May 21, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Anaheim Ducks defensemanSimon Despres
(24) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during the second period in game three of the Western Conference Final of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
No. 3: Chicago Blackhawks
Who’s In: Marko Dano, Trevor Daley, Artem Anisimov
Who’s Out: Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya
After the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2013, they iced a near-identical roster the next season, and almost defended their title.
That won’t be the case this year, as the defending Stanley Cup Champions have taken a course very similar to the one they took in the summer of 2010, after winning their first of three championships in six years.
The Blackhawks were and still are cap-strapped, and the trade of Sharp should have no one surprised. That of Saad, thought to be the face of the Blackhawks’ youth movement, was something that certainly had Blackhawks fans up in arms. However, with money already tight, and monster offer sheets looming on the pending RFA, Stan Bowman got a substantial return, instead of watching Saad walk out for nothing in just a matter of days.
It remains to be seen whether the Blackhawks will put up a decent fight at defending their title next season, but at the end of the day, they still have a two-time Norris Trophy winner, the NHL’s best captain, an explosive American and, now, several Russians to fill the void. They should be okay.
Da Windy City
No. 2: St. Louis Blues
Who’s In: Troy Brouwer
Who’s Out: T.J. Oshie, Barret Jackman
After the Blues failed yet again in the postseason, GM Doug Armstrong warned of big changes ahead. He wasn’t lying.
The Blues bid goodbye to playoff underperformer Oshie, and netted the exact opposite in Brouwer: a proven contributor.
The biggest news of the off-season in St. Louis, however, was the $60 million thrown at Vladimir Tarasenko, a Russian rocket with untapped potential. It will take just the right amount of influence from Ken Hitchcock, who is on a tight leash this season, but with just enough poking and prodding, the Blues could finally turn into the Stanley Cup contender we all thought they could have been for the past three years.
No. 1: Anaheim Ducks
Who’s In: Carl Hagelin, Kevin Bieksa
Who’s Out: Matt Beleskey, Francois Beauchemin
For the past two seasons, the Ducks have been the best team in the Western Conference once playoff time rolls around. If the first 15 days of July is any indication, that isn’t going to change, any time soon.
Bob Murray has worked absolute magic in the Ducks’ front office thus far, making all the right moves, and doing so on the cheap.
In fact, at one point, the Ducks had 20 roster players signed, and were just $200,000 over the cap floor. That’s not a typo.
Now the Ducks have addressed their biggest need with the addition of Bieksa, and the combination of Hagelin and Andrew Cogliano will certainly make for the speediest 1-2 punch in the league.
With the Kings still rebounding and the Blackhawks refreshing their roster, the path is clear for the 2015-16 edition of the Anaheim Ducks. They’ve gotten closer and closer to returning to the Stanley Cup Finals over the past several seasons. This year might just be the year they do so.
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