Who needs what, and will they go for it? While it is tempting to call everyone in the west below 3rd place a bubble team, I think I’ll limit my writing time by leaving off a few teams.  In the east the bubble is a bit smaller, 10 points separate the seventh place New York Rangers and the eleventh place Florida Panthers.

The Colorado Avalanche are fifth in goals for, and yet somehow 12th in the Western Conference in the standings. That “somehow” becomes a lot easier to pin down when you notice they are 29th in goals against, and that their penalty kill almost doesn’t exist. Their penalty kill ranks 27th in the NHL, the only two other teams with a PK in the same zip code who can see the playoffs from their house are the Dallas Stars and Atlanta Thrashers. Clearly they need to scramble their resources and pick up a PK specialist or two, and certainly a defensive defenseman. If they decide to sell, Chris Stewart, and Owen Sound Attack (OHL) prospect Joey Hishon would bring a nice return.

The Phoenix Coyotes. They are eleventh in goals for, and 16th in goals against. They could really pick either position to improve at, and move forward contently. If they are going to make moves they certainly have the cap space to do it. They also have some very nice assets if they decide to become sellers, they do have plenty of assets that could bring them good picks or prospects. Jovanovski’s contract is expiring, and while he has an NTC, he might waive it if the Coyotes decide to run up the white flag.  While it don’t see it happening unless the budget in Phoenix is going to shrink next year, Yandle is a skating blank check. As a different GM, I’d cheerfully send two first round picks on a sign and trade deal and probably include a prospect or player in their.

The LA Kings are possibly the most puzzling team outside the top 8 in either conference, along with the BlackHawks they have the highest goal differential of any team not currently in their conferences top 8 at +20. While they are 17th in goals for, they are 6th in goals against. As it has since before training camp, the lack of talent on their left wing is dragging down an otherwise strong team.  As sellers, Brayden Schenn is probably the premier prospect yet to graduate, and UFA to be Justin Williams could add scoring to a team looking to make the jump into the second season.  As buyers  goal scoring couldn’t hurt, but they may just need to play consistently from here until April to make it in.

Chicago has an aggressively mediocre defense this year at 15th best. While Corey Crawford is showing he’s got some mojo and putting out a very solid 2.19 GAA and .919 Sv%, he’s started exactly half the games this season, is a rookie. While the Blackhawks won the cup last year despite Niemi, this is a notably weaker team than last years edition, and with some key players banged up right now. I don’t know if the defending champions are good enough to win because of Crawford. As little cap space as they have, I’m not sure they will be buying. As much talent as they traded away since winning the cup I don’t see what they have left to sell without spiraling into obscurity again.  Like their LA competitors, consistent play is probably what they need to make it to the playoffs. One intriguing trade piece (which management has already stepped on) might be Brent Seabrook. A team like the Carolina Hurricanes who don’t use high picks on defensemen might be willing to take a swing at him especially if they are in the mix at the deadline.

Calgary Flames, with an “interim” general manager all things are possible. They are right in the mix for a return to the playoffs, but with essentially zero cap space making moves will probably be as picturesque as making laws or sausage. They are right up against the 50 contract limit, and have several unproductive large contracts some of them attached to no trade or no movement clauses. I’d be shocked to see any large moves, and the off season doesn’t look much better. If they can somehow manage a few tweaks that will galvanize the team, either end would be good, they are 16th in goals for and 17th in goals against.

The Blue Jackets probably have to be blown up if they can’t make it out of the first round this year. They are just four points out of the playoffs right now. How this is possible while being 25th in goals against and 21st in goals for is anyone’s guess. Me personally, I’d start the fire sale now and see what draft picks can be grabbed for this years draft and what prospects can be grabbed.  They have a pretty deep system, and adding a few other good picks to it means they can probably make a good run in two years and spend about what they are now.

The Lost Nordiques and the Boston Bruins have a history of trades, the most memorable of which was the trade that sent hall of famer Ray Bourque to win a Stanley Cup. This trade idea is slightly less laden with all star and all time names, but could result in one or both teams making their own cup run again. This would be a three player trade that provided both teams with something they desperately need.

