Every year there is a lot of hype around the trade deadline as it is the final chance for teams to solidify their rosters before the stretch drive to the postseason. Unfortunately, most years the deadline fails to live up to fans’ expectations as parity in the NHL makes it difficult for most teams to go all-in as buyers or seller. Furthermore, there are countless examples of teams in the past making a splash only for their efforts to ultimately fall short when it matters most. All said, the deadline is a good reminder that all trades are in essence teams gambling on what will happen in the future.
On the other hand, in many trades there are considerations far more interesting than the involved players themselves. For example, a buying team acquiring a player essentially hurts the available ice time and opportunity of at least one other player. And on the seller’s side whenever a player is sent packing there is now a void in the lineup that has to be filled by others in the organization which creates new opportunities. The fallout from these trades will have a great impact on the production of many players down the stretch and in head-to-head playoff rounds.
Today we will examine eight teams from the Eastern Conference. Which is a buyer and which is a seller? What are the needs of the buying squads and who might suffer as a result of any acquisitions? Who are the sellers trying to unload and which players within the organization have a chance to benefit? As you will see, some teams will have a more interesting deadline day than others.
Boston Bruins – BUYER
The Bruins are in an interesting spot. Despite a lot of negativity around the team including the firing of coach Claude Julien the team is in a playoff spot in the weak Atlantic division. While the Bruins may not do much they do have needs that can be addressed without breaking the bank. Up front they can use some help as Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes have not been good on the wing. Any addition would hurt the prospects of these two as well as Austin Czarnik, a rookie who has shown some promise.
Without a stable backup available, Tuukka Rask has played a lot of hockey. The Bruins clearly need an upgrade behind Rask and could be in the market for one on deadline day. This would further hurt Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre, a pair of prospects looking to make the jump to the NHL. Both are getting old as prospects and are running out of time to prove themselves. Subban could actually be used as trade bait to help the roster elsewhere.
Buffalo Sabres – SELLER
The Sabres are once again going to miss the playoffs and as a result will do some selling at the deadline. However, with many of their core pieces in place the team will not be ditching any major names. Captain Brian Gionta makes sense to move especially if management feels it would be a good idea to put the “C” on someone else. For Gionta, who has been a decent depth fantasy scorer at times, would be hurt tremendously by a move as his average ice time of 16:49 would be unlikely to transfer to a playoff team. In a lesser role his odds of averaging 0.5 points per game are close to zero.
On the blueline a pair of defensemen in Dmitry Kulikov and Cody Franson are on expiring deals and might have interest from other teams. Franson’s output would not change much in a new environment considering he is not going to be on a good team’s top power-play unit. For Kulikov, a good multi-category defender at times, a change of scenery could help him get back on track producing at a 20-point pace like he has in recent years.
Carolina Hurricanes – SELLER
The Hurricanes are making good progress after moving on from the Eric Staal era but find themselves in the cellar of the Eastern Conference with a couple minor assets to sell. The primary name that could be on the move is Ron Hainsey who has been in Carolina for a long time but is falling victim to the long-term numbers game on defense. Moving him would free up minutes for Noah Hanifin and would open a roster spot for a guy like Ryan Murphy to get another more extended look.
Another name that might draw interest is Derek Ryan, who made a splash earlier this year when called up from the AHL. He has cooled off significantly with his last point coming on January 13 and was even a healthy scratch in the team’s last game versus Toronto. He could be appealing to teams looking for a spare body for a deep playoff run and a new team might help him shake out of his slump. Meanwhile, his departure would help clear up a few minutes for the Hurricanes’ various young forwards and will help a guy like Brock McGinn stay at the NHL level giving him more time to prove his worth.
Columbus Blue Jackets – BUYER
A 16-game winning streak earlier in the season helped put the Blue Jackets in a great spot to secure a playoff spot. The team will be buyers at the deadline but do not expect any major moves. The team will probably look to add at least one defenseman to provide depth on the third pair. This would hurt the likes of Markus Nutivaara and Scott Harrington who are both trying to establish themselves as full-time NHLers.
The team may also look to improve itself at the backup position after bailing on Curtis McElhinney. Joonas Korpisalo has done a decent job in six appearances but a more experienced alternative makes sense simply to give them an option they can trust in important situations.
Detroit Red Wings – SELLER
It appears this year the Red Wings’ record playoff streak will finally come to an end and as a result the team will likely be selling some assets at the deadline. The most notable pending unrestricted free agent is Thomas Vanek who is in the midst of a major bounce-back year with 37 points in 46 games. It is difficult to envision him faring better on a new team considering he has developed some great chemistry with Frans Nielsen. Recreating this magic in a new environment will not be easy. With Vanek out, there would be more room in the top-six for struggling wingers such as Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Dylan Larkin to try and get back on track.
On defense, Brendan Smith might be of interest to some teams as a depth option. Smith has not developed as expected offensively but has shown flashes of being a good multi-category producer. Not much would change on a new team though. In fact, he would probably lose the secondary power-play minutes he has been getting in Detroit. His departure would create space for the likes of Xavier Ouellet, Nick Jensen and Ryan Sproul to play consistently and log more minutes.
Florida Panthers – BUYER
The Panthers have mostly been a disappointment this year but have been much better in recent games with Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov back in the lineup. They will be buyers at the deadline with their most glaring hole being secondary scoring up front. Huberdeau’s return pushed Jonathan Marchessault to the third line but beyond him everyone in the bottom-six has underwhelmed offensively this year. Any addition to the forward ranks will hurt guys like Michael Sgarbossa and Colton Sceviour who both have a bit of potential but have yet to put it all together at the NHL level.
Montreal Canadiens – BUYER
The Canadiens have slumped mightily and have already made a coaching change but are likely not finished making changes. The team’s biggest needs are up front starting down the middle. They have been rumored to be interested in names like Martin Hanzal and Matt Duchene. Whether or not they pay the price or find a cheaper alternative elsewhere remains to be seen. Of equal interest in fantasy circles is Tomas Plekanec and Phillip Danault would be dropped to the bottom-six. This would especially hurt Danault who came out of nowhere to become a solid waiver-wire addition during the year.
Also of need is additional scoring punch on the wing. This may not be a major addition but one to help add more depth to balance the lines. This would in turn give the new guy precedence over the likes of Andrew Shaw, Artturi Lehkonen and maybe even Paul Byron.
New Jersey Devils – SELLER
Like the Hurricanes, the Devils are also destined to miss the playoffs and are unlikely to be selling any major pieces. P.A. Parenteau sticks out as one who is likely to go considering he is on a cheap expiring contract and can provide some secondary scoring. He has been a decent producer in deep leagues but a move to a new team will likely squash his value because he has been a top-six winger in New Jersey and will likely play a less significant role on a contender. Meanwhile, in New Jersey his departure would help create minutes for younger players like Miles Wood and Joseph Blandisi who both have long-term fantasy appeal. In fact, Blandisi has already shown solid multi-category potential at the NHL level.
On defense, Kyle Quincey might be of interest to a team looking to add a body to its blueline. His production should remain unchanged in a new market but his departure would create more minutes for a young defender like Steve Santini. The 21-year-old has shown good offensive potential in college and is already teasing us with good multi-category potential.
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