Central Division at the trade deadline: Plenty of Cup contenders -- and buyers


The NHL trade deadline arrives on Feb. 26, and the Central Division remains the most potent group in the league this season. It's not just that the division features five teams currently in playoff spots; four of the NHL's top 10 teams are from the Central. Whoever makes the cut here will have earned it.
The Stanley Cup will, of course, be a possibility for any team that reaches the postseason -- but it's a more likely goal for some than others. This week we take a snapshot of the NHL trade deadline, focusing on the game plans for all 31 teams. After breaking down the Metro on Monday, we turn our attention to the Central, where it's hard to locate a seller. Salary-cap information is from Cap Friendly, while personnel information is from media reports and our own reporting.
Deadline cap space: $4,133,153
Biggest needs: Scoring winger, veteran defenseman insurance
Assets in play: Oh, this is tricky. The Stars have all of their draft picks this season as well as the Chicago Blackhawks' fourth-rounder. But given that the draft is being held in Dallas this summer, will the Stars want to hang onto that first-round pick, as is tradition for draft hosts? As far as unrestricted free agents go, they have the exasperating forward Antoine Roussel (28, $2M), defenseman Dan Hamhuis (35, $3.75M, modified no-trade clause), defenseman Greg Pateryn (27, $800,000) and goalie Kari Lehtonen (34, $5.9M, modified no-trade). Dallas could also dangle young, talented (and cheap) players like forward Devin Shore (23) and defenseman Julius Honka (22).
Deadline game plan: The first part of the deadline plan involves a player returning to the Dallas lineup. Defenseman Marc Methot has played one game since leaving the lineup on Nov. 6 because of a knee injury. If the Stars believe the 32-year-old isn't sharp enough for a playoff run, they'll have to address that via trade.
The other part of the deadline plan: secondary scoring. The Stars have one of the most explosive top lines in hockey but could use some goals imported to bolster the rest of the lineup. One obvious fit: Rick Nash of the New York Rangers (33, UFA, $7.8M), a versatile winger who has a mutual respect society going with Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock spanning back to their days together in Columbus. But Michael Grabner of the Rangers (30, UFA, $1.65M) could be just as intriguing and more cost-effective, as he leads New York with 23 goals.
The asking price for Nash is believed to be a first-rounder, a roster player and a prospect.
Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News doesn't dismiss the chances that the Stars will opt for scoring wingers with term like Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens (29, 2019 UFA, $4.5M) and Mike Hoffman of the Ottawa Senators (27, 2020 UFA, $5,187,500).
Deadline cap space: $601,087
Biggest needs: Scoring winger
Assets in play: Wild GM Chuck Fletcher fired his shot last spring when he traded away a first- and a second-round pick in a package that netted 25 underwhelming games from Martin Hanzal. As a result, the Wild have their first-round pick, three third-round picks (including ones owned by Buffalo and Vegas), no fourth-rounder but two fifth-rounders. The Wild have all but a fourth-rounder in 2019. As far as expiring contracts, they have forward Chris Stewart (30, $1.15M), forward Daniel Winnik (32, $660,000), defenseman Kyle Quincey (32, $1.25M) languishing in the AHL, and 41-year-old center Matt Cullen, who would be on the next plane to Pittsburgh if the Penguins decided they wanted Dad back for the playoffs.
Deadline game plan: There's been a lot of "the magic has been inside of you the whole time!" talk from Fletcher, who seems to believe this Wild team is good enough without any major deadline acquisitions. "We believe we have the answers here, and we are playing better. We need to continue to work on our consistency on the road, but I believe we are trending in the right direction and there's another level we can and need to get to," he told the Star Tribune.