NHL Trade Scenarios: One Weakness That Each Team Needs to Shore Up
As we approach the holiday roster freeze, teams in the NHL will get time to assess where they are and where they want to be when the calendar reads April.
Some teams have a lot of strengths and have been playing well. Those teams might look to add something minor or could look inside their organization for help as easily as they could look for a trade.
Other teams have more issues than Sports Illustrated and could be looking to sell and start looking towards a new dynamic moving into the new four-conference alignment next season.
Whether the team is good or bad, every team has an area that could use help. What follows is a look at what each team could stand to make a deal to improve, whether it's a minor improvement or the beginning of a rebuild.
Where do we begin? They've changed coaches already, and rumors have placed half of their roster on the trade block.
If there's one area that needs the most work, it's discipline. The Ducks are victims of their own mistakes too often, and between mental mistakes and bad penalties, they put themselves behind in games too often.
To accomplish this goal, the Ducks might become sellers before the deadline. The question might be how many players leave before the dust settles?
Boston's 43 points are tied with Philadelphia for the most in the Eastern Conference (through Sunday night). They've won their last four and eight of their last 10. They have the best tandem of goaltenders in the league, and are scoring well.
If there's one area of concerns on a team doing as well as the Bruins, it's the amount of time they spend in the penalty box. Boston has the second-highest average number of penalty minutes per game (16.2) in the NHL behind Philadelphia (16.9).
I'm not sure the B's need to make a deal, though. It's hard to say their formula's broken right now.
Buffalo made a number of bold moves this summer to improve their chances at winning the Cup, but they haven't paid immediate dividends. They're barely holding onto a playoff spot right now, and have struggled with consistent play all season.
The area the Sabres need to tighten up is their play at home. They're only 8-9-3 in Buffalo this year. Teams that are under .500 at home have a hard time making it into the postseason, and going deep is almost out of the question if you can't win in your own building.
Buffalo has been all over trade rumors for a couple weeks now, and will likely continue to be there until they get things to click consistently.
Calgary continues to have so many problems that narrowing it down to only one item to work on is hard. They're in 11th place in the Western Conference after losing in Chicago on Sunday night.
The Flames desperately need to play better on the road. After Sunday's loss, they're now 6-10-2 outside of Calgary.
Of course, having the worst faceoff percentage in the NHL (45.1), and ranking in the bottom third of the league in scoring are also areas of significant concern.
It might be time to sell in Calgary, and they might want to have the dreaded trade conversation with Jarome Iginla.
One thing the Canes need to work on is everything.
They're in dead last in the Eastern Conference and are trending the wrong direction. They've been outscored by 30 goals so far this year, and are 2-6-2 in their last 10 games. There are enough holes on this roster that picking just one doesn't do their problems justice.
The Canes will probably sell, and someone like Tim Gleason could help them add some pieces to improve their future while their present struggles.
With Sunday night in the books, the Blackhawks are on top of the NHL with 46 points.
On paper, the biggest area of weakness is their penalty killing, which ranks 27th in the NHL at 77.7 percent after allowing two power-play goals on Sunday night. However, the Hawks have killed 24 of 28 penalties in December and are trending in the right direction in that area.
If the Blackhawks could fix one area, it would be more consistent play from their younger players. Bryan Bickell and Viktor Stalberg have been bounced around the lineup (including a few nights off), and Michael Frolik has struggled to score.
It's hard to say Chicago will make a deal to improve somewhere, despite their cap flexibility. They've been rumored to be looking for an upgrade at the second center and third pair defense, but they have organizational depth that might fill those holes.
The Avs are sitting in last place in the Northwest Division, and have been as inconsistent as can be this year.
Their team defense needs to get better; they're allowing more than a half-goal per game more than their offense is providing in support. Unfortunately, it appears that a coaching change might be needed in Denver to bring a new outlook to this young team.
As young as they are, it's hard to imagine the Avs will sell. But adding some healthy veteran leadership would make sense.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Where do we begin with Columbus?
They're 27th in the league in scoring and goals against, 26th on power play and 25th in penalty killing. Their goaltending has been awful, but the play in front of the netminders hasn't helped.
If the Jackets could change one thing right now, it might be the calendar. This season can't end fast enough for the guys in Columbus.
Their front office claims they aren't panicking, but there has to be a point in time when an organization that's losing millions of dollars questions their approach.
Dallas got off to a fantastic start this year, but have come back to reality pretty quickly. They're now fighting for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
If the Stars could fix anything, it would probably be health between the pipes. Kari Lehtonen was great, and carried the Stars to their great start in October. Since he went down, the Stars have struggled to get consistent play from their goalies.
The Stars might entertain offers for some of their veterans if the wheels come off, and might look to move some of their more expensive players to cut payroll under new ownership.
Detroit Red Wings
There really isn't much to fix in Detroit. They have the best team plus-minus in the Western Conference, and their stars who got off to a slow start have come on strong lately.
But if the Wings could fix something, it would be their play outside of Detroit. They're under .500 on the road this year (7-8-0). Detroit might look to add a defenseman or top-six forward with a huge amount of cap space projected for the coming summer.
Edmonton appears to have a superstar on their hands in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and are developing an exciting young nucleus.
If they could fix one thing about their team it would probably be their maturity. When their core finishes puberty, they're going to be scary. But there are times now where youthful exuberance gets them in trouble.
If Edmonton is going to do something, it might be adding another veteran to join Ryan Smyth at the grown-up table when they have pregame meals.
If the season ended today, the Panthers would be the only team in the Southeast Division making the playoffs.
Consider that statement. Washington, Tampa, Winnipeg and Carolina would all be on the outside looking in if the postseason started Monday. The turnaround in Florida has been remarkable, and there's very little for them to complain about.
