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Atlantic: Cup contenders could be one move short

Thursday, 02.09.2012 / 9:59 AM / 2012 Trade Deadline

By Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Atlantic: Cup contenders could be one move short
A center for the Rangers and a defenseman for the Flyers could be all standing between those teams and a Stanley Cup run, while the Penguins must determine how injuries factor in to their needs.
The trade deadline is fast approaching, and teams around the NHL are trying to decide whether to buy or sell, and what needs can be or should be addressed. Increased parity in recent seasons has limited the number of teams willing to sell until the final days before the trade deadline, but there has still been plenty of deals and big names on the move.

This is going to be a division-by-division look around the NHL and the different needs, both in the short- and long-term, each club might be looking to remedy between now and Feb. 27.

A quick note: the salary cap information comes from the web's unquestioned authority on the subject, www.capgeek.com. Acquisition space is different than a team's salary cap space -- it is how much salary a team can add on that day and be in compliance from then until the end of the season. The number changes daily, but each team's figure for this exercise will be what it was on Feb. 4 unless that team makes a major move.

DEADLINE 2012

Pacific: Kings, Stars could seek goal help

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer
Heading into the trade deadline, a pair of teams hoping to stay in Cup Playoff contention could be looking to upgrade their offenses. READ MORE ›
We started Monday with the Central Division, continued Tuesday with the Northwest and looked at the Pacific on Wednesday. Up next is a shift to the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division.

NEW YORK RANGERS

Record: 33-13-5, 71 points (1st in East)

Goals for: 2.71 (13th in NHL)
Goals against: 1.94 (2nd)
Power play: 13.1 percent (T-27th)
Penalty kill: 87.1 percent (5th)

Key injuries: D Michael Sauer (indefinitely)
Acquisition space: $4.418 million

Skinny: There have already been a few big names linked to the Rangers, veteran forwards like Ryan Smyth and Shane Doan, but it is possible neither of them will be available. Depending on Sauer's health, the Rangers might not need anything this month. That said, a move made now might be more about matchups deep in the playoffs than any short-term need.

If so, Brandon Dubinsky is a critical figure in determining the direction for GM Glen Sather. While someone like Smyth or Doan would be nice, the Rangers need a center if Dubinsky isn't going to find his previous form. If there is one weakness when the Rangers' lineup is matched up against Boston, a healthy Pittsburgh, and even looking further to teams like Detroit, San Jose and Vancouver, it is that New York does not pack the same punch at center (again, unless Dubinsky turns it around).

The Rangers have a handful of intriguing prospects and are rarely tepid about making moves at the deadline. It has been a great year to this point, but New York might need one more key piece if the Rangers are going to make their first serious Cup run since 1994.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

Record: 30-16-7, 67 points (4th)

Goals for: 3.24 (2nd)
Goals against: 2.87 (23rd)
Power play: 20.3 percent (4th)
Penalty kill: 82.7 percent (15th)

Key injuries: D Chris Pronger (out for season), LW James van Riemsdyk (indefinitely)
Acquisition space: $4.008 million

James van Riemsdyk
Left Wing - PHI
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 11 | PTS: 22
SOG: 107 | +/-: -1
Skinny: GM Paul Holmgren has to replace Pronger, so there has been plenty written about whom the Flyers are interested at this point. This team hasn't had problems scoring goals, even without Pronger and with just about every key forward missing some portion of time with injury, but they need some help in front of their goaltenders.

There isn't much to work with beyond the NHL roster, so a deal for an impact defenseman is likely going to involve one of the team's three young forwards -- van Riemsdyk, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier -- if Holmgren can't convince someone to take fringe prospects and draft picks. That's actually OK in the short term -- especially if the defenseman is expensive, because the Flyers don't have a ton of cap space to work with.

