NHL Teams Most Desperate to Make a Deal Before the 2014 Trade Deadline
Let the games begin!
With Friday's announcement that the Buffalo Sabres' Ryan Miller had been traded to the St. Louis Blues in a multi-player deal, the 2014 trade deadline sweepstakes is now open for business.
Though a tight salary cap has kept the trade market relatively quiet this year, teams will be responsible only for a small portion of the salary of anyone acquired this late in the season—only the number of regular-season days that the player is with his new team. That should open up the options significantly.
Six points separate sixth place from 12th in the Eastern Conference, with eight points between sixth and 11th in the West. Plenty of teams are still looking to improve and try to grab those coveted playoff berths. Further up the standings, more qualified contenders are also looking to add to their rosters, as we saw on Friday with the Blues.
Here are six teams with serious needs to fill by Wednesday's deadline if they hope to reach their goals for the 2013-14 season.
Where They Stand: In contention
Dallas is currently eighth in the Western Conference with a record of 28-21-10, riding flashing young forwards and solid goaltending from Kari Lehtonen.
Why They're Desperate
Dallas has missed the playoffs for the past five seasons, but has taken a nice step forward this year after changing coaches and making some big personnel moves. A postseason berth would be a great reward for the Stars' efforts.
Who They Should Target: Dmitry Kulikov
The 23-year-old has already played five full seasons in the NHL with the Florida Panthers and is about to become a restricted free agent. With defensive anchor Stephane Robidas out for the season with a broken leg, the Stars could use immediate help on the blue line. They'd be well-served by a young player like Kulikov who could mesh well with their youthful core.
Detroit Red Wings
Where They Stand: On the bubble
The Red Wings are currently seventh in the Eastern Conference with a record of 28-20-12, but they're just three points out of ninth place.
Why They're Desperate:
Twenty-two years. That's how many consecutive seasons Detroit has made the playoffs—the longest active streak in pro sports. The Wings squeaked into the postseason in 2012-13 and upset the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks in the first round. If they can get in, they can make noise.
The Wings have a big hole in the middle. Stephen Weiss is out indefinitely, and Pavel Datsyuk is continuing to nurse injuries, while captain Henrik Zetterberg's now out for the season after having back surgery on a herniated disc.
Who They Should Target: Ryan Kesler
Like Zetterberg, he can play the pivot or the wing. He also grew up near Detroit, in Livonia, Mich. Kesler's a fierce competitor who plays hard at both ends of the ice, and though he's denied it, there's a rumor floating about that he's looking to make a move. The Vancouver Canucks could have interest in a package that includes an established forward and a collection of the Red Wings' young players.
Los Angeles Kings
Where They Stand: Sixth in the Western Conference with a record of 33-22-6
The Kings have a comfortable seven-point cushion in the playoff race.
Why They're Desperate: Los Angeles finished ninth in goals for in 2012-13, but their offense dried up against the Chicago Blackhawks in last year's Western Conference Final. The problem has carried over into this season, where they're currently ranked 24th in NHL scoring. They need a sniper who can step up in big-game situations.
Who They Should Target: Thomas Vanek
The Austrian left winger has been steady during his time with the New York Islanders and was a productive playoff scorer during his earlier years with Buffalo.
Vanek's 49 points so far this season would put him right behind Anze Kopitar at the top of the Kings' scoring race. He'd complement the big Slovenian nicely on a dangerous top line and on the power play.
Where They Stand: Seventh in the Western Conference, in the first Wild Card position
With a record of 32-21-7, the Wild are six points up on the ninth-place Phoenix Coyotes.
Why They're Desperate: The Wild have no clear No. 1 netminder as the playoffs draw near. Josh Harding got the team off to a fantastic start but is now sidelined indefinitely as he deals with symptoms from his multiple sclerosis. Meanwhile, Niklas Backstrom has played just 22 minutes since Jan. 11 as he deals with a strained abdominal muscle.
Darcy Kuemper has started the last 14 games for the Wild and has kept the team on track, but he can't do it all himself.
Who They Should Target: Viktor Fasth
He's been sidelined since November with lower-body inflammation but has played two games with the AHL Norfolk Admirals and is ready to get back to business. The Ducks have a solid tandem in place with Jonas Hiller and Frederik Andersen, so Fasth is expendable.
Where They Stand: In the danger zone
The Flyers are currently in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, just one point ahead of Washington. Their record this season now stands at 30-24-6.
Why They're Desperate: After a terrible start to the season, the Flyers have gotten on track but could use help on defense if they hope to make any noise in the playoffs. As things stand now, another first-round showdown between Philadelphia and the Pittsburgh Penguins awaits. Philly could use some youth and mobility on the blue line.
Who They Should Target: Andrew MacDonald
The New York Islanders' blueliner is in the final year of a league-minimum deal, but the 27-year-old has become a top-pairing defenseman who also contributes on the power play. He'll be looking for a big raise next season, but the Flyers could use an under-30 anchor to build from on the back end.
Where They Stand: First place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 40-15-4
The Penguins have a comfortable five-point lead over second-place Boston, so they'll almost certainly draw the second Wild Card team in the East.
Why They're Desperate: The Pens are also short on defense. Paul Martin's out of the lineup again—this time for four to six weeks after breaking his hand at the Olympics. Kris Letang's not expected back for the foreseeable future after suffering a stroke in January.
Who They Should Target: Christian Ehrhoff
The Buffalo Sabres are looking to move out his big contract, cap-recapture penalties and all. John Vogl of the Buffalo News is reporting that Ehrhoff has submitted his list of eight teams where he wouldn't accept a trade, and you can bet the Penguins aren't on that list. He plays a solid two-way game and is a beast on the power play.