The Vancouver Canucks are yet again going to enter the postseason in the top three in the West, with little to no competition in the Northwest division.
The general consensus is that Mike Gillis will make at least one addition to the team prior to the Feb. 27 trade deadline.
Last year, the Canucks fell just one game shy of the Stanley Cup, losing in a seven game series to the Boston Bruins. A major reason why the Bruins won the series was the fact that the Canucks couldn't match their gritty, hard-nosed style...and the fact that their goalie isn't human.
The Canucks have since lost Christian Ehrhoff, Tanner Glass and Raffi Torres, three players who played a big part in the team's physicality. Despite the pleasantly surprising entrance of Byron Bitz, the Canucks are still lacking in that area.
At 26 years old, Raymond still has a ton of potential in his career, but it appears that the plethora of talent on the Canucks' roster is limiting his abilities.
Of course, Keith Ballard is also on the market if any team is willing to pick up the $4.2 million, 7-point stud.
While they'll most likely keep him as insurance against a Roberto Luongo meltdown, Cory Schneider would be available if the right player was offered in return. But the number of teams who need a starting goaltender and have something to offer in return are minimal.
It would come as a huge surprise if the Canucks were to remain quiet in the next 10 days.
The following is a list of the top 10 players the Canucks should look to acquire in their quest for the Stanley Cup.
Although a center is probably last on the Canucks' wish list, Tuomo Ruutu plays the exact style they're looking for.
He's a dangerous offensive threat, who isn't afraid to throw his body around and go to the front of the net.
He's also probably available for a bargain, as the UFA-to-be recently went down with an upper body injury, and is expected to be out for another three weeks, essentially eliminating bubble teams from the mix.
Luckily, the Canucks will without a doubt make the playoffs, meaning they won't actually start relying on new acquisitions until the postseason.
In return, the Canucks could offer Mason Raymond.
As mentioned, the Canucks won't be looking to add a center, but with players like this potentially on the market, it could be tough to refuse. Plus, there's no harm in adding one more player who can step in and win a faceoff, especially as well as Paul Gaustad.
Odds are, if the Canucks can offer up Mason Raymond in return, the Buffalo Sabres will accept; if not to add a shifty forward to their lineup, to simply shake up their failing roster.
Zach Parise is an example of one of those players who could pry Cory Schneider away from the Canucks by the deadline.
With Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg on their way to retirement, the team is in dire need of a new starting goaltender.
With the captain headed to unrestricted free agency, there's been wide speculation that Parise could be on his way out.
Many believe that given the Devils' position in the standings, they could hang on to Parise through the playoffs and attempt to re-sign him or trade him at the draft. The issue with that plan is that if the Devils are offering up Parise at the draft, other teams will be led to believe that the contract talks have halted; in which case, they'd be best to just wait and let him hit free agency.
A trade involving Cory Schneider would ensure that the Devils don't lose Zach Parise for nothing, while addressing their goalie issues in the meantime.
Also, with Ilya Kovalchuk finally playing as if he's worth somewhere near $100 million and Adam Henrique back in the lineup, their offensive production could go almost unscathed.
Rumors surrounding Rick Nash have been the talk of the NHL in the last few days. A player whose availability was once thought unfathomable is now the most coveted player on the market.
There have been mixed reports on a "list" that Nash gave Scott Howson; some saying the teams are Boston, Los Angeles, New York Rangers, San Jose and Toronto, while others report that Vancouver is in fact on the list as well.
If Vancouver is on Rick Nash's list of preferred destinations, Cory Schneider, Mason Raymond and a pick could be the perfect offer in return.
Of the teams rumored to be involved in the Nash sweepstakes, Los Angeles and Vancouver are the front runners in terms of what can be sent the other way.
While Nash would be a great addition the the Canucks' already deadly offense, This trade may not be possible without dumping Keith Ballard's contract as well. Even so, the $7.8 million cap hit through to 2018 would seriously limit Vancouver's options come free agency.
It's becoming tradition for the Canucks to enter the postseason with a depleted blue line, and the worries of a repeat continue with the news that Keith Ballard is out with a concussion.
