By Nick Villano @nick_villano on June 24, 2014
The NHL is going into its offseason, and every team is looking to make some moves that will help them get to the promised land. Every team has a player that they could not do without -- someone who is, and hopefully will continue to be, the cornerstone of the franchise. This list depicts who represents that on every NHL team.
Coming into this year, this was almost a given that it was Patrick Kane. After Toews took over leadership with the team, as well as with Team Canada, he showed he is the irreplaceable commodity. The Hawks are perennial contenders thanks to what he brings.
While there are many amazing young players on the Colorado Avalanche, there is only one who earned the captaincy at 21 years old. He was a plus-21 with 65 points over the season, and he is the player they are currently building around in Denver.
Tyler Seguin came to the Dallas Stars in a preseason trade, and he immediately became their top commodity. Because of his contributions, the Stars were able to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08. He was clearly the missing piece to this puzzle.
Zach Parise left the New Jersey Devils to go home to the Minnesota Wild. He led them to an upset win over the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the playoffs and was the best player on the ice for a good portion of the playoffs as he scored 14 points in 13 games. The Wild would be nowhere close to where they are without Parise.
While you could put Pekka Rinne in this spot, I think how well Shea Weber has played since Ryan Suter left for Minnesota showed he is the player to have on this team. He might be the best defensive player in the NHL. Playing in Nashville sometimes doesn't give him the recognition he deserves, but know that he is the most irreplaceable player on the Predators.
While you can put multiple stars from the St. Louis Blues on this list, it is hard to get a generational defensive player like Alex Pietrangelo. When the rules are being geared to score more goals, it's the players keeping goals off the board who are important.
The Winnipeg Jets are the big question mark of this offseason, and it seems like their entire team is tied to different trade rumors. It looks like 22-year-old Evander Kane is as good as gone, despite looking like he could be an elite goal scorer in the right situation. That leaves Blake Wheeler. He led the team in all offensive categories and seems to have finally put it all together. You don't let players like that loose.
Ryan Getzlaf is one of the Hart Trophy candidates whose name could get called tonight. He is going up against two of the best in the league in Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux. Getzlaf showed how important he was when he returned in the playoffs after a puck in the face broke his jaw. While many will point to the fact that he plays on a line with Corey Perry, I think he helps make him a superstar.
Mark Giordano was a plus-12 for the Calgary Flames last season. While that isn't anywhere close to the league leaders, it is impressive on a team that went minus-32 on the season. To have one player on the blue line affect the game so well on both sides of the ice is something you cannot let go of.
This is a hard decision to make between Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. They are both amazing players to build your team around. Hall seems to have some of the intangibles already put together, as the 22-year-old already has 225 career points. He is a center, so he is learning how to be great on both sides of the ice and is already a great puck handler. There is so much he will be able to do in the years to come.
No offense to Jonathan Quick, but the Los Angeles Kings showed they could survive without him when he isn't at his best (or injured like he was earlier in the year). Anze Kopitar is the key to the Kings' Stanley Cup win. He led the playoffs with 26 points, and he gets the puck in the perfect spot for his teammates to score. He is everything you want and need out of the star of a Stanley Cup winner.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored 15 goals as a 22-year-old last season. The names above him are mostly all-time greats (Weber, Chara, Byfuglien, Karlsson). He could become the best offensive defenseman in the league after it is all said and done.
The San Jose Sharks look like they could be going through some changes this offseason. After letting go of a 3-0 lead to the Kings, there is talk that Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau could be on the outs. If big moves like that do occur, then players like Marc-Edouard Vlasic have to step up and become leaders. He finally got the recognition he deserved last season, and now he has to show why he is the team's most irreplaceable player.
It is hard to choose between which of the Sedin twins is more important. With so much turmoil in the Canucks franchise, those two need to keep it together when the season finally starts. They are the names everyone will associate with the Canucks for years to come. Henrik gets the nod because he plays the more difficult position.
