Top to Bottom: Checking in with each team as the Trade Deadline approaches

We’re four months deep into the NHL season and the trade deadline is right around the corner. Time flies, I know. By now, it’s become clear for most organizations as to whether they’ll be buying or selling at the deadline, but there are still a handful of teams that aren’t very good but are right in the mix, floating around in some kind of grey area. In this month’s check in, I’m going to break down where each team is at as we head into the home stretch, and who should be opting to sell their assets and start focusing on the future, and who should be interested in buying to fuel their playoff aspirations.  

On the seventh of every month, I’m going to go through and break down each team in the league, determining which teams are legitimate and which ones aren’t, who’s had terrible luck and who’s riding something unsustainable to success, and where each team is likely to finish the season. Yes, you can look at the league’s standings to see who’s doing well and who isn’t, but there’s more to success than just a team’s record. Here’s what I said last month, for future reference. This month, I’m going to mix it up a little bit and worry about who should consider themselves buyers or sellers at the trade deadline based on their likelihood of making the playoffs.

ANAHEIM DUCKS 

25-18-7 (3rd in Pacific), 53.4 Corsi For Percentage (4th), 46.7 Goals For Percentage (26th), 98.2 PDO (30th) (All stats at even strength) 

Remember when the Anaheim Ducks were 1-7-2 through their first 10 games? Remember when they had a team shooting percentage of like 4.6 and were averaging just over one goal for per game? Remember when people actually thought their season was dead before the end of the October? I think everybody forgot that the Ducks are playing in the Pacific Division, and it really isn’t all that difficult to make up six points on the Arizona Coyotes in five months. The Ducks still have horrific puck luck, and their possession numbers suggest that if things start bouncing in their favour, they could be one of the league’s better teams. Thankfully they didn’t panic and make a stupid move when everyone was trying to convince them their season was over in October. 

Verdict: The Ducks are a playoff team although they’re still underachieving, and will probably be quiet at the deadline

ARIZONA COYOTES 

24-22-6 (4th in Pacific), 46.6 CF% (28th), 48.6 GF% (20th), 100.9 PDO (5th) 

The Coyotes have been a nice story all season, but they’re finally starting to slip back to where they belong. Their peripheral numbers have been poor all year, and it’s slowly starting to catch up to them. The last time I checked up on them, they were sitting in second place in the Pacific Division, and now, since the Sharks and Ducks have pulled themselves together, they’ve fallen down to fourth. I’m sure that as the deadline approaches and the Coyotes start to sell some of their veteran assets for draft picks and prospects, the decline will continue to speed up. 

Verdict: The Coyotes are lottery bound and should sell what they can at the deadline. 

BOSTON BRUINS 

28-18-6 (3rd in Atlantic), 49.5 CF% (18th), 51.5 GF% (9th), 100.0 PDO (15th)

All season, the Bruins have been one of the league’s most potent offensive teams. And after a very, very uncharacteristically poor start to the season, Tuukka Rask is playing like the former Vezina Trophy winner that we know and love, and as a result, the Bruins are in the top third of the league in goals for percentage. It was expected, judging by the direction Don Sweeney seemed to be taking the team over the summer, that the Bruins could be selling at the trade deadline, but right now, they’re tied for second in the Atlantic Division with Tampa Bay and look like a legitimate threat in the playoffs. I doubt they’ll be trading prospects or picks to help fuel their playoff run, but I also have a hard time imagining them selling anything substantial from their current group either. If they do make a move, though, they could be inclined to deal impending UFA Loui Eriksson and one of their two first round draft picks for something to help them now and in the future. 

Verdict: The Bruins are a playoff team who won’t be buyers are sellers, but could look to make a hockey deal that helps them in the short and long-term. 

BUFFALO SABRES 

21-26-6 (7th in Atlantic), 47.8 CF% (22nd), 43.0 GF% (30th), 98.6 PDO (28th) 

There isn’t much to talk about in regards to the rebuilding Buffalo Sabres. At this point in time last year they were a complete disaster, just coming off a 14-game losing streak that stretched all the way through January. This year, while they’re obviously nowhere near the playoffs, they’ve been much better, which is definitely a positive sign for their rebuild. The trades they made to acquire Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane, and Zach Bogosian left their prospect cupboard a little empty, so they’ll likely look to sell some veterans who aren’t a part of the long-term plans. Names like David Legwand, Josh Gorges, and Jamie McGinn could draw some interest around the league, but they won’t return anything of significant value. 

