NHL trade deadline primer for all 31 teams
The NHL trade deadline is little more than a couple of weeks away and has already essentially kicked off with Toronto’s early move to land gritty forward Kyle Clifford and backup goaltender Jack Campbell in a deal with the Los Angeles Kings.
That was the first of the deadline trades designed to address needs on the rosters of playoff-hopeful teams, but it clearly won’t be close to the last with big names like Chris Kreider, Tyler Toffoli, Sami Vatanen, and Ilya Kovalchuk among others expected to be dealt in the coming weeks.
There will be winners and losers when the dust settles on Feb. 24, of course, but here’s a primer on what each of the 31 NHL teams are expected to do with ample time before deadline day arrives.
A seller that could play a big role at the trade deadline by virtue of their ability to absorb big salary cap hits in exchange for prospects and draft picks.
The Ducks don’t have a ton of sexy assets to sell off as 24-year-old Ondrej Case looks like a decent third-line forward that’s scored 20 goals once in his NHL career, and rental players like Michael Del Zotto and Korbinian Holzer don’t exactly light the world on fire.
The Ducks’ best bet is to take on somebody else’s bad contract and add to the current group of young players languishing at the bottom of the Pacific Division.
The Desert Dogs already made their big move by bringing in Taylor Hall way ahead of the deadline, and he’s worked out nicely with seven goals and 19 points in 21 games since arriving from the Devils.
So the Coyotes are going for it, and have virtually no salary cap space after landing the big fish from New Jersey. Don’t expect much more from them as they push to fortify their playoff spot and have already done their moving and shaking.
The Bruins lead the NHL in points, have been one of the top teams in the East all season, and have been pretty much wire-to-wire leaders in the Atlantic Division coming off a Stanley Cup Final appearance last year. But they need help.
They need a top-6 winger that can score goals and preferably one with some size and bite to their game. They could also use a big, physical bottom pair defenseman (Brenden Dillon) with the health status uncertain for defenseman Kevan Miller.
Chris Kreider is at the top of their list of trade targets, and names like Tyler Toffoli, Kyle Palmieri, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Josh Anderson would be winger candidates as well. I will say this: If the Bruins give up assets for Kovalchuk after they could have had him for nothing a few weeks ago, they deserve to be bashed for it.
What a mess in Buffalo. The Sabres have basically faded from any possible playoff contention and they have a pair of players in Evan Rodrigues and Zach Bogosian that have both requested to be traded.
They have a slew of free agents to deal with this summer and it feels like it’s time to rip off the band-aid, trade some big pieces like Rasmus Ristolainen and continue to build around Jack Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin. Ristolainen would be a big get for a team needing an offensive boost on the back end Bogosian would be a decent depth D-man acquisition for a team after barely playing for the Sabres due to injuries and ineffectiveness this year.
The Flames have a need for a top-6 winger like many of the other playoff-hopeful teams ahead of the deadline, and they have enough cap space to make a move for a player with term beyond this season.
They certainly would expect to be in the market for guys like Tyler Toffoli and Kyle Palmieri, and it looks like they’re going to need some help as they flounder around in the middle of Pacific Division pack right now. The Flames have all their picks for the next couple of years and they have some decent young prospects, so they will be flush with assets when they decide to make their move.
With Dougie Hamilton injured and out indefinitely after breaking his leg, a little defensemen insurance on the back end makes the most sense for a Hurricanes team that’s getting enough offense out of their group up front.
They’ve beefed up their forward ranks anyway with the re-signing of Justin Williams and that leaves names like Alec Martinez and Sami Vatanen as names that could be doable for a Carolina team with plenty of draft picks, cap space, and young assets ready to deal away. Given that they’re in the mix for a playoff spot in the East and made it all the way to the conference finals last season, the Canes will be buyers over the next few weeks.
While it doesn’t seem like Chicago is going to be adding to a core group that’s managed to push themselves into playoff contention this season after falling short the last few years, it remains to be seen if they are going to be sellers at all.
Teams are lining up for Brandon Saad (on pace for 25 goals this season) should he be made available by the Blackhawks and defenseman Erik Gustafsson would make a nice trade deadline prize with some offensive pop on the back end.
There’s been speculation that Robin Lehner could get moved at the deadline as well, but it sure feels like he’s going to become the goaltender of the future for the Blackhawks given the way that he’s played. He’s a big reason the Blackhawks are in playoff contention in the first place.
