Identifying buyers and sellers ahead of the NHL trade deadline can be a difficult task, given the fluidity of the standings, injuries around the league and other factors.
But it’s clear to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston and Elliotte Friedman that three teams have emerged with expectations to be particularly active: the New York Islanders as buyers, as well as the Chicago Blackhawks and New Jersey Devils as sellers.
“I think (the Islanders) were in on Mikko Koivu, who announced (Saturday) he’s going to stay in Minnesota,” Friedman said during the Headlines segment of Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday. “Chris Kreider was another one. I think the Islanders are in on him, too.”
On Kreider, who has 24 goals this season, Friedman said there is still some uncertainty of what the New York Rangers will do with their free-agent-to-be. The Rangers are four points out of a wild card spot with 21 games to play.
“The Rangers are right in the race, does that mean they hold onto Kreider and go for it?” Friedman said. “I don’t think that’s necessarily the plan. I think it comes down (to) if they think they can re-sign Kreider or not. If no, I think they’re still going to try to move him. If yes, they keep him and go with it.”
As for the Devils, Friedman said there’s “a lot of interest” in both Wayne Simmonds (whose physical presence could be a boon for playoff teams) and Kyle Palmieri, but that one team told him “it would take something spectacular” to move Palmieri.
New Jersey also has Sami Vatanen, who is on injured reserve with a bruised leg and hasn’t played since Feb. 1.
“(Vatanen) won’t be back, I don’t think, by the time the trade deadline is done,” Friedman said. “But the Devils have let everybody know of his medical situation. I think he’s gonna go somewhere for a team that needs offence.”
Then there’s the Blackhawks, who Johnston said he believes will be “one of the big sellers.” Based on what happened in Toronto on Saturday, with 42-year-old emergency backup goalie David Ayres filling in for the Carolina Hurricanes, there’s even more reason to believe that now.
“They’ve got a goaltender situation where, I think they’re willing to move one of their goaltenders,” Johnston said, in reference to Chicago’s pending free agents Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner.
“They’ve left the defenceman Erik Gustafsson back home in Chicago as they went out on a road trip (Saturday),” Johnston added. “It’s expected he’ll be moved. He’s been connected to Vegas, by the way, (but) I don’t think there’s anything to that. I think he’s probably headed somewhere other than Vegas.”
Also, Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad, who is under contract through next season, “could be had for the right price,” Johnston said.