Hockey Prospectus is taking a look at the NHL division by division and suggesting ways each team should tackle the forthcoming trade deadline, starting Monday with a look at the Atlantic Division. Tuesday, we continue with the Northeast Division.
Feb. 27 marks the NHL's trade deadline, and every team in the league -- both the playoff-bound and those likely for the draft lottery -- has needs to address. To prepare for the final flurry of transactions, we're going team by team to see which players can help fill some holes on contenders or provide some foundational stability for teams building for next season and beyond.
New York Rangers
The Problem: Prize free agent Brad Richards was supposed to fix New York's lackluster power play, 18th in the NHL at 16.9 percent in 2010-11. Yet perplexingly, the Rangers' performance on the man advantage has gone the opposite direction since his acquisition -- it is substantially worse at 14.5 percent (26th). It's a major deficiency for a team with real Stanley Cup aspirations. What's more, the Rangers could use a cornerstone veteran leader to rally around, so their championship chemistry jells. While there's no Mark Messier to be had on the trade market, the Rangers should target the best available candidate to help shoulder the burden for rookie captain Ryan Callahan over what Rangers fans hope will be a lengthy postseason.
The Fix: Gritty, skilled, confident and professional, Shane Doan is the player that Callahan should wish to be in 10 years. The 35-year-old Coyotes' captain is in the top 25 with 145 hits, the only player over 32 years old on the list (Callahan is fourth with 195). Though not quite the power-play specialist that teammate Ray Whitney has been -- another excellent trade target for the Blueshirts -- Doan is no slouch, either, having averaged 10-plus power-play goals per season since the lockout. Doan could help the Rangers on many levels and just might be the missing piece to a championship squad.
Doan: 3.3 GVT
The Problem: Three of the top four teams in outshooting their opponents in even-strength-and-close situations are also at the top of the league in outscoring their opponents 5-on-5: Detroit, St. Louis, and Boston, all sporting over 1.50 GF/GA. The fourth, Pittsburgh, hasn't gained an advantage at all from throwing all that extra rubber at opposing netminders (1.00 GF per GA). While some of that is due to bad bounces, and some more due to below-average goaltending, the Penguins might actually want to add a top-notch veteran scorer who doesn't have any problem hitting the net. And if that veteran can ensure that a perennially shaky power play doesn't unravel at crunch time in the playoffs, all the better.
The Fix: We suggested it as an intriguing possibility for the Penguins a couple of years ago, and we'll do it again: Teemu Selanne. Though the 41-year-old legend has always played in the Western Conference, suiting up in black and gold could set the scene for the final storybook chapter of an illustrious career; the Finnish Flash could alter the balance of power in the East. Selanne still scores at an elite 2.45 points per 60 minutes at even strength -- Pittsburgh's current bugaboo -- and is annually a top-10 producer on the power play. No problem hitting the net: Seventh among active players with a 15.3 shooting percentage, the surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer is one of the best finishers ever to play the game. And if Sidney Crosby ever made it back into the lineup, as well? You have your new favorite to raise the Cup.
Selanne: 10.7 GVT
The Problem: Finally, a trade deadline where we don't have to discuss the Flyers' goaltending situation! Sure, the price of the fix was way too steep, but there's no doubt Philadelphia has significantly improved between the pipes, regardless of Ilya Bryzgalov's poor results to date. Unfortunately, there's a new hole to fix, the absence of team captain Chris Pronger. The Flyers will have to take their lumps as far as offense and leadership given the loss of their No. 1 defenseman, but to compete in the playoffs, they at least need to add a veteran top-four defenseman to bolster what's an average blue line at best.
The Fix: For 11 seasons, since he was a 19-year-old rookie in 1999-2000, Robyn Regehr patrolled the Calgary Flames' defensive zone, adding a menacing presence on top of a shutdown mentality; Regehr crushed countless opposing forwards along the Saddledome's defensive boards, which became known as the "Tunnel of Death." Yet moving to western New York in a draft-day deal, the 31-year-old blueliner has been seen as nothing short of a bust in Buffalo. While never having scored more than 26 points in a season, no one expected a pathetic two points in 49 games or his first minus rating (minus-12) since 2002-03. Though no one could imagine Regehr as even a Band-Aid for Pronger's missing offense, the Flyers could add this solid veteran defenseman (6.3 GVT in 2010-11) without giving up an asset. If you're looking for mitigating circumstances, Regehr has faced the toughest quality of opposition of all the Sabres.
Regehr: minus-0.8 GVT
New Jersey Devils
The Problem: You might not recognize coach Peter DeBoer's New Jersey Devils, who are actually scoring above league average and sporting a decent power play while playing a surprisingly wide open and exciting brand of hockey in 2011-12. And best of all, they're winning games. In fact, if 39-year-old Martin Brodeur could find his old mojo for a two-month stretch, the Devils could make an intriguing dark horse in the Eastern Conference playoffs. A marked weakness of the Devils is in the faceoff circle, where New Jersey is second only to Calgary in futility (46.6 percent). It's a tactical deficiency that could derail a postseason run if it fails the team at an inopportune time.
The Fix: Defensive centerman Marty Reasoner has been a colossal bust for the Islanders since signing a two-year, $2.7 million deal over the summer. Puzzlingly utilized for a disproportionate number of offensive-zone draws by coach Jack Capuano over the first few months of the season, the 34-year-old was a predictably ineffective square peg in a round hole. Intriguingly for the faceoff-challenged Devils, though, Reasoner's most productive season since 2005-06 occurred for DeBoer's Florida Panthers in 2010-11 (7.8 GVT), when he scored a respectable 1.6 even-strength points per 60 minutes despite just 42 percent offensive-zone starts. Reasoner's former coach could be the key to maximizing the veteran's overall value, while his faceoff skills (54.1 percent) are undeniable.
Reasoner: minus-1.1 GVT
New York Islanders
The Problem: From Game 1 onward, it was apparent how impotent the Islanders third- and fourth-line scoring was, and that's after some modest attempts to improve their bottom six over the summer through the additions of Brian Rolston and Reasoner, along with the promotion of 2010 fifth overall pick Nino Niederreiter. The two veterans have seen their production nosedive from previous levels, while the Swiss rookie has earned only a fourth-line role after early injury woes. Close enough to the postseason bubble to warrant a cautious addition and close enough to the cap floor to deter any major selling spree, New York should selectively add a piece to improve its long-shot chances in 2011-12 while building for the future.
The Fix: Last season, Matt Calvert came on like gangbusters for the Blue Jackets; the 2008 fifth-round pick surprised with 20 points in 42 games (3.3 GVT). Then again, his 11 goals came on 22.0 percent shooting. Therefore, it's not entirely surprising that the smallish winger has been relegated to AHL-Springfield, outside of a lackluster 13 games with the big club. Normally, you wouldn't see such a young player moved -- he's a restricted free agent after 2013-14 -- but his outwardly disappointing season, seeming lack of favor in Columbus, and the potential Blue Jackets fire sale make it a possibility. The upside is there: His 2.45 even-strength points per 60 minutes last season was second only to Rick Nash.
Calvert: minus-0.4 GVT
A version of this story originally appeared at ESPN Insider .
Timo Seppa is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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