The Avs wanted Taylor Hall and fell short of the winning bid from the Coyotes, and that puts them in a position to get themselves a good top-6 winger at the deadline after a strong first half to the season. '
The expectation is that the Avalanche will be big-time players for Chris Kreider if/when the Rangers make him available, and will be another of the handful of teams lining up for Tyler Toffoli, Kyle Palmieri, Jason Zucker or Ilya Kovalchuk. Colorado has a ton of cap room and enough assets to land pretty much anything they want and they’d be adding that to an already talented group of players.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets are in an interesting spot where they are unexpectedly in the playoff mix and could be minor buyers despite using a lot of their draft pick and trade assets for deals to strengthen last year’s team.
Their biggest trade chip is restricted free agent power forward Josh Anderson, who has been limited to just one goal in 26 games this season after scoring 63 goals in the last three seasons with Columbus. So the Blue Jackets would be selling low on Anderson this season, but as an RFA he would still command a prime asset in return with teams like the Bruins definitely interested in him.
If the Blue Jackets remain in the playoff mix, though, they surely won’t be sellers.
The Stars don’t have a ton of cap room and don’t have a ton of assets they can give up while in a dogfight for a playoff spot in the Central Division.
They already have great offensive talents in Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski and John Klingberg for a Dallas team that isn’t lighting it up offensively, and it’s clear that is because of a conservative defensive system in Big D. So it doesn’t seem all that prudent to go out and get more offensive talent if they’re just going to be watered down in a system weighted toward defense.
The Stars have been pretty successful that way and it’s a style of play that could be successful in the postseason, but it just doesn’t make sense to spend big at the deadline.
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings are obviously going to be sellers at the trade deadline as Steve Yzerman begins to completely overhaul the organization, but the simple truth is that they don’t have many tradeable assets.
Perhaps aging defenseman Mike Green is one guy that the Red Wings can convince to move elsewhere, but restricted free agent forward Andreas Athanasiou is the one big piece that could net them some good future assets in return. That being said, he’s got five goals and 19 points in 38 games with a whopping minus-39 this season and isn’t even close to the guy that scored 30 goals last season, so the value isn’t as high anymore.
The Oilers are in the Pacific Division pack for a playoff spot and they should be at least modest buyers at the deadline where they could use depth both up front and on the back end.
A third-line center-type like JG Pageau could be one option, and the Oilers will also be dealers with a young asset like Jesse Puljujarvi enjoying a pretty good season in Europe. Now would be the time to deal him.
One thing that the Oilers won’t be is a big-time buyer giving up major assets for the top names on the market given that they are just building things back up to a competitor territory.
Florida is scoring goals and creating offense like few others in the NHL this season, so offense isn’t the problem.
Sergei Bobrovsky and his monster contract also leave the Panthers with little real salary cap space to work with at the deadline, so it’s not going to be major moves for a team that looks poised to capture the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. The Panthers need help on defense and could certainly shore up their backup goaltender spot as well, so names like Alec Martinez, Ron Hainsey and Brenden Dillon would make sense coming to the Sunshine State.
The Panthers have all their own draft picks, so they also have plenty of assets to make the moves that they want to make while taking advantage of the excellent individual seasons they are getting from their talented young forwards.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings have already begun their selling job by trading away Kyle Clifford and Jack Campbell to the Maple Leafs, and there will be more coming with Tyler Toffoli expected to move as well to any number of suitors like the Flames, Penguins, Bruins or Avalanche ahead of the trade deadline.
Likewise, Alec Martinez is a player that could help any number of teams looking for a veteran defensive hand with the experience needed for a playoff push. It was surprising that the Kings didn’t sell off more of their assets last season around this time, but they are not going to make that same kind of mistake again with a team going nowhere fast.
It’s still head-scratching that the Kings are taking a slow, deliberate path to rebuilding rather than tearing things down to the studs, but perhaps their Stanley Cup titles have allowed them some time to get things straight.
The Wild are in a weird place where they a last-place team in the Central with no real chance for the playoffs, but they also aren’t much of a seller at this trade deadline either.
Some of that is about the young talent they are trying to cultivate on the team and some of it is about the lack of real shiny objects on the Wild roster that other teams would covet. There are players like Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin that could really help other teams get over the top, but the Wild are unlikely to deal them.
There are whispers that Ryan Donato is once again available after he was traded from Boston to Minnesota for Charlie Coyle last season, and a guy like Jason Zucker would certainly be a winger of interest to many teams including Pittsburgh. But you just don’t get the sense that the Wild are going to be big players at the deadline either way.
