As NHL trade rumors heat up more and more despite the oncoming holiday roster freeze, teams are trying to find out whether or not they are contenders this season and whether or not it is time to sell.
Of course, it's still early and a lot can happen before the deadline in February and even then, there's still a lot of time (the 2009 St. Louis Blues proved that). But, by this point, teams have a good idea of where they are strong and where they need help.
With that in mind, here are the missing pieces to make every team a Stanley Cup Contender right now.
Missing Link: Francois Beauchemin
The Ducks, more than anything else, need help on defense. A young No. 2 center who can replace Saku Koivu eventually could be another missing link but Beauchemin brings a veteran presence. He's been in Anaheim before and provides support on both offense and defense, and could be a mentor to young blueliners like Luca Sbisa and Cam Fowler.
Missing Piece: Tomas Kaberle
When the Thrashers signed Ron Hainsey, they thought they were getting a power-play quarterback. Hainsey hasn't lived up to his contract, however. Secondary scoring would help, but a puck-moving defenseman like Kaberle, who can set up with Dustin Byfuglien at the point, would be a significant help. Although the last time the Thrashers pulled the trigger, it didn't end well.
Missing Link: Marc Savard
If the Bruins want to be contenders in the East, then Savard, who just recently came back from his post-concussion syndrome, needs to be what the Bruins signed him to be. It's not any fault of his own that Matt Cooke cold-clocked him, but if Savard plays up to his capability, then the Bruins are a much more balanced and much more dangerous team. Also, it makes it a lot easier to part with a Marco Sturm or Michael Ryder.
Missing Link: Andrew Brunette
Brunette brings experience, leadership and offensive upside. He can provide depth to an offense that doesn't have much of it and a little finesse to the bottom six forwards. And let's face it: when your current captain and leader has been a healthy scratch the last few games and has been rumored to be available, anything would be an improvement.
Missing Link: Blake Wheeler
Wheeler is one of the Bruins forwards that might be available as a cap casualty. He's versatile, big, offensive potential and a relatively cheap cap hit, which means that he's probably the most desirable out of all the forwards. Calgary, who could use offense and a youth infusion up front, would be a much different team with Wheeler.
Missing Link: Mike Brown
The Hurricanes are a young team and also a very small team. Troy Bodie is the only player on the team currently taller than 6' 2". They need force and an enforcer who will protect the smaller and skilled guys like Jeff Skinner. Brown would be a good fit because of his play and his contract, but someone of the same ilk as a Darcy Hordichuk will do.
Missing Link: Antti Miettinen
Chicago famously gutted some of the heart-and-soul grit players from their team after the Stanley Cup win last year because of salary cap concerns. That's led them to go with younger players at the bottom of their lineup. Miettinen would be a veteran to fit in with those youngsters and possibly add some stability and some offense to the bottom six, possibly on a line with Dave Bolland.
Missing Link: Craig Rivet
Rivet is supposedly on the outs in Buffalo and could be had after being a healthy scratch recently. He's bounced around and has a relatively low cap hit and is a solid defensive defenseman who's responsible in his own zone and can play on the power play. Colorado desperately needs defensive help, especially since moving Scott Hannan recently for Tomas Fleischmann.
Missing Link: Joni Pitkanen
If Columbus wants to make a run at a playoff spot, it definitely needs an offensive defenseman to run the power play. Pitkanen would be a good fit as someone who can direct traffic and is not afraid to shoot the puck from the blue line. He'd be a needed jolt and he's an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so he could be a rental player.
Missing Link: Anton Babchuk
Defensively liable and has looked absolutely lost in Calgary. But an absolute cannon from the point and an offensive weapon from the blue line to possibly bury on the third pairing or as a seventh defenseman. He's also relatively cheap and he's moved around in the past, so it might not take much to get him.
Missing Link: Matt Walker
Any move the Red Wings make will be a depth move, as the Red Wings are pretty solid. I can see them if they even make a move, solidifying the defense with a Walker or Mark Eaton. Walker is younger, has a lower cap hit and adds some toughness and physical play, which is why I put him in this spot.
Missing Link: Michael Leighton
It could be a good match. Leighton is now expendable to the Flyers thanks to the Man of Mystery known only as "Bob," and the Oilers could use a goalie since neither one of the triumvirate of Nikolai Khabibulin, Devan Dubnyk and Jeff Deslauriers have really helped immensely. Leighton could be had for cheap and for not much in return as the Flyers are just looking to clear space.
Missing Link: Marc-Andre Bergeron
Bergeron, a free agent, might be needed most in Florida, where the effort is there but the offense is not. Bergeron would help a lifeless and non-existent power play by giving the Panthers a weapon from the point. He is a defensive liability, but he might spark the young Panthers to finally reach their potential.
Missing Link: Jarome Iginla
If the Kings' forwards continue to struggle, the rumors that they'll pursue a top-six forward will continue to involve Iginla. He would provide pop and it might be a good fit for him in a place where he doesn't have to be the No. 1 guy. He'd probably be on the top line with Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar, but he wouldn't be the No. 1 guy.
Missing Link: Nik Zherdev
It's no secret that he's one of the most frustrating players in the league. All that talent but so inconsistent. That being said, the Flyers might be looking to move him. On Minnesota's offense, he'd be a lot more skilled than most of their other options. It might be worth taking a chance on him to see if he can play up to his potential. He probably won't, but fans can dream.
