Welcome to a series where I will be looking at what each team should be doing this trade deadline. We will be looking at their future, players to buy or sell, and overall possibility of a Cup. Stay tuned for all four divisions, but today we will be breaking down the Atlantic!
#1 Boston Bruins:
This is a team that people are still sleeping on. As of January 29th they have a 99.9% chance of playoffs, and 10.3% chance at the Cup. This is 2nd in the league, and only 1% below Tampa for chance at winning the Cup. These guys are my second favourite to win, and unfortunately they will have to go through Tampa in round 2. I think they have a much better chance at beating Tampa than most expect, and for that reason they should buy.
This team is stacked up front, and is a possession machine. The only forward under 50% in shot shares is Sean Kuraley. They have benefited greatly from rookie scoring this season, and have some prospects still in the system. They honestly don’t need to add much to this team. Obviously any team should be looking to add a Top 6 forward or Top 4 D, but these guys want to save their prospects.
They should definitely be buying, but what? I would be trying to add a centre to this team, for a few reasons. They are probably OK adding a solid 3C to bump Kuraley out of the lineup, and Nash to 4C, but they also need insurance. Obviously you hope no injuries occur, but they do have a 2C in David Krejci who has just been injury prone. He missed almost all of last seasons first round against Ottawa which was a huge reason they lost. If for some reason he goes down again, you want a guy who can at least be somewhat serviceable in his place.
It’s tough because there are not many for sure sellers yet, because so many teams are close enough to the playoffs. Maybe a Mike Cammalleri or Jean-Gabriel Pageau is someone they look at? More 4C’s than 3C, but if the market opens up and a 3C emerges, Boston should jump on it first chance.
#2 Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres are on the exact opposite scale. They have a 0% chance of making playoffs. This has made it is easy to see they will be sellers for about 2 months now. What should they do? They tried to rebuild, and that has failed. Now they are in a position where they almost may want to tear it down and start again. They have superstar Jack Eichel, but behind that there’s not a lot. Sam Reinhart is exciting, and Alex Nylander may be something eventually. Overall they don’t have much to show.
Evander Kane sounds like he wants out of town, and he’s an expiring UFA this season. Buffalo needs to get a huge return on him. Flip him to a contender. After that you have Beniot Pouliot, and Jordan Nolan. Pouliot should be able to fetch a mid round pick, and maybe if you’re lucky some team will take Nolan for a 7th.
Then comes the defense. There really is not one shimmer of hope here. People debate whether Rasmus Ristolainen is a #1D or not, but is 5v5 numbers are just not there. This team has 2 UFAs, Josh Gorges and Justin Falk. Both of these guys are barely NHL level Dmen, if at all. Maybe you can get a depth pick for Gorges based on name value, but even that’s asking a lot.
The last spot is goaltending. Robin Lehner is an RFA after this year, and there has been a little talk about him being moved. A team like the Islanders could use him. Problem is then, what on earth do you have for the future? He’s at least a top 20ish goalie in this league. The return has to be amazing if you want to trade him away. Overall, Buffalo should be listening to all offers on players not named Eichel. They need to be careful, but they really just don’t even have many guys they can sell. Just get whatever assets you can.
#3 Detroit Red Wings:
Another team that should be a seller, (a theme in the Atlantic) the Wings are in a bad spot. They are a very meh team, that’s not good enough to be in playoffs, but not bad enough to be last. On top of that they have a bunch of RFA’s up this year, but little cap to sign them. They also have tons of terrible contracts, this team needs to run it out. In terms of this deadline they need to sell for what they can get and shed salary.
Lets start with the 2 bigger pieces. Mike Green is the main one, and Jimmy Howard may be another one. I’m not sure what their plan is for Petr Mrazek, if they still think he can be a starter. However, Howard has been good this season, and could fetch a return from a team in need of a goalie. Problem is he has one more year on the deal, so that team needs to be OK cap wise. Green is the big piece you want to sell high on, he should fetch a sizeable return and hopefully get you a good prospect or 1st rounder.
After that they should be looking to see if there’s any way teams want their junk. Like Nick Kronwall, Darren Helm, Luke Glendening, or Justin Abdelkador. I highly doubt anyone will, but if you get almost any offer for one of these guys, just take it.
#4 Florida Panthers:
Shocker, another selling team! Seriously though, it’s sad what this team has become. Tallon has sold away all the depth, and even though they have one of the best cores in the league, they have literally no support to help. What should this team do? They obviously need to revamp the depth, but a lot of their depth isn’t up this season.
They have Hayley, MacKenzie, and McGinn all under contract for next year too. If you can somehow get a team to take 2 of those players that could be huge. They may be good leadership guys, but they are not great hockey players. When it comes to UFA’s they have Radim Vrbata and Colton Sceviour up this season. Vbrata can absolutely fetch a pick or prospect, Sceviour maybe not. Try and sell both these guys.
After that there is not much to do, this team is filled with contracts that are not up this season, or may not be tradable. Just see what you can get at the deadline, and then go from there in the offseason.
#5 Montreal Canadiens
Stop me if you’ve heard this, here is another selling team in the Atlantic. The Habs are out of the playoffs, and this is a surprise to them. Expected by many to be a competitive team in the Atlantic, this season has been a disaster for them. 5v5 they have been a fine team, just defensively they have been brutal. This deadline they need to figure out if they are going to retool or rebuild. If it is a retool, they just need sell off the UFA’s. If a rebuild is on the way they need to see if they can sell off others.
