The trade deadline is 35 days away. Crunch time is coming for a bunch of teams but here's a look at five GMs with big decisions to make over the next few weeks.
1. Kevin Cheveldayoff, Winnipeg Jets
It's not entirely surprising that the Jets, who made the playoffs last season, regressed this season given that they play in the loaded Central Division. Try explaining that to the passionate fans in Winnipeg, a fan base that's not happy. Which only adds to the pressure in that fishbowl of a market when it comes to the looming decisions on captain Andrew Ladd and top defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, both pending unrestricted free agents with limited no-trade clauses.
Trade them or sign them before Feb. 29? Or keep them for a playoff push and let them walk? The latter seems like a no-go for a budget team that can't easily attract July 1 UFAs to Winnipeg. You need to turn assets into more assets if you're the Jets, unless of course you can sign the player(s). Seems to me the most prudent course of action here is to sign one of them and trade the other. Again, easier said than done on the signing side of things.
I'm not sure Yzerman even knows what pressure is. Perhaps that's the benefit of having had one of the greatest playing careers in the history of the game. Or being the GM for two Canadian Olympic squads. Talk about scrutiny. And he's already dealt with the Martin St. Louis trade demand in his short NHL executive career, so even though young Jonathan Drouin has asked for a trade and the ongoing Steven Stamkos contract negotiations hang over the season, you never get the sense Yzerman is overwhelmed by any of it.
He's built a great team and these are the business realities of running a team. The Stamkos situation likely will wait until the offseason to resolve itself, but a Drouin trade could happen over the next month if Yzerman gets a deal he feels is worthy of the player who was the third overall pick in 2013. Whether he gets it in a Drouin deal or in a separate trade, Yzerman also needs to find a right-handed, top-four defenseman. That's easy, right?
The fashion king of the GM fraternity was cool as a cucumber last week as he calmed down a market frothing at the mouth for answers. Bergevin also put all of the heat on himself for a season gone haywire without MVP goalie Carey Price. All eyes are on him as he attempts to make a trade to boost the offense between now and Feb. 29.
Easier said than done, of course, but he made clear last week that any trade will be as much about long-term impact as helping the team this season. That seems to indicate no rental players are on his radar. Drouin would fit the bill, although it's not clear whether the Habs have the kind of pieces the Lightning would want. Whatever the case, it's priority No. 1 for Bergevin to find top-six offensive somewhere. The NHL's most passionate fan base is waiting.
The surprising Hurricanes are a terrific story this season. Their young blue line is going to be awesome for years to come. However, Carolina's surprising playoff push adds a wrinkle to a coming decision on captain Eric Staal. There seems to be no question the Canes will continue with their youth movement. Francis has done a wonderful job reshaping the foundation since he took over.
What of Staal, a pending UFA? The sides are slated to chat after the All-Star break. Staal has a full no-move clause, but can Carolina re-sign him to a cheaper, short-term deal or will they try to move him before the deadline? If they do, would Staal even waive the no-trade clause? Decisions, decisions are coming soon.
5. Chuck Fletcher, Minnesota Wild
The All-Star break can't come soon enough for a Wild team that's won only three of 12 games in January. The offensive struggles continue, and when I spoke with Fletcher last week it was clear he's been beating the bushes on the trade market for two months looking for offensive help.
Sources confirm he tried on Ryan Johansen, but didn't have a Seth Jones to send in return. He tried on Drouin, and Fletcher has other irons in the fire. It's not easy adding top-six forward help midseason. Those trades, the significant ones, tend to be deals in June, when the salary cap doesn't matter. Still, Fletcher certainly hopes to make one before the deadline.