The NHL's Olympic break, which begins on Feb. 8, will be accompanied by a freeze on all trades, an embargo that will extend until 11:59 p.m. ET on Feb. 23. Once the medals are handed out in Sochi and NHL play resumes on Feb. 26, teams will have only eight days to decide whether to add players for a 2014 playoff run or to build for the future.
This scheduling oddity, combined with the overall scarcity of salary-cap space this season among NHL teams, will add a peculiar dynamic to the annual end-of-season, horse-trading festival that is the trade deadline.
While there are teams that seem to have a permanent seat at the buyers' table (Pittsburgh, Boston, Vancouver), and teams that have well-documented seller stalls in place (Buffalo, Edmonton, Calgary), there are likely to be some relative newcomers to each side of the aisle in the 2014 NHL talent auction.
As a result, the next nine days of the NHL schedule are unusually critical from a management perspective, with the deadline strategies of the following teams likely hanging in the balance:
After two straight second-round playoff finishes, the Predators parlayed their 2013 trip to the sellers' table into Filip Forsberg, the 11th overall selection of the 2012 NHL draft. With Pekka Rinne locked up under long-term contract (assuming he returns to full health) and with a defense anchored by Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Seth Jones and the recently acquired Michael Del Zotto, Nashville needs to augment its 23rd-ranked offense if it hopes to compete for future playoff spots in the tough Central division.
The Preds are chock full of hard-working, lunch-bucket-type forwards who fit their identity, but they but lack the higher-end, bona fide top-six skill players of their Central division brethren. If they can replicate their 2013 deadline haul in terms of young firepower, then the Predators' return to playoff form might not be that far away.