammate) after New York’s season is over.
The offseason activity is beginning to pick up around the league as the games wind down. We made a few phone calls Wednesday to catch up on a few interesting situations around the league:
  • Now that Jim Benning was officially announced as Canucks GM, the search will be on for a head coach in Vancouver. Barry Trotz will likely be among the top candidates. The well-respected bench boss, who was Nashville's coach for 17 years, has already met with the Washington Capitals, and word is he’s also going to meet with the Florida Panthers about their coaching vacancy.

    The Canucks, by the way, sped up the process on Benning once Pittsburgh fired GM Ray Shero on Friday, apparently fearful that the Penguins would be all over Benning, Boston’s assistant GM.
  • Speaking of the Penguins, after mega-agent Pat Brisson turned down Pittsburgh’s overtures to fill the GM void, the search continues. Six or seven candidates are in play as of Wednesday, two being Tampa Bay assistant GM Julien BriseBois and Chicago Blackhawks assistant GM Norm Maciver. Don’t have a feel yet for who’s the front-runner but those are two of the guys who will get a look at the very least.
  • Despite repeated reports linking Wayne Gretzky to Washington, it doesn’t sound as though The Great One and the Capitals are a match at this point. Whether it’s for president of hockey operations or another high-end executive job, at this hour, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. Which is too bad, because No. 99 in that kind of role would be a great asset. The Maple Leafs talked to Gretzky about a similar role last summer but talks didn’t produce a deal. That job went to Brendan Shanahan last month.
  • Sticking with the Caps, one industry source (not a Caps source) believed Wednesday that Washington will most likely reach out to fired Penguins GM Ray Shero at some point. It’s believed Paul Fenton (Preds assistant GM) and Don Sweeney (Bruins assistant GM) are among other candidates in the mix for the GM job.
  • And finally, where will Ryan Miller land? The decision by the St. Louis Blues to not try to re-sign him after a first-round playoff exit was probably a mutual decision anyway. It means Miller is headed to the July 1 unrestricted free agency market for the first time in his career, which was pretty much always the plan. He’s been linked for almost a year to the Anaheim Ducks, perhaps because Miller’s wife, Noureen DeWulf, is an actress, so the fit would certainly work from that perspective. But a source told ESPN.com Wednesday that the Ducks have decided to stick with the kids in net, John Gibson and Frederik Andersen, and do not plan on courting Miller. You can also rule out fellow California club San Jose. The word out of there is that the Sharks are going to continue to focus on their mini-rebuild and it’s about youth for them. Adding veteran players is not in the cards in San Jose.
BOSTON -- With Bruins assistant general manager Jim Benning set to be named the new general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, his absence will leave a void in Boston’s hockey operations staff.

Benning, 51, has been critical to the Bruins’ success during his eight years in the organization. He spent the past seven years as the assistant general manager and was an integral part of the team’s Stanley Cup success in 2011. He's helped general manager Peter Chiarelli build a perennial Cup contender in Boston.

One of Chiarelli’s confidants, Benning, along with fellow assistant GM Don Sweeney, has spent his entire life in the game and is known for his hockey knowledge and ability to scout, draft and help develop talent.

Under Chiarelli’s guidance and with input from Benning, the Bruins have drafted the likes of defenseman Dougie Hamilton, goaltender Malcolm Subban and forwards Tyler Seguin, Jordan Caron, Ryan Spooner and Justin Florek. With the exception of Subban, who remains in Providence of the AHL, all have made separate contributions to the Bruins’ success.

Benning was also part of the hockey operations staff that helped Chiarelli decide to trade Seguin, who was the team’s first-round pick (second overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, to the Dallas Stars on July 4, 2013. Collectively, Chiarelli’s staff agreed the talented forward did not fit the Bruins’ philosophy and culture and a change was needed.

Benning was part of the decision process on what the Bruins received in return from the Stars, which included forwards Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser and defenseman Joe Morrow.

It wasn’t a surprise when that the Buffalo Sabres wanted to interview Benning for the GM job when they cleaned house during the middle of this season. Prior to his arrival in Boston, Benning spent 12 seasons in the Sabres organization, including eight as the team’s director of amateur scouting. Bruins team president Cam Neely and Chiarelli gave Benning permission to interview for that position with Buffalo. Eventually, the Sabres hired Tim Murray for the GM position.

Benning is regarded around the league as a top hockey mind, and if given the necessary resources in Vancouver, he will be able to clean up the Canucks, a team he played for during his career.

With Benning leaving Boston, Chiarelli has plenty of qualified internal candidates to replace Benning. Current director of player personnel, Scott Bradley, has spent 21 seasons with the Bruins. He’s held his current post for the last five years. Bradley spent 11 seasons as the organization’s director of amateur scouting.

Here's the standard pattern when NHL coaches are hired: The new coach sits at a table or stands at a podium and describes how he wants to correct the mistakes of his predecessor, or outlines his philosophies and how he sees good things ahead for Team A or B or J. And then the first question the fan or the radio host wants to know is: Is he a good fit?

It's a great throwaway question and it's likewise prompts a great throwaway answer. But it's at the heart of whether the hire is a good one or not, and there is no way to know when the man is standing at the podium or sitting at the table whether or not it will be a fit. After doing all their due diligence about work ethic, planning and other tangible things, ultimately general managers make a decision based on their gut as to whether the new man will take his new charges places his predecessor couldn't go.

