The NHL trade deadline is one of the most exciting and sometimes unpredictable points of the NHL season. Some teams need to start taking steps towards completely rebuilding their rosters, while others are trying to add a veteran sniper or tough defenseman to give them an edge over the other Stanley Cup contenders.
In Episode Four of NHL He Said, She Said, fellow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Alison Myers and I will predict which teams will be the most active at the trade deadline. These teams can be buyers or sellers, just as long as they're making deals.
Don’t forget to keep reading until the end when Alison and I will give our Game of the Week picks, as we do in every episode on He Said, She Said.
NHL He Said, She Said is a weekly column where NHL Featured Columnists Adam Graham and Alison Myers each give their thoughts on the hot topics from around the NHL over the past week. They also each pick an upcoming Game of the Week that you should watch.
Calgary Flames: The Flames seriously need to start the rebuilding process. They have not made the playoffs since 2009, and a lot of their forwards are getting up there in years, as three key members of their offense (Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen) are over 30 years old.
While they still have some hockey left in them, these are not the kind of players to build a future around. Iginla has been the centerpiece of trade speculation and rumors for the longest time, and hopefully he can go to a contending team and get a Stanley Cup before his career comes to a close.
Furthermore, only three Flames players have at least 30 points this year. After that, their roster is mostly just average with some borderline players and not many standouts. As a whole, Calgary is 26th in the NHL with just 2.34 goals scored per game.
They are currently sitting just outside the Western Conference playoff bubble with a record of 26-22-8 and are 5-2-3 in their last 10 games. They may not make the postseason cut in a competitive conference, but they can make some moves now to start looking towards the future.
New Jersey Devils: The Devils have a solid playoff position as of right now. They are sixth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 31-20-4 for 66 points.
One of their biggest areas of need is on defense. Players such as Anton Volchenkov, Kurtis Foster and Henrik Tallinder do have the potential to be contributors to a unit that surrenders 2.76 goals per game. Unfortunately, these guys tend to spend more time on the injured list than on the ice.
Adam Larsson has done a good job in his first NHL season, and prospects such as Alexander Urbom show promise, but a team like New Jersey looking to get back to its once-elite form cannot be patient with young players.
The Devils could also look to get younger in goal. Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg are facing unrestricted free agency this year, and Brodeur could decide it’s time to hang up the skates. Hedberg has been a solid backup, but, as is the case with Calgary, it’s difficult to build a future around an older player.
And for those of you believing that Zach Parise will be on the move, it may not be so likely anymore. An article on NHL.com says that Parise is feeling good not only about his individual performance, but also about the direction the team is going.
This does not mean Parise is no longer untouchable, but it drops his chances of being traded a little bit.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Tampa has fallen a long way from their resurgent season in 2010-11, which saw them go to the Eastern Conference Finals. They currently sit 12th in the East with a record of 24-25-6 and are eight points away from the eighth seed, currently held by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
With Steven Stamkos the future on offense and Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis still producing, this unit can stay pat for the Bolts. Their biggest needs should be on goaltending and special teams.
Dwayne Roloson, who experienced a comeback last year, is 42 years old and has declined sharply. He is 7-11-2 with a dismal .881 save percentage and 3.62 GAA. Mathieu Garon has fared slightly better, as he has a 17-14-4 record with a .902 save percentage and 2.89 GAA. But, he is nothing more than a backup goaltender.
Tampa also has weak special teams. They are near the bottom of the NHL in both the power play (28th at 13.5 percent) and the penalty kill (80.6 percent, 25th). Sure, the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup with a less-than-impressive power play, but that’s not going to be a blueprint most teams want as they look for postseason success.
Even if the Bolts miss the playoffs, they need to upgrade in these areas to make a run for next year.
Washington Capitals: If there was ever a time for the Capitals to make a splash, now is that time. As much as they tried to bolster their roster in the offseason by signing Tomas Vokoun, Roman Hamrlik and Joel Ward, it didn’t work and now they are faced with the distinct possibility of going from serious Stanley Cup contenders to missing the playoffs altogether.
