NHL Power Rankings: Buyer, seller, or in between?

Justin Bourne joins Ken Reid and the duo break down what Canadian NHL teams could be looking for at the trade deadline.

We’re four days out from the trade deadline now and while the market is still taking shape, the standings are telling us who is in a position to buy, sell, or which teams are caught in the middle of it all.

With rumours surely to pick up and swirl over the next few days, a playoff race is also taking shape and that’s ultimately how the Power Rankings are ordered. Who are the best teams in the here and now?

We have a trade deadline flavour in this week’s rankings, looking at each team’s motivations ahead of Monday’s action.

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1. Colorado Avalanche
Buyers: The Avs are one of the top two Cup contenders and should be all-in this year. They could seek a backup goalie, defensive depth, or maybe even swing big for an offensive contributor for the top-six, or to boost the third line in that regard.

2. Carolina Hurricanes
Buyers: The Canes are the rare combination this year of a legitimate Cup contender with salary cap room. They may move a goalie to get something done, but the Canes will be looking to add just about anywhere to give themselves the best shot to get through Tampa Bay and towards the championship.

3. Toronto Maple Leafs
Buyers: Their GM has already come out and said he’s a buyer willing to spend top draft picks and prospects for the right player, and that he’s in the rental market. It seems only a matter of time until Kyle Dubas strikes, but what will it be: forward, defence, or goaltending?

4. Tampa Bay Lightning
Buyers: Usually the Cup winner nibbles around the edges with depth adds at the deadline and the Lightning could do that. But they’ve also been mentioned as a potential David Savard landing spot. Whatever the defending champs do at the deadline, getting Nikita Kucherov back for the playoffs will be the best pickup of all.

5. New York Islanders
Buyers: Needed to replace injured Anders Lee and they not only did that with the acquisition of Kyle Palmieri on Wednesday night, but they also brought in Travis Zajac to bolster the centre position. Lou Lamoriello likes to get his work done before the deadline so they might be finished, but they have the buyer’s mindset.

6. Florida Panthers
Buyers: They may have come from almost nowhere to land in the contender category this season but, like Carolina, they have cap space to do just about anything. The Panthers could push some chips in and try to get their first playoff series win since 1996.

7. Minnesota Wild
Buyers: Among the most surprising teams of the year, a young core is blossoming for the Wild, opening up the possibility to a bright future. It’ll still be an uphill battle in the playoffs sharing a division with Colorado and Vegas, but GM Bill Guerin could seek to do something to give his team any sort of boost.

8. Vegas Golden Knights
Buyers: If an opportunity comes along, the Golden Knights will pounce. One of the more aggressive teams in trade, Vegas has little in the way of cap space but every reason to buy.

9. Pittsburgh Penguins
Buyers: It’s been all golden since early in the year for Pittsburgh, who have to be taking another run under new management. They don’t have their 2021 first-rounder so it’ll take some creativity, but the Pens window appears still to be open a crack.

10. Winnipeg Jets
Buyers: Will Kevin Cheveldayoff pay the price for one of the best available defencemen, or enough to shake a good one loose? Will he do anything with his forwards? With the Leafs setting up as buyers, the Jets might have to follow suit in the North’s power struggle.

11. Washington Capitals
Buyers: They may want to add another goalie to join Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov to solidify the position for another run. There’s no cap space to work with, so any additions will have to be made creatively.

12. Montreal Canadiens
Buyers: Marc Bergevin has been all-in from Day 1 and the Eric Staal trade from two weeks ago likely won’t be his last. Brendan Gallagher’s injury is a big loss for the rest of the regular season, but placing him on LTIR does open up more space to acquire a defenceman. If it makes Montreal better, Bergevin will strike again.

13. Arizona Coyotes
In between: They were probably preparing to be a seller at one point and, maybe still will be to a degree? They have the types of pieces a seller would use to get future assets and even some termed players that would bring back a nice return. But the Coyotes are in a playoff spot by three points now, so can you really fold?

14. Nashville Predators
In between: Two more wins in the past week and the Preds hold fourth in the Central by two points over Chicago. They used to be sellers and, in another year, could have been buyers. But this Preds team will likely undergo some change in the off-season. For now, it means Mattias Ekholm could be off the table, but what of pending UFAs Erik Haula and Mikael Granlund?

15. Edmonton Oilers
Buyers: I mean, if they can find a way to do it, they’ll buy. Edmonton has as god a shot as anyone to survive the North Division, but they have zero cap space to do anything. They have a need at 3C, but can GM Ken Holland make it work?

