Expect a drastically different Pacific division next season

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for nabbyandmarleau.jpgIt’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.

Phoenix Coyotes

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.

Dallas Stars

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).

Anaheim Ducks

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.

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    PHT Morning Skate: Beat writers survey predicts Ducks will win Cup

    Corey Perry, Frederik Andersen
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    PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

    In a survey of 29 beat writers, the Anaheim Ducks emerged as the clear favorite to win the Stanley Cup. If you’ll recall, they have that in common with the EA Sports simulation. (Boston Globe)

    Alex Ovechkin would pick an Olympic hit against Jaromir Jagr as the biggest check of his life. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

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    The Montreal Canadiens seem committed to using Alex Galchenyuk as a center throughout the 2015-16 campaign. (The Canadian Press)

    The NHL recently enlisted its players to read off some not so mean tweets. (USA Today)

    Bills coach Rex Ryan talked about the Sabres in Thursday’s press conference. (NHL.com)

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    Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

    Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

    DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

    Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

    Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

    Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

    Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

    Fleury had 21 saves.

    The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

    Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

    The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

    Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

    The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

    Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

    NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.