With the NHL Trade Deadline on March 2 at 3 p.m. ET quickly approaching, Steve Mears and E.J. Hradek of NHL Live evaluated teams on the outside of the Stanley Cup Playoff picture and whether each will be buyers or sellers.
"I think the Toronto Maple Leafs, for example, are going to be really busy," Hradek said. "It seems like they would like to move a lot of different pieces out. Everybody will be competing for those defensemen because you never -- you never -- have enough defensemen when you go into the playoffs.
"It should be very, very interesting the next couple of a weeks. I do expect there to be a fair amount of movement because I think we have some defined sellers already."
Teams on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture include the Los Angeles Kings. The defending Stanley Cup champions (22-18-12, 56 points) entered play Monday tied with the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars for ninth place in the conference and five points behind the Calgary Flames for the second wild-card spot. Defenseman Alec Martinez is day-to-day with a concussion and the Kings remain without Slava Voynov, which leaves them looking for help on the blue line.
"For [Kings general manager] Dean Lombardi I think the focus is really on defense," Hradek said. "I expect that Dean and his staff are looking at defensemen. They're looking at possibilities and what it will cost them to add somebody to their mix. I think they will zero in on someone and try and make it happen."
Defense - CAR
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 16 | PTS: 18
SOG: 66 | +/-: -6
Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Andrej Sekera, a pending unrestricted free agent, is among the players who could be on the move. Dion Phaneuf (Maple Leafs), however, is unlikely to go anywhere because of his seven-year, $49 million contract.
"I think Sekera to me is the best fit in a lot of places and the best fit in L.A. because I think he's the most versatile," Hradek said. "I think he can move up and down in a group and he's a very low-maintenance guy."
Two other Western Conference buyers could be the Stars and Colorado Avalanche. The Stars may look at depth at forward, where Drew Stafford (Buffalo Sabres) could come into play.
"[Stars coach] Lindy Ruff had Drew for his whole career in Buffalo," Hradek said. "When you think of the Dallas Stars I'm still thinking secondary scoring behind Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Jason Spezza's been OK in that role but he's been doing his best work on the power play and when he's lined up with Seguin and Benn, so maybe somebody like Stafford, who can be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. Familiarity with the coach down there in Dallas, maybe that's a guy that could end up being on the move and going to the Dallas Stars."
Among the teams outside the bubble in the Eastern Conference are the Florida Panthers and Philadelphia Flyers. The Panthers sit six points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild-card spot but Hradek labels them as careful sellers who could dangle veterans Scottie Upshall, Sean Bergenheim or Tomas Fleischmann.
"They're guys who have been there and they might have some market value for teams that are looking to push forward, that do need help with secondary scoring and want a veteran player," Hradek said. "If I'm the Panthers I think you're a careful seller at this point. You're watching to see how things go over the next six [or] seven games."
The Flyers are nine points out despite going 6-1-1 in their past eight games, but Hradek considers them sellers given the uncertain goaltending situation. Starter Steve Mason was injured Sunday and will have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, according to CSNPhilly.com.
"At the end of the day for me, I think the Philadelphia Flyers should be sellers," Hradek said. "They have an excess on the blue line. They have a lot of four-five-six-seven-eight defensemen, guys who fit in that role, so maybe somebody can give them a sniff on a Nicklas Grossmann, move him out. There has been some talk they're not happy with Braydon Coburn; he's got one year left on a deal and has been hurt a lot."