NHL Free Agent Preview: Northeast Division

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Boston Bruins

Cap Space – $5.5 million

UFAs – Steve Begin, C; Miroslav Satan, LW

RFAs – Gregory Campbell, C; Adam McQuaid, D; Daniel Paille, C; Mark Stuart, D; Blake Wheeler, RW

Needs – Defense; the Bruins are even thinner on the blueline since trading Dennis Wideman to Florida and need some warm bodies.

Ready for the big time – Tyler Seguin comes into town with high expectations as the No. 2 pick, so much so that talk of dealing fellow pivot Marc Savard was rampant leading up to July 1. Seguin brings an NHL physique and slick hands to the B’s and the fact he won’t be leaned on early by an already solid Boston squad will only help his development.

Buffalo Sabres

Cap Space – $13.8 million

UFAs – Patrick Lalime, G; Toni Lydman, D; Adam Mair, C; Cody McCormick, RW; Raffi Torres, LW; Henrik Tallinder, D

RFAs – Patrick Kaleta, RW; Tim Kennedy, C; Mark Mancari, RW

Needs – A little bit of everything. The Sabres are set in net with Ryan Miller, but he needs a backup. High-end scoring would also be nice for the balanced yet underwhelming attack, while veteran blueliners will be required should Tallinder and Lydman bolt.

Ready for the big time – Center Tyler Ennis’ brief tryout in 2009-10, which ran from the end of the regular season to the end of Buffalo’s post-season, was a great omen if you’re a Sabres fan. Undersized but fearless, Ennis put up points right away in the NHL and didn’t back down when facing the biggest challenge in the league (literally), Boston’s Zdeno Chara. The fact Ennis tied for the team lead in playoff scoring can be taken two ways.

Montreal Canadiens

Cap Space – $7.3 million

UFAs – Marc-Andre Bergeron, D; Paul Mara, D; Glen Metropolit, C; Dominic Moore, C

RFAs – Sergei Kostitsyn, LW; Maxim Lapierre, RW; Carey Price, G; Gregory Stewart, LW

Needs – Forward depth will be one priority for the Habs, who have a lot of muckers unsigned right now. The other obvious need is goaltending. While the trade of Jaroslav Halak made Carey Price the Anointed One, Price still needs a contract. He’ll also need a backup.

Ready for the big time –
P.K. Subban’s fill-in blueline performance was one of Montreal’s great storylines during its run to the conference final. The slick-skating, puckmoving defenseman made cavalier rushes his early trademark, but also did good work getting tight on Sidney Crosby in the seven-game defeat of the Penguins. With Andrei Markov expected to miss the start of the season recovering from knee surgery, Subban will get a chance to shine early.

Ottawa Senators

Cap Space – $10.0 million

UFAs – Matt Cullen, C; Shean Donovan, RW; Andy Sutton, D; Anton Volchenkov, D

RFAs – Cody Bass, C; Chris Campoli, D; Nick Foligno, LW; Peter Regin, C; Jesse Winchester, C

Needs – With Volchenkov poised to hit the open market and Sutton not far behind, the Sens require blueliners. Only one defense prospect can be deemed NHL-ready right now, so trades or free agents are necessary. Scoring must also be addressed and the unhappiness of Jason Spezza only serves to make matters worse.

Ready for the big time –
The Senators have a dearth of rookies available to them this season, with top prospects such as David Rundblad, Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch expected to continue their development elsewhere. And with Erik Karlsson coming on full-time last season, the mantle falls to Zack Smith, a hard-nosed grinder who was impressive in a late-season stint with Ottawa last year. Smith has size (6-foot-2, 209 pounds) and he's not afraid to drop the gloves. He even gave a pasting to Pittsburgh's Max Talbot in the playoffs. The center also contributes a modicum of offense.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Cap Space – $12.3 million

UFAs – Garnet Exelby, D; Jamie Lundmark, C; Wayne Primeau, C; Mike Van Ryn, D; Rickard Wallin, C

RFAs – John Mitchell, C; Christian Hanson, C; Nikolai Kulemin, RW

Needs – Top-six forwards and lots of them. The Leafs have goaltending, defense and toughness, but offense is sparse. Phil Kessel is the only legitimate top-liner on the team and a wealth of youngsters won’t change that by next season. With Tomas Kaberle being dangled as trade bait, look for the Buds to address their anemic attack through a deal rather than a signing.

Ready for the big time –
Nazem Kadri knows Leafs Nation is watching. The high-scoring center, who can also play both wings, has already been touted by Toronto coach Ron Wilson as an NHLer for next season, so expectations are high. Kadri looked great during last year’s training camp and was not out of place during a one-game emergency audition last season. He’ll get a great chance to shine with Toronto’s thin forward corps.

Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday.

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