NHL Trade Deadline Preview: East

Weeks of rumors, innuendo, and e5s will finally come to a head on Wednesday. At 3pm Eastern, the NHL trade deadline will pass. You can follow all the activity with our NHL Trade Deadline Tracker.

Entering play Tuesday night, 23 NHL teams are either in a playoff position or within six points of one. While this is great for the playoff races, it's not so good for the deadline. It minimizes the number of potential sellers, drives up the trade market for the few players who should be available, and leaves us wondering if any big deals will go down. Here's a look at how the Eastern Conference looks heading into the deadline.

Boston Bruins

Record: 42-12-9, 93 points, 1st in East
Cap situation: Around $1 million available
Needs: Defensive depth

I keep thinking the Bruins will make a play for a guy like Jordan Leopold or Tomas Kaberle, but it hasn't happened yet. It's about the only hole I can see on what could be the NHL's best team.

New Jersey Devils

Record: 41-19-3, 85 points, 2nd in East
Cap situation: Short of $1.5 million available
Needs: Forward?

If the right deal for a scorer came around, it's hard to believe the Devils would dismiss it. However, I don't see them being active at the trade deadline.

Washington Capitals

Record: 40-19-5, 85 points, 3rd in East
Cap situation: Around $500,000 available
Needs: Forward depth, defense

Alexander Ovechkin aside, the Capitals aren't blessed with great depth at forward. If a team in the league were to figure out how to shut Ovechkin down in a playoff series, this team would be in serious trouble. I'd like to see them upgrade their top six on defense. Cap flexibility is a major issue.

Philadelphia Flyers

Record: 33-18-10, 76 points, 4th in East
Cap situation: A bit more than $55,000 available
Needs: Goaltending

You read the cap room right. It'll be tough for the Flyers to make a move for a goalie, because the salaries dealt pretty much have to match.

Montreal Canadiens

Record: 34-22-7, 75 points, 5th in East
Cap situation: Around $380,000 available
Needs: Forward?

The Canadiens aren't desperately seeking talent. Instead, they need to make a move to shake up the roster. They have little cap room now, but they do have a ton once we get into the summer. They may have to stand pat with what they have now and hope the chemistry continues to improve.

Florida Panthers

Record: 32-23-8, 72 points, 6th in East
Cap situation: Around $1.3 million available
Needs: Scoring

The Panthers have a pretty good team, and they are built around a group of talented young players, making a major deadline move unlikely. Obviously, the speculation centers around defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, but it's pretty clear at this point that they'd be stupid to trade him. Florida has a real shot at the playoffs, but they probably would have to give that up if they traded Bouwmeester.

New York Rangers

Record: 32-24-8, 72 points, 7th in East
Cap situation: Around $1 million available
Needs: Defense, salary dump

Maybe Sean Avery can help get Scott Gomez and Chris Drury going, but I'm not going to bet on it. The Rangers have few trade assets and little flexibility to take on money. In an ideal world. a guy like Gomez or Wade Redden would be gone, but this is hardly an ideal world. The Rangers are stuck with those terrible contracts.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Record: 32-26-6, 70 points, 8th in East
Cap situation: Around $950,000 available
Needs: Scoring depth

The Penguins have struggled to surround Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin with capable wingers. That effort isn't going to end anytime soon, unless general manager Ray Shero trades third center Jordan Staal to increase their cap flexibility. If Pittsburgh can sneak into the playoffs somehow, Crosby, Malkin, and Marc-Andre Fleury do make them a tough out.

Buffalo Sabres

Record: 31-25-7, 69 points, 9th in East
Cap situation: More than $5 million available
Needs: Offensive defenseman

Buffalo needs more punch from the blue line, and they need Thomas Vanek back. The latter will happen Wednesday, but I don't see them attacking at the deadline.

Carolina Hurricanes

Record: 32-27-5, 69 points, 10th in East
Cap situation: More than $6 million available
Needs: Forward

I don't see Carolina being active at the deadline, though they could use a bit more help up front. They don't have a lot of punch in the lineup.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Record: 25-26-12, 62 points, 11th in East
Cap situation: More than $7.3 million available
Needs: Forward, defense, goaltending
Selling points: Defense, forward

Brian Burke's rebuilding begins with the deadline. Will he do anything? If there's anything good about a project like this, it's that Burke can take on any players at any position. Especially goaltender. As for assets, Kaberle and Nik Antropov come to mind immediately.

Ottawa Senators

Record: 23-28-10, 56 points, 12th in East
Cap situation: Around $3.2 million available
Selling points: Forward

A guy like Antoine Vermette could find himself on the block. Ottawa has virtually no chance of making the playoffs, and they need to decide which of their young guys can play.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Record: 21-30-12, 54 points, 13th in East
Cap situation: Around $5 million available
Selling points: Forwards

Old dogs like Gary Roberts or Mark Recchi should change addresses, as could well-known veterans Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. With the Lightning struggling to win games and sell tickets, it would probably not be smart to trade their most marketable guys in St. Louis and Lecavalier.

Atlanta Thrashers

Record: 23-34-6, 52 points, 14th in East
Cap situation: Around $5.7 million available
Selling points: Forward

General manager Don Waddell has already dealt defensemen Niclas Havelid and Mathieu Schneider. Will he part with captain Ilya Kovalchuk? I am guessing they keep Kovalchuk.

New York Islanders

Record: 20-36-7, 47 points, 15th in East
Cap situation: Just over $13.5 million available
Selling points: Forward

Bill Guerin has been on the block since September, it seems. It's anyone's guess where he will go, but it seems a safe bet he will go somewhere. Trent Hunter could be moveable, too. The Islanders have a good crop of young players, and it's time to get them some NHL ice time. The rebuilding continues.

NHL Trade Deadline Preview: East originally appeared on NHL FanHouse on Tue, 03 Mar 2009 15:30:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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