A playoff spot is hardly assured to the Pittsburgh Penguins, but, as currently constructed, they are all-in.
And if they get in, who knows in this parity-filled league -- particularly the Eastern Conference -- how far they just might get.
It's why rumblings around the league suggest that veteran Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, who has already made a couple of nice moves this season by adding Carl Hagelin and Trevor Daley, may not yet be done.
Word is he'd like to help his team even more given the injuries they're battling to secure that playoff spot, and that help might come in the form of adding both a forward and a defenseman.
I think on defense, pending unrestricted free agent Roman Polak is among the available defensemen the Penguins are monitoring; he'd be a nice fit on their third pairing and penalty kill. The Toronto Maple Leafs won't have a hard time peddling the very likable Polak, a tough dude who oozes character, as there is lots of interest in him among the league's contenders ahead of the Feb. 29 trade deadline.
Up front, I think a guy who would be a terrific add-on for the Penguins is winger Mikkel Boedker, should he not re-sign with the Arizona Coyotes. His speed would be a nice complement to that top-six group in Pittsburgh. Again, there will be competition for the skilled 26-year-old Boedker, so perhaps too rich for the Penguins, but we shall see.
He's also a pending UFA and you might wonder about the Penguins being in the rental player market given the fact they're not assured of making the playoffs, but I think after adding Hagelin, who had term on his deal, the Penguins would rather deal for pending UFAs at this point in order to not add to their salary cap situation next season.
The Chicago Blackhawks would easily stand pat ahead of Feb. 29 and feel fine about it, but I think if a deal materializes and doesn't cost an unreasonable price, finding a left winger to play on Jonathan Toews' line would be among the priorities for the reigning Stanley Cup champions. Not that Andrew Shaw hasn't played well, but I think it's more about adding top-nine depth for another grind of a playoff run. Whether it's Boedker or Andrew Ladd or a cheaper, more cap-friendly alternative, I believe that would be the type of move GM Stan Bowman could potentially look at. The waiving of Rob Scuderi on Tuesday potentially opens up a bit more cap space. But again, I also think Bowman is less determined this year compared to other seasons to get in on the trade deadline action. He likes his team. If a deal happens, it happens, but it won't be Bowman forcing it, I don't think.
A top-nine winger tops the list of needs for the Florida Panthers ahead of the deadline but not at any cost. I don't think Panthers GM Dale Tallon is interested in paying exorbitant prices in terms of their top prospects. However, at the right price, the Panthers will make a move if they can to help their top nine. As I mentioned before, pending UFA Ladd would be among those on the list, but not if the Winnipeg Jets are asking too much in return.
The Dallas Stars are back to playing the kind of hockey that saw them race out to the division lead in the first half of the season. The trade deadline priority remains a top-four blueliner, but the play of some of their younger defensemen during this recent run has lessened that as far as being a must acquisition. Could the Stars still deal for a defenseman? Yes. But it's not a desperation. Among those on the potential target list are Dan Hamhuis and Kris Russell, should either of those pending UFAs get put on the trade market. But again, I don't sense Dallas GM Jim Nill is adamant about having to do it at any cost.
The Buffalo Sabres remain open to the idea of re-signing pending UFA winger Jamie McGinn, but unless both sides get on the same page soon, he'll be dealt ahead of the deadline. Some teams have shown interest in the 27-year-old, who has 12 goals on the season.