February 26 is only 19 days away. The silly season is upon us.
Players are being asked for their no-trade lists. Rumours are ramping up. And the contenders are separating themselves from the pretenders.
In this week’s NHL Power Rankings: Greatest Trade Needs Edition, we look at the greatest area of need for each of the 31 clubs as we approach the trading deadline.
As per our weekly custom, all 31 teams are ranked in order of their current awesomeness. The write-ups zero in on what each club should be hunting for (or need to be selling) between now and Feb. 26.
Having earned points in 21 of their past 22 outings, regardless if top scorer Brad Marchand is in the lineup or not, the Bruins’ youth movement is ahead of schedule and their veterans are all enjoying solid seasons. They don’t need much and should be unwilling to sacrifice much, but GM Don Sweeney may poke around for a depth centre (Mark Letestu?) or another D-man.
The Predators need to sit this one out. Mike Fisher will give an already deep team up the middle another trustworthy option at centre, and David Poile has already traded away his 2018 second-rounder.
At trade deadline, Kevin Cheveldayoff has traditionally lived up to his surname’s last two syllables and taken the day off. Having persevered nicely through injuries to Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg is looking for a top-six forward. They need to buy this month, partly to add depth but mostly to send a vote of confidence to a core that deserves it.
The Bolts roll out arguably the most dynamic collection of forwards in the NHL and possess the Vezina front-runner in net. Steve Yzerman needs to shore up his blue line in a go-for-it year. Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh is available and has two years left on his contract; his window aligns with Nikita Kucherov’s. Big-move potential here.
Blessed with cap space and free of expectations, George McPhee has the enviable position of being able to buy, sell or stay pat and have all three routes justified. The GM needs to get a high pick or two in return for James Neal and/or David Perron. Figure out their intentions. Follow the example Doug Armstrong set with Kevin Shattenkirk last winter. If McPhee is unable to trade or re-sign those forwards, consider those trade chips wasted.
6. Dallas Stars
Dallas needs to shed Jason Spezza’s salary and look at renting a forward that can take them from scary to scarier. Rick Nash? Michael Grabner?
Scoring, big time. When the Blues allow one goal or less, they often win, but scoring help is out there — Mike Hoffman, Evander Kane, Max Pacioretty — and St. Louis should go after it.
Toronto is reaching a critical point with its winger depth and needs to shed from the flanks — Josh Leivo? Matt Martin? Nikita Soshnikov? Kasperi Kapanen? — in order to bolster middle ice and the right-defence position. Roman Polak can kill a penalty, but can you win a Cup with him?
Pittsburgh needs the same thing it needed and failed to find in the summer: a third-line centre. With the Penguins making another second-half surge, expect Jim Rutherford to be aggressive in tracking down forward depth.
Having lost Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk to free agency last summer, the somewhat surprising Capitals could rent a defenceman (Alex Ovechkin has publicly supported a Mike Green return) and take a stab at wide-open Metropolitan Division crown.
11. San Jose Sharks
This is the time of year GM Doug Wilson usually tinkers with the fringes of his lineup. San Jose has no second- or third-rounder to spend and needs to decide if it’s a true contender. If not, Joe Thornton, Aaron Dell and Joel Ward — all on expiring contracts — could be dangled in attempt to restock the cupboards.
Joe Sakic would be wise to resist the urge to chase the playoffs. Colorado is an exciting young team that could take a giant step next season. The Avs need to use their cap space to take a contender’s salary dump as well as a pick or prospect as compensation.
13. Minnesota Wild
The Wild isn’t one scorer away, so it needs to be honest about its status as a bubble team that could be first-round fodder. Trade UFAs Chris Stewart and Matt Cullen (back to Pittsburgh?), who are both on nice contracts, in an attempt to get back a couple picks.
