RFA’s - The most important thing to me this offseason is to get Stepan and McDonagh signed, so I would start the offseason with resigning my RFA’s.
Derek Stepan - I really like this kid, he is young, has skillful hands, and has a good hockey sense on top of the fact that he is already a very reliable player. He was second in points (on the Rangers) only to Rick Nash with a break out season and was part of the reason we made it to the playoffs. I would give him a 3 year 3.5M deal but if he was willing to sign a longer term I would give him a 4-5 year deal for 4M. I think he will continue to be a smart, successful player for us for many years to come and getting him locked up early would be nice.
Ryan McDonagh - He’s probably our best Defense-man as of right now, like Stepan, McDonagh is an integral part of our team. He lays down heavy hits, he knows how to move the puck, his pinches are well timed and I think he has some offensive upsides that seem to come through when you need them the most. Not to mention that he is amazing at covering top offensive players and getting back into position if a mistake is made. I would give him a similar deal as Staal got. 3-4 years for 3.97M but like Step if he was willing to take a longer deal (5-6) I would give him max 4.25M. I know this is a lot but I think McDonagh is just a really smart good hockey player that deserves this kind of deal.
Having said that I would like to get both McD and Step as cheaply as possible so that I don’t get to close to the cap celling. If they took my max offer we would have 5.9M left to work with. That’s already cutting it close given the amount of contracts we need to sign. So lets hope they sign for less.
Carl Hagelin - Hagelin can fly and one thing I loved about watching him play was his speed and dedication to getting to the puck no matter what. That’s the type of effort we all love to see from Callahan and I think Hagelin has it too. These guys just don’t quit. Showing some offensive flair and more importantly a willingness to lay it all out on the ice, I would love to have him back next season. Ideally he would come back for 1M but I would go as high as 1.5M to secure him.
Mats Zuccarello - I really like this guy but his size is questionable and worries me a bit. He did bring some life to our PP and has some good hands but at the end of the day I still find myself on the fence with him. If he is willing to take what he was making before maybe with a slight raise(700,000 – 850,000) then I would want him on the team but if not then I think we can find the same caliber of player in someone bigger and stronger.
These are the only guys I would concern myself within the RFA’s. If Sauer was available we would have more options but from what it looks like we wont be seeing him play anymore. Best of luck to you Sauer. The other guys are all AHL players and would get the deals that are right for them (most likely two way deals for similar money but I think this exercise is only for the NHL team) so we will leave it at that.
UFA’s – Next I would look at who we can resign from this list.
Ryan Clowe - I thought he did a great job at coming in an being an immediate help to us. He is getting older and his conditioning and health have to be a concern but if he is 100% I would give him a 1-2 year deal for 2-2.5M. Yes he would have to take a pay cut to be on the team. We are in a transition year, after which half of our team become RFA’s and UFA’s. With lots of people to resign, I dont feel comfortable giving another aging guy more then one or two years. Again if he wants to get paid, a one year deal it is, if he is willing to be part of the team and organisation and help us win, then a two year deal for a little less money. If I had it my way he would get a 2 year deal for 2M. Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if some other team was able to offer him more so unfortunately if I was GM we could see this guy walk for more money, it would all be up to him. As much as I like him, I just can’t justify signing him if it will cause me issues with the core of the team in Hank, Cally, Girardi etc. next offseason. Having said that I really want this guy on the team and if we can’t get him, we will need to look for something to replace him.
Steve Eminger - I thought he did pretty well at the end of the season when he was able to prove himself. I always thought he was better than Hamrlik so I don’t know why he wasn’t getting so much playing time. With that said, I think our D is pretty deep already and with the emergence of Moore, and McIlrath looking to make a jump to the NHL sometime soon, we may just not need him anymore. The only way he stays is if we trade DelZotto (something I will touch on later). If he gets signed it would be for the same amount of money for 1 year.
Gilroy and Hamrlik wont be back and the other UFA’s will either take another 2 way deal or see themselves playing on different teams.
After all these signings (without Eminger) we would have 1.6M.
Lets take a look at the team. (lines are obviously not set in stone)
Looks alright but I think we can do better after some trades and such.
Buyouts - I wanted to touch on the subject of Richards being bought out since it is something that is getting a lot of attention. First off, I have no doubt in my mind that he will be able to turn himself around. Even as a struggling player he was able to put up an alright amount of points and with a new coach and different game plan I see his numbers going back up. Having said that, I think we will need to buy out his contract eventually. As I said earlier, next year is a big offseason for us and I can’t help but feel like his contract is going to get in the way of other players (mostly the core of our team like Cally, Hanks and Girardi etc.) getting resigned. As much as I like the guy (and it shows that he is a true leader within the group) I think that after this season we will have to buy out his contract wether he does well or not. He is aging and the reality is that the day will come when he can’t keep up with the other guys. Only very few people can play hockey into their late 30s and early 40s and I just don’t see Richards being one of them. My hope is that he will be good enough this upcoming season to generate some interest from other teams because ideally we can trade him at the deadline or next offseason and get something in return for him instead of just buying him out (look at what we got for Gaborik). For now though he stays on the team, give him a chance to redeem himself because he deserves that chance.
