Hockey Prospectus is taking a look at the NHL division by division and suggesting ways each team should tackle the forthcoming trade deadline. Wednesday, we continue with the Atlantic Division.
Feb. 28 marks the NHL's trade deadline and every team in the league -- both playoff-bound and those likely for 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 can 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. For a detailed explanation of GVT, click here.
The Problem: After ending up as a bit of an "excuse me" Stanley Cup finalist following an 88-point regular season in 2009-10, the Flyers have looked like real-deal contenders in 2010-11. While the well-rounded Broad Street squad certainly has the ability to win the tournament as currently constituted, GM Paul Holmgren could significantly improve his chances of winning by upgrading what amounts to an overachieving goaltending duo. Though rookie sensation Sergei Bobrovsky (.920) and career backup Brian Boucher (.920) have turned in above-average performances thus far, betting on an unproven youngster and a journeyman with a career .901 save percentage doesn't exactly add up to maximizing your chances in the postseason.
The Fix: Remember how you scoffed at my suggestion of swapping Simon Gagne for Tim Thomas at last year's trading deadline? Now think about what an absolute juggernaut Philadelphia would be with Vezina favorite Thomas (.938) in net. So who's the elite netminder available this time around? It's got to be the Florida Panthers' Tomas Vokoun. He's arguably the best goaltender of the post-Lockout era (.922), although you might not know it as he's labored in relative obscurity in Nashville and Florida. With the Flyers' negligible cap space, like salaries would need to be exchanged to make the deal possible -- so why not flip recently acquired Kris Versteeg and the kid goalie "Bob" to take a really serious run at the hardware?
Vokoun: 14.2 GVT
The Problem: For the past two seasons, the star-studded cast of the Penguins inexplicably struggled on the man advantage, finishing in the bottom third of the NHL. In that light, the Pens' essentially league-average power play this season (18.3 percent) is a pleasant surprise, especially given the departure of blueline quarterback Sergei Gonchar. But there's no reason Pittsburgh shouldn't be even better given the quality of its pieces. So with Evgeni Malkin out for the season, the Penguins should use the freed cap space to not only replace the enigmatic Russian as second-line center, but to see if they can't improve what should by all accounts be an elite power play.
The Fix: Much-maligned center Tim Connolly has often found himself in the doghouse of fans and management in Buffalo, particularly given his frequent injuries and ongoing playoff goal-scoring drought -- both equated with a lack of toughness by his detractors. Therefore, in the last year of his contract, the smooth-skating playmaker could very well be available, even with the Sabres making a mini-run at the playoffs. In addition to his potential to center a second or third line for Pittsburgh, Connolly has been an excellent contributor on the man advantage -- operating at forward or on the point -- typically producing a near-elite 5.0-5.5 power-play points per 60 minutes.
Connolly: 2.3 GVT
New York Rangers
The Problem: Despite suffering a slew of injuries, the Rangers have remained competitive in the race for the last few Eastern Conference playoff berths. With all-world goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and a fine young defense, what the Blueshirts desperately need is another legitimate top-six forward -- or two -- to bolster the scoring of (now injured) Marian Gaborik and company. New York is in the bottom half of the league in scoring and the bottom fourth in power-play percentage (16.1 percent).
The Fix: Why would Toronto GM Brian Burke be willing to trade Clarke MacArthur, this season's found money? Ever heard of selling high? As the 25-year-old winger is nearly doubling his previous high of 0.44 points per game, there's reason to believe that whoever signs his next long-term contract will be in for a significant disappointment. That said, MacArthur is having a wonderful season -- leading Toronto with 45 points -- and there's no reason to believe that he couldn't be a top-six contributor for even a contending team. With 16 power-play points on the season, the former Sabre could help New York on the man advantage as well.
MacArthur: 8.1 GVT
New Jersey Devils
The Problem: It's been the number one deficiency in the Devils' roster since the departure of Scott Niedermayer: a skillful, puck-moving, No. 1 defenseman. There's reason to believe that New Jersey wouldn't be at the bottom of the league in goals for or near the bottom in power-play percentage if it had more than one marginally good scoring threat from the blue line: at 19 points, Andy Greene is the only Devils defenseman with more than 10.
The Fix: With the fire sale in full swing in Denver, there's reason to believe that offense-first defender John-Michael Liles would be available, especially considering his $4.25 million salary for 2011-12. New Jersey could take away some of the sting of that cap hit by trading away somewhat-skilled tough guy David Clarkson, whose three-year contract is looking like a mistake for Lou Lamoriello. Liles isn't quite Gonchar or Tomas Kaberle but would give the Devils a skilled presence at the point on the power play, both for their potential improbable playoff run and when they start from scratch again next season.
Liles: 7.6 GVT
New York Islanders
The Problem: Despite management's preseason edicts to be a win-now team in 2010-11, New York really needed at least one more rebuilding year, even if it hadn't suffered the rash of injuries that quickly put any playoff aspirations to bed. Looking forward to realistically contending for a postseason berth in 2011-12, GM Garth Snow needs to keep stockpiling prospects and picks.
The Fix: With offensive-minded defenseman James Wisniewski already sent to the Montreal Canadiens, and veteran goaltender Dwayne Roloson traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the number of remaining uninjured veterans that the Islanders would be willing to part with has greatly diminished. Unless Snow is willing to trade cornerstone John Tavares' linemates Matt Moulson and P.A. Parenteau, two-way center Frans Nielsen or locker room leader Zenon Konopka, the most likely veteran to be moved is massive defensive defenseman Milan Jurcina, whose value is peaking based on a career season. Still the logical destination for defensive help, a trade with Anaheim could net promising 21-year-old defenseman Luca Sbisa, the key chip in the Chris Pronger trade. With only six points registered in 46 games for the Ducks, New York may be in a better position to wait for Sbisa's game to mature than Anaheim.
Sbisa: 0.2 GVT
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
Timo Seppa is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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