USATSI_9131116_154158418_lowresThe trade deadline is right around the bend and we’ll be covering all of the action in what’s become an annual tradition here. In the meantime, speculation is rampant about what teams will be making moves on the big day.

For the most part, rumours are easy enough to dismiss as pure speculation and those blockbuster trades seldom actually go down the way predictions suggest. But sometimes, the buyers and sellers are apparent. In the Pacific Division, the battle lines have been drawn.

As of press time, the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks are holding it down for California as the top three in the division. The Arizona Coyotes are 10 points back of the third place Sharks, with the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers watching their playoff hopes fade away by the day.

That makes the picture pretty clear.

The Kings are in the market for a defenceman and they could be shopping around for Vancouver’s Dan Hamhuis. The pending unrestricted free agent is a nice option, as he could take some of the heat off of Drew Doughty and could bring balance to the blueline. Calgary’s Kris Russell has also been in the mix.

The cap picture for the Kings is tight and that could limit their purchasing power. They’re technically over the cap, but the long-term injured reserve status of Matt Greene has helped them clear some space. It’s not quite a bundle, mind you, but there is some wiggle room if Los Angeles finds a deal worth making.

The Kings are also in the market for a forward, which is where Andrew Ladd’s name starts to enter the picture. The Winnipeg Jets captain is almost a sure move on trade deadline day and there are a lot of teams expressing interest, but Los Angeles could be among the top draws.

As far as the Ducks are concerned, they’ve displayed the expected tenacity to turn their season around and general manager Bob Murray has to like his chances. They’ve got depth and they aren’t lacking for much, which could mean that Anaheim has little interest in rocking the boat. They could chip in something for a little extra blueline depth, but that’s a pretty big maybe.

The Sharks are, like the Kings and Ducks, potentially shopping for defence. If any playoff-bound team in the Pacific Division is looking to rent rather than own, it’s San Jose. And like Los Angeles, San Jose could be kicking the tires on Hamhuis. They recently overpaid to acquire Roman Polak and that may be a sign that their interest in other blueliners will be minuscule, especially as general manager Doug Wilson looks to retain some of his draft picks.

Right now, the Kings, Ducks and Sharks are all looking at a pretty solid shot in the post-season. And trade deadline day festivities should signal their intentions to push far in the playoffs, especially with all three California teams looking to add that extra something to the mix.

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