Verdict: The Sabres should look to sell redundant assets at the deadline for their rebuild. 

CALGARY FLAMES

23-25-3 (6th in Pacific), 47.8 CF% (23rd), 47.0 GF% (25th), 99.2 PDO (23rd) 

The Flames have relatively similar ugly peripheral stats to what they did last year, but they haven’t had the same puck luck. As a result, they’re a long shot to make the playoffs even though they play in a pretty weak division. Also, even if they did squeeze in again, they would just be setting themselves up for a pounding in the second round from the L.A. Kings as a best-case scenario. At this point, they would be best to sell some of their soon-to-be UFA assets like Jiri Hudler, David Jones, Kris Russell, and Karri Ramo for picks and prospects at the deadline. They’re also going to have to signed Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan to new RFA deals this summer, so some of these free agents are going to have to be let go regardless. 

Verdict: The Flames don’t have last year’s magic anymore and should sell on some of their assets while they can. 

CAROLINA HURRICANES 

24-21-9 (6th in Metro), 52.8 CF% (6th), 47.0 GF% (24th), 98.4 PDO (29th)

The Hurricanes are in a really weird situation. Heading into the season, based on where they finished in last year’s standings and judging by what they did (or didn’t do) over the summer, it seemed obvious that they would be setting up a garage sale in February that would feature all of their soon-to-be free agent assets. But for whatever reason, the Canes have clicked this year, and they’re right in the middle of the playoff race in the Metro Division. I mean, not only are they doing well in the standings, but their possession numbers have been bordering on elite too. Their biggest trade chip is obviously Eric Staal, but the Canes could also move Kris Versteeg, Nathan Gerbe, John-Michael Liles, Cam Ward, and others if they do decide to sell. Personally, I think it would be ill-advised to stray away from the course and try to chase the playoff dream right now, because it’ll look really, really bad if they come up short and end up letting Staal walk for nothing in July.

Verdict: The Hurricanes should stick to the plan and sell their assets. 

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

36-16-4 (1st in Central), 51.4 CF% (10th), 49.5 GF% (16th), 99.6 PDO (21st) 

The Hawks have finally overtaken the Dallas Stars as the alpha team in the Western Conference and they don’t appear to be slowing down. I’m pretty sure Patrick Kane has already been awarded the Hart Trophy, Corey Crawford has been as solid in net as he ever has been before, and well, they just keep on winning. It’s pretty obvious that the Hawks are going to be buyers at the deadline, but as we all know, they don’t exactly have much cap room to fool around with. So if they’re going to add somebody good, like Dustin Byfuglien or Andrew Ladd for a 2010 Hawks family reunion, they’re going to have to get creative. It may involve having the other team retain some money, or maybe they’ll have to smooth talk the other team into taking on a bigger contract, like Bryan Bickell. Regardless, I’m sure the Hawks will be looking to upgrade. 

Verdict: The Hawks are a contender and will be buyers at the deadline, but they’ll have to be creative to make it work financially. 

COLORADO AVALANCHE 

27-24-4 (5th in Central), 43.4 CF%, 48.4 GF% (22nd), 100.9 PDO (6th) 

For some reason, the Avalanche are in the middle of the playoff race in the Central Division. To be honest, I assumed their season was over back in, like August, but despite having the worst possession numbers in the game, they keep winning. I’m sure, since it’s the Avs, that they view themselves as a legitimate playoff team, and as a result, they’ll look to buy at the deadline. That may involve selling prospects and picks for a short-term addition, or it may involve selling on some of their forward depth to add a good, puck moving defenceman. But whatever it is, I doubt they’ll be doing the smart thing and selling for the future. 

Verdict: The Avs should be looking to sell, but they’ll likely be fooled by their place in the standings and instead look to buy. 

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS 

21-28-5 (8th in Metro), 47.6 CF% (24th), 46.4 GF% (27th), 99.4 PDO (21st) 

Man, what a sad state of affairs we have in Columbus. Yet again, the Blue Jackets are one of the league’s worst teams, but this time, there’s really no excuse. They haven’t been hammered by the injury plague, they were active in trying to improve their roster over the summer, and they appeared to be ready to take a big step this year, but it hasn’t happened. This team looks rotten, and there’s really no easy solution. Brandon Dubinsky, David Clarkson, Greg Campbell, Matt Calvert, Fedor Tyutin, Jack Johnson, and Sergei Bobrovsky are all locked up for at least two more years at a combined cap hit of $31 million, which is simply too much to be paying for players who aren’t that good. The Jackets are laced with bad contracts and they’re a ways away from being  competitive team, so this isn’t something that can be fixed at the deadline. They’re going to have to do some serious soul searching this summer. 

