As the Trade Deadline approaches, GM's around the NHL are gearing up for one of the most exciting days of the NHL schedule. It is the day where teams must decide their fate and either give the fans hope or preserve it for the years ahead.
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While teams decide their future, so will GM's. It's an emotional, nerve racking affair for them; a last chance at redeeming their mistakes in the off-season. The pressure that resides in this event is what often pushes GM's to make a pitch for a rent-a-player, which can all-too-often damage the future. Just ask the Atlanta Thrashers who dealt considerable youth for Keith Tchakuk, or the Nashville Predators who dealt a core of youngsters to the Flyers for often injured Peter Forsberg. Where are they now? Well, nowhere near the team they got traded to.
Still, teams are willing to take that chance, and give a volt of energy to fan bases that crave it come April. Perhaps it is what makes the day so special, the consequences and rewards can be dire or fulfilling. Suspense is a word best suited for February 26th.
With many questions swirling around numerous players, I’ve put together a list of teams that I think will be buyers and sellers.
*NOTE*: The Salary Cap is currently set at 50.3M USD.
Detroit Red Wings - 46.6M cap total: The cherry of the NHL, a team that instantly defines the word "powerhouse". While they are solid in all positions of the game, there’s no such thing as enough firepower or defense. You can bet that the Wings will be in search of some assistance for the playoffs. With a recent 6-game slide (and counting), GM Ken Holland will surely flex his options a little more.
Anaheim Ducks - 51.4M cap total: While the Ducks have recently re-signed Teemu Selanne and Scott Neidermeyer, they are rumored to be looking for more goal scoring up front. The defending Cup champions are slowly forming to a similar core of last season, and are once again amongst one of the Cup favorites.
Dallas Stars - 48.5M cap total: With a strong defense under medical attention, the Stars could find themselves looking for some help on the blue line or even some more firepower upfront. As it stands, they have the best shot at catching the Wings for 1st in the Western Conference.
San Jose Sharks - 40.6M cap total: The Sharks are among the elite teams in the NHL, while their defense and goaltending is solid, some extra offense would lend a big impact. With lots of cap space at their disposal, the Sharks may end up making a blockbuster deal to make them serious Cup contenders.
N.Y. Rangers - 51.0M cap total: When the dust settled, the Rangers were expected to be among the best teams in the Eastern Conference after key UFA signings in the off-season. They now sit at 8th place in the East. Some improvements will be in full force come Feb.26th, and I expect them to be one of the liveliest teams personally.
Pittsburgh Penguins - 43.4M cap total: With the injury of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin has erupted into the team leader, making the Pens a team to fear. Adding some offense and defense would help the clubs chances of taking the next step to the Stanley Cup. Of course, a returning Crosby will help their case as well.
New Jersey Devils - 47.1 M cap total: While the Devils host a competitive club, they still lack serious firepower (156 GF – 3rd worst in the conference). Lou Lamoriello will have to work his magic if he wants his team to go deep into the playoffs.
Ottawa Senators - 47.2M cap total: With the recent acquisitions of Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore, the Sens have gotten their secondary scoring they lacked and have bulked up defensively in the process. However, they still lack solid and consistent goaltending. If Ottawa can snag a veteran goaltender for the playoffs, they will be a major force to be reckoned with.
Montreal Canadiens - 48M cap total: An underdog team that was written off the top 16 before the season even started. They stand tied for 1st in the Eastern Conference for points (tied with the Sens) and have seen some serious offense upfront, but only from one line consistently. Bob Gainey will be looking for more balanced scoring; a big, powerful forward would be ideal if you ask me. But with Gainey, you never know, the Habs may very well stay put.
Toronto Maple Leafs - 49.3M cap total: Hard to not put them first on the list, they are amongst the basement dwellers of the NHL. Much of their fire sale depends on the Big Swede and if he is willing to waive his no-trade clause. If he does, expect a much younger and promising core ending the 07/08 NHL season.
N.Y. Islanders - 43.4M cap total: While the beginning of the season started well, they have been descending a downward spiral into the abyss since then. It would be in the Isles best interest to unload some veteran talent and start over next season.
Florida Panthers - 46.1M cap total: The Panthers are rumored to be dealing Olli Jokinen – a trade that would undoubtedly debut a rebuilding phase for Florida.
Los Angeles Kings - 46.6M cap total: The Kings have been in the NHL basement all season long, with a defense core full of pending free agents; they will sell for picks and prospects and aim for youngster Steven Stamkos in the draft.
Edmonton Oilers - 49.6M cap total: After losing Shawn Horcoff to an injury, the Oilers have little to no hope of attaining the playoffs; it would be in their best interest to unload their veterans and attain some young talent on a season lost.
Tampa Bay Lightning - 43.8M cap total: The Lightning host one of the best trio’s in the NHL with Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St.Louis. However, their lack of defense and inconsistency between the pipes has landed them in the basement. Unloading one, or even two, of the big three would be a great start at rebuilding for the future. GM Jay Feaster will have some NTC's to work around though.
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