One Hole Each NHL Playoff Team Will Hope to Fill at the Trade Deadline
The NHL trade deadline is about a week away, and all 30 NHL GMs are trying to make the perfect move to take their team to the next level.
With that in mind, here is a look at the biggest need of each of the teams that are in playoff positions right now in both the Eastern and Western Conferences. In some cases, I actually did list more than one need for a team if I felt it was helpful and prominent.
For purposes of this article, we are examining the eight teams from each conference that were in playoff positions as of Tuesday morning, March 26.
Feel free to comment on any other major needs these teams have or if you disagree with the need(s) I have spelled out in this article, but please back up your opinions with evidence.
Penguins GM Ray Shero has traditionally been very aggressive, and this year has been no exception.
Critics said the Penguins needed some more grit to compete in the playoffs, and Shero made two trades well in advance of the deadline to address that need.
First, the Penguins acquired Brenden Morrow from the Dallas Stars to add experience and grit up front. At 34, Morrow is no longer the player he was in his prime, but he is still just two seasons removed from a 34-goal season. He adds experience, versatility and grit to the Pittsburgh lineup and can play on any line.
Then, Shero acquired defenseman Douglas Murray from the San Jose Sharks. Murray won't add much offensively, but he gives the Penguins size, grit and experience on the blue line.
Shero is likely done adding major pieces but a depth defenseman or bottom-six forward is still possible at the deadline.
Montreal is ahead of schedule with their rebuilding program. Last year, the Habs finished last in the Eastern Conference, and this season, they are already near the top.
Despite the quick turnaround, GM Marc Bergevin is still thinking more long-term than quick fix, so don't expect Montreal to give up young players or prospects for a rental player.
The Canadiens would love to add another goal scorer or a depth defenseman, but only if the price is right and they don't have to give up too much young talent to make the acquisition.
The Jets are in a peculiar spot right now in the Eastern Conference. They presently lead the Southeast Division, which would give them the third seed if the playoffs started today.
However, in straight points, Winnipeg is seventh in the conference, which means if the Jets don't win their division, they are in a tough dogfight just to qualify for the playoffs at all.
Ideally, the Jets needs some scoring help up front as they are 11th in the Eastern Conference in goals scored.
If GM Cheveldayoff looks to add anything, it would be a top-six forward to boost Winnipeg's offensive output. Look for an addition at either center or right wing since the Jets has its biggest strength up front on the left side in Evander Kane and Andrew Ladd.
The Bruins are rumored to be looking for a veteran forward with a little offensive punch at the trade deadline.
According to a report by Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com, Boston has been rumored to be interested in Jarome Iginla, but the asking price may be too high. Other possibilities allegedly include Jaromir Jagr or Martin St. Louis if the Bolts make him available.
An experienced backup goalie would make sense for the playoffs, but is not a necessity and would be a minor deal.
GM Peter Chiarelli is pleased with his team's overall situation. Winning the Northeast Division would almost guarantee Boston at least the No. 2 seed in the East.
The Senators have surprised a lot of people this season by staying in contention, despite injuries to several top players including Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, Craig Anderson and Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson.
GM Bryan Murray would love to add some offensive punch to his team at the trade deadline, but Ottawa is thinking long-term and doesn't want to give up any of its young players or top picks.
Ottawa's continued success makes a move more and more likely. As of now, the Sens are 10 points ahead of ninth place and are in a very good spot to qualify for the playoffs.
Barring a losing streak that brings them back to the pack, look for Murray to pull the trigger on a second-line forward who can add a little punch to a lineup beset by injuries.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs is in a good position to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2004.
The Leafs can still use a little more defensive depth, but their biggest issue is at center where they have yet to find a top-line pivot, who can help take the team's attack to the next level.
The question is which centers will be available. Per a report by Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star, the Leafs were rumored to be interested in Mike Ribeiro, but the Capitals are playing better lately and may not be interested in trading him now.
The Leafs may also want to add an experienced goalie to serve as James Reimer's backup. Roberto Luongo is still in Vancouver, and the Flames may make Miikka Kiprusoff available. The market for goalies is limited, and the cost shouldn't be too high if Toronto opts to add a netminder for the playoff push.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils will be without Ilya Kovalchuk for another two to four weeks which means New Jersey will need help up front.
In fact, even with Kovalchuk in the lineup, only the Florida Panthers and New York Rangers have scored fewer goals than New Jersey in the Eastern Conference.
New Jersey has a few extra healthy NHL-caliber defensemen on their roster, especially once Henrik Tallinder proves he is back in game-shape and ready to play extended minutes.
The question is what will GM Lou Lamoriello have to give up to acquire a top-six forward? It may be a bit more than he would ideally like to spend.
The Devils has been very inconsistent this season, winning and losing in bunches. How they finish will be the key to whether or not they make the playoffs. Without Kovalchuk available, Lamoriello almost has to do something to help his club.
