The Vancouver Canucks are not only a Stanley Cup favourite, but have a massive bullet in the chamber as the NHL's Feb. 27 trade deadline looms.
What remains to be seen is how Canucks GM Mike Gillis wants to use it.
In backup goalie Cory Schneider, the Canucks have a netminder who may be capable of carrying them to a championship. At worst, Schneider provides an incredible amount of insurance should No. 1 netminder Roberto Luongo either get injured or struggle in the playoffs.
However, should the Canucks pull the trigger on a trade which sends the 25-year-old goalie -- who is a pending restricted free agent -- they should be able to set themselves for this year's playoff run and the future.
You bet teams would be willing to deal away a roster player and a prospect or high draft pick for a goalie who appears to be a bonafide starter.
Schneider had yet another big outing in a 3-2 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday, and with each performance like that increases in value, not only for a trade but should he take the Canucks to arbitration this summer.
That said, it's not like the Canucks can't get by this year with what they have and see where it goes. At this point, they really only need to add some depth on defence. That is assuming their few struggling players, such as Mason Raymond and Manny Malhotra, find their form in time for the playoff drive.
Their salary structure not only has them in good stead this season, but next year as well, so they can let this spring play out and reassess as far away as the conclusion of the 2012-13 campaign.
However, if the Canucks fail in their Stanley Cup quest this season, and it's obvious to all dealing Schneider would have put them over the top, the second-guessing will come fast and furious.
Then again, if they trade Schneider and Luongo goes down or struggles, just imagine all the Monday morning quarterbacks Gillis will hear from.
Those are the tough decisions which loom at the deadline.
Speaking of backup goaltenders, the Flames have their own situation worth watching. Henrik Karlsson, back from a knee injury which sidelined him two months, may not see much action in February, but the Flames have 17 games in March, so they'll have to give Miikka Kiprusoff a breather. Karlsson has a 0-4-1 record this season (4-9-7 over his career), and that's not good enough to prove he can take the torch. Not that Leland Irving proven he's NHL ready during his four outings, either, but it's time for Karlsson to prove he deserves that two-year contract he was handed after last season "¦ The never-ending struggles of Flames backup goalies sure makes you wonder what the team's success would have been had the team not acquired Kiprusoff in November 2003. This franchise may still be looking for a playoff spot for the first time since 1996 "¦ Whoever came up with the idea for a moment of applause for Brad McCrimmon during Tuesday's ceremony, take a bow. What an outstanding idea.
One thing to keep in mind for all those who want to believe trade rumours involving Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets: Columbus is hosting next year's all-star game, so it's hard to imaagine them dealing the one player who truly fits that category "¦ Interesting stat from the Elias Sports Bureau: Prior to Tuesday's games, the club with the toughest schedule based on the winning percentage of their opposition down the stretch is the Nashville Predators, who face clubs with an average winning percentage of .596. Next is Chicago (.586), New Jersey (.583), Columbus (.576) and Buffalo (.575). Is there any question the Central Division is the NHL's best? "¦ Worth noting for those watching the Pacific Division race: San Jose plays 10 for 14 games on the road in February, with a nine-game trip, while the Los Angeles Kings also have only four home dates this month "¦ Any team interested in Minnesota defenceman Marek Zidlicky and his contract with one more season for US$4 million? He's been a healthy scratch and publicly complained about it. However, in 16 games this season he hasn't played, the Wild have a 12-4 record "¦ If the Los Angeles Kings are interested in a winger to add scoring punch, would they really go after Edmonton's Ales Hemsky? The past couple of deals between those clubs haven't exactly worked in the Kings' favour.
YOU DON'T SAY
"He's got a big mouth and he likes to run it. What can you do? Can't worry about what he's got to say. He doesn't do much out there."
-- Montreal goalie Carey Price regarding Buffalo's Paul Gaustad, after was taunting Max Pacioretty about being put in the hospital by Zdeno Chara.
The Habs and Sabres have three more meetings this season.
On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak