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NHL trade deadline preview

By: Andrew McGill

Andrew Ladd

The NHL Trade deadline is approaching fast and is the most hectic time during the season for front offices. After Monday, February 29th, no trades can be made until the NHL draft in June. General Managers have to be very calculated in their approach as any move can sky rocket a team to the top of the league or mark the start of its descent down the standings.

We’ve already seen a couple of blockbusters before the deadline such as the Ryan Johansson/Seth Jones swap between the Blue Jackets and Predators, the Maple Leafs sending Dion Phaneuf to Ottawa; or most recently, Andrew Ladd going back to the Blackhawks. We’ve even seen some less noteworthy deals that could help make the difference down the line for some teams like Mike Weber going to the Capitals or Roman Polak to the Sharks.

Its an exciting time of year for everyone involved, but also an unsettling one. Many teams have some tough decisions to make — like whether they need to fill in some holes to make a deep playoff run or if they need to get rid of expiring contracts in return for either future assets or immediate help where its available.

So let’s start by taking a look at some of the teams that should be buyers come deadline time.

Buyers

St. Louis Blues

The Blues are already a strong team, but could use some more scoring depth on offense to make a push in the treacherous Western Conference playoffs — which they’ve been eliminated from in the first round for the past three seasons. The thing that is tough with the Blues is that they’re a very balanced team. In order to gain more offensive production, they’re most likely going to need to sacrifice something in the defensive zone. Loui Eriksson would be a very good fit for them and solidify their top six, but the Bruins would certainly be looking for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk in return, and is that worth it to them?

Montreal Canadiens

Montreal’s season has been a serious disappointment since Carey Price went down with a lower body injury. They started the season 9-0, as the hottest team in hockey and looked unstoppable. But now they’ve been surpassed by the Bruins, Red Wings and Senators in the Atlantic standings, something no one could have predicted at the beginning of the season.

Rumors are flying that Price is likely going to be shut down for the season, so if they want to make the playoffs they should make a move for a veteran goaltender because rookie goaltender Mike Condon won’t help get them there. Their offense also struggles to produce consistently on some nights, which should be another priority if they decide to be buyers. What ever they do, they shouldn’t blow up their roster over a down year without their Vezina-level goaltender.

Anaheim Ducks

The Anaheim Ducks story is the exact opposite of the Canadiens. They came in as the highly touted favorite in the Pacific and fell flat on their face at the beginning of the season. Since then, they have turned it around to be where everyone predicted them to be. They still struggle offensively and could use some scoring — only three players on their roster have double digit goals — so they should look to some of the sellers, like the Canucks or Toronto Maple Leafs. Those teams have plenty of proven veterans that are expendable and could certainly add to the Ducks lacking offensive depth.

Dallas Stars

The Stars have put it all together to make a hell of a regular season run. The fast-paced style of play that they use is fun to watch and gives both teams plenty of scoring chances, which is cool for people watching the game, but that could end up being the demise of the Stars. Their goaltending is average at best, and their tactic of goaltending by committee with two very average goalies isn’t panning out very well. They either need to give Antti Niemi or Kari Lehtonen the job, or make a move at the deadline to get a bona fide number one goaltender. With the goaltending they have now they could finish in first in the Central, but playoffs is when goaltending is the most important and it shouldn’t go ignored the Stars.

Sellers

Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes roster is good, but doesn’t have enough to make a postseason run. The Coyotes should focus on getting more assets instead of retaining older veterans. One question is why Shane Doan refuses to be traded. The 39-year-old has spent his career with the franchise, even before they left Winnipeg in 1996, so it’s somewhat understandable, but he still holds a lot of value for a team making a playoff push as a winger that can still produce. They have also been rumored to be shopping Mikkel Boedker and Martin Hanzal, who could be dealt to a team looking for more depth on offense.

Boston Bruins

The curious case of the Boston Bruins is…curious to say the least. Are they going to continue down the rebuild path that they’ve started, or are they going to re-sign Loui Eriksson and continue to contend? They’re playing well right now and have one of the best offenses in the league, but their defense is abhorrent at times. Chara is too old to be the number one guy, as he is in Boston; but could make a great second pairing defenseman to a team looking to make a deep playoff run. Realistically, they should trade Eriksson because his value is through the roof right now and he could command a big return. They need to try and get a top pairing defenseman; Kevin Shattenkirk of the Blues and Matt Dumba of the Wild are some names that have come up. If they can’t find one now, they’ll need one in the near future. Worst comes to worst they can keep Eriksson and try to re-sign him in the off-season, or use that salary elsewhere.

Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver is another team that has played well with an extremely youthful roster, but like the Coyotes, need some more time to rebuild. It would be wise for them to get rid of some of their veteran guys to get more assets in return. They have some valuable veterans that other teams could use, such as Radim Vrbata, Alex Burrows, Chris Higgins and Dan Hamhuis.

Winnipeg Jets

The Jets have to face the reality that they need more time to rebuild as well. They currently have three goaltenders on their roster. They’ve got two promising young goaltenders; Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson, and an unreliable Ondrej Pavelec. They should look to get some assets for one of their young goaltenders. They already got Marko Dano, and a first and Third round pick for Andrew Ladd’s expiring contract. There are still some deals they can make to improve their future.

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Andrew McGill

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