For this reason, the Capitals could be the best candidates to make what is commonly referred to as a panic move, or two, in order to shake things up. Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t, but they need to do something because missing the playoffs would be a disaster for this franchise.
The Capitals also have some roster players that could go the other way in a potential deadline deal. Mike Knuble has been a healthy scratch for the past three games and is an unrestricted free agent this summer, so don’t be surprised if he is dealt to a contender looking for a veteran power forward, regardless of his stats this season.
Jeff Halpern is another veteran that’s a pending UFA, and even though he’d be a valuable commodity to a team like the Capitals in the playoffs, he’d likely be sought after by a few other contenders as well and might get dealt in one of those moves to shake up the team. Of course, this is assuming that Washington would get a half-decent roster player in return for him.
New York Rangers: The fact that the Rangers are at the top of the Eastern Conference standings and might even win the President’s Trophy is one of the best stories of the 2011-12 season.
However, some prognosticators still don’t believe they’re legitimate Cup contenders. A lot of this has to do with the fact that goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has stolen a lot of games when they’ve been outplayed. The other reason is because they don’t have a ton of scoring depth.
While the blue shirts will make no apologies for Lundqvist stealing them a few games, they can address their scoring depth by acquiring one of the many proven forwards that are rumored to be on the trading block.
For example, the Rangers have been linked to several elite forwards over the past couple of weeks, such as Ray Whitney, Ryan Smyth and Rick Nash (via ESPN, The New York Post and Yahoo! Sports). If they can land even one of these players, it would make a major splash around the NHL.
Don’t rule out the Rangers going after another defenseman either. Their top four blue liners are extremely solid, but they could use some depth in case players like Marc Staal or Dan Girardi, who both log a ton of ice time, go down in the playoffs.
Edmonton Oilers: Unlike the Calgary Flames, there’s no doubt as to whether or not the Edmonton Oilers will or won’t be sellers and that’s why they’re my pick to be the most active team on deadline day.
The Oilers are still in a rebuilding mode and have plenty of potential suitors for a few of their upper echelon players such as Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner and the aforementioned Ryan Smyth, who have all been rumored to be on the way out of Edmonton.
While it’s unlikely that all of these players will be moved, don’t be surprised to see at least one of them traded at the deadline along with possibly another depth player in order to acquire draft picks and make room for their younger players to shine next season.
Game of the Week picks
I have to admit I’m biased here because I’ll be in attendance at this game, but I have to go with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers matchup this Saturday, Feb. 18, at 1:00 p.m. EST.
The rivals have met twice this season, with Philadelphia taking the first two meetings by a combined score of 7-4. In the first meeting back on Dec. 8 in Philly, Wayne Simmonds had two points to help the Flyers to a 3-2 win. The Flyers had two power-play goals, and Evgeni Malkin had two points for the Pens in defeat.
In Pittsburgh on Dec. 29, Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot each scored to propel the Flyers past their former team with a 4-2 victory. Kimmo Timonen and Jakub Voracek each had two points, while Tyler Kennedy added a goal and an assist for the Penguins.
Malkin has been on fire for Pittsburgh as of late, and the Pens have put up at least four goals in their last two wins over the Winnipeg Jets and Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Flyers, meanwhile, have been struggling to start February, as they are just 2-4-1 in their first seven games of the month. They lost to the Rangers by identical 5-2 scores less than a week apart and struggled against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 4.
This game could also be a possible first-round playoff preview, as the Flyers and Penguins are fourth and fifth in the Eastern Conference, respectively. It would be the third time in five years these intrastate rivals met in the postseason.
In addition to the Penguins and Flyers game, there are plenty of potentially good games between great rivals to choose from this week. The Bruins and Canadiens game on Wednesday is one, but my choice is another game on Saturday between the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:00 p.m. EST.
The Capitals and Lightning might have the most underrated rivalry in the NHL today. The Lightning always play the Capitals tough no matter how far apart they are in the standings, and this year in no exception. Every single game between them has been a one-goal game and two of those games were decided in overtime or a shootout.
There’s also a lot of bad blood between these two teams, which goes back further than just their playoff series last spring. Hopefully the game on Saturday provides us with the same excitement as their other battles this season.