Yesterday, we examined how the slow starts of several Eastern Conference teams could threaten their playoff hopes and spark some roster shuffling in this shortened season.
Here's a look at several struggling Western Conference teams that could also appear in the trade rumor mill if their fortunes aren't soon reversed.
Nashville Predators (2-2-3) The Predators may be a .500 (points percentage) team, but their 12 goals entering February tied them with the Los Angeles Kings as the NHL's lowest-scoring team. Team captain Shea Weber recently acknowledged his team's scoring had to improve.
The loss of Patric Hornqvist (knee injury) compounds the Predators’ scoring woes.
GM David Poile could shop around for an affordable scorer, but rival clubs would likely come asking for promising defenseman Ryan Ellis in return.
For now, expect Poile and coach Barry Trotz to seek an offensive solution from within their organization.
Columbus Blue Jackets (2-5-1) Since beginning the season with a shootout win over the Predators, the Blue Jackets have dropped six of their past seven games.
Defense was part of the problem, as they were out-shot in half of their losses. In recent games, however, they've reduced their shots-against. Goaltending hasn't been an issue, as Sergei Bobrovsky – Thursday night’s disaster aside – has been a welcome upgrade between the pipes.
Scoring, however, remains their biggest issue. Without Rick Nash, who they traded away last summer, the Jackets lack a scoring star to lead their offense. Management will show some patience with their rebuilt roster, but if the scoring doesn't improve, they should go shopping for help.
Colorado Avalanche (3-4-0) A promising 2-1 start quickly gave way to three straight losses before the Avalanche rallied Thursday with a 6-3 win over the Calgary Flames.
A season-ending knee injury to Steve Downie and head and leg injuries to team captain Gabriel Landeskog contributed to those losses. They also miss the contributions of still-unsigned free agent Ryan O'Reilly.
Management insists O'Reilly won't be traded, but it's being speculated they're quietly shopping the 21-year-old. If O'Reilly isn't re-signed soon and the Avalanche continue to struggle, the team may have little choice but to explore trade options.
Calgary Flames (1-3-1) Early concerns about the Flames offense proved justified, as their 14 goals entering February rank among the lowest in the league.
The lack of production from Jarome Iginla (three assists) and Mike Cammalleri (two assists) has been a significant factor in the Flames slow start. The duo must start scoring soon if their club is to gain ground in the standings.
Iginla's eligibility for unrestricted free agency this summer remains an issue. He and GM Jay Feaster won't discuss negotiations with the press, but if the Flames keep struggling, Iginla's trade status will become a prime topic in Calgary.
Phoenix Coyotes (2-4-1) Coming off last season's performance as Western Conference finalists for the first time in franchise history, the Coyotes hoped to build upon that success. Unfortunately, they managed only two wins in their first seven games.
Playoff hero Mike Smith dropped his first two starts before suffering a lower-body injury. Backup Jason Labarbera and call-up Chad Johnson subsequently carried the Coyotes to a 2-2-1 record in Smith's absence, but they'll need him in top form soon to remain in playoff contention.
The Coyotes reacquired Matthew Lombardi from Toronto to add depth at center, but he's now sidelined four-to-six weeks with an upper body injury. That could resurrect trade rumors linking Keith Yandle with Boston’s David Krejci.
Dallas Stars (2-4-1) After starting the season 2-1-1, the Stars have since dropped three straight games.
Despite the off-season addition of Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney and Derek Roy, the Stars remain among the lowest scoring teams in the league. The recent re-signing of Jamie Benn should provide their offense with a much-needed boost.
A more pressing concern is their defensive play. The Stars were out-shot in all seven games and while they've worked to reduce their shots-against, they could turn to the trade market if the problem persists.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla's Korner.