Ultimately I think they’ll go with a retool, and even if they want to rebuild that may be a summer thing to figure out. For selling pieces they have Tomas Plekanec, Ales Hemsky, and Nicolas Deslauriers. They have some RFA’s too, but it would be foolish to trade most of them. If you retain 3 of Plekanec’s 6 million salary he could be an interesting depth piece for a team. He has struggled compared to what he use to be, but could be a solid fit in a 3C or 4C role for playoffs. A team that could use an obvious upgrade at 4C could greatly benefit from him.
Hemsky should also net you some sort of depth pick, but probably not much. The other thing with Plekanec is maybe Montreal wishes to resign him, and just keeps him. I would still trade him away and then in the summer approach him again in free agency if that’s the case.
#6 Ottawa Senators
The last seller in the Atlantic, this team is the most interesting. Their problem is that with their first round pick going to the Avs this year or next thanks to the Matt Duchene trade, they have to decide when to give it up. Given that they are in 3rd last right now and will most likely pick at worst 6th, they will probably keep it this season. That means they need to be competitive next season to make it worth it. With a core of Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Duchene and Thomas Chabot, it is very possible to be competitive. They do need to upgrade in certain places though. This is where the deadline comes in.
If this team wished to be competitive they need to get younger. They have guys in the AHL that look NHL ready, and also guys in junior. What they need to do is get rid of the brutal depth they currently have. The Senators need to trade 3 of Thompson, Pyatt, Burrows, Dumont, and Smith. I don’t know how you do this, but you need to. Smith is the only one that will fetch a decent return, and he is on that list cause they will need cap space. All of the 5 guys i just mentioned are under contract next season, and if the Sens wish to be successful they will need to lose most of them
The other thing becomes trading a guy like Oduya away as a 7D, and maybe looking at Jean-Gabriel Pageau for some cap space too. JGP could be a decent 4C on some team, and you may get a fine return on him. The last thing is looking at goaltending. Anderson/Condon tandem has been one of the worst in the league this year. Upgrading it is a must, but may be an offseason thing.
#7 Tampa Bay Lightning:
Finally, back to the buyers! The Lightning are obviously the Cup favourites, and have been all year. It is easy to tell why, they are stacked everywhere. Upfront they have one of the best top 6 in the league, they have a Norris favourite in the backend, and a Vezina favourite in net. So where does this team even need improvements? Well, they have been hit with an injury bug lateky, suffering injuries to key players like Palat and Hedman. This has shown their true depth.
Up front they look OK, but could really use a depth forward to help in case of injury. Once they get Palat back and Kunitz slides down to line 3 it’ll look fine. However, a 3rd or 4th line forward is always helpful. The backend is where I think they need more help. They have my Norris favourite in Hedman, and then a great #2 in Anton Stralman. If this team wants to become just an unstoppable force, picking up a T4 D is the way to go. A guy like Mike green who could slide in and play 1st pair with Hedman, or 2nd pair would be huge. They could run a T6 of Hedman, Stralman, Green, Sergachev, Dotchin, and Girardi. Effectively kicking Sustr and Coburn out of the lineup, and keeping Koekkoek as your 7D.
If they feel their top 4 is fine, a depth D could do as well. They should be focused on not having to play Sustr or Coburn at all in the playoffs. Girardi has surprisingly had a resurgence and became an NHL player again, which is huge. As well, even though Sergachev has struggled in the past few games, I have confidence he is a fine NHL Dman, and can play 2nd pair.
Overall, this team will be the favourites no matter what. They can either go all in, and go for it this season. Or be more conservative and keep their prospects for when they need to shed cap, and just acquire a depth player or two. Either way, expect to see these guys be competitive for a Cup.
#8 Toronto Maple Leafs:
The final team in the Atlantic division, I actually wrote about the Leafs in detail here. I will say, my position hasn’t changed too much, I don’t think this is their year. When that article was written, they were in the middle of their stretch of games that they were being constantly outshot, and not using ideal lineups. Lately that has changed, and they’ve been using solid lineups. Not surprisingly, they have looked much better.
If the Leafs really want to do anything, adding a 4C like last deadline could be useful. Last season they added Brian Boyle, and it helped them make playoffs. This year they could desperately use a 4C again. Tomas Plekanec is someone I would look at. Not sure Montreal/Toronto would trade with each other, but Plekanec would be a good cheap rental. He would also be a massive upgrade in their B6. He would either be a very good 4C, or let Bozak slip to 4C.
If they are buying, other than a cheap rental, it would need to be for their future. I think going all in on a Mike Green type rental D is very silly. Their path to the ECF is the hardest out there. They have to go through both the Cup favourites just to get to round 3. Maybe waiting until the summer would be smarter to see what you have left in this group.
They should also stay away from selling hard. Some people use the mentality of “If you’re not a cup contender sell”, but I think it’d be smart to just keep this group. If for some reason Boston or Tampa comes with huge injury troubles maybe you beat one of them. After that “Anything can happen” and you just need 1 series underdog win. Obviously the chances of this are very slim which is why I wouldn’t buy expecting it to happen. However, selling and making your team worse may not be the greatest option either.
That’s the Atlantic deadline preview! Agree? Disagree? Let me know here or on Twitter @NHLSensandStuff. Make sure you stay tuned for the next 3 division in the upcoming weeks!