With the NHL trade deadline just five days away, GMs around the league are bound to be working their phones looking for those few pieces that can assist them in making that push for a playoff spot in what is one of the tightest seasons standings-wise that the NHL has seen in recent memory.
For the Toronto Maple Leafs, who currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 19-12-4 heading into a big game with their in-province rival Ottawa Senators, questions still abound as to whether GM Dave Nonis will be making any significant moves come the trade deadline next week.
Should the Leafs win their final game before the deadline against the Ottawa Senators and improve to 20-12-4, Nonis may be convinced that this team could be more than a first-round type playoff team with an adjustment or two.
If he does elect to make a few moves come deadline day, the most logical trade for him to make would be for a more experienced defensively minded defenseman.
With the Leafs being hemmed in their own zone so much, and turnovers still proving to be a problem against opposing teams' top players, the need for another solid defender is evident.
Yet who fits the bill and may be available come April 3?
One name out there is Jay Bouwmeester, who could be dealt at the deadline this year, especially considering the fact that the Calgary Flames just shipped Jarome Iginla to the Pittsburgh Penguins and may be looking to unload another big-salary player in Bouwmeester, who is slated to make $6.68 million next season.
For Toronto, Bouwmeester would be a major upgrade over every defenseman currently on the roster, with the exception of captain Dion Phaneuf.
Having another reliable blueliner would also allow Randy Carlyle to relieve Phaneuf of ice time, allowing him to be effective over the course of a full game.
Do you think the Leafs should pursue a defenseman at the deadline?
With news that Detroit had inquired about Bouwmeester as well and was willing to give up a prospect, as well as two roster players, Toronto could conceivably match that type of offer and still keep all of their current 2013 draft picks.
Another possibility is Phoenix Coyotes' defenseman Keith Yandle, who could be dealt at the deadline, simply because the Coyotes just handed a massive new deal to fellow defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and probably cannot afford to keep both him and Yandle.
According to the same article (linked above), the Red Wings were also considering a move for Yandle, who has established himself as a top-tier defenseman in this league, making the past two All-Star Games and has been a solid two-way defender over the past four seasons for the 'Yotes.
While bringing in Yandle isn't likely and would cost a great deal, the possibility of him being dealt is always there.
Finally, the Leafs may look to deal for a more experienced starting goaltender.
While I myself am not a believer that James Reimer needs to be replaced, the names Miikka Kiprusoff and Roberto Luongo are enticing and proven veteran commodities.
At this point, however, it seems like the Leafs' problems are more about defense than they are about goaltending.
The next step in mapping out the Leafs' trade deadline is to figure out what pieces may be in play and what the Leafs may be willing to part with in order to improve their roster for a playoff push and potential playoff run.
The most obvious trade pieces would be wingers like Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur, who have both seen their roles diminished this season with the likes of Joffrey Lupul, Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Matt Frattin emerging as top-six forwards.
Center Tyler Bozak may also be shipped out after the emergence of Nazem Kadri as a true top-six center.
With the market so think up the middle this season, Bozak may command a fairly hefty return, despite the fact that he's set to hit free agency after this season (after all, Paul Gaustad fetched a first-round draft choice last season for the Buffalo Sabres).
Young gun Matt Frattin, who has struggled of late, but had a great start to the season, showing signs of being a great offensive prospect could also tempt teams to part with one of their bigger names.
Finally, there's always the team's prospects and draft choices. Though I have a feeling that Dave Nonis tends to think the same way as previous Leafs GM Brian Burke when it comes to trading away the team's future.
Don't expect to see names like Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner or Morgan Rielly on the move anytime in the next five days. Same goes for the team's first few draft selections in this year's NHL entry draft.
Chances the Leafs Make a Move by April 3
At this point, it doesn't seem likely that any deal will be consummated by the third of April.
No real strong rumors have emerged surrounding any of the Leafs most likely trade candidates.
Right now, I'd say the chances of a significant deal taking place are between 20 and 30 percent. If the right deal were to present itself, however, especially for a veteran defenseman who can help shore up some of Toronto's defensive deficiencies, I wouldn't be surprised to see Dave Nonis pull the trigger and get a deal done.