Verdict: The Jackets are a disaster and should look to pawn off some bad contracts at the deadline, but this won’t be a quick fix. 

DALLAS STARS 

33-15-5 (2nd in Central), 53.7 CF%, 53.2 GF% (5th), 100.1 PDO (13th) 

The Stars, after a fantastic start to the season, have run into a bit of a wall lately, and as a result, have been passed in the standings by the Chicago Blackhawks. Obviously the world isn’t coming to an end, or anything, but Jim Nill should certainly be looking to make an upgrade or two at the deadline. Their forward core is fantastic, and is still scoring goals at an elite level, so it would make sense for the Stars to look for some more solutions on defence so they can give Alex Goligoski and John Klingberg a little bit of a rest. 

Verdict: The Stars are a contender and should look to add to their blue line at the deadline. 

DETROIT RED WINGS

26-18-8 (4th in Atlantic), 50.5 CF% (15th), 52.5 GF% (6th), 101. PDO (4th) 

The Wings are right on the bubble of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, meaning their never-ending playoff streak could be in jeopardy. It’s hard to say whether they’ll be active at the deadline or not, because they don’t really have a tremendous amount of assets to sell if they do decide to actively improve their roster. That said, I really doubt they’ll be selling, because, well, it’s the Wings, and they don’t do that. What they could do, though, is try to get somebody to take Jimmy Howard and his $5.292 million cap hit off their hands, which would be ideal as Mrazek needs a new RFA deal this summer.

Verdict: The Wings are a bubble team, and may not have the assets to be buyers at the deadline. 

EDMONTON OILERS 

21-27-5 (7th in Pacific), 48.8 CF% (19th), 44.2 CF% (29th), 98.8 PDO (27th) 

For like three days people were talking about the possibility of the Oilers making a run at making the playoffs, but after back-to-back beatings at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders, we’ve found ourselves back on planet earth. The return of Connor McDavid has rightfully fuelled some excitement in Edmonton, but injuries to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom make it virtually impossible for the team to climb over the entire Pacific Division with just a couple months to go. With the deadline approaching, the Oilers will certainly dangle some soon-to-be free agent assets like Teddy Purcell, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they even offered a significant piece like Jordan Eberle to give them more long-term help on defence. But I expect that if/when a major move comes, it’ll be in the offseason.

Verdict: The Oilers are moving in the right direction, but they aren’t there yet, and should sell on whatever assets they don’t view as long-term solutions. 

FLORIDA PANTHERS 

31-15-6 (1st in Atlantic), 47.2 CF% (25th), 55.4 GF% (3rd), 102.2 PDO (3rd) 

I still have a hard time believing the Florida Panthers are leading the Atlantic Division. But here we are, in February, and unless it’s all a dream, the Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo led Panthers are putting up the best season ever seen in Sunrise. The underlying numbers don’t support it, but thanks to elite goaltending and some good puck luck, the Panthers are well on their way to a very unexpected playoff berth. Anyways, I expect the Panthers will be looking to buy so they can fuel some fan hype and really turn this playoff push into something more than just a tugboat running on fumes, but I would be surprised if they used any of their current roster players to do it. 

Verdict: The Panthers should be looking to buy, but they should also be careful to mess with the success they’re having. 

LOS ANGELES KINGS

31-17-3 (1st in Pacific),  56.1 CF% (1st), 50.2 GF% (14th), 99.0 PDO (24th) 

The Kings are one of the league’s best teams this season, and their peripherals more than back it up. They have the best possession numbers in the league, and despite having pretty poor puck luck, they’re right in the middle of the pack in terms of scoring at even strength. That said, I doubt they’ll do much at the deadline this year. They obviously aren’t going to be selling, because, you know, they’re good, but it’s going to be hard for them to be buyers as they don’t have a very deep prospect pool and they’ve already given away a good chunk of their draft picks this year. Oh well, sometimes there’s no reason to mess with success. 

Verdict: The Kings are a contender and will probably stand pat at the deadline. 