The Canadiens are still on life support for a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and they have basically found money in Ilya Kovalchuk after signing him to a two-way deal after he was released by the Kings earlier this season.
Teams like the Bruins, Penguins, Avs and Flames could be interested if Kovalchuk ends up getting moved. The Habs have the freedom to potentially deal Kovalchuk for a future asset if they are so inclined in the next few weeks, or deal away other possible rental players in Marco Scandella, Nate Thompson or Dale Weise if a team is looking for a little sandpaper on their team.
It’s doubtful they will be buyers given that they are not a realistic candidate to go on a Cup run this spring, but it’s always a difficult sell for the Canadiens to start trading away players ahead of the deadline.
What a disappointing group this is in Music City. Forwards like Craig Smith and Mikael Granlund could be on the block to high bidders, and other core Nashville players like Kyle Turris could go if the Predators truly want to start messing with the DNA of their underachieving group.
The 30-year-old Smith has scored 20 goals five times in his career and will be in the range of doing it again this season, and could be an ideal rental player for a team like Edmonton looking for some center depth help behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
Given their wealth of assets and how much they played under their potential this year, there could be bodies moving away from Nashville ahead of Feb. 24.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils already made their big move trading away Taylor Hall, but they aren’t done yet by a long shot.
They have Wayne Simmonds as a power forward-type with some bite and a veteran defenseman like Andy Greene as well as puck-moving Sami Vatanen. What will be more interesting is if the Devils begin moving some of their other forwards with term as teams are very interested in players like Miles Wood, Blake Coleman and Kyle Palmieri.
If any of those players become available, one would expect that the Bruins would be very interested in picking up players that could solve some of their winger needs for the next couple of seasons. Simmonds is having a down year, so he could be a cheap alternative get for players seeking power forward help.
New York Islanders
The Islanders are once again in a spot to make the playoffs thanks to Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello, and once again they are most likely to need a little more offensive pop at the trade deadline.
One would expect the Isles to be in competition with many of the other teams for wingers like Tyler Toffoli, Chris Kreider and Josh Anderson, or perhaps center help in the forms of players like JC Pageau and Craig Smith. One wouldn’t even rule out a reunion between Lamoriello and Kovalchuk in Brooklyn after they worked together in Jersey, so it will be fun to see what the Islanders do over the next few weeks.
The Isles also stood pat at last year’s deadline, so we’ll see what happens.
New York Rangers
The Rangers still haven’t completely decided on what their fate will be at the trade deadline, but it feels like they are destined to be sellers with Chris Kreider expected to net them a first-round pick and a solid prospect, and teams like the Bruins, Blues, Avalanche and Penguins lining up for him.
Backup goaltender Alexander Georgiev is another interesting name with a team like the Florida Panthers desperately in need of a backup to work with Sergei Bobrovsky, but there’s no real rush to deal him with Henrik Lundqvist beginning to show his age between the pipes for the Blueshirts.
New York isn’t likely to sell off as many assets as they have the last couple of seasons, but Kreider is arguably the biggest fish still left to land ahead of the trade deadline.
The Senators were arguably the biggest players on the trade market last year with a number of rental players made available, and this season they will again be sellers with JG Pageau expected to move to a team in need of center help.
Pageau could land a draft pick and a prospect and a hard-nosed, physical defenseman like Mark Borowiecki could bring Ottawa a draft pick in return as well. It will be interesting to see if the Senators expand that to trade away a piece like Craig Anderson that’s been part of their core group for a while now.
There’s really no reason to hang onto any of these players with the Senators going nowhere for now, and for at least the next couple of seasons.
The Flyers are in the mix for a playoff spot in the Metro and they have a talented mix of veteran performers and talented young players. It wouldn’t be a stunner if they tried to land another forward.
But they also don’t have a ton of cap room and their prospects are already performing for them at the NHL level, so they might be one of those playoff hopefuls that pretty much stays pat with what they have. The Flyers may be able to look at Nolan Patrick as their trade deadline acquisition if he finally gets healthy enough to play again, and that might have to be good enough for them this season.
The Penguins are firmly in a playoff spot despite missing key players with injuries this season, and being without Jake Guentzel for the rest of the regular season.
They are also firmly in the trade market ahead of the deadline looking for forward help, and they will be a player just like everybody else for Chris Kreider, Tyler Toffoli, JG Pageau, and Jason Zucker.
