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Central Division at the trade deadline: Plenty of Cup contenders -- and buyers

From ESPN - February 13, 2018

The NHL trade deadline arrives on Feb. 26, and the Central Division remains the most potent group in the league this season. It's not just that the division features five teams currently in playoff spots; four of the NHL's top 10 teams are from the Central. Whoever makes the cut here will have earned it.

The Stanley Cup will, of course, be a possibility for any team that reaches the postseason -- but it's a more likely goal for some than others. This week we take a snapshot of the NHL trade deadline, focusing on the game plans for all 31 teams. After breaking down the Metro on Monday, we turn our attention to the Central, where it's hard to locate a seller. Salary-cap information is from Cap Friendly, while personnel information is from media reports and our own reporting.

Buyers

Dallas Stars

Deadline cap space: $4,133,153

Biggest needs: Scoring winger, veteran defenseman insurance

Assets in play: Oh, this is tricky. The Stars have all of their draft picks this season as well as the Chicago Blackhawks' fourth-rounder. But given that the draft is being held in Dallas this summer, will the Stars want to hang onto that first-round pick, as is tradition for draft hosts? As far as unrestricted free agents go, they have the exasperating forward Antoine Roussel (28, $2M), defenseman Dan Hamhuis (35, $3.75M, modified no-trade clause), defenseman Greg Pateryn (27, $800,000) and goalie Kari Lehtonen (34, $5.9M, modified no-trade). Dallas could also dangle young, talented (and cheap) players like forward Devin Shore (23) and defenseman Julius Honka (22).

Deadline game plan: The first part of the deadline plan involves a player returning to the Dallas lineup. Defenseman Marc Methot has played one game since leaving the lineup on Nov. 6 because of a knee injury. If the Stars believe the 32-year-old is not sharp enough for a playoff run, they will have to address that via trade.

The other part of the deadline plan: secondary scoring. The Stars have one of the most explosive top lines in hockey but could use some goals imported to bolster the rest of the lineup. One obvious fit: Rick Nash of the New York Rangers (33, UFA, $7.8M), a versatile winger who has a mutual respect society going with Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock spanning back to their days together in Columbus. But Michael Grabner of the Rangers (30, UFA, $1.65M) could be just as intriguing and more cost-effective, as he leads New York with 23 goals.

The asking price for Nash is believed to be a first-rounder, a roster player and a prospect.

Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News does not dismiss the chances that the Stars will opt for scoring wingers with term like Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens (29, 2019 UFA, $4.5M) and Mike Hoffman of the Ottawa Senators (27, 2020 UFA, $5,187,500).

Minnesota Wild

Deadline cap space: $601,087

Biggest needs: Scoring winger

Assets in play: Wild GM Chuck Fletcher fired his shot last spring when he traded away a first- and a second-round pick in a package that netted 25 underwhelming games from Martin Hanzal. As a result, the Wild have their first-round pick, three third-round picks (including ones owned by Buffalo and Vegas), no fourth-rounder but two fifth-rounders. The Wild have all but a fourth-rounder in 2019. As far as expiring contracts, they have forward Chris Stewart (30, $1.15M), forward Daniel Winnik (32, $660,000), defenseman Kyle Quincey (32, $1.25M) languishing in the AHL, and 41-year-old center Matt Cullen, who would be on the next plane to Pittsburgh if the Penguins decided they wanted Dad back for the playoffs.

Deadline game plan: There's been a lot of "the magic has been inside of you the whole time!" talk from Fletcher, who seems to believe this Wild team is good enough without any major deadline acquisitions. "We believe we have the answers here, and we are playing better. We need to continue to work on our consistency on the road, but I believe we are trending in the right direction and there's another level we can and need to get to," he told the Star Tribune.

Is there a chance the Wild add a scoring winger to their first or second line? Sure. But keep this in mind: There's every chance that the Wild will add Team USA Olympian Jordan Greenway after his Boston University season is over. And that's as good as a trade.

Nashville Predators

Deadline cap space: $14,869,063

Biggest needs: Scoring winger

Assets in play: The Predators have all of their 2018 draft picks save for their second-rounder, all of their 2019 picks save for their third-rounder and also own the Colorado Avalanche's 2019 fourth-rounder. Nashville does not have many tradable assets on expiring contracts. Forward Pontus Aberg (24, 2019 RFA, $650,000) could be a cheap pot sweetener who might need a change in scenery.

Deadline game plan: The Predators made their biggest splash back in November when they acquired center Kyle Turris (22 points in 39 games) from the Ottawa Senators as part of the Matt Duchene trade three-way dance, with Nashville GM David Poile refusing to wait to address a pressing need at center. Now that the unretirement of Mike Fisher has seemingly addressed the rest of the Predators' center depth, they can focus on their other glaring area of need: scoring on the wing, and specifically the goals that left when James Neal was plucked away in the expansion draft by the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Rangers' forwards with expiring contracts -- Nash and Grabner -- would seem like obvious fits here. Evander Kane would be an interesting fit, as 13 of his 18 goals have come at even strength, where the Predators are currently 18th in scoring (103 goals). Plus, Poile has never shied away from players with some tarnish on their off-ice reputations. Patrick Maroon from the Edmonton Oilers, also a pending UFA, could come a little cheaper and has 19 points in his last 29 playoff games.

But Nashville, we have been told, is all-in on winning a Cup this season. It's entirely possible that Poile adds a player with some contract term if he feels that player is the right fit for the Preds.

St. Louis Blues

Deadline cap space: $2,500,000

Biggest needs: Scoring winger

Assets in play: As long as the Blues are a playoff team, they are not going to have a first-round pick in 2018 thanks to the Brayden Schenn trade, which could be significant in the trade derbies for several pending unrestricted free agents. But St. Louis has the rest of its picks in 2018 and all of them in 2019. The Blues are also sitting on a pile of prospects like Tage Thompson, Klim Kostin and Jordan Kyrou.

Winnipeg Jets

Sellers

Chicago Blackhawks

Colorado Avalanche

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