Posted: Wednesday January 25, 2006 2:58PM; Updated: Wednesday January 25, 2006 6:20PM
Caps goalie Olaf Kolzig could be dealt to a contender for the stretch run.
Dave Sandford/Getty Images
With just two weeks to go before the Olympic break, and one week after that until the trade deadline (March 9), 30 NHL general managers have to make a call: Are we playing for right now, or is it time to look to the future?
This week, let's analyze each team's needs, the players most likely on the trading block, and whether the team will focus more on buying or selling. In addition, I'll also predict how each club will finish in its conference. We'll start with the East (and conclude with the West on Friday):
These three clubs are poised to capture their divisions and earn home ice at least through the first round. Don't be surprised if two of the three (I'll go out on a limb and say Ottawa and Carolina) meet in the Eastern Conference finals.
Where They're At: 70 points, tied for first overall Buyers or Sellers: Buyers They May Trade:Kevin Nastiuk, Nate Hagemo What They Need: The goaltending tandem of Martin Gerber and Cam Ward has proven capable in the regular season, but with 20 minutes of playoff experience between them, Carolina would really benefit from the addition of a veteran backup. The Olympic break might prove a panacea for the banged-up D, but having seen how fast things can fall apart on that unit, the addition of a veteran hard-rock type is mandatory. And while he's planning for the playoffs, GM Jim Rutherford can't forget job No. 1 when it comes to keeping this franchise moving forward: get coach Peter Laviolette signed for next season (and beyond) as soon as possible. Where They'll Finish: Second overall
Where They're At: 70 points, tied for first overall Buyers or Sellers: Buyers They May Trade:Antoine Vermette, Brandon Bochenski, Patrick Eaves, Alexei Kaigorodov What They Need: As long as their key players -- Dominik Hasek, Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley, Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden -- stay healthy, the Sens should steamroll their way to the President's Trophy. And with Martin Havlat scheduled to return in the last week or two of the regular season after missing several months, they'll be adding a star for the playoffs without subtracting anything from the mix. Still, you have to think there's a chance to upgrade their second line center position. The addition of a Doug Weight or Olli Jokinen would make the Sens prohibitive favorites to win the Cup ... as if they aren't already. Where They'll Finish: First overall
Where They're At: 68 points, third overall Buyers or Sellers: Buyers They May Trade:Sami Kapanen, Petr Nedved, Rejean Beauchemin, Ben Eager What They Need: With Robert Esche one awkward split save from heading back to the sidelines, a veteran stopper to back up rookie Antero Niittymaki should be a priority. The recent acquisition of Petr Nedved appears to take the Flyers out of the Weight sweepstakes, but you have to think Bobby Clarke has another option in mind beyond the streaky Czech for handling a lengthy absence by Peter Forsberg. If the Flyers don't make that move, they're not a true Cup contender, so you have to believe that Clarke will explore ways to add Weight. Where They'll Finish: Third overall