With the NHL trade deadline quick approaching and rumors swirling, the Western Conference can virtually be damaged up into three tiers, every probably representing totally different instructions whereas gamers can nonetheless be moved from team to team.
There’s a group of bona fide playoff contenders, who make up the top of the standings and appear to be postseason locks. That features the Golden Knights, Predators, Jets and Blues.
TRADE TRACKER: Rumors, reported offers earlier than the deadline
The second tier has a glut of groups that both sit contained in the top-eight or simply outdoors of it. They might very properly make or miss the playoffs, which makes their deadline plans trickier. Moreover, not likely seen as true threats to make it out of the West, spending future belongings and probably not ending up with the last word prize is a danger they face operating. This tier consists of the Stars, Sharks, Wild, Flames, Geese, Avalanche and Kings.
After which under them is the underside of the barrel, starting from groups who both anticipated to be good however are dropping floor within the playoff race by the day (the Blackhawks and Oilers), and groups nonetheless making an attempt to navigate a rebuild (the Canucks and Coyotes).
This is a glimpse at every Western Conference team, and the path they could be headed in whereas trades can nonetheless be made.
Vendor: Chicago Blackhawks
Top precedence: Creating cap area
Deadline outlook: After years of sitting atop the NHL’s meals chain, the Blackhawks might lastly be getting into that inevitable downswing that may comply with years of success. The most important difficulty they face is a bunch of dangerous contracts which have them cap-strapped and unable to start actually retooling its roster.
Would they ever dare trade captain Jonathan Toews, and even when they might, might they discover a suitor to tackle the remaining 5 years at $10.5 million per he is owed? (The reply might be no, and that is a query in all probability not requested till the offseason). Extra practical, however nonetheless within the class of “impossible” embrace Artem Ansimov and Brandon Saad, who carry decrease AAV’s however aren’t rental choices, both.
The almost certainly state of affairs is Chicago stands pat and does nothing, or a participant finally ends up on lengthy-time period injured reserve and Stan Bowman acquires an excellent participant for pennies on the greenback.
Vendor: Colorado Avalanche
Top precedence: A younger defenseman
Deadline outlook: The most important transfer the Avalanche will make got here months in the past once they shipped Matt Duchene to the Senators in a midseason blockbuster. One of many items that got here again to Colorado in that deal, 19-yr-previous Samuel Girard, is exactly the kind of participant the Avalanche must be concentrating on. A ten-recreation profitable stream offered a glimmer of hope the Avalanche might compete for a playoff spot, however the actuality is it is nonetheless a team in transition, simply months away from buying and selling one in every of their greatest gamers.
Would the Avalanche dare transfer defenseman Tyson Barrie, whose identify has come up as a potential trade goal for groups in search of defensive assist? It definitely would harm the Avalanche’s already wilting blue line, however might return a serious haul, a package deal of a primary-spherical decide, a prospect, and one other asset.
Purchaser: Dallas Stars
Top precedence: Rick Nash
Deadline outlook: This Stars team is getting ready to busting out of that center tier and into the deep finish. Dallas has the third-greatest factors proportion within the NHL since Dec. eleven, with solely the Bruins and Golden Knights above them. Including Nash would give them one other dynamic, impression participant for its top-six. He would slot in extremely properly enjoying with the likes of Jamie Benn or Alexander Radulov. It might be the ultimate piece that helps put the Stars not solely into the dialog of the elite groups within the West, however proper on the top.
Purchaser: Minnesota Wild
Top precedence: Third-line ahead
Deadline outlook: The Wild are in a precarious spot. They’re on the verge of creating their sixth consecutive postseason, however have two collection victories and 14 complete playoff wins in these 5 journeys to point out for it. They swung and missed dangerous final yr on the deadline on Martin Hanzal, sending the Coyotes a primary-spherical decide for a rental that had little-to-no impression.
Come this deadline, the Wild seem like they might get into the playoffs as a wild card, and are unwilling to half methods with a primary rounder. But when they will discover a participant for the suitable worth (perhaps the likes of a Jean-Gabriel Pageau?) for his or her third line, the place they’ve even lately tried Matt Cullen in that spot, it might clear up one instant want shifting ahead.