MINNESOTA WILD

23-20-9 (6th in Central),  48.0 CF% (21st), 51.5 GF% (10th), 100.6 PDO (9th) 

In terms of complete disasters, the Minnesota Wild are near the top of the list. That may sound somewhat hyperbolic as the Wild are still in the middle of a playoff race, but they’ve lost 10 of their last 11 games, and if they keep it up, they’ll be completely out of it by the time the deadline rolls around. Their biggest trouble has been scoring, as Thomas Vanek, Jason Pomminville, and others have massively underachieved this season, so the Wild will likely look to use some of their depth on defence to help inject some life into their forward core. That said, it’s hard to say whether a deadline addition can really turn this ship around, but they’ll certainly be trying. 

Verdict: The Wild have been a major disappointment this year and will look to buy at the deadline to help turn things around. 

MONTREAL CANADIENS

25-24-4 (5th in Atlantic), 53.2 CF% (5th), 49.5 GF (15th), 99.0 PDO (25th) 

It’s been a tale of two seasons in Montreal. At the beginning of the year, they looked like one of the league’s elite. The first time I checked, they were off to a 12-2-1 start and had the highest goals for percentage at even strength of any team in the league. Then Carey Price got injured, and the Habs slowly trended downwards before completely falling off a cliff. Since the beginning of December, they’ve only won six games, and they’ve found themselves on the outside of the playoff picture in the Atlantic Division. Obviously a large part of their success hinges on how quickly Carey Price comes back, but improving their goaltending situation probably won’t help them score goals, which is something they’ve had a rough time doing over the past couple months. Honestly, it may be best just to pack it up, shut Price down, start looking forward to the draft, and trying again next year. Tom Gilbert, Tomas Fleischmann, and Dale Weise could be interesting low-key buys for contending teams at the deadline, but if the Habs want to make major changes, they should wait until the summer to do so. 

Verdict: The Habs have a few assets they could sell, but they shouldn’t make a panic move halfway through the season. 

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

25-20-8 (4th in Central), 53.7 CF% (3rd), 49.4 GF% (17th), 98.8 PDO (26th)

The Nashville Predators are a good team who’s vastly underperformed based on their peripherals. They’re one of the best possession teams in the league, they have an elite defensive core, and their offence is much improved thanks to the addition of Ryan Johansen, but surprisingly, horrible goaltending has been their undoing this season. Pekka Rinne, who finished second in Vezina Trophy voting last year, has had far and away the worst season of his career, and as a result, the Preds look more like a bubble team than a contender. I doubt they’ll be active at the deadline, since they already made a big splash swapping Seth Jones for the aforementioned Johansen, so we’ll have to wait and see if Rinne can figure himself out, otherwise the Predators are going to be facing another early exit in the playoffs. 

Verdict: The Predators will likely be quiet at the deadline. 

NEW JERSEY DEVILS

26-20-7 (4th in Metro), 46.3 CF% (29th), 49.3 GF% (19th), 100.7 PDO (7th) 

The New Jersey Devils, like the Hurricanes, for some reason, are right in the heart of a playoff race despite being a rebuilding team. All season, they’ve been riding one line, which consists of Mike Cammalleri, Lee Stempniak, and Kyle Palmieri, and, of course, they’ve also been riding the excellent play of Cory Schneider in net. Just as I suggested with the Hurricanes, though, the Devils should be looking to sell high on some soon-to-be free agents like Stempniak as they continue to build for the future. 

Verdict: The Devils are overachieving and should be sellers at the deadline. 

NEW YORK ISLANDERS 

26-18-6 (5th in Metro), 51.0 CF% (12th), 50.9 GF% (11th), 100.2 PDO (12th) 

Garth Snow is in an unenviable situation right now. The Islanders are on their way to another playoff berth, but they have to deal with the reality of two key players, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen, hitting free agency at the end of the season, and one of their best defencemen, Travis Hamonic, requesting a trade to play closer to his home in Manitoba. So at a glance, it looks like the Islanders should be buyers, because they obviously want to capitalize on John Tavares’ team friendly contract while they can, but they also don’t want to let Okposo and Nielsen walk as free agents, resulting in them coming out empty handed. What Snow could do is get creative and look for a team interested in a excellent forward like Okposo (Minnesota) that could return a defenceman to replace Hamonic, who gets dealt to a team in need of a defenceman (Edmonton) that can return a forward to replace Okposo immediately. That would help them in the short and long-term, but unfortunately, this isn’t a video game. 

