The Anaheim Ducks may be running away with the division title, but it’s the recent surge by the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings that is the story right now. Following eight straight wins, Los Angeles has gone from the outside looking in to nipping at the heels of the Vancouver Canucks for second place in the Pacific.
And if the wild-card race wasn’t tight enough in the Western Conference with the play of the Minnesota and Winnipeg in the Central, San Jose and Calgary only a breath back of the Wild for the final wild-card berth.
At the bottom of the table sits Edmonton, set for yet another year of building for the future, and Arizona, shedding weight in favor of a youth movement in hopes the team can become a consistent contender in the near future. Both squads have players that are ready to move, and it could end up being they are dealt within the division.
From the outset of the season, Anaheim has fought off injuries to their goaltenders, blueline, and their two star players -- Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf -- to stay atop the Pacific Division. There's not much that needs to change in Anaheim, but they could use a few pieces if they want to get back to being true Stanley Cup contenders.
The Ducks also have several free agents that could draw interest on the open market if the team is willing to part ways with them for the chance at getting a true top-six scoring forward to play alongside Perry and Getzlaf. It's up to GM Bob Murray to pull the trigger on cashing in on the Ducks' good season, though.
Likely to move: Beleskey’s name has been mentioned as a player GM Bob Murray might move if contract talks aren’t headed in the right direction.
Needs: Anaheim could use a mobile, experienced defenseman to add to their young group and a scoring winger to play with Perry and Getzlaf – the Dany Heatley experiment failed.
Salary Cap room: $4.4 million
The Canucks had one of their worst seasons in recent memory in 2013-14, but they’ve rebounded very nicely. They trail the Anaheim Ducks by 10 points and sit three points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings. It’s pretty unlikely the Canucks miss out on the playoffs at this point, so all their moves will be geared towards becoming a real contender.
In order to do that, the Canucks are going to need to secure some depth scoring and strengthen their defense. They’re not the kind of contender that’s in a position to add small pieces – whatever they add, it’s going to have to be big enough to put the Canucks over the top because they’re not there quite yet.
Likely to move: Once again, the Canucks are chockfull of goaltenders. Between starter Ryan Miller, Eddie Lack and Markstrom, Vancouver could do with sending a goaltender packing in exchange for some help in their lineup.
Needs: Depth scoring and a depth defenseman could be enough to round out the Canucks roster and win a round or two.
Possibilities:Jan Hejda (COL), Keith Yandle (ARI), Curtis Glencross (CGY)
Salary Cap room: $575k
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings are coming off eight wins in a row and have put themselves right into the mix in the Pacific Division. GM Dean Lombardi isn’t one to stand pat and he made that very evident with his deal with Carolina for Andrej Sekera. With the Sekera acquisition and how tight Los Angeles is to the salary cap, there likely isn’t much else coming from the Kings.
Likely to move: Don’t expect the Kings to be very active at the deadline. They’ve made their big trade and there won’t be much else coming.
Needs: Cap space is going to be of paramount importance to the Kings. They’ve got a number of big name RFAs and some UFAs they might look to re-sign.
Possibilities: Sekera was the biggest possibility for Los Angeles, and they went out and got him. Lombardi remains the undisputed trade deadline champion.
Hot rumor: The Kings cashed in on the one major rumor about them.
Salary Cap room: $2.6 million
The Flames have been extremely surprising this season and they’re riding a hot start to the season all the way into playoff contention. If they hold on to a playoff spot, they’re not likely going to get very deep into the postseason. They’ve been riding puck luck, and it would be better for the team to keep building for the future.
Calgary’s biggest asset right now is youth. They’re not going to rid themselves of any pieces that could mortgage their future. The Flames aren’t a win now team – they’re a build for the future and compete for several years club.
Likely to move: Glencross is going to be on the move. He has submitted his list of teams he’d accept a trade to and he has suitors. Before the deadline or on deadline day, Glencross isn’t going to be a Flame much longer.
Needs: They’ve reportedly discussed bringing Mike Richards on board, but they could use top-six scoring more.
Possibilities: Mike Richards (LA), Ryan O’Reilly (COL), Antoine Vermette (ARI)
Hot rumor: Glencross has been connected to the Washington Capitals by Andrew Walker of Sportsnet's Fan 590.
Salary Cap room: $12.98 million
San Jose Sharks
The once perennial contending Sharks are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons. The team shuffled the deck big time in the offseason by stripping Joe Thornton of the captaincy and changing their leadership structure, but they also sacrificed some depth scoring to bring in toughness.
The top-end talent on San Jose is there, but they’ve always lacked the depth players to put them over the top. They’re not going to shock many people in the playoffs, so setting themselves up for the future and getting back to perennial contender is the goal.
Prominent UFAs:Tyler Kennedy ($2.35 million), James Sheppard ($1.3 million), Andrew Desjardins ($750k), John Scott ($700k), Matt Irwin ($1 million), Scott Hannan ($1 million), Antti Niemi ($4 million)
Likely to move: Niemi is a UFA at the end of the season, but trading your starting netminder at the deadline is a risky move. Draft picks would be the most likely to move.
Needs: A puck moving defenseman.
Possibilities: Mike Green (WSH), Jeff Petry (EDM)
Hot rumor: San Jose has been shopping Kennedy, Desjardins, Sheppard and McGinn, writes Curtis Pashelka of the San Jose Mercury News.
Salary Cap room: $5.05 million
Arizona might be the team that is best positioned as a seller. The team is getting younger and they’ve made that very evident. With that, they’ve got some of the best trade chips of any team heading into the deadline.
For teams looking at depth down the middle – or depth forwards in general – Antoine Vermette is very clearly available. If it’s a puck moving blueliner that GMs are after, Keith Yandle is available. Zybnek Michalek, though he’s injured, also gives the Coyotes a physical depth defenseman to deal.
If the youth movement is underway, the Coyotes have the pieces to build off of.
Likely to move: Vermette, Yandle and Michalek should all be dealt by the time the deadline comes.
Needs: Picks and prospects that are close to NHL ready.
Possibilities: Moving all three of their big UFAs should stock the cupboard for the draft, then it’s up to GM Don Maloney and team to make the right picks.
Hot rumor: Michalek was almost dealt before an upper-body injury derailed the deal, reports RDS' Renaud Lavoie.
Salary Cap room: $10.45 million
Another year, another bottom-feeding Edmonton team. Eventually, the Oilers are going to be ready to compete in the future, and to get there they’re going to need to bolster an abysmal blueline.
The Oilers have so many great offensive prospects that it’s hard to believe none have been shipped out in favor of defensive help. This might be the year, though, as the team has reportedly talked off and on about moving out either Jordan Eberle or Nail Yakupov. Moving one – or both – could bring back enough to set the Oilers up for an incredible future.
Likely to move: Petry is going to be dealt and he should get a good return. Bank on it.
Needs: A young goaltender and defensive help. They need both big time.
Possibilities: Andrej Sekera set the price for puck moving blueliners, so Petry will fetch the same or more.
Hot rumor: There are a ton of teams who could use Petry. Highest bidder will land him.
Salary Cap room: $4.27 million