To Boston:

Chris Stewart,

Why: Goal scoring touch, feisty attitude, big body. Putting Stewart with Savard or Bergeron and you’re instantly upgrading size,  scoring depth and physicality. With the

To Colorado:

Daniel Paille, Blake Wheeler

Why:  Colorado’s defense and especially penalty kill are woeful. The have the 27th ranked penalty kill in the league, and not surprisingly they sit at the same place for goals against. Both Wheeler and Paille possess speed in the top 5-10% of the NHL, and even if they are a slight downgrade in goalscoring, between the two of them they can probably improve the penalty kill 5% minimum.  As the highest scoring team in the NHL, a five or six goals for over the course of the regular season are not going to spell disaster.The Avalanche are likely to be flowing into the post season for the second straight year, and a key to sticking around to see round two will be improving their penalty kill.

Cap consideration:

Annualized, this would save the Bruins about $400,000 this season,  and cost the Avalanche the same amount according to Capgeek.com. Both Wheeler and Stewart are RFA’s at the end of their deals according to NHLNumbers.com, with Wheelers expiring this year, and Stewart next season. Paille would be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2011-2012 season. Even with the cap expected to rise next year, long term the Avalanche are looking at some a some serious number crunching. The recently acquired Tomas Fleishmann is due a new contract at the end of the year, and he’s clicked quite well with Matt Duchene. Duchene’s entry level deal will end at as next season expires, and I can’t imagine him signing cheap. At 34 Milan Hejduk is still trucking along and is currently a more than point per game player through 28 games this season. Sooner or later the Avalanche will have to replace the aging Adam Foote who eats up a lot of time on their penalty kill, and it’s doubtful they can get anyone worth having at a cap hit as low as his. For the Bruins the cap savings might mean the ability to recall Caron, or Arniel and maybe take an extra player or two on road trips without taking a prohibitive cap penalty that will carry over into next year.

Peter Chiarelli has stated he wants to be proactive in addressing the pending cap crunch. For the purposes of this article trades have to make sense to all parties concerned. This means that if a player has a no trade clause, the place they might be shipped to has to be a strong playoff team, the cap numbers have to make sense and worse from the armchair GM’s position, the bodies have to line up right.

First trade, and probably the least likely situation.*

To Boston:

Conditional 3rd Round pick, 2011.

To Los Angeles:

Marco Sturm

If Marco Sturm scores more than 20 goals, or is resigned by the Kings or they win the Stanley Cup with him having played 3 or more playoff games the pick would become a 2nd round pick.

Why:

Boston, moves a loyal soldier who will probably not be resigned to a good situation.

Los Angeles, depth at left wing, secondary leadership, and someone who can step in to the penalty kill as needed.

Sturm, gets his feet wet with another organization and moves to a very good young team with stars on the rise.

To Boston:

Jeff Petry, 2nd round pick in 2012, 3rd round pick in 2011

To Edmonton:

Blake Wheeler, Daniel Paille,  Matt Dalton

Why:

Boston: $3.2 Million in salary moved, and allows more grooming of late cuts like Arniel, Sauve (when he is healthy again), Colborne and others. Moves Paille before he becomes a distraction sitting on the bench as he has thus far. Two easiest guys to move on the roster that you have a shot at getting back something of similar value.

Edmonton: Size, speed, playoff experience and above all two high end penalty killers that might drag their pretty pathetic penalty kill into the realm of respectable. Both guys work hard, Wheeler has 30 goals written all over him, and might be the center that Hall needs.  Dalton is also as strong or stronger a prospect as any goaltender the Oilers have currently.

To Boston:

Ryan Suter, 1st round pick, 2nd round pick

To Nashville:

Matt Hunwick, Andrew Ference, Joe Colborne, Blake Wheeler

Why:

Boston gets an elite defenseman coming back and drops a net $2.4million

Nashville gets two first round pick forwards who are versatile enough to play all forward positions, and gives them the potential to move into the top half of the NHL’s goal for column for the first time in years.

To Boston:

Chris Stewart, 2 2nd round picks, 1 3rd

To Colorado:

Blake Wheeler, Daniel Paille, Michael Ryder, Matt Dalton

Why:

Boston: About six million dollars off the books, and a solid young winger.

Colorado: They’re depth at goaltending almost doesn’t exist, their penalty kill could hardly be made worse by losing an extra man each penalty.

To Boston:

Keith Yandle, Brandon Gormley, 2nd round pick

To Pheonix

David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Adam Courchaine, Andrew Ference, Jamie Arniel

Why:

Boston get’s two top four quality defensemen, loses some salary, clears up some of the log jam at center.

Phoenix gets a player who would easily be their number one center, a forward the organization was keen on enough to use a first round pick on, and gets to shore up their goaltending.

Capgeek, Hockey’s Future, and NHLNumbers used for basic background info.

*Ok so nearly all trades are unlikely in the current NHL. At least there is something in it for each team.