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February 27, 2011 :: 4:23pm ET
Trade Deadline: Tracking the West

LOS ANGELES, CA -- With seven points separating seeds four through 12 in the Western Conference as NHL action started on Sunday, one smart move could earn a team a post-season berth in the most competitive playoff race in years.

While Brad Richards is on the minds and lips of Western insiders, the acquisition of depth players is more likely to occur given the number of high profile deals already in the books. The Fourth Period's analysis of the movement by contenders starts here:

Dallas - Joe Nieuwendyk has the biggest chip to play, holding game changer Brad Richards. If only Joe could read the future and know when Richards will be fit to return from his concussion, things would be much easier for all. The Stars backed up badly in the past few weeks, going from 1st in the Pacific to out of the top eight in the West, only partially due to Richards absence. Given the Stars bounce back wins against Detroit and Nashville, there's a mindset that the organization may roll the dice; do nothing and hope to get a deal done before July 1. If the trigger is pulled, only the Rangers and Kings have lined up for a rental.

Los Angeles - If you ever go to the track with Dean Lombardi, it's likely all his bets would be for "place" as no franchise comes in second on deals more than the Kings. They fell short on Mike Fisher and their only acquisition since December, Marco Sturm, was lost on waivers to Washington on Saturday, creating additional space in the gaping wide hole that already existed on left wing. They are reported finalists on Brad Richards (who could play left wing but would be their best center) and Ales Hemsky, a right wing that the organization would love to pair with Anze Kopitar. With the Kings truly two Top 6 forwards away from Cup contention, not sure Lombardi empties vault here. Discount those Zach Parise rumors to zero percent, please.

Vancouver - Those nagging rumors about backup goalie Corey Schneider persist but GM Mike Gillis reaffirmed he is not being shopped. The West's best team has been dogged by injuries, especially on defense but with excellent depth throughout the roster, only a 6-7 defense or 4th line center will be added at best with minor chatter of interest in Chris Phillips.

Detroit - GM Ken Holland states there's little happening in Motown and we believe him. The biggest issue they have is ay backup goaltender but with Chris Osgood on the road back and Mike Modano on ice, there's little to do roster-wise.

Columbus - Matt Calvert's late season goal rush notwithstanding, a huge run has put them in shouting distance for the post season, something thought unlikely just a couple of weeks ago. Their injury situation affects what they will buy as they've lost Rostislav Klesla to a knee injury and both Derick Brassard and Kristian Huselius are out. Rich Nash would be thrilled if GM Scott Howson unearthed a Top 6 forward as GM Scott Howson added depth with the waiver claim of defenseman Craig Rivet.

Nashville - Not for lack of trying, GM David Polie is always looking for the smart, not big deal to add to his roster. Their biggest move already occurred with the acquisition of Fisher, but they are trying to wrestle Ladislav Smid away from the surprisingly tough minded Steve Tambellini in Edmonton. A four game losing streak in which they've only scoring 4 goals has raised the sense of urgency for a deal in Music City with JP Dumont as bait.

Anaheim - Jonas Hiller's vertigo has made the entire roster Ducks dizzy. Without reliable goaltending, the Ducks have fluttered out of the top eight. While GM Bob Murray has the security of a new four year contract, don't look for him to go crazy as the final hours to the deadline tick down. The deal for Dan Ellis and recall of Ray Emery aren't substitutes for Hiller, as they only buy time in the hopes his condition clears. They'll ride and die with the current roster for the stretch.

Minnesota - The last deal GM Chuck Fletcher made for a roster player was the acquisition of Brad Staubitz on June 21, 2010. Mikko Koivu's ill timed broken finger along with injuries to Kyle Brodziak and Cam Barker should have Fletcher sniffing for offense as the deadline nears. The 3rd worst offensive team in the West could use a winger like Edmonton's Hemsky or Penner to boost their chances but will still primarily rest on the shoulders of goaltender Nicklas Backstrom and Brent Burns given management's record of non-dealing.

Phoenix - As long as GM Don Maloney doesn't trade coach Dave Tippett, the Coyotes are ready for the playoffs. Although the ownership situation finally drags to a positive ending, don't look for the vault to be open for a major acquisition. At best, the Coyotes will pluck a depth defenseman from a non-contender.

San Jose - While Doug Wilson is a major risk taker, the final 24 hours by the South Bay look to be uneventful. An 8-2 run that's vaulted them into the Pacific lead has muted trade whispers around the likes of Devin Setoguchi, while Antti Niemi is tuning up the band for the post season with his stellar second half. With Ian White solidifying the blue line. Wilson could look for another net minder to support Niemi.

Calgary - Though interim GM Jay Feaster says he's looking to add, he's not even made a waiver claim since his appointment on December 28. A long run from next to last in the conference has them in the top eight, but since they're among the lower ranked defensive teams in the West, Feaster is likely looking for blue line help for the final run, possibly Jim Vandermeer from their Alberta neighbors.

Chicago - The up and down Blackhawks are trying to add some defensive help at the deadline. With all the twists and turns on the roster, GM Stan Bowman hasn't made a major trade since the lead role in September. Chicago would love to ship Tomas Kopecky away for a depth defenseman, but have come up dry. Brent Seabrook's extension likely means more roster moves, but they'll come over the summer, not on February 28.

Dennis Bernstein, the man behind SCORE! Media and an NHL Analyst with ESPN Radio, is the Senior Writer for The Fourth Period Magazine and a Columnist for You can also visit Dennis on Twitter.



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