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 Southeast Division is easily the weakest in the NHL at the moment, but it is also one of the most competitive. The Winnipeg Jets and Carolina Hurricanes have been trading blows for the top spot in the conference for the past month and the surging Washington Capitals have recently returned to the race, too. While the battle for first place in the Southeast should be exciting to see, the teams in the race are in a bit of a tough spot at the trade deadline. It's very likely that the Southeast will send only one team to the postseason, which means that Carolina, Winnipeg and possibly Washington will need to decide if risking part of their future is worth getting the No. 3 seed in the East or if they would rather stay put and go with the crew they have assembled now. It's especially difficult for a club like Washington, which needs to decide if it wants to be a buyer or a seller this deadline.
Should these teams choose to be buyers, here are some possible acquisitions they can make to give their clubs a boost.
The problem: The offseason acquisitions of Alexander Semin and Jordan Staal have paid off for Carolina, as the Canes are a much-improved team at even strength compared to last season. Only five teams have scored more five-on-five goals than the Hurricanes and they post a strong plus-12 goal differential at even strength, too. Special teams and defense have been their downfall, though. Both Carolina's power play and penalty kill are in the bottom five of the NHL and the Canes' rate of 2.38 goals-against per game is the 10th worst in the NHL. The injury bug has also hit Carolina very hard, as Tim Gleason, Joni Pitkanen, Jeff Skinner, Cam Ward, Justin Faulk and Jamie McBain have all missed considerable time, and the Canes are going to be without Faulk and Ward for at least a few more weeks.
The fix: Stephane Robidas, D, Stars (4.0 GVT)
With Faulk out and a blue-line corps consisting of mostly second- and third-pairing guys, the Hurricanes are going to need more than just a typical "veteran defenseman," which is why Robidas would be a good fit. Robidas is one of the best-kept secrets in the NHL and has been a key cog on the Dallas blue line for the past few years. His ability to log big minutes and play in all situations would give the Hurricanes a top-pairing defenseman to take pressure off guys like Pitkanen and Jay Harrison, who have been doing most of the heavy lifting in Faulk's absence. Robidas also has a very affordable cap hit of $3.3 million, so that along with his versatility would make him a good pickup for the Canes. He also isn't a bad player for some of Carolina's younger defensemen to learn from.
The problem: Winnipeg has found itself in first place in the Southeast, and the Jets have managed to do it despite having the second-worst goal differential in the Eastern Conference at minus-14. A lot of this stems from their bad penalty kill, along with subpar goaltending, but there isn't much they can do about that now since they seem committed to Ondrej Pavelec. Another issue the Jets have been faced with is their very shallow forward corps. After their first line and Evander Kane, their next highest-scoring forward is Nik Antropov with only 14 points in 33 games. Since their offseason acquisition of Olli Jokinen hasn't worked out too well, the Jets could benefit from getting stronger up front.
The fix: Curtis Glencross, LW, Flames (7.5 GVT)
While Glencross' 23.6 percent shooting percentage last season probably isn't repeatable, he has been a very consistent top-six player for most of his career. His past success with Jokinen and ability to hold his ground against other team's top lines are qualities the Jets will find attractive, so he is an interesting target for them. Reuniting him with Jokinen and placing them with Kane could give the Jets a very respectable second line, which is going to be very important down the stretch and possibly in the playoffs. Secondary scoring is something Winnipeg lacks right now, and a player like Glencross could fix that.
The problem: After digging themselves into a massive hole at the beginning of the season, the Caps now find themselves on the edge of a playoff contention, but will have to win a high percentage of their games to make it in. The team has recently gotten Brooks Laich and Mike Green off the IR, so that might give the Caps a boost the rest of the way, but making the playoffs could be a tough task for Washington after that terrible start. With that said, the biggest thing on the Capitals' collective mind with regard to the trade deadline is what they are going to do with Mike Ribeiro, who is having a career season and will be looking for a big contract this summer. Whether or not he will sign this deal in Washington remains to be seen.
The fix: Sami Vatanen, D, Ducks (0.1 GVT)
Washington's situation is tricky because it could either buy, sell or do nothing, but let's imagine that it decides to sell and trade Mike Ribeiro. One possible destination for him is Anaheim, a team in need of a second-line center. A prospect the Caps could receive in return for him is the 21-year-old Finnish defenseman Vatanen. While he doesn't have much NHL experience, Vatanen has greatly impressed at every other level where he has played. He has shined as an offensive defenseman in the Finnish Elite League and currently has 40 points in 53 games with Anaheim's AHL affiliate in Norfolk. If the Caps do trade Ribeiro, they could potentially get a few great future assets in return for him, Vatanen being one of the many possibilities. He certainly fills a need within the Caps organization and should be a regular NHLer in the near future.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The problem: Tampa Bay has really fallen apart after starting the year off with a 6-0-1 record, culminating in relieving head coach Guy Boucher of his duties. GM Steve Yzerman spent a lot of money this offseason to upgrade the blue line and goaltending, but neither has panned out as well as he hoped. The Lightning have been getting badly outshot every night and neither their goaltending nor their offense has been able to mask their defensive flaws as they find themselves spiraling out of the playoff race. To make things worse, the Lightning also have a whopping $62 million committed to next season, so there isn't a lot Yzerman can do other than shed salary at the deadline and look for bargains this summer.
The fix: Ryane Clowe, LW, Sharks (-0.6 GVT)
It might sound silly to trade for a player who hasn't scored a goal in 25 games, but the Lightning are a team that needs to buy low right now, and could potentially do that with Clowe. His numbers might be terrible this season, but he has been able to produce in past years with the Sharks and could possibly succeed in a top-nine role with the Lightning. It's doubtful that he will fail to score a goal on 59 shots next season if the scenario is repeated and he could give Tampa Bay a bit of a nasty edge, which was something the Lightning lost after trading Steve Downie last year.
The players called up from Syracuse have done a fine job filling in for the injured Vincent Lecavalier and Benoit Pouliot, but Clowe could help Tampa Bay, especially if the Bolts can get him in return for one of their high-priced players and re-sign him on a cheap deal. The Lightning don't have many options right now, unfortunately.
The problem: Injuries along with horrible goaltending and special-teams play have knocked Florida out of the race and it's already a given that the Panthers will be sellers this deadline. The question is who on their roster do they want to deal and what are they looking for in return. Younger players like Jonathan Huberdeau, Erik Gudbranson and Jacob Markstrom are almost certainly off limits, but guys like Tomas Fleischmann, Tomas Kopecky, Marcel Goc and Shawn Matthias could fetch the Panthers a decent return. Some of their contracts make them slightly less desirable, so Florida may have to settle, but it appears that the Panthers' deadline is going to be focused on building their future.
The fix: Michael Stone, D, Coyotes (1.7 GVT)
Most of what Florida has to offer to other teams is forward depth, and one team that could use a boost there is the Phoenix Coyotes. Florida already acquired T.J. Brennan from the Buffalo Sabres, but the Panthers could use some more help on their blue line and Phoenix can give them that with Stone. At 22 years old, Stone has plenty of room to grow and is having a fairly solid season as a third-pairing defenseman with the Coyotes. He could potentially see more minutes in Florida since the Panthers are banged up right now and have been attempting to make do with replacement-level options like Tyson Strachan and Colby Robak. Not that Stone would be a massive upgrade, but he at least provides a very solid upside.
A version of this story originally appeared at ESPN Insider .