The NHL trade deadline is April 3rd this year. The late, lockout shortened season has pushed it back more than a month. This is still the time for teams with Stanley Cup dreams to add a player or two that will help them move in that direction. This is also the time of year for teams who will not win the Stanley Cup to trade veteran players for prospects and or draft picks and begin to rebuild their team.
There are a number of NHL teams desperate to rebuild their organizations. Generally these teams have too many older, more expensive players on their rosters and don't have any or many young prospects capable of interjecting energy and cost effective skill into their line-ups.
These are the eight NHL teams that are the most desperate or should be the most desperate to rebuild. Whether they will grasp the nettle is still to be seen.
The Phoenix Coyotes have 11 players on their roster who are 30 years of age or older. This doesn't include the injured Radim Vrbata (31).
After years of futility in Phoenix the Coyotes have made the playoffs the last three seasons relying on a veteran line-up. Last year they won their division and made it to the Western Conference finals by beating the highly regarded Chicago Blackhawks and the Nashville Predators before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
They have certainly made a case for a well coached team of known quantities being better than say the random bag of talent that seems to be the Edmonton Oilers. It's unlikely however that this team following this plan will ever be good enough to win a Stanley Cup. if they want to win a cup a rebuild is indicated.
Phoenix is currently eighth in the west and fourth in their division behind Anaheim, San Jose, and LA.
The team is currently lead in scoring by two of their brighter prospects Mikkel Boedker (23) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (21). A lot of their older players like Rostislav Klesla, Matthew Lombardi, Zybnek Michalek, Mike Smith, and Antoine Vermette are just 30.
The team's prospects are seen as average by hockeysfuture.com. They need more organizational depth.
Despite a pedestrian draft record it does seem like now is the time for Phoenix to trade some of their veterans for prospects. Younger talent should develop in time to help players like Ekman-Larsson and Boedker get better. Throw in David Rundblad, a former St. Louis Blue prospect, and the Coyotes may put together a team that could compete for years if they start rebuilding now.
There is no way on earth this team should have to rebuild. They never were any good. They have had years of high first round picks. Yet for every Rick Nash there seems to have been a handful of less successful high picks: Rostislav Klesla 4th overall, Pascal Leclaire 8th overall, Nik Zherdev 4th overall, Alex Picard 8th overall, Gilbert Brule 6th overall, Nikita Filatov 6th overall.
The roster only has four 30-plus players on it: Adrian Aucoin(39), Vincent Prospal(38), Derek MacKenzie (31), R.J. Umberger (30).
The current line-up features some future potential in Ryan Johansen, Derick Brassard, Mark Letestu, and Nick Foligno. There is still some hope for Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Jack Johnson. They have given up on former can't miss goaltending prospect Steve Mason.
Defensemen Tim Erixon and Ryan Murray are the best prospects the Jackets have. Boone Jenner may be a good NHL player. They have also finally drafted some goalies and have the promising Oscar Dansk and Joonas Korpisalo as propsects.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have no one in the organization who can score or is likely to ever be able to score. Vinny Prospal currently leads the team with nine goals in 27 games.
They should be able to draft Jonathan Drouin or Nathan Mackinnon this year which will help with that. The time has come to try to trade Aucoin or Prospal or Umberger or anyone really for new draft picks. This set of players is not good enough. They need someone to play with the first round pick they get this year.
They also need to start drafting better or it will not matter how many picks they have.
I am reluctant to put the Detroit Red Wings on any list with the word desperate in it. The Red Wings have been the best organization in the NHL since the early 1990's.
They last missed the playoffs in 1990. They have won four Stanley Cups and been to the finals twice more. The Red Wings in that time have always been in the conversation when potential Stanley Cup champions are mentioned.
The Red Wings seemingly have never needed to rebuild. They move from strength to strength powered by hugely successful drafting without the advantage of high first round picks.
Finally however the years of success seem to have caught up with them. The current line-up features a core of players who are 30 or older. Daniel Cleary (34), Pavel Datsyuk (34), Johan Franzen (33), Kent Huskins (33), Niklas Kronwall (32), Jordin Tootoo (30), Henrik Zetterberg (32), Todd Bertuzzi (38), and Mikael Samuelsson(36) are the heart and soul of this team. They are also probably playing as good hockey as they ever will. These are depreciating assets. Some if not all of them will decrease in ability over the next few years and be more susceptible to injury. The organization does not currently seem to have the ability to replace these players.
Detroit is already feeling the loss of the retired Niklas Lidstrom who by any measure is simply irreplaceable.
Detroit does have the virtue of having one of the more highly regarded prospect pools in the NHL. Hockey future.com rated their prospects tenth among NHL teams.Still the likes of Tomas Jurco, Czech goalie Petr Mrazek, Tomas Tartar, Brendan Smith, Martin Frk and Calle Jarnkrok don't seem to be enough to replace Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg or even Niklas Kronwall.
