Ryan Dadoun

In The Crease

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Northeast Division Preview

Thursday, July 28, 2011


BOSTON BRUINS

Roster Movement

After winning the Stanley Cup, we wouldn't have blamed the Bruins if they'd just decided to maintain the status quo in the summer of 2011, but they did make some noteworthy changes. They let Michael Ryder and Tomas Kaberle walk away as free agents, but they also managed to acquire offensive defenseman Joe Corvo from the Carolina Hurricanes for just a fourth round pick. In addition to that, Mark Recchi decided to retire, allowing his long and storied career to end with him raising the Cup.

Projected Top Two Lines

Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Rich Peverley

Battle For Jobs

Marc Savard is the x-factor that could define the Bruins' training camp. At the time of writing, Savard's career is still in jeopardy after concussions limited him to just 25 games last season and none after January 22nd. Even if he's healthy – and that's a big if – it remains to be seen if the Bruins will immediately slot him into one of their top two lines or ease him back into the NHL as a third liner.

There's an outside chance Tyler Seguin will earn a top-six forward spot with Boston out of training camp as a winger, but he's more likely to serve as the team's third line center. Jordan Caron might end up playing alongside Seguin on the third line after jumping up and down between the NHL and AHL last season. Zach Hamill and Jamie Arniel will probably also get serious looks during training camp, but it's hard to see how they would fit into the Bruins' current roster.

Key Injuries

As noted above, Marc Savard hasn't played since January 22nd and he should be considered doubtful for the start of training camp. Nathan Horton also missed the final four games of the Stanley Cup finals due to a concussion.

Player To Watch

After scoring 21 goals and 41 points in 77 games last season while averaging just 13:59 minutes per game, there's a good chance Marchand will spend the vast majority of the season on the Bruins' second line. He should surpass the 50-point marker in 2011-12.

MONTREAL CANADIENS

Roster Movement

By far, the Canadiens' biggest loss during the off-season was James Wisniewski, whom they dealt for a seventh round pick mere days before he would have become an unrestricted free agent. Beyond that, they also allowed a number of noteworthy but ultimately secondary players go this summer, including Jeff Halpern, Roman Hamrlik, Tom Pyatt, Alexandre Picard, and Benott Pouliot. Backup goaltender Alexander Auld decided to sign with Ottawa, but the Canadiens replaced him with Peter Budaj.

However, that's not to say Montrea just watched players walk away this summer. They opened their wallets to ink Erik Cole to a four-year, $18 million contract and re-sign Andrei Markov to a three-year, $17.25 million deal.

Projected Top Two Lines

Michael Cammalleri-Tomas Plekanec-Erik Cole
Max Pacioretty-Scott Gomez-Brian Gionta

Battle For Jobs

Scott Gomez should be considered the favorite to start the season as the team's second line center, but his spot might not be secure after a disastrous 2010-11 campaign. David Desharnais could wrestle the job away from him after recording 22 points in 43 NHL games and 45 points in 35 AHL contests last season. Lars Eller might also get a shot to compete for a top-six forward spot, but he should be regarded as more of a long shot.

Defensemen Alexei Yemelin and Raphael Diaz should both be given a chance to make the Canadiens' opening day roster, but their task will be made more difficult by the fact that Montreal decided to hand Yannick Weber a one-way contract.

Key Injuries

Max Pacoioretty sustained a concussion and fractured vertebrae when he was hit into the stanchion on March 8th. However, his injuries haven't slowed down his summer training so far. Andrei Markov played in just seven games last season due to a torn ACL.

Player To Watch

The Montreal Canadiens took a lot of heat last summer by trading away Jaroslav Halak and re-enforcing their commitment to Carey Price. Halak had largely outplayed Price over the two seasons prior to 2010-11, but when they were on different teams, it was Price who shined brighter. Price is the main reason the Canadiens stayed in contention last season, posting a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage in 72 games. However, the Canadiens need their young goaltender to be nearly as good in 2011-12.

BUFFALO SABRES

Roster Movement

After failing to get past the first round in any of their past four seasons, the Buffalo Sabres decided to take drastic action this off-season. They acquired the rights to Christian Ehrhoff and inked him to a massive 10-year, $40 million contract and signed unrestricted free agent Ville Leino to a six-year, $27 million deal. The Sabres also got Robyn Regehr and Ales Kotalik from the Calgary Flames in exchange for Paul Byron and Chris Butler. The problem is the Buffalo Sabres might have gone too far and, at the time of writing, they appear to be well above the salary cap.

That's particularly problematic because they already let Tim Connolly, Rob Niedermayer, Mark Mancari, and Steve Montador walk as free agents. They also traded the negotiating rights of Steve Montador to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a seventh rounder. Former backup goaltender Patrick Lalime retired this summer and he'll be replaced by Jhonas Enroth.

Projected Top Two Lines

Thomas Vanek-Derek Roy- Drew Stafford
Tyler Ennis-Brad Boyes- Ville Leino

Battle For Jobs

The Sabres just acquired Ales Kotalik, but they might end up dumping him in the minors to help alleviate their cap problems.

If Jason Pominville is healthy going into training camp, then he should compete with Leino and Stafford for a spot on one of the top two lines in training camp. In addition, Jochen Hecht should challenge Boyes for the second line center gig. In addition, it's worth noting that the Sabres are deep enough at this point that they could have three viable scoring lines when everyone is healthy.

