Fri Feb 25 12:21pm EST
(Please note these images are meant to represent teams and not players who will move at the deadline. OK, except for that dude in the middle.)
To put the Western Conference playoff race in some numeric perspective, the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds in the West are separated by more points (3) than the No. 5 and No. 10 seeds (2). Which is as insanely intense as it sounds.
According to Sports Club Stats this morning, the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche both have a less-than-1-percent chance of finishing in the No. 8 seed. The other 13 teams are in playoff contention, with the configuration of the conference changing about as often as a traffic light. Hey, remember when the Sharks, Kings and Blackhawks were all wallowing in lottery pick-ville? Not so much anymore ... at least this week.
Coming up, a look at the teams below the No. 4-seeded Phoenix Coyotes who are packed tightly for the playoff push (and, also, the Blues, who are still stalking the field). What are their plans, and their needs, as the trade deadline looms?
5. Los Angeles Kings (72 points; 21 games remaining)
The world has waited for Kings GM Dean Lombardi to make the blockbuster trade to put this team into the Stanley Cup spotlight. He's sniffed around big names at the deadline before, but has instead come away with players like Freddy Modin.
Lombardi told the LA Times that he's talking to other GMs; problem being is that they all want to talk about Brayden Schenn(notes). Which obviously leads to dithering.
James O'Brien wants to see the Kings go after Dustin Penner(notes), which makes a lot of sense but might carry a bit of a price tag. He also sees center Tim Connolly(notes) of the Buffalo Sabres as a fit, considering he has an expiring contract. In both cases, the need is clear: Quality, veteran scoring help; and someone with a bigger name than last year's deadline day star for the Kings: Jeff Halpern(notes).
6. Minnesota Wild (70 points, 21 games remaining)
The Wild are one of these teams that exist between "help wanted" and "don't [expletive] with the chemistry." Minnesota is 15-7-1 in 2011, they'll get Mikko Koivu(notes) back before the playoffs (presumably) and are playing great team hockey. But boy, could they use another center on the roster.
Problem is, as Michael Russo points out, the Wild have about $950,000 in cap space. From the Star Tribune, Russo on GM Chuck Fletcher:
So their hands are tied a bit because they still want to add a center before the deadline.
But I do also think Fletcher loves the chemistry of this team and is very hesitant to take players out of the room. This is a close team that in a lot of ways has overachieved because of 1) goaltending; 2) defense 3) a tight room of players and leaders that are pulling on the same rope and bought into a certain way the game needs to be played in order to be victorious.
7. Chicago Blackhawks (70 points, 21 games remaining)
The ‘Hawks and their fans are exhaling a bit now that the team in back in a playoff seed and Joel Quenneville's mustache is out of the hospital. But Stan Bowman is still looking for a penalty-killing defenseman who can give Duncan Keith(notes) a break or two, considering he plays about 58 minutes a night (rough estimate, haven't checked the official stats).
Mark Stuart(notes) was an option before he went to Atlanta in the second-leg of the Boston Bruins' Kaberle trade. Look for a physical defenseman who can log minutes (and with an expiring contract) to be added.
8. Dallas Stars (70 points, 21 games remaining)
The Stars have been active ahead of the deadline, acquiring Jamie Langenbrunner(notes), Jason Williams(notes) and Alex Goligoski(notes) since the start of the year. But you can't mention the Dallas Stars and the trade deadline without immediately going to the Brad Richards(notes) Question.
He's skating, working his way back from a concussion. The Stars are still in a playoff position. Former teammate Mike Modano doesn't foresee a move. But Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk has told Richards (via Mike Heika) that a trade is a possibility, even with Richards holding a no-trade clause to reject one.
If they deal him, the return will include immediate help for the lineup. But the Stars are 1-4 since he went down; can this team still contend without him?
9. Nashville Predators (70 points, 21 games)
Another team that got ahead of the deadline in trading for Mike Fisher(notes) from the Senators. Alas, the Preds have been slammed with injuries lately and that might necessitate more moves. From ESPN:
Center Marcel Goc(notes) has been lost for the season to a shoulder injury. This team already is missing centers Matthew Lombardi(notes) (concussion) and Cal O'Reilly(notes) (broken fibula). Defenseman Francis Bouillon(notes) is also out with a concussion.
"The injury bug hasn't been good to us, but it also hasn't been fair to other teams, either," Preds GM David Poile told ESPN.com on Thursday evening. "I'm calling on all fronts just to see what's available and whether there's something that fits."
The team needs a spark. Will it come from a players-only meeting or from the outside?
10. Calgary Flames (70 points, 20 games remaining)
Flames GM Jay Feaster told us at the Heritage Classic that his team has played itself into a place where he's no longer entertaining offers for the biggest names on the roster. But he is looking for additional players at the deadline; problem being that the Flames don't have a second- or third-round pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft and Feaster isn't looking to mess around with chemistry by dealing a roster player.
11. Anaheim Ducks (68 points, 21 games remaining)
The Ducks have acquired Francois Beauchemin(notes) for their blue line, Dan Ellis(notes) for their crease and Jarkko Ruutu(notes) for the fact that, apparently, you can never have enough [expletives] on your roster. They appear set, outside of perhaps dealing someone off their own blue line for futures.
And what does Bob Murray care? He got his four years this morning.
12. Columbus Blue Jackets (66 points, 23 games remaining)
The Jackets appeared to be sellers a few weeks back; not so much now. From Puck-Rakers:
The Jackets' 10-3-3 run has ensured that general manager Scott Howson will be looking to enhance their chances instead of stockpiling draft picks. Whether Howson can swing a substantial deal is not yet known, but the club will get a chance to play its way into postseason for the second time in three years.
"I think our team should feel real good about that." coach Scott Arniel said. "They have earned the opportunity to be in the race and stay in the race. "It's not just our(unrestricted free agents), but everybody is playing their best hockey of the season right now. Some are playing the best hockey of their career and good for them."
The Jackets are fourth from the bottom on the power play this season, converting at a 14.7 percent clip. We've been wondering for the entirety of GM Scott Howson's tenure why there isn't a premium puck-moving defenseman for that power play added to the roster. Perhaps we'll stop wondering after Monday, if the Jackets grab themselves a John-Michael Liles(notes) type.
13. St. Louis Blues (63 points, 22 games remaining)
Yes, they're a bit off the pace. Yes, the Erik Johnson(notes) trade was likely their swing for the fences. Yes, anything they get by Monday afternoon would pale in comparison to getting David Perron(notes) back at some point (which, sadly, doesn't seem likely). So it could be a quiet day for the Blues.
Which team do you think will be the most active on deadline day?