This off-season roughly 90 full-time NHL players have switched teams. That is a lot of players to change scenery. So why not profile which ones will benefit the most? That sounds like fun. Who is going to make the biggest leaps forward or regain their form in their new city?
By: Adam Pyde – @Adam_Pyde
Honourable Mention: Olli Jokinen, Derek Roy, Mike Ribeiro – Nashville Predators, Centers
I was considering giving a couple of these guys their own spots, but decided to lump them together since they are all on the same club and will be stealing minutes from each other. Makes it tricky to predict who will boom.
It’s safe to assume that at least one of them will be the new first line center and will play with James Neal. Likely one of Roy or Ribiero, and they stand to get a lot of minutes and opportunity to produce. The other two centers will likely anchor the second and third lines in some capacity, with some time on special teams.
New Predators coach Peter Laviolette has been known for more of an open system, and anything in comparison to Barry Trotz’s system will be more open, so you can expect to see some more offence coming out of Nashville. Ribiero and Roy should have extra motivation as well considering they are on one year contracts.
5. Radim Vrbata, RW, Vancouver Canucks
Things that the Canucks have desperately needed: right-handed right-winger with shooting ability.
Things that Vrbata, 17, brings to the table: being a right-handed right-winger with shooting ability.
The gameplan in Vancouver is to play him alongside the Sedin twins which should bode well for him. He’ll also get every opportunity to help improve Vancouver’s dreadful powerplay that was missing right-handed options last season.
If he was able to score 20+ goals in Phoenix, he should be able to flirt with 30 this season. He just needs to learn to keep his stick ready and in preseason he has been doing just that.
He’d be higher on this list if he wasn’t coming off an okay offensive year.
4. P.A. Paranteau, RW, Montreal Canadiens
He’s been skating next to David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty in the preseason and should he start the season there, he’ll be playing first line minutes and on the powerplay. He’ll be pseudo-stepping into both of the roles of the departed Daniel Briere and Thomas Vanek. He’s not quite the offensive player Vanek is, but Vanek didn’t have the greatest tenure in Montreal. It’s going to be hard for him to out-suck Briere.
The knock against him is that he’s soft on the boards which isn’t great for a winger, but he’s still a surprisingly strong defensive player when you dig into the nitty and gritty. It wouldn’t be crazy to see him put up 50+ points this season, in fact it should be more or less the expectation.
3. Martin Havlat, RW, New Jersey Devils
If he’s healthy, which is the big old “if” with Havlat, he could be the best bargain in the NHL this season. He’s signed for a paltry $1.5 million against the cap and on a New Jersey team that could use a dash of speed and finishing ability, he’ll get the opportunities that he couldn’t find in San Jose anymore.
While he only played 48 games last season, he still put up 12 goals and 22 points which isn’t bad once you consider a lot of those games were spent playing with Tommy Wingels and other bottom roster players. Almost all his points were scored at even strength as well. If he can get some powerplay time and reliably be centered by Adam Henrique or Travis Zajac then he could easily double his production from last year.
A full healthy season could see 20+ goals and 55-60 points. Not bad.
2. Dany Heatley, LW, Anaheim Ducks
If the preseason is any indication, he’ll be starting the year on the left-wing of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Considering those two players are perennial All Stars, Heatley will be in a spot to succeed. He still shoots the puck well at about 11% and he’ll mostly see ice in the offensive zone and on the powerplay.
He only went 12g-16a last year on the Wild, but if he can stick on the top line, even for 50 or so games, then he could probably do what Penner did last season and put up ~30 points over that span. If he can stick for most of the season, 50 isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
1. Ales Hemsky, RW, Dallas Stars
Last year he spent 55 games in Edmonton and managed 26 points in that span. Then he was traded to Ottawa where he recorded 17 points in 20 games playing with an actual centerman and a real offensive defenceman.
He has a whole lot of things going in his favour this season. First off, he’ll be playing with an actual centerman on the first or second line this season. He could be feeding Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, or he could be playing alongside his center from Ottawa in former Senator Jason Spezza.
He’s going to be surrounded with more offensive firepower than he’s ever been and should have the best season of his career since putting up 42 points in 47 games in 2011. I see him regaining his “star” form.