It’s safe to say that just about every NHL team will see at least moderate changes this summer. Yet, when I was putting together some free agent articles (not to mention thumbing through posts about ownership changes around the league), it dawned on me that the Pacific division – in particular – will look very, very different next season.
In fact, let’s take a look at the division team-by-team to see just how drastic the changes might be.
Let’s start with the most obvious situation. Naturally, there’s the team’s tumultuous ownership situation. But even beyond that, there are some big decisions they need to make regarding their on-ice product, with free agents including Lee Stempniak, Zbynek Michalek, Matthew Lombardi (unrestricted) and Wojtek Wolski (restricted). Even if the Coyotes stay in the desert, things will be very different.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks will have to let someone go, it’s just a matter of which players they choose to retain. They have key young players (Devin Setoguchi, Joe Pavelski) and veterans (Patrick Marleau, Evgeni Nabokov) who could depart due to free agency. I’m not sure that the Sharks reign as the dominant Pacific division team is over, but it may be threatened.
Considering the fact that the Tom Hicks ownership era is nearing an end, it’s difficult to imagine the Stars committing much payroll to getting better. The roster could look very different in 10-11, anyway, though. Marty Turco is likely on the way out, Mike Modano might retire and Jere Lehtinen is also long in the tooth. Don’t forget that James Neal is a restricted free agent. It looks like it will be an end of an era (perhaps it should be called the “Remember what happened 10 years ago?” age) for the Dallas Stars.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings finally made the playoffs for the first time in ages and now the question is whether or not they can take “the next step” to become contenders. They seem to be the odds-on favorite to land Ilya Kovalchuk, which would certainly put them on the map. Whether he’s worth the salary cap gamble is another discussion entirely (although I think the Kings are one of the most logical destinations, beyond the big-money offer[s] from the KHL).
It could also be the end of an era for the Ducks. Scott Niedermayer, Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu might retire. Bobby Ryan is a restricted free agent (but I’d guess he’ll be back).
Every division will see some change this summer, but the Pacific is practically in an uproar. It should be a very interesting off-season for all five teams.