As the trade deadline draws nearer, there are three teams -- all considered Stanley Cup contenders when at the top of their game -- that could use a boost in the form a trade.
- Washington Capitals
The Capitals probably need another center to get back to their high-scoring ways. After losing Nicklas Backstrom to a concussion at the beginning of the year, Dale Hunter and company have a gaping hole up the middle. So far, they’ve tried Marcus Johansson, Matthieu Perreault and Brooks Laich in more offensive roles while calling up journeyman Keith Aucoin to add more balance to their bottom lines. That strategy has unfortunately failed the former powerhouse to the point that they are no longer leading the Southeast Divison and are three points out of a playoff spot. In fact, if it hadn’t been for some recent heroics from starting goalie Tomas Vokoun, the Caps would probably be lower in the standings.
Clearly, they need either Backstrom to come back healthy, or they need someone who can play on the top two lines. Even though Laich is a serviceable second line center – despite his current injury – the team employed three very strong centers last season (in Backstrom, Johansson and Jason Arnott) and still could not make it out of the second round. Expecting a team that has not been as effective to turn everything around after losing their top player is a tough expectation. Furthermore, the rental market for centers is relatively nonexistent -- Daymond Langkow, anyone?
Attaining depth at center should shore up the Caps enough to squeak into the postseason, as either the eighth seed or the third. However, GM George McPhee will need to be quite creative with his options.- Philadelphia Flyers
Obviously, the Flyers need help on the blue line. Their captain Chris Pronger has been limited to only 13 games this season and will not return this season due to his concussion-like symptoms. His absence has created a lack of leadership on the back end and moreover a dearth of guys who can eat minutes. While Andrej Meszaros and Matt Carle have stepped up their game, adding someone who can help offensively and defensively would be a huge boon to the perennial contenders.
An option that has been kicked around is maligned d-man Marek Zidlicky
, who has past success with blue-line stalwart Kimmo Timonen. Although Zidlicky wouldn’t be a great even-strength presence, his ability to play the power play would give Meszaros and Carle a much needed rest, allowing them to focus on their penalty killing work. With nine forwards already in double digit goal totals and the team carrying two capable starting goalies an additional defenseman should help complete an already strong team.
Now, GM Paul Holmgren just needs to find the right fit for his club.- Chicago Blackhawks
Somewhere along the line, the Blackhawks lost their way on defense. Even though they still bolster a strong core with Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith, D-men Niklas Hjalmarsson and Nick Leddy have been relatively ineffective while free agent signing Steve Montador could be better at both ends of the ice. Thursday night’s eight goals would have been the low watermark on the season had they not lost again to the Calgary Flames the following night. Now, mired in a five-game losing streak, this team needs help.
Instead of blowing up the entire roster, the team could opt to play better defensively and acquire a crease-clearing defenseman to aid in the transition. As teams like the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers continue to show, a physical team who is tight in their own end can generate a great deal of scoring opportunities. However, that process starts with tightening up which means an offense-first player like Nick Leddy would need his minutes tightened at even strength. Unlike the previous two teams, the Blackhawks may have a match in Bryce Salvador, Bryan Allen or possibly even exiled d-man Shaone Morrisonn.
Even though GM Stan Bowman is budget restrained, he should be able to sure-up his blue line and get old man Sean O’Donnell out of his top six.Photo credit: Getty Images