New York Rangers
The New York Rangers have been one the league's biggest disappointments so far this season. Expected by most experts to be Stanley Cup contenders, the Rangers have struggled to score goals and to find team chemistry.
Rumor has it, per a report by ESPN's Katie Strang, the Rangers will look to add San Jose's Dan Boyle, who could help make the power play more productive. Unfortunately, however, Boyle has a high cap number, and the Rangers probably couldn't afford to add such a high-priced player unless they deal away a high-salaried player as well.
Marian Gaborik is rumored (per a report by Bruce Garrioch of The Ottawa Sun, h/t Chris Peters of CBS Sports) to be among the players the Rangers might trade, but how much sense does it make for a team that isn't scoring enough goals to trade one of their most dangerous offensive weapons?
Expect the Rangers to make some major deal to shake up the team and add scoring punch but it's going to be a huge deal if the Rangers hope to fit under the cap.
The fact that GM Glen Sather had surgery last week only complicates matters.
The Blackhawks still have the league's best record and one reason for their success has been their depth.
Don't expect GM Stan Bowman to overhaul his club in any significant way, although a trade or two to add a little more depth either in the bottom-six forwards and/or a seventh defenseman is a possibility.
Chicago has a good mix of talent and grit throughout their lineup. They also have experience and youth. Any move the Blackhawks make is likely to be a minor one.
The Ducks have already made plenty of moves over the past two weeks although they involve re-signing their own star players.
GM Bob Murray has inked both Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf to long-term contracts which means the core of the offense will remain in tact after this season. Murray claims that he doesn't need to trade Bobby Ryan to keep his team under the cap and within management's budget.
Anaheim has depth up front and in goal. Any deal they make at the deadline is likely to be a minor one designed to add depth in case of injuries.
The Minnesota Wild are red hot right now and finally seem to be finding the chemistry that eluded them early in the season.
Certainly, the lack of a preseason and a truncated training camp delayed the adjustment free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter had to make when joining a new club and playing for a new coaching staff.
Now the Wild seem to understand their roles and have won eight of their last nine games.
If Minnesota makes a move, it will be a minor one to add some depth to the lineup. Minnesota's prospects were ranked third by The Hockey News last week in their annual "Future Watch" issue and GM Chuck Fletcher won't want to give away any of that highly ranked young talent.
There are two issues facing the Vancouver Canucks as they head toward the trade deadline, locked in a tight race with the Wild for the top spot in the Northwest Division.
Vancouver still lacks a bona fide second-line center as Ryan Kesler is out again with an injured foot. Acquiring one would be a big help for the Canucks, especially in the playoffs when teams will send out their top checkers to slow down the Sedin twins.
Vancouver still has Roberto Luongo available to trade. It is unclear if Luongo will remain with the Canucks beyond next week. Trading him could help bring back that second-line center and free up valuable cap space.
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings are still a formidable hockey team and are capable of playing with almost anybody in this league.
As they enter the trade deadline, Detroit it still looking to fill some voids on defense. Nobody can replace Nicklas Lidstrom, but the Wings would still love a physical, top-four defenseman to replace Brad Stuart. Someone who can munch minutes and play the body well, especially in his own zone, would be Detroit's top priority right now.
GM Ken Holland has to start replacing some of his veteran players with younger talent, but that won't happen at the deadline as most of Detroit's best players are older than 30, and Detroit is still in the thick of the playoff hunt in the Western Conference.
Los Angeles Kings
According to published reports, the Kings are involved in the Jarome Iginla sweepstakes. Iginla would make a fine addition to the Kings offense which started off slowly this season, although it has picked up a bit lately.
A bigger need may be defensive depth. The Kings currently need reinforcements for the third pairing, since both Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell are out of the lineup due to injuries.
The Kings haven't made too many changes from the team that won the Stanley Cup last year and probably won't make more than one big move at the deadline.
Dean Lombardi has made some successful trades in the past year and will look to work his magic again this season.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues are unlikely to make a major move at the trade deadline because of salary cap considerations.
The Blues have typical needs: some scoring depth, especially at center, and a fifth or sixth defenseman.
The Blues would love to add a second-line center like Mike Ribeiro, but their two star blueliners, Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo, both need to be re-signed before the start of next season—so don't expect any major salary additions.
St. Louis does have three goalies, but currently, there is a bit of a goalie glut on the market, and Brian Elliott would not be at the top of anybody's list right now after his rough start to this season.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks are in the thick of the fight for one of the final Western Conference playoff spots.
If they slump, GM Doug Wilson may just dismantle core parts of this team, so San Jose is just as likely to be sellers as they are buyers. They have already dealt away defenseman Douglas Murray.
Dan Boyle has also been rumored to be on the trading block, with the Rangers a possible destination. Among the possible players rumored to be headed back to San Jose in such a deal is Marian Gaborik.
Ryan Clowe may also be headed out of San Jose. He hasn't scored all season, and both Clowe and the team would benefit from a change of scenery.
San Jose can use some more grit, and more importantly, some more heart. Some goal-scoring depth would help as well.
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