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Trade Coverage

Blackhawks, Kings should buy before deadline

Other buyers and sellers as trade deadline nears

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

Here's what we do know with absolute certainty: 
The Toronto Maple Leafs are sellers, and will continue to be until the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline at 3 p.m. ET on Feb. 29. 
That much is obvious considering the three trades they have made this month in which they acquired mostly draft picks and players not considered long-term parts of their rebuilding effort as a way to move defensemen Dion Phaneuf and Roman Polak, and forwards Shawn Matthias and Nick Spaling.

General manager Lou Lamoriello still has cards to play, too. Forwards P.A. Parenteau, Michael Grabner and Brad Boyes are unrestricted free agents after this season. So too is goalie James Reimer, though he could have a future in Toronto. 
So yes, the Maple Leafs are sellers as they continue their much needed and painful (to fans who want results right now) rebuild. 
What we don't know with any certainty is who else will be on the move, what other teams will cash in their chips and be sellers, and where the buyers will come from. All of that has to shake out in the next week. Here is a primer of what to watch for with deadline day approaching: 
Five teams that should be buyers
Chicago Blackhawks 
Dallas Stars 
Florida Panthers 
Los Angeles Kings 
St. Louis Blues 
The Blackhawks have had a need for a top-six left wing to play with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa all season. They've used temporary fixes to get by, but they need to shore it up if they can. General manager Stan Bowman already has made some trades this season to free up salary cap space with an eye toward deadline day. He has a track record of improving his team at the deadline despite cap restrictions. Look for him to do it again. 
The Blues have to do what they can to avoid another first-round playoff loss. This is too good of a team, of a core, to have it happen again. They got Jaden Schwartz back, which helps, but adding to their depth up front is important. Injuries to defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and forward Alexander Steen shouldn't be too concerning now because both should be back in time for the playoffs. 
The Kings and Stars could use help on defense, which puts them in competition in the market. The Panthers should be eyeing a scoring forward if possible. 
Five teams that should be sellers (not including the Maple Leafs)
Arizona Coyotes 
Calgary Flames 
Carolina Hurricanes 
Montreal Canadiens 
Vancouver Canucks 
It's been a nice, surprising season up until now for the Coyotes. But it's likely three teams will make the playoffs from the Pacific Division and the surging Anaheim Ducks have knocked them out of the running for now. The Coyotes start a five-game road trip Monday at the Washington Capitals, with the first four games coming before the deadline. There's still some time for GM Don Maloney to evaluate. 
The Canadiens need not do anything rash, but they should look to get value in return for players who aren't part of the long-term plan. 
The Flames and Canucks have not gained any traction this season. Both have been slumping recently and falling further back from the playoff pack. They have trade chips in pending unrestricted free agents; it's time to look toward next season and beyond.

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The Hurricanes haven't faded from the playoff race in the Eastern Conference, but GM Ron Francis can't be fooled into thinking his team is a Stanley Cup contender. The time is right to move on from captain Eric Staal. Francis should trade goalie Cam Ward if he can, but that's going to be difficult to do because of his $6.3 million salary cap charge and the low demand for veteran goalies on expiring contracts. 
Five key forwards in play 
Mikkel Boedker, Arizona Coyotes 
Jiri Hudler, Calgary Flames 
Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg Jets 
Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes 
Dale Weise, Montreal Canadiens 
Ladd, a left wing with Cup-winning experience, would be an ideal fit with the Blackhawks and Panthers. He won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010, a team mostly built by Panthers GM Dale Tallon. Familiarity is not a problem. It would take some cap finagling by Bowman to get it done, but he should be the Blackhawks' target. Tallon should be looking into him too because he could help the Panthers in the scoring department, a big need if they want to succeed in the playoffs. 
Staal is another target for the Blackhawks and Panthers. It's also fair to wonder if the New York Rangers have an interest, and if so if they'd be able to make it work cap-wise. The former is likely true; the latter is more difficult. 
If the Coyotes are going to be sellers, Boedker is the key. He's an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and it doesn't look like anything is happening on the contract front between him and the Coyotes. The same holds true for Hudler and the Flames. 
Weise is one of those players in Montreal that could be on another team next season. The Canadiens have fallen so far this season that a playoff berth seems unlikely. If GM Marc Bergevin can get value for Weise, he needs to do it. 
Five key defensemen in play 
Tom Gilbert, Montreal Canadiens 
Dan Hamhuis, Vancouver Canucks 
Nikita Nikitin, Edmonton Oilers 
Kris Russell, Calgary Flames 
Justin Schultz, Edmonton Oilers 
Hamhuis and Russell could be fits with the Kings. It's fair if Kings GM Dean Lombardi hesitates because he missed on Andrej Sekera last season after giving the Hurricanes a first-round draft pick and a prospect for him shortly before the deadline. However, the Kings need to bolster their defense with a player who has experience and can play in a top-four role. Hamhuis and Russell, who have expiring contracts after this season, fit the mold. 
Schultz is different because he'll be a restricted free agent after the season, giving the team that acquires him some control. That opens the door for the Oilers to look across the League, not just into contenders. There's a lot of chatter about how Schultz could benefit from getting out of Edmonton. There is some merit to that because he has played for five coaches in four seasons and hasn't been a favorite of current coach Todd McLellan, who made him a healthy scratch recently. The price for Schultz will be interesting.

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Nikitin was sent to Bakersfield of the American Hockey League on Sunday. He carries a $4.5 million salary cap charge on an expiring contract. It might be asking too much for the Oilers to find a team willing to take him at this point, but they have a week to keep trying. 
Gilbert, like Weise, is another player the Canadiens should look to move just to get some value for him. He's on an expiring contract. 
Five players who shouldn't be traded 
Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning 
Loui Eriksson, Boston Bruins 
Travis Hamonic, New York Islanders 
Kyle Okposo, New York Islanders 
Keith Yandle, New York Rangers 
Yandle, Eriksson and Okposo could be rental players for contending teams, but they already play for teams that have aspirations of getting into the playoffs. Their futures with their current teams are unclear, but they can help them now and that is all that matters. 
Hamonic's trade request for personal reasons became public earlier this season, but he's not pressuring the Islanders to do anything, nor should GM Garth Snow feel like he should now with the Islanders in the playoff mix. Hamonic is too important to them now. If he's going to get traded it should be after the season. 

Drouin was suspended Jan. 20 for leaving Syracuse of the AHL without permission. Drouin had asked to be traded in November, a request that was made public Jan. 3. He could be traded now for the right price, but Lightning GM Steve Yzerman can't settle in this case and might decide his best move could be to wait for the summer, when more options are available. He holds all the cards here and can keep Drouin suspended, or at least in the AHL, for the rest of the season.

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