NHL Trade Speculation: 10 Teams in Hot Pursuit of Defenseman Hal Gill
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Once the NHL playoffs begin in April, all 16 teams are hoping to play four rounds of exciting and physical hockey on the road to the Stanley Cup. But often, teams get more worn down as they advance to later rounds, and the grind certainly takes a toll on players.
The trade deadline is the last chance to add both skill and depth before the playoff struggle begins, and while many teams are in search of an extra scoring punch, perhaps even more critical is having another reliable and experienced body on defence.
Hal Gill is the player that many playoff-bound teams should be after. He has experience, leadership and skill. More than any other possible acquisition, he will provide the defensive backbone that any team needs to win the Stanley Cup.
Here are ten teams that should heavily consider making a move for Hal Gill in order to get their roster ready in time for the playoffs.
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Perhaps one of the front runners to acquire Gill’s services, the Philadelphia Flyers currently sit fourth in the Eastern Conference and have little hope of catching the New York Rangers at the top of the Atlantic Division. They have been playing well—just not well enough to win the conference.
Adding a solid defenseman like Gill will provide the Flyers with stability on the back line and may even cover up for the shaky play of Ilya Bryzgalov. If they hope to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second time in three years, tightening up the defense is an important first step for the long, grueling playoff struggle.
New York Rangers
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The New York Rangers are having an outstanding season. Coach John Tortorella has his group focused and energized. With the Boston Bruins slipping over the past few weeks, the Rangers have found themselves vying for the top spot in the East. Although they have been very sound defensively, the Rangers could make a real statement by pursuing Hal Gill.
If they do add the steady defenseman to their already impressive line up, the Rangers must be considered one of the top-two favourites heading in to the postseason. A reliable defender playing in front of a hot Henrik Lundqvist will make New York a scary team come April.
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There has just been something off about the Chicago Blackhawks this season. They have an extremely talented roster, and Corey Crawford has played well at times, but they just haven't yet found their groove or played up to their potential. The addition of Hal Gill would add leadership and stability to a roster that is still fairly young.
Chicago will be a tough matchup against any team in a seven game series, but having someone to stay back and clean up will allow Jonathan Toews to be more offensive. The Western Conference is extremely competitive right now, and will continue to be until the very end. Joel Quenneville would be wise to pursue Gill before the trade deadline.
St. Louis Blues
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The St. Louis Blues have been a pleasant surprise this season. They own the fourth spot in the Western Conference, and can actually pass the Detroit Red Wings because they've played two fewer games. They have been stellar on defense all year, allowing only 111 goals through 55 games.
If they were to acquire Hal Gill next week, they would emerge as one of the premier defensive teams heading in to the post-season. That would mean an advantage over the likes of the Canucks or Sharks if they were to face off.
Adding Gill would allow them to compete for the top spot in the Western Conference over the remaining two months of the season.
New Jersey Devils
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The New Jersey Devils are beginning to play their best hockey of the season. The third through ninth spots in the Eastern Conference are in an all-out dogfight and the Devils are right in the thick of things. Signing Hal Gill would be great for a team in New Jersey’s position. They can make a statement to the rest of the East and show that they want to make a serious run during the playoffs.
With their current position in the East, going on a four or five game run could prove huge come playoff time. Hal Gill would provide a force on defence and turn New Jersey in to a solid all-around defensive team.
If Ilya Kovalchuk can continue to produce, the Devils have the potential to make waves in the playoffs on the strength of a consistent defensive squad. Hal Gill could be the piece they need.
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One of the main reasons the Canucks fell victim to the Bruins in last year’s Stanley Cup Finals was defensive fatigue. Dan Hamhuis, Sami Salo, and Christian Ehrhoff all suffered minor and major injuries during the playoffs. Add to that the suspension of Aaron Rome, and they were left with a much depleted defense.
Although the Canucks are having another great season, they have incredibly high expectations and assume they will be playing again in to June. Acquiring Hal Gill at the trade deadline would add size and toughness to their back line, which they could use come the playoffs.
Four rounds of physical playoff hockey takes its toll and the Canucks must have enough healthy bodies on defense in order to make another finals run.
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The Penguins have been tearing it up lately, with a 7-2-1 record in their past ten games. Evgeni Malkin has been on fire, putting together a string of remarkable performances. Now Pittsburgh’s Jordan Stall has returned from a knee injury and figures to play a big role in an upcoming playoff run.
Unfortunately for Dan Bylsma, Sydney Crosby's return this season looks doubtful. Despite that question mark, his team is playing at a very high level right now.
Adding Hal Gill would be a very solid move heading in to the post season. It looks like the Penguins have the pieces to compete with elite Eastern Conference teams, but having a defensive-minded player like Gill would increase their chances of defeating a top-two seed in the second or third round.
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The Predators make a living playing solid, shutdown defense. With the likes of Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne, Nashville will be another tough team to take down come playoff time. They play very disciplined hockey, and if they can develop a real scoring punch, they have a chance at matching their success from last post-season.
Hal Gill wouldn't address the Predators’ primary concern, but he would certainly add depth and leadership to their roster. If they plan on making a serious run deep in to the playoffs, they will need to be consistent on the blue line every game.
Having Gill on the ice will allow their more adventurous defensemen to take risks and contribute on the offensive side.
San Jose Sharks
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The San Jose Sharks always seem to be one step away from playing in the Stanley Cup Finals. The addition of Hal Gill would help their cause immensely. The Sharks have a great offense and always enjoy many scoring chances; however, shaky goaltending and undisciplined play seem to prevent this team from living up to their high expectations.
The window is closing on the Sharks with the current roster of players they have. If they want to win now, they need to make a move for Gill to prove that they can hang with the likes of the Red Wings and Canucks.
Having a veteran such as Hal Gill will give them toughness and stability on the back end, which they have sorely missed over the past few seasons.
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We always speculate on where players may potentially be traded, and who are the front runners to acquire a player’s services. One thing we do not discuss as often is how much effort a team should put in to keeping a trade target. The Montreal Canadiens are not having a great season. They currently sit at 11th in the Eastern Conference.
However, they are only seven points out of a playoff spot, and none of the Maple Leafs, Capitals or Jets seems to want the eighth seed that badly. Montreal can certainly nab a playoff spot if they improve their game over the next two months. If they can sneak in to the post-season, you never know what could happen.
Last year, they took Boston, the eventual champions, to overtime in Game 7. If they can hang on to Hal Gill, they may just grab a playoff spot—and from there who knows what might happen.