After the Winter Olympics end, NHL teams will have just three days to tweak their rosters ahead of the March 3 trade deadline. Through ESPN Insider, ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek and Puck Prospectus evaluate every team's roster and the surrounding whispers from NHL Rumor Central. This is how the Northwest Division teams can improve in order to make a run at the playoffs, the Stanley Cup ... or for next season.
Colorado's problem: Experience/Power play
The Avalanche are the fourth-youngest team in the NHL, and of their top nine forwards in scoring, only Milan Hejduk is older than 24 and has any kind of postseason experience. At just 17.1 percent, they're 20th in the league with the man advantage, third-worst among teams bound for the postseason.
The guy to get: LW Paul Kariya
While his best days are behind him, Kariya could still have an instant impact on Colorado's power play based on the 10 points he's already scored this season with the Blues, and the 56 he earned in the 175 games he's played over the past three seasons in St. Louis and Nashville. The secret to Kariya's expertise on the power play is his incredible puck control, a talent he could help develop in youngsters Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny.
Of potentially equal significance is the former Avalanche winger's veteran leadership. Thinking back to his inspirational performance for Anaheim in the 2003 Stanley Cup finals, a natural leader like Kariya could provide the type of veteran leadership that can bring out the best in Colorado's enviable collection of young talent.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on possible trade acquisitions for the Colorado Avalanche as well as tradeable assets, click here.
For ESPN Rumor Central's take on possible trade targets for the Colorado Avalanche, click here.
Vancouver's problem: Penalty Killing
The Canucks are tied with Anaheim at fourth-worst in the league for taking penalties, 15.8 minutes per game. That type of undisciplined play can cost you in the postseason, especially on a team with below-average penalty-killing (20th in the league at 80.8 percent -- third-worst among playoff-bound teams).
The guy to get: C Stephane Yelle
Yelle has earned a reputation as a solid defensive center. If acquired, he could play short-handed alongside Alexandre Burrows or Ryan Kesler to help reduce the damage caused by Vancouver's poor discipline. In Carolina this season, opponents have taken just 39.1 shots per 60 minutes with the man advantage while Yelle is on the ice, showing that he is just as effective today as he was in Boston last season and Calgary before that.
While there are a handful of other available forwards who could kill penalties just as effectively, Yelle would be a better fit for the Canucks right now. Since he makes close to the league minimum, the Canucks would have no trouble fitting the 35-year-old UFA-to-be into their remaining cap space. He has also been in several Stanley Cup finals with Colorado and Calgary, and could provide the leadership and poise the Canucks need for a deep run. History has shown that sometimes the smallest moves have the biggest impacts. This could be another example.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on possible trade acquisitions for the Vancouver Canucks as well as tradeable assets, click here.
For ESPN Rumor Central's take on possible trade targets for the Vancouver Canucks, click here.
Calgary's problem: Power play
The Flames are easily the coldest team in the league, winning just five of their past 20 games after kicking off 2010 with two victories. Given their incredible wealth of talent and elite goaltending, there is just no excuse or explanation for their poor performance.
Based on his recent trades, Sutter has unquestionably noted that his club is 3-6 in shootouts and that the Flames are tied for the eighth-worst power play at 16.8 percent, contributing to the league's fifth-worst offense (2.47 goals per game).
The guy to get: RW Theo Fleury
No, that's not a typo. Given their recent acquisitions of Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan, Ian White, Jamal Mayers, Ales Kotalik and Christopher Higgins, Puck Prospectus thinks the Flames have already made the moves necessary to generate more offense and make a big push. Nevertheless, the storied franchise continues to find itself fighting a losing battle against inferior teams for the last playoff position in the West. Maybe the Flames don't need another trade, but rather a dash of the right seasoning. Enter Theo Fleury!
Is he too old? He didn't look that way in the exhibition games at the start of the season, when he ranked near the top of the Flames in physical conditioning, scoring four points and adding a shootout winner. Very few NHLers are as accomplished with the man advantage, and while the 41-year-old may have lost a step in some aspects of his game, he was certainly sharp on the power play in the preseason.
Given that the Flames are one of the league's most uninspired and underachieving teams right now, I just don't see how Fleury's outspoken nature could do any harm. In fact, maybe a legendary antagonistic spark plug is just what's needed to fire things up in Calgary. Even if I'm wrong and the Flames slowly slide out of contention, at least it would give the fans one last taste of Fleury's exciting brand of hockey.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on possible trade acquisitions for the Calgary Flames as well as tradeable assets, click here.
For ESPN Rumor Central's take on possible trade targets for the Calgary Flames, click here.
Minnesota's problem: Building for the future
Despite their well-earned reputation as one of the most defensively disciplined teams in the league, the Wild have allowed 2.85 goals per game this season while transitioning to new coach Todd Richard's offense-heavy style. It may be too late for Minnesota to alter course, and they might need to focus on getting the pieces they need for next season.
The guy to give up: G Josh Harding
It would be unfair to blame backup goalie Josh Harding for the Wild's woes, but several teams are looking for depth between the pipes, and the 25-year-old RFA could be just the player to attract the defensive-minded forwards Minnesota needs for next season. Harding's departure would clear a path for 23-year-old Kazakhstani netminder Anton Khudobin to step in and play the handful of games that Niklas Backstrom will sit out next season.
Based on his performance as the best relief goalie in the league last season, Harding could be just the man for a team like Washington. He led all backups with eight relief appearances and delivered a sparkling .952 save percentage in such situations. As a throw-in for those looking for playoff experience, the Wild may be enticed to add the veteran Nolan to a deal, as E.J. suggests.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on possible trade acquisitions for the Minnesota Wild as well as tradeable assets, click here.
For ESPN Rumor Central's take on possible trade targets for the Minnesota Wild, click here.
Edmonton's problem: Goaltending
The Oilers are a bit of a disaster right now, but their most serious problem is between the pipes. Nikolai Khabibulin's season-ending injury has unfortunately left Edmonton with no choice but to use Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk in net, neither of whom is quite ready to be an NHL regular. While the rebuilding Oilers are no doubt offering up almost everyone and anyone in exchange for prospects and draft picks, any team that can provide a short-term fix to their netminding woes would likely have the edge in trading for their available skaters.
The guy to give up: D Sheldon Souray
Souray should be back in plenty of time for the postseason. The veteran defenseman has an absolute cannon of a shot, and has scored at least 20 goals in two of the past three seasons.
It would be a waste for Souray to spend the few years remaining in his prime on a rebuilding team with established and high-paid blueliners like Lubomir Visnovsky, Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov. Since he's locked down at $4.5 million per season until 2012, the Oilers should be able to expect an offer much more attractive than they'd get for a UFA rental player. Tambellini would be wise to free up the cap space by moving Souray, in exchange for players who will actually be with the club when the Oilers are eventually competitive a few seasons from now.
For ESPN The Magazine's E.J. Hradek's take on possible trade acquisitions for the Edmonton Oilers as well as tradeable assets, click here.
For ESPN Rumor Central's take on possible trade targets for the Edmonton Oilers, click here.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
Robert Vollman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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