Kevin Brown

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Central Division

Tuesday, July 03, 2012



Detroit Red Wings




Forwards

 

While the Red Wings’ defense corps could undergo a facelift over the summer, Detroit’s top six forwards are all locked up for the 2012-13 season.  Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are in their prime years and are supremely productive players who should see no drop-off next year, while Johan Franzen is a rotisserie stud when he’s healthy.  Youngster Tomas Tatar could be the next in a long line of productive forwards churned out by the Red Wings machine, but a poor showing during a nine-game tryout last year combined with the lack of a roster opening for him make that unlikely this season.

 

 

Defense

 

In addition to the retirement of the legendary Nicklas Lidstrom, the Wings also shipped the rights to veteran Brad Stuart to the Sharks, where he inked a three-year deal.  This makes it seems likely that a move is forthcoming, as the Detroit model has always been to build from the blue line outward, rather than spend big money on a goaltender.

 

 

Goaltending

 

Overshadowed by a couple of untimely injuries last year was the terrific season enjoyed by Jimmy Howard, who seems to have established himself as one of the more underrated commodities in the game.  Ty Conklin is certain to leave as a free agent this summer now that the Wings have brought in former Maple Leaf Jonas Gustavsson to serve as Howard’s caddy on a two-year deal totaling $3.0 million.

 

 

Summer Roster Movement

 

The retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom certainly creates a void on the Detroit blue line that will be difficult to fill, however the additional salary cap space it provides will definitely be used effectively, as the Wings always find a way to attract top talent.  This off-season should be no different. The names Ryan Suter and Shea Weber have already been linked to the Motor City. Should Detroit choose to spend money to bolster their offense, Zach Parise is another player who has been mentioned as a possible acquistion. In addition to adding Gustavsson to play between the pipes, Detroit also re-acquired veteran Mikael Samuelsson and super-pest Jordin Tootoo to add depth up front.  In terms of departures, Jiri Hudler has inked a four-year deal with the Flames that will pay him $16 million, while Tomas Holmstrom (UFA), Justin Abdelkader (RFA) and Kyle Quincey (RFA) are the biggest names that could be headed elsewhere.

 

 

Player To Watch

 

Nicklas Kronwall established career highs in 2011-12 with 15 goals, seven of those coming with the man advantage, although his point total of 36 was a mild disappointment.  With fellow Swede Lidstrom enjoying life after hockey, Kronwall will be counted on even more to deliver and should easily surpass the 40-point plateau.

 

 

Columbus Blue Jackets



Forwards

 

It’s impossible to discuss the Blue Jackets without bringing up the Rick Nash situation.  The power forward made it clear to GM Scott Howson last year that he would like to be traded from Columbus so it’s a matter of when rather than if he gets dealt. Without knowing what the team may receive in return for the former first overall pick, the cupboard will likely be pretty bare after a deal is done.  Look for youngster Ryan Johansen to earn a larger share of ice time and challenge Derick Brassard and R.J. Umberger for the team lead in scoring next season.  The Blue Jackets acquired the versatile Nick Foligno from Ottawa when the free agency period opened Sunday and after a breakout season with the Sens in 2011-12, he could find himself among the top six with Columbus.

 

 

Defense

 

Despite the defensive struggles they experienced last season, the Jackets actually entered the summer with a decent top quartet of blueliners.  James Wisniewski is the team’s offensive catalyst and he typically chips in with a fair number of PIMs, but has never been able to shake the injury-prone label he’s earned over the course of his career.  He’s joined by Jack Johnson on the team’s top power-play unit. The second pairing will feature the reliable yet unspectacular Fedor Tyutin likely playing alongside newly-signed Adrian Aucoin, who will replace Ottawa bound Marc Methot.

 

 

Goaltending

 

Without question, goaltending was the biggest downfall for Columbus last season, as Steve Mason once again struggled with his consistency and Curtis Sanford was only moderately better.  The team hopes to solve that issue this season as they have traded three future draft picks to acquire Flyers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky.  The man they call “Bob” should be given every opportunity to earn the starting job, though I’m pessimistic about his chances at succeeding.

 

 

Summer Roster Movement

 

The Jackets have already been active with the signing of Aucoin and the trade of Methot for Foligno, but as we know, the Rick Nash saga has been in full effect for some time. It seems the asking price requested by the Blue Jackets has prevented a deal from getting done to this point.  I believe the team will want to enter next season with a clean slate so I expect Nash to be on the move soon.  Blueliners Radek Martinek (UFA) has reached free agency while veteran forward Kristian Huselius (UFA) could find himself wearing different colors next fall.

 

 

Player To Watch

 

As mentioned, the likely departure of Rick Nash should open the door for Ryan Johansen to become the focal point of the team’s offense.  He flashed exceptional talents as a junior player and possesses a ceiling unmatched by anyone in the Columbus organization.

 

 

St. Louis Blues



Forwards

 

Without a clear superstar up front, the Blues’ success last season was a product of their impressive scoring depth.  Although a number of the team’s top producers are set to hit free agency, their nucleus of Andy McDonald, Patrik Berglund and David Backes are all returning for another season.

