The New York Rangers need to acquire one or two more gritty forwards and another top-four defenseman before the April 3 trade deadline, but the team does not have a lot of value at the NHL level to trade.
Unless the Rangers want to trade a young forward like Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider or Carl Hagelin, which seems unlikely, shopping a superstar such as Marian Gaborik is the most effective way for New York to acquire more depth, toughness and blue-line help for another deep playoff run.
Gaborik is one of the best pure goal scorers in the NHL, but his inconsistent play and lack of defensive skill/effort makes him a frustrating player to watch at times. He's currently in the midst of a long slump that includes just two goals in his last 19 games.
Now that Anaheim Ducks winger Corey Perry will not be traded this season because of his recent contract extension, teams looking for an elite goal scorer might need to look at Gaborik as the next best trade target.
However, trading Gaborik would not be easy because he has another year left on his contract with a $7.5 million salary cap hit and a modified no-movement clause. With the salary cap ceiling decreasing to $64.3 million next season, not too many teams will want to add a player with a large salary that doesn't have an expiring contract.
With that said, there are a few teams who could use a first-line winger with immense offensive skill like Gaborik. Let's look at three of those clubs.
San Jose Sharks
If San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson decides to make one last championship run with his current core of veteran stars that includes Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, acquiring another elite winger should be high up on his "to-do" list before the trade deadline.
The Sharks have two players that the Rangers may covet to address some of their weaknesses. Those players are third-line winger Ryane Clowe and veteran defenseman Dan Boyle.
Clowe is an upcoming UFA, which could be appealing to New York because of its salary structure, and he would provide the Rangers with some much-needed toughness, defensive skill and penalty-killing ability for the third line.
He's also capable of scoring 25-45 points in a normal 82-game season, but he has struggled for most of 2013 with just nine points in 27 games. If Clowe is available for draft picks only, then the Rangers should definitely make a deal for him.
As for Boyle, he's the kind of top-four defenseman the Rangers might need to acquire if Marc Staal is unable to return this season. He suffered a head injury when a puck hit him in the face during a game on March 5. Boyle is a puck-moving defenseman with the playmaking skills that Staal normally brings to the lineup.
The Sharks defenseman also won the 2004 Stanley Cup as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning with current New York Rangers forward Brad Richards and head coach John Tortorella.
Since the Sharks and Rangers both have players to offer each other that address certain weaknesses, it wouldn't be surprising if these teams struck a deal involving Gaborik.
The Canucks must do something to strengthen their roster for the playoffs because the team's offense has really struggled over the last few weeks.
Vancouver ranks 14th in goals scored and its power play has the third-worst success rate in the league (13.8 percent). Over their last 11 games, the Canucks have averaged just 2.45 goals per game, which is below their yearly average of 2.7 goals per contest.
The team's inability to finish its scoring chances and convert on the power play are two reasons why the Minnesota Wild have taken over first place in the Northwest Division.
The Canucks could use a sniper like Gaborik to upgrade the team's top-six forward group with second-line center Ryan Kesler and top-six winger David Booth not being able to stay in the lineup consistently because of injuries.
The problem is that Vancouver doesn't have a lot to offer the Rangers for Gaborik. They could offer underachieving defenseman Keith Ballard, but his contract still has two more years remaining with a $4.2 million cap hit.
Veteran winger Mason Raymond is an upcoming UFA and would provide the Rangers with more toughness and scoring for their third line, as well as much-needed depth at left wing, but it would take a lot more than him to acquire Gaborik.
Zack Kassian would be a perfect addition to New York's lineup because of his size, skill and toughness, but if the Canucks were willing to give up Kassian, they would need to acquire a gritty forward from the Rangers, and third-line center Brian Boyle could be that player.
Alex Burrows, who is a 30-goal scorer and has a four-year, $18 million extension beginning next season, might be the best trade chip for the Canucks to acquire Gaborik.
A potential trade package of Kassian or Burrows, plus Raymond and a first-round pick (which NYR does not have in 2013) might be enough for Vancouver to get Gaborik.
Since the Canucks' championship window is rapidly closing, general manager Mike Gillis needs to be bold at the deadline.
His team desperately needs a top-six forward, especially since no one knows if Kesler and Booth will stay in the lineup on a consistent basis when they return from injury. The Canucks don't have the scoring depth needed to beat the Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings or Anaheim Ducks in a seven-game playoff series right now.
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings may not be one of the three best teams in the Western Conference, but they will still be one of the most difficult teams to beat in the playoffs because of their abundance of playoff experience, strong goaltending and impressive top-six forward group.
Detroit needs another winger with the ability to score goals and take advantage of the scoring chances that top-six centers Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg create with their brilliant playmaking ability.
The only wingers that have tallied more than eight points this season are Johan Franzen, who has scored only five goals in 23 games, and Damien Brunner (20 points in 30 games). Detroit's lack of scoring production from its wingers is one reason why the team ranks 17th in goals scored.
Gaborik would give the Red Wings a much-needed boost of high-end offensive skill on their top two lines and also upgrade their 21st-ranked power play. Detroit also has enough salary cap space to take on Gaborik's $7.5 million cap hit.
Who would the Red Wings give up to acquire Gaborik? Upcoming UFA Valtteri Filppula might be a player that the Rangers would have interest in. His impressive two-way game and ability to score 35-60 points in a full 82-game season will make him a coveted player if he tests the free-agent market.
If the Red Wings think Filppula will be too expensive to re-sign in the offseason, trading him would be a good idea because they let Jiri Hudler get to free agency last summer and didn't get anything in return for him when he signed with the Calgary Flames.
Young forward Gustav Nyquist and veteran defenseman Jakub Kindl are two other players that would be good fits in the Rangers lineup.
The Red Wings are a team that could make a surprise run in the playoffs and give top contenders like the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks a very difficult seven-game series if they added Gaborik to their roster before the trade deadline.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL lead writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs.
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