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.
The Northeast Division features five teams, four of which are likely to make the postseason. Boston is the standout and the second-best team in the East (behind only Pittsburgh), but the other three -- Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto -- could move into the conversation with the right deadline deals. With April 3 approaching, the Northeast will be a buying division, with nearly all of the clubs (minus Buffalo) believing that this could be their season. Here's how the Northeast teams can optimize their rosters at the trade deadline for the final push:
The problem: The Senators' ability to safely remain in playoff position despite injuries to Erik Karlsson, Craig Anderson and Jason Spezza has been nothing short of incredible. That said, they still need help on the defensive end. The Sens are allowing the second-most shots on goal in the NHL and could use a big, tough, stay-at-home defenseman to block shots and throw his weight around. Ottawa's goaltending has been one of its strengths, and with Anderson coming back, it could be argued that it has three above-average netminders. A decrease in shots faced, even if by just a few per game, could help make the Senators a more serious threat come playoff time.
The fix: Ryan O'Byrne, D, Avalanche (1.1 GVT)
Generally speaking, there is always an abundance of average stay-at-home defensemen bouncing from team to team at the deadline. One who could be made available at a small price is Colorado's O'Byrne, who will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound defenseman has blocked more than 100 shots the past two seasons and has been often used against opponents' best lines. While the Senators' penalty kill has been strong this season, it doesn't hurt to have another penalty-killing defenseman. The 28-year-old O'Byrne has been one of the top killers in Colorado since his arrival in 2010.
The problem: To be fair, the Bruins don't really have "problems," so to speak. They are one of the best offensive, defensive, possession and scoring teams in the NHL. Their roster is filled with many of the NHL's best all-around players, and they have depth to boot. Boston can win the Stanley Cup this season, but if the Bruins are going to match up with the likes of Pittsburgh and Chicago, they'll need to stack as much talent as possible at forward. The "problem" is more of a need to approach the deadline with the mentality of improving to increase the chances of winning the Cup this season rather than being overly shrewd in thinking about the future.
The fix: Jarome Iginla, RW, Flames (4.7 GVT)
Getting the most talented player available, even if there's a chance of overpaying, is the best "fix" for this likely contender. If Iginla is willing to go to the Bruins, he could add depth, scoring, toughness and leadership to a team already chock-full of those attributes. Iginla may be 35 years old, but his scoring rate has not dropped dramatically despite playing on a bad Flames team. While the Flames veteran hasn't been the most dominating possession player over the past few seasons, the scoring he would bring to the Bruins' second or third line would far outweigh any negatives.
The problem: The Sabres once again have a fairly talented roster that, when actually put on the ice, has failed to meet expectations. They should have contended for a playoff spot but instead have been one of the league's worst teams. Buffalo lacks puck-possession forwards and does not have a two-way center on a top line to balance out offensive-minded centers Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis. The Sabres are also heavy on one-dimensional wingers such as Drew Stafford and Ville Leino. The team's core star players are aging, and top-prospect Mikhail Grigorenko is at least one year away from being an impact player.
The fix: Alexander Burmistrov, C, Jets (3.0 GVT)
The Sabres have missed the playoffs in three of the past five seasons and have reached the point where it probably makes sense to blow up the team as opposed to retooling it. So blow it up. Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek are all entering the final year of their contracts next season and could be attractive to clubs that feel they have a chance to win now. In looking to create a new core of players, the Sabres should focus on getting prospects, draft picks and young players who appear to be on the brink of breaking out. One of those could be Winnipeg's Burmistrov, who has not scored many points in the NHL but could be the two-way center Buffalo needs if put in the right situation. If the Jets can get an asset from the Sabres to help them make the playoffs now, they just may part with their former first-round pick.
The problem: The Canadiens have surprised many by rising from the bottom of the East last season to near the top of the standings this campaign. The Habs still have holes, however, including a lack of scoring at forward. They've relied heavily on defensemen Andrei Markov and P.K. Subban to provide goals. While adding Michael Ryder helped their offense, they'll need more firepower if they expect to compete with the likes of Pittsburgh and Boston in the postseason.
The fix: Vinny Prospal, LW, Blue Jackets (5.3 GVT)
Like the Bruins, Montreal should target a veteran scorer who gives them a chance to win this season. The Canadiens have one of the deeper prospect pools in the NHL and could afford to make a sacrifice for a scorer such as Columbus's Prospal. While the winger may be 38 years old, he's still a consistent scorer and power-play contributor for the Blue Jackets. Prospal has been near the top on the Jackets in points and could bring some additional puck possession to a solid possession team.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The problem: The Maple Leafs have been better than expected this season, due in large part to the play of young center Nazem Kadri. But Toronto is still weak at center. The Leafs have some of the most talented scoring wingers in the East -- such as Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk -- but lack anyone beyond Kadri to get them the puck. Toronto has also been grossly outshot on most nights, ranking 25th in the NHL in shots for and 26th in shots against. A two-way center could improve both deficiencies.
The fix: Paul Stastny, C, Avalanche (3.6 GVT)
Acquiring Stastny from Colorado would be the ultimate go-for-it move that Toronto fans are begging for. While his performance has dipped in scoring and possession over the past few seasons, Stastny is still in his prime and could be ignited by playing as a top-line center on a playoff-bound team. The price could be steep, but Colorado has its two centers for the future in Matt Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly. The Avs' need to continue their rebuild could make a deal for the 27-year-old Stastny even more attractive.
A version of this story originally appeared at ESPN Insider .
Matthew Coller is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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