Verdict: The Islanders are going to be buyers at the deadline, but expect them to pull off something creative. 

NEW YORK RANGERS 

29-18-5 (2nd in Metro), 48.2 CF% (20th), 57.4 GF% (2nd), 102.5 PDO (1st)

The New York Rangers been the epitome of a good puck luck team this season, as their 9.7 team shooting percentage has helped them massively overachieve their peripherals to a respectable place in the standings. They currently sit second in the Atlantic Division despite owning poor possession numbers and receiving pretty average goaltending. Obviously these aren’t the same Rangers we watched reach the Eastern Conference Finals last season, but they’re still a playoff team, and as a result, it’s hard to imagine them being sellers. They could look to move impending free agent Keith Yandle before he walks this summer, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if they kept him around for one final kick at the can. In terms of buying, they don’t have a hell of a lot in terms of prospect depth, so anything more than a low-key, depth addition is probably out of the question.

Verdict: The Rangers will likely stand pat at the deadline. 

OTTAWA SENATORS

24-23-6 (6th in Atlantic), 47.0 CF% (27th), 48.5 GF% (21st), 100.7 PDO (8th)

The Senators aren’t a very good team, that much we know. But unfortunately for them, they don’t really have many assets that would be worth selling come deadline time. I mean, yeah, they have intriguing players, but none that they would be wise to sell. Bobby Ryan, Kyle Turris, etc. are all locked up for the next few years and the Sens aren’t going to be in a rush to get rid of them. They could field offers on, like, Chris Neil, I guess? I don’t know. I don’t expect much from the Senators come deadline time. 

Verdict: It’ll probably be a boring trade deadline in Ottawa unless they make an out of the blue hockey swap involving a core player. 

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS 

23-19-9 (7th in Metro), 49.8 CF% (17th), 49.3 GF% (18th), 100.5 PDO (11th) 

Ron Hextall has done an impressive job in cleaning up some of the mess left for him by his predecessor, but he still has a ways to go before we can safely say that the Flyers are completely out of cap hell. Though they’ve played pretty well as of late, their underlying numbers suggest that this team isn’t good enough to do any damage in the playoffs, so the idea of being buyers should be out of question. Hextall should look to continue to unload ugly contracts if possible, and sell some soon-to-be free agents for draft picks and prospects as the organizations looks to get cheaper and younger. Who knows, maybe he can trick somebody into taking Andrew MacDonald’s albatross contract if they lie and say he’s planning on retiring at the end of the season.

Verdict: The Flyers should be sellers at the deadline. 

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

26-18-7 (4th in Matro), 51.7 CF% (8th), 50.6 GF% (13th), 99.6 PDO (18th)

It’s about time. Sidney Crosby has been heating up as of late, and the Pittsburgh Penguins are starting to look like the team we were all giddy to see after they acquired Phil Kessel last summer. It’s been a rough ride, but the Penguins are right in the thick of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference, and if they continue to play well, they should have an easy time shaking off the Devils and grabbing at least a wild card position this spring. Obviously some help on defence would be ideal, but the Penguins don’t have much in terms of ammunition available after the Kessel deal, so it’ll be virtually impossible to make a major addition. That said, even a low-key depth move would be an upgrade on some of what they have right now. 

Verdict: The Penguins are finally heating up, but they don’t have the resources to make a big splash. 

SAN JOSE SHARKS

27-20-4 (2nd in Pacific),  50.8 CF% (13th), 50.6 GF% (13th), 99.4 PDO (22nd) 

The Sharks certainly aren’t the contenders they used to be, we all know that by now. They’re right in the middle of the pack in possession and production, and as a result, they’re a very good bet to make the playoffs. Earlier this season Patrick Marleau asked for a trade so that he could play on a team with a legitimate shot of winning the Stanley Cup, and ironically, selling him for some depth on defence would probably be the best thing the Sharks could do into order to turn themselves into anything close to resembling a contender. Besides, it’s hard to imagine them being sellers unless they really want to blow it up and deal key players like Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski, which is obviously unlikely. 

Verdict: The Sharks aren’t contenders, but they can make some depth moves to improve their likelihood of doing some damage in the playoffs. 

