With the trade deadline less than three weeks away, we expect NHL teams to make some moves. Below are three teams who could greatly benefit from making a trade.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings’ 2011-2012 campaign has been a roller coaster ride of mediocrity. Despite playing in front of an MVP-caliber starting goalie in Jonathan Quick, the team only sits in seventh place in a crowded Western Conference. Clearly they need to find a way to win games in order to stay in that position, or help themselves out with a better seed.
Most of their losing has been attributed to their lack of goals. As of this writing the Kings currently sit in dead last in scoring with 111 markers in 53 games. And while new head coach Darryl Sutter has helped further stabilize the team’s defense, they simply lack enough top-six forwards to score with any sort of frequency.
What the Kings need is a gritty winger, who can not only play tough in a demanding system but also would be able to knock in a few goals. The big prize on the market looks like Tuomo Ruutu, who might cost as much as a first round pick, but may be exactly what this team needs. Ruutu would be the better fit but less physical wingers like Ray Whitney or Jason Blake could also temporarily help fill the net – the optimal goal in making a deadline upgrade.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Miraculously, the Bolts are back in it. Following a strong showing against the rival Florida Panthers this past Saturday, the Lightning now sit only 10 points back of a playoff berth and nine points out of the division lead. Considering the team still employs a healthy Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, it’s way too early to write them off.
However, is it easy to pinpoint what they need? In a word:yes. The Lightning simply have no semblance of a starting goalie. Both Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon have combined for a terrible 3.29 GAA which is worst in the League. Even though Garon has come on as of late, winning five of six, the long-time backup hasn’t started over 36 games in four years and only did it twice in his career. In short, he is better served as a number two.
Considering the Bolts force a very healthy 2.80 goals per game, it would make sense that they stabilize their game between the pipes. Unfortunately for GM Steve Yzerman and company the rental market looks quite slim with the frontrunners looking like Evgeni Nabokov, Al Montoya and possibly Josh Harding. Nevertheless, if they can find an upgrade, a playoff berth or even a division championship would be within reach.
What has gone wrong in Buffalo? Pretty much everything as the Sabres try to sneak into the playoffs despite spending a significant amount of money in the offseason.
However, the big problem remains scoring goals – an issue the team has rarely dealt with since the lockout. Head coach Lindy Ruff plays an uptempo system which typically keeps the team in the game offensively. Due to injuries and a few “down years” that system has faltered as the Sabres currently sit 27th in the NHL in goals forced.
So where does this team need to improve? They have no lack of scoring wingers with Drew Stafford, Jason Pominville, Ville Leino, Brad Boyes, Tyler Ennis and Thomas Vanek (when healthy) all capable of producing. What this team needs is help down the middle. Playing Derek Roy, Jochen Hecht and Luke Adam as a top line center has amounted to only limited chemistry meaning a change is in order.
The big problem is centers – preferably with size – don’t grow on trees. If the Sabres are to improve at that position, they likely would need to move someone like Roy or Stafford and take on a non-expiring contract. So instead of a standard rental deal, GM Darcy Regier would have to be creative with his assets and swing a true hockey trade – something much easier to do in a pre-cap era.