Where does each team stand as the trade deadline approaches? Let's take a look around the League, one division at a time, and try to decipher which direction the teams might be leaning as the 3 p.m. deadline on Feb. 28 approaches. Next up is the Northwest Division, which features the best and worst teams in the Western Conference and three teams battling to get into the playoffs in the middle.
VANCOUVER CANUCKS (33-10-9, 75 points)
The Canucks were probably the most complete team in the NHL, but that was before Alex Edler was lost to back surgery. Vancouver could possibly use one more bottom-six forward, but if top prospect Cody Hodgson
sticks with the team that might be less of an issue.
What to do about replacing Edler is the big quesiton. Sami Salo
just started a conditioning stint, and his return to the active roster would fill Edler's spot but also limits Vancouver's financial flexibility. Plus, Edler has been argubly the team's best defenseman so it not just about filling his place on the lineup card. Verdict: BUYERS
MINNESOTA WILD (26-19-5, 57 points)
The Wild are one of the teams in the West trending upwards of late after a slow start, but figuring out what GM Chuck Fletcher could do to improve the team is a little tricky. Minnesota is pretty close to the salary cap and has more than $51 million of next year's cap tied up already.
There are some reinforcements on the way in the form of injured players Marek Zidlicky
and Guillaume Latendresse
, and depth is definitely one of the team's strengths. Can Fletcher add an impact player without adding money in the short-term or the long-term? Seems like that could be a tough proposition. Verdict: STANDING PAT
CALGARY FLAMES (25-21-6, 56 points)
Like Minnesota, the Flames have turned their season around after a bad start. Like Minnesota, the Flames have precious little cap space and a ton of next year's tied up.
If the Flames keep winning, GM Jay Feaster will try to do something to improve the team, but he doesn't have a 2nd or a 3rd-round pick in the 2011 draft so he doesn't have them as ammunition and isn't likely to further deplete his cache of draft picks in June. He will have to move out some money to take some money back, but remember he is the interim GM and making the playoffs certainly wouldn't hurt his chances of having that tag removed. Verdict: BUYERS
COLORADO AVALANCHE (25-19-6, 56 points)
The Avalanche are going in the opposite direction of Minnesota and Calgary. Colorado needs to stop the slide, and one way to do it could be through an addition. There is plenty of cap space but GM Joel Sherman has a budget to contend with as well.
Colorado can score goals, but preventing them has been an issue. There is also the possibility that Peter Forsberg
joins the team, so an upgrade on defense could make a lot of sense. Craig Anderson
has not been nearly as good this season as last and isn't that expensive. It would be very interesting if the Avalanche looked around for a goaltender (say, Tomas Vokoun
?) in the next few weeks. Verdict: BUYERS
EDMONTON OILERS (15-27-8, 38 points)
This was always going to be a rebuilding year for the Oilers, and given the contributions of their young players it has been a successful one. GM Steve Tambellini's quest in the next three weeks is to try and find more assets, whether it is picks or prospects, who can help the current young core be contenders in 2011-12 or 2012-13.
The Oilers don't have a lot to offer in the rental market, but there are a few interesting players with one more season left on their contracts. Forwards Ales Hemsky
(if he gets healthy) and Dustin Penner
would be very attractive in a thin market at that position, and defenseman Kurtis Foster
could be an offensive boost to someone's blue line. Verdict: SELLERS