Holmgren has a well-earned reputation as a guy who isn't afraid to make a bold move. If he makes the right one, the Flyers can still contend for the Stanley Cup this season.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS

Record: 31-19-3, 65 points (5th)

Goals for: 2.66 (14th)
Goals against: 2.76 (16th)
Power play: 16.4 percent (T-19th)
Penalty kill: 88.7 percent (2nd)

Key injuries: C Travis Zajac (indefinitely), D Henrik Tallinder (early-to-mid March)
Acquisition space: $7.966 million

Zach Parise
Left Wing - NJD
GOALS: 20 | ASST: 27 | PTS: 47
SOG: 183 | +/-: -2
Skinny: Speaking of tricky injury situations, Zajac and Tallinder fall into that category. Zajac is still bothered by his Achilles heel problem, and Tallinder has a blood clot issue. The Devils may need to find a short-term replacement for one or both of them.

GM Lou Lamoriello has already added Alexei Ponikarovsky to improve his forward depth. If Zajac is OK, the Devils are probably set up front. A mid-season addition of defenseman Kurtis Foster also helped, but this isn't exactly a vintage Devils' defense corps.

Maybe the Devils are done dealing, but if they are worried about losing Zach Parise in the offseason to free agency, Lamoriello might be more willing to push some chips into the middle and try to make a run. The question then becomes would he be willing to part with valuable assets like rookie center Jacob Josefson, defense prospect Jon Merrill or high draft picks if losing Parise would mean something of a re-tooling in New Jersey?

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Record: 30-19-5, 65 points (6th)

Goals for: 2.89 (7th)
Goals against: 2.56 (T-9th)
Power play: 18.9 percent (T-8th)
Penalty kill: 87.8 percent (3rd)

Key injuries: C Sidney Crosby (indefinitely), C Jordan Staal (mid-February), RW Arron Asham (indefinitely)
Acquisition space: $4.644 million

Simon Despres
Defense - PIT
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 3 | PTS: 4
SOG: 16 | +/-: 4
Skinny: When there is an $8.7 million-sized hole in the middle of the lineup, trying to decide what is needed via trade can be a little tricky. Penguins GM Ray Shero said he expects to have Crosby at some point again this season, so that probably rules out the Penguins from making a major deal to try and fill in for him.

Provided Staal returns soon, the Penguins are still a dangerous team in the East -- and probably one of the top seven or eight contenders for the Cup. Add a healthy Crosby and they move toward the top of that list.

Shero has been dynamite at the trade deadline in his tenure. He's added quality in the short-term (Marian Hossa) as well as guys who stick around and provide more value (Hal Gill, Pascal Dupuis, James Neal). He might be interested in adding another defenseman, but the Penguins liked what they saw from rookie Simon Despres before he got hurt. He might also look to add a wing, but the need isn't quite as great as it has been in years past.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

Record: 22-22-8, 52 points (11th)

Goals for: 2.35 (26th)
Goals against: 2.83 (20th)
Power play: 19.4 percent (7th)
Penalty kill: 85.1 percent (8th)

Key injuries: D Travis Hamonic (late February), G Rick DiPietro (out for season)
Acquisition space: $41.660 million

Evgeni Nabokov
Goalie - NYI
RECORD: 12-12-0
GAA: 2.21 | SVP: 0.925
Skinny: The Islanders have played well of late, but would need to sustain it for another few weeks just to get into playoff contention. While strong on special teams, New York is the worst team in the League at even strength and Hamonic's absence will be felt -- both reasons to believe a prolonged run is unlikely.

That said, GM Garth Snow has assembled a nice collection of young talent and there is legitimate hope for the near future. The franchise's biggest needs are on defense, and figuring out a long-term plan in net.

Evgeni Nabokov has been strong in net lately, and that might help his trade value should Snow decide to look toward the future. The Islanders are close to the salary floor, but that won't come into play unless Brian Rolston is one of the veterans dealt. There will probably only be a minor move or two for Snow to make beyond Nabokov, which should probably be a sign of progress on the Island.

Quote of the Day

There's no discouragement in that room. There's no issues there at all to be honest with you. It's more about, 'Hey, it's opportunities for players.' And if we become that bad of a team because of one player, it's not a real good sign for our hockey club. So this is part of sports. It's part of hockey.

— Bruins coach Claude Julien on the loss of Zdeno Chara to injury
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