Late-season trades, at or near the NHL Trade Deadline, generally translate into only a few points for the buying team, but often that can be the difference in whether a team makes the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That is especially true this season with the playoff picture muddy at best.
There are six teams separated by five points in the race for the second and final wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference, and the top three teams in the Atlantic Division are within three points of one another. In the Western Conference, the likely playoff qualifiers are a bit clearer, but most teams are trying to improve their seeding.
The 2016 NHL Trade Deadline is Monday at 3 p.m. ET.
Statistics -- some simple, some advanced -- often help in assessing needs and players who can best address them.
Here are six teams on the bubble -- hoping to maintain a playoff position or looking to leapfrog others -- and what the numbers suggest could be the type of player to deliver those valuable standings points that could be the difference between a place in the field or an earlier-than-desired break.
Boston Bruins -- Last season, the Bruins were eighth in the NHL at 2.45 goals-against per game. This season, Boston is 20th, allowing 2.77 per game, the highest among East teams holding a playoff position. It's not the goaltending that should be blamed for this, because the Bruins have fallen from 13th in shot attempts allowed per game in 2014-15 to tied for 19th this season.
To hold off the charge of the Detroit Red Wings, who are one point behind Boston for third place in the Atlantic Division, and a handful of other teams that are within six points in the playoff race, the Bruins need to upgrade their defense. Unfortunately for them, there are not a lot of defensemen rumored to be available, especially those who can take on tough minutes against top opponents.
Potential matches: Mark Fayne, Edmonton Oilers; Dan Hamhuis, Vancouver Canucks
Video: EDM@OTT: Fayne gives Oilers lead in the 1st period
Detroit Red Wings -- Detroit needs to generate more shots from the point. This season, Red Wings defensemen have combined for 406 shots, 29th in the League entering Thursday. The return of Niklas Kronwall this week from arthroscopic knee surgery will help, but it would be wise to acquire another defenseman who can put the puck on net.
In terms of a rental player, Keith Yandle of the New York Rangers would be a perfect fit if he becomes available. But with the Rangers in second place in the Metropolitan Division, they might be more inclined to be buyers themselves. Yandle is 25th among NHL defensemen with 126 shots after he was sixth last season with 232. For a more permanent solution, Detroit general manager Ken Holland could make a serious push for the St. Louis Blues' Kevin Shattenkirk, who is 18th with 134 shots, or the Minnesota Wild's Matt Dumba, who is 32nd with 119.
Potential matches: Keith Yandle, New York Rangers; Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues; Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild
Pittsburgh Penguins -- Sidney Crosby may be piling up points again, but the Penguins have always had a problem with secondary scoring. With the retirement of Pascal Dupuis and with Nick Bonino, Eric Fehr and Beau Bennett out of the lineup because of injury, the Penguins' remaining bottom six have a total of 19 goals and 40 points in 239 games this season.
To help cement a playoff position by reducing a reliance on its top lines, Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford could add a low-cost, secondary wing from the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are clearly in a selling frame of mind after making several earlier trades to shed salary. Speedy Michael Grabner, who scored 34 goals for the New York Islanders in 2010-11, could be a great fit.
Potential matches: PA Parenteau, Toronto Maple Leafs; Brad Boyes, Toronto Maple Leafs; Michael Grabner, Toronto Maple Leafs
Video: TOR@CHI: Parenteau wrists a PP goal past Darling
Colorado Avalanche -- Using shot-based metrics, the Avalanche have the worst numbers in the NHL. Entering Thursday, Colorado's opponents had 3,043 shot attempts to its 2,343, a minus-700 differential that's more than double the second-worst team in this category in the NHL, the Arizona Coyotes.
To help secure Colorado's second playoff appearance in the past six seasons, general manager Joe Sakic should be shopping for a possession-driving player who can tilt the ice back in Colorado's favor. Among available players capable of doing so, forward Teddy Purcell of the Edmonton Oilers might be the easiest to acquire. With him on the ice, Edmonton has 64 more shot attempts than its opponents, the third-highest differential on the Oilers.
Potential matches: Teddy Purcell, Edmonton Oilers
Minnesota Wild -- After starting the 2016 calendar year 3-12-4, the Wild found new life under coach John Torchetti; they are 4-1-0, outscoring opponents 22-12. The main criticism of the Wild has been they lack size and grit. Claiming forward Jarret Stoll off waivers Dec. 15 helped, but the Wild are last in the NHL with 1,034 hits, 30 fewer than the 29th-ranked Chicago Blackhawks.
Given the success of light-hitting teams like the Blackhawks, this may not be the kind of problem that could really hinder Minnesota, but it never hurts to add some size and power for the playoffs. Because the Wild could also use more scoring, general manager Chuck Fletcher could go for broke and pursue Winnipeg Jets forward Andrew Ladd, who brings the experience of winning the Stanley Cup twice.
Potential matches: Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg Jets; David Jones, Calgary Flames
Video: DAL@WPG: Byfuglien feeds Ladd for shorthanded goal
Nashville Predators -- Coach Peter Laviolette employs one of the most extreme models of player usage in the League. Forwards Mike Ribeiro, Craig Smith and Filip Forsberg are in the League's top four in highest offensive-zone start percentages (minimum 25 games), and Paul Gaustad, Eric Nystrom and Austin Watson are in the bottom five. As a counterbalance, Laviolette needs versatile players who can take on opponents at each end of the ice while providing additional scoring, and there's no better player available than forward Loui Eriksson of the Boston Bruins.
Eriksson, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, is second on the Bruins with 23 goals and 48 points. He is among Boston's top four forwards in ice time at even strength, on the power play, and shorthanded; takes on the top opponents; and drives possession. The Predators have the salary-cap space for him, but if they can't meet the Bruins' asking price in a trade, then expect general manager David Poile to search for a similar player somewhere else.
Potential matches: Loui Eriksson, Boston Bruins