Hockey Prospectus is taking a look at the NHL division by division and suggesting ways each team should tackle the forthcoming trade deadline. On Monday, we looked at the Atlantic Division. On Tuesday, we addressed the Northeast Division and on Wednesday we examined the Southeast. On Thursday it was the Central Division. Today we head up to the Northwest.
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.
The Problem: There aren't too many gaps in the Canucks roster, which is why they boast one of the best point totals (76) and goal differentials (+41) in the entire league. No team is perfect, however, and some of Vancouver's weak spots were exposed in the playoffs last season. When Manny Malhotra went down with an eye injury prior to the playoffs, the Canucks lost the center that head coach Alain Vigneault frequently leaned on for defensive zone faceoffs. The team made do with Maxim Lapierre as a poor facsimile, but it was clear they missed Malhotra's ability to win draws and his acumen in the defensive zone. In addition, the Boston Bruins bullied Vancouver a bit in the finals. It wouldn't hurt to add a bit of muscle as a preemptive measure.
The Fix: The Canucks could supplement their defensive center depth and up their toughness quotient by acquiring the Buffalo Sabres' Paul Gaustad. The 30-year-old pivot is 6-foot-5 and 212 pounds and leads the Sabres in faceoff win percentage (55.6). Like Malhotra, Gaustad tends to start way more often in the defensive end of the ice with an offensive-to-defensive-zone start ratio of 40.9 percent. He is also not afraid to drop the gloves to protect a teammate; he has three fighting majors this season and has garnered double-digit PIM counts twice over the last four seasons.
Gaustad: 3.4 GVT
The Problem: Thanks to a rash of injuries, the Flames are currently playing with a forward roster half made up of rookies and AHLers. With David Moss, Curtis Glencross, Lee Stempniak, Blair Jones and Mikael Backlund on the shelf until at least March, Calgary is in desperate need of just about any kind of NHL-caliber depth it can get up front. Of course, with so many bodies out of the lineup and a need to try to retain as many draft picks and prospects as possible, the Flames don't have a lot to offer any potential trade partners.
The Fix: GM Jay Feaster has shown a willingness this season to collect NHLers in their mid-20s who might need a second chance by picking up Blake Comeau (waivers) and Blair Jones (trade). That means he might take a chance on Michael Frolik, who after consecutive 20-plus-goal campaigns in Florida has fallen on hard times in Chicago. A recent healthy scratch for the Blackhawks, Frolik has just five goals and 13 points this season, despite being a highly skilled winger who was a former 10th overall pick. The 24-year-old is already an NHL veteran of 292 games and has twice garnered more than 40 points. Part of his struggles this season are due to a miserable personal shooting percentage (5.0 percent) and the fact that Joel Quenneville tends to deploy him in a defense-first shutdown role. The Flames also have something the Hawks need in defensive depth. Scott Hannan and/or Cory Sarich could step in and stabilize the Hawks blue line, whose depth has been tested recently after the loss of Niklas Hjalmarsson. The trade works for both clubs. The Blackhawks get another veteran NHL defender and the Flames add a young forward who potentially fills both short-term and long-term needs.
Frolik: 0.9 GVT
The Problem: After a Cinderella start to the season, spending some time atop the Western Conference, the Minnesota Wild has since seen their carriage turn back into a pumpkin. A shallow club at all positions that has also been plagued by injuries, the Wild have needs everywhere except in net. With the offseason loss of Brent Burns and the deterioration of Marek Zidlicky as a worthwhile option, the club's greatest issues are probably on the back end. An example of those issues: the fact that 22-year-old sophomore Jared Spurgeon leads the Wild blue line in ice time this season.
The Fix: No single move at the deadline is going to plug the holes on Minnesota's back end. Like the Flames, Minnesota has to keep one eye on the future so it's unlikely the Wild will be willing or able to land one of the more notable names on the market. However, they might be able to snag a guy like Matt Gilroy out of Tampa Bay. The former Ranger was a highly sought-after free agent out of college, but struggled to live up to those expectations in New York. He has settled into a capable-enough depth option for the Lightning this season, however, averaging just over 17 minutes of ice time, much of it at even strength (15:56) and short-handed (1:25). Just 27 years old, Gilroy is young enough to be a part of the future, but old enough to add a few years of experience to a rather youthful back end in Minnesota.
Gilroy: 4.5 GVT
The Problem: After plummeting in the Western Conference standings last season, the Avalanche are tantalizingly close to another postseason appearance this season. Their primary weakness so far has been offense, especially at even strength. Colorado has managed just 91 goals for at five-on-five in 57 games played, good for 24th in the league. Just Edmonton, Florida, Columbus, the New York Islanders, Minnesota and Los Angeles have scored fewer (and only the Blue Jackets have played as many games as Colorado).
The Fix: The Carolina Hurricanes have let it be known that Tuomo Ruutu is available. Although the 29-year-old is on pace for just 43 points this season, Ruutu nevertheless has the second most even-strength points behind Eric Staal on the Hurricanes so far. His 17 goals also project to a very respectable 24-goal season over 82 games. A guy who can play both center and on the wing, Ruutu could slide right into Colorado's top-six rotation, given that they have just four forwards with 30 or more points (Ryan O'Reilly, Paul Stastny, Milan Hejduk and Gabriel Landeskog). He isn't going to become an instant difference-maker up front, but he is a nice rental option for a team like Colorado that is trying to build something and remain competitive.
Ruutu: 5.7 GVT
The Problem: The Oilers, who have finished last in the league for two straight seasons and are on pace for yet another lottery pick, have needs everywhere. They could use a better goaltender, a legitimate high-end defender or two and more than a few capable forward veterans. Obviously the deadline isn't going to provide the answers to all of Steve Tambellini's prayers; Edmonton is going to be doing more "selling" than "buying," but perhaps it can shore up its perpetually injury-depleted depth.
The Fix: With Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as the offensive fixtures up front, Edmonton will be looking for some complementary pieces. The Carolina Hurricanes' Patrick Dwyer might be just the ticket. The 28-year-old has 203 games of NHL experience, is signed to the end of 2013 and is valuable mostly in the defensive end and tough areas of the ice. Dwyer has been used in a shutdown role with Brandon Sutter for Carolina this season, frequently playing against other teams' top players and starting way more often in the defensive zone (37.6 percent zone start). He's not a guy who will add much in the way of offensive punch, but he can help Edmonton's many youngsters find their legs by soaking up some of the tougher minutes.
Dwyer: 0.4 GVT
A version of this story originally appeared at ESPN Insider .