16. New York Rangers
In between: Overall the Rangers have taken a good little step this season and they may even still be in the playoff hunt. They’re not likely to buy for a playoff push, but they’re also not sellers. They are positioning for next season and that likely means a quiet deadline.

17. Boston Bruins
Buyers: The goalie question is still unanswered, but there’s no way this team will be a seller. As long as the Perfection Line is still at the peak of its powers, the Bruins will be seeking ways to win another Cup.

18. Chicago Blackhawks
Sellers: Maybe with a bit of a lean towards being an “in between” team because the Hawks already re-acquired Vinnie Hinostroza, which allowed the Panthers to clear a bit of cap room. The Hawks will take on salary like that to help others, especially if it means also getting a pick or a prospect. Look out for more moves like that, or for them to trade off a roster player or two.

19. Dallas Stars
In between: The Stars are so hard to get a read on. They were just in the Cup final last season, are expecting Tyler Seguin and Ben Bishop back by May, and are still sort of hovering around the playoff race. But their games-in-hand advantage is dwindling, now to just three, and seven points out of fourth. There’s all sorts of wild speculation about John Klingberg or Esa Lindell, but if the Stars don’t buy, they’d probably stand pat before being an all-out seller. That said, pending UFAs like Blake Comeau could go.

20. San Jose Sharks
In between: A recent four-game winning streak put them in the race, though five points back with one game in hand is just a tenuous hold on it. The Sharks don’t have much in the way of rental candidates, but they’re also not looking to add for a push. If someone comes knocking for Devan Dubnyk, he’s their top trade candidate.

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

21. St. Louis Blues
Seller: We’ve seen Doug Armstrong sell in this situation before, and even in a spot where he’s been closer to the playoffs than St. Louis’ current predicament three points out with only one game in hand. According to The Athletic, Armstrong now might look to sell off his rental players, including Mike Hoffman and Tyler Bozak.

22. Columbus Blue Jackets
Sellers: The Jackets sure are keeping it interesting. With a win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday they’re still kinda hanging around the playoffs, but their chances are hanging by a thread. David Savard would have to go as a rental, but the two goalies could be possibilities to move as well. The Blue Jackets may not sell everything for picks, but they’ll sell.

23. Philadelphia Flyers
In between: With playoff hopes still alive, but fading, the Flyers could be a deadline day wild card. If they sell, a pending UFA like Scott Laughton would be an attractive target. But could they buy? If there’s a bold “hockey trade” to be made on this year’s market, the Flyers would be a candidate to be involved.

24. Vancouver Canucks
In between: With so much up in the air about player health, and if or when their season can even resume, the Canucks are unclear. They’re in a standings position to be sellers, but it’s hard to say what they can do now. Tanner Pearson has the potential to be a rental, though the Canucks may also re-sign him.

25. Calgary Flames
Sellers: It’s over for the Flames this year and, frankly, it’s over for this core group. You can’t possibly enter another season with the same leadership again. UFAs will go, maybe even Sam Bennett. You have to believe major roster surgery is on the way, if not at the deadline then this summer.

26. Los Angeles Kings
Sellers: To what degree the Kings sell is to be determined. They could still re-sign UFA Alex Iafallo. They may want to keep the bounceback season from Dustin Brown and what could be next year. There just may not be takers for Jonathan Quick and his contract. But the Kings have faded from the playoffs and are still rebuilding, so they’re all about the future assets.

27. Anaheim Ducks
Sellers: Playoffs aren’t happening and the need for younger players who are NHL ready or on the cusp of it is clear. Most pending UFAs will be available, but the question is if Ryan Getzlaf will be one of them, or if Rickard Rakell will get moved a year away from his deal expiring.

28. New Jersey Devils
Sellers: Kyle Palmieri was the biggest name available here, and Travis Zajac was a close second — both are now with the Isles. But the Devils aren’t necessarily finished. They have a few defencemen who could be had as well and Miles Wood, at 25 and with two years left on his deal, would be an intriguing target for the playoff-bound teams.

29. Ottawa Senators
Sellers: As much as they can sell veteran rentals, they will. Maybe even goalie Anton Forsberg is a candidate to go. How active they’re able to be, though, will be dictated by a buyer’s market.

30. Detroit Red Wings
Sellers: The Wings could involve just about anyone in a trade this deadline and will be looking for as many picks back as possible. It’ll be a while before they’re buying again.

31. Buffalo Sabres
Sellers: Maybe the biggest seller of all. Every UFA could be on the table, but will it get bigger than that and include the likes of Rasmus Ristolainen or, dare we say, Jack Eichel?

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