3 NHL Teams That Are Hoping Blue Line Upgrades Lead To Offensive Spark

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This summer hasn't seen the blockbusters of Taylor Hall for Adam Larson or P.K. Subban for Shea Weber, but a number of teams have completed savvy trades to land experienced, productive defensemen. These moves will prove more important on the ice than they may initially seem on paper. 

Defensive depth and puck movement are integral to sustained success in today's NHL, and consistency in those areas depends on a reliable blue line. Three teams in particular who finished low in their respective divisions have aggressively retooled their rosters to have a better campaign this year. 

Coyotes Trade For Hjalmarsson

We touched on it earlier in the month, but Arizona's decision to trade for Niklas Hjalmarsson is just one part of an aggressive approach to the new year after a disappointing campaign last season.

The Coyotes' acquisition of Hjalmarsson is destined to bring high rewards for Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the defenseman who tallied 39 points a year ago. It was reported by Elliotte Friedman that Ekman-Larsson had a hand in bringing his countryman to the desert -- Ekman-Larsson and Hjalmarsson are both Swedish -- where the two are likely to play together.

Hjalmarsson, 30, is a veteran with three Stanley Cups on his resume and is well known for his impeccable defense, which will act as the perfect buffer for Ekman-Larsson to jump into the play.

Among all defensemen, only Brent Burns has scored more goals than Ekman-Larsson in the past three seasons. Moreover, only 15 other defenders have recorded more points in that span.

The Swede probably would have been higher on that list, but he had a dip in productivity last season after racking up 55 points two years ago. It is perhaps worth noting that Ekman-Larsson played last season as his mother battled cancer and eventually passed away.

Arizona granted him a leave of absence for the final three games of the season and he promptly returned home to Sweden.

Ekman-Larsson has shown the aptitude to score at rates that compare to Burns and Erik Karlsson, and it's clear that Hjalmarsson will act as Marc Methot has for Karlsson over the past five seasons.

Stars Deal With New Club

Speaking of Methot, the Dallas Stars -- another vastly improved Western Conference team -- have brought in Karlsson's old partner to play with John Klingberg, once called "Karlsson of the west."

Dallas' ability to bring in Methot from the brand-new Vegas Golden Knights gives their thin blue line a new tool, one that will be the insurance policy for Klingberg's high-risk play.

The 24-year-old Klingberg has shown a unique ability to score and move play in the right direction. He also has the enviable position of playing with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.

Methot, 32, has played parts of 11 NHL seasons and has made a name for himself by bailing out Karlsson's rare play that didn't result in a goal. He'll have a lot to teach the Stars' young blue line, which will likely involve high-end prospects Esa Lindell and Julius Honka full-time in 2017-18.

New coach Ken Hitchcock -- who coached Dallas in the late '90s and early 2000s -- is known for his defense-first style of play and will likely look to keep Klingberg at bay until he earns his trust. When that happens, Hitchcock will inevitably give the skilled skater more room to be himself, in which case Methot will maintain his place on the blue line in case offensive play goes awry.

Sabres Secure Two Defensemen

The Buffalo Sabres have also been active on the trade market for defensive solutions. The Sabres brought in the defense-first Marco Scandella as well as 24-year-old Nathan Beaulieu, who seemed to fall out of favor with Montreal.

Scandella, 27, is a veteran of seven NHL seasons and has always been trusted on the defensive side of the puck, starting 55.8 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone throughout his career.

Scandella is likely to be deployed on the left side of the up-and-coming Rasmus Ristolainen, who has been a high scorer on the blue line for the past two seasons.

It will be up to Beaulieu to secure his position in the pecking order. He's still at the beginning of his career and has consistently built on his offensive totals. The former 17th pick is likely to line up alongside Zach Bogosian, the former No. 3 pick who hasn't quite lived up to his potential. 

Buffalo also brought in coach Phil Housley, who was a part of one of the game's premier blue lines during his playing days. He spent the previous four seasons as Nashville's defensive coach and built it into one of the league's best.

Housley also played a large part in the impressive postseason run from the Predators, who boast one of the top defenses in the NHL. 

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @JMessing23.

High And Wide: Washington, Wild, and Woeful Starts

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By Jacob Messing

The overhauled Arizona Coyotes remain winless through five games, the Buffalo Sabres grab their first win, three Washington Capitals sit atop the scoring race, and the Erik Karlsson-less Ottawa Senators have grabbed at least a point in all five games.

Bauer Motown Classic Brings Future NHL Talent To Detroit

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By Jacob Messing

The Furious Return Of Alex Ovechkin

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Winnipeg Jets One Piece Away From Flight

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By Jacob Messing

The Atlanta Thrashers joined the NHL as an expansion team in 1999, and the journey to a serious postseason run has been anything but smooth. In 16 seasons, the organization has relocated, played eight playoff games, won zero, and morphed into the Winnipeg Jets, all while struggling to balance offense, defense, and goaltending.

UNLV Hockey Assistant Coach Injured In Las Vegas Attack

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UNLV hockey assistant coach Nick Robone was shot in the chest on Sunday night during the mass shooting in Las Vegas, which left 59 dead and over 500 injured. The 28-year-old was immediately hospitalized and is expected to make a full recovery after a successful surgery. 

20 Predictions For The 2017-18 NHL Season

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By Jacob Messing

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Players Question Rule Changes -- And They Have A Point

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By Jacob Messing

Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg got straight to the point when asked about the NHL’s new rules.

“It's slowing down the game; it's almost mocking the game,” Zetterberg told MLive’s Ansar Khan.

St. Louis Blues And Other NHL Teams Fight Through Early-Season Injuries

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By Jacob Messing

With the puck set to drop October 4 for the new NHL season, a handful of injuries suffered during the preseason may hinder some teams getting off to a hot start.

'If You Ain't First, You're Last': Erie Otters Take Step Back In OHL

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By Jacob Messing

A historic Erie Otters season ended suddenly in late May when host Windsor defeated the regular season champions 4-3 for the Memorial Cup, given to the winner of a four-team tournament played