The NHL season might have only just finished and the headaches in Pittsburgh only just subsiding but teams across the league are already making plans for the start of the new campaign. General managers at every franchise in the NHL won't have been able to spend too long on the beach and even Jim Rutherford of the Penguins will be looking at how he can improve his Stanley Cup-winning team. As well as strengthening those areas that needed attending to, GMs will be looking at the current trends in the league - speed and goalscoring prowess across three lines - and adding players capable of adding that to their rosters.
After Pittsburgh ended the Western Conference's run of four straight Stanley Cup wins, becoming the first team from the Eastern Conference to lift the famous trophy since the Boston Bruins in 2011, teams from the West have wasted little time in strengthening their rosters in the hope of challenging next season. Here are the teams from the Western Conference that have done the best business during the offseason.
Calgary Flames: On the back of such a disappointing season, it's probably no surprise the Flames have been extremely busy since the end of the season. First priority on the franchise's to-do list this summer was to address last year's terrible save percentage, and Calgary have been quick to bring in Brian Elliot in a trade with the St. Louis Blues as well as Chad Johnson. Both made over 40 appearances last season and will add some much needed experience to a problem area of the roster following Niklas Backstrom's departure. Calgary's early season odds with 32Red Canada, 888sport and others of 45/1 to win the Stanley Cup give an indication of how much the Flames are in need of new talent.
Minnesota Wild: Having come so close to reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 2014/15, the Minnesota Wild were somewhat disappointing last season. While they reached the playoffs, they had to do it through a wildcard, falling at the first hurdle after losing 4-2 to the Dallas Stars. If their big players can rediscover their best form next season, Minnesota will be a force to reckon with again next season, and it's no surprise 32Red and others have them as short as 30/1 in 2016/17. The really exciting arrival this summer has been centre Eric Staal, who agreed a three-year deal worth $10.5 million. While the Canadian international is coming off the back of his worst offensive season since his rookie year, the previously prolific forward could be a fantastic option to have if he can get back to his best.
Nashville Predators: Another one of those teams capable of surprising a few people next season are the Nashville Predators. Despite already being a talent-packed side and reaching the Western Conference second round last season, the Predators have made potentially the biggest trade of the summer so far, with general manager David Poile exchanging defenceman Shea Weber for P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadians. While they've had to wave goodbye to one of the league's best defenceman and their influential captain, in signing Subban, the Predators have turned themselves into a team definitely capable of making an impact next season. Not only younger than Weber, the Toronto-born defender is coming off the back of a better season, and his arrival has given a huge lift to the whole franchise.
Edmonton Oilers: It's been a summer of high risk trades for the Oilers, but ones which could end up really paying off for the Western Conference outfit. General manager Peter Chiarelli has taken the somewhat controversial move to trade Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson with the New Jersey Devils. While the former number-four pick failed to live up to the hype during his time in New Jersey, a move to Edmonton could end up being what the 23-year-old needs to really kick start his career after a tough couple of seasons. The real focus for the Oilers over the past few months has been the signing of Milan Lucic, who arrives on a seven-year $42-million contract, and is now expected to form a major part of the franchise's plans in 2016/17.
Can the Western Conference bounce back?
While we might not be looking at next season's winner in the list above, it's clear that these teams are going to be much stronger next season. With the likes of Washington and Pittsburgh expected to be the main challengers next season, though, we may be entering a period in which the Eastern Conference starts dominating the NHL in the same way the Western Conference has for much of the last 10 years.