Published January 08, 2015
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - No trade deadline in North American sports sees more action than the NHL.
Like an annoying Katy Perry song, this particular deadline could be hot and cold. There are a number of tight playoff races in both the Eastern and Western conferences and a lower salary cap this season has put a number of contending teams against the wall with little wiggle room.
But general managers are paid to be creative, and as noted by The Sports Network NHL editor Dan Di Sciullo (http://tinyurl.com/kh7bcqf), there are some names to be had before the deadline.
Below we take a look at five teams, in no particular order, likely to be buyers before Wednesday's deadline. Note that all salary cap figures are courtesy of capgeek.com.
BOSTON BRUINS - 1ST PLACE IN ATLANTIC DIVISION
The Bruins have looked like strong contenders all season and enter play on Friday with a six-point lead atop the division. They are among the top-scoring teams in the East and lead the conference with a plus-50 goal differential.
However, the Bruins lost a big part of its defensive game when blueliner Dennis Seidenberg was lost for the season on Dec. 28 with a torn ACL and MCL. Replacing his minutes will be a must for the club come playoff time.
Buffalo's Henrik Tallinder is the perfect fit to step in for Seidenberg as he makes less money and the 35-year-old veteran comes off the books at season's end. He could be had for draft picks and a fringe prospect.
Other possible targets: Andrew MacDonald, New York Islanders; Andrej Meszaros, Philadelphia Flyers.
MINNESOTA WILD - 4TH PLACE IN CENTRAL DIVISION; 1ST WILD CARD
Though still in the running for third place in the division, the wild card seems like the likely playoff path for Minnesota. The Wild own a six-point edge for one of the two bonus spots and will get an offensive boost when Mikko Koivu returns from ankle surgery.
However, goaltender Josh Harding's status remains uncertain as he continues to deal with multiple sclerosis. He hasn't played since late December after a great start to the season and former No. 1 Niklas Backstrom has dealt with his own injuries while going 5-11-2 with a 3.02 goals against average.
The Wild are in position for a second straight playoff berth, but going in with Darcy Kuemper as the starter could rattle nerves.
The big question then is, should the Wild make a run at Buffalo's Ryan Miller as a long-term solution or look for a cheaper stop-gap in net?
Minnesota has the ability to put together a package of prospects, including Kuemper, and could probably re-sign the Michigan-born Miller before he hits free agency this summer. They'll have the space with Dany Heatley's $7.5 million hit ready to come off the books.
Toronto's James Reimer would be a cheaper, younger solution for the long-term problem.
Other possible targets: Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes; Tim Thomas, Florida Panthers.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS - TIED FOR 3RD PLACE IN ATLANTIC DIVISION
The Maple Leafs ended a franchise-long seven-year playoff drought in 2012-13 and the offseason acquisition of goaltender Jonathan Bernier has the club ready to go to the next level.
Toronto has a solid trade chip in the 25-year-old Reimer, who helped backstop the Leafs to the playoffs last season but is now the clear backup to Bernier. He could be enticing to a team that wants to take a stab at solidifying its position in net.
So what do the Maple Leafs need?
Toronto has a solid top-six at forward, led by Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk, is deep at the blue line and the goaltender spot, but pressure from the hockey-crazy fans could force the Leafs into a bigger move for a player like Thomas Vanek or Ryan Kesler.
Landing either of those two would cost some defensive depth, though Vanek's Islanders could like the idea of adding Reimer.
If not, expect the Leafs to go for depth and pick up a forward like Edmonton's Ales Hemsky or Florida's Brad Boyes.
Other possible targets: Matt Moulson, Buffalo Sabres; Sam Gagner, Edmonton Oilers; P.A. Parenteau, Colorado Avalanche.
LOS ANGELES KINGS - 3RD PLACE IN THE PACIFIC DIVISION
The Kings need offense like Justin Bieber needs a good reality check.
Before netting six goals in a win over Colorado on Wednesday, the Kings had been held to just 15 tallies in the previous 11 games and then only managed two goals in a shutout win over Calgary the following night.
Los Angeles is built to win now and is just two years removed from a Stanley Cup title. General manager Dean Lombardi should make no hesitations in upgrading his roster, even if it costs a player like Valentin Zykov or Tanner Pearson.
Vanek is a risk as he may be hard to re-sign this summer, meaning Buffalo's Matt Moulson is a safer piece to add to an offense that features Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter.
Having a little over $3 million in cap space will make things tough for Lombardi.
Other possible targets: Mike Cammalleri, Calgary Flames; Ray Whitney, Dallas Stars; Steve Ott, Buffalo Sabres.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS - 10TH PLACE IN THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
The Blue Jackets are five points out of a wild card spot and the bar is low enough that just making the playoffs for the second time in club history would be a huge accomplishment.
Columbus is undone by having about $2 million in cap space, so moving a player off its NHL roster is a must. The huge conquest would be getting someone to take Marian Gaborik's $7.5 million hit, and that may not be an impossible scenario given his pending free agency. Defenseman James Wisniewski ($5.5 million) or forward R.J. Umberger ($4.6 million) also would open up space if the Blue Jackets find new locations for them.
If not, the play is for New York Islanders' defenseman Andrew MacDonald. The 27-year-old has a cap hit this season of just $550,000 and if things work out, the Blue Jackets would have plenty of space to give him the raise he will be seeking this summer.
Getting MacDonald also would allow the Blue Jackets creative possibilities of adding a forward like Edmonton's Sam Gagner, P.A. Parenteau of Colorado or Calgary's Lee Stempniak.
Other possible targets: Christian Ehrhoff, Buffalo Sabres; Dmitry Kulikov, Florida Panthers.