I'm back with my analysis! Here's the Central Division:
Jonathan Toews (3 yr, 875 K) - I know that Toews is not a free agency acquisition or trade, but I thought that I would mention him because he will be a major factor this year for the Hawks. He has already played with men and did pretty well. I would go as far as rookie of the year.
Sergei Samsonov (trade with Montreal) - Samsonov frankly sucked with Montreal and did not show that he had the talent to play in this league. However, he does have talent. May be a change of scenery (again) will make him an elite player again. For what Chicago got rid of to get him (dead weight in Cullimore), I think it was a good acquisition which could make the Hawks better.
Robert Lang (2 yrs, $8 million) - Lang did fairly well in Detroit, but he is getting up there in age. Toews will take over the top line center role, which will probably mean that Lang will be pushed down to the second line. He will be effective for the Hawks though because he does still have some gas left in the tank.
Yanic Perreault (1 yr, $1.5 million) - Perreault is the best face-off man in the league and has showed that he can contribute with some goals. He will help the Hawks win faceoffs and will probably center the third line. Good investment at 1 year, $1.5 mil.
Andrei Zyuzin (trade with Calgary) - Zyuzin is a capable d-man that will stay healthy and probably do more then Aucoin did for the Hawks during his stay. I just don't think that he fit in with Calgary's system.
Remaining Holes: Veteran 5-6 d-man
Final Analysis - With the acquisitions made by the Hawks combined with the talented youth (Toews, maybe Kane) being injected into the top 6 ranks, I think they will make the playoffs this year. Toews will be a key contributer for them and I think will win rookie of the year (if Backstrom doesn't get it). Samsonov and Lang will also increase their goals scored, but I'm not totally convinced that their youthful albeit talented defense will be able to bring them back to the playoffs.
Predicted Finish - 3rd
Detroit Red Wings
Bryan Rafalski (5 yrs, $30 million) - When I found out that Detroit signed Rafalski I was shocked because I thought that New Jersey would fight with every fiber of their being to retain this guy. However, Detroit snagged him and dumped Schneider in the process. Personally I think that Rafalski is a better choice then Schneder because he is much younger and is more well rounded. Very good signing by the Wings.
Dallas Drake (1 yr, 550 K) - There was a reason St. Louis dumped this guy. He's not effective anymore. But at 550 K, maybe he can contribute some grit and leadership to the younger players on the team.
Remaining Holes - Top 6 Forward, Depth Forwards
Final Analysis - So what has Detroit done to replace Todd Bertuzzi and Robert Lang, they signed an aging Dallas Drake. Not the ideal replacement for two point producing forwards. However they did adequately replace Mathieu Schneider. Mark my works Rafalski will do A LOT for the Wings during his stay. The Wings still have a lot of work to do to patch up their forward lines though. They still will probably win the division.
Predicted Finish - 1st
Columbus Blue Jackets
Jiri Novotny (2 yrs, undisclosed) - Novotny will not be an impact player on Columbus. Did he do anything centering Alex Ovechkin? However, with the right ice time and role, he may be an effective player on the Blue Jackets.
Jan Hejda (1 yr, $1 million) - Hejda was a pretty stable defenseman on the Oilers once he got some ice time in. He will probably help the Jackets.
Remaining Holes: #6 d-man, top 9 forward
Final Analysis - Clearly the new GM of the Blue Jackets is going to go with basically the same team as last season. If that's the case, they better hope that Rick Nash can stay healthy and score at the pace that his talent suggests, the enigmatic Zherdev live up to his elite billing, and that they get solid goaltending from the tandem of Norrena and Leclaire. That's a lot to ask, so I say they miss the playoffs again.
Predicted Finish - 5th
Radek Bonk (2 yrs, $3 million) - Bonk was an effective checker on the Canadiens when he was there, but he was not the scorer he once was. And I don't think he will get to be a scorer again. He will however provide the Predators with good defensive hockey.
Greg de Vries (2 yrs, undisclosed) - de Vries was very good on the Thrashers and provided them with solid top 4 minutes. He's no Kimmo Timonen though. But he will provide the Preds with solid top 4 minutes.
Remaining Holes - None
Final Analysis - With all the hype surrounding the Preds imminent departure from Nashville and all the moves they have made, they still have a solid team. You would think that any team who loses Timonen, Hartnell, Vokoun, Kariya, Forsberg would be in a bad place. But the Predators will still be a competitive team next year. Mason is a more then capable starter, as seen when he became the starter for several games when Vokoun got injured. They also still have two solid top lines in Erat - Legwand - Sullivan and Dumont - Arnott - Radulov. I would love those 6 players to be in my top 6. The Predators are just not as deep as they used to be.
Predicted Finish (without injuries to top 6, and solid goaltending from Mason) - ranging from 2nd to 4th
St. Louis Blues
Paul Kariya (3 yrs, $18 million) - Adding Paul Kariya has instantly made the Blues better. He is not too old and is extremely dangerous and shifty. He may be a little over payed though.
Final Analysis - Kariya's signing and Tkachuk's return to the fold has made the Blues a little more dangerous then last year. If their defense can stay healthy and they can get solid goaltending from Legace, they may have a shot at the playoffs.
Predicted Finish - 4th