CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 21: Brendan Morrison #17 of the Chicago Blackhawks passes the puck under pressure from Darren Helm #43 of the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center on February 21, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
At the NHL trade deadline, several strong contenders in the Western Conference may look to pick off depth pieces from the West's many also-rans.
The NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, Feb. 27, and every fan who regularly takes that day off or spends it clicking "refresh" at work is hoping the Columbus Blue Jackets provide some action. In Rick Nash and Jeff Carter, Columbus has two big fish to move, but with long-term contracts for each the Blue Jackets lack the urgency to move them now when bigger bidding wars may erupt in summer.
Still, even if GM Scott Howson doesn't play ball this weekend, the show must go on. The show, in fact, is already underway with some decent names moving a week prior to the deadline. You can't contend without depth, and each Stanley Cup contender is always on the lookout for more.
Let's take a look at each Western Conference contender as they prepare for the deadline.
Leading the league and riding a historic home win streak, the Red Wings already struck this week by acquiring Kyle Quincey from Colorado via old friend Steve Yzerman in Tampa Bay. That was their big move, so Ken Holland can probably sleep through Monday if he wants to.
Still Need: Some will talk of goaltending, but Jimmy Howard is back from a broken finger and the Red Wings will happily ride him and hope Joey MacDonald rarely gets the call. ... A depth forward is always nice, so maybe Holland finds a cheap one from a team desperate to get rid of one. ... Pavel Datsyuk's minor knee surgery isn't significant enough to send them searching for reinforcement.
Should Sell: They already sold their 2012 first-round pick for Quincey and they have the roster to make a playoff run, so don't look for them to shed NHL players.
Last year's Stanley Cup runner-up is a high-scoring team with solid goaltending and great special teams. Why mess with that?
Still Need: Every team would love more than six good defensemen to survive the shot-blocking and predatory charging injuries that come with the playoffs. The Canucks are no different -- they learned that the hard way last spring -- but they might currently be testing Christopher Tanev for that type of insurance; he played five playoff games last year and will need to show he's improved to earn a repeat.
Last Year: They acquired forward Chris Higgins and re-signed him over the summer.
Should Sell: Like the Wings -- whom they play Thursday night -- the Canucks have a full roster and no need to shed anyone. David Booth was a big early-season acquisition, young Cody Hodgson is coming around, and the goaltending tandem is doing its job. People will speculate that goalie Cory Schneider is trade bait, but the return is unlikely to make moving him now worthwhile.
Still Need: Offense, somehow, but mostly the Blues need a healthy Alex Steen back. The concussed center provides two-way play and might help a still-struggling powerplay. Between the faltering powerplay, Jamie Langenbrunner's broken foot, Steen's status, and the feeling that Andy McDonald is just a hit away from another concussion, you'd think they could use a playmaking forward. Speculation is they've been eyeing an extra defenseman though ... just like everyone else. The Blues have relatively inexperienced goalies, but contract commitments to both of them mean they will sink or swim with Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott.
Should Sell: Chris Stewart and Patrik Berglund have not met expectations this year, but selling them now would be selling low and stupid. If the Blues deal, it should be prospects or picks going out the door as the tough road through the West will require lots of NHL bodies. They still have some nice blueline prospects in the system.
The Predators and Blues appear to be on a death match collision course, unless one can catch the Red Wings or allow Chicago to leap them and take the unfortunate 4 vs. 5 intra-Central Division playoff matchup.
Still Need: The Predators have already struck, adding Hal Gill on a rental from Montreal. The offense, as always, could use more help -- along with anything to convince Ryan Suter that this is the place to be. If GM David Poile can't find a longer-term match, the pressure to make a mark this year should move him to rent a pending unrestricted free agent with scoring punch.
Last Year: Acquired Mike Fisher from Ottawa.
Should Sell: Well, Suter is the pending unrestricted free agent that has others drooling. But if it's time for the Predators to grow up and make a real playoff run, they won't get there by renting him out. So they're left to deal prospects, as they did with Blake Geoffrion in the Gill deal.
The perennial bridesmaids still have a contending team and a GM always on the lookout to make them better. Will Doug Wilson find a match?
Still Need: They already boosted forward depth by acquiring Dominic Moore and his luggage tags from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Whether it's bringing Dany Heatley in or shipping Dany Heatley out, Wilson has shown he does not fear the big move. Rumors are hot that they're in on the Rich Nash sweepstakes, which would certainly be a big move ... but why? The Sharks have a strong roster and a decent salary structure right now; any plausible Nash deal would upset that. (See Sharks blog Fear the Fin for more on that issue.)
Should Sell: They gave up a pick in the Moore deal, and any other touch-ups would require the same. If the Nash chase is for real, then a significant forward like Logan Couture or Joe Pavelski is the likely starting cost. Again ... why?
Yes, we have six "contenders" listed in the West. It's a deadly conference, OK? The Hawks, recent losers of nine straight, are still around and still a threat to land a home playoff seed.
Still Need: Their goaltending is arguably even shakier than it was in their Stanley Cup year of 2010, but like the Red Wings the Hawks have shown a willingness to carry average netminders behind solid possession teams. Of course, that formula requires quality defensmen, yet John Scott has appeared in 27 games. The Hawks score a lot of goals but give up a lot, too. They should look at the blueline, like every contender. The Hawks have continually tinkered with their perceived weakness at the center position -- trying Patrick Kane here, acquiring Brendan Morrison there. If Jonathan Toews' vague "upper body injury" is more than a day-to-day thing, they may need help there as well.
Should Sell: Like all of these contenders, the Hawks shouldn't be giving up roster players just to pay Paul. Prospects and/or picks it is.
Contract and free agency information for this post was found at CapGeek.
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