Which team needs the most help at the trade deadline?
Scott Burnside: The New York Rangers probably aren't getting enough love when it comes to Eastern Conference contenders, but if GM Jeff Gorton can find a way to add someone like a Kevin Shattenkirk, a right-handed defenseman with some offensive pop, the Rangers are going to be a force. No one is as good as the Washington Capitals, but if the Rangers happened to stay in the top wild-card spot in the East, that would mean avoiding the Metropolitan Division through to the conference finals, which is not a bad thing. But a blue-line corps that has totaled just 23 goals this season -- just four on the power play -- needs an inflator, like a Shattenkirk, and if the Rangers can acquire that kind of asset, their Stanley Cup chances go up exponentially.
Craig Custance: Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman has been consistent in his stance that he's not going to be overly aggressive at the trade deadline after making a couple of the biggest trades at last year's deadline. But in terms of the teams that can win it all this season, the kind of teams I like to see make trade deadline deals, the Blackhawks might have the most to gain at the deadline. A center in Martin Hanzal would give the Blackhawks depth down the middle unlike they've had in years heading into the playoffs, and it would prevent another team from the West landing him. Or Bowman could pick up a winger such as the Dallas Stars' Patrick Eaves and get a nice payoff for a player who can play up and down the lineup and pump up the power play. I understand the hesitation in dealing picks year after year, but the West is wide open and bringing in reinforcements for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews would go a long way in Chicago.
Pierre LeBrun: No GM is feeling more pressure to help his team before the deadline than Marc Bergevin of the Montreal Canadiens. He declared himself all-in when he acquired defenseman Shea Weber last summer and now must double down on that bet. There is no long term with this team. The Habs have Weber and goalie Carey Price in their primes, and the time is now. Whether it is big Hanzal from the Arizona Coyotes -- for whom I'm told the Canadiens remain on the radar, along with other teams -- or Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche or whoever else, Bergevin has until 3 p.m. ET on March 1 to give his struggling outfit the jolt it needs.
Joe McDonald: Avalanche GM Joe Sakic attended the Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens game Sunday, joined by two members of his scouting staff to watch both teams. It's no secret Sakic and the Avs will be sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and the Bruins and the Canadiens could use help. Boston could use some help on the blue line, as well as a top-four forward. The Canadiens need help up the middle, too, but Bergevin doesn't want to sell the farm to acquire it. It's a dilemma for Bergevin and for Bruins GM Don Sweeney. The Avalanche have interesting pieces to deal, including forwards Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog. Duchene would fit well in Montreal; Landeskog would be a perfect fit in Boston. Montreal and Boston have to decide whether to give up prospects for warm NHL bodies.
Matthew Coller: The Anaheim Ducks don't have many kicks left at the can while Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler are still major impact players, so they should be going for it every season at the trade deadline, and this year they could really use help improving the depth of the forward group. Ranking 19th in goals isn't going to be good enough if the Ducks want to threaten teams such as the Minnesota Wild and the Blackhawks in a playoff series. But adding a scorer or two could make them a legitimate contender because of their deep and talented defense: Anaheim is seventh in goals against and ninth in goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5.
Corey Pronman: Well, theoretically Colorado does, but I don't think adding a top-four defenseman is going to get the Avs a playoff spot at this point. When it comes to trade deadlines in any sport, the marginal benefit is much greater to true contenders than to bubble teams. ESPN affiliate FiveThirtyEight illustrated this well in the context of baseball's deadline. With that being said, I'm looking at teams such as the Canadiens, the San Jose Sharks and the Capitals. They are the elite tier of teams and would benefit the most from adding a quality skater.
Rob Vollman: The teams that can take the greatest advantage of trade deadline acquisitions are legitimate Cup contenders whose fortunes are going to take a turn for the worse next season, because of an aging core or key losses to free agency. At the moment, that description best fits the Sharks, who reached the Stanley Cup finals in 2015-16 and are comfortably on top of the Pacific Division. This could be their last chance to win a Stanley Cup for quite some time, and they shouldn't be afraid to trade away long-term assets in return for the stronger depth they'll need to win 16 postseason games.