What flaws does each Atlantic Division team have and what moves can they make to fix these holes?
Plugging Holes: Pittsburgh Penguins
The Hole: Power-play specialist
Don't be fooled by a good week or two. Sure, Pittsburgh's power play converted at a surprisingly efficient 26.3-percent clip in the playoffs against Ottawa and Montreal. But boasting the all-world talents of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin along with power play wizard Sergei Gonchar, the Penguins have ranked a bitterly disappointing 20th in 2008-09 (17.2 percent) and 19th in 2009-10 (again 17.2 percent) in PP%.
Therefore, with Gonchar and veteran wingers Bill Guerin, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Ruslan Fedotenko possibly leaving as free agents, GM Ray Shero needs to find some firepower to help his star centermen, particularly with the man-advantage.
The Fix: Sign F Teemu Selanne, UFA
Selanne's NHL career started off with a bang as he set the rookie record with 76 goals for the 1992-93 Winnipeg Jets as a 22-year-old. So why not end that Hall of Fame career with a bang as well, ideally capped by a championship season skating alongside Crosby? If Selanne is willing to put off retirement for one more season, the Finnish Flash is the premier addition any team could make to bolster their power play.
Selanne ranks ninth all time with 220 power play goals and tops among all of this year's free agents at 8.3 power play points per 60 minutes. And he did that at the ripe old age of 39. And consider this, every single one of Selanne's power-play points last season came either as a goal or a primary assist -- not a soft point among them. Further, while the man-advantage is the veteran winger's strong suit at this point in his career, he remains a fine all-around player. Had Selanne been able to remain healthy throughout the season, he would have ranked among the top 25 skaters by our goals versus threshold metric.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the Pittsburgh Penguins, click here.
Plugging Holes: New York Islanders
The Hole: Tavares' present and future linemates
John Tavares may be the king of garbage goals. A lot of players can make a solid NHL career out of having the nose to get to the puck around the net, but it's fair to say that much more was expected of the first overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft than merely tapping in a bunch of easy goals at the back post.
Not surprisingly, teams learned to defend against what was a one trick pony. After scoring 15 goals in the Islanders' first 31 games, Tavares managed only nine in the remaining 51 games.
While the onus is on the 19-year-old to strengthen himself physically -- and to diversify his game -- the Islanders' immediate need is to help the youngster by pairing him with a skilled passer to assist his still limited game.
The Fix: Draft LW Brett Connolly and sign LW Alex Tanguay
With the limited ceilings of young players like Kyle Okposo, the Islanders need to keep an eye toward drafting skilled wings to line up with Tavares for the future. Brett Connolly -- a smart and talented offensive player, with great hands and vision -- would be an excellent choice among players likely available when the Isles draft fifth overall. In regards to the present, the Islanders could benefit from the services of forgotten veteran Tanguay, not long removed from point per game production with the Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames.
Still available until late last offseason and signing for only $2.5 million with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the 30-year-old winger's stock no doubt has dropped even further. An underrated two-way forward, Tanguay may be the best veteran winger that New York is willing to sign. Stationed on the left wing, he'll be able to find Tavares on that favorite back post for some easy goals.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the New York Islanders, click here.
Plugging Holes: Philadelphia Flyers
The Hole: An elite goaltender
General manager Paul Holmgren rolled the dice going into 2009-10, dismantling the underrated netminding combo of Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki while installing one of the league's lowest priced duos: volatile castoff Ray Emery and career backup Brian Boucher. Sticking to his guns, Holmgren stood pat at the trading deadline, allowing a talented roster to be backstopped only by the journeyman Boucher and waiver-wire pickup Michael Leighton -- two replacement level goaltenders whose career save percentages hovered around .900. Surprisingly finding themselves in the Stanley Cup finals against a loaded Blackhawks squad, the Flyers have to consider what a difference an elite goaltender could have made.
