NHL Power Rankings: Pre-Trade Deadline Edition

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NHL Power Rankings: Pre-Trade Deadline Edition
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

It looks as if things are going to be slow right before the NHL trade deadline this year.

Not only has it crept up on everybody (ah, the good ol’ shortened season, let’s not make this a habit…oh wait!), but the best teams in the league appear complete and there are, once again, several clubs that sit on the playoff bubble.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been the most active, scooping up Douglas Murray, Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla already and with $4.4 million left in cap space, they could still take a run at two familiar faces: Jaromir Jagr and Steve Sullivan.

The Boston Bruins missed out on the Iginla sweepstakes and could nab one of those guys or maybe a player such as Milan Hejduk or Simon Gagne (recently traded back to Philadelphia from the Los Angeles Kings) as a rental for the playoff run.

I also could see the Toronto Maple Leafs taking a long look at Roberto Luongo or Ryan Miller to put a big name in net.

Elsewhere, the East looks fairly set.

If I’m the Montreal Canadiens, I play it safe, kind of along the lines of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” knowing that this year has been a pleasant surprise. Ottawa could maybe take a jab at Derek Roy or Wojtek Wolski, two players in their prime that they could lock up long term, but they shouldn't do anything drastic.

The three New York-area teams—the Rangers, Devils and Islanders—don’t know if they are in or out, so they’ll probably stay put. Likewise in the Southeast, no one should consider blowing up their core just to make the playoffs.

In the West, the Chicago Blackhawks might tinker with their roster, but the team's core is solid—as evidenced by their 24-game streak at the beginning of the season in which they earned at least a point to set a league record.

The Los Angeles Kings also have found a mix that works so the two recent champions probably will keep quiet at the deadline.

The Minnesota Wild and Anaheim Ducks have reversed their fortunes and probably shouldn’t mess with something that is working.

The Detroit Red Wings are in a different position. They are a virtual lock to make the playoffs every year and don’t want to jeopardize team chemistry with a blockbuster move. If they add a player, it will be a Jagr or Sullivan type.

Then there is the pack of bubble teams—the Columbus Blue Jackets, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes—that don’t know whether they are in or out and are unlikely to mortgage the future for a No. 8 seed.

So that leaves the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks as possible candidates for a monster deal at deadline.

Both teams have been playoff regulars for the last few years, but they are beginning to see their window of opportunity close. They must decide whether to pull the trigger on a trade involving a franchise player.

For Vancouver, that player is Luongo. Are the Canucks confident enough in Cory Schneider to deal Luongo to the Maple Leafs or another team in need of a goaltender? Or do they stick with him and figure out that situation in the offseason?

For San Jose, the players in question are Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle-both north of age 30.

Boyle is  universally loved in the Bay Area, but Sharks' fans must realize his time in the NHL is coming to a close, and he’s going to want to be on a contender. Marleau, meanwhile, is the most polarizing player on the team. At 33, he's past his prime and the club likely doesn't want to have his contract when it ends in 2013-14.

In the end, I’m not sure this is going to be a lively trade deadline. The best teams appear set, but here's to something crazy happening in the next few days!

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