In just five days the NHL’s trade deadline will have come and gone and there will be no more reason to sap your fan angst or feed off your blockbuster dreams. (Until draft weekend rolls along, then it’s game on.)
Failing to jump on the looming trading frenzy as our thematic peg for this week’s power rankings will feel like a missed opportunity, like not trading 2016 Dan Hamhuis when you had a chance.
And if there’s one thing we despise more than a soft goalie interference call, it’s regret.
Therefore, we present… NHL Power Rankings: Trade Deadline Decisions Edition.
As per our weekly ritual, all 31 teams are ranked in order of their current strength. The write-ups feature a quick note on a significant decision facing each club leading up to 3 p.m. ET on Monday, Feb. 26.
Remember, kids: Indecision is a decision.
Jim Rutherford has already been explicit about his confidence in his ability to add another forward to this group. So the threepeat-eyeing Penguins’ decisions are more along these lines: Trade for a winger, a centre or both? Mortgage some of the future or all of it?
With Tuesday’s acquisition of left-shot defenceman Nick Holden from the Rangers, the Bruins must decide if they’re done shopping and content to let a division rival like Tampa take a run at Ryan McDonagh.
We know the future is now in Nashville, but David Poile must decide just how carried away he should get by Monday. The Predators are reportedly interested in Rick Nash and Tomas Tatar, for example, but having already given up their 2018 second-rounder and top defence prospect Samuel Girard, do they sacrifice more of their future?
Kevin Cheveldayoff can go one of two ways here: Add and hope his tangible vote of confidence sends a postive jolt through the Jets dressing room. Stay put and deliver a speech about how he likes the chemistry as is, and, hey, getting Jacob Trouba healthy will be our trade-deadline pickup.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 20, 2018
Lou Lamoriello and the Maple Leafs brain trust have the assets (picks, prospects) at their disposal to make moves but must decide if this group is truly good enough to win it all now with the addition of one or two pieces. Before you scream, “Yes! Go for it!” consider that Toronto’s path to the Cup Final may well mean defeating Tampa, Boston and Pittsburgh in best-of-sevens.
George McPhee says he’ll give his group of outcasts and also-rans a chance at history, but we still believe there is a decision to be made on James Neal — who, chemistry be damned, could fetch the Knights a nice pick and/or prospect. If you’re a buyer, which winger would you rather borrow at the deadline: Neal, Evander Kane, Nash or Michael Grabner?
The decision to go for it feels like a no-brainer, with the Lightning knowing all too well that success is never promised, but Steve Yzerman faces a decision over whether to prioritize bolstering the right side of his defence (Mike Green?) or the left side (McDonagh?) — and how much he’s willing to spend to do so.
8. Dallas Stars
Dallas has quietly moved into a playoff spot in a tough division with a sturdy plus-22 goal differential, and GM Jim Nill is my dark horse to make a deadline splash. Nill must determine how desperate he is to cross Jason Spezza off his books.
Doug Armstrong manages one of a handful of Metropolitan Division outfits that could conceivably go on a deep run. The Blues GM has been anti-rental — think Mike Hoffman over Nash — but he must decide if that means standing pat while those around him (Nashville, Winnipeg, Dallas) possibly beef up and pass St. Louis by.
We like Ron Hextall’s quick decision-making over the weekend. Once Michal Neuvirth went down, the Flyers GM gave his resilient group a chance by immediately acquiring Peter Mrazek from Detroit. So the decision becomes this: Is that all the Flyers are willing to do? We’re guessing yes. It took long-term injuries to both of Hextall’s goaltenders before he was willing to part with a conditional fourth and a conditional third.
11. Minnesota Wild
Chuck Fletcher, who still doesn’t have a contract beyond June, must decide if he has the stomach to go shopping again when his expensive rental of Martin Hanzal at this time last year hurt more than helped.
We like that Washington isn’t afraid to buy. Alex Ovechkin is in his prime, so you might as well commit. Michal Kempny (acquired from Chicago) expects to debut alongside John Carlson Thursday in the Caps’ top four. Does Brian MacLellan envision stopping there, or beefing up further for what could be another hatefest with the Penguins?
The Kings must decide whether to give new guy Dion Phaneuf their Player of the Game award every night, or just the nights he scores goals (three of four so far). L.A. should also get around to deciding if it’s good enough to dive into the rental market or take the safer approach of just letting this thing play out.
