One week until the Feb. 26 trade deadline and it's time for teams to decide if they're buyers, sellers or both. If recent history is any indication, there will be plenty of trades right up until the 3 p.m. ET deadline a week from Tuesday.
There have been a record number of deals each year since the new collective-bargaining agreement was instituted – 25 deals each in 2005-06 (March 9) and 2006-07 (Feb. 27) – with 40 total players moved two years ago and 44 dealt last season.
This week's power rankings, which are updated every Tuesday, suggest what teams might be looking to do philosophically on deadline day.
1. Dallas Stars (37-21-5, Previous: 2) – Co-general managers Les Jackson and Brett Hull would love to make a splash and start to put their signature on the team that would appear to need offensive help. The lack of cap space – just a little more than $2 million – means the Stars could add a piece at most unless they send some money out the door, too.
2. Detroit Red Wings (42-15-5, Previous: 1) – Buyers, for sure. With approximately $5 million of cap space to play with, there's room to add. A long-term injury to Nicklas Lidstrom would be devastating, and there's no replacing the annual Norris Trophy candidate, but depth on defense and at forward could help.
3. New Jersey Devils (34-21-5, Previous: 7) – Any team with Martin Brodeur knows it annually has a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup, and this year is no different. The Devils don't have a lot of wiggle room – maybe $3 million if they don't send some salary out the door, too &ndash and bulking up on size both up front and on defense might help.
4. Montreal Canadiens (32-19-9, Previous: 10) – Sacre bleu! The Habs are contenders again! It just doesn't seem right when a playoff year doesn't include Montreal, and it has a roster full of speed and skill. With a little more than $4 million to spare under the cap, the Canadiens might have just enough to bulk up on role players that have size and playoff experience.
5. Ottawa Senators (34-20-5, Previous: 4) – A Stanley Cup contender again, the Sens have more than $3 million to play with under the cap and have decisions to make. Do they make any changes at all and try to sock a little away for the offseason and potential signing of defenseman Wade Redden, or do they go for broke? Stay tuned on this one.
6. Minnesota Wild (34-21-4, Previous: 6) – The Wild don't have a ton of cap space, but just enough – approximately $3.8 million – to fish around. This team is cooked if either of its top forwards goes down to injury, so looking for goal-scoring might be a priority. The problem there, however, is that just about everyone else is looking for that, too.
7. Anaheim Ducks (33-23-7, Previous: 8) – GM Brian Burke said it himself last week, he's not a big trade deadline guy. Historically that may be true, but it's also reported he's interested in second-line help since Doug Weight may not be the answer for wingers Todd Bertuzzi and Teemu Selanne. Either way, getting Scott Niedermayer and Selanne back makes the Ducks look every bit as formidable as last spring.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins (33-21-5, Previous: 5) – The baby Pens got a taste of their first postseason last year and the feeling has to be they have as much of a shot to go deep as anyone else. With $10.6 million of cap space, there's plenty of room to add pieces. More playoff experience and size, especially on defense, could be the way to go.
9. San Jose Sharks (31-20-8, Previous: 3) – GM Doug Wilson is in great position to make several additions since the Sharks are way under the cap – in excess of $10 million if the budget allows that much spending – and the needs include a scoring left wing, power-play defenseman and experienced back-up goalie. Keep in mind San Jose prefers to target players who can help now and later. The Sharks are not big on rentals.
10. Vancouver Canucks (29-22-8, Previous: 13) – Not a lot of room to improve at the deadline – just under $2 million – and lots of needs including scoring, size and depth on defense. The biggest boost this team could get is to have injured defenseman Kevin Bieksa return.
11. Calgary Flames (29-22-8, Previous: 11) – The Flames could be a force in the postseason, but they have to make the playoffs first. Sitting on the fence, the team is still a buyer but might entertain the thought of dealing Alex Tanguay. They could be in position to give to get and improve their situation. There's not much cap space – just over $2 million – so any deal might need a body going the other way, too.
12. Nashville Predators (31-23-7, Previous: 16) – The Predators might be the surprise team in the West considering a change of ownership not only interrupted Nashville's rocketing profile, but looked to send the franchise into a rebuilding mode. Instead, the Preds are not only in the thick of the race but are significantly under the cap – $16 million, no less – so figure to see them spend either now or later.
13. Phoenix Coyotes (31-25-4, Previous: 19) – If Nashville isn't the biggest surprise in the West, then Phoenix is. Determined to stick with youth, the Coyotes find themselves in the thick of a playoff race with all kinds of cap space – $14.5 million. New GM Don Maloney has to consider the importance, too, of the fragile market and the need to get into the postseason sooner rather than later.
14. Boston Bruins (29-23-6, Previous: 15) – You've got to hand it to a Bruins team that could have folded with the early-season loss of Patrice Bergeron. They're on the fence to make the postseason for the first time post-lockout and they're approximately $4 million under the cap. Obviously they could use offensive help, but maybe this is money better spent in the offseason?
