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.
Puck-moving defensemen, value players who can log tough minutes and skilled goaltenders are the trade-deadline needs in the Northwest Division, whose postseason participants have been all but decided. The offseason acquisition of superstars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter instantly vaulted the Minnesota Wild into contention with the perennial division-leading Vancouver Canucks, while the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche continue to rebuild with youth (hopefully for the last season).
Here's how the Northwest teams can optimize their rosters at the trade deadline for the final push:
The problem: Having already made his blockbuster moves in the offseason, Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher has been busy making smaller, surgical moves -- mostly to shore up Minnesota's blue line and depth up front. The Wild's primary remaining need is for a player who can provide an offensive boost and can fit on a team that is very near to the salary cap.
The fix: Peter Mueller, F, Panthers (2.8 GVT)
Minnesotan Mueller began his NHL career with a bang, becoming one of only 10 teenage rookies to score 20 goals and 50 points since the 2005 lockout. While his career quickly sputtered due to a sophomore slump and a 2010 concussion, Mueller is back to being an effective secondary offensive weapon and is value priced at slightly more than $1.7 million per season.
The problem: The Canucks are built on a classic model in which their gritty defensive players take on all of the tough defensive zone minutes against top lines in order to allow the team's superstars to dominate the offensive zone. The Canucks have therefore understandably struggled with the injury-triggered absences of shutdown stars Ryan Kesler and Manny Malhotra. Without some short-term shoring up of this critical area, the Canucks could make an early playoff exit.
The fix: Adam Hall, C, Hurricanes (1.8 GVT)
While these types of players can be hard to come by, the Canucks need to make a move for someone like Hall, who can play on a regular basis in the defensive zone against the top lines without hurting the team possession-wise. Like Malhotra, the 32-year-old Hall is a faceoff wizard and a penalty-killing specialist and carries virtually no cap hit. Plus, he will be an unrestricted free agent.
The problem: For years, the veteran Flames have been able to ignore goaltending when creating their shopping list at the trade deadline. That won't be the case this season. Miikka Kiprusoff, 36, is finally wearing down and sputtering with injuries, resulting in one of the league's worst penalty kills and leaving the Flames among the league's worst in goals against. It's time to get Kipper some help.
The fix: Jonathan Bernier, G, Kings (5.4 GVT)
The 24-year-old Bernier would be a starting goalie in the NHL if he weren't in Los Angeles, where he plays a backup role behind reigning Conn Smythe winner and Vezina finalist Jonathan Quick, who has a 10-year, $58 million deal. There are limited alternatives to a young, established goalie who can be a lasting replacement to Kiprusoff, so it may be wise for GM Jay Feaster to put together a compelling package to get Bernier -- unless he prefers investing the team's hopes next season in unproven KHL star Karri Ramo.
The problem: Thanks to young superstars like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz, Nail Yakupov and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, this could be Edmonton's last bad season. To unleash its talent and make the transition into a playoff team, GM Steve Tambellini needs to assemble the final few pieces and pull the trigger on a puck-moving defenseman.
The fix: Keith Yandle, D, Coyotes (4.5 GVT)
With Jeff Petry, Ladislav Smid and Nick Schultz handling the team's toughest minutes, the Oilers are fortunate enough to have room for an offense-only weapon like 26-year-old Yandle to be safely deployed. With the Coyotes having invested heavily in Oliver Ekman-Larsson, there may exist the possibility of creating the right package to lure Yandle, who carries a cap hit of $5.25 million for three more seasons.
The problem: When stay-at-home defenseman Jan Hejda is your team's highest-scoring blueliner, the problem is pretty obvious. While the Avalanche are blessed with a ton of young talent, they need an established, puck-moving defenseman who can boost their offense and improve their special-teams play.
The fix: Brian Campbell, D, Panthers (5.3 GVT)
While 33-year-old Campbell carries a steep cap hit of more than $7.1 million for three more seasons, the Avalanche have both the cap space and the opportunity for him to earn it. Just as Campbell helped established players like Niklas Hjalmarsson and Jason Garrison as top four defensemen, he can help establish the likes of Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott.
A version of this story originally appeared at ESPN Insider .
Robert Vollman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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