The trade deadline is coming up, meaning that Pacific Division general managers will have some important decisions to make about key personnel. Which of the five teams will be selling and who will be buying?
Buyers or sellers?: The Ducks sit 12 points out of the playoffs despite their recent surge. It would take nearly flawless play in the next three weeks to make them aggressive buyers. At the same time, they seem unlikely to trade any of their younger core players and management has said it will honor the no-movement clauses of veterans Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu.
Needs: Anaheim could use physical and sound defensemen and forwards. The Ducks have struggled on faceoffs for much of the year as well. The popular former Duck Sami Pahlsson, the versatile Brad Boyes and the hard-nosed Barret Jackman are among their options to add depth.
Surplus: The final 40 days of Jason Blake’s contract might be of interest to a team looking for a veteran forward. With two promising offensive defensemen in Justin Schultz and Sami Vatanen in the system, one could become available. Schultz appears to be closer to playing in the NHL, making Vatanen the likelier player to move.
In the system: Anaheim has a solid farm system with some potential stars and enviable depth. It seems unlikely that they would tinker too much with it as they have older players in significant roles at the moment.
Buyers or sellers?: The Stars have enough cap space to make whatever additions they deem worthwhile in their playoff push. However, any salary beyond this season would be acquired with a mind toward the extension they will likely sign All-Star Jamie Benn to this offseason.
Needs: The Stars have been below average on both sides of their special teams play. They will likely look for a playmaker to improve their power play and round out their group of top-six forwards. While they want to make a push, their inquiries appear to lean toward players they can retain going forward. They might be in the mix for bigger names like Zach Parise, Alex Semin and Jeff Carter, but there remains little certainty that those players will be dealt.
Surplus: Dallas could potentially move a defenseman. They also have upcoming veteran UFAs like defenseman Sheldon Souray and forward Radek Dvorak.
In the system: Dallas has decent prospects in the pipeline but their most promising players are recent picks in foreseeable positions of need. Kari Lehtonen’s play may have eased the Stars’ minds about their goaltending, but Jack Campbell will probably stay put anyway.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
Buyers or sellers?: The Kings are in the hunt, however they have had mixed form in a season that carried high expectations. Los Angeles has transitioned fully from stockpilers to buyers, although their prospect depth is not what it was just a year ago.
Needs: Scoring. The Kings have had superb goaltending and highly consistent defensive play as they have managed to pull points out of tight games. They still lack natural finishers and their quest to find top-six left wingers seems endless. They have almost surely made another round of inquiries on Parise and Ales Hemsky along with Semin. They might have the pieces Columbus covets to reunite best buddies Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, although the competition will be fierce on all fronts.
Surplus: The Kings have some expiring deals, although Willie Mitchell has been critical to their success and Jarret Stoll remains a versatile forward if not an underachiever. They seem to be tied to the end of Dustin Penner’s deal. Where the Kings may make a move is with backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who projects as a starter despite some inconsistency to date. He and All-Star Jonathan Quick both come up for new contracts after next season.
In the system: The Kings have good depth in their lower levels and also more notable defensive prospects than one might expect for a team with good depth on the top level. Some of their prospects, such as Jake Muzzin and Thomas Hickey, might attract attention.
Buyers or sellers?: The Coyotes stand within spitting distance of a playoff spot in a crowded pack of aspiring entrants to the postseason. Because of their financial situation, teams like Phoenix can take advantage of prorated salaries to add talent with little financial commitment at the deadline.
Needs: The Coyotes’ power play has been woeful, currently ranked last in the NHL in conversion percentage. If they are going to maximize the benefits of Dave Tippett’s defensive system, an opportunistic power play will be essential going forward. Potentially available veterans like Kristian Huselius, Jaroslav Spacek and Tuomo Ruutu could all improve the Coyotes’ passing and power play.
Surplus: The Coyotes do not have any ideal trade targets on their main roster but the Coyotes have Ottawa’s second rounder this year and some attractive prospects.
In the system: Phoenix has good depth on defense in its farm system and some promising wingers as well. It seems more likely to move picks for short-term acquisitions but could also part with a prospects for a legitimate offensive threat.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
Buyers or sellers?: The Sharks have designs on their fifth straight Pacific Division title and may be looking for those missing pieces to solidify their playoff run. They will almost certainly be buyers.
Needs: The Sharks have struggled on the penalty kill despite their success on faceoffs. Their rebuilt defense corps is not delivering the results San Jose desired. They have made some opportunistic additions at the deadline, and could make some again. Their blockbuster deals have generally come in the offseason. Jackman may become a target for San Jose, the same may be true of former Shark Scott Hannan and the defensive-minded Dominic Moore.
Surplus: A huge deal seems unlikely since they made a trio of deals with Minnesota last summer, most notably the Brent Burns deal that depleted their enviable organizational depth at forward.
In the system: Towering defensive prospect Taylor Doherty has a good deal of potential but a steep development curve. He could be trade bait in a deal for a veteran but the Sharks are more likely to nibble around with small deals involving picks or secondary prospects from a relatively thin organization.