TRAIKOS: Who are the Maple Leafs targeting? We break down the trade deadline for the North division

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 TRAIKOS: Who are the Maple Leafs targeting?  We break down the trade deadline for the North division


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There is less than a month left before the NHL trade deadline. But with just seven points separating the second-place Winnipeg Jets from the sixth-place Calgary Flames in the North Division standings, good luck in determining who buys, who sells and who just sails.

Here’s a look at the seven Canadian teams and what they’re looking to do:

The Leafs are looking for another forward at the trade deadline.  Would tough Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno do the trick?  GET IMAGES
The Leafs are looking for another forward at the trade deadline. Would tough Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno do the trick? GET IMAGES

TORONTO

The lean: It’s no longer in a division with Tampa or Boston, this is perhaps the best opportunity for the Leafs to reach the conference final. And it looks like chief executive Kyle Dubas, who has told reporters unequivocally this week that he would be willing to trade better hope for help, plans to take advantage of it.

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At the top of Toronto’s wishlist is one of the top six winger who can be outclassed from Joe Thornton or Alex Kerfoot on one of the front lines. But a defender who can help improve the 21st-ranked penalty is also needed, especially if the Leafs intend to go further.

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Possible targets: Whether it’s Taylor Hall, Filip Forsberg or Rickard Rakell or someone else, the Leafs don’t come home empty-handed. But rather than finding another pure goalscorer, adding some courage in the form of Nick Foligno of Columbus or Alex Iafallo of Los Angeles might look better on a line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

The Jets need to stabilize their blue line, and Blue Jackets defenseman David Savard would be a good option - especially since he's an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.  POSTMEDIA NETWORK
The Jets need to stabilize their blue line, and Blue Jackets defenseman David Savard would be a good option – especially since he’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. POSTMEDIA NETWORK

WINNIPEG

The lean: As usual, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff didn’t disclose much regarding the deadline during his midseason press conference earlier this week. He said he might be ready to make a deal, but only if it made financial sense, the fit was right and the cost wasn’t too prohibitive.

Then again, he might not.

Here’s what we know: The Jets are loaded up front and rock solid in the net, but thin at the back, especially with Nathan Beaulieu out for weeks with a hand injury.

Possible targets: As good as the Jets were, this team would earn Stanley Cup contender status if they could add Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm or Columbus’ David Savard to the defense. Ekholm is a southpaw who can play on the power play. But Savard, who is a right-hander and a defense specialist, might be the better choice just because he has an expiring contract.

Versatile Predators forward Mikael Granlund would be a perfect fit for the Oilers.  GET IMAGES
Versatile Predators forward Mikael Granlund would be a perfect fit for the Oilers. GET IMAGES

EDMONTON

The lean: Picking up goaltender Alex Stalock gave the Oilers more depth behind Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen. But a familiar issue remains up front, where a lack of secondary scoring has at times forced head coach Dave Tippett to reunite Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

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To remedy this situation, the team are once again looking for another top six winger who is versatile enough to play up and down the lineup. After all, snapping his third row would solve a lot of Edmonton’s problems.

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Possible targets: If Andreas Athanasiou’s experience last year has taught GM Ken Holland anything, it’s that speed isn’t necessarily the No.1 skill required to play alongside McDavid. You have to be competent. But you also have to be smart. Mikael Granlund of Nashville, who has been a Swiss Army Knife everywhere he has played, has it in spades.

Veteran Sabers center Eric Staal would add depth to the Canadiens' center.  GET IMAGES
Veteran Sabers center Eric Staal would add depth to the Canadiens’ center. GET IMAGES

MONTREAL

The lean: The Habs, who cling to last playoff spot in the North, don’t look much like a Stanley Cup contender these days. Most nights they don’t even seem to qualify for the playoffs.

Yet I still laugh when people suggest GM Marc Bergevin is going to sit down and do nothing by the trade deadline.

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With Carey Price and Shea Weber aging (and less impactful), the pressure is on Bergevin to win this year. This is why the Habs went big during the offseason and why Claude Julien was fired after only 18 games, and why the goalkeeper coach was replaced a week later.

If there is an agreement to be made, Bergevin will not hesitate to do so.

Possible targets: A No.2 center like Eric Staal could take some of the pressure off Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. And since Ben Chiarot is only due back in late April or early May, finding another defender wouldn’t hurt.

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Devils forward Kyle Palmieri would provide a solid right-wing upgrade for the Flames, who are desperate to advance to the playoffs.  GET IMAGES
Devils forward Kyle Palmieri would provide a solid right-wing upgrade for the Flames, who are desperate to advance to the playoffs. GET IMAGES

CALGARY

The lean: The hiring of Darryl Sutter has already provided a boost to the Flames. But if the Flames want to beat Montreal or Edmonton out of a playoff berth, more will be needed.

Calgary is weak on the right side up front, so finding a winger to play alongside Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau is a priority for a team that has scored the fewest five-on-five goals in the North Division. But as Postmedia’s Wes Gilbertson joked, “They’ve been looking for a top-six right-winger since the morning after trading Iginla.”

Possible targets: Expect the Flames to continue to hang Sam Bennett in any potential deal. But that might be just a place to start if they hope to land New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, which would be a significant improvement over Brett Ritchie.

If the Canucks escape the playoff race, they could decide to advance Tanner Pearson at the trade deadline.  POSTMEDIA NETWORK
If the Canucks escape the playoff race, they could decide to advance Tanner Pearson at the trade deadline. POSTMEDIA NETWORK

VANCOUVER

The lean: After a 2-9-2 in February, most would have assumed the Canucks would be deadline sellers. But the team is 7-2-0 since then and is just two points behind the Canadiens for the final place in the divisional playoffs.

Keep in mind, however, that Montreal is four games short – and Calgary, which is one point behind Vancouver, is two games short. In other words, the next two weeks will determine whether the Canucks sell, stand or are ready to hit the brass ring.

Possible targets: If the Canucks can’t close the gap, moving standby free agent Tanner Pearson could be an option (especially with the team claiming Jimmy Vesey on waivers on Wednesday).

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Senators forward Ryan Dzingel could be on the move again, but Ottawa fans shouldn't expect the same comeback the club got for him a few years ago when he traded him for the first time.  GET IMAGES
Senators forward Ryan Dzingel could be on the move again, but Ottawa fans shouldn’t expect the same comeback the club got for him a few years ago when he traded him for the first time. GET IMAGES

OTTAWA

The lean: The last-place senators are obviously salespeople. But the question is, do they have something worth buying?

With Derek Stepan injured, Ottawa’s unrestricted officers are forwards Artem Anisimov and Ryan Dzingel, and defensemen Erik Gudbranson and Mike Reilly. I would be shocked if a team calls about Anisimov. With Gudbranson and Reilly, it’s a different problem.

Gudbranson did everything he was asked to do as alternate captain and the cheap Reilly looked solid in a second pairing with Artem Zub. So the Senses might prefer to bring them both back rather than sell them for a few picks in the middle of the road.

Possible targets: Dzingel has contributed to his commercial value since returning to Ottawa, where he scored four goals in eight games. But don’t expect him to get the same comeback he did a few years ago, when he was distributed to Columbus for Anthony Duclair and a pair of second-round picks.

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