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February 5, 2017 | 2:53pm ET
It's time for teams to be realistic
With the trade deadline quickly approaching, some teams need to bite the bullet.

TORONTO, ON -- We're 24 days away from this season's NHL Trade Deadline and there are only two teams genuinely out of the playoff picture. If it weren't for the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche, we'd all be pulling our hair out by now.

Thankfully, the Coyotes and Avs have given us plenty to talk, and speculate, about over the last few weeks, but it's time a few more teams join the mix.

The illusion of making the playoffs for some clubs is starting to fade.

The Dallas Stars can't get their act together. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Buffalo Sabres can't stay healthy. The New Jersey Devils and Detroit Red Wings can't put the puck in the net, nor can they keep it out of their own.

As early as some time this week we're going to start to see some teams concede and enter the sellers' market. And considering the St. Louis Blues appear set on trading defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and forward Patrik Berglund unless they're able to ink them to contract extensions, you can add them to the list -- especially after today's unfortunate news that Robby Fabbri is out for the season with a left ACL injury.

There's nothing wrong with being a seller. Okay, sure, your season hasn't worked out the way you had hoped, but you're better off admitting to your fans that things didn't go as planned and you're going to begin righting the ship now.

It took the Toronto Maple Leafs years to realize that's the best path to take, and fans, albeit fed up, jumped on board. Even now, within reach of a playoff spot, they're sticking to their guns and following their plan, and as much as Leafs Nation wants playoff hockey, and they may still get it, they're supporting the long-term vs. the now.

The Stars have rental assets to move. Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, Patrick Eaves and Jiri Hudler are all on expiring contracts and can bring in some draft picks and/or prospects. Buffalo's in the same boat with pending unrestricted free agents Brian Gionta, Dmitry Kulikov and Cody Franson, and so are the Red Wings, with Thomas Vanek, Steve Ott and Brendan Smith.

Detroit's interesting because even though they're expected to sell off their UFAs-to-be, they've been taking calls on Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, while shopping Tomas Jurco. This team could both sell and retool its roster by completing a talent-for-talent swap.

The Devils already started the selling process, shipping depth forward Vernon Fiddler to the Nashville Predators on Saturday. Forward P-A Parenteau and defenseman Kyle Quincey will likely be moved by March 1, as well.

Tampa doesn't have many assets to "sell," outside of Brian Boyle, who will command interest, and goaltender Ben Bishop.

Bishop's an interesting case, as he was almost dealt to the Calgary Flames last summer, a trade that fell apart after he and the Flames couldn't agree on a contract extension. With Andrei Vasilevskiy's three-year, $10.5 million contract kicking in July 1, he's their man between the pipes and as the team currently sits last in the East, moving Bishop is logical.

And that's where it gets even more interesting.

Will the Lightning grant certain teams permission to negotiate a contract extension with Bishop? That would certainly generate a higher return for the Bolts, if an extension were to be reached and a sign-and-trade went down.

Does a team like the Philadelphia Flyers, with zero NHL goalies signed beyond this season, step up and pry Bishop from Lightning GM Steve Yzerman in the next few weeks instead of battling it out in free agency with other teams? The Flyers have had question marks in their crease for years, and while Steve Mason has done a very solid job for them, word on Broad Street suggests management is open to exploring its options in goal.

At the same time, do the Flyers, who are on the edge of the playoff picture despite having a minus-18 goal differential, make a move for Bishop expecting to battle for post-season play this season, or do they let things play out -- whatever happens, happens -- and sell off some of their pending UFA defensemen? Mark Streit and Nick Schultz aren't expected back next season, while the Flyers could re-sign Michael Del Zotto in the summer.

For teams on the outside looking in, like the Vancouver Canucks, New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes and Winnipeg Jets, decisions have to be made. These four teams aren't 'there' just yet, but that could change in two weeks.

The Hurricanes have players they could sell, like defenseman Ron Hainsey, a pending UFA who can list 14 teams he won't accept a move to, and forwards Viktor Stalberg and Jay McClement; the Jets have forwards Drew Stafford and Chris Thornburn to dangle, while goalies Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson (not a pending UFA) could be had; and the Canucks have veteran winger Alexandre Burrows to move, but he has a full no-trade clause and will have to sign off on a move.

Outside of Dennis Seidenberg, the Islanders aren't really sellers. They are, however, still looking for a deal that'll get them a top-line winger to play alongside John Tavares

And for the Canucks, making the playoffs may actually be counterproductive. This team needs to retool -- ownership won't allow for a full rebuild -- and while they're starting to see their young studs make greater impacts on the roster, a few more changes could be made.

Vancouver's entertained calls on defenseman Alexander Edler for the last two seasons, and with the Canucks expected to protect more than four forwards in this summer's expansion draft, Edler may be exposed, as management may opt to keep blueliner Chris Tanev, Erik Gudbranson and Luca Sbisa safe. It would not be out of the realm of possibility if the Canucks test the market on him this month.

The seller's market isn't very deep, right now, but that'll change, providing teams are being real with themselves.

David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period. Follow him on Twitter.



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