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Rangers, Blackhawks help themselves

Moves prior to deadline improve chances at prolonged postseason run

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

The speculation can stop now, but the fun part isn't over. 

The dust has settled on the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline, which means it's time to dive into full evaluation mode. 

It's too early to determine the winners and losers. That comes in time, meaning after the season. But it's not too early to give some instant analysis on which teams, at least on paper, improved their lineup going into the stretch run and eventually the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Here's a look at four teams that might have given themselves a better chance at winning the Stanley Cup, with an opinion on their ideal lineup for Game 1 of the playoffs provided everyone is healthy:

Video: Which teams improved for stretch run?

NEW YORK RANGERS

Addition: C/LW Eric Staal

Subtractions: Second-round picks in 2016 and 2017, prospect Aleksi Saarela

Why it should work: Staal's versatility, experience, scoring ability and talent in the faceoff circle are perfect for the Rangers. They're going for it again because they know their window of opportunity is slowly closing with goalie Henrik Lundqvist turning 34 years old Wednesday. 

Coach Alain Vigneault said he envisions Staal playing center, which means it's likely Kevin Hayes would have to move to wing, giving them Staal, Derick Brassard, Derek Stepan and Dominic Moore down the middle. Staal could play the wing, which speaks to his versatility. 

It's tantalizing to think of Staal and Rick Nash, when healthy, playing on a line with Stepan. That's a lot of size and scoring ability on the wings. Staal, who has won 53.7 percent of his faceoffs this season, could take the draws on his strong side (left), leaving Stepan (46.6 percent on faceoffs) taking them on his strong side (right).

Ideal Game 1 lineup:

Eric Staal - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash
J.T. Miller - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello
Chris Kreider - Kevin Hayes - Jesper Fast
Oscar Lindberg - Dominic Moore - Viktor Stalberg

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Dan Boyle
Keith Yandle - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist
Antti Raanta

Video: NHL Tonight: Re-enacting the Ladd Trade, Pt. 1

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Additions: LW Andrew Ladd, RW Dale Weise, LW Tomas Fleischmann, D Christian Ehrhoff

Subtractions: D Rob Scuderi, C Philip Danault, RW Marko Dano, first-round pick in 2016, second-round pick in 2018, conditional pick in 2018

Why it should work: It already has, at least for one game. 

The Blackhawks defeated the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Sunday with Ladd and Fleischmann in the lineup. Ladd had an assist in 14:10 of ice time, including 2:41 on the power play. Fleischmann played 13:17, including 2:15 on the penalty kill.

Weise hasn't arrived yet, but when he does he'll add to a deep group of forwards. 

Ladd is obviously the key and will fill what has been a hole in the Blackhawks lineup all season: left wing on the top line. Ladd is ideal to play with center Jonathan Toews and, when healthy, Marian Hossa.  

Ladd is experienced and a two-time Cup winner, including with the Blackhawks (2010). Chicago players know him well. Ladd knows them well. It has all the makings of a harmonious reunion. 

Fleischmann and Weise could be on the third line with Teuvo Teravainen. Each could be on the fourth line too. If there's an injury, they could move up to the top six; they're versatile enough to do that. Weise, in particular, is having his best NHL season.

Video: MTL@DET: Fleischmann snaps quick shot past Mrazek

Chicago might have the option of reuniting Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw and Andrew Desjardins on the fourth line. It was a strong line throughout the playoffs last year. Kruger has been out since having surgery on his left wrist on Dec. 18 and is working his way back with no guarantees from the organization he'll play before the end of the regular season.

Ehrhoff fits the Blackhawks' up-tempo style better than Scuderi ever would. Chicago needed depth on its defense with another player who moves the puck well and can skate. Ehrhoff could rejuvenate his career in Chicago.

