(Note: The following are moves that should be done or should have been done to benefit each particular team this offseason. These are not predictions of what moves will be done.)
Plugging Holes: Pittsburgh Penguins
The Hole: A Dynamic Winger
Young superstars Evgeni Malkin (113 points, +23.4 GVT) and Sidney Crosby (103 points, +18.8 GVT) are virtuosos on ice that have most often found themselves playing with linemates that are the hockey equivalent of the local grade-school orchestra. That Pittsburgh's power play ranked 20th in the NHL (-6.2 GVT, 17.2 percent power-play efficiency) speaks volumes of the remaining top six forwards. If they were to add a wing capable of keeping up with their master composers, the Penguins could really make their offense sing.
The Fix: Sign RW Alex Kovalev (UFA, Canadiens)
Evgeni Malkin and Alexei Kovalev could make beautiful music together.Over four-plus seasons with Montreal, Kovalev scored 45 of 103 goals (44 percent) on the man advantage. Imagine a power play centered by Crosby (+5.8 PP GVT), with Malkin (+6.8 PP GVT) and Petr Sykora (+2.5 PP GVT) on the wings, and with Sergei Gonchar (+2.4 PP GVT) and Kovalev (+5.6 PP GVT) at the point.
Why would a highly flawed Canadiens club re-sign an aging Kovalev (65 points, +10.8 GVT)? On the other hand, Malkin and Kovalev could be an inspired pairing and could help revive Kovalev's production to the point-per-game levels of 2007-08.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the Pittsburgh Penguins, click here.
Plugging Holes: New York Islanders
The Hole: Everything? A Young, Quality Core
Whether the Isles' future is in Nassau County or elsewhere, the needs of the franchise toward building an eventual contender are many, while their current assets are few: franchise goaltender Rick DiPietro, surprising 31-year-old defenseman Mark Streit (56 points, plus-18.4 GVT), 20-year-old RW Kyle Okposo (39 points, plus-5.8 GVT) and this year's first overall draft pick.
The Fix: Draft Swedish Defenseman Victor Hedman No. 1 Overall
Top offensive defensemen like Victor Hedman are in short supply.The Islanders should select Hedman over C John Tavares with the first pick in the upcoming 2009 NHL draft, not because there's a greater need on the blue line (the Isles finished 29th in both offensive and defensive GVT last season), but because we've found it is more difficult to find a superior offensive defenseman in the draft.
Puck Prospectus's Richard Pollock discovered that the drop-off in games played, goals, assists, points and penalty minutes was more severe among defensemen drafted in the first round compared to other rounds. So, the chances of finding a scoring forward later in the draft are much better. Besides, New York could be choosing first in 2010 as well, a pick they could use on highly touted C Taylor Hall.
Hedman is the pick, and the addition of a mentor via free agency (Mattias Ohlund?) wouldn't hurt.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the New York Islanders, click here.
Plugging Holes: Philadelphia Flyers
The Hole: A Top Defenseman
The perception is that Philadelphia's problem was in the crease, with soon-to-be free-agent goalies Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki. However, the Flyers' goaltending GVT actually ranked fifth in the NHL at +12.5. Instead it was a poor defense that made Biron (.915 save percentage, +15.9 GVT) and Niittymaki (.912 save percentage, +6.8 GVT) appear mediocre.
The Flyers' real need is on the blue line, where their defense ranked 28th at -26.2 GVT. Addressing that need will be tricky, as any signings or trades will require careful navigation of their little remaining cap space.
The Fix: Trade D Randy Jones and LW James van Riemsdyk to Islanders for D Mark Streit
Mark Streit excelled with the Islanders. Imagine what he could do for the Flyers.How good was ex-Canadien Mark Streit (56 points, +18.4 GVT) in 2008-09? Considerably better than much-ballyhooed Norris Trophy candidate Zdeno Chara (50 points, +12.4 GVT), for instance. The Islanders need young talent and Streit could instantly transform Philadelphia into a Stanley Cup contender, well worth giving up their best prospect in van Riemsdyk.
