The moves they make, or don’t make, at the trade deadline could be the difference between playoff hockey or April golf for these teams.
With the trade deadline approaching, and the playoff races heating up some teams are starting to take stock of their season. Some bottom-feeder teams are going into sell mode, but these teams right on the playoff bubble need to make bold moves in order to get into the playoffs.
Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings, in case you haven’t noticed, are a weird bunch. Here’s a team that wins five in a row and allows just three goals in those games while registering three shutouts. Then it loses back-to-back 5-0 games before putting six past the Florida Panthers. The Kings have the NHL just where they want them. Nobody can figure this team out and that’s just the way they like it. All the easier for them to sneak up on everyone in the Western Conference and kill them in their sleep. When the Kings won their first Stanley Cup in 2012, they acquired Jeff Carter four days before the deadline for Jack Johnson and a first-round pick. When they won in 2014, they got both Marian Gaborik and Brayden McNabb on deadline day. The Kings should already have the trade deadline acquisition of the year when they get Jonathan Quick back from injury, but clearly this is a team that has the experience it takes to win, but somehow needs an infusion of hunger to do it. So there you have it Dean Lombardi. Make it happen. (Ken Campbell)
It’s gotta be Philadelphia right now. The Flyers are just on the cusp of a wild card spot, but the Islanders have been gaining serious ground lately and look like a much more dangerous team overall. Philly could really use help in all three positional places right now, so any additions would be a boost, but I feel like a major move would also send a message that management believes in the team. And let’s not forget: Philadelphia played Washington real hard last year in the playoffs, so this team could go into the post-season with some confidence, assuming the Flyers do get in. And with a ton of prospects in the pipeline, GM Ron Hextall does have the assets to make a deal happen. (Ryan Kennedy)
Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings are one of the last physical, plodding teams out there. If they don’t make the playoff now, that style of play may be out of rotation for a decade. We all know what kind of damage the Kings can do even if they just sneak into the playoffs. But to get there, they must find a way to get some additional scoring support, while shedding salary — in order to be able to sign Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson in the summer. (Brian Costello)
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning have a real opportunity to make noise in the putrid Atlantic Division if they can just sneak into the playoffs. Their blueline desperately needs another mobile top-four guy, however. The Bolts have been so deficient on ‘D’ that coach Jon Cooper has been forced to split up the dynamite pair of Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman to spread the wealth throughout the lineup. Landing some legit help at that position via trade could give the Lightning the boost they need to sneak into the playoffs. If they can crawl into an Atlantic Division slot, they’d have as strong a chance as any team to make a run to the conference final. Plus we know Steven Stamkos returns in about a month. (Matt Larkin)
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings are a single point ahead of the Flames for the final wild-card spot in the West, but Los Angeles has managed to keep pace with the rest of the bubble teams without starting goaltender Jonathan Quick, and Jeff Carter as the only offensive weapon who’s really clicking.
Kings GM Dean Lombardi hasn’t been afraid to make bold moves in the past, and this might be the time for him to pull another rabbit out of the hat. There’s no way to land someone like, say, Matt Duchene, but going out and acquiring one or two middle-six scorers could be exactly the way for Los Angeles to hit their stride in the post-season. Thomas Vanek could be a solid option, or maybe even someone like Patrick Eaves.
The Kings have won the Stanley Cup as a low seed before, and it’d be hard to count this roster out if they squeaked into the playoffs as a wild-card team, especially if they add a touch more firepower. (Jared Clinton)