With the NHL trade deadline coming Monday, playoff hopefuls around the league will try to strengthen their rosters. Some teams need to make upgrades more than others.
Bona fide Stanley Cup contenders like the Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers have already made it clear that they are all in on this season. However, those aren't necessarily teams that have to make moves in order to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup at the end of the NHL playoffs.
There are a number of teams, though, that could be dangerous in the playoffs if they fill some obvious voids in their lineups. I have identified those teams, as well as their trade deadline needs and tried to offer some possible fits in each scenario.
As the NHL trade rumors heat up, here is every team that needs to upgrade its roster before the Mar. 21 deadline.
Needs: Depth forward | Defenseman
The Rangers have some legitimate cornerstone pieces within their organization. But they must upgrade in order to go toe-to-toe with some of the giants in the Eastern Conference. For starters, the Rangers' bottom six has some trouble generating offense. While the recent addition of Frank Vatrano will help with that, there is still room for more improvement. Anaheim Ducks winger Rickard Rakell or Boston Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk could help in that department.
On the blue line, the Rangers have one of the best players in the world in Adam Fox. Still, they are 26th in the league in expected goals against at five-on-five with 128.65. Igor Shesterkin can erase plenty of mistakes, but that mark has to get better before the postseason. If New York wanted to make a splash, Seattle Kraken defenseman Mark Giordano could be the move. On the more affordable end of the spectrum would be Calvin De Haan of the Chicago Blackhawks or Robert Hagg of the Buffalo Sabres.
Needs: Depth forward
In a number of statistical categories, the Capitals are around the middle of the league. That is good enough to get them to the postseason, but it probably doesn't set them up for a deep run. When it comes to this forward group, the top six is very strong and features some strong playmaking and finishing. The bottom six, on the other hand, could use some work because the teams at the top of the conference have four lines that can do damage. Adding Max Domi of the Blue Jackets could give that part of the lineup a little more pop.
Needs: Goaltending | Defense
Expectations are very high for this Maple Leafs team, but right now they have some major issues that could sink them in the playoffs. The most obvious one is goaltending. Jack Campbell was in a funk when he was healthy, and now he's hurt. Petr Mrazek has provided no kind of safety net whatsoever. Toronto's goalies are costing it games, and GM Kyle Dubas has to be aggressive to fix that around the trade deadline. Marc-Andre Fleury is available, but would he want to go to the Leafs? Perhaps a reunion with James Reimer, now with the San Jose Sharks, could be in the cards.
With Jake Muzzin still on LTIR, that leaves a gaping hole on defense for Toronto. The good news for the Maple Leafs is that there are some options at that position. The Flyers' Justin Braun could be a fit there, and Calvin De Haan would also be a nice pick-up. Of course, Toronto would have to find a way to make the money work.
The Blues have been bleeding scoring chances and expected goals against all season long, and their defensive corps hasn't inspired a ton of confidence. Robert Bortuzzo and Marco Scandella haven't been themselves, and Niko Mikkola hasn't been terribly reliable. I doubt this team wants to get into a shootout with the Avalanche of the Flames in the postseason. Because of that, the Blues will need to explore their options at the deadline. Arizona Coyotes star Jacob Chychrun is an option, but more than a few teams have interest in him. Carson Soucy of the Seattle Kraken would be a nice fallback option for the Blues too.
The Wild have been sliding in the wrong direction over the last month or so, and a lot of that has to do with poor goaltending. Since Feb. 17, Minnesota has given up 21.71 expected goals against at five-on-five. That ranks fifth in the NHL. In reality, the Wild have allowed 31 goals. That number ranks 22nd in the league. Both Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen have been subpar this season, and that means the Wild have to find a fix at that position in order to have a shot at the Stanley Cup. Again, Marc-Andre Fleury is an option, but it will come down to whether he wants to leave Chicago for Minnesota. The Wild may also want to check on the availability of Brayden Holtby or take a flier on Alexandar Georgiev.
Needs: Goaltending | Defense
The biggest need for the Oilers has been apparent for a very long time now. Edmonton has tried out three different goaltenders, and none of them have worked. A team with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl shouldn't be trying to scrape into the playoffs, but here we are. Again, Marc-Andre Fleury will be a potential target here, but the Oilers may need to get in line. Edmonton may just try to outbid the Maple Leafs for James Reimer. One way or another, the Oilers have to get right between the pipes.
Edmonton's goaltenders have taken a lot of well-earned criticism this season, but this group of defenseman isn't exactly anything to write home about. The Oilers might look to add there as well. When it comes to potential fits on the blue line, Carson Soucy of the Seattle Kraken and Calvin De Haan of the Chicago Blackhawks would be worth a phone call.
Needs: Scoring winger
The Kings are fourth in the NHL in expected goals at five-on-five with 139.29. However, that has only resulted in 114 goals. Unsurprisingly, the Kings are dead last in the league in five-on-five shooting percentage (6.75%). Some of that is definitely due to poor luck, but Los Angeles could still add some more teeth to its forward group. Assuming the Ducks won't help their division rival, that takes Rickard Rakell off the table. Still, there are options available for the Kings. Jake DeBrusk of the Boston Bruins comes to mind along with Phil Kessel of the Arizona Coyotes and Andrew Copp of the Winnipeg Jets.