Key Injuries

Pominville suffered a sliced tendon in his leg in late April and he was projected to need four to six months to recover. With that in mind, he should be considered questionable for the start of training camp.

Player To Watch

Tyler Myers took a moderate step backwards in his sophomore season, scoring 10 goals and 37 points in 80 games after recording 48 points in 2009-10. Although Myers is capable of rebounding in 2011-12, the fact that the Sabres acquired Christian Ehrhoff – who will likely lead all Buffalo blueliners in power-play ice time – will complicate things a little.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

Toronto didn't make a ton of changes to their roster this summer, but the ones they did make were big. They acquired offensive blueliner John-Michael Liles for a second rounder and bolstered their defense further by getting Cody Franson, along with Matthew Lombardi, from the Nashville Predators in exchange for Brett Lebda and prospect Robert Slaney. Toronto also rolled the dice on Tim Connolly – who hasn't played in more than 73 games since 2002-03 – by signing him to a two-year, $9.5 million contract. On a more minor note, the Leafs inked Phillippe Dupuis, who had 17 points in 74 games with the Avalanche last season.

On the flipside, the Toronto Maple Leafs didn't really lose much, outside of Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Toronto will instead enter the 2011-12 season with the goaltending tandem of Jonas Gustavsson and James Reimer.

Projected Top Two Lines

Clarke MacArthur-Tim Connolly-Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul-Mikhail Grabovski-Nikolai Kulemin

Battle For Jobs

Matthew Lombardi's (concussion) goal is to be ready for training camp and if that happens, it should be very interesting to see how Toronto's top two lines shape out. Lombardi might end up stealing a spot on the second line from Lupul or Kulemin.

That being said, the Maple Leafs' biggest story in training camp will probably be their defense. Even ignoring Jeff Finger – who will probably be paid $3.5 million to spend another season in the minors – Toronto has five blueliners signed to one-way contracts in Dion Phaneuf, Mike Komisarek, John-Michael Liles, Carl Gunnarsson, and Cody Franson. That's not even counting restricted free agent Luke Schenn, who is a lock to make the team once he re-signs. Beyond them, Keith Aulie and Matt Lashoff both deserve to be considered for roster spots, but the fact that they're inked to two-way contracts means at least one of them will probably start the season in the minors.

It's also worth noting that sending Mike Komisarek, who averaged just 13:37 minutes of playing time per game in 2010-11, to the minors isn't a viable option. Komisarek has a no-movement clause, which prevents the Maple Leafs from sending him to the AHL unless he consents to it.

Key Injuries

As mentioned above, Matthew Lombardi is suffering from a concussion and might not be available for the start of training camp.

Player To Watch

James Reimer was great in his rookie campaign, although he did do somewhat worse as the season went on. He had a 2.31 GAA and .929 save percentage in his first 19 games compared to a 2.88 GAA and .912 save percentage in his final 18 starts. Reimer is talented, but we've seen plenty of talented goaltenders stumble in their sophomore campaign. Toronto made significant improvements this summer, but it will be very hard for them to make the playoffs unless Reimer is solid in 2011-12.

OTTAWA SENATORS

Roster Movement

After years of being stuck between building for the future and trying to win now, the Senators finally picked a position during the 2010-11 season and traded a number of their veterans for prospects and picks. In keeping with their new mentality, the Senators stayed quiet during the free agent period, adding complimentary players like Zenon Konopka, goaltender Alexander Auld and Mark Parrish rather than making a big splash like their division rivals. Perhaps the biggest move they made was the acquisition of Nikita Filatov, who was once considered a top-tier prospect, but struggled to fit into the Columbus Blue Jackets' system.

That being said, the Senators didn't lose much either. Ryan Shannon was the only player to walk away as a free agent after playing in more than 10 games as a member of the Ottawa Senators in 2010-11.

Projected Top Two Lines

Milan Michalek-Jason Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson
Nikita Filatov-Colin Greening-Bobby Butler

Battle For Jobs

The Senators lack much in the way of proven top-six forwards, which should make the Senators more willing to give Filatov and Greening a chance to show what they can do if they're given plenty of playing time. Mika Zibanejad might also get a shot to prove what he can do in training camp, but we wouldn't be surprised if he ends up spending the 2011-12 season in the Swedish Elite League.

In terms of blueliners, David Rundblad is worth keeping a close eye on. He broke out in the Swedish Elite League in 2010-11, scoring 11 goals and 50 points in 55 games with Skelleftea HC and he should be given every opportunity to make Ottawa out of training camp.

Key Injuries

Sergei Gonchar didn't play after March 19th due to a concussion. Daniel Alfredsson was plagued with back problems last season, but he should be ready for training camp.

Player To Watch

As mentioned above, Rundblad is a favorite to make the team after dominating in the Swedish Elite League last season. He and Erik Karlsson should become the leaders of the Senators' power play for years to come, but it remains to be seen how Rundblad will fit in during his rookie season. Sergei Gonchar is known for his skills with the man advantage and we wouldn't be surprised if Rundblad ends up getting just limited power-play duties as a result.


Ryan Dadoun is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or check out his blog.
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