NHL

Roster problems in Western Conference: Part 2

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Spector

At home in Prince Edward Island, Canada, he's known as Lyle Richardson. But around these parts, he's known as Spector, FOXSports.com's Prince of Pucks. Check in with Spector's NHL Blog on Yardbarker.com for NHL rumors and analysis.

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With the training camps of the NHL's 30 teams due to begin in less than a month, general managers will be evaluating their rosters to determine strengths and weaknesses. Some teams, however, could head into training camp with glaring weaknesses that have yet to be addressed. We examined some of the concerns in a previous column, and here's the conclusion of a look at the Western Conference teams and their respective roster needs: Edmonton Oilers: Lack of a quality scoring forward for Ales Hemsky's line prompted their fruitless pursuit of disgruntled Ottawa Senators winger Dany Heatley. Limited cap space prevented Oilers management from addressing this problem via free agency so it's the trade market that holds the best bet. They've got a plethora of puck-moving defensemen — Lubomir Visnovsky, Sheldon Souray, Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov — to offer up as trade bait although the latter two would be easier to shop given their youth, affordability and lack of movement clauses in their respective contracts. Los Angeles Kings: They're lacking an experienced starting goaltender but appear content to start the season with Jonathan Quick and Erik Ersberg. The Kings also lack an experienced two-way defenseman but as with their goaltending they appear willing to fill that role for now with younger players, in this case sophomore Drew Doughty. At some point this season management could look to addressing either need via the trade market or perhaps an affordable free-agent signing. Minnesota Wild: New head coach Todd Richards is promising a more up-tempo offensive style. That could certainly benefit Wild stars Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and the recently added Martin Havlat but aging veterans Andrew Brunette and Owen Nolan aren't getting any younger and Havlat has an injury history. Unless other forwards step up, Havlat stays healthy and Brunette and Nolan have enough left for one more good year the Wild could find themselves in the market for scoring depth. Nashville Predators: Like the Wild, the Predators are seriously hurting for offensive depth. A healthy Steve Sullivan and Jason Arnott should boost their numbers but management has yet to adequately replace Alexander Radulov, who'll spend another season playing in Russia. They'll need more from David Legwand and Martin Erat but that probably won't be enough. Budget constraints prevented them from shopping for offensive depth via free agency and it could also prevent them from getting help via trade. Phoenix Coyotes: The ownership soap opera combined with significant debt and declining revenue prevented any serious attempts by management to bolster their depth, leaving them to plug holes via affordable free-agent signings. There's a significant lack of experienced skill up front but as the battle over team ownership drags on don't expect management to swing any significant deals to address that issue. San Jose Sharks: On paper this team should be a Stanley Cup contender but years of postseason underachievement has saddled them with the dubious reputation of playoff choke artists. Management's suggestion of off-season changes sparked rampant speculation of major trades which have yet to materialize and perhaps won't. Their rumored interest in Heatley suggests a need for a top scoring winger for center Joe Thornton's line but it remains to be seen if a move gets made for Heatley or anyone else of his caliber. St. Louis Blues: Last season's improvement has given rise to higher expectations. The return of a healthy Paul Kariya will provide an invaluable shot of offensive experience into their scoring lines and promising defenseman Erik Johnson hopes to get his career progression on track after missing last season with a knee injury. The Blues still lack both an experienced two-way defenseman and a "stay-at-home" physical blueliner but for now they'll stick with their current lineup heading into this season. Vancouver Canucks: They spent a considerable sum retaining the Sedin twins, which was the right move as there was little in this summer's UFA market which could've adequately replaced their combined effectiveness. Apart from adding Mikael Samuelsson the Sedin signings left little room to bring in more scoring depth up front. They'll need Pavol Demitra to be healthier and hope Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows keep improving offensively. It's been reported GM Mike Gillis could bring in another defenseman or two, preferably one with good offensive skills, but that move could come later in the season.
Tagged: Oilers, Kings, Senators, Sharks, Blues, Canucks, Predators, Wild, Joe Thornton, Steve Sullivan, Lubomir Visnovsky, Sheldon Souray, Jason Arnott, Martin Havlat, Paul Kariya, David Legwand, Andrew Brunette, Ales Hemsky, Martin Erat, Dany Heatley, Pavol Demitra, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Ryan Kesler, Denis Grebeshkov, Mikael Samuelsson, Mikko Koivu, Alexander Radulov, Alexandre Burrows, Tom Gilbert, Owen Nolan, Erik Johnson, Erik Ersberg, Drew Doughty

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