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Bowlby’s Breakdown: What to watch for at the NHL trade deadline

With the March 8, 3 p.m. EST NHL trade deadline fast approaching, there are specific things I’m keeping an eye out for as this week counts down. 

The Penguins are in a precarious place. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang have been the key pieces in Pittsburgh for over a decade and a half and have brought three championships to the city. Now, the 36 and 37-year-olds are entering their final opportunities to win a Stanley Cup. 

This year in particular, what will the Penguins front office do? Jake Guentzel is at the center of trade discussions and the situation became more challenging when he sustained an upper-body injury about two weeks ago.

What makes the decision of whether or not to be aggressive is tough where the Penguins sit in the standings. Currently, they are 7 points out of the playoffs but with games in hand. 

If they acquire an asset or two they could jump into the postseason, and it's well known that Crosby in the playoffs is not something you want to face.

Up north, New Jersey has goaltending problems, and there has been no questioning of this in regard to the Devils all season. Vitek Vanacek, Nico Daws and Akira Schmid have combined to rank at 28 for goals against average (3.46) and 30 for save percentage (.892).

For a team with plenty of talent to make noise in the playoffs, the Devils must acquire a better goalie heading into the fina months of the season. Their best bet may be Jacob Markstrom, and if the Flames are willing to sell at the deadline, New Jersey should jump on the opportunity to acquire him. Markstrom may have limited playoff experience, but he is a proven big-moment performer.

Wednesday night, the first of the big dominoes in this year’s deadline fell when Calgary traded Chris Tanev to Dallas. Will the Flames continue to sell?

In addition to the Elias Lindholm trade with Vancouver from Feb. 1, the Flames appear to be entering a rebuild/retool mindset.

Markstrom is another guy to keep an eye on, but the Flames also have other moveable defenders. Noah Hanafin and Oliver Kylington are on expiring contracts that could be shipped out for future assets.

Keep your eyes on Toronto; the Leafs have been in need of solid defenders, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they made a move for one of the Calgary defensemen.

What have the Oilers been missing over the past two playoff runs? Depth scoring. And what an opportunity they have to add their own former number one overall pick Jordan Eberle. Could the Oilers reunite with Eberle in Edmonton?

Eberle is in the final year of his contract and is a perfect rental for Edmonton. The Oilers drafted Eberle first overall in 2008 and he played his first seven seasons there before moving on to New York. Now, Edmonton has the draft capital to pull off a trade for Eberle or another player of a similar caliber.

If the Oilers don’t pursue Eberle, another option is Guentzel from Pittsburgh. Although the price might be higher for Guentzel, it would likely pay off in the long run. 

There are a number of other under-the-radar names to take note of leading up to the trade deadline. Jake Allen has been a part of the Canadiens' three-goalie rotation that has really just puzzled Montreal fans. With Samuel Montembeault and Cayden Primeau emerging as the duo of the future, Allen will likely be sent to a cup contender to play in the backup goalie role.

The Penguins are in a tough spot, but if they do decide to move on from current pieces, Reilly Smith should be a name to watch. Because Smith won the cup last season with Vegas, he could be a solid depth piece to add for any team heading to the playoffs.

Anaheim has been bad this season, but Frank Vatrano has had a solid season collecting 45 points in 58 games. He may be the perfect add as a bottom-six forward or performing in a larger role depending on the team.

Andrew Bowlby is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of  The Post. Want to share your thoughts about the column? Let Andrew know by tweeting him @andrew_bowlby.

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