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. Yesterday, we addressed the Northeast Division. Today, it's the Southeast.
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.
The Problem: Injuries to Mike Green and Tom Poti, combined with a tough year for players like John Carlson and Jeff Schultz, have left the Capitals a little exposed on the back end. Despite those issues, Washington could win the Southeast Division and find itself in a favorable first-round series. Barring a lot of struggling players turning things around immediately, some help on the blue line could go a long way toward helping the team first make the playoffs, then make a splash in them.
The Fix: The Ducks' Toni Lydman has been playing tough defensive minutes for years, is signed to a reasonable contract that extends into next season and seems to have fallen out of favor in Anaheim of late. Before 2011-12, he hadn't been a minus player in seven seasons despite his defensive assignments, and he should give Dale Hunter one more option to ease the pressure on some of Washington's younger defenders. Lydman was a top-pairing defenseman with Lubomir Visnovsky in Anaheim last season and could be a long-term fit with Green when he returns from injured reserve.
Lydman: 3.6 GVT
The Problem: One area the Hurricanes have struggled with in recent years is goaltending depth. Although the team has had promising youngsters behind Cam Ward, 25-year-old Justin Peters struggled last season and was replaced as backup by veteran Brian Boucher this season. Rather than solidify the position, Boucher struggled before getting hurt, while Peters has not done much to restore confidence in him. Behind those two is Mike Murphy, an undersized goaltender not projected by many to become an NHL starter. It's a group that could use some internal competition and another prospect with a chance of contending for the starting job down the road.
The Fix: While the Hurricanes find themselves with just one goalie they really trust (Ward), the Los Angeles Kings have a very different problem: a whole bunch of good young goalies and a logjam in the system. Starter Jonathan Quick just turned 26. Highly touted backup Jonathan Bernier is 23. The Kings have two young potential NHL goalies in their minor league system, and second-round pick Chris Gibson is also in the mix. This glut of good young goalies makes Martin Jones, a 6-foot-4, 22-year-old, second-year professional expendable. Jones has size and made a splash in his rookie AHL season, and while he's almost lost in the mix in L.A., he would instantly become Carolina's best goaltending prospect. He's not far from NHL duty.
The Problem: Dale Tallon's summer of acquisition has paid off, at least in the short term, with the Panthers looking like a probable playoff team and the Southeast Division champions based on the current standings. One of the exceptions to this pattern is Ed Jovanovski, who was struggling before breaking his hand, and now he's on the shelf for an extended time after undergoing surgery to correct the problem. Beyond Jovanovski, the Panthers have a lot of youth on their back end, including 20-year-old Erik Gudbranson and 23-year-old Keaton Ellerby, and a reduction in role wouldn't hurt them or the team's postseason chances.
The Fix: With the market of available defensemen shrinking by the day as teams re-sign their pending free agents, one player who still seems likely to be available at the deadline is the Montreal Canadiens' Chris Campoli. An injury cost Campoli most of the early part of the season, and he showed some rust when he came back (minus-5 in his first eight games back), but he's been better of late and would add a veteran presence to the back end, which could alleviate pressure on the Panthers' young defensemen and allow the team to ease Jovanovski back into the lineup.
Campoli: 0.1 GVT
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Problem: Well-publicized goaltending problems have hindered the Lightning this season, but like most of the Lightning's problems, that isn't going to get fixed at the trade deadline. Instead, the Lightning should concentrate on adding some good, young pieces, then look at solving their more fundamental problems during the summer.
The Fix: The Edmonton Oilers, awash in young talent, might be a good target for other clubs hoping to pick up some of their lesser players at a low price. Sam Gagner has rebounded and Magnus Paajarvi is still likely to be an expensive acquisition, but Linus Omark's place in Edmonton is uncertain, and he could be in play. After missing much of the season with injury (his GVT reflects limited duty), he has hit the ground running in the AHL.
Omark: minus-0.7 GVT
The Problem: Winnipeg's main problem as things stand right now is scoring -- among Eastern Conference teams, only the New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres have picked up fewer goals than the Jets. However, they approach the deadline with another problem: They're close enough to be in the playoff race but far enough back that it would be foolish to spend assets and dollars now in a desperate attempt to add short-term help. They need to make decisions with a primary focus on the long haul.
The Fix: Pending free agent Milan Jurcina, who could very well be available via trade, is still quite young (just 28 years old) and, given his ugly plus/minus could be very cheap. Despite the superficial numbers, Jurcina's a useful NHL player. The Islanders actually outshoot their opponents by an average of five shots per hour with Jurcina on the ice, and if not for a disastrously low on-ice save percentage, Jurcina's plus/minus would reflect the strong work he's doing. He's a very cheap upgrade and could be handy in the long-term picture, too.
Jurcina: minus-1.2 GVT
A version of this story originally appeared at ESPN Insider .
Jonathan Willis is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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