Purchaser: Nashville Predators
Top precedence: Rick Nash
Deadline outlook: The Predators and Stars might find yourself making a bidding conflict between one another for Nash’s rental providers. Nashville already made one main transfer, getting in on the Duchene trade and buying Kyle Turris from the Senators. It is clear the Predators are in “all-in” mode, and doubtless for good purpose, with top-of-the-line data within the NHL months away from falling two wins in need of profitable the 2017 Stanley Cup.
Nash might slot in very properly behind Filip Forsberg on the depth chart, actually elevating the Predators second line and giving them an much more formidable top-six to go together with one of the top defenses in hockey.
Purchaser: St. Louis Blues
Top precedence: Top-six ahead
Deadline outlook: With out actually giving up a lot, the Blues have already upgraded their roster forward of Feb. 26. St. Louis poached ahead Nikita Soshnikov from the Maple Leafs, who did not have a spot for the depth ahead, sending Toronto a fourth-spherical decide in change. They’re additionally lastly getting getting again the injured Zach Sanford, acquired final season within the Kevin Shattenkirk trade, after he was on the shelf recovering from offseason shoulder surgical procedure.
These are two huge upgrades to the underside-six, and all it value St. Louis was technically a fourth. The house run swing is Rick Nash, although there will probably be loads of competitors on that entrance. Michael Grabner might additionally make sense, however is one other rental who might doubtless fetch a primary. One other physique within the top-six might make an enormous distinction for the Blues, who’ve top-of-the-line strains in hockey (Brayden Schenn, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko), however break it up at occasions to attempt to get a second line going.
Purchaser: Winnipeg Jets
Top precedence: Depth defenseman
Deadline outlook: It is actually exceptional the place the Jets are in contemplating the accidents they’ve handled. They have been with out Mark Scheifele, Dusting Byfuglien, and Jacob Trouba every for vital stretches. Trouba is presently on injured reserve with an ankle damage, leaving a gap on the blue line. If Winnipeg can get a proper-shot defenseman to be a cease hole for Trouba, it might actually give them a ton of depth on that aspect for when he comes again, with Byfuglien additionally a proper-shot defenseman.
RUMOR ROUNDUP: Blues, Senators seem like a trade match
Purchaser: Anaheim Geese
Top precedence: Depth ahead
Deadline outlook: Now that each one the Geese are wholesome, they’ve climbed again into the playoff race and into the top-three within the Pacific Division. They’ve a number of the greatest middle depth within the NHL going with Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Adam Henrique down the center. They acquired Henrique from the Devils, delivery away Sami Vatanen, however nonetheless have sufficient expertise defensively.
If Anaheim had this roster (wholesome) for a lot of the season, it would not have lately needed to cost its method again into the top-three within the Pacific. However with that in thoughts, one other ahead to play in its backside six. Giving Henrique some higher operating mates might actually make Anaheim a 3-line deep team, and in addition bump some guys right down to the fourth line, the place the present group is barely getting used.
Vendor: Arizona Coyotes
Top precedence: Maintaining the band collectively
Deadline outlook: Some huge names have are available Coyotes rumors, most notably the likes of Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Max Domi. There was a prevailing thought the Coyotes may take the subsequent step of their rebuild this season, and that merely has not been the case. They’ve a wealth of younger expertise, however issues simply have not panned out positively within the desert in any respect. That being stated, the expertise continues to be there and whereas endurance is not a advantage simply practiced (particularly contemplating how lengthy the Coyotes have been mired on this mess), doubling down on a rebuild mid-rebuild appears counterproductive.
In his first season, basic supervisor John Chayka has achieved lots to set the Coyotes up for future success, like buying a top middle in Derek Stepan and a very good defenseman in Jason Demers. Buying and selling Domi or Ekman-Larsson probably would get them picks or prospects, not likely one thing the franchise has a deficit for.
Purchaser: Calgary Flames
Top precedence: Mark Stone
Deadline outlook: The Flames’ top six has been nice, however they’re actually missing when it comes to getting manufacturing from ahead depth. They have some good talent on that line, although, between Sam Bennett and Mark Jankowski.
This is how Stone might slot in: Enjoying him on a 3rd line does not make sense, however when you have been to place him with Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund and bump Michael Frolik to 3rd line proper wing, it modifications the dynamic of the group (although, Tkachuk-Backlund-Frolik was been one of many top strains in hockey). You may do the identical factor with Stone on their top line, and drop Michael Ferland to the third (and that avoids breaking up that second line).
