Well, I've finally recovered from the Isles' tumultuous season, with Hill's suspension the icing on the cake. Looking ahead to the summer, it will be interesting to see what the team's roster shapes up to look like by September. Of course, the Isles will make a pitch for Smyth, but I feel he will go back to Canada, probably Calgary. Blake is going to want more years than the Isles are willing to give and I expect him to walk as well.
I strongly feel that Yashin should be bought out. He has got to be the worst captain in the history of the NHL. He does not produce, and does not lead the team either. No one on that team would shed a tear if he was gone.
Trent Hunter and Aaron Asham are also two guys I'm wondering about. To me, Hunter had about six weeks of very good play, just after the new year. Yes, Hunter leaves it all on the ice, but where is the value added? Asham has a wicked shot and can play tough, but he rarely shoots and is fairly invisible.
DP looks like he may actually earn his contract as long as his noggin holds out. Dunham proved his worthlessness. I'd actually consider Dubie as the back up for next year. Randy Robitaille? I keep reading quotes by Nolan regarding how valuable he has been. I have seen very little to get excited about and would jettison him in a heartbeat.
Hilbert and Park played important roles and have a lot of heart - I'd keep them around.
Satan? I'd trade his lazy butt to someone in return for a kid with promise or even a high draft pick.
Kozlov? Enigma. As lazy as he seems to be much of the time, the numbers were very good. Keeper.
Simon - I'd like to replace him with a younger, faster character guy with toughness, but I'm not sure who that would be.
Defense - I thought Witt was incredible this season. A leader on and off the ice. In fact, if Smyth does not stay, I would make him a captain.
So this leads us the UFA season - and I have just three words to say: Defense, Defense, Defense.
I would get rid of the dead wood and build from DP out. I'd stockpile at least 2 top tier D men and pair them with Witt, Bergeron, Gervais, and Martinek. I would keep Campoli as a 7th defenseman if Hill is not retained, that would only play when Martinek suffers his annual injury. I would kick Freddy Meyer out the door. I'd only keep Poti id we could not get 2 top UFAs. The D would then look like:
I thought Hill was awesome this year. Many will say that was completely due to roids, but I'm not convinced. I think he was looking for an edge at his age, but still think he can get it done, especially as part of the third pairing, getting less minutes.
Who to get on D? I'd go for Rafalski and Hannan. Raf to rush the puck and Hannan to stay back. A. Markov is probably too expensive. Sarich would be an excellent signing. Souray is too weak defensively. Redden would also be an excellent choice.
As for the offense, if we build a solid D, it will take care of itself. I would make sure to get Bergenheim back here and would also give spots to Nielsen and Tambellini as well. Their time has come.
It has been an exciting season, but in the end, a first round boot does not get it done. Yes, they played top seeded Buff, but you know what, Buff did not impress me as much as I expected. I think they can be beat, and I think the Rangers may be just the team to do it. The Rags can play tough, which the Sabres do not like - and can put a lot of pressure on the opponent's D when they feel like it. and so far this playoff season, the Rags seem to have the right mindset.
I predict Rags in 6.