The Fix: Trade for G Tomas Vokoun, Florida Panthers
Vokoun, who may be the most underappreciated player in the NHL, could have made a world of difference to a number of contenders this past season. Since the lockout, Vokoun has a sparkling .922 save percentage with 26 shutouts -- all while playing on teams that made only one playoff appearance. With an unremarkable class of free agent netminders available this offseason, Vokoun is the elite option out there -- again -- for any team that wants to significantly boost their chances of winning the Cup in 2010-11.
How much difference would Vokoun have made in 2009-10? Looking at the numbers, Philadelphia would have gone from ranking 12th in goal differential to fifth, becoming a better regular season team than all but Washington, Chicago, San Jose and Vancouver.
With Florida still selling off assets, and with top-10 NHL prospect Jacob Markstrom soon ready to step into the breach, Vokoun could be available to any team willing to take on his $6.3 million salary while throwing in prospects and/or picks to sweeten the pot.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the Philadelphia Flyers, click here.
Plugging Holes: New York Rangers
The Hole: A complement for Gaborik
New York struggled to get adequate scoring all season long. In fact, without the offseason addition of Marian Gaborik -- who was involved in 39 percent of all Rangers goals -- the team would have been vying for the title of worst offensive team in the NHL. Considering that Chris Drury, Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan are the next best forwards on the roster, the drop-off after Gaborik is precipitous -- no other Ranger exceeded 20 goals or 44 points.
It goes without saying that GM Glen Sather should add quality top six forwards to the squad. But to maximize Gaborik's effectiveness, the Rangers should acquire a crafty, playmaking center to draw defensive attention away from their world class finisher.
The Fix: Trade for C Tim Connolly, Buffalo Sabres
Both have been similarly maligned -- for their checkered injury histories -- by management, media and fans. While primarily a playmaker, the 29-year-old Connolly has been criticized for his long postseason goal-scoring drought. With the pitchfork-wielding mob clamoring for changes in Buffalo, any team willing to take on Connolly's expiring $4.5 million salary could pick up a quality two-way centerman who's been good for 0.88 points per game in the regular season and 0.70 points per game in the playoffs since the lockout.
A superior stickhandler, Connolly would help the Rangers gain the offensive zone both at even strength and on the man-advantage. While he possesses a hard shot -- and therefore often is charged with playing the point on the power play -- Connolly looks to pass first. It's the perfect mix of skills to qualify as Gaborik's new linemate.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the New York Rangers, click here.
Plugging Holes: New Jersey Devils
The Hole: An offensive defenseman
General manager Lou Lamoriello surprised everyone with the late-season acquisition of elite winger Ilya Kovalchuk, but New Jersey's crying need at the trading deadline was really for an offensively-minded defenseman -- and that need went unfulfilled.
With Paul Martin missing much of the season due to injury, the Devils' only point-producing defenseman was Andy Greene, who totaled a respectable, but hardly world-beating, 37 points. No other New Jersey blueliner tallied even a paltry 20 points.
In a lesson that Lamoriello could have learned from the 2008-09 Ottawa Senators -- whose offense tanked after jettisoning skilled defensemen -- it's apparent how a couple of duds on the blue line can deflate what would otherwise have been a superior offense. Going back to the drawing board, New Jersey needs a puck-moving defenseman who can serve as a catalyst for the Devils' offense, both at even strength and on the power play.
The Fix: Sign D Sergei Gonchar, Pittsburgh Penguins
Though Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin get the headlines, the secret ingredient of Pittsburgh's 2008-09 Stanley Cup run was truly defenseman Sergei Gonchar. Gonchar's return to the Penguins for the final 26 games of the regular season coincided with their torrid 18-4-4 run.
Though never really a premium defender, the 36-year-old blueliner is still an offensive force, particularly on the man advantage. At 5.7 power play points per 60 minutes, Gonchar leads all free agent defensemen in the ability to quarterback a power play. Unless Scott Niedermayer is willing to put off retirement and defect from Anaheim, Gonchar is the premium option available for the Devils to upgrade their defensive firepower.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on the New Jersey Devils, click here.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
Timo Seppa runs the statistical hockey site Ice Hockey Metrics. Follow Timo on Twitter at @timoseppa.
Timo Seppa is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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