As the the calendar page turns from 2017 to 2018, some teams’ hopes turn from the bright and optimistic hopes of the playoffs to the downtrodden truth that this isn’t going to be their year. Below are teams at/near the bottom of the standings and where they can set their goals for the rest of this season and look ahead to the summer.
New year, same old Sabres. Currently sitting at the bottom of the Atlantic division with 29 points and a horrid -43 goal differential their goal should be two fold: First is to decide if Robin Lehner is the answer. Currently slotted to be a restricted free agent this summer the 26 year old is posting a 2.75 goals against average with a save percentage at .916, which isn’t terrible but is he who they want to hitch a large chunk of Jack Eichel‘s career to? Second is to improve the defense. With two big name stars priming to hit free agency on defense after next season in Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty it might be time to package some of the assets the team has been collecting and make a splash and with Ottawa only 3 points ahead of the Sabres and in disarray it may be the time to do it.
Where to begin with the Senators? Their miraculous run to the Eastern Conference finals is looking more and more like a distant memory and with the trade to bring in Matt Duchene not providing the spark the team would hope for, the Senators are 12 points out of a playoff spot with two games in hand. While they do have the two games in hand the concern is the two things they don’t have. First, they don’t have Matt Duchene or Erik Karlsson signed beyond 2018-2019, with both due for substantial raises. The second is that the team is currently without their first or second round pick in the 2018 draft (they have the option to keep the 2018 or 2019 1st if it’s in the draft lottery, which it will be). This may prompt the team to cash in on a big chip. While Karlsson may not go at the deadline (where he would probably fetch the biggest return) the team may look to promising young rookie defenseman Thomas Chabot to get picks back as most of their players having a year remaining on their deal, making them harder to trade unless salary is retained.
Just as the clock ticked down on 2017 time may come to say goodbye to the Sedin era in Vancouver. This may not be a shock to most, but with both Daniel and Henrik‘s contracts due to expire at the end of the season it may be time to do them a favor. The brothers enjoy playing together but they may enjoy winning more and with both carrying a hefty cap hit it will be hard to find a team that can take on two top nine forwards. If they can get picks or a prospect for either, with consent to waive their no movement clauses, it is time for them to get back into the playoffs since they lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Boston Bruins. Also, with teams always looking to add on the back end Erik Gudbranson may make a good second or third pair addition for a team on their quest for a cup.
Do you hear that sound? Is it a howl in the desert? No my friends, it’s the sound of a fire sale from the Coyotes, sitting 6 points behind the Sabres for last in the league, the Coyotes have three times as many losses as wins and with that they should get what they can while they can. Oliver Ekman-Larsson currently has this season and next at a reasonable cap hit of 5.5 million, and while he may not fetch the same bounty as Erik Karlsson teams would be falling over themselves to get this talented defense men into their top 4. Another interesting player to watch as the trade deadline looms is Brad Richardson. While currently injured the 32 year old would bring good leadership to a room with young forwards.
Some New Year’s resolutions revolve around losing weight, gaining a new job, having a new outlook on life or even a new goal. Those same resolutions can be applied to each of the teams above by gaining picks, losing salary and in the end remembering that there is always next year.