Time will tell but it seems like the Detroit Red Wings have reached the point where they need to think about trading some veterans for prospects and draft picks.
It is getting much tougher to find late round gems in the NHL entry draft like Zetterberg (7th round, 210th overall 1999), Pavel Datsyuk (6th round,171st overall, 1998) or Johan Franzen (3rd round, 97th overall, 2004). Detroit may need some top ten draft picks to be as good in the future as they have been for the last 20 years.
The Philadelphia Flyers are another team that has a core of aging veterans. Thirty eight year old Chris Pronger looks like he may never play again. Kimmo Timonen is the heart of the Flyer defense at age 37. Mike Knuble 40, is ready to retire. Danny Briere at 35 is unlikely ever to score 70 points again let alone the 95 that lead him to this contract. They have just added the often injured Simon Gagne (33). Scott Hartnell is only 30 years old but his style of play has probably aged him more than that.
The Flyer roster features ten players who are 30 years or older, plus the injured Pronger, plus veterans Brain Boucher and Andreas Lilja who are in the minors.
They have some highly talented younger players like Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, and Sean Couturier who help balance that age and offer opportunities to replace players as they retire. Unfortunately there does not seem to be many quality players waiting in the minors. Hockeysfuture.com ranked the Flyers as having the worst set of prospects in the NHL at the start of the year.
After a good playoff run last year the Flyers are suffering through a bad season. This is the time to move some depreciating assets for new prospects and picks to team up with the good young players they do have. A Flyer rebuild might be relatively quick if they can add enough young assets quickly enough.
The Stars are not as inundated with older players as many of the teams on this list. They have seven players 30 or older. Their leading scorer, Jaromir Jagr, is 41. Ray Whitney has only managed to play in nine games this year because of a broken foot. They have signed him for two more years and he's 40. Injury could end their careers tomorrow.
The Stars do have some talented, younger leaders in Jamie Benn (23) and Loui Ericksson (27). Their prospect pool has been deemed good, if not great.
This team hasn't made the playoffs in four years. They currently sit 11th in the west, still only two points out of a playoff spot but they don't really look better than any of the teams above them.
This team needs a rebuild in the worst way. The acquisition of some more top end offensive talent can only help this team and compliment what they already have waiting in the wings.
The New Jersey Devils reversed a recent run of playoff futility with a run to the Stanley Cup finals last year. However that line-up was old and this one is one year older. The Devils have 12 players who are 30 years old or older. Three of them, Martin Brodeur, Henrik Tallinder, and Dainius Zubrus are currently injured. Five of them, Patrik Elias, Brodeur, Johan Hedberg, Bryce Salvador, and Marek Zidlicky are over 35.
Elias will be very difficult to replace, Brodeur will be impossible to replace.
Despite last year's success this team desperately needs to retool. The team needs a quality young goalie. Ilya Kovalchuk, Adam Henrique, and Adam Larsson are going to need someone to play with. Travis Zajac isn't really a first string center.
The Devil's prospects on defense are supposed to be good. Jon Merril looks like an NHL player in the making. Stefan Matteau had a top quality World Junior tournament this year. More players need to be added to boost their shallow organizational depth.
The Devils don't really seem to have a lot of valuable parts to trade. Coming off the Stanley Cup run last year though should maximize whatever you could get for a Bryce Salvador or Marek Zidlicky. The Devils need to get more draft picks and need to draft a goalie or two. Scott Wedgewood probably isn't the goalie of the future in New Jersey.
The San Jose Sharks are an enigma. They have been a good, some would say great, NHL team for the last decade. Since 2000 they have only missed the playoffs once. They have won the Pacific division six times. They won the Presidents trophy as the NHL team having the best regular season record in 2008-09.
Since the 2000 playoffs the Sharks have gone 11-11 in playoff series. That is not stellar, but they have always been competitive. Like the Detroit Red Wings the Sharks are often in the conversation when people discuss potential Stanley Cup champions. However in that time, with all those playoff appearances and despite winning 11 playoff series, they have never made it to the Stanley Cup final. The Sharks have lost the three Western Conference finals they have been in, and generally in a decisive fashion. They have a 3-12 record in Conference Final playoff games.
Back in the 2004 playoffs the Sharks lost the conference final to what many people felt was an inferior Calgary Flames team. After the lockout the Sharks pulled off a blockbuster deal with the Boston Bruins. They traded Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau, and Brad Stuart to Boston for Joe Thornton. While the other players had positive qualities Thornton was and still is the best player in the deal.
Since that time San Jose has believed and acted like they are a team with a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup every year. Each year they have traded young talent and draft picks for veterans and taken on salary to win the cup now.
