Through 56 games of the 2011/12 season, the Washington Capitals have a 28-23-5 record, having been a perennial cup contender are a team far from its best.
The Caps are struggling badly, and with the NHL trade deadline less than two weeks away (February 27), the time for improvements is now.
In terms of where General Manager George McPhee could look to improve his squad, the biggest holes in the team are clear. The 156 goals scored by the team places them at 11th in the NHL, and top-six talent is badly needed.
There are quite a few players available on the market that would fit the bill for the Caps, among them Olli Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu. Another name that could look good in the Verizon Center Red is that of New York Islanders winger PA Parenteau.
Pierre-Alexandre is a late-blooming winger who didn't break into the NHL full-time until a season ago, but since then, the 28-year-old has established himself as one of the league's more gritty, scoring wingers. Last year, in 81 games, Parenteau scored 20 goals and added 33 assists for 53 points to go along with 46 penalty minutes. In 55 games of 2011/12, Parenteau is on track to shatter his career highs with 11 goals and 38 assists for 49 points along with 45 PIMs.
The French-Canadian winger plays an agitating, get-in-your-face game with a high motor and the skills to complement his physical assets. A prototypical top-six forward, Parenteau would look mighty good alongside the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Bäckström at the top of the Caps' order.
The Caps are likely to have several pieces on the trade block at the deadline. Mike Knuble, now healthy-scratched for the third straight game, has been linked with a move out of the nation's capital, and the lack of action Jeff Schultz has seen over the past few months certainly seem to suggest he could be in line for a trade as well.
In addition, the Caps depth of elite prospects means that some of the fringe hopefuls, like Cody Eakin, as well as the Caps' own first-round pick, could become expendable.
PA Parenteau is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, currently on a bargain 1.25 million dollar contract. He is due for a big day in the summer, but whether or not the Caps are willing to pay that is irrelevant, as Parenteau would fill admirably as a rental player for now.
The Islanders are a team on the rise, and will likely look for elite NHL-ready prospects. Eakin is a fine example. A one-for-one trade might work out for the Caps, should McPhee be ready to part with one of his best youngsters.
Follow Jake Ware on Twitter at @JacobWare95