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.
Between the Ducks' surprising surge, the Sharks' recent struggles and the Kings' up-and-down results in defense of their title, the Pacific Division has seen its share of intrigue this season. All five teams could conceivably make the playoffs, setting up an exciting race to the finish. Here's how the Pacific's teams can optimize their rosters at the trade deadline for the final push:
The problem: The Ducks suffer from the same problem they have had for several seasons now: forward depth. Nearly all of their secondary forwards have been the beneficiaries of extraordinary luck this season. Players such as Saku Koivu and Daniel Winnik, who average more time on ice per game than Bobby Ryan, are best suited for a third-line role. The unsustainable play of Koivu, Winnik and Andrew Cogliano -- combined with the outright struggles of Matt Beleskey (seven points in 30 games) and Nick Bonino (10 points in 23 games) -- create a problem. Even the legendary Teemu Selanne's play has fallen off slightly. The Ducks have been an opportunistic team in 2013 -- Francois Beauchemin and Sheldon Souray have played wonderfully on defense -- but they rely too heavily on Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry for sustainable offense. Anaheim needs a scoring threat who can play second-line minutes and help it generate offense on a more consistent basis.
The fix: Clarke MacArthur, LW, Maple Leafs (4.7 GVT)
While Derek Roy or Mike Ribeiro could be in play, the wing should be a greater concern. If the Maple Leafs drop lower in the standings, or decide to focus on re-signing Tyler Bozak instead, pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) MacArthur would be the perfect fit on the Ducks' second line. He has driven play for the similarly possession-starved Leafs, and the connection between the two clubs with Brian Burke back in Anaheim is difficult to ignore. MacArthur's gritty, two-way play fits flawlessly with the Ducks' style. If the Leafs start to drop in the standings, he could be a good target.
Los Angeles Kings
The problem: In a way, the Kings are the antithesis of their Southern California rivals; they consistently outshoot their opponent, but only recently have they started to light the lamp with regularity. If this team has a weakness, it is in the back end of its defense. The biggest problem has been pending UFA Rob Scuderi, who has frequently been dominated on the ice. For a team that has few flaws, finding a blueliner who can log defensive-oriented minutes and bolster this club's depth could solidify the Kings' chances at a second Stanley Cup.
The fix: Jordan Leopold, D, Sabres (1.0 GVT)
The list of potential rental UFA defensemen is slim, but Leopold is one player who stands out. The Sabres will likely entertain selling Leopold and Robyn Regehr, and while either could be a target for the Kings, the former has undeniably been better this season. Compared with Regehr, Leopold's GVT is a full goal higher, he has been better at helping Buffalo's shot differential and his cap hit is more than $1 million less. The Kings will be in the market for any defensive defenseman, and Leopold makes sense as a low-cost, low-risk acquisition.
San Jose Sharks
The problem: Conventional wisdom might dictate that the Sharks need offensive firepower. They rank, after all, 28th in the league in goals for per game. The reason for that descent has not been a lack of talent -- an unlucky team shooting percentage has masked the high-level play of San Jose's top-six forwards, as well as that of power-play quarterback Dan Boyle. What the Sharks could improve, however, is their bottom-six forwards. San Jose has been getting little offense from players such as Michal Handzus, T.J. Galiardi, Andrew Desjardins, Adam Burish and, to a lesser extent, Tommy Wingels and Scott Gomez. This makes them far too easy to match up against, especially on the road, when coaches can dictate who goes against their elite top six. Consider that the Sharks average about half a goal per game more at home. They need to do a better job at driving play with all of their lines.
The fix: Joel Ward, RW, Capitals (5.5 GVT)
Washington's Ward would be an excellent acquisition for this club. Although he is signed for two more seasons, the Capitals might be willing to move his contract if they fall out of the playoff race. Ward has provided a positive presence, regularly matching up against opponents' top forwards in a heavy defensive role. His playoff track record is also excellent, not only offensively (his memorable 2011 run with Nashville) but also in providing strong possession numbers given his tough minutes. That was especially evident during last season's playoff run with Washington, and it is something the Sharks can utilize.
The problem: Dallas loaded up its top-six forwards, but a lengthy injury to Ray Whitney, as well as the early Jamie Benn contract situation, sent the Stars' season awry. Now, the club has already dealt Brenden Morrow and might potentially trade pending UFAs Jaromir Jagr and Derek Roy. The forward corps stands to change moving forward. The Stars have holes all over, but they clearly believe in their defense, as was evident when they dealt Mark Fistric away before the season started. That created opportunities for players they like, such as Brenden Dillon, Jordie Benn and Jamie Oleksiak.
The fix: Josh Bailey, LW/C, Islanders (2.9 GVT)
It is difficult to imagine the Stars "buying" in the traditional sense, but if they were to acquire anybody, it would likely be a young forward under team control. A change-of-scenery type of acquisition makes sense, and Bailey is an intriguing player. Should the Islanders decide to give up on the former ninth overall pick, Dallas could be a nice fit. The Stars could give him an expanded, all-situations role and, most importantly, as he is a restricted free agent (RFA) this offseason, his rights would still belong to Dallas. He is the kind of young player with potential the Stars would want and could conceivably acquire in any transaction.
The problem: The Coyotes need offense. Recently shut out for three consecutive games, cash-strapped Phoenix is in the unenviable position of needing top-end forwards without being able to pay for them. As such, cheap rentals or young RFAs-to-be are in play for Phoenix, which now has the benefit of stud Oliver Ekman-Larsson under contract until 2019 at an incredibly affordable rate. Still, the Coyotes need to improve their goal scoring in front of him, particularly on the power play, where they rank 23rd in the league with a 15 percent power-play conversion rate.
The fix: Tyler Kennedy, RW, Penguins (0.6 GVT)
The Caps' Eric Fehr could be an option, but a better play for Phoenix might be to try to nab upcoming RFA Tyler Kennedy away from the Penguins. While the Pens may want to hold him to include in a bigger trade (like for Jarome Iginla) Kennedy has never truly found his niche in Pittsburgh, frequently changing roles and linemates. Plus, he might be falling out of favor. With Pascal Dupuis, Matt Cooke and Craig Adams all needing new contracts, and Kennedy's offensive GVT slipping this season, it seems inevitable that the Penguins will not bring him back. Enter Phoenix, which could give him the consistent top-six role he might need to blossom. Kennedy can play on the power play if given the chance (14 power-play points just two seasons ago) and is a scrappy type of forward who fits the Coyotes' style of play. Better than a true rental, Kennedy could be a fit in Phoenix for years to come. But it's not clear they have the trade bait to entice the Pens.
A version of this story originally appeared at ESPN Insider .