ST. LOUIS BLUES

30-17-8 (3rd in Central), 51.4 CF% (11th), 52.4 GF% (7th), 100.1 PDO (14th)

The Blues really need to make something happen here. David Backes is set to become a free agent this summer, and Kevin Shattenkirk will hit the open market one year later, so the window of opportunity this core group has of winning is closing pretty quickly. With Backes and Shattenkirk, they’re kind of in a similar position as the Islanders. Obviously they’re huge pieces to their success right now, but they also don’t want to end up empty handed with nothing to show for either of them. The team’s biggest need is scoring help, but I’m not sure if trading an excellent offensive defenceman like Shattenkirk would be the best way to go about dealing with that issue. Regardless, the Blues will be buyers at the deadline, whether it involves moving core pieces of their roster right now, though, is yet to be seen. 

Verdict: The Blues will be buyers as their window of opportunity is quickly closing. 

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

29-18-4 (2nd in Atlantic), 51.9 CF% (7th), 53.5 GF% (4th), 100.5 PDO (10th) 

I’ve spoken about general managers in ugly situations, but easily the one in the most unenviable position right now is Steve Yzerman. The Lightning are months removed from a Stanley Cup Finals loss, and with virtually their entire roster from last year left intact, it was expected they would be back to the big dance again this season. Also, this time last year, we were all talking about this beautiful dynasty that was starting to come into fruition in Tampa, but now, we’re already gushing over how Steven Stamkos will look in a Leafs uniform. And rightfully so, I mean, it doesn’t take a genius to tell that Stamkos and the Leafs are match made in heaven, and that the star sniper would more than likely be ecstatic to return to his home town of Toronto. To further compound matters, Jonathan Drouin asked for after a very difficult start to his NHL career, which is obviously a pain in the ass for somebody who already has enough on his plate. I mean, sure, the Lightning can sell Stamkos right now, as he would absolutely command a massive return as one of the best rental players to hit the market in years, but the way the Lightning have been playing, it would seem silly to let him go before what could be another deep playoff run. It’s really hard to say what the Lightning will do come deadline time, but I’m guessing the only name that ends up being moved is Drouin, as Yzerman opts to roll the dice on keeping Stamkos around.

Verdict: The Lightning are a contender who will have an interesting deadline. 

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

19-23-9 (8th in Atlantic), 50.3 CF% (16th), 45.5 GF% (28th), 99.2 PDO (22nd) 

Prepare yourselves for the biggest yard sale seen in a long time. The Maple Leafs spent all summer stockpiling depth players who could eventually be used as ammunition to acquire draft picks come deadline time. I mean, every time we saw something like “The Leafs sign Daniel Winnik,” it essentially read “The Leafs have signed a mid-round pick in the 2016 NHL entry draft.”  Outside of names like Nazem Kadri and Morgan Rielly, the Leafs will be answering calls on just about everyone on the roster. Whether it’s a depth player like Brad Boyes, or a high-end talent like James van Riemsdyk, the rebuilding Leafs will certainly be interested in selling so long as it helps set them up for future success. 

Verdict: The Leafs will be selling, obviously. 

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

20-20-12 (5th in Pacific), 47.0 (26th), 48.1 GF% (23rd), 100.0 PDO (17th)

The Canucks aren’t completely out of the race, but you would have to be completely delusional to believe that they have a chance of accomplishing anything in the playoffs even if they do manage to squeak their way in. They have some of the league’s worst underlying numbers, and, well, as you’d expect, they have a difficult time scoring goals and they aren’t too good at keeping the puck out of the net. All told, they’re right at the bottom of the league in regulation wins, and if not for the existence of the loser point, they would be completely out of it by this point. Anyways, the Canucks are in a decent position as sellers which can help augment their youth movement. They already boast a nice core of young players like Bo Horvat, Jake Virtanen, and Jakob Markstrom among others, and with attractive assets in Dan Hamhuis and Radim Vrbata set to his free agency this summer, they’re in a prime position to add to that list. I mean, just look through the list of teams above and you’ll find a handful looking to acquire players just like Vrbata and Hamhuis, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for the Canucks to get some kind of bidding war going on their two prime bargaining chips. 

Verdict: The Canucks should be looking to sell at the deadline. 

