It's becoming clearer who the buyers will be when Monday rolls around, but the championship windows for those teams range from wide-open to just about closed -- and that will have a huge impact on just how aggressive some of the GMs of these teams will be during the next 96 hours. New Jersey Devils (35-20-4, 74 points, 4th in East)
We examine just how desperate each of the potential buyers is based on how open their window for winning is. Five cell phones represent the teams believed to be most desperate under the circumstances and one cell phone represents the teams least desperate to make a deal.
Boston Bruins (36-20-2, 74 points, 2nd in East)
The Bruins are another team that can go either way at the deadline. They have struggled after their sensational November and December, but some of it can be attributed to injuries -- Nathan Horton (concussion) and Rich Peverley (knee) are out -- and some probably has to do with a post-championship malaise that hits some teams.
Peverley will be back by the postseason, but Horton's future is far cloudier. GM Peter Chiarelli has a team that's smack dab right in the middle of their championship window, and no GM wants to let a season like that go to waste. There's no reason the Bruins can't contend for the next few years, so perhaps Chiarelli will go with what he has.
If Chiarelli feels Horton won't be back, he could feel the pressure to add a forward to give his team a chance for a second straight Stanley Cup. But even if Horton doesn't return, the Bruins are still among the favorites to win it all again.
Chicago Blackhawks (33-21-7, 73 points, 7th in West)
They are two years removed from a championship, and some feel if not for an Alexandre Burrows overtime goal in the first round last year, the Blackhawks could have won a second straight Stanley Cup.
Defense and goaltending have been a problem all season, but the blue line will be healthy when April rolls around and Corey Crawford is in just his second season and turning things around of late. There's no reason why GM Stan Bowman won't go out and add some more depth like he did with forward Brendan Morrison, but he has a championship-caliber team that will be intact for quite some time.
Detroit Red Wings (41-18-2, 84 points, 1st in West)
Stop us if you've heard this before, but the Red Wings are the oldest team in the NHL. This may sound familiar, too, but Nicklas Lidstrom could be in his final season, increasing the urgency for GM Ken Holland to bring home another title before the window shuts completely.
Holland already bolstered his blue line by adding Kyle Quincey for a first-round pick, a clear sign he's ready to go for it, and he spent cautiously over the summer with an eye toward making a big move at the trade deadline. The Red Wings can add virtually whatever they want via trade with nearly $21 million in cap space. If Holland feels this is Lidstrom's swan song, he could find himself Monday making deals like one of those traders on the floor of the stock exchange.
Los Angeles Kings (27-22-12, 66 points, 8th in West)
GM Dean Lombardi raised expectations this summer by signing defenseman Drew Doughty to a big contract and bringing in Mike Richards in a blockbuster deal. None of it worked out like Lombardi hoped, so he fired coach Terry Murray and replaced him with Darryl Sutter. The Kings turned things around initially, but they still have the NHL's lowest-scoring offense.
The Kings are only three points behind San Jose for the Pacific Division lead, but one point ahead of ninth-place Calgary in the Western Conference. There may not be a team more desperate to win when you weigh all the factors. Lombardi has been rumored to be interested in Rick Nash, and considering the circumstances the Kings are facing, it wouldn't be shocking to see the team break the bank to land him.
Nashville Predators (35-19-6, 76 points, 5th in West)
The situation in Music City has nothing to do with an aging corps or a GM who needs to save his job. The Predators have one of the youngest teams in the League and David Poile just signed an extension this week.
The Preds' desperation is all about defensemen Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, but mostly Suter, who will be a UFA this summer while Weber is still a year away from that status. Poile has already improved the team by adding hulking blueliner Hal Gill, and he's not likely to stop there. If the Predators can make a deep run in the postseason (i.e. get to the conference finals for the first time), Suter, and in turn Weber, may be more likely to stick around. Heck, just Poile being aggressive at the trade deadline may be enough.
The Predators have years of success sitting in front of them, but a lot hinges on what happens between now and mid-June.
Of all the teams contending for a Cup, the Devils may have the smallest window. Captain Zach Parise will hit free agency this summer and Martin Brodeur could retire at season's end, although he has said recently he wouldn't mind coming back for another season. Losing just one of those two players would be devastating to the team's hopes of contending for a title in the next few years.
The most prominent name mentioned in trade rumors with the Devils is Wild defenseman Marek Zidlicky. But Lou Lamoriello usually flies under the radar at this time of year. Not too many people saw the Ilya Kovalchuk deal coming two years ago. If Lamoriello feels like this is it for his team, he may try to make a big splash.New York Rangers (38-15-5, 81 points, 1st in East)
The Rangers are the picture of a team that shouldn't be feeling any pressure to go crazy at the trade deadline -- they are young, have virtually everyone important re-signed through at least next season, have no holes defensively and are above average offensively. There might not be a team in a better overall position heading into the deadline.
