Though the NHL season is still relatively young, it's nearing the time when changes are coming.
Some teams are just where they want to be; others realize that they need a change. That change may be, "Well, this isn't our year," which calls for rebuilding trades of sorts. Or, it might be, "We're missing that one player."
Under-performing teams will look to rid themselves of upcoming free agents or otherwise valuable assets. For teams needing a defenseman, these players are likely to be available.
Francois Beauchemin went to Anaheim last season in the trade that sent Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
This season, the Ducks are under-performing and find themselves with the third-fewest point total in the NHL.
If the Ducks continue to falter, the upcoming free agent could be on the move.
Beauchemin is 31 years old and carries a $3.8 million cap hit for this season. He's averaged 20 points per season during his career, carrying a mix of offensive contributions with a physical defense style.
Calgary is just ahead of Anaheim, with the fourth-fewest points in the NHL. They are set to miss the playoffs for a third consecutive year.
They are the league's fourth-oldest team, according to NHLnumbers.com; 10 of their 18 skaters are aged 30 or older.
Rebuilding time is soon, which means trading away older assets for younger prospects or draft picks.
Mark Giordano is not an old man at the age of 28, but he is likely the team's most tradeable blueliner. With seven points in 20 games, he leads all Flames defensemen. He produced 43 points last season.
Giordano's offensive skill and dedicated playing style make him a welcoming addition to any playoff team.
Even more likely to be moved than Giordano is teammate Cory Sarich.
Sarich is set to become a free agent during this upcoming offseason. Any team looking for a physical, hard-working defenseman will have to take on his $3.6 million cap hit.
The Carolina Hurricanes control last place in the NHL's weakest division. The team's eight wins is tied for the fourth-fewest in the entire league.
Tim Gleason, an upcoming free agent, is one of the team's bright spots. Gleason's plus/minus rating of plus-1 is nothing to gawk at; but he's one of just five Hurricanes with a positive rating.
The physical, shut-down defenseman would be a key addition to any team. His cap hit for this season is a manageable $2.75 million.
If there are bright spots to the Blue Jackets' season, they include the potential of a lottery pick in the draft and the liberty to dump upcoming free agents. Radek Martinek is a player that fits this category.
The 35-year-old is currently out with a concussion. Though he has injury issues, he can add lower-line depth to a team when healthy.
With Andrei Markov close to finally making a return to the NHL, the Canadiens are presented with an interesting situation.
When Markov is healthy, the team has to pick a defenseman to scratch out of P.K. Subban, Josh Georges, Yannick Weber, Hal Gill, Raphael Diaz and Jaroslav Spacek.
Rather than consistently benching one of these players, Montreal would do well to trade one for a useful asset on the offensive side.
The 37-year-old Spacek is sixth on the team's defensive depth chart (based on average playing time). He is also an upcoming free agent. These factors make him the most likely to go.
His $3.83 million cap hit might make finding a trade partner difficult.
Prior to this season, the Nashville Predators and Shea Weber could not agree on a contract. The two went to arbitration and a $7.5 million, one-year contract was given to Weber.
Weber, who may be the NHL's best defenseman, will undoubtedly seek a salary at $7.5 million or higher yet again this offseason.
Nashville, bordering on a playoff spot, may choose to avoid another long summer of failed negotiations by trading Weber to a team that can afford him.
Either that or let the situation boil down to arbitration and the team will be forced to pay him more than they probably can.
If Nashville is out of the playoffs at the deadline and/or trades Weber, additional moves should be expected as well.
The 26-year-old Suter is also slated for free agency, but his category is of the unrestricted type. This means Nashville cannot drag out negotiations to arbitration; Suter will be able to go to other teams.
Depending on what the Predators wish to do with their money, Suter may be gone. He is productive offensively: He's averaged 40-plus points over the past three seasons, and should hit that mark this year as well.
Furthermore, Francis Bouillon is an upcoming free agent who logs second-line ice time in Nashville. His $1.35 million cap hit is a small price to pay for the veteran's defensive skills, though he is not at all comparable to Weber or Suter in skill.
Sergei Gonchar was signed by the Ottawa Senators in 2010 after the team was eliminated from the playoffs in the opening round.
Unfortunately, the Senators were one of the NHL's worst teams the next season. They are not much better this year.
The team has entered a rebuilding phase and will likely miss the playoffs this season and again in 2012-13. Gonchar's contract will run out then at the conclusion of that season.
He is a very experienced defenseman that still has plenty of offensive talent.
If a team can afford Gonchar's $5.5 million cap hit, Ottawa would be wise to trade him; they are not going to be making a Stanley Cup run in the next two years.
At this point, a first-round draft pick is more valuable to the team than Gonchar.
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Matt Carkner finally played a full NHL season in 2009-10, at the age of 29. He has missed all of this season so far due to knee surgery, which fixed an injury that limited his playing time to 50 games last year.
Carkner is not a quality point producer or defender, but is competent enough to hold a third-line spot.
He is one of the NHL's top fighters and would be a valuable addition to a soft but skilled team like the Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning or Buffalo Sabres.
If Carkner was on the ice when Boston's Milan Lucic gave Ryan Miller a concussion, the retribution would have been immediate.
Carkner will be a free agent after this season.
All signs point to Matt Carle's departure this summer. In short, the team has little cap space to spare and the upcoming free agent is probably going to want a raise.
The Flyers have a deep defensive core, so losing Carle would not hurt, especially if the team can find a quality replacement.
Cody Franson was inexplicably a healthy scratch for many games this season. Franson totaled 50 points over 141 games in his first two NHL seasons.
Now receiving playing time, he has four points in eight games.
The 24-year-old is clearly able to contribute offensively. If the Maple Leafs decide they would rather not use his great production, another team would be glad to trade for him.
Franson has a $800,000 salary and will be a restricted free agent after this summer.
With the Winnipeg Jets lacking the promise of a playoff berth and Johnny Oduya facing free agency, trading the 30-year-old would be a beneficial move.
Oduya is not an excessively talented point producer; he averages roughly 20 points per season. However, he is a mobile defender who once led the New Jersey Devils in plus/minus.
Oduya's performance with the Jets is not eye-opening whatsoever, but he would be a beneficial addition to a playoff team. He requires $3.5 million in cap space.
Jason Sapunka is a Featured Columnist and Syndicated Writer for Bleacher Report.