Do Western teams buy or sell? That is the question

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:08 PM ET

TORONTO - This was ’70s weekend in the Western Conference. Anyone for the Deadline Disco Dance?

Eight teams on either side of the playoff line were between 70 and 78 points Sunday night, and deciding whether to stay in the shadows and be status quo for the last playoff push, or step out on the floor with a willing partner by Monday’s 3 p.m. trade cut-off.

“My experience shows me that when teams play one or two more games (before the deadline), a lot changes,” Blues’ GM Doug Armstrong told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “That’s what makes the deadline interesting.”

Depth centres and extra defence are high on everyone’s shopping list, but Scott Howson, general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets, spoke for a number of peers when he said: “The next month and a half are our playoffs ... the more people you have who are experienced, the better.”

There is a fascinating mix of personalities and teams in the West, starting with Howson, who can ill afford a second year missing the playoffs in his market, which has one April appearance in nine years.

San Jose has just won six straight and holds top spot in the Pacific with home ice. But the Sharks are just eight points from 10th and hardly free and clear. Phoenix is three back with 75, but had lost two straight before facing Chicago Sunday night. With the sale of their team hitting another snag at the municipal government level, the Coyotes are obligated to seek some on-ice insurance for the sake of 2011-12 season ticket optics.

Dallas holds the key for Monday’s action in both conferences. Only two points are keeping them safe for now, but they have the most sought-after asset in centre Brad Richards, complicated by his concussion, no-trade clause and the possibility of a new Dallas contract. One of the teams ahead of the Stars are the Los Angeles Kings, whose GM is Dean Lombardi, one of the NHL’s notorious fussbudgets when push comes to shove this time of year.

The Kings survived just one round last spring in their long-awaited return to the playoffs, and everyone agrees they need something extra this time. Lombardi is being urged to look at Richards, who is also coveted in the East by another glamour franchise, the New York Rangers. The Blueshirts’ 2-1 loss to Tampa on Sunday and its harmful playoff implications will pressure New York to act, but you can’t blame Lombardi for balking when many teams are asking him for prospect Brayden Schenn.

The Chicago Blackhawks, meanwhile, are in danger of going from Cup winners to sideliners, while Calgary’s second-half drive has stalled the past couple of days. Then there’s Nashville and Anaheim, two other Western teams in non-traditional markets who crave playoff revenue and were also below the bar when Sunday began.

The team that would have to make up ground in a hurry is St. Louis, but Armstrong might be done dealing.

“I like the makeup of our group right now,” he said. “We’ve solidified our top six, we’re younger on the defensive end, but we understood that (when) making those trades. We’re going to live with that and see how these younger players respond. You never say never, but I’m not sure we’re expecting to do anything major.”

But the Blues are fielding calls about players such as David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Alex Pietrangelo and Alex Steen.

Storm warning

Since Feb. 1 up to Sunday morning, 24 trades had been completed, involving 40 players, 28 draft picks, plus the negotiating rights to one player and future considerations. Nine trades were made by two teams within either conference and three completed in the same division, including two in the Northeast. A batch of others have been claimed on waivers.

Last year, 30 trades involving 52 players were made just before and including deadline day, despite the salary cap. Philadelphia and Chicago, clubs whose perceived need was in goal, did nothing and still made the Cup final.

Trade tidbits

Washington is looking for help down the middle Monday ... Defenceman John-Michael Liles, who has only seen 36 playoff games in six years with the Avalanche, is expected to waive his no-movement clause ... If Atlanta deals for help up front, would they really risk 2008 first rounder Zach Bogosian? ... Jason Arnott was to meet with GM Lou Lamoriello following Sunday afternoon’s game against Florida. As stirring as the Devils’ late-season charge has been, it won’t get them in the playoffs and Lamoriello must cut his losses and move people ... Centre Daymomd Langkow is indeed readying for light workouts in Calgary, but his return from a neck injury won’t be until next season ... Leafs coach Ron Wilson doesn’t think teams should have to play on trade deadline day because it’s next to impossible for them to concentrate. There are two games Monday night, Chicago at Minnesota and Detroit at Los Angeles ... A few enforcers such as Nashville’s Wade Belak were available on waivers the past few days, but with fighting usually out of fashion in playoffs, such one-dimensional players aren’t in demand.


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