While the titans of the Western Conference continue to go toe-to-toe for the top spot, both are limited by salary cap constraints and will be hard-pressed to add a rental player of any significance by the Feb. 28 trade deadline.
The Red Wings showed how tight their cap situation is last week when they signed goaltender Evgeni Nabokov to a one-year, $570,000 deal. Although a bulkier contract might have helped the former San Jose Sharks starter clear waivers, the Red Wings didn't have the flexibility to offer anything more and he was claimed by the Islanders.
The Canucks, meanwhile, have relied heavily on the expertise of assistant general manager Laurence Gilman to navigate through a nearly impossible cap situation, in part because of an injury to Sami Salo. With continued uncertainty around Salo's return date, the Canucks not only won't be able to add cap dollars, they might be forced to ship a player out of town.
Just as with our look at the salary cap haves and have-nots in the Eastern Conference last week, dollar estimates listed are the annualized cap hit a team potentially could add if it waited until the deadline to make a move. For example, teams would need at least $7.8 million in cap space, as listed below, to add Brad Richards as a rental player.
Please note that injuries and minor league call-ups can cause significant changes in these estimates in the weeks leading up to the deadline.
Limited cap space
Vancouver Canucks (no space):
There are scenarios involving long-term injured reserve (LTIR) that could buy the Canucks a modest amount of space, but those seem unlikely at this stage.