When Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford dealt for former Oilers winger David Perron last week, it matched his longtime m.o. of making an acquisition well in advance of the NHL trade deadline. This season, the cutoff date for deals arrives March 2, but by that point, asking prices for meaningful players are likely to be even higher than the price Rutherford paid for Perron (a first-round draft pick). And for that reason, it's entirely likely Rutherford's colleagues will follow his lead and get on with their roster renovations sooner than later.
Which teams are more likely to be active on the trade front long before the deadline? In no particular order, here are three:
1. The Flyers. Philadelphia has lost five straight games and seven of their past 10, and they've got just two more wins than the Eastern Conference basement-dwelling Carolina Hurricanes. GM Ron Hextall has strongly hinted changes are on the horizon, and he's not talking about the company letterhead. When the Flyers make moves, they're usually big, and something needs to be done to either address Philly's moribund defense corps for the long term. Once again, some of the organization's young players may have to be shipped out to address their structural needs, but that just seems to be normalcy for Ed Snider's group.
2. The Wild. Winners of only five games since the start of December and just two since Dec. 13, Minnesota is about to enter a brutal stretch of their schedule – their next five games come against San Jose, Nashville, Pittsburgh, and the Blackhawks twice – and GM Chuck Fletcher may have no choice but to make some moves before it ends. That may or may not include the fate of head coach Mike Yeo, but how can Fletcher not make some type of move for a goaltender? The Wild's netminding simply hasn't been acceptable, and there are promising long-term options out there (including L.A.'s Martin Jones), even if the cost would be sizeable. They need help, and now.
3. The Devils. New Jersey has already cashiered its coach, but the return of GM Lou Lamoriello to the bench hasn't turned around the team's sagging fortunes: the Devils have the same number of wins (14) as the Sabres do, and Buffalo has a game in hand. The franchise's collection of veterans (including Jaromir Jagr) would be a help to a team with a much better chance at securing a playoff spot, and Lamoriello has little left to lose at this stage of the season. He'll be the first one to wish Jagr well in a new city once the price is right. The way the Devils have played this year, Jagr isn't the only player Lamoriello will listen to offers on – and the relatively modest asking prices for New Jersey's veterans will ensure the price should be right sometime soon.