The Biggest Questions Leading Up to the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline

Allan MitchellFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2016

The Biggest Questions Leading Up to the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    All 30 NHL teams are headed to the trade deadline on February 29, with about 24 holding out at least some hope for the playoffs. The range of questions is extensive, as some teams are just trying to get back to the postseason, while others are chasing championship rings.

    Injuries, slumps, eroding skills and lack of chemistry are all creating issues, and NHL general managers across the league are looking at the deadline as an opportunity to add, dump or block other teams from finding that final piece.

    Here are the biggest questions leading up to the trade deadline.

8. Will the Montreal Canadiens Add Another Goalie?

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    Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

    The Current Situation: The Montreal Canadiens have endured a season that borders on unbelievable. Since losing goaltender Carey Price to injury in late November, they have struggled to stay in contention with a 27-25-4 overall record. 

    The Internal Solutions: A rumor this week about Price not returning this season—via La Presse as this CBC Sports report indicates—is described by the organization as speculation. Still, the concern over Price and his health is clear.

    The Trade Deadline: Montreal has already made a trade for goalie Ben Scrivens, but the results have been uneven. There are probably goalies available who could help, and the only question left revolves around Montreal's willingness to make another trade to plug the hole.

7. Will the Carolina Hurricanes Part with Franchise Player Eric Staal?

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    James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

    The Current Situation: Eric Staal is the face of the Carolina Hurricanes franchise. He is also an impending free agent, and a long-term relationship may be coming to an end.

    The Internal Solutions: The Hurricanes are better than expected, thanks to coach Bill Peters and an emerging group of youngsters. At 31, Staal may not be around to see the next playoff series in Carolina. 

    The Trade Deadline: Staal is a productive player who offers size and skill at the center position—he is 6'4" and 205 pounds—along with durability. If the Hurricanes trade him, he will fetch a major return.

6. Will the Winnipeg Jets Trade Andrew Ladd?

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

    The Current Situation: The Winnipeg Jets have an internal cap, so when they signed Dustin Byfuglien, it was easy to assume the next step would be trading their captain, Andrew Ladd. 

    The Internal Solutions: The Jets are not a playoff team—they are No. 13 in the Western Conference—so it is time to think of the summer and how to tweak the roster. Along with addressing restricted free agents such as Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba, the club needs to make sure it has some room to improve this summer.

    The Trade Deadline: Ladd is a big part of the team, but the cap will dictate how the Jets proceed. If they do trade Ladd, the price will be dear, and the team acquiring him will add a major piece to its arsenal.

5. What Will the Los Angeles Kings Do?

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    Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

    The Current Situation: The Los Angeles Kings are aggressive at every deadline, and it has paid off with Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and 2014. They missed the playoffs in 2015 but are back and ready to shop for deadline help. 

    The Internal Solutions: The Kings have some issues—and may have received some bad news with an injury to Marian Gaborik on February 13, as reported by Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times.

    The Trade Deadline: Kings' general manager Dean Lombardi has acquired an enormous amount of talent at the trade deadline since 2012, including Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik and Andrej Sekera. Look for at least one major move by Los Angeles at the deadline.

4. Will the Washington Capitals Add Defense?

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    The Current Situation: At 40-9-4, the Washington Capitals look ready for a deep run into the playoffs and possibly a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Teams that are looking to win are always in search of depth on defense. 

    The Internal Solutions: The Capitals have missed Brooks Orpik for much of the season, but he is close to returning—as Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post updated recently. Despite that, the club may want to add to a group that has employed some AHL veterans such as Taylor Chorney.

    The Trade Deadline: Washington made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 1998 and is close to making it back. Adding a veteran NHL defenseman at the deadline is one of the last things that team needs to do, and it is a good bet the Capitals will do it.

3. Can the Chicago Blackhawks Find Six Effective Defensemen?

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    Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

    The Current Situation: The Chicago Blackhawks are running a defensive group that relies heavily on stalwarts Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Trevor van Riemsdyk is currently playing about 20 minutes per game. 

    The Internal Solutions: The Blackhawks must decide if van Riemsdyk—along with fellow rookie Erik Gustafsson—can sustain the level of consistency that is required in the playoffs. The club has enough depth, with veterans like Rob Scuderi and Michal Rozsival. Chicago needs a proven No. 4 to run with the big players.

    The Trade Deadline: Chicago has a chance to win the Stanley Cup two years in a row, and that would be the first time in franchise history. The Blackhawks are loaded up front and have goaltending covered, but the defense needs some help at the deadline.

2. Will the Salary Cap Impact the Trade Deadline?

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The Current Situation: The tumbling Canadian dollar could impact the salary cap for 2016-17. James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail wrote about it in January, reflecting on a flat cap—or worse—for next year. 

    The Internal Solutions: NHL teams may be revising their trade deadline task list because of the impending cap crush. Taking on dollars beyond the fiscal year end may be a non-starter, effectively meaning recalls from the farm are the more likely route for improvement.

    The Trade Deadline: If a team that is looking to push for the Stanley Cup has an attractive deal in place for a player with term beyond this season, the cap worry could impact that deal. On the other hand, an attractive unrestricted free agent with an expiring deal will have increased trade value at this deadline.

1. Can the Tampa Bay Lightning Sign Steven Stamkos?

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    The Current Situation: Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning is a pending free agent with a no-movement clause, per General Fanager.

    The Internal Solutions: The Lightning are in a tough spot. Stamkos has a no movement, the team wants to push for a Stanley Cup, and he is gone July 1 if they cannot sign him. Steve Yzerman, Tampa Bay's general manager, is in a perfect storm, and signing Stamkos may be the only way out.

    The Trade Deadline: As crazy as it may seem, trading Stamkos is possible. The Lightning would have to find a buyer and then ask him to waive his no-movement clause. Mike Johnston of Sportsnet tackled the impossible recently, suggesting five potential destinations for Tampa Bay's franchise player.