While the Ducks would like to be buyers at the trade deadline, they’re so close to the cap it’ll be difficult to make a major addition. They’ve been without two key players in Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf for a good chunk of the season and will receive a huge boost when they return. If the team does make an addition, it’ll be up front as the Ducks need more scoring wingers.
The Coyotes have had a disappointing season. After acquiring veterans Derek Stepan and Niklas Hjalmarsson in the off-season, the young Coyotes have failed to take a step forward and will likely sell at the deadline. They don’t have many worthwhile rental assets at this point, but could look to recoup assets for Hjalmarsson or sell on defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson as both are free agents in 2019.
The Bruins will likely stand pat at the trade deadline. They aren’t good enough to contend for a Stanley Cup but could make the playoffs largely because they’re in a weak division. They don’t have many assets to sell at the deadline, as captain Zdeno Chara, who’s a free agent this summer, is their only attractive rental asset.
The Sabres have had yet another disappointing season. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2010-11 and appear to be nowhere near contending at this point. They’ll certainly be sellers and they boast one of the most coveted rental forwards on the market in Evander Kane who’s finally emerged as an elite goal scorer.
The Flames have enjoyed a very good season and appear to be contenders in the Western Conference. They boast a nice blend of young and veteran talent and will look to buy at the trade deadline. That said, They don’t have a first round pick in 2018 or a second round pick in 2018 or 2019 because of last summer’s Travis Hamonic trade. As a result, the Flames realistically only have the capacity to make minor acquisitions come deadline time.
The Hurricanes currently own the NHL’s longest playoff drought, dating all the way back to 2008-09. They’re a pretty good team loaded with young talent and have a lot of cap room to work with. That said, they’re also stuck playing in a stacked division. If the Hurricanes decide to go all in, they would likely look to upgrade their forwards by bringing in a skilled winger.
The Blackhawks are at risk of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08. The Central Division is stacked with good teams and Chicago’s roster has been decimated by salary cap issues. They’ve gone all in at the deadline so many times in a row they’re lacking in young talent. This might be a year the Blackhawks stand pat rather than buying.
Earlier in the season, the Avalanche dealt away Matt Duchene, one of their best trade assets, for a collection of draft picks and prospects. They’ll certainly continue to sell as the deadline approaches, offering impending free agents like Jonathan Bernier and Blake Comeau to teams in need of depth. Their best asset left, though, is captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s signed for three more seasons at a reasonable cap hit.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets are proving that their best season in franchise history in 2016-17 wasn’t a fluke. They’ve never made it out of the first round of the playoffs before and will certainly be looking to buy in order to help push them over the hump. The Jackets have a decent amount of cap room to work with and all of their first three round picks available to deal. They’ll be looking to upgrade up front as the team needs another offensive centre.
The Stars had an aggressive off-season, adding Ben Bishop, Alex Radulov, and Martin Hanzal in free agency. They’ll likely want to add come deadline time, but don’t have very much salary cap room to deal with. The blueline and depth up front are the biggest areas of need for this team right now.
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings are having a better season than many expected and could possibly contend for a playoff spot largely because of how weak the Atlantic Division is. They’re pressed right up against the cap, making adding a challenge. If they do decide to sell, Mike Green would be one of the most coveted blueliners on the market.
After ending a decade-long playoff drought last year, the Oilers have had a very disappointing season. They’ve underachieved mightily and climbing back into the playoffs will be a challenge. They have a lot of cap room and draft picks to possibly add, but the hill might be too big to climb right now. If they add, the team badly needs scoring wingers. If they decide to sell, Patrick Maroon could net a huge haul at the deadline.
The Panthers are having yet another frustrating season and will look to sell at the deadline. The difficult thing for them is that their core is signed long-term and beyond depth players like Radim Vrbata, there aren’t many places to sell. The Panthers could look to move a player like Nick Bjugstad or Keith Yandle who’s signed long-term in order to free up cap room.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings are enjoying a renaissance season under new head coach John Stevens and will likely be buyers at the deadline. They don’t have a lot of cap room to work with and need upgrades all over their lineup. Jeff Carter returning from injury in the New Year will also be a major addition to the team.
The Wild are underachieving but are in win now mode. They went all in at last year’s deadline acquiring Martin Hanzal but ended up losing in the first round of the playoffs. With little cap space to work with, it seems likely the Wild will try to roll with what they have rather than buying at the deadline.
