The NHL's annual trade deadline often sees general managers with playoff aspirations attempting to bolster their rosters for a postseason run. Despite a flattened salary cap this season, we can still expect contenders to be busy shopping leading up to this year's March 21 deadline.

NHL history is replete with examples of contenders making trade deadline acquisitions that helped them become Stanley Cup champions. The most recent is the Tampa Bay Lightning, whose acquisitions of forwards Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow leading up to the 2020 deadline played crucial roles in their back-to-back Cup runs.

This year's top contenders are already talented teams, but they could use some additional depth to help them reach hockey's holy grail. The Florida Panthers could use a top-four, left-side defenseman, while the Colorado Avalanche could benefit from additional secondary scoring.

Here's our take on which trades could turn five of this year's Stanley Cup contenders into champions later this season. You can express your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.

We've excluded the defending champion Lightning from this list. In a Jan. 12 interview with The Athletic's Joe Smith, Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois indicated it's unlikely he'll make any moves at the trade deadline, citing his club's lack of salary-cap space. Unless a core player ends up on long-term injured reserve, we anticipate BriseBois will stand pat.


Carolina Hurricanes Acquire John Klingberg

With a record of 32 wins, 11 losses and three overtime defeats, the Carolina Hurricanes hold one of the best point percentages (.728) in the league. On Feb. 5, The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun indicated they were on pace for a franchise-best 124 points this season. While Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell felt no pressure to make a move, LeBrun speculated Waddell could pursue a defenseman.

John Klingberg could be the blueliner Waddell targets if he decides to make a big move near the trade deadline. He was first linked to the Hurricanes on Nov. 27, when Sportsnet's Jeff Marek reported they had contacted the Stars to inquire into the 29-year-old's availability.

Klingberg could replace the offense and experience the Hurricanes lost last summer when Dougie Hamilton signed with the New Jersey Devils as a free agent. A talented puck-moving defenseman with a right-handed shot, he could slot into the first defense pairing alongside Brady Skjei or the second pairing with Jaccob Slavin.

Adding Klingberg would give the Hurricanes one of the deepest top-four defenses in the league. He would be a costly acquisition, as the Stars could seek a first-round pick or a top prospect plus a promising NHL-ready player in return. With the Hurricanes carrying $1.8 million in projected deadline cap space, Waddell could ask the Stars to retain some of the remainder of Klingberg's $4.25 million cap hit.


Colorado Avalanche Take A Flier On Claude Giroux

Winner of the Presidents' Trophy in 2020-21, the Colorado Avalanche are jostling with the Florida Panthers for first overall in this season's standings. After failing to advance beyond the second round in the past three seasons, they're hoping to stage a run for the Stanley Cup. Bringing in a versatile two-way star such as Claude Giroux could be the last piece of their championship puzzle.

Giroux, 34, has spent his entire 15-season NHL career with the Philadelphia Flyers.