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Trade Deadline Preview: Central Division needs, availability and trade bait

The Central Division has two major Stanley Cup contenders in Winnipeg and Nashville and some intriguing potential sellers in Chicago, Minnesota and Colorado.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Cap Space: $4.5 million

Needs: Weighed down by aging pieces of their fallen dynasty, the rebuilding Blackhawks must get younger. They want draft picks and/or prospects at every position.

Availability: Chicago’s UFA rentals aren’t high-end and thus won’t net anything exciting. The Hawks’ best pieces to dangle are veterans with term left on their deals. GM Stan Bowman might have to swallow some salary to facilitate a trade.

UFAs: M. Kruger (C), C. Kunitz (LW), C. Ward (G)

Trade Bait: There’s always a market for big centers capable of playing in a contending team’s middle-six. Artem Anisimov is 30 and past his prime, but he’d attract interest if Chicago eats some of his $4.55-million cap hit – likely 50 percent, given he has two years left on his deal. A clause in Anisimov’s contract lists only 10 teams to which he can be dealt – unless he waives it.

COLORADO AVALANCHE

Cap Space: $12.5 million

Needs: They yearn for secondary scorers. ‘The New Best Line in Hockey,’ Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, pots an incredible 48 percent of the Avs’ goals.

Availability: If GM Joe Sakic decides to get aggressive, he does have quite a stable of blueline prospects. Would he part with Cale Makar or Conor Timmins?

UFAs: S. Varlamov (G), C. Wilson (RW), P. Nemeth (D), G. Bourque (LW)

Trade Bait: As a true bubble team, the Avs might have to play chicken with the deadline and decide their path at the last minute based on the standings. If they’re in danger of missing out, they have to consider moving UFA Semyon Varlamov. He’d be a fine rental – a No. 1 for a goalie-starved team, an injury replacement or a luxury No. 2 for a juggernaut team.

DALLAS STARS

Cap Space: $0.5 million

Needs: The Stars are top-heavy. Their young forwards have failed to develop into legit top-six scorers, so Dallas needs more star power behind Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov.

Availability: GM Jim Nill likely has a green light to sacrifice high picks and prospects to fix this team immediately after CEO Jim Lites publicly slammed it.

UFAs: J. Spezza (C), M. Methot (D), R. Polak (D), T. Fedun (D)

Trade Bait: The Stars are reportedly shopping right winger Brett Ritchie. He’s 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, 25 and has a 16-goal season under his belt. His production has tanked since the start of last season, however. He’s not earning his $1.75-million cap hit. Maybe a team lacking size and snarl on the wings rolls the dice hoping a change of scenery sparks his game.

MINNESOTA WILD

Cap Space: $2.3 million

Needs: Mathew Dumba’s pectoral injury required surgery and might be a season-ender, so the Wild could use an injection of offense on their blueline should they remain in the playoff hunt.

Availability: It depends. If the Wild decide living on the playoff periphery doesn’t cut it anymore, they could auction off a UFA veteran like Eric Staal.

UFAs: E. Staal (C), N. Prosser (D), M. Hendricks (LW), A. Stalock (G)

Trade Bait: The Wild are chasing a seventh straight playoff berth but haven’t escaped the second round during that run. If they get in, it’ll be as a low seed again. Perhaps GM Paul Fenton should move backward in the name of going forward. Charlie Coyle can play center or wing and carries a reasonable $3.2-million cap hit through next season. He’ll have suitors.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

Cap Space: $7.3 million

Needs: The Predators score plenty but lack the superstar forwards of their fellow Cup contenders. If they don’t want to chase a complex home-run trade, they can go the rental route. Wayne Simmonds or Micheal Ferland would add scoring punch while also giving Nashville more size.

Availability: In pure win-now mode, the Preds can put their first-round pick in play as they did last year to acquire Ryan Hartman.

UFAs: A. Bitetto (D), Z. Rinaldo (LW)

Trade Bait: GM David Poile knows his team is one of the NHL’s best – and that it will likely have to go through the Jets in Round 2 again. Nashville can’t match Winnipeg’s high-ceiling talent at forward. Should Poile decide to chase a top-tier upgrade, someone on the Matt Duchene/Mark Stone level, would it require sacrificing top forward prospect Eeli Tolvanen?

ST. LOUIS BLUES

Cap Space: $1.5 million

Needs: If the Blues sell, they should seek first-round picks in hopes of drafting a new generation of stars – or acquire good young players at all positions with term left on their deals.

Availability: No team has a better list of impact players to offer, from right-shot D-men Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko to big center Brayden Schenn.

UFAs: P. Maroon (LW), C. Gunnarsson (D), J. Bouwmeester (D), J. Nolan (LW)

Trade Bait: Only Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares have more goals than Vladimir Tarasenko over the past five seasons. But Tarasenko, enduring a career-worst year, carries a $7.5-million cap hit through 2022-23, and his no-trade clause kicks in July 1. He’s 27. If the Blues don’t believe they’ll be Cup contenders until his decline years, should they move him now?

WINNIPEG JETS

Cap Space: $5.7 million

Needs: Losing second-line center Paul Stastny in free agency still stings. The Jets need to refill that role. They’re a deadlier team when deploying Bryan Little as an elite No. 3 instead of a No. 2.

Availability: The Jets’ stockpile of prospects and picks is nearly unrivalled. They could spare this year’s first-rounder or a top-five prospect and barely feel it.

UFAs: T. Myers (D), B. Tanev (LW), B. Chiarot (D)

Trade Bait: Many teams would love a high-ceiling goal-scoring prospect such as Kristian Vesalainen. The Jets, a win-now operation loaded on the wings, can spare him in the name of chasing a Stanley Cup. He’s enjoying a breakout season split between AHL Manitoba and KHL Jokerit. His return-to-KHL privileges only apply to this season.

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