But if they were going to fix something, it would be finishing the job at home. The Panthers have lost five games in overtime or a shootout on their ice already this year.
They already made a trade this year, and getting Mikeal Samuelsson healthy might be their move.
Los Angeles Kings
What do we do with the Kings? They've already changed coaches, but there is simply too much talent on that roster for the Kings to be dead last in the NHL in scoring (2.12 goals/game).
The area that needs improvement in LA is their decision making. They're getting plenty of shots on net (30.4 per game), but they need to make their shots count.
Maybe a fresh voice behind the bench will make that happen. Getting Mike Richards back on the ice would help, too.
Like the Panthers, the Wild are a fantastic story of a team jumping to the top of their division out of nowhere. They've had great goaltending and solid defense all season.
But the Wild need to put the puck in the net more. Minnesota is averaging a league-worst 26.0 shots on goal per game; you can't score if you don't shoot.
The Wild might look to add a scorer before the deadline, and adding another defenseman wouldn't be out of the question.
Montreal jumped on the bandwagon and fired their coach this weekend, and have won only three times in their last 10 contests.
If they want to get back into the mix in the Eastern Conference, they obviously need to improve their power play. The 28th-ranked unit in the league is hoping a new coach and Tomas Kaberle can fix the problem.
The Preds are doing what they always do: winning. Nashville has won five in a row and are climbing the Western Conference playoff picture.
If they're going to do something, it might be to add scoring to their lineup. Whether that goal is accomplished at the expense of one of their all-star defensemen that will be a free agent in July is the big question.
New Jersey Devils
New Jersey may have made their major acquisition in the last week when Travis Zajac came back to their lineup. The Devils' major need is regulation wins; they're 7-1 in the shootout this year already.
Having Zajac and Elias healthy on the ice will help take pressure off Kovalchuk and Parise.
New York Islanders
The Islanders continue to be a huge question mark. There's a ton of talent on the roster, but they never seem to put it together consistently.
If New York makes a jump into the trade market, it might be for depth between the pipes and/or on the blue line.
A veteran not named DiPietro would be a huge improvement, and having someone to settle down what has been, at times, an out-of-control group of youngsters would be a big help.
New York Rangers
The Rangers are currently fourth in the East and have been playing well lately. Brad Richards is starting to pay for his deal, and the goaltending continues to be outstanding.
If the Rangers looked to improve anything, it would be finding someone to win faceoffs. They're under 50 percent as a team this year, and would be more dangerous if they could control the puck more often.
We're going to reserve comment on the Sens until we see how Kyle Turris fits into their rotation and if/how it changes the dynamics of their team game.
The Flyers have one clear goal in the trade market right now: replace Chris Pronger.
With their captain down for the rest of the year, the Flyers will undoubtedly make a move to bring depth back to their blue line. How and where that help comes from, and the coast, will be interesting to see.
The Coyotes have one simple need: ownership.
It's hard for an organization to make deals of substance without someone to sign checks, and it's hard to attract free agents when you can't honestly tell them where you'll be in eight months.
With the trade of Kyle Turris in the rear-view mirror, we'll see if the Coyotes continue massaging their lineup or if they're handicapped yet again by their lack of ownership.
The Pens don't need to add a player from outside their organization to win games. They just need the guys they're paying to get healthy.
If the Pens can continue winning without Sidney Crosby, Dan Bylsma might be in line for another speech in Vegas this summer. A trade doesn't make sense unless they're shutting one of their stars down for good.
San Jose Sharks
If the Sharks were going to make a trade, do you think they might want the guys they sent to Minnesota back? Marty Havlat has struggled to impact the scoring this year, and he hurt himself trying to get on the ice for a shift this weekend.
The Sharks are fascinating because they honestly haven't been playing that well (4-4-2 in their last 10) but are still in first place in a division that nobody wants to win. They could buy or sell, depending on how the next month goes for them and the rest of their division.
St. Louis Blues
St. Louis went to sleep on Sunday night ahead of Detroit in the Central Division, and the Blues have a lot to be happy about.
If they're going to make a move, it would probably be to add scoring. But do they want/need to do that now that David Perron is back? We'll see.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The area of need in Tampa is pretty obvious: they need to improve their goaltending. Dwayne Roloson has been bad this year, and they need to make a move there.
As part of the most disappointing division in the league, there's a lot of room for improvement for the Bolts. The question they'll have to deal with is the cost to add the right goaltender, and how soon they pull the trigger on a deal.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto has slipped back to eighth in the East and has won only four of their last 10 games.
With Lupol and Kessel still near the top of the league in scoring, the needs they'll be looking to fill are in their secondary scoring and between the pipes.
Brian Burke has never been shy about making phone calls, and undoubtedly, he has a few conversations working right now.
The Canucks have been playing better lately, and are climbing back to their usual position among the top six in the Western Conference. They're chasing Minnesota right now and are five points behind the Wild after Sunday's games.
If the Canucks are going to do something at the deadline, it might be bolstering their blue line. They have already traded for David Booth this year, but they could look to add depth in front of their goalies.
Where do the Caps go from here?
Bruce Boudreau is already out of a job...well, he was until Anaheim called. Mike Green is out of the lineup, and the effort from one night to another has been bipolar. It's hard to find an easy fix for effort in a trade.
The Caps might be sellers this year, and free-agent-to-be Alexander Semin might be the name on the way out the door.
The Jets are trying to make a playoff run in their first year back in Winnipeg. If there's something they could stand to improve between now and the deadline, it would be their team defense.
They're paying Dustin Byfuglien a pretty good amount to be an offensive force from the blue line, but that isn't helping them keep opponents from scoring more than three goals per game.
If Winnipeg goes shopping, it might be for a shot-blocking defenseman.