 

 

Defense

 

The play of Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk on the back end was possibly the largest reason for the Blues’ success, as the duo combined for 94 points last season.  Neither is as highly regarded in fantasy circles as their play warrants, but that will change if they manage to repeat last year’s production.  Barrett Jackman, like the rest of the Blues’ rearguards, is a defense-first type so it’s unlikely you’ll want to draft him next fall, however it should be noted he has re-signed with the club for $9.5 million on a three-year pact.

 

 

 

 

Goaltending

 

Thanks to coach Ken Hitchcock’s defensive mantra, both Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott turned in career seasons in 2011-12.  While either netminder would be helped by the departure of the other, the team seems intent on keeping their current rotation in place for next season.  Drafting both and hoping for an injury may be a wise strategy for poolies.

 

 

Summer Roster Movement

 

Offensive phenoms T.J. Oshie and David Perron are both facing restricted free agency this summer, but I expect both to return to Missouri with a new contract.  Veterans Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner and Carlo Colaiacovo were all productive contributors to last season’s first-place team, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see all three sign elsewhere as unrestricted free agents.

 

 

Player To Watch

 

On the off-chance owners in your league have ignored David Perron’s season because of his low point total (42), don’t forget that he only suited up for 57 games.  Sure, injuries will always be a possibility for the talented forward, but he’s an exceptional player when healthy.  If he plays in 70 games he’s my pick to lead the team in scoring.

 

 

Nashville Predators



Forwards

 

The additions of Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn late in the season only served to highlight the fact that the Predators lacked scoring punch, despite being a solid defensive club. As they’re always working with a tight budget, it’s hard to imagine Nashville re-signing any of their more well-known free agents, but a number of smaller, crafty moves should be expected.  Of the returnees, Martin Erat is the most consistent point-getter of the bunch while Patric Hornqvist is the favorite to lead the team in goals.  The useful Paul Gaustad has decided to remain with the Preds and has signed a four-year contract to do so that will earn him $13 million.

 

 

Defense

 

During the past few seasons the Predators have been anchored on the back end by the duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, but the possibility of their departures means there could be additional ice time available to some of the team’s lesser-known commodities.  Roman Josi turned a few heads last season and could be the biggest beneficiary if one or both of the team’s two stars leaves town.  The Preds have managed to keep one familiar face on the fold, as Hal Gill re-signed with the club for $4 million over two years.

 

 

Goaltending

 

With back-to-back stellar seasons under his belt and a Vezina Trophy nomination to his credit, Pekka Rinne has become one of, if not the number fantasy goaltender around, though Henrik Lundqvist might have an opinion on that.  In order to improve other areas of the team, the Preds recently shipped backup Anders Lindback to the Lightning, meaning the backup netminder’s role will be filled by the newly-acquired Chris Mason, who makes his return to Music City.



 

Summer Roster Movement

 

The summer has the potential to be a disastrous one in Music City, as Ryan Suter is almost certain to sign elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent and Shea Weber poses problems for management as a restricted free agent.  The roster turnover in Nashville could be significant as Andrei Kostitsyn, Sergei Kostitsyn and Colin Wilson all are without contracts for next year and Alexander Radulov has bolted for Russia. The summer has already seen Jordin Tootoo and Francis Bouillon agree to terms with other clubs.



 

Player To Watch

 

Gabriel Bourque paid immediate dividends for the Preds when he joined the team late in the campaign last year.  While he doesn’t possess prototypical size, he produced enough to become a centerpiece of Nashville’s offense in the postseason.  With a number of departures expected this summer, he could find himself in a pivotal role next fall.

 

 

Chicago Blackhawks



Forwards

 

As has been the case for the past few seasons, the Blackhawks will be led by its nucleus of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp next season.  If he’s fully recovered from the hit he suffered at the hands of Raffi Torres in the playoffs, Marian Hossa also figures to be an important part of the offense.

 

 

Defense

 

Thanks to the minute-munching pair of Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith, the Hawks aren’t required to spend a large portion of their salary cap on their second and third defensemen pairings.  While both are excellent real-world players, Keith is the more valuable fantasy asset.  Steve Montador is also a sneaky-useful late pick in leagues that reward PIMs.



 

Goaltending

 

While both Corey Crawford and Ray Emery are under contract for the 2012-13 season, the team can’t be satisfied without any other options in goal after the struggles each went through last year.  As it stands, I’d give the edge to Crawford, but I’d be reluctant to commit very heavily to either of them.

 

 

Summer Roster Movement

 

With all of their top players signed for the coming year, this team doesn’t figure to see its roster change much over the summer unless it happens via trade. The team signed veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya to a three-year, $10.125 million deal to keep him in the fold, but nothing else of consequence has been done to date. Veterans Andrew Brunette and Sean O’Donnell are both unrestricted free agents, but Chicago isn’t likely to suffer much from their loss.

 

 

Player To Watch

 

The health of Marian Hossa could be an instrumental factor in determining the fate of the Blackhawks next season.  The team maintains he shouldn’t have any trouble returning for next season’s opener, but his injury history and the nature of his ailment make me skeptical.  I’ll be avoiding Hossa in drafts next fall as much as I can with the hopes that he can prove me wrong.

 

 




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