Even with the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche falling out of the playoff race in the last couple of weeks, there still remains 5 Central Division teams vying for a spot in the super-tough Western Conference.
Of course, getting to the playoffs is the easy part*, what's difficult is advancing once you get there. And it's because of this fact that none of the Central Division's 5 potential playoff teams (The Wild, Predators, Blues, Blackhawks, and Jets) did anything close to standing pat at the trade deadline. Each team upgraded and ensured that they'd be a tougher out in the playoffs than before the New Year.
With the Wild very likely to square off against the Central Division in the playoffs, let's take a look at what each #ConferenceIII team did to upgrade this NHL Trade Deadline season.
Acquired: G Devan Dubnyk, W Sean Bergenheim, 2016 6th-round pick; D Jordan Leopold; C Chris Stewart
Traded: 2015 3rd, 2016 3rd, 2015 5th, Justin Falk, 2017 2nd
We know what happened with these, but in case you've paid zero attention to the Wild, Devan Dubnyk has performed to a level that, you know, just saved the season. Big deal, right? With strong goaltending, the Wild have finally been able to be more like the team we saw earlier in this season. Sean Bergenheim is solid scoring depth that, even with only two Wild games under his belt, appears to have made a positive impact already.
Jordan Leopold shores up the bottom pairing and will allow more flexibility as the Wild can now let one of their young defensemen in Christian Folin or Matt Dumba play in the AHL down the stretch. It hopefully means that Nate Prosser will be a scratch more often. Chris Stewart once scored 25 goals in a season, but this year has only 11 goals, 25 points. The 27 year old winger stand 6'2" and should provide some decent depth to the line-up.
Acquired: C Mark Arcobello, D Cody Franson, C Mike Santorelli
Traded: C Derek Roy, C Olli Jokinen, LW Brendan Leipsic, 2015 1st
Nashville went all-in on their potential President's Trophy-winning season, acquiring two rentals were highly desired in the trade market. Franson (2 points since the trade) and Santorelli (scoreless in NSH) haven't made quite the mark Predators fans were hoping, but the improvements made to an already-excellent defensive corps, and shoring up their depth down the middle can't be ignored.
St. Louis Blues
Acquired: C Marcel Goc, W Adam Cracknell, D Zbynek Michalek, D Rob Bortuzzo; 2017 7th; F Olli Jokinen
Traded: C Maxim Lapierre, D Ian Cole, 2016 Conditional 6th
While Goc isn't a bad depth move to make, the Blues didn't really do anything to significantly improve their roster until today, when they acquired Michalek from the Arizona Coyotes. Michalek isn't a scoring threat at all, and hasn't been generating offense in Arizona, but he's been a pretty good shutdown defenseman for the past few seasons. He'll very nicely compliment offensive threats Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk. Oh and Olli Jokinen has been brought back into the Central. The already-defensive Blues just got more defensive. Watch out.
Acquired: D Gustav Forsling, D Kimmo Timonen, C Antoine Vermette, F Andrew Desjardins
Traded: D Adam Clendening, D Klas Dahlbeck, 2015 1st, 2015 2nd, Conditional 2016 4th, F Ben Smith, 2017 Conditional 7th
Chicago made a couple of aggressive, interesting moves. A healthy Kimmo Timonen should be able to help their blue line, and it helps that the CHI defensive corps is deep enough so they shouldn't have to rely on the 39-year-old defenseman. But Timonen has yet to play a game this season, making this a gamble. Much more of a sure thing is Antoine Vermette, who should help to fill in the hole that Patrick Kane's injury left in the Top-6, though obviously, there's no replacing Patrick Kane. Vermette is a solid two-way center that wins faceoffs. It's very possible he will fit in on a really good team and out-perform the numbers he posted in Arizona. Andrew Desjardins should help them up front as the injuries to start to mount up.
Acquired: D Tyler Myers, W Drew Stafford, W Jiri Tlusty, W Lee Stempniak, W Joel Armia, W Brendan Lemieux, 2015 1st
Traded: W Evander Kane, D Zach Bogosian, W Carl Klingberg, G Jason Kasdorf, Conditional 2015 6th, 2016 3rd
The Jets swung for the fence when they decided to trade Evander Kane, and considering they had to eventually trade him, the early returns on this deal indicate it was a fine trade. Tyler Myers has done well with a change of scenery so far, getting 6 points in 8 games while logging 23 minutes a night. Stafford, Tlusty, and Stempniak are there to try to make up for the impact on offense left by the absence of Kane and Mathieu Perrault. They're not as good, but they should offset it somewhat.
So, have at it, Wild fans, who improved their team the most during Trade Deadline season?
*Unless you're the Minnesota Vikings, Twins, or Timberwolves