Hockey Prospectus is taking a look at the NHL division by division and suggesting ways each team should approach the forthcoming trade deadline.
April 3 marks the NHL's trade deadline, and every team in the league -- both the playoff-bound and those likely headed to the draft lottery -- has needs to address. To prepare for the final flurry of transactions, we're going team by team to see which players could help fill some holes on contenders or provide some foundational stability for teams building for next season and beyond.
One statistic you'll come across in the analysis below is GVT, the main player-valuation metric used by Hockey Prospectus. All numbers here are accurate as of the morning of March 25.
Like most of the NHL, the Atlantic Division is a muddle that may not make itself fully clear until the last week or two of the truncated season. The Penguins are the odds-on favorites to walk away with the division's -- if not the Eastern Conference's -- top seed, but the other four teams could shake out in any order.
New York Rangers
The problem: Coming into the season, the Rangers were thought by many to be a top contender for the Stanley Cup, in large part due to an abundance of strength on the blue line in front of their all-world netminder, "King" Henrik Lundqvist. Not so fast. As the team has struggled to keep its head above the postseason cut line, the blue line has sagged. Between a puck to the eye for Marc Staal and relatively predictable offensive regression for last year's breakout hero Michael Del Zotto, the Rangers don't have a single blueliner among the top 30 in offensive GVT, which has contributed to the team's 29th-place ranking among all teams in goals scored per game.
The fix: Dan Boyle, D, Sharks (3.8 GVT)
Although his hefty cap number may also require the Blueshirts to surrender an NHL piece, Boyle would address the team's woeful attack both at even strength and on the power play (28th). With Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi able to log the heavy defensive minutes for John Tortorella, Boyle could see a late career mini-resurgence on Broadway playing a more sheltered role. With the Rangers beset by poor puck luck -- among the worst in even-strength shooting percentage -- much like the Kings last season, a steady puck mover from the back could be just the tonic this team needs to reclaim its place among the game's elite teams.
The problem: The Penguins have been so hot it's hard to say right now that they have any real needs. The Pens have the scored the most goals per game in the East (3.46 per game) and have allowed the fifth-fewest goals per game (2.54), giving them a goal differential (plus-0.92 goals per game) that is tops in the conference. And they aren't just getting favorable bounces: The Pens are sixth in shots taken (30.3) and fifth in shots allowed (28.2) per game, giving them the fourth-best shot differential (plus-2.1).
The fix: Adrian Aucoin, D, Blue Jackets (-0.6 GVT)
Every year, rumors swirl about the Pens landing the best available scoring winger for Crosby's line. But after acquiring Brenden Morrow from the Stars, it's hard to suggest that the league's best offense should trade for still more offense. Since it's impossible to trade for "health for Crosby, Malkin and Letang", a good Plan B could be to target Adrian Aucoin. You can never have too much depth on the blue line, and the veteran Aucoin would provide experience and solid play on both sides of the puck.
New Jersey Devils
The problem: Former captain Zach Parise left via free agency, and Martin Brodeur hasn't been healthy, yet the New Jersey Devils remain one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Despite an .896 team save percentage thus far, the Devils are middle of the pack in goals allowed, thanks to an Eastern Conference-best 24.7 shots allowed per game. Assuming Brodeur returns to health, the Devils' biggest need would be some help putting the puck in the net.
The fix: Jason Pominville, RW, Sabres (5.1 GVT)
Pominville has a year left on his contract, but he is rumored to be on the trading block along with most of the Buffalo Sabres. He is an underappreciated two-way player who can provide some scoring depth for the Devils and still play a responsible defensive game. Pominville also typically draws more penalties than he takes. A player like this would be valuable to a Devils team that is tied for the fourth-most power-play goals allowed this season. His cap hit is $5.3 million, which the Devils have room for this year and next.
New York Islanders
The problem: Even though the Isles have more money sunk into goaltending than any other team in the NHL, the team's biggest trouble spot remains in the blue paint. With Rick DiPietro still unable to fulfill his early promise (yes, he once had promise, I swear) and Tim Thomas only a paper Islander, Evgeni Nabokov has worked the lion's share of the available minutes, with only four other netminders leaguewide having seen more ice time in 2013. Of the top 10 workhorses, Nabokov is the second-worst in save percentage, ninth in GVT and eighth in GAA. With Nabokov set to become a UFA this summer, GM Garth Snow & Co. do not seem to trust any of the young goalies in the system to take over yet, and they should not be looking to give the 37-year-old Nabokov an extension.
The fix: Jean-Sebastien Giguere, G, Avalanche (0.7 GVT)
Giguere is an attractive option for the cap-conscious Isles, as he has an extra year remaining at a very team-friendly $1.5 million salary, allowing them to walk away from the aging Nabokov. Only two years younger than the Russian incumbent, Giguere's tutoring ability should also be of interest to the future Brooklynites, as he has experience mentoring young goalies (Jonas Hiller, James Reimer, Semyon Varlamov) while proving more than capable of solid play for extended stretches himself. While he was a below-replacement level goalie for two of the past three seasons per GVT, once you remove the shootout component, he has only one stinker (2010-11) on his resume. For this team, that would be an upgrade.
The problem: The Flyers have been one of the most disappointing teams in the league during this lockout-shortened season. They haven't scored as they did last season, but their biggest issue has been on the other side of the puck. They have gotten an .888 Sv% from their goalies, good for third-worst in the Eastern Conference. Ilya Bryzgalov may deserve some of the blame, but not all. Bad luck, defensive coverage and Bryzgalov's heavy workload (league-high 28 games started) are all factors. If the Flyers decide do something about their goaltending, it might be easier to do in the offseason, unless it's a smaller move for a backup. Help on the blue line might be easier to acquire at the deadline.
The fix: Ladislav Smid, D, Oilers (1.1 GVT)
Since the Flyers are currently on the outside of the playoff chase looking in, a lower-risk, smaller deal might make more sense than trading away significant assets for a rental player who may or may not help them make the playoffs. Smid could be a good fit if he becomes available. He plays against tough competition, is on the ice for a lot of defensive zone faceoffs, and has performed well in that role. He won't light up the score sheet, but would be a big help to the Flyers defensively.
A version of this story originally appeared at ESPN Insider .
Ryan Wagman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
You can contact Ryan by clicking here or click here to see Ryan's other articles.
Brian Macdonald is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
You can contact Brian by clicking here or click here to see Brian's other articles.