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.
After covering half the teams in the East last week, this time we will analyze the situations of the remaining eight squads. 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.
New York Islanders – BUYER
The Islanders are currently in the mix for the final wild card spot and may add to their roster at the deadline. While they will likely not make a major splash, they have needs on their roster that can be addressed via trade. The top line with Anders Lee and Josh Bailey flanking John Tavares has been excellent but beyond them there has been a major lack of consistent results. The team could use an upgrade in the top-six to play alongside Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome. Should this player not be a rental then his presence would get in the way of younger players like Anthony Beauvilier and Michael Dal Colle who will be trying to climb the depth chart in the years to come.
There is also a need in goal as Jean-Francois Berube has not posted good numbers leaving Thomas Greiss with a heavy workload. An upgrade here would not cost a lot judging by the recent Ben Bishop trade and would provide better outcomes whenever Greiss takes a night off. Alternatively, the team can always turn to Jaroslav Halak who has been outstanding since being demoted to the AHL.
New York Rangers – BUYER
The Rangers have a deep lineup at all positions and may opt not to mess with chemistry and work on adding extra bodies. The big loser in any additions would be Pavel Buchnevich who has been a frequent healthy scratch of late and might get pushed out of the mix for the time being. On the other hand, the lineup depth allows the Rangers to be players on a larger-scale trade involving a major upgrade on the roster. Puck-moving defensemen would be their greatest need but Kevin Shattenkirk has already been traded. The team could be in on Matt Duchene or Gabriel Landeskog and of course there is the possibility of unexpected names hitting the trade market on Wednesday.
Ottawa Senators – BUYER
The Sens have already been busy with the trade for Alex Burrows and the signing of Chris DiDomenico. While the latter may or may not see time in the bottom-six down the stretch, Burrows figures to play a more important third-line role. The additions likely mean we will see much less of Chris Neil moving forward. This is important because Neil has been an important PIM and hits contributor over the years.
There may be more to come in Ottawa as the team looks to add to its scoring ranks while helping offset some recent injuries. It will likely not be a big name acquired but one with a track record putting up points in the NHL. Depending on how the lines shake out this could ultimately hurt Ryan Dzingel a lot.
Philadelphia Flyers – SELLER
With the Flyers stating their intention to not be buyers at the deadline, the focus shifts to their most sellable assets. The team possesses a pair of blueliners in Mark Streit and Michael Del Zotto who will draw some interest around the league. If the Flyers opt to keep and try to re-sign one it should be Streit as he can still move the puck well and put up points. Del Zotto is more easily replaceable so moving on from him should be much easier. Any departure will help long-term as it will make room for some of the Flyers’ many quality blueline prospects to emerge as early as next year. Short-term, more minutes would be created for the likes of Brandon Manning and Andrew MacDonald who have appeal in multi-category leagues.
In goal, both Steve Mason and Michael Neuvirth are unrestricted free agents this summer. Either one could move but Mason has the longer history in Philadelphia which might work in his favor. If one is moved on Wednesday it would create an opening for prospect Anthony Stolarz to have a more extended look in the NHL. This would be an important step in Stolarz making the transition to full-time NHL goalie.
Pittsburgh Penguins – BUYER
As evidenced by their acquisition of defenseman Ron Hainsey, the Penguins are buyers. At the moment their roster is being hit hard by injuries which points to the obvious need of adding extra bodies for a deep playoff run. With three key blueliners in Kris Letang, Trevor Daley and Olli Maatta currently sidelined look for the Penguins to add at least one more defender. However, while the player acquired may have some fantasy relevance initially, he could easily be buried on the depth chart once the regulars start to return.
Up front there is a similar need with Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary both injured, not to mention guys like Evgeny Malkin and Sidney Crosby having suffered many injuries throughout their careers. Adding an extra veteran or two makes sense although many of the call-ups have performed very well for the Penguins this year.
Tampa Bay Lightning – SELLER
The Lightning have shown their hand by dealing away pending unrestricted free agents Bishop and Brian Boyle. However, the team does not have any more valuable pending unrestricted free agents so their activity moving forward may be limited. The focus now shifts to players like Valtteri Filppula and J.T. Brown who have an extra year and could help playoff-bound teams. Alternatively, the Lightning could focus on “buying” with the focus put on improving their team next year rather than this one.
With the moves the team has created openings for young players to emerge. Obviously the Bishop deal paves the way for Andrei Vasilevskiy to become the team’s starter moving forward. Meanwhile, the Boyle deal leaves a hole in the top-nine up front. Guys like Adam Erne and Brayden Point will benefit immensely from additional opportunities while a dark horse like Cedric Paquette could be thrust into a greater role and finally get back to the multi-category production he showed as a rookie in 2014-15.
Toronto Maple Leafs – BUYER
The Leafs landing Brian Boyle is a significant move as it signifies they are no longer simply collecting future assets at this time of the year. They have a good chance of securing a playoff spot and Boyle’s abilities will prove to be valuable. The Leafs could very well make more moves on Wednesday including adding a quality defenseman which is their greatest need at the moment.
With that said the Leafs are not necessarily done selling players. An acquisition in one area could trigger a corresponding departure in the same area. For example, if the Leafs bring in help on the blueline it could signal the departure of Matt Hunwick. He would not fetch much in return but it would help offset any assets lost buying for the playoff push.
Washington Capitals – BUYER
The Capitals were sure to acquire help on defense and that need became greater when Matt Niskanen went down with an injury for an unknown amount of time. The Capitals then dropped a bombshell when they landed Kevin Shattenkirk who should be able to collect a lot of points in his new environment. They will likely add one more defender to provide depth for the long playoff run.
Up front, the team has been performing very well but could also use a vet or two in the bottom-six. Not just for the (hopefully) deep playoff run but also to help offset the loss of Zach Sanford in the Shattenkirk trade. These acquisitions might ultimately push prospects like Jakub Vrana and Riley Barber to the AHL for the foreseeable future.
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