Central Division Review -Free Agency Frenzy

*As of July 3rd 2018* 

Chicago Blackhawks –

Cam Ward (G), Chris Kunitz (F), Brandon Manning (D).

The Blues division rivals had one of their worst seasons in the better part of a decade. Whether it is a good or a bad thing, the Hawks have chosen to not overreact and simply add a few depth pieces to their roster. When starting goaltender, Corey Crawford, went down, it was all she wrote for Chicago’s season. Adding veteran goaltender Cam Ward helps to ease some nerves in Chicago, but does not pose a serious threat as the 34 year old net-minder has not posted at least a .915 save percentage since the  2011-12 season. I expect the Hawks to still compete this season, but we could be seeing another year of the Hawks near the bottom of the pile that is the ‘Battle Royale’ Central Division.

Colorado Avalanche – 

Ian Cole (D), Matt Calvert (F)

The Avalanche certainly surprised the masses last year with one of the biggest point total changes in NHL history (48 point difference) from year to year. The Avalanche do not look like they need to make many serious changes with a good amount of youth in Tyson Jost, JT Compher, and co. maturing and entering into their second seasons. The Avalanche are still in need of a another centerman as we see just how important having a 1-2 punch down the middle is in this league. The addition of former Blues defenseman Ian Cole will help balance out their defense behind an already impressive blue line that boasts Nikita  Zadorov, Tyson Barrie, Samuel Girard and former St. Louis Blues first overall draft pick, Erik Johnson. I’m looking for the Avalanche to continue to push the envelope this season and fight for another playoff spot.

Dallas Stars – 

Joel Hanley (D), Michael Mersch (F),  Roman Polak (D), Anton Khudobin (G), Blake Comeau (F), Erik Condra (F), Valeri Nichuskin (F)

The Stars have been in need of depth at every position for the last two seasons and they are starting to address it. Replacing longtime goaltender Kari Lehtonen with veteran backup Anton Khudobin will be a good change of pace and a reliable backup behind Ben Bishop. Bringing 23 year old forward, Valeri Nichuskin, back to Dallas, along with veteran defenseman Roman Polak, the Dallas Stars are hoping to relieve some pressure off of their top line and roll four scoring threat lines, while offering Bishop some relief in net. The Stars on paper have looked like a Contender the last few years, but have come up short in the playoffs. However, until they are able to get players like Martin Hanzel and Jason Spezza either off of their team or they start producing, 2/4 of the Stars Centermen are not doing anything to help the cause.

Minnesota Wild – 

JT Brown (F), Greg Pateryn (D), Mike Liambas (F), Andrew Hammond (G), Eric Fehr (F), Matt Hendricks (F), Matt Bartkowski (D), Nick Seeler (D)

It took me a little while to see what direction I was going to take with the Wild. On one hand, the have a very competitive roster that has often given the Blues fits. On the other hand, they are at a crossroads and a need to shake things up. They currently still are needing to lock up two of their key pieces in Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba. However, like the Dallas Stars, they are also facing salary cap, production, AND health issues from Zach Parise. Like the Dallas Stars, on paper, this team should be a contender. For some reason, they just can’t seem to put it together during the postseason. The hopeful addition of depth players JT Brown, Eric Fehr, and Matt Hendricks are decent depth signings with very little cap space spent. However, the only real notable signing so far for the Wild has been former Dallas defenseman, Greg Pateryn. Unless the Wild can do something else to shake up their squad, I’m expecting them to be on the outside looking in once more this year.

Nashville Predators –

Connor Brickley (F), Rocco Grimaldi (F), Jarred Tinordi (D), Zac Rinaldo (F)

The Nashville Predators…is there much to say after a lack of movement from this team this offseason? The team has pushed for a Stanley Cup the last two seasons and has came very close to achieving that goal both times. They’re a freight train straight outta Hell and lets make this short and sweet. The Predators again (barring some sort of freak, unpredictable story), will be pushing for the top team in the NHL next year. Not much needs to be changed and their youth is only maturing with every minute they spend training and time on ice. The Predators will challenge the Blues every minute of every shift, but, then again, so will the Blues.

St. Louis Blues – 

Tyler Bozak (F), Chad Johnson (G), David Perron (F), (trade) Ryan O’Reilly (F)

July 1st started out with a lot of “hmmm okay…”, “alright….” “wait…what?” statements from fans. However, when GM Doug Armstrong made his trade for Centerman, Ryan O’Reilly, Blues Nation saw hope once more. Due to the flooded pages already of O’Reilly news and reviews, lets skip to the others. The addition of Chad Johnson in net is a very sneaky, low cost addition that should see plenty of ice time should Jake struggle in net. Adding a reliable two-way Centerman in Tyler Bozak certainly helps for the inevitable injury bug that can and will strike the team. Bozak is not a 1C that fans were hoping to get before the unexpected trade, but certainly a valuable 2nd / 3rd line Center and special teams addition. The return (again) of David Perron to St. Louis is an interesting, low cost addition for the Blues. Hoping to find another 66 point season, the Blues are finding themselves once again hopeful for a playoff berth and (Lord willing), a Stanley Cup contention season.

Winnipeg Jets – 

Laurent Brossoit (G), Dennis Everberg (F), Seth Griffith (F), Cam Schilling (D)

Like the Nashville Predators, the Jets have not made any big moves yet this offseason. Moving goaltenders Steve Mason brought hope that the club would be able to resign Paul Stastny. However, the loss is not as drastic as they still have Center, Brian Little able to hold down the fort and still produce at a level that the Jets need. Winnipeg is sitting pretty currently with their depth and should pose a lot of challenging games for St. Louis. The big question that faces this club at this point is: “how much will their restricted free agents cost?” The Jets are currently looking at negotiations with seven (!) players including defenseman, Jacob Trouba, and star goaltender, Connor Hellebuyk. Pending their contracts, this could present future cap constraints on the club and leave them with little to no wiggle room for upcoming free agent additions.

 

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