Could they also be in the market for a guy like Ilya Kovalchuk, who could be an absolute monster playing with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin based on the way he’s been reborn in Montreal? The Penguins are poised to be a big player at the trade deadline, per usual.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks turned into sellers as soon as Thomas Hertl went down for the rest of the season and hard-hitting, physical Brenden Dillon will yield the Sharks a pretty good draft pick when he’s moved to Boston, Pittsburgh or elsewhere.
What will be interesting is if Jumbo Joe Thornton is one of the pieces moved at the deadline to a Stanley Cup contender and if the future Hall of Famer can be a contributing factor energized by a playoff race. Certainly, a team could catch lightning in a bottle with Jumbo Joe if a Cup run brings out the best of what he’s got left.
Similarly, Patrick Marleau could be another one in the same situation with the Sharks.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues are in a really interesting spot as a team that’s hoping to get Vladimir Tarasenko back for the Stanley Cup playoffs, but one that could also use his salary cap space to get another player if they want until the postseason for his return.
That means the Blues are one of the teams circling around Chris Kreider if he becomes available, and he’d be a great fit for a big, physical and heavy Blues team that can put the puck in the net as well.
It seems self-evident that a team like St. Louis will need a little new blood in the lineup to keep them energized attempting to go on a long Cup run for the second straight season. So it would be surprising if the Blues didn’t add to their current roster over the next few weeks.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning have moved into second place in the Atlantic Division and once again look like one of the best teams in the NHL. They have a loaded roster and aren’t in need of much aside from getting one more defenseman.
One would expect the Lightning to be at the forefront for available D-men like Sami Vatanen or Matt Dumba if they become available, or maybe they would pick up an aging player on the cheap like Zach Bogosian. There isn’t much else that Tampa needs on their roster and they could even stand pat if need be, but they have enough draft picks and assets to at least make one move to fortify their depth headed into what they hope is an extended Stanley Cup playoff run.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs don’t have much cap space and they don’t have their own first-round pick, and they’ve already made one big trade by landing Kyle Clifford and Jack Campbell in a deal with the Los Angeles Kings.
It remains to be seen how much more than do, though they could definitely use a shutdown defenseman based on their team’s current shortcomings. The problem is that they will also have to move some cap money in order to make a corresponding move, and that’s where some of the trade whispers about Kasperi Kapanen have come from. Kyle Dubas has been aggressive, so the guess here is that there’s more to come with Toronto still right in the mix for the playoffs.
Of all the contending teams out there in playoff spots, Vancouver is one of the teams most likely to do nothing at the trade deadline.
Their next couple of first-round picks are tied up in trades and they have little cap space with a talented, young team that’s pushing hard for a postseason berth. It’s probably best for Canucks GM Jim Benning to just ride this thing out with his young group and let them gain the experience of battling for a playoff position in the second half of the season.
Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas pretty clearly means business and is in it to win it this season as they were last year, and that means being in the market for a puck-moving defenseman to add to a pretty talented core group of players.
Sami Vatanen would be an attractive piece if/when he’s made available by New Jersey, and perhaps a veteran guy like Mike Green could be that player if he’s willing to move on from Detroit. If the Golden Knights are really going for it, maybe they pull off something even bigger and find a way to land Rasmus Ristolianen or Shayne Gostisbehere, but they would probably need a few moving parts in order to make those things work salary cap-wise.
One thing we do know is that Vegas isn’t afraid of bold moves.
Don’t expect the Capitals to do much as they already have a stacked lineup, have been neck-and-neck with Boston for Eastern Conference dominance for much of the season to this point, and they don’t have a ton of salary-cap space to make big moves.
Washington really doesn’t need it either given their depth up front, on the back end, and even between the pipes where they’ve got two very talented goaltenders battling for playing time. This looks like the Class of the East this season and it shouldn’t be much of significance coming their way at deadline time.
There aren't any big expectations from the Jets either way headed into this deadline with the Dustin Byfuglien situation behind them and the Jets not likely headed to the playoffs this spring.
They need defensemen after a mass exodus at that position over the last couple of seasons, but it doesn’t make much sense to make that move now unless they get a defenseman like Jeff Petry with term on his contract coming back their way.
This could actually be a good destination for John Moore if the Bruins decided to peel away some of their blueline depth ahead of the trade deadline, but that’s usually not a prudent move for any contender amid a season with Stanley Cup aspirations.