The odds-makers have set the over/under on NHL trade deadline moves at 19.5.
As we race toward 3 p.m. ET on Feb. 25, trade possibilities dominate all hockey discussion. And while a few bubble teams may still be on the fence when it comes to a deadline strategy, their sample size is large enough that they should know if they’re legit.
In our NHL Power Rankings: Who’s Buying? Who’s Selling? Edition, we look at each of the 31 clubs and slot where they fit in the market.
As always, team are ranked according to their current awesomeness. The write-ups explain why we see them as buyers, sellers or passive observers.
Modest buyer. Tampa has reportedly inquired about the two physical wingers on the market — Wayne Simmonds and Micheal Ferland — and would be happy to add a right shot to its blue line. A top contender with the most balanced roster in the NHL, the Lightning would be fine to stay pat or just tweak the fringes. Any serious buying may require moving a prospect because Tampa’s 2019 first- or second-rounder is already earmarked for the Rangers.
Modest buyer. Doug Wilson should be chuffed with a group that has won seven straight and, on Monday, leaped over Calgary to move into first in the Pacific. A healthy Erik Karlsson will be the big add this month, although we’re sure Wilson will poke around for another forward.
Buyer. Brad Treliving works the phones like a telemarketer, and the Flames have a legitimate shot at making a run. One more forward? A third-pairing defenceman perhaps? What we’re most curious about is the goaltending situation. Does Calgary really trust David Rittich to carry the city through a deep run?
Trader upgrader… we’re guessing. Lou Lamoriello’s lips are sealed like the Ark of the Covenant, but the GM has to reward a group that has rocked the Metropolitan, doesn’t he? While his lack of a 2019 third- or fourth-round pick gives us reason to think he’d be hesitant to let go of a first or second as well, the Islanders should be in the mix for the high-end forwards that become available.
Buyer. It’s time. Kevin Cheveldayoff, who must be pleased with his rental of Paul Stastny last February, has a window here before the cap tightens. Guaranteed, he’ll be in on Mark Stone (Winnipeg native!) and/or Matt Duchene. Kevin Hayes would be a wise backup plan. Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reports that elite defence prospect Sami Niku might be in play — that’s aggressive.
Buyer. Kyle Dubas’s big move — and a fine one — was grabbing Jake Muzzin from L.A. The rookie GM no longer has a first-rounder to spend, but the smoke around a potential Leafs-Hurricanes deal isn’t dispersing. Toronto absolutely wants a right-shot defenceman (Nikita Zaitsev is the only one in the lineup), preferably one with some term. Brett Pesce fits that bill. So does Chris Tanev. Like the rest of the world, expect Dubas to kick tires on Simmonds and Ferland.
Buyer. The best line in hockey would love some more support, so GM Don Sweeney will go shopping for any rental who can score on his second line. The question is this: Will the overpay for Rick Nash at this time last year give the GM pause before he spends his first-round pick?
Creative buyer. Marc Bergevin has already added to the bottom half of his forward lineup in recent days, picking up Nate Thompson and Dale Weise. He went public weeks ago with a plan to keep his first-round pick, but the Habs have only gotten better since then. Montreal is blessed with a rare commodity — cap space, a projected $8.8 million of it. Bergevin could take on a bad contract (see: Mason, Steve) if it’s packaged with a useful player (see: Armia, Joel).
Modest buyer. We imagine Brian MacLellan allowing himself to be outbid for the big fish on the market, but if you have a chance to win back-to-back Cups, you give your group a boost. Expect the Caps to improve the fringes, but anything above a third-line upgrade should be considered a splash.
David Poile hopped out the gates early by adding depth forwards Brian Boyle and Cody McLeod. No way is he happy with his power play or the offence generated by his forwards, which is probably why Kypreos reported that prized prospect Eeli Tolvanen’s name is out there. Tolvanen would fetch a difference-maker in return.
Wheeler dealer. Assuming Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, who now share an agent, are gonezo, Jarmo Kekalainen is said to be contemplating a complicated move (or series of moves) in which he could flip one or both of his UFA-bound superstars and acquire some legitimate help for the playoffs. Centre ice and, if Bob is moved, goaltending must take priority.
Window shopping. The kind of guy who has all his Christmas presents wrapped by Halloween, GM Jim Rutherford said publicly that he thinks he’s done dealing after bringing in Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann from Florida. A healthy Justin Schultz won’t cost a thing, and the Penguins are so thin on draft picks (no second, third or sixth), they’re unlikely to go for a big rental.
Buyer. George McPhee has extra draft picks burning holes in his pockets and an owner who wants not only a Cup but a dynasty. The Golden Knights should be in the mix for the top-end forward talent available.
14. St. Louis Blues
Wait and see. Winners of six in a row, the Blues are giving GM Doug Armstrong pause. St. Louis is playing like it wants to be the playoff team we all expected it would be way back in October. We can’t see the Blues spending in the rental market (they don’t own a first-round pick), and Armstrong’s track record shows a willingness to part with UFAs when on the bubble (Patrick Maroon, Jay Bouwmeester, Carl Gunnarsson). But the type of earth-shaking deal that had us salivating around Christmas (Vladimir Tarasenko? Alex Pietrangelo?) now seems unlikely.
