The buyers and sellers are beginning to clearly identify themselves in the Pacific Division. Here is a look at the Pacific's buyers and sellers heading toward the Feb. 29 trade deadline, from the divisional leader on down:
Like a punch to the gut early in a boxing match, the Kings were stung by Dustin Byfuglien's re-signing with the Jets. They would have loved to have made the Winnipeg Jets a trade offer. Now they need to recover and look at other options on defense in the rental trade market. None compare to what Byfuglien could have provided, but it's time to move on. Pending unrestricted free agents Dan Hamhuis (if he's willing to waive his no-trade clause), Kris Russell (if he doesn't re-sign with the Flames) and, to a lesser degree, Roman Polak could all be options. The waiving of Christian Ehrhoff this week underlines L.A.'s need to add depth on the blue line.
The Sharks aren't desperate, but adding another body for depth to their blue-line corps remains the priority. Insurance is needed because any injury to their top four would leave a youthful group needing to step up. A veteran rental add-on makes sense.
My sense is that Ducks general manager Bob Murray wanted to see how the first two to three weeks after the All-Star break went before he decided how he was going to proceed ahead of the trade deadline. The Ducks have continued their winning ways. They've already made a few moves this season, so nothing is forcing Murray to do anything. But he'd get depth on defense and could use one of those trade chips to beef up the forward ranks if he sees something he likes.
The playoffs are becoming less and less of a reality for a rebuilding Coyotes team that has lost five straight games and nine of their past 11 games. Pending unrestricted free-agent blueliner Nicklas Grossmann could be moved given the numbers on defense the Coyotes currently have. The big pressure point, however, remains the future of pending UFA winger Mikkel Boedker. There have been contract talks but the clock is ticking. He's only 26 years old and if he goes on the trade block, he dwarfs any other rental forward on the market in terms of talent. But the Coyotes no doubt will continue until the 11th hour to try to sign him.
The Canucks' awful injury luck continued after center Brandon Sutter (broken jaw) and top-four blueliner Alexander Edler (fractured fibula) went down Tuesday night in a game against the Colorado Avalanche. All of which makes it even a greater challenge to stay in the playoff picture, although the plucky Canucks won back-to-back games at Colorado and Arizona to remain in the mix.
But reality suggests the playoffs could be a reach. All of which will put more emphasis on the situations with pending UFAs Radim Vrbata and Dan Hamhuis. Canucks GM Jim Benning is willing to keep both for the stretch run if his team is still close to a playoff spot Feb. 29. He feels the playoff experience would be valuable for his young players on the roster. But if they fall too far out over the next two weeks, he'll have to reconsider on Vrbata and Hamhuis.
Problem is, those two players hold all the cards. Vrbata has a list of eight teams that he would need to submit, very much limiting the trade market. Hamhuis, a British Columbia native, has a full no-trade clause and who knows whether he has any interest in waiving it with his wife and three kids firmly entrenched at home. He might just want to play out the season and see what happens. But perhaps the chance to augment his stock ahead of July 1 on a Cup contender might convince him to waive. Stay tuned.
The playoffs are less and less of a reality, so it's all about pending UFA winger Jiri Hudler and pending UFA defenseman Kris Russell. I think Hudler is almost assuredly not going to be re-signed. Russell is a more interesting situation; dialogue remains open between both sides so he could still be re-signed, but time is running out. The Flames should fetch a decent return for him on the rental market.
The Oilers are officially sellers after a road trip that deep-sixed their playoff chances. At the front of the line in terms of available players are pending UFA winger Teddy Purcell and pending restricted free-agent defenseman Justin Schultz. Purcell has had a decent season but re-signing him doesn't much sense for an Oilers team deep up front. Those cap dollars are better spent elsewhere. He'll be a good pickup for a contender looking to add secondary scoring.
Schultz has lost his confidence; his development wasn't handled well the past few years in Edmonton and a change of scenery will benefit everyone involved. I think he still has the chance to be a good defenseman, so for another team this is an interesting gamble.
The Oilers would love to get in on either Travis Hamonic or Kevin Shattenkirk, but my sense is those guys likely don't move until the offseason at the earliest. And unless anything pops up before Feb. 29, it might also be that Edmonton's pursuit of adding one or two top-four defensemen waits until the offseason as well. But they're in selling mode, so expect a few deals from the Oil before Feb. 29.