San Jose's major upgrade, Smyth returns home, the slow burn in Calgary, and some free agency predictions.
1. The winner of the draft day trades – San Jose. They did the best to improve their biggest weakness – mobility and offense from the back end. I tweeted this same thought and had numerous replies stating that Burns was a poor defensive defenseman and the Sharks failed to address their defensive play with the trade. To me, a good defensive team is one that has the puck a lot (Detroit, Vancouver).
Burns is a fantastic skating defenseman and he moves the puck very well. San Jose, aside from Dan Boyle, lacked a true puck moving defenseman this past season (Jason Demers and Justin Braun aren't there yet). As any NHL forward (heck, any forward at any level) – there is a considerable difference between receiving the puck on the tape compared to trying to pick it up off the boards. Burns will boost San Jose’s offense in a big, big way. He’s also playing for a new contract after the 2011-12 season.
I made the reference a few years ago with the Edmonton Oilers. Would you fill a Ferrari (a talented forward group that San Jose has) with the cheap gas (Kent Huskins, Niclas Wallin, and so on)?
2. I enjoyed reading Dobber’s take on the upheaval in Philadelphia. It changed my opinion a bit, which doesn’t happen often. The Flyers traded away the best player in each deal, but they did get great value in return. There is a lot of pressure on Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk to emerge as the offensive leaders – Giroux is definitely ready, and van Riemsdyk had a coming out party in the postseason. Danny Briere is also extremely underrated as an NHL star.
3. Interesting to note that the four “old city” boys are all gone – Richards, Carter, Scottie Upshall, and Joffrey Lupul (five, if you include Luca Sbisa). No player (even Richards, who bled Orange and Black) is bigger than the Flyer organization.
4. I feel for Calgary fans – Jay Feaster showed promise last season with some solid trades, but his two big moves at the draft were both duds. Alex Tanguay is definitely a $3.5 million player, but for the next five years? Calgary will have another overpaid forward to deal with. The Robyn Regehr trade was horrid asset mismanagement. I understand that Ales Kotalik had to be traded away to gain some cap flexibility. I also understand that Regehr has lost a step or two since the lockout, but he is still a physical, top-four defenseman who can bring a lot to the table.
As it stands right now, Calgary’s defense after Mark Giordano and Jay Bouwmeester is Cory Sarich, Chris Butler, Brett Carson, and TJ Brodie. Ouch. Dion Phaneuf may not be worth the money he is making, but Calgary managed to turn him (and Keith Aulie) into an overpaid Matt Stajan.
5. If I am a contending team looking for secondary scoring, my first choice is Simon Gagne. Injury prone, sure, but after a poor start to the season (five points through the first quarter of the season), he was close to the point-per-game pace for the rest of it, both regular season and playoffs. He’s injury prone and the concussion history is a bit worrisome, but he is still relatively young, and is a proven scorer in big situations.
6. Big week ahead for Winnipeg. Not only do they have to unveil a new logo and jersey, but they have some important free agents to deal with. Captain Andrew Ladd should be the top priority. Zach Bogosian has been involved in just about every trade rumor for the past six months, and a fresh start in Winnipeg may do him good. The Jets (damn, I love writing that) have a pretty good foundation in place, but they need at least one forward and defenseman to take a big step forward in 2011-12 in order to leap into playoff contention (my hunch – Bryan Little).
7. Devin Setoguchi will get every opportunity to earn the top line right wing spot. His competition includes the likes of Antti Miettinen and Cal Clutterbuck – I think he should be fine. Martin Havlat is also a right wing, but he has never clicked with Mikko Koivu. In terms of salary, no team in the league currently does less with more than Minnesota. At $3 million, Setoguchi is a good value if he plays like Minnesota is hoping/expecting – 30+ goals.
8. Loved the Ryan Strome pick at five – his best attribute is his hockey sense. Rarely do skilled prospects with an abundance of hockey sense flop. Strome is probably a year away, as he could stand to get a bit bigger and stronger, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him stick around with a strong training camp.
9. The comparison has been made already – the Ducks stole Cam Fowler at pick 12 last summer, and the Hurricanes likely did the same thing with Ryan Murphy this year. Murphy isn’t as physically mature as Fowler was, and the Hurricanes are already incredibly young on defense. With a potential future top four featuring Murphy, Jamie McBain, Brian Dumoulin and Justin Faulk, it’s a shame that there will only be so much power play time to go around.
10. Don’t get wrapped up in the hoopla of the NHL draft. At the end of the day, a significant majority of the players selected don’t make any sort of fantasy impact for three or four years. Now is the time to use the hype from the draft to turn your prospect into a tangible, proven NHL asset.
11. Florida is a team to watch for in free agency – they have to spend some money, and Dale Tallon knows how to build a team. I like the Campbell trade (overpaid, but still a fantastic defenseman who fills a huge need for that team). They need to add a few forwards, and a starting goaltender if/when Tomas Vokoun signs elsewhere.
12. I find it funny to read how the Devils “stole” Adam Larsson at pick four. How the heck is the fourth pick a steal?
13. Three under the radar free agents to watch for – Scottie Upshall (proven goal scorer with injury issues), Tomas Fleischmann (was on fire after trade to Colorado before scary injury), and James Wisniewski (50 points and his peripheral numbers make him a valuable fantasy defenseman).
14. Both Joel Ward and Sean Bergenheim are looking to cash in after strong postseason performances. Fernando Pisani all over again?
15. Ryan Smyth back to Edmonton is a great move for obvious reasons. Smyth will bring experience, leadership, and most importantly offense to a team in need of all three. Look for him to form the top unit along with Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Oilers try to add another veteran top-six forward to play with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.
Jeff Angus has been writing at DobberHockey since 2007. His monthly 15 Points to Consider column was inspired by Elliotte Friedman’s weekly 30 Thoughts column on the CBC website – the best read in hockey. Friedman is insightful, articulate, knowledgeable, fair, and most importantly, interesting. He has sources and contacts in the hockey world that most could only dream of. Most importantly, Friedman has an ability which is rare in this day and age - providing a balanced and reasonable opinion on the league, the players, and all 30 of the clubs.