NHL Teams Under the Most Pressure to Make a Move Before the Trade Deadline

Steve Macfarlane@@MacfarlaneHKYFeatured ColumnistJanuary 13, 2015

NHL Teams Under the Most Pressure to Make a Move Before the Trade Deadline

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Whether it's bolstering the roster for a potential playoff run or selling off parts for picks, NHL teams have a month-and-a-half to prepare for the March 2 trade deadline.

    Every general manager will feel the pressure to make his team better, either for the long-term future or short-term advances, but some have more to lose than others.

    Click through to see my picks for the NHL teams under the most pressure to make a move before the deadline.

New Jersey Devils

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    The motive: Things have gone completely off the rails in New Jersey, with a three-headed coaching tandem including GM Lou Lamoriello replacing fired head coach Peter DeBoer and their spot in the standings a dismal dozen points out of a playoff spot.

    The Devils have a few aging veterans who could help a team built to win now—erroneous as that concept may have been—who could fetch them draft picks at the very least.

    Likely trade candidates: Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder and Martin Havlat up front and Marek Zidlicky are all unrestricted free agents who could be solid rental options for contenders. Tuomo Ruutu is a gritty playoff-type forward who could fetch a nice return as well with a year left on his contract.

Ottawa Senators

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    The motive: The Senators have cap room to make a deal or two, and although the climb to the final wild-card spot is steep, GM Bryan Murray isn't willing to pack it in on the season just yet, saying per The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch that he's fishing for a top-six forward.

    In another month, if the gap widens, he could be dangling bait for the opposite reasons.

    Likely trade candidates: A winger like Antoine Vermette from the Arizona Coyotes—a former Senator—is the kind of playmaker they could use. Chris Stewart of the Buffalo Sabres is another potential match who might cost much less in return.

Arizona Coyotes

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The motive: From continued ownership question marks to an awful product on the ice, the Coyotes are a franchise in pain. The product on the ice is suffering from terrible goaltending, a limp offense and inconsistent defense.

    The Coyotes look like they should be put down. To create a healthier future, they might have to cut off some limbs (read: big salaries) for the short term. 

    Likely trade candidates: There are quite a few pending unrestricted free agents in the desert, including Antoine Vermette, Martin Erat, Mikkel Boedker (although the Coyotes would no doubt love to sign their most talented young forward) David Moss and Zbynek Michalek.

    Talk of a Keith Yandle deal continues as well according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet (h/t NicholsonHockey.com), which would help the team shed a big salary that is set to become massive when it expires in a year-and-a-half. Friedman also suggests that a young offensive forward would pry Yandle away.

Philadelphia Flyers

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    Len Redkoles/Getty Images

    The motive: The playoff gap is a big one, and the Flyers could have a difficult decision to make by March 2 if they haven't made much of a push.

    There are no big-name pending free agents to peddle, but the team hasn't performed up to expectations, and GM Ron Hextall has reportedly begun to dangle plenty of players in light of the growing unrest from one of the most vicious fanbases in hockey.

    Something needs to be done to beef up a blue line that lacks star power and is in even more trouble with Braydon Coburn injured again on Monday night, according to Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com.

    Likely trade candidates: According to The Fourth Period, there are plenty of bodies on the market for the former Broad Street Bullies, including Vincent Lecavalier, Brayden Schenn and Mark Streit.

Boston Bruins

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    The motive: Rookie David Pastrnak can play two more games before triggering the first year of his entry-level deal, Simon Gagne announced on Monday he would not be returning to the team and the Bruins have struggled to score goals throughout much of the first half of the NHL season. They've climbed into a playoff spot for the moment but could use some more scoring depth to cement that status.

    Salary-cap space is tight, so making moves will be tricky but could be critical to their success over the season's second half and into the spring.

    Likely trade candidates: They previously dealt away defensive depth in Johnny Boychuk and would have to shed salary to take any on. Loui Eriksson is paid too much to be a third-liner.