The Canadiens are having a disappointing season and while they shouldn’t be buying to make a run with this flawed roster, general manager Marc Bergevin is in the hot seat. The team has draft pick capital and cap room to make a deal. If they do buy, the Habs badly need help up front as their offence is well below league average.
The Predators have already made a major addition this season, acquiring Kyle Turris in a three-team trade with the Senators and Avalanche. They could still use some minor upgrades and will likely look to make some more minor adds as the deadline approaches. They could use more depth defencemen and a veteran backup goalie for the playoffs.
New Jersey Devils
Nobody expected the Devils to have this kind of breakout season but New Jersey is currently one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. They have a team being built for long-term success so they likely won’t make a massive splash, but they have the cap room and draft picks to make some minor additions to make their roster deeper for a playoff push.
New York Islanders
General manager Garth Snow seldom makes aggressive deals during the season, but if there was ever time to a do it, now would be the time. John Tavares’ contract expires this summer and the team has four picks in the first two rounds this year. Whether it’s adding a top forward or defenceman, the Islanders have the cap room and draft pick capital to make a major splash for a bug playoff run.
New York Rangers
A few weeks ago, it seemed the Rangers were primed for a deadline fire sale. But after a hot streak pulled them back into the playoffs, that seems unlikely. Still, the Rangers could look to sell on impending free agents like Rick Nash and Michael Grabner to compensate for all the times in recent years they’ve paid a high price to buy at the deadline.
The Senators have already made their big splash, spending a massive price to upgrade from Kyle Turris to Matt Duchene. After what it cost them to do so, a first- and third-round pick and a prospect, it’s very unlikely the Sens will make another major addition at the deadline.
The Flyers are a medicare team right now with a bright future. They have a wealth of young talent, especially on the blueline but are jammed at the bottom of a loaded Metropolitan Division. They’ll likely stand pat at the deadline and could sell a few assets like Valtteri Filppula and Brandon Manning.
The Penguins are on a pursuit of back-to-back-to-back Stanley Cups this year. They don’t have much cap room to work with come deadline time but will certainly be buying again to make upgrades to their roster. They need more depth forwards, ideally a third line centre, to replace Nick Bonino who left in free agency.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have an aging core and a contention window that seems to be shut at this point. They have quite a bit of cap room to work with and could use some skilled winger to compliment their glut of good centres. They won’t be making a massive deadline splash, but will be in the market for upgrades.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues appear to be the team to beat in the Western Conference but they don’t have a first round pick this year or much cap room to work with. As a result, they’ll likely be standing pat unless they can make an addition where another team takes on salary in return.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning are enjoying a resurgent season with a fully healthy roster. They bit the bullet and sold at last season’s trade deadline as the team was poised to miss out on the playoffs, but will likely buy this year before a big playoff run. They don’t have a lot of cap room, but could afford to add depth forwards and defencemen to their young roster.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs are building on last year’s breakout season and seem poised for a playoff run. They’re in a good spot to buy right now with Auston Matthews and Co. still on entry-level deals and forwards like James van Riemsdyk set to become free agents. Their biggest need is adding depth to their blueline and they have a lot of depth up front to make a deal.
It was assumed the Canucks were moving into a rebuild, but a crafty off-season and some breakout performances have the team vying for a playoff spot. It seems unlikely the Canucks will steer off the course and buy a major rental asset, but they likely won’t be sellers either, aiming to reach the playoffs with the group they have in place now.
Vegas Golden Knights
Easily the biggest shock of the season is the success of the NHL’s newest franchise. The Golden Knights seem poised for a playoff run based off of their hot start, but their plan all along was to deal soon-to-be free agents like James Neal and David Perron at the trade deadline. It’s a tough conundrum deciding whether draft pick capital is more important than immediate success for this franchise, but they can go either way.
The Capitals went all in last year when they acquired Kevin Shattenkirk from the Blues but they couldn’t get over the hump. The team is good enough for a playoff appearance, but they aren’t the class of the East anymore. They also don’t have much cap room, making a major splash like last year difficult to endeavour. Still, Washington is a solid bet to buy at the deadline.
The Jets are loaded with young talent and it seems to finally be coming together. They’re enjoying a breakout season and will certainly be looking to buy at the deadline in order to go on their first major playoff run in franchise history.