FA’s - As of right now the team I have assembled doesn’t leave much cap space. If we want to make a splash for a guy we would have to trade some guys around and/or buyout Richards to open up some cap space. The only person I really want from this aging FA group is Nathan Horton. Boston needs to resign both their Goaltenders and several other guys and only have 5.8M to work with so it’s very possible he will be looking for a team. If we traded say Pyatt, Asham and Powe we could sign him if he was willing to take a pay cut to be on a winning team (the most I would offer him is 3.5M but would really like to get him for 3.25.
Trades - Like I just said I can consider moving are Pyatt, Asham and Powe. Even though they did some good things for us, especially Asham in the playoffs, I think these are largely expendable guys. If we’re looking to get a guy like Horton then I would try and get draft picks for them. I think they are worth a 2nd or 3rd pick so I would do that. Boyle and Dorsett all could be traded. I know many fans liked Boyle a lot but ever since that first year he has been kind of a let down, several times getting benched by Torts and just not playing as strongly as he could given his size. Dorsett just got to the team so he is least likley to get traded but it’s also not out of the question. At the end of the day though I don’t think we need to trade for players. We have enough to fill a team without it and really we want to open up some cap to sign Horton. Either way expect at least 3 of these 5 to be traded. In my case it was Pyatt, Powe and Asham (all of them for draft picks)
I also want to spend a second talking about DelZotto. There has been a lot of speculation on wether he is the guy that we though he was. Honestly I think he should get another chance and since we are bringing in AV, I am sure he will want to see what he can do with DZ (same as Richards). If Staal is 100% and it’s looking like McIlrath is a stud than maybe a trade for DZ is not out of the question but I would really need to get something great out of him (think Bobby Ryan) and that would change the complete look of the team and how I would set it up. If I am GM I keep him through the trade deadline. If he looks to be expendable or if he tanks the season then a trade will be something to think about and what we will get for him then is not exactly clear. For now though he stays. Cant help but think that at the end of the day, our core group of guys has been able to bring us to the playoffs the past 3 years and to some extent he is part of that core group.
Call Up’s - I really liked what Miller was able to bring to the table and I also think Kreider should be given a serious chance with the team. McIlrath also has a chance but really I would like for him to have a full season in the AHL (I think he got hurt and could only play half of this last season). Of course it all depends on who gets traded and signed but I think if we do it right all of these guys should have chance with the team. There are a few other guys I would give a chance but that would be mainly a couple of games here and there during this next season and as injuries occur.
Ideally this is what the team would look like after trades and signings. Again lines are not set in stone.
This would leave us roughly 2M and we could even bring up McIlrath if we feel he is ready. Not only is this realistically doable, but I also think this looks like a really good team. A mixture between tallent, size, grit and flexibility. The only question mark really is if we can sign Horton and Clowe, everyone else is already in the organization. My only concern would be injuries and not being extremely deep but with JT as our first guy in and players like St.Croix, Thomas and Fasth for offense and McIlrath/Allen for defense, I think we will be able to manage.
There are several things I really like about this group. For starters people can easily be moved around. If we need a good strong checking line you drop Clowe down to the forth with Boyle and Dorsett. If we need more offense we can bring Horton up on the second or possibly the first line. If Richards is struggling we can drop him down to the third and still have two very potent top lines centered by Step and Brass. Second, if everyone is playing up to their standards we have three lines that should have no problem scoring, but at the same time are good defensively. Third and last, this would keep most of our team in tact. I am a big believer in that people need to play together for a bit to understand who they are as a group and how they play as individuals. Team work is the foundation of every winner in a sport like hockey and I think if we keep this group together we too can become winners.
If there was anything I would say to Alain Vigneault it would be to just get points. The most important thing to me is winning games and getting points. Whatever way he is able to make that happen, go for it. Also as far as Assistant Coach goes Ulf Samuelsson looks to be the top candidate. I personally dont know enough about him or any other assistnat coach to make the decision on who gets the job, but I would consult with AV and see who he would like to work with.
I think thats it. Can’t really think of anything else to do this offseason. Obviously if we’re able to get all this done, there wouldn’t be much else to do besides looking at some of the AHL and prospect players to see if we can make them fit. I know this may not be the flashiest senario (no huge trades or big buyouts) but all in all this team (the way I have it set up) would make me very excited and I think this group of guys could win a cup together.