We're well underway in the 2011-12 NHL regular season, and it is becoming obvious that some teams have some glaring needs.
Keeping an NHL team's player system stocked with young talent is essential to long-term success, but sometimes it becomes necessary to trade a promising young player to fill other holes in an organization.
Here are a few young players that teams could trade away for an immediate return to fill some gaps in their lineups.
Things aren't clicking yet in Columbus this season. The Blue Jackets are off to an 0-4-1 start and have struggled to hold a lead. Ryan Johansen is a highly rated 19-year-old center that could be a piece of a trade to bring another solid defenseman to Columbus.
With the acquisition of Jeff Carter to fill a key role as a top center on the team, Johansen becomes more expendable. A franchise never likes to trade away a young player with the potential of Ryan Johansen, but to gain a valuable piece to the puzzle, you need to give up something valuable.
The Ottawa Senators have some depth at left wing. In addition to Matt Puempel, they also have highly rated youngsters Nikita Filatov, Andre Petersson, Shane Prince and Wacey Hamilton.
They have much less depth at goaltender and on defense, and could use some veteran help to shore up efforts in their own zone to turn their season around. Craig Anderson is off to a slow start in goal, and through five games they have a 1-4 record with a minus-nine goal differential.
Puempel could be a part of a trade to acquire some blue line or goaltending help for the Sens.
The Flames drafted Sven Baertschi with the 13th pick in the 2011 entry draft. The team has some other talented options in their prospect system at the forward positions—they own the rights to Ryan Howse, John Gaudreau and Max Reinhart, among others.
Their defense took a hit in the offseason with the departure of veteran Robyn Regehr to Buffalo. Their blue-line prospects are lacking in depth as well. The team may need to give up a highly rated young forward like Baertschi to fill gaps in their own zone.
The Avalanche made some significant moves at the goaltender position that is working out pretty well so far. Semyon Varlamov and veteran J.S. Giguere have proven to be an effective goaltending duo for Colorado early on.
The Avs also have an abundance of top goaltender prospects in their system—primarily Calvin Pickard, who has been billed as the Colorado goalie of the future. In addition to Aittokallio, they recently drafted Boston University standout Kieran Millan. One of these young players could be expendable.
Aittokallio had a very impressive training camp for the Avalanche. He could be traded to a team with little organizational depth in goal for a more NHL-ready player to play wing, where they are a little thin.
The Coyotes need a long-term solution in goal after the departure of Ilya Bryzgalov. Jason LaBarbera and Mike Smith may be able to hold down the fort temporarily, but to get back to the playoffs Phoenix is going to have to acquire a long-term solution.
They have a slew of talented young defensemen, including Brandon Gormley, Chris Summers and Maxim Goncharov.
They may be able to sacrifice a young, NHL-ready defenseman like Ekman-Larsson to acquire another franchise goaltender or top prospect to take the team into a new era.
The St. Louis Blues have a top forward prospect in Jaden Schwartz. He was acquired with the 14th overall pick in the 2010 draft. Schwartz is an all-star at the NCAA level. He has led the Colorado College Tigers for the past couple of seasons.
The Blues roster includes a skilled group of forwards, about half of whom are under the age of 25 and will form a solid offensive core for years to come. They have one of the best power forwards in the game in 23-year-old Chris Stewart.
With a young group up front and a fairly deep pool of prospects at center, Schwartz could become expendable for the Blues this season if they need to make a trade with some immediate payoff at the NHL level.