Of course, many fans would say the Canucks are better off without Ballard, but in my opinion he's gotten the unfairly judged since day one. Is he worth $4.2 million? No. But he still contributes.
Either way, the Canucks may be looking to add a veteran defenseman as insurance against more blue-line injuries.
Pavel Kubina is someone on a team who are most likely going to be sellers (especially after trading Dominic Moore for draft picks on Wednesday).
Kubina brings the size and experience that Vancouver desperately needs.
Steve Yzerman recently stated, "We've decided to protect our interest and keep Pavel off the ice until the situation is resolved.", and has asked the defender to provide a list of five teams which he'd be willing to waive his limited no trade clause for (a list that is expected within the week).
If the Canucks are on this list, Pavel Kubina is definitely a player they should look into, as he could come in extremely handy if the Canucks were forced to play another seven game series against a team like the Bruins.
Adam Burish is another gritty forward that the Canucks could greatly benefit from. It doesn't hurt that he's under 30 years old and has a Stanley Cup either.
Dallas had a great start to the season, but have since faded to 10th in the West, and their trading away Nicklas Grossman two evenings ago hinted that the team is leaning towards selling this deadline. If that wasn't enough, losing star forward Jamie Benn to injury on the same night may have sealed the deal.
As an upcoming unrestricted free agent, the Canucks could have the opportunity to pick up Adam Burish at a bargain, and make the decision on whether he's a rental or long term after the playoffs.
Despite having a negative plus/minus in every season of his career, Travis Moen can go to the dirty parts of the ice, drop the mitts, and even score a highlight reel goal here and there.
At six points out of the playoffs, Montreal is hanging on for dear life; but the dealing of Hal Gill yesterday is a sign they may be ready to let go.
Much like Adam Burish, Travis Moen is set to become an unrestricted free agent, allowing the Canucks to pick him up as a rental player if they please.
If the Canucks were to offer a deal involving Keith Ballard, it could be a win-win. The Canucks would rid themselves of Ballard's contract to a team who can afford him, giving them the freedom to be more active at the draft and through free agency.
On the other side, Montreal would be making a step towards filling the void left by Hal Gill, while picking up a player who has proved in the past that he's capable of being a star under the right system.
Mark Fistric is an absolute monster. At 6'2", 233 lbs, the 25-year-old defenseman could bring a much needed physical presence to the Vancouver roster.
As noted earlier, the Dallas Stars are looking to be sellers, and as a free agent-to-be, that could put Fistric on the market.
With 21 points in his NHL career, Fistric isn't exactly the type of player you'd want to rely on offensively, but his 154 hits in 40 games this season is just as valuable, if not more.
If the hockey gods have a Boston-Vancouver rematch in their plans, I doubt there's a Canuck fan out there who wouldn't love to have Mark Fistric suiting up for the team.
Personally, I would love to see Mason Raymond or Keith Ballard headed the other way in this deal; that is, if Dallas is willing to part with the young defender.
As a Canucks' fan, Steve Downie is a player I've always wanted on the team. He isn't huge, but he plays an incredibly gritty game and can put up numbers too.
The speedy winger is set to become a restricted free agent, which means the Canucks may have to offer quite a bit, but it would pay off.
If the Canucks were to offer Mason Raymond and a low draft pick, Tampa Bay could easily be willing to part with Downie.
If Vancouver was able to snag him, their Cup chances would significantly improve.
Of course, the player who would suit the Canucks the best is increasingly looking unavailable. As Anaheim's heroic comeback continues, they are becoming less and less likely to sell; a fact that leaves the other 29 teams disappointed.
Although it looks unlikely, if Anaheim's tear comes to an end before the deadline, the Canucks should make a strong push for George Parros.
At 6'5", 228 lbs and an average of over 20 fights per season, no teams would be able to throw the Canucks around without a few casualties going the other way.
In my opinion, George Parros and a third round draft pick for Mason Raymond should be the Canucks one and only deadline deal this season, and it will give them what they need to go all the way.