Welcome back to the third edition of deadline deals. A series where I break down what I think is best for each team as they approach the trade deadline. Today’s focus is on the Central division as we move out West! If you missed it, you can check out the Metro and Atlantic editions!
#1 Chicago Blackhawks:
The Hawks find themselves in a position they really have not been in years. A team really on the outside looking, with slim shots at the playoffs. MoneyPuck currently has them at a 20% chance at playoffs. With no Corey Crawford for maybe the rest of the year, this team shouldn’t be improving much. So what should they do this deadline? My suggestion would be to sell, they may not do that though. This team is crippled with huge, probably unmovable contracts, and their winning window is shorter each day. They may stay put, or even try to buy, but that wouldn’t be smart.
They really don’t have many good assets to sell. However, because they are such a cap crunched team they have 5 UFA’s on very cheap deals. You could try and flip some of those guys for depth picks to at least get something back. This team has a bit of dreary future ahead, as they have 44 million dollars tied up into 6 players over the next 3 seasons. Just one of those players is under 29.
This team sure isn’t going to be fixing any problems this deadline, but they could make it easier on themselves and get some picks back. At this point, that is really all you can ask for if you’re a Hawks fan. I’m sure the 3 cups were worth it though.
#2 Colorado Avalanche:
After last season, who would have thought that the Avs would be even close to a playoff spot? These guys have had a bounce-back season that has put them just out of a wild-card spot. As far as the deadline goes, Avs would be smart to stay put. They are currently battling with about 5 other teams for the last WC spot, and honestly, even if they get in there is a chance they get smoked first round anyways. Wasting assets is not a smart idea for this team, as the future looks like it may be OK again. They got a massive haul for Matt Duchene, and are going to get a decent pick from the Sens most likely, either this year or next.
The Avs are 23rd in shot share and went on a crazy run where everything Nathan MacKinnon touched turned into goals. Jonathan Bernier also stole the show, and neither of those things will continue quite at that pace. MacKinnon is currently hurt, which also doesn’t help. The only real piece they have to sell is UFA Blake Comeau, it is possible to sell him, but also not needed. if you can pick up a pick or asset for him that is helpful. Overall, the Avs would be smart to just stay the course this season. It has already been a massive success.
#3 Dallas Stars:
The Stars are a team that looks ready to return to playoffs, after missing last season. They are another team in the fight for a WC spot but look like one of the better ones in there. They are just a step behind the big 3 in this loaded Central division, but could easily upset some teams. This may be a hot take, but I think if they matched up with Vegas round one they could win. I’ll explain more when I do Vegas, but overall I think the Stars should go for it. They have a shortish window with this core to be effective and have 7 RFA’s and 3 UFA’s up this season. Changes will be made.
So what to add? The Stars are pretty good up front but could use some help on the back end. Some depth could come in handy for the Stars. Looking at a 3rd pair Dman is what they should be striving for. This team really doesn’t need to add the flashy T6 winger, they could use the T4 D, but that may be too pricey. If you can pick up a depth forward those never hurt either. Maybe a guy like Tommy Wingels from the Hawks?
This team definitely should not be selling, they have a pretty good core to make a bit of a splash in the playoffs. They are in the toughest division however which may make it tough, sitting in the 1st Wild Card spot right now maybe they hope they can switch to the Pacific as that path may be easier.
#4 Minnesota Wild:
The Wild are another team in an interesting position. I have never really been high on the Wild, and usually, I would say sell. However, they have a meh team and a very limited time to even think about winning. One of the older teams in the league, most their core is above 30, and that leaves a small window. I don’t think they should go all in this season because that seems very silly. Currently tied for the 2nd Wild Card spot they may even not make it. They have the potential to sneak into WC2, but I doubt they do much from there.
If they really feel they are not going to make it, maybe selling off the UFA’s like Matt Cullen, Daniel Winnik, and Chris Stewart is the way to go. Doubt you get much for those guys, but assets are assets. The Wild are 30th in CF% at 5v5, which is not a good thing. It is quite possible regression happens soon, and they miss playoffs. As stated above they really don’t have much to sell, but buying would be crazy. This for NHL standards has “don’t do anything” written all over it.
#5 Nashville Predators
So, hot take time? I think the Predators have been way overhyped this season. They were the analytic underdogs last year, and the Cup run really made people open their eyes. This season, however? They have been about average at best. Ranking 15th in CF%, and 19th in xGF%, this team has really been overperforming their metrics for being a Cup favourite. Now, a lot of this has been top talent carrying them, and some almost unsustainably great goaltending. However, I also think some can be attributed to injuries. They were without Ryan Ellis for half the year and missed Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg for a little while too. That is 3 really big pieces, and it seems reasonable to expect that healthy these guys are closer to the top.
They are certainly up there in points, fighting with Winnipeg for the division lead. This team could really go for it and add another top 6 forward, or they could just try to add some LW depth. Whether that be a top guy or just a bottom guy, bumping the bottom wingers down could help. They saw what injuries did to them last season, and have brought back Mike Fisher, and brought in Kyle Turris, and Nick Bonino has some solid C depth. Nashville may be primed to return to the Cup again if everyone is healthy and they find their stride. They are not my personal favourites, but they shouldn’t be overlooked because of some average underlying numbers. This team has loads of skill and should be buying again this deadline. look for them to add something on the wings. Big if they are all in, maybe more depth like if they want to be conservative.
#6 St.Louis Blues
The Blues are a team that has just never gotten over that hump. They have been so close, but have failed time and time again. Could this be the year? It sure looks possible. It is so tough to say because the top 3 teams in this division are just so good. This really makes it anyone’s game, and with a strong deadline, the Blues could be right up top. The Blues have been rumoured to want a T6 winger that can score and that makes sense. They lost Robby Fabbri to a season-ending knee injury before the season started, which was tough as he was expected to do big things. Brayden Schenn, acquired in the offseason has done massive things for them which is huge.
They have the prospects to make a big move, and acquiring a guy like Max Pacioretty could be massive in making them a cup favourite. They could use some depth on D, but it isn’t completely necessary, just something to think about. In net, this team is set too. It is really just a top 6 forward this team could use to potentially set them over the edge. Look for St.Louis to make a splash this deadline.
#7 Winnipeg Jets
Finally, the Winnipeg Jets. A team that has been said by analytic experts to breakout for years, and just never have, this team is pretty stacked as well. They finally got the goaltending, one of the biggest reasons they never lived up to potential. Up front they are deep, with a great top 6, and one of the best 3rd lines in the league. The backend when healthy isn’t terrible either. With Trouba, Morrisey, Myers, Enstrom, and Byfuglien. This team should for sure be buying this deadline. A depth piece for the 4th line and 3rd pair could be enough. Or go all in and get yet another big rental.
The latter seems aggressive seeing as this team since moving to Winnipeg is yet to have a playoff win under their belt, but this team is good enough to get quite a few this postseason. Look for them to be active buyers at the deadline, and to have a nice little run when playoffs come around.
Stay tuned soon for the final part of this series, the Pacific. Let me know what you think either here on Twitter @NHLSensandStuff!