With free agency pretty much over around the league, it’s pretty obvious that the Dallas Stars have a radically different looking team. A squad that was one point away from the playoffs last season had no choice but to change up their roster after the departure of Brad Richards. Dallas got a deeper, tougher team to put onto the ice next season, but what about their division rivals? What moves did the other teams in the Pacific Division make?
Anaheim was one of the most quiet teams during free agency this year. They only completed five deals, two were re-signings, and they were all of the underwhelming variety. New to the Ducks are RW Andrew Gordon, LW Jean-Francois Jacques and D Bryan Rodney. Back with the Ducks are RW Brian McGratton and D Sean Zimmerman. Your guess is as good as mine as to who exactly these guys are. Regardless, these guys will be nothing more than extra depth to a Ducks roster that is loaded with talent as the core of their team is still with them.
Two players signed deals with other teams instead of coming back to the Ducks. Those two guys, F Josh Green (Edmonton) and D Andreas Lilja (Philadelphia), provided very little to the Ducks anyway so it’s no loss for Anaheim that they are gone.
Anaheim still has a couple of interesting free agents on their roster. They’re waiting on Teemu Selanne to figure out whether or not he wants to retire and it looks like Anaheim is choosing not to re-sign Ray Emery. Emery did pretty well in a fill-in role as goalie, but with Dan Ellis around and presumably Jonas Hiller returning from his concussion/vertigo, whatever it was, Anaheim looks set at the goaltender position. Expect pretty much the exact same Ducks team as last year, with reigning Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry leading the way.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings were one of the most active teams in free agency this year, perhaps second only to Philadelphia. LA struggled down the stretch of last season with their offense when they lost Anze Kopitar so it’s pretty obvious that they went into this offseason looking for offensive playmakers. They made one of the biggest signings when they inked Simon Gagne to a 2 year, $7 million deal and were involved a high-profile trade where they sent Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn to the Flyers in return for then-Flyers captain Mike Richards. If all works out for the Kings, offense should not be the problem this year.
Aside from the guys that they sent away in the trade, LA also lost Michael Handzus to the San Jose Sharks. Handzus played in every game for the Kings last season and he would probably be missed, but the addition of Mike Richards more than makes up for that. The Kings didn’t lose anyone else of significance although defenseman Drew Doughty is still an un-signed restricted free agent.
Despite their ownership troubles, Phoenix was very busy in free agency. Without the funds to sign Ilya Bryzgalov, they shipped him off to the Flyers for a draft pick and then searched in the market for their goalie. They ended up signing former Stars and Lightning goalie Mike Smith to a 2 year, $3.5 million deal in the hopes that he could turn into a legitimate number one goalie for their team. They also signed Raffi Torres away from the Vancouver Canucks, perhaps only to annoy every other team in the league to death when they put him out on the ice.
The best thing that Phoenix probably did was who they re-signed, namely Keith Yandle to a 5 year, $26.25 million contract. Yandle is one of the best young D-men in the league and making him the focal point of their team was only right. They also kept Radim Vrbata, one of their better wingers.
The Coyotes did lose a few guys in free agency. D-man Ed Jovanovski bolted for the Florida Panthers and Vernon Fiddler signed a contract with the Stars. Losing Bryzgalov was a huge blow to the team so I wouldn’t expect Phoenix to be as good as last year.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks were, pardon the pun, in a frenzy during free agency this year. They made two of the biggest trades of the offseason by sending Devin Setoguchi, a recently re-signed Setoguchi, and Dany Heatley (as well as a couple of highly touted prospects) in seperate deals to the Minnesota Wild for Brent Burns and Martin Havlat. They definitely shored up their defense by getting Burns and Havlat is just as good, if not better, than Heatley. Signing D-man Jim Vandermeer away from Edmonton and C Michael Handzus away from the Kings helps with their depth.
They did lose a couple a guys though. Ben Eager left for the Oilers and D-man Ian White is now going to play in Detroit. All-in-all though, it looks like a good offseason for the Sharks. If this team can develop a chemistry together quickly with all of these new parts, they will be well on their well to repeating as the Pacific Division winners.