Ideal Game 1 lineup:

Andrew Ladd - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Artemi Panarin - Artem Anisimov - Patrick Kane
Tomas Fleischmann - Teuvo Teravainen - Dale Weise
Andrew Desjardins - Marcus Kruger - Andrew Shaw

Duncan Keith - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Erik Gustafsson - Brent Seabrook
Christian Ehrhoff - Trevor van Riemsdyk

Corey Crawford
Scott Darling

Video: NHL Tonight: Dale Tallon Interview

FLORIDA PANTHERS

Additions: LW Jiri Hudler, RW Teddy Purcell, D Jakub Kindl

Subtractions: C Brandon Pirri, second-round pick and third-round pick in 2016, sixth-round pick in 2017, fourth-round pick in 2018

Why it should work: The Panthers are loading up for an extended playoff run and with Hudler and Purcell added two players with experience who could slide into their top six forwards. They needed more secondary scoring and GM Dale Tallon got it.

Hudler, who won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008, has been hot of late with 13 points in his last 15 games with the Calgary Flames. Purcell, who went to the Eastern Conference Final with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011, had 32 points in 61 games with the Edmonton Oilers. 

The additions give the Panthers a better chance to stay in first place while forward Jonathan Huberdeau recovers from his upper-body injury. 

If everyone is healthy, the additions of Hudler and Purcell give the Panthers a better bottom-six forward group, with the potential that Reilly Smith, Vincent Trocheck and Jussi Jokinen could make up the third line.

Kindl is a defenseman who could play in a bottom-pair role and gives the Panthers added depth as they wait for Willie Mitchell to recover from his concussion.

With the depth the Panthers have down the middle, there wasn't room for Pirri. He wasn't going to get quality ice time and that reduced his value. They got a sixth-round pick from the Anaheim Ducks.

Ideal Game 1 lineup:

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr
Jiri Hudler - Nick Bjugstad - Teddy Purcell
Reilly Smith - Vincent Trocheck - Jussi Jokinen
Quinton Howden - Derek MacKenzie - Logan Shaw

Dmitry Kulikov - Aaron Ekblad
Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson
Alex Petrovic - Willie Mitchell

Roberto Luongo
Al Montoya

Video: Bruins acquire D John-Michael Liles, F Lee Stempniak

BOSTON BRUINS

Additions: LW Lee Stempniak, D John-Michael Liles

Subtractions: Third-round pick, fourth-round pick in 2016; second-round pick, fifth-round picks in 2017

Why it should work: The best part about this deadline for the Bruins and their fans is they didn't trade left wing Loui Eriksson. He's Boston's second leading goal-scorer with 23 and tied for second with 48 points.

It's good now because the Bruins are in position to be a playoff team and Eriksson is a key part of what they're doing. Getting rid of him at the deadline, even though he can be an unrestricted free agent after the season, would have sent a terrible message to the rest of the team.

The Bruins are likely going to continue to try to re-sign Eriksson, who can become an unrestricted free agent. By keeping him, it gives them the best shot of doing that. He'd be worth it on the right contract. 

So instead of being sellers, the Bruins were actually buyers. They added Stempniak from the New Jersey Devils and Liles from the Carolina Hurricanes. They were reportedly in negotiations with the Vancouver Canucks to get Dan Hamhuis, but he wasn't traded.

Stempniak has been a solid player for New Jersey this season with a Devils-high 25 assists and 41 points. He's been traded at the deadline several times so he knows how to adapt to a new team. He also spends his offseasons in Boston, so it'll be a comfortable move for him and his family.

Video: NYR@NJD: Stempniak breaks tie in the 2nd period

Liles can fill a hole on defense that has been there all season. He might not be as popular a pickup as Hamhuis would have been, but he can be a valuable, veteran puck-mover. He had 15 points in 64 games with the Hurricanes.

Ideal Game 1 lineup:

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Lee Stempniak
Loui Eriksson - David Krejci - David Pastrnak
Matt Beleskey - Ryan Spooner - Brett Connolly
Jimmy Hayes - Landon Ferraro - Tyler Randell

Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg
Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid
John-Michael Liles - Kevan Miller

Tuukka Rask
Jonas Gustavsson

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