    With a need for more bite to their game on top of the scoring needs, they could look to Vancouver, where The Globe and Mail's David Ebner reports Canucks GM Jim Benning is shopping Milan Lucic clone Zack Kassian.

Minnesota Wild

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    John F. Rhodes/Associated Press

    The motive: Things are bad in Minnesota. The team that stunned the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the playoffs last spring seems to be a shell of its former self, despite the addition of another marquee free agent in Thomas Vanek and a boost in confidence for young players like Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund.

    The team is well short of the wild-card race right now, and head coach Mike Yeo is losing his cool.

    Likely trade candidates: The team has plenty of talent but is suffering from extremely poor goaltending this year—something that was a strength a season ago. The Wild could look to add Michal Neuvirth or Jhonas Enroth from the Buffalo Sabres, or maybe Cam Ward from the Carolina Hurricanes to create more competition and push them forward down the stretch.

Buffalo Sabres

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    Andy Marlin/Getty Images

    The motive: Just like in every fantasy hockey pool, the bottom feeders get plenty of attention from the owners looking at potential playoff battles.

    The Sabres are among the NHL's worst and have plenty to offer up to those looking for toughness, experience, goaltending insurance or even scoring. They do not want to lose any of their soon-to-be unrestricted free agents for nothing.

    Likely trade candidates: Chris Stewart's offensive numbers are abysmal this season, but he's historically been able to produce after a change of scenery. He and Drew Stafford are the most attractive UFA forwards with the Sabres. Captain Brian Gionta has a deal that expires in another year.

    Defenseman Tyler Myers is a former first-rounder who would be extremely attractive if Buffalo wants to make a splash, but GM Tim Murray told NHL.com's Dan Rosen he's not making calls to shop Myers and that any offers that come in would have to blow his socks off.

Carolina Hurricanes

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    Gregg Forwerck/Getty Images

    The motive: Languishing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings along with the lowly Buffalo Sabres, the Hurricanes have very little in the way of young talent and should be looking to dump many of their veterans with large salaries for prospects and picks.

    Not only would it offer more salary-cap space, but the financial reprieve could help keep the team going while struggling with attendance figures.

    Likely trade candidates: Carolina isn't the most attractive spot for free agents at the moment, and the Hurricans could have trouble re-signing defenseman Andrej Sekera and winger Jiri Tlusty, who would both have value on the trade market despite their status as pending UFAs. The Hurricanes need to get something for them if they feel they won't sign.

    The team could also look to dump Alexander Semin's massive contract, as well as goaltender Cam Ward's salary. There was talk the team might be interested in moving on from Eric Staal as well, but that he is not interested in waiving his no-trade clause, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

Edmonton Oilers

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    The motive: The Oilers own the worst record in the NHL standings and have been unsuccessfully rebuilding for years now. The latest in a carousel of coaches has been fired, but the player core remains very much the same.

    It's time for a shakeup to let the comfortable group know the status quo isn't acceptable.

    Likely trade candidates: Veterans Jeff Petry, Viktor Fasth and newcomer Derek Roy all have contracts set to expire this summer, but none of those names moving would have the same kind of impact as sending away a guy like Nail Yakupov, the first overall pick from the 2012 draft, to change the group's dynamic.

Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Graig Abel/Getty Images

    The motive: The demand for change doesn't stop with the unhappy fanbase. New team president Brendan Shanahan recently fired head coach Randy Carlyle and acknowledged recently that no player is safe, either. The team hasn't won a Stanley Cup since 1967—unacceptable in the hockey hotbed—and is at risk of missing the playoffs again.

    The Leafs rely too heavily on two stars in captain Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel who don't boast the most well-rounded games and need other big-ticket names to take the pressure off.

    Likely trade candidates: It's tough to make a blockbuster move during the season, so the Leafs might have to wait until the offseason to make big changes. They could dangle the relatively sizable salaries of Joffrey Lupul, Jake Gardiner and Nazem Kadri to see what they can fetch now.

    The team probably would not be interested in a rental like a pending UFA, however, but could take a stab at Chris Stewart in the hopes that another change of scenery can motivate him to play harder.

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