Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli and coach Todd McLellan are in their first season at the helm of the team. They've seen enough. "I've used this season to evaluate this team," Chiarelli said over the phone to ESPN.com this week. "I have a good sense of what needs to be done. I'm not happy. There will be changes. We are sellers before Monday's deadline, although I think the bigger decisions will come this summer." By the time the Oilers hit training camp in September, I'm guessing at least one-third of the roster will have turned over, maybe even more. Chiarelli is a man on a mission. He has front-burner moves to make before Monday's 3 p.m. ET deadline, then will come the bigger decisions in the offseason.
Here's our last look at the seven clubs in the Pacific approaching the Feb. 29 trade deadline, in order of the current division standings:
The division leaders are trying to hold off the charging Ducks for the top seed, and they might be talking to teams about some of the same players up front. The Kings are looking at rental wingers in the wake of the long-term injury to Marian Gaborik. Teddy Purcell has been among their targets, but there's no shortage of rental wingers still on the market. GM Dean Lombardi also would like to add a piece on defense.
The Ducks could end up doing absolutely nothing, mindful of the chemistry they've built up during this 20-4-2 run since Dec. 27. But if they do make a move, it's preferably for a left-shooting winger. I wonder if the Buffalo Sabres' Jamie McGinn wouldn't be a good fit for them. There's been lots of speculation this season about the future of goaltender Frederik Andersen (restricted free agent after the season), but I do not believe GM Bob Murray has any intention of dealing him before Monday's deadline. Andersen will stay put; the Ducks need his insurance with rookie John Gibson having a terrific season but also subject to the odd injury. Andersen will be an offseason move, I think. In the meantime, the goalie who could move is pending unrestricted free agent Anton Khudobin, who has been stuck in AHL San Diego for most of the season. If the Ducks move him, look for Anaheim to make another deal as well to bring in a No. 3 who's a bit younger to fill that organizational role and provide protection in case of a playoff injury to Gibson or Andersen.
GM Doug Wilson acted fast at the start of the week by acquiring Roman Polak and Nick Spaling from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a pair of second-round picks (2017 and 2018). Wilson was criticized in some corners for paying too high a price (it was indeed high), but people forget that the Leafs were willing to eat the Raffi Torres contract as part of the deal, which is a major reason the picks ended up in the second round. Secondly, it's a razor-thin blue-line trade market among the pending UFAs and in particular for a right-handed guy such as Polak. The Sharks wanted a third-pair, right-handed defenseman who could kill penalties and play with an edge. Polak was basically the only guy on the market who fit the bill. Other teams had interest in Polak, too. So the price is the price. The Sharks have a few players who should be ready to make the jump from their AHL affiliate into the NHL next season and they're comfortable with their youth in that respect, so they can live with trading away two future second-round picks. The Sharks might not be done. Backup goalie Alex Stalock has struggled, and the Sharks might trade for an upgrade to provide insurance to No. 1 Martin Jones, who has had a nice campaign. Anton Khudobin, James Reimer and Jonas Hiller are among the pending UFA goalies on the market. There are several options out there for Wilson if he chooses to upgrade his backup goalie.
Will he waive or not? That's the question hanging over the Canucks organization with pending UFA defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who has struggled all week with the decision. The British Columbia native went home years ago, taking less money to sign with the Canucks, so his heart is there. He'd like to re-sign with the Canucks. Could the 2014 Olympic gold medalist leave for a contender and come back July 1 as a free agent? It's not out of the question. Antoine Vermette did so last year with the Coyotes after winning a Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks. Speaking of the Blackhawks, they've talked to Vancouver about Hamhuis. But first, everyone is waiting to hear Hamhuis' decision. In the meantime, other parts for sale include Radim Vrbata, Matt Bartkowski, Yannick Weber, Adam Cracknell, Linden Vey, Chris Higgins and Brandon Prust.
It's all about where pending winger Mikkel Boedker ends up at this point. There had been contract talks between the two sides, but that ship has sailed. The Coyotes are focused on trading Boedker and getting the best possible return. GM Don Maloney is willing to retain salary on Boedker's $3.75 million salary/cap hit to maximize return. The team had talked to the Blackhawks about a potential trade, but the Hawks were able to complete a deal with the Winnipeg Jets for their No. 1 target in Andrew Ladd. So, the Coyotes will have to look elsewhere. Pending UFA blueliner Nicklas Grossmann is also available, although not sure how big a market there is for him.
Kris Russell is the big ticket on the rental trade market. Unless there's an 11th-hour contract extension for the pending unrestricted free agent, he tops a very, very thin rental D-market, and the Flames should do well on a return for him because of it. Pending UFA winger Jiri Hudler is the other marketable rental available, and he will most definitely be dealt before Monday's deadline. Pending UFA winger David Jones and pending UFA goalie Jonas Hiller are also on the market.
Pending unrestricted free-agent winger Teddy Purcell and pending RFA defenseman Justin Schultz were both held out of the Oilers' lineup Thursday night in Los Angeles, smartly, as a precaution because both are likely to be dealt before Monday. Lots of teams are interested in Purcell, including the Kings, who have had a few discussions with the Oilers on him. Schultz has totally lost his confidence and needs a change of scenery. The Oilers are willing to retain part of Schultz's $3.9 million cap hit if it means facilitating a trade. Teams have called. He's a nice, buy-low candidate; surely he's better than he's shown. Chiarelli knows he's dealing away a diminished asset but also knows it's never going to work in Edmonton for the 25-year-old blueliner. He's ready to cut the cord for everyone's sake, including the player's. Aside from those two assets, not sure where else Chiarelli moves before Monday; he'll certainly listen on almost anyone, but, as he said, the heavier lifting when it comes to core players potentially getting traded is more of a summer thing. Still, could there be a decent offer for Lauri Korpikoski (one more year at $2.5 million), for example? Either way, this is just the start of the changes that are coming. Brace yourself for June.