With the Stanley Cup finals in the books, it's time for every NHL team to tinker with its roster and see how it can retool for next season. The analysts of Hockey Prospectus provide some help, identifying the biggest shortcoming on every NHL roster using their GVT valuation metric and offering a unique suggestion on how to fix it for 2012-13. The series continues with fixes for the five teams in the Northwest Division, where the Canucks need more depth on defense.
The hole: Depth defenseman
The Canucks are a team that uses the classic ice-tilting model where players like Manny Malhotra play against top lines in the defensive zone, so that the Sedins can do what they do best and dominate in the offensive zone against secondary lines. To make that work, they need a good depth of players who can handle tough assignments, especially on the blue line, a task that big veterans like Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and Aaron Rome struggled with last year.
The fix: Sign D Dylan Reese, UFA (2.2 GVT)
Though the 27-year-old has played just 74 NHL games, all on the questionable New York Islanders blue line, he may be just the type of value player Vancouver needs to seek out to shore up one of its few weaknesses without fundamentally compromising what makes them a Presidents' Trophy-winning team. If even a struggling team like the Islanders can enjoy a possession advantage with top-four minutes entrusted to him, then Reese ought to be an ideal low-risk upgrade over Ballard, Alberts and Rome on Vancouver's third unit.
The hole: Top pairing defenseman
Even on the nights when the top pairing of Jan Hejda and Ryan O'Byrne wasn't hung out to dry, it did little to ignite Colorado's excellent young talent offensively. Three years ago, the Avalanche signed Craig Anderson (a previous Plugging The Holes recommendation), who ultimately unlocked their potential for a surprise playoff berth. There's at least one defenseman who can do the same for them in 2012-13.
The fix: Sign D Jason Garrison, UFA (12.1 GVT)
Garrison was one of the NHL's top values last season, killing 55 percent of Florida's penalties, working 43 percent of its power plays and helping the Panthers dominate the shot count at even strength despite playing against top opponents -- all for a measly $675,000. Though obviously due for a huge pay increase this year, Garrison's hard-hitting, two-way hockey is just the type of play Colorado needs to be competitive and fight its way back into the postseason.
The hole: Forward who can play tough minutes
The Flames missed the playoffs for the third straight year, thanks in part to the league's third-worst offense, which was largely a consequence of their top lines being absolutely dominated possession-wise from having to play too many tough minutes against top opponents. The Flames need to bring in some low-cost, high-value players who can effectively play those tough minutes in their stead, creating more favorable playing conditions to unleash their skilled veteran scorers like Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay and Mike Cammalleri.
The fix: Sign RW J.T. Wyman, UFA (2.0 GVT)
Wyman got Tampa Bay's toughest assignments as a rookie, with offensive zone starts of just 30.3 percent against the second-toughest level of competition on their team, and still managed an even-strength scoring rate of 1.8 points per 60 minutes -- the same rate as Olli Jokinen. A low-cost option such as Wyman, coupled with the right linemates, could shoulder the tough minutes, so that Iginla, Tanguay and Cammalleri can focus on what they do best: scoring.
The hole: Experienced power-play specialist
Minnesota's young and inexperienced blue-line core, which includes 22-year-olds Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon in its top four, lacks the offensive punch the team so desperately needs. This offseason Minnesota should be looking for someone who, alongside trade deadline acquisition Tom Gilbert, can improve the league's fourth-worst power play and league-worst overall offense.
The fix: Sign D Dennis Wideman, UFA (9.8 GVT)
Though the top-four All-Star defenseman won't come cheap, the seven-year veteran Wideman will give the Wild the blue-line experience they need, and after Ryan Suter, Wideman is clearly the best power-play specialist defenseman available on the free-agent market. Only nine other active defensemen have outscored Wideman over the past four seasons, none of whom teams would be able to acquire, let alone for less than the $5M per season he's likely to command.
The hole: Elite defenseman
Already armed with a wealth of fantastic young talent like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, the Oilers don't need Nail Yakupov to get to the next level; they need an upgrade from Ladislav Smid and Jeff Petry on their top defenseman pairing.
The fix: Trade the No. 1 overall selection for D Oliver Ekman-Larsson (7.3 GVT)
Of all the great young defensive talent the Oilers might be able to attract with their No. 1 overall pick and wealth of young prospects, Ekman-Larsson would have the biggest impact. Though just 20 years old, he worked 41 percent of the Coyotes' power plays and killed 28 percent of their penalties while playing solid two-way, top-four minutes at even strength. It's rarely wise to give up a No. 1 overall selection, but getting a potential Norris Trophy finalist in exchange could make it more than worthwhile.
A version of this story originally appeared at ESPN Insider .
Robert Vollman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
You can contact Robert by clicking here or click here to see Robert's other articles.