I'm going to give a pretty in-depth explanation of how my roster is built and why I believe it's a long-term winner, but I may as well start off by simply listing the roster. Here are my lines, with salary (in millions of $) and number of years remaining in parentheses:
|Neal ($5 x 6)||Giroux ($3.75 x 2)||Vrbata ($3 x 2)|
|Marleau ($6.9 x 2)||Carter ($5.272 x 10)||Hornqvist ($3.083 x 1)|
|Marchand ($2.5 x 1)||Filppula ($3 x 1)||Wheeler ($2.55 x 1)|
|Shaw ($0.565 x 2)||Goc ($1.7x2)||Dwyer ($0.625 x 1)|
|Connolly ($1.633 x 2)||Hartikainen ($0.875 x 1)|
|Bieksa ($4.6 x 4)||Girardi ($3.325 x 2)|
|Beauchemin ($3.5 x 3)||Robidas ($3.3 x 2)|
|Hamonic ($0.875 x 1)||Gunnarsson ($1.325 x 1)|
|Alzner ($1.285 x 1)|
|Halak ($3.75 x 2)|
|Giguere ($1.25 x 1)|
Before getting to some rationale for the individual players and lines, here's how the team is constructed in general: when I set out to put this team together, I was looking for two things. The first is players who provided on-ice value above their cap hit, and the second is players who were able to succeed against tough competition. Just about every player on this team played against top competition last season, and almost all of them ran roughshod over that competition. There are three forwards who aren't particularly under-valued (Carter, Marleau, Neal), but all three are capable of completely dominating top competition. The main strength of this team is the fact that the opposition would never have the puck; it's an absolute beast of a Corsi machine.
The only player in my top 6 who hasn't scored 30 goals within the past 3 years is Claude Giroux, who just scored 93 points. The "second" line here plays against the other team's toughest competition. Carter is among the best 2-way centres in the game, Marleau does exceptionally well against top competition, and Hornqvist has been the best Corsi player on a poor Corsi team in Nashville. That opens up Neal-Giroux-Vrbata (all great puck possession players in their own right) to decimate second defensive pairings and weaker forwards. 100 point season for Giroux? 50 goals for Neal? 40 for Vrbata? Not out of question with the other guys taking the toughest minutes. After that you've got an extremely undervalued 3rd line. There's no team in the league that can handle a 3rd line that good. Then the 4th line is made up of cheap checking line players who have no problem coming out on top while getting extremely unfavourable zone starts.
There's not a lot of offense in my defence, but I'm OK with that because the forwards are so stacked. The primary job of the defence is to get the puck up to the forwards so they can work their magic, and that's exactly what this defence does. There are 4 legitimate top pair defenders on this squad. Like with the forwards, in theory the 2nd pair here is the shut down pair, which leaves Bieksa and Girardi open to join the Giroux line in feasting on the opposition. Make no bones about it, this is a tough, difficult to face defence. All 4 of these guys are strong and love to get in opponents' faces. They all throw lots of hits and block lots of shots, and all 4 are very sound positionally. Following up behind them you've got two cheap but highly effective players in Gunnarsson and Hamonic, both of whom are absolute steals on their current contracts.
Halak may not be quite as cheap as Jonathan Quick right now, but he'll probably be cheaper in the long run and I don't think there's much reason to believe that Quick is much better than Halak is. Over the past few seasons Halak has been one of the most consistent goalies in the league. He's also reasonably young and comes with a pretty efficient contract. Behind him you've got Giguere. Giguere was the only real compromise I had to make on this team, but I'm still reasonably happy with him in a backup role.
This is a team that can contend for the Cup right out of the gate. The average age of the top 6 forwards is 27; for the top 4 D it's 31; the rest of the skaters are younger guys ready to move up in the lineup with an average age of 24. The top 6 is locked up for two more years other than Hornqvist who will be an RFA; I think he can be retained for roughly the same amount of money. The only forward at any real risk of leaving is Filppula, but Marcel Goc is more than capable of filling the same role for the same amount of money. Marleau and Giroux have contracts that expire at the same time, so Giroux simply takes Marleau's money and Wheeler or Marchand moves up one line. Vrbata probably tries to hit it big as a UFA in 2 years, but with Hornqvist, Wheeler, and Marchand sticking around I can replace him easily and fill the third line role with someone like Brett Connolly.
On defence Robidas is gone at the end of his deal, but that's fine because either Gunnarsson or Hamonic can take his place and they'll both do it for less money even after they get new contracts. Beauchemin and Bieksa are both at a great age for defencemen and both have good term left on their deals. It'll take a bit of work to keep Girardi, but I think it's doable, especially if Vrbata leaves that summer.
In goal Halak is the long-term option as the starter. Giguere can be reliably replaced for the same amount of money either through UFA or guys coming up through the system.
This is a team that can win a Cup right now, but it's also a team that has lots of room for the younger guys to move up as the older guys move on. It's got forwards who can all outplay their competition, a physically imposing defence, and a young, reliable goalie. It's a team built to last.