Peter Laviolette
Well, we can do that too: Use our gut to look at the tumbleweed of coaching stories rolling across the NHL prairie. And for what it's worth, we agree with David Poile's gut feeling that Peter Laviolette, a veteran of the hockey wars at many levels, was the right guy for the Predators. Now, some of those wars Laviolette's won spectacularly, and in some he’s been vanquished. We have watched him excel in Carolina, where he taught them the "forever" value of a Stanley Cup championship in 2006, and we've watched him in tough places such as Philadelphia, where he somehow managed to guide an odd collection of the aging and the punkish to the Stanley Cup finals in 2010 -- a run that included a historic comeback from a 3-0 series deficit against Boston. Those are the kinds of experiences that will put Laviolette in good stead in Nashville. It will not shock us at all if the Preds are back in the postseason next spring, provided Pekka Rinne stays healthy in goal. We're pretty sure Poile's gut told him the same thing.

John Stevens
By a show of hands, who doesn't think John Stevens will be behind an NHL bench as head coach somewhere next season? Right now, the question is whether the current Los Angeles Kings assistant has another Stanley Cup ring to box up when he makes the move. Last summer, Stevens’ name was mentioned as a possible successor to Alain Vigneault in Vancouver, but we know how that turned out. Now that John Tortorella has been dispatched by new hockey boss Trevor Linden, many think Stevens is a natural to fill that void. We do too, but it was ownership that steered former GM Mike Gillis away from Stevens and in Tortorella's direction, so through no fault of his own, is Stevens too close to the former regime? Just asking. What might make all this super simple is if Laurence Gillman, the assistant GM to Gillis, gets the job as GM, as he would have been privy to the thought process heading into last offseason and would presumably be a good fit with Stevens (see, there’s that term again).

Barry Trotz
Lots of people have linked Barry Trotz to the Vancouver job, although it appears Trotz would like a smaller-market franchise. Hard to imagine a place where Trotz wouldn’t be a good fit, but let's say that Vancouver doesn't work out, wouldn't it be interesting to see how the longtime Nashville Predators bench boss looked behind the Florida Panthers bench? Lots of good young talent there and Trotz is both demanding and a natural teacher. This is a team that needs to move forward and, with Roberto Luongo in theory providing the Panthers stability in goal for the first time in a number of seasons, the expectations should be high for this team next season. Trotz has been through those kinds of situations many times over the years in Nashville, and we think he has the perfect personality for that job and the tools that GM Dale Tallon has assembled in Florida.

Kirk Muller, Kevin Dineen, Adam Oates
It's not much of a surprise that new Carolina GM Ron Francis cut ties with Kirk Muller after the Canes missed the playoffs again. They haven’t been to the dance since their surprise run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2009. Muller was the "it" guy a few years back after he was considered a key piece of the Montreal Canadiens’ coaching staff when they shocked Washington and Pittsburgh en route to the 2010 Eastern Conference finals. Muller, who spent five years as an assistant coach with the Habs, had 17 games of head-coaching experience (with Milwaukee of the American Hockey League) before the Hurricanes swooped him up to replace Paul Maurice. But the Canes were never really a factor in the playoff hunt in the parts of three seasons Muller coached there. Now, Francis must find a coach who can get more from Eric and Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin, and figure out how to improve a team that went from 25th to 19th in goals allowed per game last season but still has miles to go defensively to be a playoff team. Kevin Dineen, who did wonders in getting Florida to the playoffs in 2012, is an obvious candidate, but what about a cerebral guy such as Adam Oates? Sure, things didn't end up the way anyone wanted in Washington, but you can't argue against the production that Oates got out of Alex Ovechkin, at least offensively. Carolina had the 28th-ranked power play this season, and that’s right up Oates’ alley too, as the Caps were second overall with the man advantage.

Wayne Gretzky?
Speaking of Washington, no real traction to the idea that Wayne Gretzky might end up in Washington in a president of hockey operations kind of role, especially given that it's not entirely clear whether owner Ted Leonsis is even considering such a position (Leonsis did not return an email seeking comment). But let's imagine for a minute that's the route he goes; why wouldn’t it make sense to have a guy like Gretzky at the top of your hockey food chain? This isn’t about gimmickry or glad-handing or publicity appearances, but making use of one of the greatest hockey minds of all time. Not sure we see Gretzky in a GM role, which is also open in Washington, but in terms of assessing the value of players and the elements that go into making a successful organization, you can’t imagine Gretzky wouldn’t be a wealth of information for any team. And of course, who wouldn’t want to see the dynamic between the greatest player of all time and one of the greatest yet most polarizing players of this generation in Ovechkin? There's nothing to suggest that it’ll actually happen, but it doesn’t stop us from pining for such a hockey meeting of the minds.

Randy Carlyle
And, finally, we keep hearing that perhaps the Toronto Maple Leafs are nearing a decision on whether to bring back Randy Carlyle as head coach. We understand new president Brendan Shanahan needs to do his due diligence but, as we noted, won’t it all come down to gut for Shanahan and presumably GM Dave Nonis? Does it not come down to the basic question of whether management believes that Carlyle can return to the Leafs dressing room next fall after their precipitous fall from grace down the stretch and command the respect needed to return to the playoffs next spring? Yes, the Leafs are a young team that's still learning. Was this collapse just another part of the learning process? And is Carlyle the man who can help them learn from it, just as he was supposed to help them learn from their collapse in Game 7 against Boston in the first round of the 2013 playoffs? From our perspective, it’s hard to imagine that there would be enough confidence in that room to move the team forward if Carlyle returns. And the quality of people available would be the tipping point for us. Regardless of what happens, Shanahan and the rest of the management team owe Carlyle an answer one way or the other, and sooner rather than later.

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