NHL Trade Deadline: Offensive Depth, Goaltending Key Needs In Central Division

Marianne Helm

The Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets could be looking for upgrades between the pipes while the Colorado Avalanche, Wild, and Nashville Predators could all use some scoring in their lineups.

The moves that the Dallas Stars could make at the trade deadline are just one side of the "will they or won't they make the playoffs" equation. In arguably the most competitive division, the moves that Stars' Central division mates make might have just as much impact as any move made to improve their own roster.

Looking at each team, it seems that there are several clubs that need some offensive punch and goaltending looks to be an area that could use an upgrade in this division. So who needs what to get them to Lord Stanley's promised land? We look at each team separately to see what they need as we ponder what the Dallas Stars could be up against to get into the playoffs after five straight seasons of being on the outside looking in.

Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago seems to have it all -- scoring, defense, goaltending. Where they are surprisingly bad is the penalty kill. They're at a measly 79.7% on the penalty kill, good for 26th in the league. Too bad that power play is third in the league...yes, that's jealousy you're reading there. A depth forward that is a penalty kill specialist could be a move they look to make. Their defensive depth is a little questionable, so maybe they look to shore that up with a depth guy for their expected playoff run. I just don't see Chicago making their roster over all that much at the trade deadline to be honest.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche is lacking in offensive scoring depth. Outside of the top six, their isn't a whole lot of firepower. That could be a spot Colorado looks to upgrade. Their defense is also questionable. When the play of their goaltenders slipped, the whole team did because their excellent goaltending covered a lot of mistakes. I wouldn't be surprised if they look for a solid NHL defenseman to shore up the blueline either.

Minnesota Wild

Goalie is the biggest question mark for Minnesota. While Josh Harding is a feel good story -- rooting for someone to overcome such a terrible disease as multiple sclerosis isn't hard -- he's been out of commission for a lot of the season. His medicine has had to be adjusted and he's just not been responding to it as needed to perform at this level from all the reports I've seen. That leaves the Wild with Nicklas Backstrom, who is sporting a subpar .899 save percentage, and rookie Darcy Kuemper, who is unproven at this level. If the Wild want to push themselves over the hump and maintain a chance at a playoff spot, they are likely to be looking for a proven NHL goaltender at this point.

They could also use some top six scoring, as the Wild have scored at a 2.36 goal/game pace. That's good for just 25th in the league and is dead last in the Central division. If the Wild cannot do anything about their goaltending situation or feel that those guys on the roster will be able to keep them in the hunt, they might look to improve on the offensive side to keep them competitive within the division.

Nashville Predators

It appears as though Pekka Rinne is progressing for Nashville, which may answer that question for the Predators. The one thing Nashville is always seemingly looking for is top six scoring. Their system sets up nicely to do scoring by committee, but they are also another club that doesn't seem to score a whole lot. They sit 23rd in the league at just 2.46 goals/game on average. That's only slightly better than the Wild and second worst in the Central.

The Predators seem like they have a decent defensive core, but this year they're in the bottom third of the league in goals against average. Picking up a top four defenseman might be another area they look at improving. They could use a puck mover to help take the scoring burden off of Shea Weber on the back end. Because really their defense kind of reads as "Shea Weber and some dudes".

St. Louis Blues

The Blues' goaltending situation doesn't look like it's absurd as some other teams. But, it doesn't look as though it's strong enough to get them over the hump. A team that's been the favorites for the past several seasons, St. Louis hasn't been able to get to the Stanley Cup finals on the back of their current goalies, making it over 30 seasons since the franchise made it to a finals appearance. It wouldn't surprise me at all if they pick up Ryan Miller from Buffalo to go all-in for a Stanley Cup this season.

Winnipeg Jets

The True North could use some goaltending. (Stop me if you've heard that before.) While Ondrej Pavelec is still relatively young and could improve in time, he's been all over the map this season. He's got a save percentage of .901 which is good for 61st out of 82 goalies that have played even a single game in the NHL this season. That...isn't very good. In an ultracompetitive division, that kind of goaltending isn't going to get you far. I'd expect them to make a play for a proven goaltender if one becomes available.

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