With only four days before the NHL trade deadline, we will examine which teams should be a buyer, a seller, or stand pat. A team that should go add a player at the deadline is a team that needs one more piece to make a deep run in the playoffs. Unfortunately for the fans of the teams that should be selling, the season is all but over and their teams should be focused on the future. A team can be standing pat for one of two reasons. Either they are fully stocked to make a deep run with the team they have, or the team is set up well for the future and shouldn’t trade any prospects away just to possibly make the second round of the playoffs.
Atlantic Division Buyers: Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens
Florida Panthers: Florida’s best forward in Jaromir Jagr just turned 44 years old. Florida’s Vezina Trophy candidate goalie is 36 years old and resurrecting his career with the Panthers. Their old guys are playing really well and the young guys are following their lead. Led by Aaron Ekblad, the Florida Panthers are tied for second fewest goals allowed. If this team can get a playmaking forward before the deadline to play with Jagr and to provide more depth on either the second or third line, this team could continue to surprise.
Boston Bruins: Boston is dangerous when Tuukka Rask in on top of his game. Playing in the Atlantic and backed by the second highest scoring offense in the Eastern Conference, the Bruins could make a run to the conference championship and once there all bets are off. Adding a defensive defenseman is crucial if Boston wants to compete with Tampa and Florida in the Atlantic.
Montreal Canadiens (Buyer dependent on Carey Price coming back before March 7): This team was 9-0-1 in their first 10 games. Then, Carey Price got hurt and the wheels fell off of this team faster than bandwagon fans hop off a team that is no longer very good. Still, this team is only 7 points back of a playoff spot. If Carey Price comes back and regains form, then this is the team I would want no part of come playoff time, especially if they can find a goal scoring forward to play on their second line.
Atlantic Division Sellers: Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs
Ottawa Senators: It took an out-of-this-world playoff push last year to make the playoffs. It took a goalie never before heard of playing better than the NHL MVP last year, Carey Price, to help this team make the playoffs. The Senators trade for Dion Phaneuf suggests the Senators are still going to try make something happen this year, but outside Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, and Mark Stone, this team just doesn’t have enough to beat teams ahead of them (unless of course their goalies can go on another last year stretch).
Buffalo Sabres: A team that I really like. They have some great young pieces in Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, and Rasmus Ristolainen. In a couple years, this team will be young, good, and dynamic. If they weren’t already selling, Ryan O’Reilly going down is the final straw. Buffalo is a seller this year, and probably will be next year. But watch out for their young talent down the road.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Mike Babcock is a great coach and this team is playing hard for him. But they are already selling and will continue to do so. They are in complete rebuild mode. Toronto fans, have trust in Babcock. The Leafs will be back.
Atlantic Division Good As Currently Constructed: Tampa Bay Lightning, Detroit Red Wings
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Eastern Conference representative a year ago, I love this Lightning team. They will be good now, and in the future. Led by Steven Stamkos (Tampa do not let this guy go!), the triplets line, and a stud in goal in Ben Bishop, this team has every piece necessary to make a deep push. My pick at the beginning of the season to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Detroit Red Wings: The Red Wings have made the playoffs every year since Abraham Lincoln was in office. Okay it hasn’t been that long, but for a team that makes the playoffs every year, they continue to find incredible young talent. Dylan Larkin is a rookie tied for 7th best in the league with a +21 rating. Oh yea, this team still has incredible leaders and players in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. They’ll cause a ton of problems for whoever they play in the playoffs. If they do add, it’ll be a bottom 6, defensively minded forward.
Metropolitan Division Buyers: New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins
New York Rangers: This team is loaded. They’ve got the best defensive unit in the game when healthy. They’ve got forwards who are responsible defensively and dangerous offensively. They have King Henrik. They are also 18 points back of the Washington Capitals. If this team really wants to threaten that Capitals team, they’ll need to find a forward kind of like one they already have in Rick Nash, big bodied, physical, and gifted offensively to help out their below average power play.
New York Islanders: Johnny Tavares is the captain, best player, and undisputed leader of this team. He just cannot do it alone. New York will need a second line winger that can put the puck in the back of the net to compete with the other teams in the Metro. If they can find that, this team is dangerous with a goalie in Jaroslav Halak who is capable of standing on his head. If not, it’ll be difficult for this team to make a deep run.
Pittsburgh Penguins: This team is here because they seemingly only know as an organization how to go for broke. It’s understandable considering they have one of the two best offensive players in the world in Sydney Crosby. They also have that Malkin guy so this team is talented up the middle. Kris Letang is averaging nearly a point a game from the blue line, and for all the hate he gets Marc-Andre Fleury is a potential top 5 goalie in the NHL. Expect the Penguins to go after a defensive defenseman to help solidify their offensive minded thinking defense.
Metropolitan Division Sellers: New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets
New Jersey Devils: Cory Schneider is an absolute stud. He should be in consideration for the Vezina. If the Devils manage to make the playoffs, he should be in consideration for MVP of the whole league. Why? Well, his offense is about as dangerous as a snail that also happens to be asleep. Well that is, until they get on the power play when they become as dangerous as five Patrick Kane’s on the ice at the same time. If defense wins championships, then the Devils are in great shape, but they cannot score 5 on 5 and that’ll hurt come playoff time (if they get there).
Carolina Hurricanes: They just played the San Jose Sharks at home, the NHL’s best road team, started 3 rookie defensemen, and outclassed the Sharks 5-2. A day before that, they gave up 4 to the Senators. Two days after the Sharks game, they gave up 4 more goals. Their most recent game against the Flyers, 1 goal. This team is too inconsistent to make any noise this year. They’ll be good in the near future though. Trade Eric Staal while you can still get some good return for him.
Philadelphia Flyers: Tell the Flyers at the beginning of the season that they’ll be right in the middle of the pack in goals against and they’ll take it. Tell them Shayne Gostisbehere is the potential Rookie of the Year. Ecstatic. C’MON OFFENSE. For a team with as much offensive talent (Giroux, Voracek, Simmonds, Schenn) as the Flyers, they should be scoring at a higher rate than most teams. Instead, they are struggling to score and they will be easily dispatched if they find a way to make the playoffs. Trading Simmons is intriguing as he would be a wanted commodity for a legitimate contender.
Columbus Blue Jackets: This was supposed to be a team ready to make a run at the playoffs, not sit at the bottom of the Metropolitan. Getting Seth Jones was a great trade for Columbus. He will anchor this defense for years to come. Brandon Saad is another intriguing piece, as this team will once again enter “try to be good in the future mode”. But not now. Disappointing for people who really believed in Columbus at the beginning of the year.
Metropolitan Division Good As Currently Constructed: Washington Capitals
Washington Capitals: They deserve an essay. So I’m going to go with the logic of “short and sweet” instead. The Capitals are second in goals scored and first in goals against. Why change what is clearly working? They also happen to be 44-10-4, good for 92 points. Enough said.
Western Conference buyers and sellers will come out by Saturday. All stats in this article are up to date through the last game on Tuesday, Feb. 23.