Trade deadline fixes: Northwest
The Canucks could use some muscle on defense so Sabres' Gaustad is a good fit
Hockey Prospectus is taking a look at the NHL division by division and suggesting ways each team should tackle the forthcoming trade deadline. On Monday, we looked at the Atlantic Division. On Tuesday, we addressed the Northeast Division and on Wednesday we examined the Southeast. On Thursday it was the Central Division. Today we head up to the Northwest.
Feb. 27 marks the NHL's trade deadline, and every team in the league -- both the playoff-bound and those likely for the draft lottery -- has needs to address. To prepare for the final flurry of transactions, we're going team by team to see which players could help fill some holes on contenders or provide some foundational stability for teams building for next season and beyond.
One statistic you'll come across in the analysis below is GVT, the main player-valuation metric used by Hockey Prospectus. For a detailed explanation of GVT, click here.
The problem: There aren't too many gaps in the Canucks roster, which is why they boast one of the best point totals (76) and goal differentials (+41) in the entire league. No team is perfect, however, and some of Vancouver's weak spots were exposed in the playoffs last season.
When Manny Malhotra went down with an eye injury prior to the playoffs, the Canucks lost the center that head coach Alain Vigneault frequently leaned on for defensive zone faceoffs. The team made do with Maxim Lapierre as a poor facsimile, but it was clear they missed Malhotra's ability to win draws and his acumen in the defensive zone. In addition, the Boston Bruins bullied Vancouver a bit in the finals. It wouldn't hurt to add a bit of muscle as a preemptive measure.
The fix: The Canucks could supplement their defensive center depth and up their toughness quotient by acquiring the Buffalo Sabres' Paul Gaustad. The 30-year-old pivot is 6-foot-5 and 212 pounds and leads the Sabres in faceoff win percentage (55.6). Like Malhotra, Gaustad tends to start way more often in the defensive end of the ice with an offensive-to-defensive-zone start ratio of 40.9 percent. He is also not afraid to drop the gloves to protect a teammate; he has three fighting majors this season and has garnered double-digit PIM counts twice over the last four seasons.
The problem: Thanks to a rash of injuries, the Flames are currently playing with a forward roster half made up of rookies and AHLers. With David Moss, Curtis Glencross, Lee Stempniak, Blair Jones and Mikael Backlund on the shelf until at least March, Calgary is in desperate need of just about any kind of NHL-caliber depth it can get up front. Of course, with so many bodies out of the lineup and a need to try to retain as many draft picks and prospects as possible, the Flames don't have a lot to offer any potential trade partners.
To see what Hockey Prospectus has identified as problems and solutions for the Flames, Wild, Oilers, Canucks and Avalanche, you must be an ESPN Insider.