Ideal Targets for the Top Stanley Cup Contenders at the 2014 Trade Deadline

Adrian Dater@@adaterNHL National ColumnistMarch 3, 2014

Ideal Targets for the Top Stanley Cup Contenders at the 2014 Trade Deadline

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    They say not to grocery shop on an empty stomach. A similar metaphor applies to many a former NHL general manager who was seduced by the offerings at the NHL trade deadline. The number of bad deadline deals outweighs the good.

    Someone will surely regret this year's deadline. For the majority, that "final piece" to a Stanley Cup will prove to have the same value as an old Spanish piece of eight. But the temptation will prove too strong. The what-if factor for NHL general managers isn't much different than those in line for that big Powerball jackpot. 

    But for every Ray Bourque or Jeff Carter trade-deadline deal, there are Billy Guerin-to-San Jose, Ryan Smyth-to-the-Islanders, Cam Neely-and-a-pick-(Glen Wesley)-from-Vancouver-to-Boston-for-Barry Pederson kinds of deals. 

    But in the same vein as another old metaphor—"It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all"—it's OK if teams take a shot at glory with the following players who figure to be wearing new uniforms come Wednesday afternoon.

    To have these players on your team in a playoff run is to up your odds just a little. It may not be enough to win the big one, but you can't win if you don't play.

    Click on the following slideshow for players who could be that elusive final piece to a Stanley Cup.

Ryan Kesler: Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Bill Boyce/Associated Press

    Why he's valuable: Since Jordan Staal departed to Carolina, the Penguins have lacked that difference-maker as a third-line center—or, perhaps better put: the extra center/faceoff/penalty-killing and power-play specialist/leader type that can make the difference in winning that Cup. 

    Kesler has denied that he wants out of Vancouver, but the circumstantial evidence that it may happen anyway seems overwhelming to this point. The Penguins look like the team that could best utilize his considerable talent and will to win for the spring. 

    Other contenders: Detroit, Boston, St. Louis.

Thomas Vanek: Detroit Red Wings

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Why he makes sense: The Wings used to love to raid the cupboards of the poor before there was a salary cap. They can maybe do it again, but the salary cap makes that tougher. Still, maybe they can convince the Isles to take Stephen Weiss and a draft pick for Vanek's $5.75 million rental contract. Weiss has several years left on his deal, and the Isles have to get something for him. 

    Other contenders: Pittsburgh, San Jose, Los Angeles, Boston.



Mike Cammalleri: Los Angeles Kings

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    Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

    Why he makes sense: The Kings could definitely use another veteran scorer, and Cammalleri should be their guy. He's quick, skilled and would help a Los Angeles team that still tries too much to kind of bull the puck into the net the hard way. Just like Carter was to the Kings a couple years ago after coming from Columbus, Cammalleri could be that wild-card playoff ingredient needed for another long run.

    Other contenders: St. Louis, San Jose, N.Y. Rangers, Pittsburgh.

Christian Ehrhoff: New York Rangers

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    Associated Press

    Why he makes sense: The Rangers could stand to plug the offensive D-man hole left by Michael Del Zotto. Ehrhoff can do that, and he's a better defensive player than MDZ. Can New York fit him under the cap? There's always a way. 

    Other contenders: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Dallas.

Matt Moulson, Montreal Canadiens

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    Gary Wiepert/Associated Press

    Why he makes sense: Montrealers have always loved to crack open a Molson. Add a "U" and this could be just as refreshing. 

    He knows how to score, and the Habs could use another skilled stick for the playoffs. I think he would be a tremendous fit for this team.

    Other contenders: Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets.

Chris Stewart, Ottawa Senators

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    Bill Boyce/Associated Press

    Why he makes sense: Nobody believes the Sabres will actually hold on to Stewart and his $4.1 million salary. He can easily be flipped to a team like the Senators for a top prospect and/or pick. The Sens have expressed their interest, according to The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch, so look for him to be playing in the Canadian national capital before long. But if not...

    Other contenders: Detroit, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Minnesota.

Paul Stastny, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Why he makes sense: Despite being the surprise team of the season, the Avalanche have a potential problem: Paul Stastny can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and as of Monday, he still had no contract extension with the team. If the Avs aren't confident they will sign him by July 1, they'll have no choice but to deal him.

    Toronto has needed a No. 1 center forever, so here he is.

    Other contenders: St. Louis, Pittsburgh.

Ryan Callahan, Anaheim Ducks

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Why he makes sense: The Ducks have a lot of offense, but a little bit more could be all that's needed to overwhelm for the playoffs. He'd fit well with guys like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and with his unrestricted free-agent status, he may not cost a ton to get. 

    Other contenders: Minnesota, Detroit, Columbus, Los Angeles.

Jaromir Jagr, Detroit Red Wings

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    Kathy Kmonicek/Associated Press

    Why he makes sense: Why not? He's played with just about every other team in the NHL—why not the Wings too? He proved in Boston last season he can help a team make the finals. 

    Other contenders: Los Angeles, Philadelphia.

Ales Hemsky, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Why he makes sense: If the Pens strike out on Kesler, Hemsky could be a nice fallback option. There seems to be no question he'll finally be traded out of Edmonton this time. He's still a very skilled guy who could be the perfect player in a potential 28-game season that is the playoffs.

    Other contenders: Los Angeles, N.Y. Rangers, Detroit.