15. Dallas Stars
Buyer. If the Stars don’t make the playoffs, Jim Nill will be on the hot seat. His team needs goals, so he’ll be hunting. This is the type of team we can see putting a first-rounder in play.
Dealer. The Hurricanes have pieces in demand (Ferland being No. 1), but Carolina’s improved play could make them consider adding as well. Don Waddell has an extra second-round pick and all the cap space in the world, and ever since Tom Dundon took over, bold moves are the order of the day. If you’re looking for a hockey deal, this might be the spot.
17. Buffalo Sabres
Quiet observer. Jason Botterill is a smart man, smart enough to know his group — while on the come up — should not be a buyer. To put UFA Jeff Skinner on the market, however, would rankle a dressing room that is finally on the right track. Botterill will try to re-sign Skinner without giving him a hard Feb. 25 deadline.
Seller… right? The Flyers’ sudden shift in direction (eight wins in 10 games) has them flirting with a wild-card spot, but in these eyes, buying now would amount to fool’s gold. Betting 100 bucks Simmonds is dealt as new GM Chuck Fletcher starts planning for 2019-20 and beyond.
Fringe player. The Blackhawks don’t have the type of high-demand rental pieces (Marcus Kruger, Cam Ward or Chris Kunitz, anyone?) to rile up the market, and now that they’re one of the NHL’s hottest clubs, we can’t see Stan Bowman rushing into core surgery (Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook) in the next 10 days.
20. Minnesota Wild
Seller. Look: The Wild already got rid of 26-year-old Nino Neiddereiter, and with captain Mikko Koivu done for the season, this middle-of-the-road club isn’t scaring anyone. Eric Staal and Charlie Coyle should be dangled as trade bait.
21. New York Rangers
Blatant seller. There was no mistaking New York’s plan this season. Jeff Gorton’s eyes are affixed miles down the road, so expect him to get the best package of picks and prospects possible for nice rental pieces Kevin Hayes, Mats Zuccarello and Adam McQuaid. Unlike the situation in Ottawa, Gorton is not even engaging in serious extension talks with his UFAs.
Should-be seller. As tempting as the playoff race may be, Vancouver should remind itself that it has a negative-17 goal differential and has lost seven more games than it’s won. Defencemen Alex Edler, Erik Gudbranson and Chris Tanev would all have interested buyers. Consider it, Mr. Benning.
23. Florida Panthers
Flipper. GM Dale Tallon hasn’t been shy about his designs on spending July 1, so why not trade the recently acquired Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan for whatever he can get?
24. Arizona Coyotes
Cautious buyer. Guiding a little engine that could, John Chayka has an outside shot of sneaking into the playoffs despite navigating through some tough injuries and bad-looking trades (Max Domi and Dylan Strome have flourished in their new surroundings). If he can give his overachieving bunch a boost, he’ll consider it. Chayka is not shy to make moves.
Quiet observer. The Avalanche has failed to build upon its breakout 2017-18 campaign and thus should embrace the lottery and all those chances for Jack Hughes. Unless Colorado can add a meaningful forward with term by moving, say, defencemen Tyson Barrie or Nikita Zadorov, we don’t expect much here beyond minor tinkering. Joe Sakic will keep his picks and prospects.
26. Edmonton Oilers
Modest seller. As badly as they want to be buyers, they don’t have a roster worthy of a boost and they don’t have a real GM in place to pull off an over-the-top deal. If Edmonton can find a home for showcase UFA Cam Talbot (Calgary? Columbus?), maybe Keith Gretzky pulls the trigger.
Seller. Ray Shero already recouped Nashville’s second-rounder for Brian Boyle. We could see playoff teams wanting to borrow Marcus Johansson and Ben Lovejoy as well.
Seller. Rob Blake has begun the tough business of stripping away guys with rings in exchange for guys with dreams. Anyone who wants to pay way too much salary for way too many years for Ilya Kovalchuk, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, Dion Phaneuf, Jonathan Quick or Dustin Brown should pick up the telephone.
Seller. Versatile wingers Gustav Nyquist and Thomas Vanek could help Ken Holland stock his cupboards, while moving mainstays Niklas Kronwall and Jimmy Howard is less likely. Defenceman Nick Jensen is quietly having a nice year, but he could be re-signed.
30. Ottawa Senators
Market-setting seller. Pending UFA Ryan Dzingel, 26, is on pace for a 32-goal campaign, and no one is talking about him. That’s how deep Ottawa’s potential trade deadline shakeup goes. In Matt Duchene and Mark Stone, the Senators have a piece that could push a contender into a champion.
31. Anaheim Ducks
Seller. The gong show in Anaheim has reached the point where the general manager is going behind the bench and into the room so he can figure out who and how many to trade. Jakob Silfverberg is the one whose fate needs to be determined in under two weeks. The others could be off-season projects.