WASHINGTON CAPITALS

38-9-4 (1st in Metro), 50.5 CF% (14th), 59.0 GF% (1st), 102.3 PDO (2nd) 

The Washington Capitals look like the team to beat this year. They score like crazy thanks to both the league’s best pure sniper and some incredible offensive depth, and they have a damn good goalie to keep the puck out of the net. Honestly, there aren’t too many holes on this roster, as it’s pretty damn close to perfect you can get in a cap league. But with Brooks Orpik on the injured reserve, the Caps should kick tires on a replacement that can log difficult minutes on the blue line. Like, I don’t know, maybe that Hamhuis guy I mentioned a minute ago. 

Verdict: The Caps are the team to beat, but they have a few holes that should be filled. 

WINNIPEG JETS 

23-26-3 (7th in Central), 51.7 CF% (9th), 51.5 GF% (8th), 100.1 PDO (13th) 

I feel like the Jets really missed the boat on an excellent opportunity. They had an really solid group of players, but for reasons beyond me, they opted to keep the likes of Mark Stuart, Grant Clitsome, and Ondrej Pavelic around while letting players you would actually want like Michael Frolik and Lee Stempniak walk. Now, unfortunately, they’re either going to have to sell Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien at the deadline, or potentially risk losing them for nothing this summer. It’s sad, obviously, because it looked like there was something good going on in Winnipeg, but some poor management and player personnel decisions really butchered it and forced the Jets into what appears to be a rebuild process. 

Verdict: The Jets will be sellers at the deadline. 

  • Spydyr

    Nice article ,lots of work went into it. I have to admit I only read the verdicts.

    The Oilers have to start making some decisions and moves. Enough with staying the course the team needs to improve in too many areas.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    After changing the coaches, GM and half the players the Oilers find themselves tied for 30th place.

    They can’t just stay the course without addressing the need for “D”.

  • Simmerdown

    My optimism is no longer sufficient to mask the truth. The oilers are still a disaster lacking depth and heart to play the game the way it needs to be played. It’s time to dump the AHL caliber players that are rampant on this team. SELL, SELL, SELL. We might have to pay someone to take Jultz. I’m OK with that.

  • Please! In the name if all that us hoky, will the Oilers stop playing Justin Schultz!! He cannot play. I repeat, he cannot play. If any of the Oilers front office is reading this (doubtful, of course)just know, you aren’t getting anything of use for him, so there’s no use sewering your team by force feeding him minutes. Stop the madness.

  • Oilers need to shed all the players who cannot play or are too soft.

    The 2 weekend loses showed a team with not much skill and little push back from the core.

    There was more effort from Gryba and Kassian than the so called skilled leaders.

    I don’t know what McDavid said to Eberle but I hope he said “Get your azz moving and do something or get your sorry azz out of town you floater”

    • Time Travelling Sean

      What about those two wins we just got?

      It’s not like the Habs or Islanders are huge, hulking teams and the Sens and BJs are weaklings.

      I’m willing to forgive the players because they actually started pretty well, from what I saw, but by the time the period was half over they’re down by three because of useless goaltending.

      No amount of top end defencemen and Selke nominees are going to stop that Tavares shot, but it still went in.

      • #12MorrisLukowich

        If you really look at the play of the Oilers in the Columbus and Sens games you will see the many flaws even though they won handily

        I saw it and so did may of the external commentators.

        Todd M said as much after the Blue Jacket game

  • Gary Empey

    Too many sellers and too few buyers. I don’t think the Leafs will get much for players with expiring contracts like PA Parenteau, Boyes, Arcobello etc. May not even be able to trade some of this group.
    Komarov could fetch more but even for him there is too much competition. I don’t see them trading JVR or Kadri.
    If they can pull something off with trading Bozak or Phaneuf, that would be amazing!
    Prepare to be disappointed, Leaf fans!

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    PC should get busy and start improving the team.

    They continue to play AHL caliber players who eventually make a major error which results in a goal and completely demoralizing the rest of the players who give up and we lose another game.

    If this happens once in a while. I am convinced that the Oilers would respond.

    But this has now been happening for years.

    I expect a major shakeup of the team before the start of next season.

    Obvious Players I would like to see gone – Korpikoski, Lander, Gazdic, Nikitin, Schultz, Nilsson, Ference, Klinkhammer

    Others that have to go

    Pouliot – to soft and too many stupid penalties.

    Purcell – Even with a beter stick he can be replaced with someone cheaper.

    Yakupov – He is a jitterbug and may get beter with a fresh start.