14. San Jose Sharks
San Jose needs to decide how aggressive it will be in adding forward depth — Eric Fehr and chill? — or if the Sharks are content to let a playoff spot slip out of grasp due to injuries.
With $7.55 million in cap space, the Devils could decide to shock the world with a big addition. After all, Taylor Hall’s Hart Trophy bid only counts if Jersey gets into the post-season.
16. Anaheim Ducks
With John Gibson injured Monday for a second time this season, and the Ducks getting eliminated with Gibson sidelined last spring, Anaheim must decide whether to add goalie depth (Calvin Pickard? Robin Lehner? Antti Raanta?) before it’s too late.
17. Florida Panthers
While a wild-card berth remains a long-shot possibility, the Panthers’ decision-making should be relatively simple this time around. Patience will prevail. They do need to decide if winger Radim Vrbata can fetch them something, anything, or if he’ll just retire in South Florida.
The decision Colorado will eventually have to make on Tyson Barrie is an interesting one, although it needn’t be answered by Monday. With so many lefty D-men on the market, the Avalanche could theoretically fetch something big (think New York’s return in the Travis Hamonic deal) if they made a 26-year-old righty like Barrie available.
19. Calgary Flames
David Rittich’s performance has relieved some pressure to make a move in net with Mike Smith out, but the Flames are at risk of whiffing on the post-season despite being one of the biggest players in the summertime market. The decision to add a scoring winger is an easy one, but how aggressively do you push, Brad Treliving?
Carolina should decide soon whether this is the year it tries to snap the drought or not. If yes, pick up some forward help and grab that wild card. If no, maybe pending UFAs Derek Ryan and Cam Ward could fetch something on the rental market.
The Islanders’ greatest decision isn’t theirs to make. But if that decision doesn’t go their way, they’ll be kicking themselves for not taking that decision into their own hands earlier.
Ken Holland did well to (finally) move Mrazek to Philly in a stagnant market for goalies. The veteran GM must decide how to get the most out of Green, whose status as the market’s most coveted right-shot defenceman just went up a notch with Vancouver’s re-signing of Erik Gudbranson.
The underwhelming Blue Jackets are stuck in no-man’s land right now. The only Metropolitan Division team below them in the standings is the Rangers — and they’re getting weaker on purpose. So, does Jarmo Kekalainen look to save a possibly lost season by adding scoring or cut bait and focus on getting a nice return for Jack Johnson?
24. New York Rangers
Decisions on Nash and Grabner aren’t really decisions at all: sell to the highest bidder. But deciding how to milk the market on a stud defender like McDonagh? Well, that’s the type of decision Jeff Gorton staked his reputation on when he went public with The Plan.
The league is starving for rental centres. Imagine if Vancouver decided it was willing to loan Henrik Sedin just for a few months? Not going to happen, but it could help the ol’ rebuild. Extending GM Jim Benning and Gudbranson means the Canucks cleared up two mysteries early. A decision to cut into the core — Chris Tanev, we’re looking at you — would be a big one.
26. Edmonton Oilers
Decisions on Mark Letestu and Patrick Maroon have become elementary at this point. A top-down evaluation starting with Peter Chiarelli and touching everyone whose surname isn’t McDavid is coming, so does that mean the GM gets desperate or tight?
27. Ottawa Senators
Pierre Dorion signed on for more tough decisions than any other NHL GM. Hoffman, Derick Brassard, Hoffman, Matt Duchene, Cody Ceci, Mark Stone — questions abound, and they all pale in comparison to the biggie. Do you decide to sell Erik Karlsson for two playoff runs, one playoff run, or risk a monster return to keep him?
28. Arizona Coyotes
Though clearly on the selling side of the ledger, John Chayka doesn’t have much to offer the rental market this month. He does, however, face a compelling decision with potential trade chip Max Domi, especially in light of the fact that the Coyotes already cut ties with Anthony Duclair. Some of these need to develop into core players in Arizona.
The selling of Kempny put action to the idea that Chicago is willing to take steps backward. The decision becomes, how aggressively do the Blackhawks sell? Or will this be a rebuild-on-the-fly attempt?
The biggest decision here should fall to CEO and co-owner Geoff Molson: Is Marc Bergevin the man to breathe life back into this roster?
31. Buffalo Sabres
Jason Botterill’s decision-making on when to sell on Kane will be the rookie GM’s first major deadline quandry. He needs to get a good return to help a roster in shambles.