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February 17, 2012
Deadline Deals
Central Division

by Robert Vollman and ESPN Insider


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. Today it's the Central 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.

Detroit Red Wings

The Problem: "Problem" isn't a word we'd use to describe any aspect of the Detroit Red Wings, who have the most points in the NHL. Just like every season, they're a top-five team in practically any category. Jimmy Howard's recent injury may be minor, but it brings to light potentially the only improvement the team could make in anticipation of a long playoff run: goaltending depth. Unless the Wings want to rely on career AHLer Joey MacDonald or the league's worst backup two years running -- Ty Conklin -- our suggestion is the same as last year's -- to shore themselves up between the pipes.

The Fix: Last year the Red Wings tried to bring Evgeni Nabokov over from the KHL, but he was swiped off waivers by the New York Islanders. While Islanders GM Garth Snow recently told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun that they had no intention of moving Nabokov, he later conceded that they'd consider all their options. If the Islanders prove reluctant to exchange the veteran goalie for one of Detroit's ample supply of prospects, the Wings could instead go after veteran Marty Turco, currently playing in Austria.

Nabokov: 12.1 GVT

Chicago Blackhawks

The Problem: While Brendan Morrison might not solve their need for a top-six center, their hole on the blue line is far more significant. Corey Crawford and Ray Emery are struggling in goal, and rather than go after more goaltending, our recommendation is to get a defensive-minded veteran capable of playing tough minutes and killing penalties.

The Fix: Gritty defensive veteran Bryan Allen leads Carolina's blue line in shot-based differentials despite the second-toughest job on the team (after penalty-killing linemate Tim Gleason) and could easily shore up Chicago's second unit if Niklas Hjalmarsson's injury woes or struggles with linemate Nick Leddy continue. Despite a potential bidding war for Allen's services, the Blackhawks could have a leg up in trade negotiations for the pending unrestricted free agent given their enviable position of having picks, prospects and usable NHL players available to offer.

Allen: 1.1 GVT

St. Louis Blues

The Problem: Last season, we felt that the addition of Chris Stewart would be enough to shore up the Blues' power play, but it could clearly use a little more help. While the return of a healthy Andy McDonald, and hopefully Jason Arnott and Alexander Steen, will all go a long way, one more power-play specialist would be the most useful addition the Blues could make at the deadline. One caveat: They're not in a position to give up any of the key young pieces they've carefully assembled, which should be fine since they're looking for some short-term assistance rather than a dynamic-changing superstar.

The Fix: Despite the recent assertion by ESPN.com's Scott Burnside that P.A. Parenteau belongs in Long Island, he could prove to be the ideal addition to the Blues right now. The unrestricted free agent is fifth in the league with 37 assists, thanks to his tremendous performance alongside John Tavares and Matt Moulson on the league's seventh-best power play. If the Islanders want to hang on to their late-blooming power-play weapon, other options could include Tampa Bay's playoff specialist, Teddy Purcell, or tiny David Desharnais of the Montreal Canadiens.

Parenteau: 9.2 GVT

Nashville Predators

The Problem: The Nashville Predators are one team when stars Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are on the ice, and completely another with anyone else. Beyond those two All-Stars, the Predators' blue line is a collection of the untried and the unknown. While their need for some top-six scoring up front also limits their postseason potential, they will never go anywhere without at least two complete lines of experienced defensemen who can play tough minutes against top opponents.

The Fix: At 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds, 14-year veteran Hal Gill would provide Nashville not only with needed defensive help on the blue line, but also the size and grit. Gill's playoff experience could also prove invaluable; he has gone on deep runs three straight seasons from 2007-08 to 2009-10, winning the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2008-09. Given the 36-year-old's age and unrestricted free-agent status, Montreal's top penalty killer could likely be had for far less than the two picks (second round and fifth) it required Pittsburgh this time back in 2008.

Gill: 3.6 GVT

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Problem: Over the years Columbus' woes have been largely due to just three things: a tough division, a bad power play and weak goaltending. Having already acquired Jeff Carter, James Wisniewski and Vinny Prospal in the offseason for their power play, the key piece they need is in net. Things could still turn around for 23-year-old Steve Mason, but until they do the Blue Jackets need to acquire a more reliable net guardian, especially with recent injuries to backups Curtis Sanford and Mark Dekanich.

The Fix: Every year at Hockey Prospectus, we hand out the Josh Harding Award to the league's best relief goalie, given his amazing and consistent ability to come into the game cold and give his team a chance to win when the starter falters. Not only is that a perfect partner for Steve Mason, but Harding has certainly also earned an opportunity to be a No. 1 goalie -- something he'll never be in Minnesota, but he could work out very well in Columbus while Mason continues to develop.

Harding: 6.0 GVT

A version of this story originally appeared at ESPN Insider Insider.

Robert Vollman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Robert by clicking here or click here to see Robert's other articles.

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<< Previous Article
Deadline Deals (02/16)
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Deadline Deals (02/16)
Next Column >>
Deadline Deals (02/21)
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Prospectus Q & A (02/20)

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