2014 is upon us, and all NHL teams will spend the next two months looking at their needs; for some, especially those who will not be going to the post-season party, that means defining plans for their future seasons.
For those with plans to play hockey into June, the upcoming days and nights will be spent with an eye on the 5th March trade deadline, and trying to strengthen holes in their roster without creating new leaks.
Scoring forwards are likely to be a hot commodity and there are lots of potential suitors in this market for players such as Marian Gaborik, Matt Moulson, and Thomas Vanek.
Gaborik, in particular, is an interesting case study, as the Blue Jackets walk the difficult balancing act of trying to make the postseason for only the second time in franchise history against losing an asset to offseason free agency with nothing to show for it in return.
Many NHL betting pundits believe that Moulson will be pursued by playoff bound teams, especially as his current employers, the Buffalo Sabres, are building for the future and have their sellers’ stall out in the deadline market.
Defensive players are always going to be wanted in this marketplace and Cody Franson, Stephane Robidas, and Dmitry Kulikov are popular targets for plenty of teams, especially sides like the Washington Capitals, Colorado Avalanche, and Philadelphia Flyers.
Robidas is a tricky one, as he is currently injured, but he should be ready to return before the playoffs start. He might not cost a playoff team much in return for a level of experience that is difficult to buy.
Franson would not cost much either and that makes him an attractive proposition for teams that do not have much salary cap flexibility.
Kulikov is the youngest of the trio named and he would be the one to carry the highest price tag, as Florida would likely to want either a good young roster player or a significant package of prospects and picks in return, and that could be a sticking point in that equation.
There are likely to be some potential suitors around for goaltenders also – particularly the Pittsburgh Penguins, St Louis Blues, and Washington Capitals. Two particular targets would be Ryan Miller and Martin Brodeur; the former has played at an excellent level behind a woeful Buffalo team, and a change of scenery post-Olympics could well provide the boost that makes him a tempting proposition.
Brodeur might just be on his way out of the Devils if they slip out of contention and he might just fancy one last shot at the Stanley Cup – his experience would be extremely tempting for several playoff sides.
Fans betting on NHL ahead of the play-offs can expect the rumour mill to be in overdrive over the next few weeks as the trade deadline approaches.