RUMOR ROUNDUP: Rangers targets take over the rumor mill
Vendor: Edmonton Oilers
Top precedence: Max return for Patrick Maroon
Deadline outlook: Lower than a yr after ending a decade-lengthy playoff hiatus, the expectation in Edmonton was the Oilers wouldn’t solely be again within the postseason, however pushing to get previous the second spherical, the place they have been eradicated in 2017. However the actuality is the Oilers are in a well-known but undesirable place, nearer to profitable the draft lottery than the Stanley Cup.
Now hoping to re-device their roster to prepare for subsequent season, Patrick Maroon looks like a possible candidate to get moved. He is on an expiring contract with a really low cap cost ($1.5 million) and might be a less expensive rental choice for a team not trying to dig deep sufficient of their pockets to accumulate a Nash or an Evander Kane. Two different forwards on expiring contracts — Mike Cammalleri and Ryan Strome — may be moved, although they have been lately acquired.
Purchaser: Los Angeles Kings
Top precedence: Scoring winger
Deadline outlook: Los Angeles already addressed a necessity on the blue line when it acquired Dion Phaneuf, and in addition managed to rid itself of Marian Gaborik within the course of. Might the Kings flip round and look so as to add a brand new ahead after eliminating one? The addition of the injured Jeff Carter, which is imminent, can be an enormous “addition” that will not drive them to half methods with any extra belongings. On the verge of getting again within the playoffs, doing so might assist persuade defenseman Drew Doughty, whose contract expires subsequent summer time, the Kings are the team value signing with.
Purchaser: San Jose Sharks
Top precedence: Evander Kane
Deadline outlook: San Jose is in a very precarious place. They’ve seemed nice at occasions this season, whereas at others actually struggled. Extra lately, that may be attributed to the absence of Joe Thornton, however therein lies one other drawback. If Thornton can come again quickly — which is the large unknown — and carry out nicely (he is 38 years previous coming off his second vital knee damage in lower than a yr), it provides the Sharks a purpose to go for it as soon as once more.
But when Thornton is out long run, it will be a bit more durable for the Sharks to be aggressive, and justify giving up a future asset. There’s additionally not a ton San Jose has to supply by means of a prospect to trade for a longtime ahead.
Sources advised Sporting Information the Sharks checked in on Nash, however the sense was different golf equipment would have the ability to assemble extra aggressive provides. This Sharks team, by means of totally different iterations, has been actually good for the previous decade or so. This can be their final probability to actually make a run earlier than taking a step again, however Thornton’s well being is an enormous piece in all that, it doesn’t matter what they do main into Feb. 26.
Vendor: Vancouver Canucks
Top precedence: Re-considering their stance on Erik Gudbranson
Deadline outlook: A yr in the past round this time, the Canucks made a puzzling transfer in buying Gudbranson in what was very a lot a “win-now” transfer in a team that clearly wasn’t constructed to win now. One trade deadline later, there appears to be curiosity for the 26-yr-previous Gudbranson, one other pending free agent. It is uncommon that a common supervisor will get a mulligan on a trade, however with groups reportedly prepared to surrender as a lot as a primary to accumulate him, that is exactly what Jim Benning is getting. But Benning has stated he’d want to maintain and re-signal Gudbranson. He nonetheless has time to rethink that stance.
(Editor’s notice: Gudbranson on Tuesday signed a 3-yr, $12 million extension with the Canucks.)
Vendor: Vegas Golden Knights
Top precedence: Buying and selling James Neal
Deadline outlook: Guess you did not see that one coming, did you? Right here is the state of affairs the Golden Knights are presently in. They’re operating away with the Pacific Division, an eight-level lead on second-place San Jose. With most of their remaining video games at residence, it is a protected gamble Vegas goes to win the division. That being stated, the concept George McPhee goes to hit the market flooring as a serious purchaser for an enlargement franchise appears exhausting to consider.
Previous to the beginning of this season, when everybody thought Vegas was going to be actually dangerous, Neal was forged as a participant that would definitely be moved by the deadline. He is a free agent this summer time, and is on tempo to exceed 30 objectives. Is McPhee going to actually do that? In all probability not.
Wouldn’t it be utterly shrewd and the most effective transfer for the general well being of the franchise? Sure, it will.