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NHL Trade Buzz: Babcock knows what he wants for Maple Leafs

Brodin injury could have Wild looking for help on defense

NHL.com @NHL

Welcome to the NHL Trade Buzz. There are 19 days remaining until the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline (3 p.m. ET, Feb. 26). What does coach Mike Babcock want for the Toronto Maple Leafs? What's the plan for the Ottawa Senators in the wake of another injury to forward Bobby Ryan the season after reaching the Eastern Conference Final?

Here's a look around the League at the latest deadline doings:

 

[RELATED: 2017-18 NHL Trade Tracker]

 

Toronto Maple Leafs

The top three teams in the Atlantic Division are looking set. The Tampa Bay Lightning are first, followed by the Boston Bruins and the Maple Leafs, who have a 15-point lead on the fourth-place Florida Panthers.

So it's likely any activity at the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline by the Maple Leafs would be about solidifying their team for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, rather than reaching the postseason.

With that in mind, Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock talked Wednesday about balancing long-term plans with short-term needs, and how he's better at taking both into account now, with 15 seasons of experience as an NHL coach.

"I want what I want, real simple," he said. "I make it very clear, but that day comes and then it's all over with. It's no different than, you're putting people on the ice, you have to decide as the coach. We're all going to get together and we're going to discuss this many times and we're all going to have our opinions.

"I like to have a whole bunch of different opinions too, and then we end up at the same one. I like to have a good and heated debate because I think that's good too. But in the end, you get what you get and then you have to find a way to make them win, and so the second you've got what you've got, it's time to get on with it."

The Maple Leafs, who play the Nashville Predators at Air Canada Centre (7:30 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports, FS-TN) on Wednesday, are 6-2-0 in their past eight games.

Video: ANA@TOR: Nylander beats Miller with nice wrister

They professed over the weekend, ahead of a loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday, that they're gunning for first in the Atlantic Division and, barring that, to at least pass the Bruins for home-ice advantage in the playoffs. The Maple Leafs are eight points behind the Lightning and five points behind the Bruins.

"Both teams actually have games in hand (Lightning two, Bruins four), so it's a little bit of a hill to climb there," Toronto defenseman Ron Hainsey said. "But certainly you'd prefer to get home ice if you can. Boston just went on one heck of a [run]. … Eighteen games with a point. A team does that, they make it very difficult to catch, so you've got to do something similar to catch them."

As for what will help them in their attempt to accomplish that, and help them once they make it into the playoffs?

"The people who need to know, know," Babcock said.

 

Minnesota Wild

The market for defensemen could be getting crowded. The Minnesota Wild, who have a one-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference, will be without Jonas Brodin for 3-4 weeks. Brodin, who is fourth on the Wild at 21:21 per game, had surgery on his left hand Wednesday after being injured in a 6-2 win against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.

In the short term, Gustav Olofsson and Mike Reilly, who have swapped in and out of the lineup for each other, will play, but it's possible general manager Chuck Fletcher will be putting out feelers on available defensemen.

He may not be the only GM to do so. The Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are among several teams that could be seeking a defenseman before the trade deadline.

A lengthy playoff run, if the Wild get there, is not assured, so it will be interesting to see what Fletcher might be willing to do, especially after he traded the Wild's first-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, a second-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and a conditional pick in the 2019 NHL Draft to the Arizona Coyotes for Martin Hanzal before the deadline last season.

"I'd like to really keep our first this year. I think we need to have a first here, but I'd certainly look at adding something, yeah," Fletcher told The Athletic. "Now whether you go out and throw a bunch of futures into the mix, I don't know, but it wouldn't stop me from making a move. But last year's move, those are moves you can't make every year."

 

Ottawa Senators

After reaching the Eastern Conference Final last season, it's been a tough season for the Senators. That means they might be looking to trade away some pieces with another trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs looking extremely unlikely at this point. The Senators are 13 points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference, and 21 points behind the Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic Division.

They took another hit with the news that forward Bobby Ryan would be out 2-3 weeks because of a hand injury. Ryan already missed 12 games this season with hand injuries.

Two weeks ago, Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said, "We have a plan in place and we have multiple plans in place depending on where this hockey team goes and the direction we need to go to. We know we're in a tough position right now."

Potential trade candidates include forwards Mike Hoffman, who as NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen mentioned in his weekly mailbag could be a fit with the Predators; Zack Smith; and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, the hometown player who electrified the crowd at Canadian Tire Centre during last season's playoffs. Defensemen Cody Ceci and Johnny Oduya also could be on the move.

Video: NJD@OTT: Hoffman goes top shelf with howitzer for PPG

This is even more pressing with the future of defenseman Erik Karlsson unknown. Karlsson is signed through the 2018-19 season, after which he can become an unrestricted free agent. He can sign a contract extension July 1, but It's not assured that he will re-sign with the Senators, the team that selected him No. 15 in the 2008 NHL Draft and for which he has played his entire NHL career.

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