15. Philadelphia Flyers (30-24-5, Previous: 9) – One of the most difficult challenges for a GM is not to act on emotion. Paul Holmgren is watching his team free fall, a division leader to barely hanging on to a playoff spot thanks to a seven-game losing streak. The Flyers have basically no cap space so any deal they make will have to include moving salary as well. And do lateral deals really improve situations?
16. Washington Capitals (28-26-6, Previous: 14) – These Caps are not unlike the Penguins of a year ago, on the verge of getting that all-important first taste of the postseason for the young core, but they need probably to win the Southeast Division to get there. Grit, toughness and offensive depth are on the list for a team that has room to spend a whopping $14 million.
17. New York Rangers (30-24-7, Previous: 18) – With the bold moves made last offseason the Rangers are committed to the present, and while they're in a fight to reach the postseason they certainly can't waver from that path now. They have a little space under the cap – just over $2 million – and they might be looking for someone to get Jaromir Jagr going. Otherwise, would they consider dangling their captain for a blockbuster?
18. St. Louis Blues (27-22-9, Previous: 20) – The Blues are respectable once again, and would love to reward their fans with a return to the postseason. It might not be easy without a boost at the deadline. With just under $4 million in cap space, St. Louis might be able to add strength on the back end or a role player up front.
19. Carolina Hurricanes (30-28-4, Previous: 22) – Yes they're in first place, but all four Southeast rivals have games in-hand and the 'Canes just lost Rod Brind'Amour for the rest of the season. Poor on special teams and porous on defense, this is not a Cup contending team. Sell, sell, sell.
20. Buffalo Sabres (28-23-8, Previous: 17) – Eastern Conference runner-ups each of the last two years, the Sabres are in a different predicament – unsure if they're going to make the playoffs and sitting on a very valuable asset in defenseman Brian Campbell, who is due to be an unrestricted free agent. He could fetch something at the deadline, and you'd think if Buffalo can't sign him it would have learned its lesson letting players walk (Chris Drury and Daniel Briere).
21. Colorado Avalanche (30-25-5, Previous: 12) – Decent room under the cap – almost $4 million – but the decision has to be whether that money is wisely spent now or saved for the offseason. The Avalanche don't really have the look of a Cup contender, especially if Joe Sakic is out much longer.
22. New York Islanders (28-25-7, Previous: 26) – They probably have to pass too many teams to have a legitimate shot at the postseason and there's a whole lot of players due to be either restricted or unrestricted free agents. Islanders obviously need scoring punch. Best to be a big seller at the deadline and buyer on July 1.
23. Columbus Blue Jackets (27-25-9, Previous: 21) – Under new management – GM Scott Howson and coach Ken Hitchcock – there is a clear direction for the 8-year-old franchise. And even if a first postseason appearance isn’t in the offing this spring, with the young talent on the roster, the expensive pieces about to come off of it (Sergei Fedorov and Adam Foote), and the $10 million in space under the cap, Columbus is positioned for a much better future.
24. Chicago Blackhawks (27-25-6, Previous: 25) – They're going to fall short of the playoffs despite taking a big leap back to respectability, but this year is a building block toward a better future, which for the first time in a while has merit. Chicago has to look at moving any pending unrestricted free agents, and considering the mid-range restricted ones, too.
25. Atlanta Thrashers (29-28-4, Previous: 23) – GM Don Waddell basically tried to save his job with moves at last year's deadline that mortgaged the franchise's future for a first playoff appearance that included a very quick four-and-out. He's under the gun again, considering he fired his head coach and has been acting in that role this season along with being a GM. There's cap space – $6.5 million – and a big question mark in Marian Hossa, who if not re-signed has to be traded or Waddell has to walk the plank.
26. Edmonton Oilers (27-28-5, Previous: 27) – Playoffs are not in the conversation, they don't have a lot of players others might want and they don't have much cap space. GM Kevin Lowe isn't in a position of strength.
27. Florida Panthers (27-28-6, Previous: 24) – It was going to be an uphill battle even before the emotionally draining incident of Richard Zednik's close brush with a fatal injury. The Panthers have in excess of $4 million in cap space, but it would be better spent in the offseason. In addition, if they can get a package for Olli Jokinen, this would be a good time to do it.
28. Tampa Bay Lightning (25-28-6, Previous: 29) – Even with a sale supposedly in place, it's not going to be easy either buying or selling because both ownership groups much agree. The Lightning might need to sit this one out until the sale is finalized, but clearly moves need to be made.
29. Toronto Maple Leafs (24-27-9, Previous: 28) – Did they really need to fire John Ferguson, Jr. and hire Cliff Fletcher to discover what everyone already knows? Trade as much of the dead weight as possible, but good luck finding buyers. The Leafs need Mats Sundin to do them a favor and waive his no-trade clause. That would be a start, but don't look for an overnight fix here.
30. Los Angeles Kings (25-34-3, Previous: 30) – Sell, sell, sell. Stockpile picks and prospects. Easier said than done. The available veterans aren't going to excite a lot of people, which is a big reason the Kings find themselves in the standings where they are today and where they have been for two years.