10 Teams That Won't Do Enough at the NHL Trade Deadline
NHL teams have until April 3 to determine what they need to do in order to prepare their franchise for a shot at the Stanley Cup.
Some teams will be buyers, adding key players to the roster in an attempt to give themselves the best chance to win this year. Others will be sellers, trying to trade impending free agents to build for the future.
Many teams could benefit from making moves at the trade deadline but not all will. Some teams have glaring weaknesses or soon-to-be-departed players that should motivate GMs to make a transaction, but selling a player can be selling the whole season.
Likewise, contenders run the risk of weakening depth in one area to add it in another.
These 10 teams should make a move at the trade deadline, either to add a key player in a needed area or to get value for a free agent, but they will likely be quiet at trade time.
New York Islanders
Entering Sunday's action, the New York Islanders sat only three points out of a playoff spot with a realistic chance to finish as high as third in the division and make the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
For the Isles, it must be tempting to go for broke and get that monkey off their backs, but the team has two major free agents to address in Mark Streit and Lubomir Visnovsky, both unrestricted free agents in July. Additionally, players like Thomas Hickey and Travis Hamonic are in need of new contracts.
The Islanders could get significant return for Streit or Visnovsky in the form of prospects or draft picks to add to New York's impressive farm system.
The Islanders might make the playoffs by hanging onto both major defensemen, but it is very unlikely that they will contend for the Cup, and thus at least one of them needs to be traded.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Not long ago, the Maple Leafs seemed to have significant depth on defense, but despite the team's success in the standings in 2013, the blue line has become a bit of a problem for the Leafs.
Goaltender James Reimer has played well when healthy, but the Toronto defense has still allowed more goals this season than any other team in the top eight of the Eastern Conference, save for Winnipeg. If the team doesn't make a move, they will be shredded by offenses like Pittsburgh and Montreal in the postseason.
Brian Stubits of CBS Sports sees the Leafs focusing (still) on trying to acquire a goaltender to serve as an upgrade from Reimer, including Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff and Vancouver's Roberto Luongo. In the same article, Stubits suggests that the Leafs could make a move for Washington's Mike Ribeiro.
None of these moves would make the team worse, but none of them address Toronto's biggest issue: defense.
The Leafs might make moves at the deadline, but they won't be the best moves.
The Jets lead the Southeast Division and are currently nestled in the third spot in the Eastern Conference, but few folks outside of the MTS Centre would tell you that this team can compete with the Penguins, Habs and Bruins.
Winnipeg needs to upgrade its blue line, a weakness made worse by the absence of Tobias Enstrom. The team also needs to address the pending free agency of Nik Antropov and Ron Hainsey.
Do the Jets add pieces and try to compete with the big boys now? Do they sell off their assets and start fresh with young guns in the Western Conference next season?
Right now, Winnipeg is in limbo, and the team needs to commit to one approach or the other. Make a move for a player like Dan Boyle and compete for this season, or trade Hainsey and/or Antropov and position the team to compete in the years to come.
Since before the NHL lockout began, the NHL public has been dealing with the swirling rumors of the inevitable Roberto Luongo trade that would give Cory Schneider the spotlight in Vancouver once and for all.
So far, it hasn't happened, and neither goaltender has decidedly proven to be the No. 1 netminder, with Schneider getting a slight edge by starting 17 of 31 games.
The Canucks' hesitation to make a decision thus far indicates that the franchise is going to keep waiting, probably until at least the summer, to give the reigns to one netminder. But the team would be better off dealing one goalie (Luongo) before the deadline to take advantage of a desperate buyer and to finally end the mind games of switching between starters night after night, even during the postseason.
Whoever remains in Vancouver will be more sane once the deal is done.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Unbelievably, the Blue Jackets are actually an outside contender for a playoff spot, but the current roster is not quite good enough to crack the top eight during the team's last season in the Western Conference.
What the Blue Jackets lack is a scoring forward to replace the production of Rick Nash and round out a corps of forwards that has depth but few true scoring threats.
