The race to the 2020 NHL trade deadline is heating up, but which teams will be buying and which will be selling this season?
Outside of the playoffs, the NHL trade deadline is often classified as the most wonderful time of the year by hockey fans. Sure, trade deadlines have often been duds in the past, but the atmosphere around the NHL’s trade deadline is rife with excitement and rumor mongering, making for fun moments on social media.
This season’s NHL trade deadline is a mere week away now, with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ acquisition of forward Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild the major standout thus far alongside the New Jersey Devils fire sale on Sunday. Action, however, is no doubt set to pick up as the deadline gets closer and the proverbial first domino has fallen in the form of Zucker.
With 31 teams across the NHL, it’s hard to keep track of all the major players in this year’s deadline unless you know what you’re looking for. Here are the top buyers and sellers — and a few teams who are also both! — at this year’s NHL trade deadline.
With Connor McDavid‘s injury spanning into late February or early March, the Oilers shouldn’t necessarily hit the panic button on finding an outside replacement. Edmonton should, however, be looking to add a complementary offensive piece at this trade deadline to slot into their lineup to help bolster the team’s overall firepower.
Outside of team leading scorer Leon Draisaitl and McDavid himself, the Oilers have very little secondary scoring. There is a nearly 40-point difference between McDavid in second place in team scoring (81) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in third (42), a testament to just how good Edmonton’s top two players are. However, the Oilers are in the playoff hunt and should be pushing to make a run in McDavid and Draisaitl’s prime years, and adding a middle-six scorer to their ranks should be a priority at this deadline.
It’s more than likely the Bruins will be active at the upcoming trade deadline, given their position in the standings and their $3 million in current cap space that could be used to net a rental. Boston has been linked to a handful of big names so far this deadline, including Ilya Kovalchuk, Chris Kreider, and Tyler Toffoli, meaning general manager Don Sweeney is doing his due diligence and calling on other team’s top players.
It’s hard to say which player, if any, the Bruins will nab at this trade deadline, but it’s clear Boston is looking for a top-to-middle six forward to bolster their scoring punch. The Bruins are stacked up top with David Pastrnak (81 points), Brad Marchand (71 points) and Patrice Bergeron (48 points), but are hurting for secondary scoring when their main trio isn’t putting up points. If Boston wants to get back to the Stanley Cup Final this year, expect them to be on the hunt for a forward at this year’s deadline.
Out of all 31 teams in the NHL, the Avalanche have the NHL’s most cap space headed into the 2020 trade deadline by a wide margin. With nearly $31 million in projected deadline cap space, Colorado will have room and then some to add to their core for an upcoming playoff run.
Though the Avalanche have not been at the forefront of rumors this deadline, Colorado could go after Kovalchuk, Kreider or Jean-Gabriel Pageau, among other forwards given how much cap space they have. With the Avalanche sitting third in the Central, but just two points out of first place, don’t be surprised if Colorado makes a move or two to separate themselves from the pack in the West.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Given how all-in the Blue Jackets went last trade deadline, and how it paid off for them in a sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen may go back to the well again to pull off some deadline magic. The Blue Jackets have taken everyone by surprise this season by being a playoff contender, as they sit in the first wild card spot with 71 points, and could very well be active at the deadline.
Columbus also has about $25 million in cap space at the deadline, meaning there are moves they could no doubt make to push them from wild card contender to playoff lock. The Eastern Conference playoff race will likely be a bloodbath, and if the Blue Jackets have aspirations of getting back to the postseason, they may be a prime buyer candidate by February’s end.
The Penguins have already made the biggest splash of the trade deadline so far entering Monday, after acquiring Zucker from the Wild. However, their pickup of one of the NHL’s top trade targets does not preclude them from adding more support to the fringes of their roster.
Expect the Penguins to be in the mix at the deadline still, even after the Zucker trade. If given the opportunity to make his team better, general manager Jim Rutherford will no doubt be considering every option to help Pittsburgh get back to the Stanley Cup Final in June.
