The Pacific Division had climbed to the top of the Western Conference. At the halfway mark, they had two teams in the wild card spots. Now, the Kings are the last remaining vestige of that short-lasting era.
Now, the Central has caught back up with the Pacific. Both divisions have a wild card. But even that is an improvement for the Pacific, which has failed to earn a wild card the last few years. Again, that’s important because wild cards show the strength of the division. And the Pacific is a lot stronger now.
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San Jose Sharks
John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
The Sharks are the lead in the Pacific, four points up on both the Oilers and the Ducks. Brent Burns leads all defensemen in goals. Joe Thornton is back to shooting, instead of simply assisting – he’s got 5 goals and 33 assists on the season.
They’re deep on both offense and defense, and they’re set with Martin Jones who led them to the Cup in net. It’s a stacked team. So what can they do at the deadline?
The Sharks upgrade at the defensive position and get three good defensemen to protect, upgrading from Paul Martin to Ekholm, who’s younger and on a longer contract. The Sharks improve their defensive depth and now have a true top 4 defensemen set up.
The Predators make their expansion draft protection much more simple and get a first round pick for Ekholm. They get to keep moving, getting a relatively good defenseman as well, which will enable them to continue their playoff push.
The Ducks have been better than expected. Their coach Randy Carlyle carries certain … circumstances and the Ducks have circumnavigated them to this point. The Ducks have kept up with the Oilers and the Sharks in the Pacific throughout the season, and are presumably playoff bound.
The Ducks are going to have to move one of their defensemen, as Kevin Bieksa has a No Movement Clause and will likely not opt out of it for Vegas. That means that Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm, and Sami Vatanen could all be on the trade block. But honestly, it’s likely Fowler, as Vatanen has a longer contract and Lindholm is younger.
The Ducks need a wing but I don’t think that trading one of their defensemen right now makes sense, as they must push for the playoffs with all hands aboard.
Vrbata is out of place on a lackluster Arizona Coyotes team. Emerson Etem is out of place on an Anaheim Ducks team that doesn’t need him. After being a short time journeyman, it’s about time that Etem found a long-term home. The deal doesn’t work without taking Thompson’s contract in exchange.
And it’s about time Vrbata joins a good team that needs him. The Ducks are just that, and Vrbata would fit right in on a playoff team in need of more scoring.
The Oilers are a team that’s very young but has the potential to be very good. They could be the best team in the Pacific very soon. Connor McDavid will soon be the best player in the NHL. The offense is coming together behind him but could use another member or two. The defense has the same problem. The team over-relies on McDavid and on goaltender Cam Talbot.
The Oilers’ most pressing need is defense. And someone cheap. They’re going to have to start re-signing young great players soon, like Leon Draisaitl and the already named McDavid.
The Oilers can start making playoff runs soon, and Fowler is a great defenseman who could be available. Paying the right price is key, and the Oilers can get help right now on defense. The Oilers are not a right now team. But if they can get Fowler, they should really go for it.
The Ducks receive both a late first round pick and a good prospect. It’s a great return for someone they would have to give up for free to Vegas, and instead, they can focus more on trying to get Vegas to take Clayton Stoner.
The Flames are one point up on the Kings with 2 more games played. In other words, they will soon fall behind both the Kings and the current first wild card Nashville Predators. The Flames are going to have to make a strong push to make the playoffs.
Their defense has to be trusted to work eventually. They have to believe in the defense they built. The offense they’ve built isn’t quite there yet. Brian Elliott has turned it on recently, but he’ll have to stay consistently great for the Flames to make the playoffs.
The Flames really need one last offensive push.
Flames Give Up: Dennis Wideman, D; Dependent Pick (1st if Make Playoffs, Second if Not)
This basically becomes two expiring contracts for each other and a second round pick for John Moore. Both of those are incredibly fair deals for both teams.
The Devils get what they need – Wideman is a capable defenseman, which is something the Devils don’t have a ton of. They also get a pick for a young defenseman. It makes it easier for the Devils to protect Andy Greene, Ben Lovejoy, and Jon Merrill in the expansion draft.
The Flames get an offensive push from a hungry veteran and get a young defenseman going forward, who they can also expose in the expansion draft. That’ll draw the scent off of players like Michael Frolik.
Weirdly, it turns out that the Kings are extremely capable without Jonathan Quick. Weirdly, it turns out that the Kings are fully capable of replacing Quick with a career backup in Peter Budaj. Weird.
So their greatest need at the beginning of the season is no longer a need. They might need a competent backup, but as Toronto found out, those can be found on the waiver wire. That’s not really a trade deadline deal. Especially in a Pacific division where the Kings need to become the most competitive possible.
So what is it for these Kings? What do they need most? Well, if you’d hold on, I’ll tell you.
The Kings need a lot more offensive help. Van Riemsdyk provides just that. He can help them beyond this year as well if the team chooses to protect him. Van Riemsdyk provides Kopitar with the wing he’s needed since Lucic left and even before that.
The Maple Leafs get two prospects and a pick out of the deal. That’s good moving forward because the Maple Leafs are still a team of the future. The Maple Leafs have been very quietly shopping Van Riemsdyk for a few years, and this might be the situation to move him in.
The Canucks are out of the playoff race in the Pacific, effectively ending the SedinTwins‘ chances in Vancouver. They might be shopped at the deadline next year if a team is willing to take on 7 million in cap space at the deadline.
It’s time for the Canucks to go full rebuild. That means that the Canucks have to start shopping contracts and players and start getting picks and prospects in return.
The Canucks need to begin acquiring prospects and picks. Why not start with sending Burrows, who’s on an expiring contract, to Edmonton for a young player and a good pick.
The Oilers need more offense, and Burrows is fully capable of providing it. They don’t need Russell, who is behind Jesse Puljujarvi, and they don’t need a low 2nd round pick – they’re going back to the playoffs finally.
In addition to the expiring contracts of Michael Stone and Martin Hanzal, the Coyotes have to look at Shane Doan. Their captain is on another one-year deal, he’s 40 years old, and he’s not won a Cup. Isn’t it about time that that happens?
The Coyotes don’t need a 40-year-old captain. Max Domi, in a down year, might be ready to take on that role. If not, Oliver Ekman-Larsson could stand ready.
Coyotes Give Up: Shane Doan, LW
Coyotes Get: Minnesota 2018 2nd Round
The Wild need more offense and from depth positions. Shane Doan can provide that to the team. The Coyotes get a pick, which is what they need.
This was the hardest move to make. The obvious Stone and Hanzal will be moved for a lot more, but Doan is a valuable veteran for the right team. It was just figuring out which team was the right one that was hard.