The best teams in the NHL have one key thing in common—strength down the middle.
Whether it's Crosby, Malkin, and Staal in Pittsburgh, Sedin and Kesler in Vancouver, Richards, Giroux, and Briere in Philly, or Datsyuk and Zetterberg in Detroit, great teams have great centers.
As we approach the trade deadline and the playoffs, many teams are looking to add some talented pivots to their rosters.
Here's a look at the top ten centers that might be available for trade with the trade deadline looming.
Zenon Konopka is a somewhat surprising inclusion on this list, but he offers two key attributes that play a big role in playoff hockey.
Firstly, his toughness is very valuable. Konopka can protect star players, and deter cheap shots on his teammates with the fear of his retribution. He currently leads the league in penalty minutes and is second in fighting majors.
Secondly, and relatively unknown, is Konopka's surprising affinity for winning faceoffs. He currently sits sixth in the league, with a faceoff winning percentage of 58.4.
He's also valuable because the Islanders wouldn't ask for much in return, and Konopka's contract is up at the end of the season.
Look for Konopka to end up in Colorado, Dallas, or Montreal.
Maxim Lapierre is one of the most hated players in the league. He's well known for his chippy play and occasional cheap shots.
When Lapierre avoids crossing the line, he's known for drawing penalties, stifling the opposition's star players, and timely scoring. He's also pretty good on faceoffs.
He was traded from Montreal to Anaheim on December 31, but if the Ducks fall out of the playoff race, expect them to trade the upcoming free agent.
John Madden and Mario Lemieux
John Madden's reputation as one of the best checking centers in the league was solidified in 2001, when he was playing for the New Jersey Devils.
The Devils played the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final, and Madden held Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr without a goal in the series.
The Devils ended up losing in the Stanley Cup Finals, to the Colorado Avalanche, that season, but John Madden has been one of the best shutdown centers in the league ever since.
Now, at 37 years old, Madden isn't quite what he once was, but showed his value last season while being part of the Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks.
Madden will once again be a free agent at the end of this year, so if Minnesota isn't in a playoff spot, watch for them to trade Madden to a contender.
Look for Madden to end up back in Chicago, or in Tampa Bay, Washington, Vancouver, or Montreal.
Only a few short years ago, Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner were in the midst of very good rookie seasons, and everyone in Edmonton expected them to be the faces of the franchise for a long time.
Since then, Cogliano's numbers have dropped every season, but he has, at times, been a bright spot on a poor Oilers team this season.
Cogliano possesses fantastic speed and slick moves, and could be a good addition as secondary scoring on a playoff team.
His contract expires at the end of this season, so expect the Oilers to listen to offers for Cogliano.
Possible destinations include Dallas, Washington, San Jose, and Atlanta.
While Jason Arnott isn't the dominant force he was when he led the Devil's to the Cup in 2000, he's still a big body with good hands and a ton of experience.
Arnott is in the final season of a contract that pays him $4.5 million, with a no trade clause, but he's already said he's willing to waive it to go to a contender.
He isn't likely to lead a team in scoring anymore, but Arnott can still provide secondary scoring in the right situation.
He could end up in Tampa Bay, Montreal, or Phoenix.
If Tim Connolly could just stay healthy, he could be one of the best centers around. He's already one of the most skilled players in the league, but he hasn't played 80 games in a season since 2002-03.
Connolly is healthy at the moment though, and could really help a team like Washington, Montreal, Anaheim, or Nashville.
The Panthers leading scorer each of the last three seasons has been frequently mentioned in trade rumors since the Entry Draft last summer.
He has three years left on his contract at a reasonable $3.1 million per season, and has a no movement clause, but after a decade of missing the playoffs, one has to imagine he wouldn't turn down a trade.
Weiss would be an ideal second line center for a team like Washington, Atlanta, Anaheim, or Minnesota.
Mikhail Grabovski, at 26 years of age, is in the midst of a career season and has arguably been the Leafs' best player this season.
Whether or not he's available to be traded has been a heated debate for the last several weeks among Leafs fans.
If he is available, he would ideally fill a second line role on St. Louis, Phoenix, Anaheim, Atlanta, or Washington.
With the way he's playing this year, though, it might make more sense for the Leafs to hold on to Grabo.
The Stars' unstable ownership situation has made the talented play-maker a frequent subject of trade rumors for the last year or so.
While there haven't been any close calls or substantial offers, it's been thought that the Stars were listening to calls about Ribeiro and his $5 million per season contract.
With the surprisingly good performance of the Stars this season, it's very possible that Ribeiro won't be traded, but if he is available, he'd likely go to Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, or Phoenix.
What was said on the last slide about Mike Ribeiro also applies to Brad Richards. Richards has been the subject of trade rumors because his contract expires at the end of the season, and it's unknown if the Stars will be able to resign him.
Richards is sure making them want to though. Over the last season and a half, he seems to have rediscovered his scoring touch that saw him post 91 points in 2005-06. He was seventh in league scoring last season, and currently sits sixth.
If the Stars do decide to trade Richards at the trade deadline, there would certainly be no shortage of offers for the superstar forward.
Teams rumored to be very interested include the Rangers, Leafs, and Kings.