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Screen Shots: Off-season fun far from done

UFA Alex Tanguay had 16 goals and 41 points in 50 games with the Canadiens last season. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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UFA Alex Tanguay had 16 goals and 41 points in 50 games with the Canadiens last season. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

A handful of THN staff who gathered in the palatial office of editor in chief Jason Kay earlier this week debated the merits of all 30 teams and decided on pre-season predictions that will appear in our highly anticipated 2009-10 Yearbook edition.

As always, it was good fun bandying about reasons why you thought the world of this team and thought not a lot of that one, while hearing counter-arguments from different perspectives.

But one of the most interesting comments in the process was uttered after we had agreed on where we thought each franchise would finish in the regular season standings. Someone mentioned re-visiting the predictions closer to the start of training camp; somebody else said words to the effect of, “well, the predicted standings shouldn’t change much, since most teams already have made their big moves.”

That’s when yours truly raised a Spock-ian/The Rock-ian eyebrow of curiosity. Because if you’re really paying attention, you know there are many large-scale transactions still waiting, begging even, to be completed.

One of those transactions assuredly will originate from the Toronto Maple Leafs, who appear to be the opposite of the 2008-09 Tampa Bay Lightning, amassing enough NHL-caliber blueliners to staff two NHL teams, while leaving their forward unit thinner than Ryan Miller on a hunger strike.

Many observers believe Leafs GM Brian Burke will trade at least one prominent member of his overstuffed defense corps – Tomas Kaberle and/or Mike Van Ryn being the most likely candidates – before a single skate hits the ice at Toronto’s training camp. Some of those same observers wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Burke package one of his defensemen along with a veteran forward (say, Matt Stajan or Alexei Ponikarovsky) who aren’t integral to the organization’s long-term plans.

Clearly, they’re not done shuffling in Leaf Land. And you’d have to say the same for Doug Wilson’s San Jose Sharks, the team playoff fun forgot.

In the hours immediately after San Jose frittered away another post-season last April, the smoke emanating from Wilson’s ears could’ve covered an entire KISS concert (minus the encore component) – and the Sharks GM swore up and down there would be significant ramifications for the roster.

Yet here we are in mid-July and the only new face in San Jose’s lineup so far is former Predators third-liner Scott Nichol. Somehow, I doubt Wilson believes the only necessary alteration to the team is the presence of Nichol, so there have to be additional changes on the horizon there as well.

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Of course, there’s also the Dany Heatley Predicament (another great name for a rock band) in Ottawa that still has to play out.
As well, certain teams – the Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild, for instance – employ relatively new GMs itching to find trading partners who can help them expedite their building process.

But wait, there’s more: the Washington Capitals need a defensive defenseman; the Columbus Blue Jackets need an offensive defenseman; the Chicago Blackhawks and Calgary Flames could be in the hunt for a backup goalie; and the Vancouver Canucks require a replacement for whatever it was Mats Sundin was supposed to provide.

Then there are the numerous recognizable free agents who continue to seek out work. A bunch of them are experiencing the now-predictable financial squeeze that cuts into mid-tier veterans’ earning potential, but there’s no way players such as Alex Tanguay, Sergei Zubov and Derek Morris stay unemployed through the exhibition season.

And while we’re at it, exactly how long can the Coyotes afford to keep Shane Doan around?

They should already have been asked, but where are all the questions about giving the Yotes’ captain a shot in his prime with a team that spends far more than the salary cap minimum and wins a playoff round or two? How many more springtime trips to the World Championship with the Canadian national team is it going to take before Doan puts aside his nice-guy approach and politely asks to be relocated?

Whatever the outcome in Phoenix or any aforementioned market, there’s no doubt roster-renovating season in the NHL is far from over. Too many rosters simply have too many transparent deficiencies.

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Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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