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 subjact, 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.
We started Monday with the Central Division and continued with the Northwest, the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Northeast Divisions. Up next is the final installment -- the Southeast Division.
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Goals for: 2.47 (T-21th in NHL)
Goals against: 2.72 (15th)
Power play: 18.5 percent (12th)
Penalty kill: 80.5 percent (25th)
Key injuries: D Dmitry Kulikov (March), RW Scottie Upshall (late March), D Ed Jovanovski (late February)
Acquisition space: $27.237 million
Skinny: GM Dale Tallon overhauled the roster between last year at this time and the end of the offseason, and coach Kevin Dineen has the new-look Panthers firmly in playoff contention. So the dilemma for Tallon becomes this – does he try to add players one year after blowing up his roster, or does he stick with the current group and wait for the vast collection of young talent he might see find roles with the team in the next season or two?
If Tallon does decide to add, there is an obvious need. His top line of Tomas Fleischmann, Stephen Weiss and Kris Versteeg has been fantastic but has faded of late. The Panthers desperately need a guy (or two) to bolster the second line. Sean Bergenheim, Marcel Goc and Mikael Samuelsson have been productive together of late, but that trio should probably be the team’s third line instead of the second.
Tallon has collected a vast pool of young talent, and the Panthers may have the best set of prospects in the League. Erik Gudbranson has become an NHL regular and Jonathan Huberdeau will be a preseason Calder Trophy favorite next season. There is a large group of prospects behind them, and Tallon could possibly part with one or two to land an impact top-six forward (especially if that player has more years left on his contract). The more likely course of action for Tallon is to not yield anything substantial and look for a minor addition to help the offense.
Record: 28-21-5, 61 points (9th)
Goals for: 2.78 (11th)
Goals against: 2.76 (T-16th)
Power play: 18.6 percent (T-10th)
Penalty kill: 80.8 percent (23rd)
Key injuries: C Nicklas Backstrom (indefinitely), D Mike Green (Iate February)
Acquisition space: $5.014 million
Skinny: So much of what the Capitals might do, and can do, at the trade deadline is tied up in the health of Backstrom and Green. If either player is unable to return, then they need to be replaced. That is also the only way GM George McPhee will be able to make a significant move without moving out salary.
SOG: 104 | +/-: 5
The proverbial elephant in the room is Alexander Semin and his $6.7 million contract. Maybe McPhee could move him to clear up space and then swing another deal to replace him? That is highly unlikely though.
Record: 26-24-8, 60 points (10th)
Goals for: 2.34 (T-25th)
Goals against: 2.68 (14th)
Power play: 17.2 percent (T-16th)
Penalty kill: 82.6 percent (T-13th)
Key injuries: NONE
Acquisition space: $34.223 million
Skinny: The Jets could be a fascinating team to monitor in the next two weeks, or they could end up not doing anything. Winnipeg is certainly in contention for both the Southeast title and possibly a seventh or eighth seed in the East.
There is plenty of space for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to work with, and the Jets are another team that has an obvious need for an infusion of offense. Will Cheveldayoff have the motivation to act? Being the first year back in Winnipeg, it would be a nice ending to the story if the Jets sneak into the playoffs, but it is also possible Cheveldayoff tries to continue to build toward the future and constructing a roster than can do more than just squeak into the postseason.
It would hard to see the Jets selling off any players even Cheveldayoff decides not to buy, so it is possible that deadline day will be quiet in Winnipeg. This is probably another team that would like to make a minor move or two to help with a playoff push, but not a major deal that would alter the long-term plan.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
Record: 23-24-6, 52 points (13th)
Goals for: 2.81 (10th)
Goals against: 3.34 (30th)
Power play: 13.9 percent (26th)
Penalty kill: 80.6 percent (24th)
Key injuries: D Mattias Ohlund (possibly out for season)
Acquisition space: $7.497 million
Skinny: A year after GM Steve Yzerman swung one of the deals of the season to land goalie Dwayne Roloson, that is a position of need yet again. Whether or not Yzerman tries to find a quick fix and help his team make a late run at the postseason or chooses to address the situation in the offseason remains to be determined. A short-term option might be someone like Curtis Sanford from Columbus, while the long-term guys are all the high-profile backups like Corey Schneider and Jonathan Bernier.
SOG: 73 | +/-: -10
Yzerman has a few assets that contending teams would be interested in, including pending UFAs Dominic Moore, Pavel Kubina and Brett Clark.
Record: 20-25-11, 51 points (15th)
Goals for: 2.54 (T-19th)
Goals against: 3.00 (T-26th)
Power play: 14.9 percent (23rd)
Penalty kill: 78.3 percent (27th)
Key injuries: D Joni Pitkanen (early March)
Acquisition space: $39.963 million
Skinny: GM Jim Rutherford has the nicest fruit at the market, but whether or not he fields any offers for them from the queue of contenders remains to be seen. He already locked up defenseman Tim Gleason on a four-year contract, and he might sign forward Tuomo Ruutu as well.
SOG: 128 | +/-: 2
There are other guys to deal as well. Gleason might be off the market, but pending UFAs Bryan Allen and Jaroslav Spacek will be enticing – especially in what looks like a weak crop of available defensemen. Rutherford isn’t likely to blow up his roster, but he can collect a few more pieces for the future (including what will likely be a top-3 pick in June if the team continues in its current form) and plan on re-tooling for a run at playoff contention in 2013.