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.