Zdeno Chara is the key to a great Boston Bruins team. Many stars can move elsewhere (like Seguin and Nathan Horton did this offseason), but the team is still one of the best in the league. His defensive presence alone has some players afraid to pull the trigger on offensive chances.
It is hard to pick someone to build around on the Buffalo Sabres. Their team is so young that you don't know how everyone is going to develop. After another season where veterans were sent to other teams, Christian Ehrhoff looks like the last surviving veteran. If you want your young players to develop correctly, then you need to have a veteran who can direct them on the ice.
Pavel Datsyuk is getting up there in age, but he is still the most irreplaceable player on the Detroit Red Wings. He looked like the only player who knew how to put up points in their series against the Bruins. There are stars like Zetterberg and Nyquist who will own the future, but for now Datsyuk is still king on the Red Wings.
It seems like it's been years since the Florida Panthers were set up in net for the future. In fact, it may be the first time in franchise history that they are as set up as they are with Roberto Luongo in net. In his second stint with the franchise, he looks to take a young team and carry them to a possible surprise playoff berth in 2014-15.
P.K. Subban showed this season that he is one of the premier players in the NHL. He scored 53 points from the blue line for a team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. He couldn't push them over the hump after they had to go with a rookie goalie, but that doesn't take away from his accomplishments.
With what looks like the impending departure of captain Jason Spezza, there will be a huge hole at the center position for the team. More than likely it will be filled by Kyle Turris, and that makes him the most valuable commodity this team currently has. More than Erik Karlsson and Bobby Ryan, he is going to be looked upon to move this team to the future.
When Ben Bishop went down, so did the hopes for the Lightning in the playoffs. Anders Lindback just isn't capable of holding down the load. If Bishop is healthy, then this team is a Cup contender. If he isn't, then it's a long road for them. After losing Martin St. Louis, he needs to also take on a leadership role and carry them to victory.
Despite the hate that sometimes comes towards him, Phil Kessel is still the most important player on the Toronto Maple Leafs. He can score at any time he wants to. Just watch his miraculous goal against the Devils; he can make his own shot. Those kinds of players are the ones you hold on to.
The Carolina Hurricanes were a disappointment in 2013-14, but Eric Staal was not. He did his best to put the team on his back and lead them to the playoffs. He played the role of a true captain. Hopefully he can get some help from his teammates, and especially from his brother, Jordan.
The Columbus Blue Jackets pushed the Pittsburgh Penguins to the limit in the playoffs this season. They recorded their first franchise playoff win, and Sergei Bobrovsky is the reason why the Jackets are contenders from here on out. He brings everything together for this team.
For most of the year, Cory Schneider was the best player on the New Jersey Devils. There are some who argue that if he started more games in net then the team would have made the playoffs. He has the daunting task of replacing one of the best players in league history in Martin Brodeur. If he can repeat a season where he ranked third in the league with a 1.97 GAA, then he can carry the team to the postseason.
John Tavares is the key to the New York Islanders' future. Everything they want to be in the future relies on him becoming a superstar. He is going to be coming off a knee injury this year, but he should be able to get back to where he was. He may take over for Crosby and Ovechkin as the big name to watch in the NHL.
Henrik Lundqvist carried the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1994. The biggest city in the world did not make it to the pinnacle of the hockey world for two decades. Lundqvist is the key to them making it anytime in the next two decades.
While surprising, Luke Schenn is everything the Flyers need to become a power in the Eastern Conference. They are going with Steve Mason, who isn't the best goalie in the league. They have plenty of offense with Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and offensive defensemen Andrew MacDonald and Mark Streit. They need someone who can help them keep shots away from Mason.
Sidney Crosby is the best player in the world right now. There was no other player who deserves to be on this list, let alone just for the Penguins.
You cannot make Alexander Ovechkin the man here when he was one of the bottom in the NHL in terms of plus/minus. Nicklas Backstrom holds that team together when everything seems to be falling apart. While Ovechkin is an elite scorer, Backstrom is what the team needs to make it far in the playoffs.
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