Must-haves: Brian Campbell, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Martin Havlat, Cristobal Huet
Contributors: Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Dustin Byfuglien, James Wisniewski, Nikolai Khabibulin
Sleepers: Andrew Ladd, Brent Sopel, Cam Barker, Jack Skille, Dave Bolland
Wannabes: Adam Burish, Ben Eager
Offseason analysis: The Blackhawks brought in top free agents Campbell and Huet, and now Chicago is being looked at as a top contender in the Western Conference. Those two moves really shake up the complexion of the team as Huet has bumped Khabibulin as a No. 1 goaltender, and the Blackhawks now have an abundance of talented defenseman with Campbell that they are toying with the idea of making Byfuglien a top-six forward. His Fantasy value would really increase since he would be Fantasy eligible as a defenseman racking up forward points (i.e. Mark Streit with Montreal in 2007-08). The Blackhawks allowed injury-prone Jason Williams to sign with Atlanta and his loss will be greatly affected on the power play. One player Chicago decided to hold onto was LW Andrew Ladd, who had 12 points (five goals) in 20 games with the Blackhawks after coming over in a trade deadline deal last season. His game really flourished in the Windy City and might be breakout star in 2008-09.
Columbus Blue Jackets
|Brad Boyes could quietly put up a nice season for the Blues. (US Presswire)|
Contributors: Kristian Huselius, Mike Commodore, R.J. Umberger, Fredrik Norrena, Jason Chimera, Fredrik Modin, Raffi Torres
Sleepers: Rostislav Klesla, Derrick Brassard, Jakub Voracek, Nikita Filatov
Wannabes: Jared Boll, Jan Hejda, Christian Backman, Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, Fedor Tyutin. Manny Malhotra, Jiri Novotny, Michael Peca, Mike York, Kris Russell
Offseason analysis: The most news Columbus made in the offseason was trading RW Nikolai Zherdev to the Rangers and not re-signing RW David Vyborny (Czech Republic) and D Ron Hainsey (Atlanta). The trade of Hainsey could open the door for Klesla to have a breakout season playing alongside Commodore. Columbus did sign a few key free agents in Huselius, Commodore, Torres and Umberger, but all eyes come training camp will be on the Blue Jackets' youth movement. They expect to have top prospects Brassard and Voracek in camp and hope both young forwards can stick with the team all season. Filatov, the sixth overall pick in 2008, is expected to play in North America this season, but the Russian forward might spend the season playing junior hockey. He projects more as a long-term Fantasy keeper, but could have sleeper value if he breaks camp with the Blue Jackets.
Detroit Red Wings
Must-haves: Pavel Datsyuk, Marian Hossa, Henrik Zetterberg, Brian Rafalski, Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Chris Osgood
Contributors: Tomas Holmstrom, Daniel Cleary, Ty Conklin, Johan Franzen, Jiri Hudler, Mikael Samuelsson, Brad Stuart
Sleepers: Valtteri Filppula
Wannabes: Kirk Maltby, Brett Lebda, Andreas Lilja, Kris Draper
Offseason analysis: The reigning Stanley Cup champions only got stronger in the offseason with the addition of the All-Star Hossa. If Detroit chooses, they can line him up with Datsyuk and Zetterberg, and you will be looking at one of the best scoring lines in the NHL. The great Dominik Hasek decided to retire, again, and that leaves Osgood in net as the top goalie. He was the star of the playoffs in 2007-08 and has had some of his best seasons with the Red Wings. Osgood remains a viable No. 1 Fantasy goalie, even with Conklin breathing down his neck. The Red Wings might have the best set of blue liners in the NHL with Lidstrom and Rafalski, but the unit got even stronger last season when Stuart was added in a trade deadline deal. He was great in the playoffs and was rewarded with a four-year deal. Another player that made waves in the run to the Stanley Cup was Franzen. He and Filppula are two rising stars for Detroit and could emerge as consistent top-six forwards in 2008-09.
Must-haves: J.P. Dumont, Shea Weber, Jason Arnott
Contributors: Martin Erat, Ryan Suter, Dan Ellis, Dan Hamhuis, David Legwand
Sleepers: Cody Franson, Pekka Rinne, Ville Koistinen, Kevin Klein, Patric Hornqvist
Wannabes: Jordin Tootoo, Greg Zanon, Radek Bonk, Vernon Fiddler, Scott Nichol, Jed Ortmeyer, Jerred Smithson, Greg De Vries
Offseason analysis: Alexander Radulov shocked the hockey world when he signed a three-year deal to play in the newly formed Kontinental Hockey League (Russia) with one year left on his contract with the Predators. A big battle ensued between the NHL, KHL and IIHF, but a resolution has not yet been reached. Even if Radulov remains with Nashville, the question beckons how motivated will he be in 2008-09? His departure could open the door for a few prospects to climb into the picture, including Hornqvist, who has spent the last three seasons playing junior hockey in Sweden. Nashville dealt goalie Chris Mason to the Blues in the offseason and that cleared the way for Ellis to start the season as the team's No. 1 goalie. It could be short-lived if the journeyman minor leaguer struggles and can't hold off emerging prospect Rinne. In a surprising move, Nashville also traded Marek Zidlicky, their best offensive defenseman, to Minnesota. The pressure is now on Hamhuis, Suter and Weber to pick up the slack. The Predators have some good young talent waiting to emerge in the NHL, primarily Koistinen, Klein and Franson along the blue line.
St. Louis Blues
Must-haves: Brad Boyes, Paul Kariya
Contributors: Keith Tkachuk, Manny Legace, Chris Mason, Andy McDonald, Lee Stempniak, David Backes, Eric Brewer
Sleepers: David Perron, Patrik Berglund, T.J. Oshie
Wannabes: Barret Jackman, Jay McClement, Dan Hinote, D.J. King, Jay McKee, Jeff Woywitka, Cam Janssen, Andy Wozniewski
Offseason analysis: The Blues didn't really lose many key players from 2007-08 outside of backup goalie Hannu Toivonen leaving to play overseas and trading Jamal Mayers to the Maple Leafs. St. Louis shored up their goalie issue by trading for Mason, who began the 2007-08 season as Nashville's No. 1 goalie. He will help alleviate the workload for Legace, but is now in a backup role. Boyes emerged as one of the NHL's best goal scorers in '07-08 and should lead the charge again in 2008-09. Kariya and Tkachuk are aging forwards, but St. Louis is ready to unleash Berglund and Oshie on the NHL. Also, Perron got valuable PT as a rookie last season and could be on the verge of a breakout campaign. The real weakness for St. Louis is along the blue line. Erik Johnson, the No. 1 pick in 2006, is an emerging talent, but now he will miss the 2008-09 season thanks to a torn ACL. The rest of the blue line is primarily defensive-minded and Fantasy owners should likely look elsewhere for viable options.
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