The NHL trade deadline is exactly three weeks away, though GMs around the league are already busy working the phones, hoping to find that perfect deal to vault their teams from pretenders to contenders.
With so many clubs still within shouting distance of the playoffs, expect to see a flurry of player movement between now and February 27th, with these three teams playing crucial roles in the deals that do (or don't) go down.
Which team will be the biggest player at the deadline?
New York Rangers
It's not every year that the Rangers have a legitimate shot to etch themselves onto the Cup.
As such, it's imperative that GM Glen Sather do everything in his power to ensure that his team makes the most of this fleeting opportunity at contention.
Since New York is already the league's stingiest squad with regard to allowing goals, that would have Sather perusing the market for forwards and wingers. The Rangers have already been mentioned in connection with a number of high-profile goal scorers—among them Rick Nash, Tuomo Ruutu and Ryan Smyth—and, with owner James Dolan hanging over the team and ruing the failures of his New York Knicks, figure to lure at least one big name into the mix before deadline day comes and goes.
Two years out from their last Stanley Cup championship, the Blackhawks still have more than enough firepower to hoist the prize this year.
That is, if they can ever find a way to stop the puck. Chicago currently sports the sixth-highest average on goals per game allowed and the fifth-worst save percentage in hockey.
But don't expect the Hawks to go chasing after a goaltender at the deadline. While Joel Quenneville is busy coaxing his forwards into helping out in front of the net once in a while, GM Stan Bowman would be wise to check in with the Winnipeg Jets about Johnny Oduya and Ron Hainsey or with the Tampa Bay Lightning regarding Bruno Gervais and Brendan Mikkelson.
Los Angeles Kings
Stopping the puck is anything but a problem for the Kings—they've allowed the third-fewest goals in the NHL, thanks in large part to the stellar efforts of Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier in goal.
On the other hand, no team has scored fewer goals than LA, which came into the 2011-12 season with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations but now finds itself on the bubble on account of its offensive putridity.
As such, the Kings will be in on nearly every player on the block who can shoot straight with a crooked stick, including Tuomo Ruutu, Jeff Carter and (perhaps) even Rick Nash. The biggest constraint for the Kings may yet be the cap hit to be incurred by the latter two, who currently skate with the Columbus Blue Jackets.