Kimmo Timonen (43 points, +9.6 GVT) and Streit would provide the Flyers with an exceptional top pairing, both offensively and defensively. To round out its defense, Philadelphia will cross its fingers and continue to develop 25-year-old Matt Carle (24 points, +2.7 GVT) and promising 23-year-old Braydon Coburn (28 points, +3.3 GVT), as well as youngsters Luca Sbisa and Ryan Parent.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the Philadelphia Flyers, click here.
Plugging Holes: New York Rangers
The Hole: A Goal-Scoring Forward
The Rangers' even-strength offense was poor (-18.2 GVT, just 25th in NHL) and their power-play offense was even worse (-17.6 GVT, 13.9 percent efficiency, 29th in NHL). No Rangers forward scored 30 goals or posted a GVT of +10.0. Left wing Markus Naslund has retired, and disappointing LW Nikolai Zherdev might not be re-signed, opening welcome vacancies in an offense that needs a major overhaul.
The Fix: Sign LW David Booth (RFA, Panthers)
The Rangers lacked a consistent scoring forward. David Booth would give them just that.The 24-year-old Booth is a blossoming finisher, scoring 31 goals with 29 assists in 72 games in 2008-09. He is strong on the man advantage (+3.0 PP GVT), with 11 PPG. Booth will also help create those power-play opportunities; at even strength, he drew 1.6 penalties per 60 minutes while taking only 0.8 penalties per 60 minutes.
Signing a restricted free agent might be easier than you would think. If the large-market Rangers offer Booth a contract around $2.5 million per year, Florida might have more incentive, in these tough economic times, to pocket the second-round pick instead of upping the ante. Other teams are unlikely to offer a bigger contract either, as that would require forfeiting first- and third-round picks. Spending $2.5 million annually would also make sense, as Booth (60 points, +12.3 GVT) slots between the talent levels of C David Krejci (73 points, +18.3 GVT), who recently re-signed for $3.75 million per annum with Boston, and LW Alexandre Burrows (51 points, +11.7 GVT), who re-signed for $2 million per year with Vancouver.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the New York Rangers, click here.
Plugging Holes: New Jersey Devils
The Hole: An All-Around Center Who Can Generate PPG
New Jersey's offense (+5.6) trailed its defense (+9.9) and goaltending (+14.8) in GVT contribution. The Devils were last in the league at drawing penalties (307 opportunities, 30th in the NHL) and mediocre at converting their power plays (18.9 percent, 15th), translating to only 58 PPG scored (22nd). Their priorities should include retaining C Travis Zajac (62 points, +11.8 GVT), RW Brian Gionta (60 points, +9.7 GVT, +2.7 PP GVT) and D Johnny Oduya (29 points, +7.8 GVT). Expect Lou Lamoriello to show the door to C John Madden (23 points, -2.0 GVT) and C Bobby Holik (9 points, -1.2 GVT).
The Fix: Sign C Saku Koivu (UFA, Montreal)
Out in Montreal, Koivu's disciplined game would harmonize well in New Jersey.
The longtime Canadiens captain, Koivu (50 points, +8.1 GVT) can bring intelligence, leadership and two-way play to the Devils, and would more than offset the loss of replacement-level centers Madden and Holik. Koivu (+1.6 PP GVT, 54.1 percent faceoff percentage), who has scored 24 of 54 goals (44 percent) over the past three seasons on the man advantage, would warrant receiving proportionately more power-play time than Zajac (+0.0 PP GVT). The 34-year-old Finn should provide more opportunities for the Devils as well, as he draws 1.0 penalties per 60 minutes versus taking 0.3 penalties per 60 minutes. His +0.7 net penalties per 60 minutes was superior to that of any New Jersey center.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the New Jersey Devils, click here.
Penalties per 60 minutes statistics provided by behindthenet.ca.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
Timo Seppa is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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