New Jersey Devils, Dallas Stars among five NHL teams struggling early, open to trade

Sporting News

A handful of NHL clubs are off to sputtering starts to this season. Some are struggling to score while others are having trouble keeping pucks out of their own net. If left unaddressed, those issues could scuttle their playoff hopes — even in this young 2019-20 season.

Here's a look at five clubs stumbling from the gate and the issues they must address to reverse their fortunes.

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Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes acquired winger Phil Kessel from the Pittsburgh Penguins to boost an offense that was among the league's worst last season. So far, however, the addition of the perennial 20-plus goal scorer hasn't helped. Entering Tuesday's contest against the Winnipeg Jets, the Coyotes' 1.75 goals per game was the league's lowest. Kessel had just one assist in that stretch.

Kessel isn't the scapegoat here. The Coyotes aren't getting enough production throughout the lineup. With defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson ($5 million annual average value) destine for long-term injury reserve with a cracked fibula, they will have sufficient cap space if necessary to bring in some short-term offensive help.

Chicago Blackhawks

Starting the season in Europe got the Blackhawks off on the wrong skate. They were winless in their first three games before defeating the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 on Monday. Nevertheless, they remain near the bottom of the overall standings.

Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times observed too many players skating excessively long shifts. Last season's defensive concerns have also carried over into this campaign. Their shots-against per game (31.3) and penalty-killing percentage (61.5) ranks among the league's worst.

Improved goaltending by Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner could upgrade the penalty killing stats; yet, the blue line still remains a concern. GM Stan Bowman showed his willingness last fall to swing an early-season deal by acquiring center Dylan Strome from Arizona. He could keep a lookout for a defenseman in the trade market.

The Lineup: Week of Oct. 14

Dallas Stars

Like the Coyotes, the Stars were also among last season's lowest-scoring clubs. Over the summer, they brought in Joe Pavelski to bolster their production. Through six games, however, the former San Jose Sharks captain has just one assist.

Pavelski isn't the only notable Stars forward having difficulty scoring; Tyler Seguin has just three points while Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov only two apiece.

The main issue is a power play that's gone 1-for-22 thus far. General manager Jim Nill could attempt to use unsigned defenseman Julius Honka in a trade package to land a power-play specialist.

Minnesota Wild

With just one win in their first five games, the Wild are mired at the bottom of the standings. Their 4.20 goals-against per game is among the league's worst while the forwards have combined for just seven goals.

Minnesota's goals-against should improve once starting goalie Devan Dubnyk regains his usually reliable form. Backup Alex Stalock was sharp in a 2-0 shutout over the Ottawa Senators on Monday. He could get more starts if Dubnyk keeps struggling.

A bigger concern is their popgun offense. The Wild desperately needs young, skilled forwards to replace aging stars like Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Eric Staal. During the preseason, TSN's Darren Dreger reported general manager Bill Guerin wants to add a first- or second-line center. The club's poor start ensures his search will continue.

MORE: Richard Park on scouting for the Minnesota Wild

New Jersey Devils

Following a summer of notable additions such as P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, Nikita Gusev and top prospect Jack Hughes, the Devils entered this season as a potential playoff contender. So far, however, they're winless (0-4-2) in their first six games. They're either blowing substantial leads or suffering lopsided defeats.

The Devils' special teams have been anything but. They've yet to tally a power-play goal while their penalty-killing percentage (57.1) is the league's second-worst.

A power-play specialist or an adept penalty-killer could be on GM Ray Shero's radar. A coaching change could also be in the works if bench boss John Hynes fails to turn things around.

MORE: Hughes comes close to scoring his first NHL goal, inexplicably misses

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