Unfortunately this group of players has proven unable to win the Stanley Cup while they were in their prime. San Jose has fallen into the trap of churning their line-up each year without actually being able to improve their team. At the same time their best players have been aging.
The San Jose Sharks have to currently be running one of the oldest rosters in hockey. They have ten players who are 30 or older. The bigger problem is the fact that the offensive core of this team is Joe Thornton (33), Patrick Marleau (33), and Dan Boyle (36). These players are getting older and slower. Their offensive numbers are not going to improve. The team has added veterans like Martin Havlat (31) who has injury problems and Scott Gomez (33) who has no offensive upside left. Even the younger core of talent is getting into (Joe Pavelski-28, Brent Burns-28) or past (Ryan Clowe-30) their prime.
San Jose has needed to rebuild for a few years now. Instead they have squandered picks in an attempt to win now. They had no first round pick in 2011, 2009 or 2008. They didn't even have a second round pick in 2008.
A lot of their young talent has been traded away. Their first round pick in 2005, Devin Setoguchi, was sent to Minnesota. Ty Wishart from 2006 was sent to Tampa Bay in the deal that brought Dan Boyle. Charlie Coyle the first round pick from 2010 was sent to Minnesota with Setoguchi and their first round pick in 2011 for Brent Burns and a second round pick.
Thus the cupboard is notoriously bare in San Jose for a team that is only likely to get worse.
They currently have Logan Couture (23), T.J. Galiardi (24) and Marc-Eduoard Vlasic (25) as young talented players at the NHL level who still have untapped potential.
Hockeysfuture.com had San Jose listed as 24th in the NHL for the quality and quantity of talent of their prospects. That's fine if troubling when you have just won a Stanley Cup. When you appear to be in decline with six to twelve players that will need to be replaced in the next five years, it is disastrous.
Tomas Hertl, last season's first round pick, seems like the only prospect with top offensive potential in the organization. That's a lot of eggs in one very tiny basket. Tomas Hertl, even if he develops into a quality offensive NHL player isn't going to play defense or climb into the net.
The Sharks are dedicated to winning the Stanley Cup which is good. Many organizations seem happy with much less. Unfortunately this team does not look to be capable of winning a cup. The time has come to trade veterans and start drafting again.
The fan base in Calgary has been screaming for a rebuild for at least a half dozen years now. The San Jose Sharks were pushed to trade for Joe Thornton partially because of their loss to the Flames in the 2004 Western Conference finals. The Calgary Flames on the other hand were convinced they were one or two players away from Stanley Cup success by their victory over the Sharks and their near loss in a tough seven game final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Flames like the Sharks embarked on a cycle of trading youth and picks for veterans. The Flames have also had a notorious draft record over the past ten years. Worse still, despite spending almost to the cap limit for the last few years this team has had nothing like the Shark' success to fool them into thinking they were just one player away.
The Flames since 2000 have missed the playoffs seven times, including the last three years. The 2004 season sticks out like a statistical outlier. The other four seasons they made the playoffs they lost in the first round. The Flames have been notorious for finishing either just in or just out of the playoffs. Their veterans have kept them from being the worst team in the league so that when they do have a first round pick they have drafted 21st,13th, 23rd, 25th and 24th. The last top ten pick the Flames had? That was Dion Phaneuf at number nine back in 2003.
Mikael Backlund, Sven Baertschi and Leland Irving are all Flames draft picks who look like they could be quality NHL players. The team however is carrying 11 players who are 30 or older. Matt Stajan, Dennis Wideman, Jiri Hudler, Mark Giordano, and Jay Bouwmeester are all 29. This is over half your lineup that is unlikely to get better than they are right now on a team that has missed the playoffs for three straight years.
Hockeysfuture.com likes how the Flames have improved their organizational depth and yet has them ranked 23rd! How bad were they?
The Flames are not going to be good enough even to be competitive before Miikka Kiprusoff and Jarome Iginla retire. The time is long past to let those two go try to find a Stanley Cup somewhere else. The biggest problem for the Flames has to be that the assets they have to trade like Jay Bouwmeester or Dennis Wideman are unlikely to yield much by way of return. It is time to find out however. This is another organization that wants to win and is willing to spend money to win. There is no quick-fix for the Calgary Flames however.
There was no quick-fix when I was complaining about Darryl Sutter back in the 2010 off-season. There is certainly no quick-fix now for Jay Feaster despite his failed attempt with the Ryan O'Reilly offer sheet. The Flames need to dump veterans and salary, develop the prospects they have and acquire more prospects any way they can.
The Flames are the NHL team that most desperately needs to rebuild their team from the ground up. They have been that team for years. Maybe this year it will begin to happen.