With the NHL trade deadline just hours away, teams have spent the past few weeks looking at what they need to do to make their team better for now, the future, or to get them into the playoffs.
Looking at the seven NHL clubs in Canada, five of them (Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, Winnipeg and Ottawa) are currently in a playoff spot in their respective conferences. The other two teams, the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, are currently out of a playoff spot. The Flames are expected to miss out, while the Oilers are currently just one point behind the eighth-place St. Louis Blues.
Here is what we think each team needs:
Goaltending: Leafs, Flames and Canucks
Toronto Maple Leafs
Whether a team is in a playoff spot or not, good goaltending is always needed. The Maple Leafs certainly fit into this category.
While the Leafs are currently getting solid goaltending from both James Reimer and Ben Scrivens, no one is quite sure how they will perform come playoff time. Neither Reimer nor Scrivens has played a post-season game in the NHL and as everyone knows, a different kind of good goaltending is needed to get to the next level and have success in the playoffs.
One name that is being thrown around is current Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo. It is becoming clearer in Vancouver that Cory Schneider is the team’s goaltender of the present and future. With Schneider between the pipes, the Canucks have won five of their last six games and are now tied with the Minnesota Wild for first place in the Northwest Division.
When it comes to the Calgary Flames, they need to start thinking about their future. According to former Flames coach and general manager and now hockey analyst Mike Keenan, Miikka Kiprusoff signed his last deal with the intent that he would not play the final year of his contract, which just happens to be next season.
Keenan believes that current Flames’ general manager Jay Feaster is going to have to figure out where he is going to get a goaltender from.
“He’s going to have to find a goaltender, unless I’m mistaken, (but) I don’t think I am. Miikka’s going to be 37 in October, and he’s played a lot of hockey there,” Keenan said. “In terms of staying there for a rebuild, that’s a big burden for an older goaltender. The Flames are going to have to find themselves a goaltender somewhere.”
If the Vancouver Canucks are going to get rid of Luongo at some point, they will need to get someone to back up Schneider.
The Canucks do not need a big-name goalie to fill this role. Rather, they just need someone that could fill in for Schneider if he needs a rest, gets injured or even has a bad game here and there.
Defence: Oilers and Flames
There is no doubt that for the foreseeable future at least, the Edmonton Oilers are set up just fine when it comes to offence.
With that said, this team could use a true offensive defenceman besides Justin Schultz to add to the team’s arsenal. There is a chance that defenceman Ryan Whitney could end up being moved and if that happens, they could certainly use another defenceman to contribute points from the blue-line.
With the Flames currently second to last in goals allowed, the team clearly needs to upgrade their blue-line.
The Flames already traded top defenceman Jay Bouwmeester to St. Louis on Monday, and there is a chance Mark Giordano could be on his way out as well.
Feaster needs to step up and figure out how to make this Flames team better and rebuilding the team from the net out would certainly be a start.
Offence: Senators and Flames
The Ottawa Senators have surprised many this season by being in the top five in the Eastern Conference despite significant injuries to some of their star players.
At the trade deadline, they should look for someone who can put up points from the back end. Without Norris Trophy-winning defenceman Erik Karlsson for the rest of the season and the playoffs, the team needs someone besides Sergei Gonchar who can contribute on offence. Someone like Dan Boyle from the San Jose Sharks might be a nice fit.
The team may also want to look for someone up front. Currently, Senators forward Kyle Turris leads the team with 22 points (eight goals and 14 assists) while team captain Daniel Alfredsson is right behind him with 20 points (eight goals and 12 assists). The team could use someone to pick up the slack from Jason Spezza and Karlsson.
With the Flames having traded away their franchise leader Jarome Iginla for practically nothing, they need to start rebuilding their offence.
No one is quite sure if forward Michael Cammalleri will stay with the team so the Flames will definitely need to look into upgrading their offence if both Iginla and Cammalleri are no longer with the team. Alex Tanguay is tied with Cammalleri for the team lead in points with 25.
While the Flames are currently ninth in the league in goals scored, they could use someone with some high-octane offence and someone they can count on a nightly basis to put the puck in the net.
Stay the Course: Canadiens and Jets
The Montreal Canadiens find themselves atop the Northeast Division and second in the Eastern Conference with 49 points.
The team has been so successful this season because they have been great from the net on out. The team’s defence is ranked fifth in the league in goals against and for the first time in a while, the Canadiens’ offence is well balanced.
The Canadiens should like what they have right now and stay the course. Making a big move or a move that could shake up the team at this time would not be the right way to go.
Believe it or not, the Winnipeg Jets currently lead the Southeast Division by four points with 38.
While there is no doubt that this team can improve on offence (22nd in the league in goals scored) and on the back end (21st in the league in goals allowed), now would not be the time to make any major deals. The club has a good chance to win the division and should stay on the path they’re currently on.
This season, the Jets have gotten by on offence with the likes of Andrew Ladd (14 goals and 18 assists), Blake Wheeler (14 goals and 14 assists) and Evander Kane (13 goals and 13 assists). The defence is still young and growing and goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, just 25 years of age, is only going to get better.
The roster that they have now is the one they should stick with going forward for the rest of the season and if they get there, the post-season.