San Jose Sharks
The 2019-20 NHL season has not been the Sharks’ year. A coaching change, a slow start and various injuries culminating with the loss of defenseman Erik Karlsson for the rest of the season have doomed the Sharks beyond repair. San Jose is an old team, one that had hopes at one last gasp at a playoff run this season.
Now, with their season effectively over (their playoff odds sit at 6.5 percent, according to MoneyPuck) the Sharks will be sellers at the upcoming deadline. Pieces such as defenseman Brenden Dillon or longtime forward Joe Thornton could be dealt, effectively ending an era of Sharks hockey that never won a Stanley Cup. It will be for the best, however, as the Sharks will need to rebuild after years of playoff success.
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings have the worst record in the Western Conference this season, with a 21-33-5 record in 59 games played. Los Angeles is all but eliminated from playoff contention this season, and thus will be likely sellers at the upcoming trade deadline.
Like San Jose, the Kings have a handful of older players such as forward Dustin Brown and defenseman Alec Martinez that could be moved. The big trade piece is forward Toffoli, who have more than a handful of teams bidding for his rights as the deadline draws near.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils’ woes this season have been well documented. From trading away Taylor Hall, to firing their head coach and the swift fall of veteran netminder Cory Schneider after such a highly touted offseason of shrewd moves, New Jersey has had a season to forget.
However, while the Devils have disappeared from playoff contention, their name will no doubt be brought up in trade deadline discussions. New Jersey made a splash on Sunday, trading away captain Andy Greene and forward Blake Coleman for a handful of young players and draft picks, kickstarting their rebuild into high gear. Players such as forward Wayne Simmonds and defenseman Sami Vatanen are two names getting some play before the deadline, with possibly a few more names on the Devils roster also on the move by the time the deadline hits.
Los Angeles may be the Western Conference’s worst team, but the Ducks aren’t that far behind them this season. Though not as talked about as some others on this list, the Ducks have a handful of players that could be moved.
Defenseman Josh Manson may be a target for contending teams looking to bolster their bluelines, while forward Michael Del Zotto could be on the board for a team that needs bottom-six help. The Ducks reportedly have made themselves available to teams looking to dump salary in exchange for a young talented player, so Anaheim may very well be active at the deadline looking to shore up their future.
Kovalchuk is the major player the Canadiens could deal by the time the deadline hits. The 36-year-old forward has a handful of suitors due to his resurgence in Montreal this season, and is a player the Canadiens could deal for a draft pick in the midst of an injury-riddled, and lost, season.
Forward Max Domi has also reportedly been rumored to the Minnesota Wild, so while Kovalchuk may be dominating the trade front in Montreal, there may be other pieces on the move from the Canadiens this trade deadline.
The Flyers have about $2 million in deadline cap space, which likely precludes them from any major moves at the trade deadline. However, general manager Chuck Fletcher is known for making trades at the deadline, and could have something up his sleeves to help the in-contention Flyers.
Philadelphia has also seen rumors of teams interested in defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere over the last few months. It’s hard to say what the Flyers will do at this upcoming trade deadline, but Fletcher’s extensive trade history means we should be on our toes until the deadline passes.
Ah, the Hall conundrum. Insiders have batted down the idea that Hall could be traded for a second time this season, but the rumors still persist. With Arizona in wild card contention, however, the Coyotes could be on the prowl for an asset to help with their defense, which has been lacking as of late, or an additional forward to up their secondary scoring.
The Jets are another fringe playoff team on the bubble of being a potential buyer or a seller this deadline. Forward Kyle Connor‘s name has come up in recent rumors, and Nikolaj Ehlers has been in trade talks in the past.
However, the Jets may add at the deadline, depending on how they see their current situation in the West unfolding. The next week will be big for teams on the fence about where their season stands, and Winnipeg is one such team facing this conundrum.
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