The Kings’ core is too old and contractually committed to rebuild, so L.A. has no choice but to get into the post-season and hope Jonathan Quick catches fire. A healthy Jeff Carter is a big step, but if the Kings can move Marian Gaborik for a younger weapon (even if that means eating some salary), they should do it.
15. Calgary Flames
The Jaromir Jagr gamble crapped out, and Calgary’s 20th-ranked offence could use a bump. Problem is, the Flames have already traded away their first-, second- and fifth-round picks in 2018 and their second-, third- and sixth-round picks in 2019. It’ll be tough for them to win a bidding war without diving into their prospect pool.
16. Anaheim Ducks
Anaheim needs starter John Gibson healthy above all else. Beyond that, the Ducks could look for more scoring help. Adam Henrique has been a nice addition, but if Anaheim finishes the season with the 23rd-ranked offence, it could finish out of the playoffs.
The Devils need to avoid chasing a rental player — any playoff success this spring will be a bonus — but instead look at roster options up front with forwards who still have some term on their deals. New Jersey has enough cap space to take on, say, a Max Pacioretty or Mike Hoffman no worries.
The Flyers need to produce a video tribute to Doug Pederson’s play calling.
The Blue Jackets’ offence has been remarkably underwhelming. They need a William Karlsson type. (Kidding!) But seriously, they will look to add a scorer who can bolster their power play. The Rick Nash return buzz is starting.
Deee-fence. The Travis Hamonic trade is hurting the Islanders. New York needs to reach the playoffs to increase its chances of re-signing John Tavares, so Garth Snow should hunt for goaltending and a defender to complement his high-flying forwards.
Oh, boy. Stan Bowman needs to fight the feeling that he may be able to save this season. The Corey Crawford injury has exposed the holes of a roster ravaged by the cap. Any move that can free up cap space or add picks is welcome. Is anyone desperate enough for an RD that they’ll take the Brent Seabrook anchor?
22. Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton needs to throw in the towel and trade attractive depth forwards Patrick Maroon and Mark Letestu. Maybe there’s even a buyer for Mike Cammalleri’s experience. The Oilers also need to not do anything too rash. Reevaluate in the summer.
23. Florida Panthers
The Panthers need patience, and a little luck. Any move Dale Tallon’s budget team makes should be for the long term. Florida has a nice prospect pool and could develop into a threat in a couple years, but it feels far away right now.
The same thing they’ve needed for years: more goals. At some point Ron Francis, whose patience is commendable, needs to get this group over the hump and into the playoffs.
25. New York Rangers
The Rangers appear to have a firm grasp of their needs. If you’re not a true contender, sell. So, New York needs to sell Rick Nash and Michael Grabner to the highest bidder and restock the cupboards. If Ryan McDonagh goes, too, GM Jeff Gorton needs to get a decent haul.
Montreal needs to rebuild. Sell Tomas Plekanec. Try to get good value for Max Pacioretty. Then go out this summer and get a real centre. The Canadiens will never contend until they get one.
The Canucks need to cut bait with Erik Gudbranson, who will be looking for more money and term than Vancouver is likely to offer this summer, and Thomas Vanek, who could boost a contender’s third line and second power-play unit. The future is increasingly bright. Give Jim Benning more picks and prospects to build with.
Ken Holland needs to drive up the price for Mike Green and get as high of a pick as possible for a rental defenceman enjoying a renaissance season. Finding a buyer for one of his expensive goalies would be a bonus.
29. Ottawa Senators
The Senators already spent their first- and second-round picks in 2018, so they need to hold off on a Mike Hoffman trade unless the return is significant. Ottawa also needs to understand ASAP if Matt Duchene intends to re-sign long term. If not, he too could be flipped to a playoff team in search of centre depth.
30. Buffalo Sabres
Rookie GM Jason Botterill will need to knock his asking price down but still needs to hit a home run with the Evander Kane trade.
31. Arizona Coyotes
Where do we begin? Really, the Coyotes need to win the draft lottery and build around Rasmus Dahlin.