With the 2022 PHF Isobel Cup Playoffs around the corner, each team was given an additional $10,000 in cap space in addition to another roster spot to use before March 14. Since that announcement, things have been relatively quiet
There’s no guarantee that PHF teams will use this cap space and add use the additional roster spot — most haven’t used all of the roster spots already available to them — but this definitely adds some additional intrigue as the regular season winds down. I wouldn’t blame any general manager who chooses to go with the group they have now to avoid ruffling any feathers in the locker room at the 11th hour. But, with that being said, every team should be looking to improve before the playoffs arrive.
That improvement can take a lot of shapes. Maybe it’s a depth signing to provide some insurance in case of injury. Maybe it’s a player to help replace a player who is already sidelined with an injury. Or maybe it’s a highly-coveted FA who wasn’t available to sign on for the full season but can sign on for the last few weeks of the season and the playoffs.
Let’s look at what should be at the top of each team’s “shopping list” with this added cap space and roster spot.
The Connecticut Whale | 10-3-1
- What they should add: another goaltender
- Latest signing: Melissa Samoskevich
- Greatest strength: offensive depth
The Whale had outstanding forward depth before they re-signed Melissa Samoskevich. Now they might have the best group of forwards in the league. At this point, it’s hard to say if they even have room for another quality forward because all of their forwards are valuable and have clear roles in the lineup. It’s worth noting that the Whale lost defender Kati Tabin at some point this year but I don’t think Connecticut’s biggest need is a defender. I think it’s in the goal crease.
In my opinion, it would behoove the Whale to have one more goaltender in the mix. Abbie Ives was an All-Star this year but she has a .909 Sv% against a relatively light workload and Mariah Fujimagari has a .891 Sv% in 120 minutes of action. Ives is the clear workhorse starter here, but adding another goaltender who could challenge her for starts might bring out the best in everyone.
In theory, I like the idea of adding a veteran keeper to help replace some of the in-house knowledge the Whale lost when Laura Brennan parted ways with the team. It would also be a sound insurance policy ahead of the postseason. The Whale are too good this year to leave something like this to chance.
The Toronto Six | 13-2-1
- What they should add: one more scoring threat — why not?
- Latest signing: Breanne Wilson-Bennett
- Greatest strength: star power
The Six did a nice job of adding scoring depth to replace what they lost in Michela Cava but, at the end of the day, they still lost Cava. A player of that caliber is not easy to replace, even though Toronto helped address what they lost by bringing back Breanne Wilson-Bennett and signing Natalie Marcuzzi before that. Both have already made an impact sine their return to the squad.
So, the question really becomes what do you get the team that has everything? The Six lost Sam Ridgewell to the SDHL, but Hofmann is a very capable backup behind Elaine Chuli. If not another scoring threat to add one more dimension to their offense, perhaps adding a third goalie should be something the Six consider. But, on paper, I like the idea of drawing from the deep pool of local talent in Toronto to bolster the second line and second PP unit.
The Boston Pride | 9-5-0
- What they should add: consistency, or another top-six center
- Latest signing: Mary Parker
- Greatest strength: stacked blue line
The Pride are a significantly better team than their 9-5-0 record, but, for whatever reason, this team is not greater than the sum of its parts. It’s vexing. I am vexed.
So, what ails Boston? Why are they “only” four games above .500? Personally, I think Lovisa Selander has suffered as a direct result of not seeing enough shots and starts and that a few of Boston’s brightest stars have been suprisingly quiet — but there’s no need to panic. This team is too good for that. Even if all cylinders aren’t firing, the Pride remain a Cup contender. They just need to get back on track when the games matter most and they have everything they need in the locker room to do that.
If they had to make an addition, I think it should be another top-six center. Evelina Raselli — who has one goal in 10 GP this season — is back from the Olympics and Mary Parker has returned to the team but the Pride still don’t have the center depth they once did. Personally, I think they miss Lexie Laing and Tereza Vanišová. I think they miss the third line they had in 2019-20. Whatever they can do to recreate that, they should.
The Metropolitan Riveters | 5-10-1
- What they should add: defensive depth
- Latest signing: Kiira Dosdall-Arena
- Greatest strength: emerging scoring depth
The Rivs addressed their greatest need with the recent re-signing of veteran defender Kiira Dosdall-Arena. In addition to bolstering the blue line at evens and on the penalty kill, Dosdall-Arena also has a history of power-play production. A few years ago, she was setting up one-timers for Kelsey Koelzer on the advantage which helped Koelzer finish the 2017-18 season with 5 power-play goals. She will help this team in every situation.
With that being said, the Rivs could still use more defensive depth and/or another scoring line winger to help replace what they lost when Kate Leary didn’t return to the team. Speaking broadly, the Riveters need another player or two who excel in the transition game at evens. They need to generate more scoring chances at evens and do more to hold their own in the shot share. Dosdall-Arena will help, but there’s still room to build and improve on this roster.
The Buffalo Beauts | 4-12-0
- What they should add: A superstar forward (because those are just lying around)
- Latest signing: Claudia Kepler
- Greatest strength: goaltending
The Beauts have been playing significantly better from what we saw at the onset of the season. Taylor Accursi is back in the lineup, Claudia Kepler has added some much-needed scoring depth, and Dominique Kremer, Cassidy Vinkle, and Autumn MacDougall all have a knack for generating offense. Buffalo is really starting to come together, but they are still missing that gamebreaking superstar that transforms the team. They’re missing what Kennedy Marchment brings to the Connecticut Whale.
Unfortunately for the Beauts, there aren’t many superstars just lying aro... wait. Target acquired.
If this is more than just some social media hijinks, Steadman is exactly the kind of player the Beauts need. But she’s not the only player who can help the Beauts.
A top-six center who can make an impact in all three zones would be a tremendous boon to this team. There have been more than a few times this season when it felt like the Beauts could benefit from some of their forwards buying-in more to aid the defense. Steadman wasn’t exactly known for her defensive prowess in the then NWHL but she more than made up for that with her goal-scoring prowess.
The Minnesota Whitecaps | 5-10-1
- What they should add: a bacta tank to get Amanda Leveille healthy
- Latest signing: Julie Friend
- Greatest strength: team speed
The Whitecaps brought back former goaltender Julie Friend but she isn’t Amanda Leveille. If Leveille is out for the rest of the season and the playoffs, the Whitecaps season may already be sunk. You just can’t replace Lev. She’s a franchise goaltender and the best at her position in PHF/NWHL history.
Maybe that means the Whitecaps should be in the market for another goaltender who can challenge Jenna Brenneman for the starting role. Or maybe they’d be better off looking for a top-shelf puck-moving defender like Amanda Boulier or Sydney Baldwin to better unlock the potential of their speedy forwards at even strength. Either way, they are definitely one of the teams that should be looking to make a move before the deadline arrives.
To be clear, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Whitecaps. The depth offense that was so conspicuously absent in the early stages of the season has finally arrived. This team no longer depends on Allie Thunstrom and Jonna Curtis to generate all of its offense. That, in and of itself, makes Minnesota a better team than they were in November and December. Still, if Lev is out long-term, they’re in trouble.