I'd keep Couture, Hertl, Meier for sure. They are your best 2 way players and give honest efforts. Kane might want to go to Seattle to avoid the CA State Income tax in light of his current financial predicament. I'd move Burns back to forward, his natural position and where he really has his muscle memory. Karlsson is a better passer and is more adaptable to the high low strategy employed by the coaching staff. LeBanc is a disappointment from a D standpoint. Two seasons ago, he was atrocious for the 1st half of the season until DeBoer challenged him to show that he deserved to be an NHL player and his play turned around. Last season he reverted back to 1st half LeBanc. Jones is here as a stop gap until Melnichuk can take over. Vlasic and Simek I'd keep and we will see how Khnyzov progresses during the year. Gambrell has been a disappointment and Marleau probably retires after this season.
Players to watch for : Blichfield is a sniper and may turn more heads..Chekovich, Chmelevski can be good players and I'm curious what Dahlen and Sund can contribute. Ferraro will be a very good D Man but I'm not sold on Merkley yet due to his difficulties in getting along during his Juniors years
I'd say Meier has been an epic disappointment THIS season - I just don't see his effort. At the same time I acknowledge, even going back to juniors, he depends on a skilled play maker. He's never one to "stir the drink" really.
I feel like Gambrell has improved, though I don't think he'll ever be much of a scorer (he's like Nieto 2.0). I see the effort and he's trying to drive play, he's just never in a position to finish. Been decent on the PK though.
Totally agree re Ferraro - he's the type I'd want to keep/build around. Burns as well, assuming Merkley can come in and play and be effective in the NHL - else we're just too thin on D right now. If he can it would be huge because Burns moving to forward would help alleviate the lack of depth at forward. He can be a legit top 6 wing.
I'm not nearly as down on Karlsson as most folks, but between his injuries and the fact that it looks like he's never on the same page as the forwards, I just don't know that he'll ever be the play he signed to be (and that we really need).
Overall I can see some of your points, but I worry with that core, we'd never truly compete for a Cup. We'd be stuck in a cycle of mediocrity. Barely making or missing out of the playoffs for the next 3-4 years.