The Jackets don't have a ton to offer, but if new GM Jarmo Kekalainen can be strategic about trading veteran forward Vaclav Prospal or defenseman Adrian Aucoin, the Blue Jackets could acquire extra draft picks that could allow the team to think outside of the box during the NHL Entry Draft.
Occasionally, GMs are able to acquire the rights to an impending free agent in exchange for a draft pick, giving them a leg up on signing that player to a long-term deal. If the Jackets work things right at this trade deadline, they'll have the luxury of making this sort of move come draft season.
San Jose Sharks
After an impressive start to the season, the San Jose Sharks have fallen out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, putting the team in a bit of a predicament.
The team could trade away pending free agents like Ryane Clowe and Douglas Murray, but next season contracts will expire on Dan Boyle, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.
It would appear that the Sharks are headed down the long, slow path to rebuilding, even before they hit rock bottom.
The Sharks should be looking to do one of two things: either act as buyers at the deadline and bring in a significant player to allow San Jose to make a Cup run before the team needs to rebuild with a younger group of guys or trade away the older, more expensive players that will be free agents next year.
If the Sharks get Dan Boyle's contract off of the books, it opens up space for San Jose to be a player in free agency this summer and start the rebuilding process early.
The Senators have been playing without starting goaltender Craig Anderson since mid-February, leaving the backstopping duties in the hands of Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner.
Given the uncertainty surrounding Anderson's injury, it is tempting for the Sens to push forward with both Bishop and Lehner. However, these two capable goaltenders represent Ottawa's best bargaining chips in acquiring a point-producing forward to round out the team's offense for the playoffs.
When Anderson returns, the Senators have a surplus of goaltending and little offensive firepower. The team should take a gamble and put one of the goalies, Lehner or Bishop, on the open market. Teams desperate for goaltending in the short term and long term would be willing to provide the Sens with an extra forward to become more dangerous up front.
New York Rangers
Amazingly, the New York Rangers are on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff race, and the team finds itself lacking on both offense and defense.
The Rangers are the lowest-scoring team in the Eastern Conference despite featuring Marian Gaborik, Rick Nash and Brad Richards in their usual top-six. Rumors from ESPN's Pierre LeBrun have the Rangers connected to Dan Boyle of San Jose, but if the team is looking to get rid of Gaborik in the process, they're taking the wrong approach.
The Rangers appear to be attempting "addition by subtraction" when they need to be doing "addition by addition," bringing in an offensive player in exchange for prospects rather than send one out because he hasn't played well in a season barely 30 games old.
The season has been a disappointing one for the Rangers, but knee-jerk reactions will get the Blueshirts nowhere.
Nashville's lack of a reliable goal scorer is clearer than ever in 2013.
The forward corps is well-stocked with role players, ideal second- and third-line guys that round out a roster. The problem is the team cannot build a threatening first line.
Having locked up key pieces in Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber, the Preds need to turn their focus to the forwards. At the trade deadline, Nashville's goal should be to gamble by trying to pry Mike Ribeiro away from the Washington Capitals and then extend him before free agency begins.
If they can't get the Caps to bite, then the Preds need to stock up on draft picks and try to use one or two to acquire the rights to a pending free agent in June.
The Preds desperately need someone on the top line who can produce alongside Mike Fisher, and they should not wait until after the trade deadline to find creative ways to attain it.
After a horrific start to the season, the Washington Capitals have climbed back into the playoff hunt, making the trade deadline a much murkier proposition for the Caps.
The team will not go very far without the offensive contributions of Mike Ribeiro, but Ribeiro is due to become an unrestricted free agent in June. A tanking Caps squad would give serious thought to trading him, while a surging team would see it through.
Washington is stuck in the middle and probably won't want to openly give up on the season when the trade deadline happens next week, so expect Ribeiro to stay.
However, if he does, the Caps need to make a move to bolster the team and make the decision worthwhile. This team is not good enough to win on its own right now.
The Caps could be buyers, and they could be sellers, but they cannot afford to be neither.