A quarter of the way through this NHL season, several aspiring playoff contenders face various weaknesses within their rosters. Be it a need for an experienced goalie, blue-line depth or scoring punch, these weaknesses could jeopardize their playoff hopes if left unaddressed.
Making a significant early-season move in today's salary cap era can be challenging for even the most skilled general manager. Some teams cannot afford to take salary. Some lack available assets that would make attractive trade bait. Others may be unwilling to move a prized asset to address a specific weakness.
Undaunted by these factors, several general managers are shopping around trying to bolster their rosters. Here's a look at 10 teams in need of trades to improve their postseason chances.
Why They Need A Trade: The Hurricanes are struggling to score, sitting 29th overall in goals-per-game (1.91) and 27th on the power play. Injuries to top forwards Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner contributed to their offensive woes, sending them tumbling down the standings.
Landscape For A Deal: Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer reported GM Jim Rutherford isn't ruling out a trade for scoring depth. TSN's Darren Dreger recently claimed the Hurricanes were shopping forwards Tuomo Ruutu and Jiri Tlusty in pursuit of a puck-moving defenseman.
Potential Deal: Gleason, Ruutu or Tlusty in a package deal for a second-line forward or offensive blueliner.
Why They Need A Trade: A lack of second-line scoring contributed to a recent seven-game losing skid, leaving the Red Wings 21st in goals-per-game (2.50) this season. The addition of promising winger Gustav Nyquist should help, but they still need another affordable forward with NHL experience.
Landscape Of A Deal: The Wings just demoted veterans Jordin Tootoo and Patrick Eaves as they couldn't move their salaries via trade. ESPN's Pierre LeBrun recently noted that the Calgary Flames have cap space to burn and are trying to move struggling center Mikael Backlund, who might benefit from a change of scenery.
Potential Deal: Offer Tootoo and/or Eaves to the Flames for Backlund.
Why They Need A Trade: The Canadiens are 16th overall in goals-per-game (2.62), down from fourth overall (3.04) last season. Center David Desharnais has struggled to score, while recent injuries to Max Pacioretty and Daniel Briere were contributing factors in the Habs' declining production.
Landscape Of A Deal: The Denver Post's Adrian Dater recently noted the Canadiens scouting an Avalanche-Florida Panthers game, speculating that they were watching center Paul Stastny. SI.com's Allan Muir thinks the Habs could be interested in big Florida Panthers center Shawn Matthias.
Potential Deal: Package a prospect and a draft pick for an affordable second-line scorer.
Why They Need A Trade. The Predators are 6-7-0 since starting goaltender Pekka Rinne was sidelined by hip surgery. Earlier this month, The Tennessean's Josh Cooper reported that GM David Poile could consider other options if Rinne remains sidelined longer beyond the end of November. Call-up Marek Mazanec has played well of late, but he's yet to play a full NHL season.
Landscape Of A Deal: TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported that the Predators inquired about Anaheim Ducks starter Jonas Hiller but will await the results of Rinne's MRI at the end of November before making any moves. Even if Rinne returns, it would be worthwhile adding an experienced goalie as insurance should he re-injure his hip.
Potential Deal. A young defenseman (other than Seth Jones) or blue-line prospect for an experienced goaltender.
Why They Need A Trade: Their defense is struggling (27th in goals-against per game, 30th on the penalty kill), and starting goalie Evgeni Nabokov is out indefinitely with a groin injury. The Islanders gave up four or more goals in nine of their last 15 games, winning only two of their last 10.
Landscape Of A Deal: Newsday's Arthur Staple reported that GM Garth Snow called around for defensemen, but the asking prices weren't reasonable. Having dealt away his first-round pick, Snow may be forced to consider dangling a second-tier forward like Josh Bailey or former 30-goal winger Michael Grabner as trade bait.
Potential Deal: Shop a forward for either an experienced goaltender or defenseman.
Why They Need A Trade: Despite the recent return of winger Rick Nash, the Rangers still lack scoring punch, sitting 28th in goals-per-game (2.09) this season. A lack of production from their blue line is one reason for their sputtering offense. Puck-moving defenseman Michael Del Zotto is struggling under coach Alain Vigneault.
Landscape Of A Deal: Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports the Rangers are getting some calls about Del Zotto, but nothing yet piques their interest. TSN's Darren Dreger claims five or six teams have expressed interest in the 23-year-old, who might embrace a change.
Potential Deal: Del Zotto for an affordable top-six forward or a blueliner with offensive skills.
Why They Need A Trade: They're playing poorly in their own zone, giving up the third-most shots-against per game (35.7) and making life miserable for their overworked goaltenders. Their penalty killing has also suffered, currently sitting 19th overall. That's left the Senators five points out of a wild-card berth.
Landscape Of A Deal: Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports GM Bryan Murray seeks a top-four defenseman to improve his blueline's performance. They've been linked to the New York Rangers' Michael Del Zotto and the Pittsburgh Penguins' Matt Niskanen, though both are known more for their offensive skills. The Senators are also a budget club unwilling to add an expensive contract.
Potential Deal. A draft pick and a young forward for an affordable top-four blueliner.
Why They Need A Trade: They've overcome a horrible start to climb back into playoff contention, but their blue-line depth remains a concern. They lack a good young top-two defenseman, Kimmo Timonen is ageing, Andrej Meszaros and Luke Schenn are struggling, and promising Erik Gustafsson isn't ready for top-line duty.
Landscape Of A Deal: The Flyers have depth in young forwards to draw upon as trade bait to bolster their defense. As TSN's Bob McKenzie recently suggested, it could take moving Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier to land a quality blueliner.
Potential Deal: A promising forward for a young defenseman with top-two potential.
Why They Need A Trade: Lack of a skilled center to play alongside star winger Phil Kessel continues to affect their scoring ability. As B/R's Jonathan Willis observed, the Leafs' offensive numbers have declined since mid-October. Injuries to Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland plus Nazem Kadri's recent three-game suspension highlighted this problem.
Landscape Of A Deal: Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny is an option, as his free-agent status at season's end could see him shopped by the March trade deadline. Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos noted the Leafs have long coveted Flyers forward Brayden Schenn, though they might have to include defenseman Jake Gardiner in return.
Potential Deal: A promising defenseman packaged for a skilled offensive center.
Why They Need A Trade: They lack secondary scoring, managing only six goals during a recent five-game winless skid. Their anemic power play (11.5 percent) is third-worst in the league. The Vancouver Province's Jason Botchford believes the Canucks must add an impact forward but acknowledged the difficulty of doing so at this point in the season.
Landscape Of A Deal: TSN's Craig Button recently wondered if the Canucks might have interest in Calgary's Mike Cammalleri (via Jason Brough of Pro Hockey Talk). Given their limited cap space, they can't afford his $6 million cap hit. Botchford suggested Buffalo's Steve Ott or Florida's Marcel Goc as trade options, while CBC's Elliotte Friedman believes they're interested in Goc's teammate Shawn Matthias.
Potential Deal: A prospect and draft pick for an affordable second-line scorer.