Nick Schultz (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Buy or sell at the trade deadline? That's the decision facing bubble teams like the Devils, Flyers, Canucks, and Flames.With the Feb. 29 trade deadline less than a month away, the general managers of several playoff bubble teams must soon determine if they'll become buyers or sellers in the coming weeks. Emerging from the NHL all-star break, the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers were one and five points outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture, respectively. Like the Flyers, the Vancouver Canucks sit five points back in the Western Conference postseason chase. The Calgary Flames, meanwhile, are 11 points out and fading. NorthJersey.com's Tom Gulitti believes Devils GM Ray Shero owes it to his hardworking players to bolster their weak offense. He notes Shero isn't keen to part with assets for a rental player, preferring instead to add younger players who could fit into the Devils long-term plans. Gulitti points out such deals tend to be uncommon at the trade deadline. With the Devils in the midst of a rebuild, it's understandable why Shero doesn't want to give up good assets for a quick fix. But if they remain in playoff contention, he'll feel the pressure to add a scorer. Shero obviously won't part with his best prospects or a first-round pick, but could keep his eye open for a bargain pick-up near the deadline. If Flyers GM Ron Hextall opts to be a seller, Philly.com's Sam Carchidi speculates blueliners Mark Streit and Nick Schultz, along with winger Matt Read, could hit the trade block. If Hextall becomes a buyer, Carchidi believes he could add a rental winger or perhaps pursue Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin. The salaries of Streit ($5.25-million cap hit through 2016-17), Schultz ($2.25-million through '16-17) and Read ($3.625-million through 2017-18) won't be easy to move. In the past year, however, Hextall was able to ship out contracts (Chris Pronger, Vincent Lecavalier) thought to be untradeable. Maybe he can weave a little more trade magic. If Hextall is interested in Drouin, he'll have to offer up more than Streit, Schultz or Read. It's rumored Bolts GM Steve Yzerman seeks a right-handed shot on his blueliner, but Streit and Schultz are left-handed shots. Yzerman also doesn't want to add to his contract concerns over the next two years. The Canucks play eight of 11 games this month at home, prompting Vancouver Sun's Brad Ziemer to suggest their performance during that homestand will determine whether GM Jim Benning buys or sells. If Bennning goes the latter route, Ziemer considers pending UFAs like Radim Vrbata, Dan Hamhuis and Brandon Prust as trade candidates. Of those three, Vrbata could attract the most interest for clubs seeking some scoring depth on the wing. If Benning shops Hamhuis, he should give the Washington Capitals a call. Depending on the health of currently sidelined defenseman Brooks Orpik, CSN Mid-Atlantic's Chuck Gormley believes the Capitals could acquire a veteran rearguard by the deadline. Gormley thinks they could have interest in the 33-year-old Hamhuis, who played several seasons with the Nashville Predators under current Capitals coach Barry Trotz. The Calgary Sun's Wes Gilbertson reports Flames GM Brad Treliving hasn't decided yet if he'll buy or sell by the deadline. If he decides to sell, Gilbertson speculates pending UFAs like wingers Jiri Hudler and David Jones, defenseman Kris Russell and goaltender Karri Ramo could be on the move. Hudler, 32, and the 28-year-old Russell will attract the most interest. Hudler's only a year removed from a career-high 76-point campaign, while Russell's a shot-blocking specialist. MORE RUMOR ROUNDUP:
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