Missing Link: Mark Eaton
The Canadiens have two glaring needs: forward and defense. The more likely pick, at least in my mind, is that they'll go for a depth defenseman who's responsible and relatively inexpensive. Eaton could be a good fit, since they have some room to play with now that Andrei Markov is out for the year with yet another knee injury.
Missing Link: Zach Parise
The Devils' season may be on the brink of collapse, but the return of Parise from the injured list could at least give them a boost. He's probably the most complete offensive talent the Devils have and his return could have wondrous effects. Most of all, it could take the pressure of having to be the guy off of Ilya Kovalchuk, though that pressure that's causing him to squeeze his stick right now may be more related to his contract then Parise's absence.
Missing Link: Andrew Brunette
What a surprise, Nashville is once again hurting for offense. In all fairness, getting Matthew Lombardi back will help. But a guy like Brunette can't hurt a team seemingly always looking for an offensive spark. Then again, this is the same team that somehow gets 100 points and the six seed in the West every year, so I'll never doubt what they do or don't do in Nashville.
Missing Link: Mark Cuban
At this point, the Islanders' season is beyond repair (so much so that Howie Rose actually would rather go cover Mets' spring training), and the turmoil in the organization is remarkable. There's really only one way to fix it. Have Cuban buy the team. He'd eventually push for an arena deal and pour the money into this team that's desperately needed.
Unless the current ownership wants famous radio deejays finding new ways to destroy their season tickets.
Missing Link: Brad Richards
The Rangers could use a puck-moving defenseman as well, but Richards provides a veteran presence and he gives Marian Gaborik a playmaking center who will find him and get him the puck in key shooting situations. He also gives them a power-play quarterback from the point, which the Rangers need desperately. Michael Del Zotto could be that player, but he's not there yet.
Missing Link: Andrew Cogliano
In two words: why not? He's struggled in Edmonton and will be very hard to move. But Ottawa apparently wanted him once before. Heck, he was one of the players who was supposed to go to Ottawa in the failed Dany Heatley deal. He has the tools, but he's been crushed by the weight of expectations in Edmonton. Maybe a change of scenery would do him good.
And let's put it this way: He can't be much worse than Alexei Kovalev.
Missing Link: Marty Reasoner
A nice third or fourth-line center that can provide grittiness and penalty killing when needed. He might be a good fill-in if the Flyers decide to move Claude Giroux up to the first or second line. Of course, he also could be a way for the Flyers to rid themselves of either Dan Carcillo's or Nik Zherdev's contract.
Missing Link: Marco Sturm
Sturm is definitely one of the forward candidates from Boston that could be moved. He's a nice, solid forward when he's healthy. Phoenix is once again goal-challenged, but the problem would be if Sturm could fit into the Coyotes' defensive system. He'd definitely have a welcomed scorer's touch, though.
Missing Link: Jordan Staal
The reports out of Pittsburgh are that Staal is still weeks away from returning. But despite how hot the Penguins are right now, the Penguins are a better team with Staal and that's pretty obvious. He's one of, if not the best, defensive forward the Penguins have and has offensive upside as well. He also takes pressure off a lot of players, and possibly also Evgeni Malkin.
Missing Link: Francois Beauchemin
The general feeling is that the Sharks will make a play for a top defenseman. Beauchemin would fit the bill as someone who could play offense and defense and fit into the system. His $3.8 million cap hit could be a problem, but the feeling also is that the Sharks would be willing to send either a Nicholas Wallin or a Kent Huskins back in return to make the deal work.
Missing Link: Michael Ryder
The Blues need a healthy forward who can score and the Bruins need to unload a forward to get under the cap. It's a match made in desperation. But on a more serious note, Ryder, when he's playing well, has one of the more underrated shots in the game and likes to shoot. He has the potential to put up goals in bunches and can do it again. Right now, St. Louis just might take a goal.
Missing Link: Brad Richards
Richards isn't the savior of the Leafs, nor will he fix all their problems. But he would give them a legitimate No. 1 center and someone for Phil Kessel to play with. He's a playmaker who would give Toronto someone who could put the puck in the net and be a veteran presence for many of the young Leafs.
Missing Link: Dwayne Roloson
Tampa Bay desperately needs a goalie. The Mike Smith/Dan Ellis platoon has not worked, yet the Lightning are still winning. Roloson would be a veteran presence and would stabilize the back end. He's proven he can be a pretty good, if not outstanding, goalie when he's on and when there's a decent team in front of him. Unfortunately, he has neither on Long Island.
Missing Link: Brian Lee
Not too long ago, there was a rumor in the Ottawa Sun about a possible deal that would send Lee to Vancouver for Kevin Bieksa. Lee would definitely give the Canucks cap flexibility and while the Canucks won't trade Bieksa for now unless they have an affirmation that Sami Salo could play at all this year, Lee could be a nice fit as a young player on the back end.
Missing Piece: Tim Connolly
The Caps would benefit from having Connolly should he become available. He's a center who would fit in nicely on the second line (a need for the Capitals) and is a distributor who can rack up assists. He's a center where coach Bruce Boudreau might feel comfortable pairing with a shooter like Alex Semin, assuming he doesn't get traded himself (highly, highly improbable).