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5 Teams Needing Impact 2nd-Half Punch Via NHL Trade Market

As we approach the second half of the NHL season, here’s five teams in need of an impactful punch for the stretch run.

Now that we’re into the New Year and approaching the halfway mark of the NHL regular season, the fun can officially start.

The first half of the season once again reminded us of the parity in this league. Last year’s success means little, as does pre-season expectations. Some teams excel and others flounder. For the purpose of this piece, we’re looking toward the middle of the pack and identifying the teams that reside on the bubble and could use a shot in the arm via the trade market in order to avoid the postseason cut line.

Edmonton Oilers

Despite boasting two of the best players in the world and the top two points-getters in the NHL, the Edmonton Oilers sit fifth in the Pacific Division while clinging onto the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. In terms of points percentage, the Oilers sit 17th overall in the NHL standings.

Connor McDavid Leon Draisaitl
Connor McDavid Leon Draisaitl

That’s simply unacceptable given the effort they’ve received from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Once again, Edmonton isn’t getting any type of secondary outscoring outside the top six. Their fourth-ranked offense is buoyed by a league-best 32.1% power play as McDavid, Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins sit one, two, three in man-advantage points. The Oilers sit 19th in goals scored per 60 minutes at five-on-five.

After marching their way to the Western Conference Final last season, it would be disastrous for this club to miss the postseason given what their big guns have accomplished. The pressure is undoubtedly on Ken Holland to make an impact move prior to the March 3 NHL Trade Deadline.

Colorado Avalanche

The reigning Stanley Cup champion Avalanche are currently on the outside of the playoff picture looking in despite technically sporting a superior points percentage than the aforementioned Oilers. Injuries have been a constant for this Avalanche club, but that’s no form of consolation if they were to shockingly watch the postseason from home.

We found out Monday that captain Gabriel Landeskog isn’t expected back anytime soon, meaning it’s on the shoulders of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Cale Makar moving forward. However, despite a two-point effort from MacKinnon and Rantanen on Monday, the Avs dropped a 3-2 decision to the Vegas Golden Knights in a perfect example of the lack of scoring depth.

Remember, they also watched Nazem Kadri walk in free agency this summer, leaving a gaping hole in the 2C position. Bo Horvat, anyone?

New York Rangers

The Rangers established themselves as a force last season, racking up a hefty 110 regular-season points en route to a second-place finish in the Metropolitan Division followed by a trip to the Eastern Conference Final. Things haven’t gone so smoothly this time around.

The Rangers aren’t getting the same elite-level goaltending from reigning Vezina winner Igor Shesterkin, but have also failed to get consistent production up front with head coach Gerard Gallant constantly putting his forward lines into a blender. The Rangers rank 16th in overall offense, 20th in high-danger chances for/60 and 21st in expected goals for/60 at 5v5.

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They still sit in the top Wild Card spot in the east, but there’s little room for error. Maybe the Rangers missing the postseason isn’t as seismic as it would be for the Avalanche or Oilers, but it would be an awfully big disappointment after breaking through in a big way last season.

Pittsburgh Penguins

It’s been quite the whirlwind of a season for the Penguins as they came out hot before enduring a lengthy losing skid that set them back several pegs. Through it all, the Pens hold the narrowest of grips on the second Wild Card spot but only due to holding a game in hand on the New York Islanders. The margin is slim, to put it lightly.

Malkin Crosby Letang Penguins
Malkin Crosby Letang Penguins

The championship pedigree is there, but the Penguins should absolutely remain in win-now mode as long as the long-standing trio of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang are around. That’s been the saying for some time, but it remains true as standing pat has never been acceptable in this era of Penguins hockey.

All told, the Penguins have been fairly solid across the board through 37 games despite the rollercoaster it’s been to this point. This is a team that could certainly use an impact player to get them over the hump down the stretch toward the postseason.

Minnesota Wild

The Wild currently sit third in the Central Division, but only three points ahead of the Avs and two ahead of both the Kraken and Oilers, the two Wild Card holders in the west. As is always the case, it’s a slim margin as we’re still not even 50% into the regular season.

They’ve done well to bounce back from a slow start, but general manager Bill Guerin has preached winning and raising expectations for his club. After a wildly disappointing five-game, first-round defeat at the hands of the rival St. Louis Blues last spring, there’s no doubt Guerin will be hungry for an upgrade over the next couple of months.

The center-ice position seems like an ideal spot to upgrade for Guerin’s club to help lift the league’s 18th-ranked offense. However, the Wild are a four-line club that will look for upgrades up and down their roster ahead of the NHL trade deadline.

Next: Four Possible Landing Spots for Canucks’ Bo Horvat

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