NHL

Previewing the deadline in the Central

Hockey Primetime Jim Diamond
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Chicago Blackhawks

Buyers or Sellers?

Once considered a lock for the playoffs, the Blackhawks' slide since late January has teams currently on the outside of the playoff race eyeing their spot. Something needs to be done before the deadline to shake up a team that is sinking fast and in danger of falling out of the West's top eight.

Needs

Their goaltending has been shaky for most of this season, but the team's potent offense has covered up a lot of the deficiencies of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery. Chicago's team defense has been porous as well, so adding a blueliner would not be out of the question, either.

Surplus

One thing the Blackhawks do not lack is solid goal scorers. Parting with one of them will be difficult for general manager Stan Bowman, but in order to halt their losing ways, he may be forced to look closely at making the tough decision to part with one of his forwards in order to land a decent goaltender.

In the System

If Chicago does not want to part with one of their current roster players, teams may be interested in young prospect Brandon Saad. Saad made the team out of training camp, but was sent back to the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL after just two NHL games. While he may not have been NHL-ready this season, it will not be long before he is ready to stick in the league.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Buyers or Sellers?

Anything that could have gone wrong this season in Columbus has — in a big way. They have the fewest wins and points and have no hope of making the playoffs. Things are so bad in Ohio that just about anyone can be had for the right price.

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Needs

Goaltending and defense will need to be addressed prior to the start of next season if Columbus does not want a repeat of 2011-12 when the puck drops in October. While the Blue Jackets have a couple of talented forwards, they need to find more goal scoring up front as well.

Surplus

Recent reports out of Columbus say that captain Rick Nash could be on the trading block. The Blue Jackets' franchise player will command a near king's ransom in return, but his no-movement clause means he can be selective of the teams Columbus deals with in any trade negotiations. Jeff Carter has been injured and an overall disappointment in his first season in Columbus and has 10 years at a nearly $5.3 million annual cap remaining on his contract, so unloading him could be a priority.

In the System

If the Blue Jackets had many decent prospects that were at or close to being NHL-ready, they would already have been recalled. In juniors, Oshawa Generals forward Boone Jenner was Columbus' second-round selection (37th overall) in 2011 and has put up solid numbers in his time in the OHL. He was a member of Canada's World Junior Championship team this year.

Detroit Red Wings

Buyers or Sellers?

As it stands now, the Red Wings are in a battle for the President's Trophy as the NHL's top team, so messing with something that has been working all season is probably not going to happen. Barring any sudden injuries, the Red Wings will likely stand pat.

Needs

The Red Wings actually have cap space this season if they should choose to try and add at the deadline. All-world defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom will retire one day, so if another blueliner came on the market that could complement the seven-time Norris Trophy winner while he is still playing, general manager Ken Holland may take a look.

Surplus

Detroit coach Mike Babcock does not tinker with his lineup much, so anything subtracted from the current group of players would likely need to return one that could step in and fill the same role.

In the System

University of Notre Dame junior Riley Sheahan is third among Fighting Irish players in scoring this season with nine goals and 15 assists in 29 games played. In his first two seasons as a collegian, Sheahan had 11 goals and 28 assists in 77 games. The Red Wings selected Sheahan in the first round (21st overall) in 2010.

Nashville Predators

Buyers or Sellers?

The Predators are eyeing their seventh playoff appearance in their last eight seasons and are looking to build upon their first playoff series victory, which came in last season's Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Anaheim Ducks.

Needs

While much attention has been focused on the Predators acquiring a scoring forward, a veteran defenseman with some size should be at the top of their wish list.

Surplus

Nashville has two rookie defensemen seeing time on the blue line this season. Highly touted prospects Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi were early-season call-ups and have stuck on the roster. Other teams looking to deal a big-name player will want good value in return, so both Ellis and Josi's names will likely surface in any talks.

In the System

Nashville has always been known as an organization that is good at drafting and developing defensemen. With the emergence of Ellis and Josi, teams may be eyeing Jonathon Blum, who was called up last season and played well down the stretch and in the playoffs. Blum started the season on Nashville's second defensive pairing, but eventually worked his way out of the lineup and was sent to Milwaukee of the AHL where he remains.

St. Louis Blues

Buyers or Sellers?

Punch 'em back

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After a slow start to their season and one fired head coach later, the Blues are in contention for the top spots in both the Central Division and Western Conference. Like the Detroit team that they are chasing, making changes to their lineup could be seen as counterproductive to a process that seems to be working under Ken Hitchcock.

Needs

New players usually take time to adjust to Hitchcock's system, so making many changes could upset his defense-first system that has taken them to second place in the Central Division. The Blues may have addressed a need in-house earlier this week when forward Andy McDonald returned to the lineup after missing 51 games with a concussion sustained October 13th. Depending on the severity of center Jason Arnott's current shoulder injury, his spot in the lineup may need to be addressed from outside the organization.

Surplus

Defenseman Ian Cole has been back and forth between St. Louis and the minors a couple of times this season. At 22, he is still young and has solid potential, but he has not been able to establish himself in the lineup with much consistency this season.

In the System

Vladimir Tarasenko, taken 16th overall in 2010, is a high-scoring forward currently playing in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg. In helping Team Russia to the 2011 World Junior Championship gold medal, Tarasenko had four goals and seven assists in seven games played.

Tagged: Blackhawks, Red Wings, Blues, Predators, Blue Jackets, Rick Nash, Ryan Ellis

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