NHL Trade Deadline 2012: Eastern Conference Contenders Have Elusive Needs

COLUMBUS,OHIO - DEC. 11: Rick Nash #61 of the Columbus Blue Jackets beats goaltender Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers for his second goal of the game during the third period on Dec. 11, 2010, at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus defeated New York 3-1. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)

Every Eastern Conference contender has minor needs at the NHL Trade Deadline, but the New York Rangers are going for the big splash.

Glen Sather has the Eastern Conference's top team -- they're in first place by seven points -- but he just can't help himself. There is a big-name star with a big-name contract out there, so by golly he wants in on the Rick Nash sweepstakes. Even if Nash's $7.8 million cap hit would wreak havoc on his roster flexibility.

The Rangers' pursuit of Nash is the biggest but hardly the only action as the Feb. 27 NHL trade deadline nears. Yesterday we looked at Western contenders and sellers. Here's a look at where the East's best stand.

New York Rangers

As mentioned, they're sitting pretty in first but Sather is inclined to tinker.

Needs: Coach John Tortorella says it's his defense that still needs maturing, but his GM will chase the big forward ticket in Columbus. Rumors are the Rangers want an early resolution on Nash so that they can make backup moves if that falls through.

Boston Bruins

The defending Stanley Cup champions are that team seven points behind the Rangers as of Feb. 24. The surprising Ottawa Senators are nipping at their heels, though the Bruins have several games in hand.

Needs: With most of the Cup-winning roster still intact, the Bruins have been just fine most of the season. But injuries to Rich Peverley and Nathan Horton leave two big holes, neither who are guaranteed to be healthy by the playoffs. While every contender would love to add more defensive depth, a short-term forward addition may be necessary.

New Jersey Devils

Not many expected the Devils to be this high in the conference this late in the season, but here they are on an 8-1-1 run under coach Peter DeBoer.

Needs: The Devils have already added Alexei Ponikarovsky from the Carolina Hurricanes for offensive reinforcement, but Travis Zajac's continued absence is what hurts up front. Meanwhile, it's their defense that still has doubters, and their +6 goal differential hints at that issue. As SB Nation's Devils site In Lou We Trust points out, it's not so much the defensive side of the equation, it's that the Devils blueline generates little offense. In goal, they will probably ride Martin Brodeur even if he's too old to carry them.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pens may be the real Atlantic Division threat because they've already done so well without Sidney Crosby and Crosby is always a threat to return.

Needs: Unfortunately, their biggest need is that massive unknown around Crosby's health. If he's out, they need more help that can be acquired via trade. If he's back, an already solid team gets that much better. The Penguins have historically added around the edges at the deadline, so a cheap depth addition -- if anything -- is probably the extent of their moves.

Philadelphia Flyers

Like their cross-state rivals, the Flyers are hamstrung by a major injury to their captain. Difference is the Flyers already know Chris Pronger won't be back this year.

Needs: After limping by -- and doing well -- most of the season without Pronger, the Flyers recently addressed the blueline by adding Pavel Kubina from the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nicklas Grossman from the Dallas Stars. Their forwards have always been strong ... just as their goaltending has always been a weak spot. That weakness remains with Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky taking turns dropping the ball. Can the Flyers fit an upgrade in goal? Will they? Their playoffs and the sanity of Flyers fans may depend on it.

Contract and free agency information for this post was found at CapGeek.

You can get team-by-team coverage of the 2012 NHL trade deadline from around our network of hockey blogs. For more on the news, rumors and speculation surrounding the trade deadline,subscribe to our StoryStream.

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