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March 29, 2013
Deadline Deals
Central Division

by Robert Vollman and ESPN Insider


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.

Four of the five Central Division teams made the playoffs last year, a historically typical result that could be cut in half in this abridged 2013 season due to the struggles of the Nashville Predators and the suddenly mortal Detroit Red Wings. This year's Stanley Cup champions could nevertheless still emerge from within, especially if the surging St. Louis Blues or nearly unbeatable Chicago Blackhawks get the key pieces they need at the trade deadline. Here's how the Central teams can optimize their rosters at the trade deadline for the final push:

Chicago Blackhawks

The problem: There aren't a lot of problems with the Blackhawks, one of the league's top-five possession teams for years, especially with the improvement in special teams and goaltending this season. While many big-name players mlight want to come to Chicago for one final shot at the Stanley Cup before they retire, the Blackhawks need to focus their limited cap space on the player who would mean the most to them -- a second-line center.

The fix: Derek Roy, C, Stars (5.6 GVT)

The only way for Chicago to significantly improve its already solid chances of winning another Stanley Cup is to acquire a second-line center like Roy, who is free from long-term obligations, and ideally do so without sacrificing any of its defensemen. The 29-year-old Roy isn't always consistent, but he can do it all -- score at even strength and the power play, draw and kill penalties and maintain possession -- all without the deficiencies in the faceoff circle that most of the alternatives possess.

St. Louis Blues

The problem: The young and mighty Blues, one of the top-two possession teams for the second season in a row, hopefully have addressed their unexpected goaltending issues with Jake Allen. The next hole to fill with their league-high cap space is a veteran, top-four defenseman to play alongside budding superstar Alex Pietrangelo.

The fix: Robyn Regehr, D, Sabres (-0.1 GVT)

With young Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk handling all of the scoring from the back end, an experienced, hard-hitting defensive specialist like Regehr can shut down top opposing lines and kill penalties. The reason Regehr's GVT is usually low is because he is one of only four active defensemen to face his team's top competition in each of the previous four seasons. Blues GM Doug Armstrong could also consider this a try-before-you-buy opportunity, and sign the 2006 Canadian Olympian to a long-term deal if things work out down the stretch.

Detroit Red Wings

The problem: The loss of Nicklas Lidstrom, not to mention Brad Stuart and Brian Rafalski, quickly converted an area of historic strength into Detroit's greatest weakness. The Wings are still a strong possession team, and can easily compete this postseason if Jimmy Howard holds up, provided they acquire someone capable of logging the lion's share of the blue-line minutes.

The fix: Jay Bouwmeester, D, Flames (7.1 GVT)

While the 29-year-old Bouwmeester's offense has sagged, and though he does come with a hefty cap hit -- almost $6.7 million a year through next season -- no one can deny his Lidstrom-like ability to play the league's toughest minutes while carrying virtually anyone as his partner. His services won't come cheap, but the Wings have always been serious about success.

Nashville Predators

The problem: The Predators have long served as an example of how a team can be successful despite weak possession play, thanks to stellar goaltending and highly disciplined defensive play. Now that GM David Poile has done an admirable job repairing the blue line, it is time for him to go out and get serious about scoring.

The fix: Mike Ribeiro, C, Capitals (9.1 GVT)

Who better to help unleash the offensive talent of young players like Patric Hornqvist, Sergei Kostitsyn and Colin Wilson than someone like Ribeiro? Over the past four seasons, "Ribs" ranks 14th among active players in passes that result in shots per game (3.3), right behind Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis. While the Predators will likely be sellers at the trade deadline, there's nowhere else that Washington's fiendishly effective playmaker is needed more desperately.

Columbus Blue Jackets

The problem: Having abandoned the franchise player model last season, the Blue Jackets and new GM Jarmo Kekalainen are moving toward the Phoenix Coyotes model, which uses lesser-known but more well-rounded talents to win hockey games. The Jackets' most pressing need is for more players like R.J. Umberger and the recently-acquired duo of Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky, especially with Sergei Bobrovsky having patched up their longstanding goaltending problems.

The fix: Frans Nielsen, C, Islanders (6.2 GVT)

While Kekalainen is looking to deal away talent in order to stockpile as many draft picks as possible (to take advantage of what looks to be a terrific draft class), Nielsen is the type of player the Jackets need to look out for if their recent surge continues. The 28-year-old Dane is a two-way, possession-based player who is effective in all situations. He is also a shootout specialist, and carries only a $2.75 million cap hit for each of the three next seasons.

A version of this story originally appeared at ESPN Insider Insider.

Robert Vollman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Robert by clicking here or click here to see Robert's other articles.

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<< Previous Article
Trade Deadline (03/28)
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Premium Article Deadline Deals (03/28)
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Premium Article Deadline Deals (03/30)

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