NHL Teams Most in Need of Roster Tweaks

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2017

NHL Teams Most in Need of Roster Tweaks

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    With the NHL's March 1 trade deadline just over two weeks away, several playoff contenders still have some roster issues to address. That includes clubs sitting high in the standings, such as the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks. Some, such as the Edmonton Oilers, could use a boost to climb higher among the contenders.

    Rather than a shakeup, these clubs could see improvement by tweaking their rosters. Some need an upgrade at a certain position, while others must bolster a specific area such as scoring or defense. 

    Here's a look at the NHL clubs most in need of roster tweaks. We'll examine where they are in the standings, the main weaknesses to address and potential solutions. 

Anaheim Ducks

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    With 68 points in 57 games, the Anaheim Ducks sit second in the Pacific Division. If they hope to finish higher in the standings and contend for the Stanley Cup, they must add a left wing to skate alongside first-line center and team captain Ryan Getzlaf

    The 31-year-old Getzlaf has 39 points in 49 games, putting him on pace for a 60-point performance. However, those numbers could be higher with a reliable scorer on his left side. The Ducks tried veteran Andrew Cogliano and promising Nick Ritchie on Getzlaf's line, but neither are skilled scorers. 

    The Orange County Register's Eric Stephens said the Ducks must improve their offensive game. "They’re 19th in the NHL in scoring offense, 18th in goals and 24th in shots on goal. And the 94 goals generated during five-on-five play puts them behind 23 teams," Stephens wrote. 

    The Ducks carry considerable depth in good young defensemen to dangle as bait at the trade deadline for a scoring left winger. Playoff rental options could include Thomas Vanek of the Detroit Red Wings and Patrick Sharp of the Dallas Stars. Detroit's Tomas Tatar is a pending restricted free agent and could make a worthwhile long-term choice. 

Chicago Blackhawks

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    Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images

    The Chicago Blackhawks sit second in the Central Division with 75 points in 57 games. Their chances of winning a fourth Stanley Cup since 2010 could rest upon finding a suitable left wing for captain Jonathan Toews' line. 

    Toews, 28, has 35 points in 48 games and is on track for a 53-point season. While that's a respectable total for the two-way center, it'd be well short of his 68-point performance in 2014-15. An upper-body injury that sidelined him for nine games earlier this season hampered his play, but so has the absence of a skilled skater on his left side.

    The Blackhawks have juggled youngsters Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza and Nick Schmaltz on Toews' line with mixed results. A more experienced left wing could be required to address this need. 

    On Jan. 21, Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times reported that sources claimed Blackhawks management had contacted the Detroit Red Wings regarding forwards Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar. Another option could be a pending free agent in Detroit, Tomas Vanek

Edmonton Oilers

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The Edmonton Oilers sit third in the Pacific Division with 66 points in 56 games. For the first time in 11 years, they're in the running for a playoff berth. Adding a defenseman to anchor their power play could bolster their postseason hopes. 

    The bulk of their production with the man advantage comes from their forwards. Leon Draisaitl (18 points), Connor McDavid (16), Milan Lucic (15) and Jordan Eberle (11) lead the way. None of the Oilers defensemen are in double digits in that category. 

    Andrej Sekera is the Oilers' top offensive rearguard with 25 points in 54 games. Only eight of those came on the power play, making him the leader among Edmonton's blueliners. The addition last summer of Adam Larsson improved their defensive depth, but he doesn't provide much offense. In 55 games, he has only 14 points and none on the power play.  

    It's that lack of a skilled top-two defenseman that has the Oilers sitting 15th in power-play percentage (19.8). If the St. Louis Blues decide to trade free-agent defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, he could address that issue. The asking price, however, could be expensive—perhaps too much if he's unwilling to re-sign.  

Montreal Canadiens

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    With 70 points in 58 games, the Canadiens are perched atop the Atlantic Division holding a six-point lead over the Ottawa Senators. A lack of size and skill at center, however, could hurt them over the remainder of this season.

    Alex Galchenyuk (6'1", 210 lbs) began this season as the Canadiens' first-line center. After missing 19 games with a lower-body injury, he's struggling to regain his scoring touch. Long-time Hab Tomas Plekanec (5'11", 196) has only 23 points in 58 games and is below last season's 54-point pace. 

    Phillip Danault (6'1", 193) has 30 points in 58 games but he's not an established scoring center. Like Galchenyuk, injuries have hampered the 5'7", 171-pound David Desharnais, limiting him to just 10 points in 29 games. 

    General manager Marc Bergevin could attempt to address this issue before the trade deadline. Options might include Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal (6'6", 226) or the Tampa Bay Lightning's Brian Boyle (6'6", 244). 

New York Rangers

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    The New York Rangers have 73 points in 55 games, holding one of the two wild-card berths in the Eastern Conference. Their biggest weakness is the lack of a skilled mobile defenseman with a right-handed shot. 

    Since trading the rights of blueliner Keith Yandle last June to the Florida Panthers, the Rangers failed to find a suitable replacement for his puck-moving skills. That has left a significant gap on the right side of their blue line.

    With 25 points in 55 games, Nick Holden sits second among Rangers defensemen. However, he's a left-handed shot and not in the same class as the departed Yandle. Veteran Kevin Klein, 32, shoots right but has only 14 points in 51 games. 

    St. Louis Blues defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk might be available at the trade deadline, but he could prove expensive to acquire. Less expensive rental options could include Cody Franson of the Buffalo Sabres or Dennis Wideman of the Calgary Flames. 

Ottawa Senators

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Sitting second in the Atlantic Division with 64 points in 53 games, the Ottawa Senators are in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. However,  they could use another top-six forward to help them nail down a postseason berth. 

    Scoring 2.62 goals per game, the Senators are near the bottom third in that category. That's the lowest among teams holding a playoff position in the Eastern Conference. 

    The priority is adding a scoring left wing. They are making do with Zack Smith and Ryan Dzingel (27 points each), but they're not reliable scorers. They could also use a boost at right wing unless Bobby Ryan (21 points) can regain his scoring touch. 

    On Jan. 24, the Senators acquired forward Tommy Wingels from the San Jose Sharks. Another move before the March 1 trade deadline, however, could be necessary to boost their offense. A versatile forward who can play either wing, such as Thomas Vanek of the Detroit Red Wings or Patrick Eaves of the Dallas Stars, could be trade targets. 

St. Louis Blues

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    Billy Hurst/Associated Press

    With 63 points in 56 games, the St. Louis Blues sit third in the Central Division. Since replacing head coach Ken Hitchcock with Mike Yeo on Feb. 1, the Blues have won five of their last six games. Despite this improvement, goaltending remains an issue. Of the teams currently in playoff position, the Blues have the worst goals against per game (2.93).

    Starting goalie Jake Allen is struggling with consistency this season. With 21 wins in 40 starts, he could reach 30 this season. However, his 2.67 goals-against average and .904 save percentage ranks among the worst for starters this season. 

    Backup Carter Hutton isn't faring any better. He's won only eight of 15 starts, with a 2.65 goals-against average and .902 save percentage. 

    Allen's performance has improved since the coaching change, winning four of his last five starts. Given his inconsistency, however, the Blues should consider adding a reliable starter. Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender (and former Blue) Ben Bishop and Pittsburgh Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury could be available at the trade deadline. 

    Player and team stats (as of February 12) via NHL.com.


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