Still, GM Glen Sather's interest in adding Rick Nash is reportedly strong. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's not as though Sather's job is in jeopardy, the Rangers are dying for offense or the team is aging. The Rangers hold the position of power in any negotiation. They could use some upgrades here or there, but "desperate" shouldn't define the Rangers at all.Philadelphia Flyers (33-19-7, 73 points, 5th in East)
The Flyers get taken down a notch because they've already made a couple deals that will make them less desperate over the next four days. GM Paul Holmgren bolstered his blue line by adding Pavel Kubina and Nicklas Grossman, thrusting his team so close to the salary cap it's as if the Flyers are hugging it.
Holmgren has a young core and his team is one of the best in the League when it comes to offense. Goaltending has been a problem -- shocking that's the case in Philadelphia -- but what can Holmgren do at this point? Ilya Bryzgalov is his goalie until the end of the decade and there's no wiggle room under the cap.
If the right deal is there for Holmgren, of course he'll make it, but he's probably not feeling any "win now" pressure with the team he completely remodeled over the summer.Phoenix Coyotes (30-21-9, 69 points, 7th in West)
The Coyotes might've found themselves in the three Blackberry range before acquiring Antoine Vermette, but they got the help on offense they so desperately need for the final push. GM Don Maloney could use another scorer, but it might not be within his budget to do so. The Coyotes aren't exactly a player away from becoming a Stanley Cup favorite, but they are built well for the future.
Shane Doan and Ryan Whitney are UFAs after the season, but there's no reason to think Doan won't be back. Key pieces Keith Yandle, Mike Smith and Radim Vrbata are signed through next season. The Coyotes aren't exactly set up for the future, but time isn't running out either.Pittsburgh Penguins (34-21-5, 73 points, 6th in East)
No one, not even GM Ray Shero, seems to know if Sidney Crosby will return this season. If Shero does know, he hasn't told anyone. Crosby's unknown status puts him in a sticky predicament in the coming days: if he feels Crosby will be back for the postseason, that's better than any move anyone will make at the deadline, but if he feels Crosby won't return, what will he do to improve his team?
Even without Crosby, the Penguins have what it takes to win a championship, so it's not as though the walls are closing in on Shero. He can stand pat and still win a Cup. But he'll likely feel the need to make a minor move to give Evgeni Malkin and James Neal some support.
Everything revolves around Crosby in Pittsburgh, but Shero shouldn't feel desperate to make magic happen with a trade.St. Louis Blues (36-17-7, 79 points, 4th in West)
The Blues are the West's version of the Rangers. They are young, exceeding expectations and sure, they could use some help scoring goals, but they have enough talent up front to win thanks to their League-leading defense. GM Doug Armstrong made moves in the summer to add veterans in Jamie Langenbrunner (injured now, but will be back by the playoffs) and Jason Arnott, so the Blues are OK there.
There'd be nothing wrong with the Blues trying to add someone like Ales Hemsky or Andrei Kostitsyn at the right price, but there'd be nothing wrong with the Blues letting their young group see how far they can go in the West playoffs on their own.San Jose Sharks (31-20-7, 69 points, 3rd in West)
GM Doug Wilson made some bold moves during the offseason, swapping Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat and Devin Setoguchi, top prospect Charlie Coyle and a pick for Brent Burns. Wilson had just watched his team, a virtual lock for 100 points in recent years, fall short in the Western Finals and decided something needed to be done.
After all the moves, the Sharks are staring down their worst regular season (98 points) since Wilson took over in 2003. It's not as though 98 points and a division title is anything to look down upon, but Wilson and the Sharks have championship expectations. Should those offseason moves take the Sharks from a third-round club to a first-round club, will that have Wilson on the hot seat? It's doubtful, but the Sharks may feel the need to add some pieces (they'll get the injured Havlat back before the playoffs) between now and Monday.Vancouver Canucks (38-16-6, 82 points, 2nd in West)
There's not a lot to dislike about this team. The core of the team is locked up and the Canucks should contend for years to come. They have elite scorers, great defensemen and arguably the best goaltending duo in the NHL.
But the Canucks had all that last season, when they came up one game short in the Stanley Cup Final. Will GM Mike Gillis feel the need to add some toughness or depth, two things that were missing by the end of the postseason, with an eye toward this year's playoffs?
Considering the injuries the Canucks faced in last year's playoffs, it wouldn't hurt Gillis to pick up some insurance. But if he stays with the hand he's been dealt, few would find fault with that.Washington Capitals (29-26-5, 63 points, 10th in East)
The desperation level in America's capital doesn't have anything to do with time running out for the team's core. Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green and Brooks Laich are all signed long-term. It's more about the fact GM George McPhee's club has gone from perennial 100-point performers to a team on the cusp of missing the postseason.
McPhee fired coach Bruce Boudreau, but replacing him with Dale Hunter hasn't had the desired effect. The Caps are cap-strapped, making it tough to make an impactful deal. If McPhee feels like his back is against the wall, he could deal Alexander Semin, who is in the final year of his $6.7 million deal.
A lot of the problems the Caps have faced this season can be attributed to injury, but not all of them. Desperate times could call for desperate measures between now and Monday.