As 2014 approaches, NHL teams will spend the next two months conducting a final internal analysis of their needs. For those organizations that are unlikely to get a ticket to the 2014 playoff dance, those needs will be defined in the language of future seasons.
However, for those teams with plans to play hockey into June, the upcoming days (and nights) will be spent with an eye on the March 5 trade deadline trying to strengthen holes in their roster without creating new leaks. The following are players that could be hot commodities in the annual end-of-season sweepstakes:
It will be interesting to see where both the Blue Jackets and Gaborik stand both performance-wise and health-wise when March 5 rolls around. Columbus is extremely grateful for its move to the Eastern Conference, where the Jackets find themselves just five points out of the final wild-card spot but only three points out of the No. 3 seed in the Metropolitan Division. Gaborik, who returned from a November knee injury only to break his collar bone, is just two seasons removed from his 41-goal campaign of 2011-12. In the event he regains his offensive touch down the stretch, the Jackets will have to walk the difficult balancing act of trying to make the postseason for only the second time in franchise history against losing an asset to offseason free agency with nothing to show for it in return.