Shamelessly stealing from Grabia, who did a three-part series before free agency actually got under way outlining his ideal situations for everything to work out, now that a lot of stuff has worked out, I thought I'd look at this again.
The more I think about it, the more I think we need to sign that man, even for a partially inflated price. Seems to me he has every right to ask for Filip Kuba money ($3mil a year for 3 years), if not a bit more. I'd probably be willing to go up to $3.5mil a year for 3 years, mostly because he's the only defenceman available who could reasonably be considered a powerplay quarterback, and I for one shudder at the thought of our four powerplay defencemen being Stoll, Bergeron, Staios and possibly Syvret or Ladislav "3 Goal" Smid. We were probably over-reliant on the point on our powerplay, and should probably move to something more down low or half-board oriented even if we get Spacek, but still, MAB is not a powerplay quarterback, yet (if ever).
As for signing another defenceman, I'm just not too sure. Markov and Witt are the only really good options out there, and don't we have two of them in Staios and Smith already? If either had more potential offensive upside (like Ward did, sort of, before he went to NY) I'd say jump at them, but the only way I'd even consider it is if we lost out on Spacek.
Now, of course, Spacek is no saviour, but I like us more with him than without him. With him, we're Spacek-Staios, Bergeron-Smith, Smid-Greene, or thereabouts, without him Danny Syvret or Markov/Witt (ideally!) becomes another option on a blueline that couldn't move the puck with a U-Haul and a team of trained Turks (who are the world's movers, as we all know).
(Also, I'd probably take another serious look at Tarnstrom, depending on his asking price and how ready you think Syvret will be. Lowe seemed to imply that he though Syvret could basically be next year's Matt Greene, which, even if it is true, might not be enough.)
But anyway, even with Spacek (and possibly Markov/Witt), our defence is definitely "servicable", possibly even "solid if unspectacular," depending, of course, on how Smith and Bergeron look without Pronger anywhere near them (number two defenceman with Pronger, possible bottom pairing without, if last year was any indication), but nowhere near a strength. Which means, of course, that our best bet is the Buffalo/Carolina model of good forwards producing a lot of offence while the defence just don't fuck anything up, which I think we can manage. Hell, if anything, we've almost stumbled blindly right into that situation.
Sans any big free agent forward additions, and assuming that Dvorak and Peca don't return (pretty safe), we still have four guaranteed top-six-calibre (T6) forwards (Hemsky, Smyth, Lupul, Horcoff), three probable T6 (Torres, Stoll and Schremp), and anywhere from two to five possible but unlikely T6 (Pisani, Pouliot, Moreau, Jacques, Winchester, in about that order). Using Buffalo and Carolina as our exemplars, we need at least eight: Briere, Afinogenov, Drury, Kotalik, Connolly, Roy, Vanek, Hecht, Dumont for Buffalo (in about that order); Staal, Cole, Brind’Amour, Stillman, Williams, Whitney, Vasicek, Weight, Recchi for Carolina (the other two were late pick-ups, so this skews a bit, but close enough). Ideally, then, the signing of at least one more guaranteed T6 forward would be quite nice.
The list of available T6 forwards isn't terribly long, especially if you want one who isn't ancient (Bondra, Recchi, Shanahan all produced last year, all over 37). Samsonov, Carter and Sykora, in fact are pretty much your only sure things (and I hear tell Carter didn't like it here, so assume he's out). You could take a chance on Roenick, Lindros, Jason Allison, Jeff Friesen, Viktor Kozlov, Eric Daze, Martin Rucinsky or Oleg Kvasha recovering from injury/getting one last gasp/finding something they supposedly had once and playing up for you, but presumably you'd want that cheap, and it could Amonte all over you.
So, with that available, ideally I say you sign at least one of them, for assurance sake. Let's go with the devil we know and re-sign Samsonov, let's say for around $3mil (I heard a rumour before The Run that he was thinking of going to San Jose; has anyone heard anything credible about where he might end up? The fact he hasn't signed yet fills me with a bit of hope, that maybe Lowe was trying to hammer something out in among the Pronger mess). With the above mentioned, and Harvey, and assuming we don't re-sign GG (who is loveable, but, I think, proved sort of irrelevant for this team) or Murray (we could I guess, but why, when we have so many kids ready?), our forwards look something like this:
Assuming Torres and Stoll do what they did last year, and Pisani gets at least a little bit of a boost from being a playoff hero, that looks pretty good. For whatever reason, I have much faith in Schremp being able to play second line centre with a lot of PP time and going nowhere near defensive situations. Harvey provides some protection against rookie meltdown, though maybe you want to go sign Murray or Marty Reasoner again (who loved it here, according to CHED) to get even more of that. They play in front of a defence that's capable, though missing a significant long-bomb pass, and probably blocks shots like last year. I guess our powerplay goes something like:
Pleasant enough up front, sort of suspect on the back. I guess maybe one of your playmakers could play point as well, and Torres/Pisani/whoever could sub in up front. Presumably goaltending is solid.
So, yeah, that's what my team looks like next year, being fairly realistic, I think. If we don't sign Samsonov, we should pursue one other good forward, even a cut-rate chance guy. If we don't sign Spacek, we sign Markov or Witt and start trapping like if Jacques Lemaire was 17th-century European explorer and pray that Craig Simpson gets hit by lightning and turns into an autistic powerplay genius, using some sort of magic five-forward attack.