NHL

Thin market hampers needy teams

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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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NHL training camps are due to begin in a little over two weeks and while most teams have addressed their main roster issues over the summer, several clubs still have glaring needs.

The Washington Capitals were in the market for a veteran “shut-down” defenseman and were among the contenders for free agent Willie Mitchell, who ultimately signed with the Los Angeles Kings.

Willie Mitchell, Vancouver Canucks (Getty Images)

Willie Mitchell was a hot commodity before the Los Angeles Kings signed him.

Kim Stallknecht

In early August, it was reported the club would announce the signing of free-agent center Eric Belanger once it had traded another of its forwards for a defenseman, but there’s been nothing further on this.

Colorado is another club that could benefit from an experienced, physical blueliner. The Avalanche certainly have the cap space to afford one and some promising youth they could dangle as trade bait, but it appears at this point management will stick with their current blueline for the upcoming season.

Defensemen are also what the Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars were in the market for this summer; not the “stay-at-home” kind but rather experienced offensive blueliners.

Both were rumored to be seeking Toronto’s Tomas Kaberle earlier this summer but denied the speculation. They’re apparently not willing to trade notable forwards like Bobby Ryan or Mike Ribeiro to address that need and aren’t willing to invest big money in expensive talent.

It’s possible both could turn to the unrestricted free-agent market, but the pickings are slim with only Marc-Andre Bergeron (34 points last season) still unsigned.

Not just defense

The Pittsburgh Penguins' decision not to bring back veteran winger Bill Guerin leaves a possible gap to be addressed on their scoring lines. They’re not expected to make a trade and there are few quality free-agent scorers remaining. It’s believed they could move Evgeni Malkin to the wing and move up third-line center Jordan Staal into the second-line role.

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A club in more dire need of scoring forwards is the Toronto Maple Leafs as management’s efforts to move Kaberle for a scoring center or winger ultimately came to naught.

General manager Brian Burke did his best to address the issue, signing a former 20-goal scorer Colby Armstrong and more notably acquiring 20-goal winger Kris Versteeg in a trade this summer with the Chicago Blackhawks. But unless Burke can swing another deal before the season begins, he’ll be forced to promote youngsters Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri in hopes they are ready for prime time.

The Los Angeles Kings courted superstar free agent Ilya Kovalchuk back in July but lost out to the New Jersey Devils. GM Dean Lombardi was rumored willing to shop one of his promising young players for a scoring star but it appears now he’s backed off from that pursuit, particularly after signing left winger Alexei Ponikarovsky soon after falling out of the Kovalchuk sweepstakes.

The Edmonton Oilers face two pressing needs in the coming weeks, addressing the fallout from goalie Nikolai Khabibulin’s DUI conviction in Arizona and finding a new home for disgruntled defenseman Sheldon Souray.

Of the two, Souray is the bigger headache. GM Steve Tambellini has tried for months to shop the defenseman, who publicly blamed management for rushing him back into action too soon following a wrist injury.

The problem is there aren’t enough teams with available cap space to comfortably absorb his $5.4 million per season cap hit, plus Souray’s injury history has also probably scared off some potential suitors.

Tagged: Oilers, Kings, Penguins, Maple Leafs, Sheldon Souray

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