In looking at what we need, I think it is useful to look at what we have, what we have coming and what we don't and where we want to get to.
In my opinion, we have goaltenders to take us to the playoffs. Huet is very good, so is Halak and I think Danis is capable. Price, while obviously on the cusp of something, should be given time to mature a bit.
Our defense has been sub-par in my opinion for a very long time. We depend on the goalie too much. Markov is great. Komisarek can hit, but shouldn't be depended on to carry too much of the load yet – so keeping him with Markov is a good idea. That's 1 pairing. Beyond that there's plenty of room for improvement. We could cobble together a 3rd pairing from the guys we have now and those in Hamilton easily, but I would like some 2nd/3rd type defensemen added. Bouillon with the right player could be very effective, so could Streit. So really one big number 2 type guy (or number 1 if we're allowed to dream).
Personally, I would let Souray go. He has that shot, but he doesn't answer the need on defense. Paying him big money would mean lots of ice time. I would prefere not to witness that experiment again. If he were replaced by someone who could skate, pass and defend better than he does, I think his shot could be replaced by a forward, or possibly by a new strategy on the PP.
Our forwards look better than the defense. I like Koivu and Higgins together. I even like Ryder with them. But if it's a question of Ryder or Kovalev running on "all" cylinders, I would choose Kovalev – on the top line. Plekanec is not quite a second center (not with wingers just below the grade as well), but he could be if he found chemistry with some younger guys.
Again, personally, I think Latendresse needs some time. There will be a place for him on the PP, but I think it's second line or fourth at the moment. Kostitsyn, to me, is a more intriguing prospect. He showed determination and skill at points. If he could reproduce that form, I'd see Ryder's place in jeopardy.
3rd and 4th lines look great to me. We have lots of pieces that just fit right in there. Plekanec slides back into this position nicely. Chipchura would fit for me as a 4th line center until he learns the NHL (which I don't think would take long), at which point he's the 3rd line center for years to come. Begin and Lapierre could play together or one on each line. Lapierre showed maturity in the Hamilton run. I went from very sceptical on him to thoroughly impressed. Milroy has shown good progression, though am not sold. Could be another Ryder though. Garth Murray will never be more than he is now, but he is serviceable on the 4th line. Some Bulldogs could fit in easily here too.
The way I see it, that adds up to needing a defenseman to replace (and improve upon) Souray, and a forward for the top two lines. If we obtain a top winger, I'd like to see him or Kovalev with Koivu. If it's a center (and I hope it is), then we can keep Higgins on Koivu's wing, and play the new addition with either Kovalev or Ryder and Kostitsyn or Latendresse.
So who? Among the free agents I would pick Timonen and Forsberg. But since money is an object. I might take a downgrade on either. Possibly Hamrlik on defense. Possibly Handzus or Nylander on C.
If it's a trade, I really like Marleau for one of our wingers, then signing Nagy. On D, maybe someone like Sydor from Dallas.
Looking forward to seeing how it develops. Draft should be fun...
20439: Buffalo 2 Montréal 3
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