    Eberle – great but too soft. needs a team with a great defense

    Fayne – AHL defenseman

    • Cheap Shot Charlie

      If you think Eberle has to go because he’s too soft you should add RNH to your list.

      Nikitin, Klinkhammer & Ference are all pretty much gone now, why do you care if they are getting paid or not?

      Lander, Gazdic, Schultz & Purcell (at his current contract) are all pretty much guarantees to be gone next year. How soon do you expect them to be gone?

      You listed 13 players that Chai should replace. That’s a lot of NHL talent to discover.

  • Gary Empey

    Excellent article, I really enjoyed the birds eye view of all the teams in the league. Great synopses of each team’s performance, their underlying metrics and the managerial implications as they move into the deadline and offseason.

    ????

    • Dwayne Roloson 35

      Have you been paying attention to hockey this year? Do you remember last year at all? The oilers are better and the culture is changing for the better.

  • For Pete's Sake!

    After Saturday’s disaster game against the Canadiens, when Schultz was Jultzing all night long with one weak play and give-away after another, some fans were saying that if McLellan played Jultz against the Islanders, “what kind of message would he be sending to the rest of the team.”

    Well they got the message Todd. Loud and clear. It doesn’t matter how bad you play on this team, if you’re part of the so-called rotten “core” of this team, you can get away with just about anything.

    The result was the Sunday afternoon massacre in Brooklyn. Thanks a lot McLellan. That one was on you. So what are you going to do now? Can’t even have a practice today to kick some of the lazy, useless loser asses on this team.

    Your failure to do something about Jultz after Saturday’s game got you the result on Sunday. So what are you going to do now? The problem has just got ten times worse.

    • Dirty30

      I remember when Gillis was chasing Shultz and got vilified when Justin chose the Oilers over the Canucks.

      Canucks fans should be sending Gillis boxes of chocolates for dodging that disaster.

        • For Pete's Sake!

          That’s B.S. The vaunted, “can do no wrong” Detroit Red Wings signed Danny DeKeyser in a similar situation and put him right to work on their blueline. He’s worked out fine because he’s a character player who gives a damn.

          I’m sorry but Schultz’s failure is on him. He’s had five different coaches, coddling him, teaching him, putting him on the PP when he didn’t belong there and generally giving him prime ice time he didn’t deserve because of how badly he was playing.

          He just will not play NHL hockey. He’s soft and he won’t change and that’s on him. End of story. The Swiss League is beckoning Jultz. Sayonara.

  • You just got LITT up!

    “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills” Mugatu

    Verdict: the oilers are moving in the right direction. How can anyone honestly say or believe this? We are currently tied for last place again! So basically we’re visually better? After 10 years of being the laughing stock of the league … And we’re still last. Jay feaster was actually right … Just wandering the desert. Blow it up (again) except mcdavid and nurse.

  • You just got LITT up!

    After being dragged through Kevin Lowe’s “I think I know a thing or two about championship teams” era, the Oilers still have a glaring need for defence and continue to be blown out and exposed as a fragile team.

    I would hope that whatever happens they target defence in the first round…trade the pick for once FFS.

    Canucks are garbage.

    Flames are garbage.

    TO and MTL are garbage.

    See you guys at the top of the draft!

  • You just got LITT up!

    I do have to give props to the Sens.

    Whether it is trades or mid round draft picks they seem to uncover gems like Stone and Karlsson, make trades for young talent like Turris, and generally bring up young talent at all positions to thrive at the NHL. They are never the worst or best team in recent years but continue to develop exceptional assets.

    Damn good scouting and player evaluation that only a few teams seem to achieve consistently.

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    Doesn’t really look like much will happen at the deadline. There are way more sellers than buyers which will lower the value any player has.

    The summer is really the best chance of making major roster improvements.

    • Buula

      Remember. This is what the bloggers and general consensus is advocating. What is NOT counted for are the historical playoff teams “with a history of winning” and a “winning environment” who have playoffs as their goal.

      I will GUARANTEE at least one of the recommended sellers will have a GM who decides to have a brainwave and sell all the 2nd round picks for the next 5 years just to be swept by Washington or Chicago.

      I hope Montreal and Berg don’t have that mentality, but I’m really hoping for news on a Vrbs/Hammer trade and not “Hamhuis is a great mentor and a character guy, so we gave him a 2yr 5 mil extension.”

  • For Pete's Sake!

    I watched a few Ducks games last week and their play just stands out in such high contrast to teams like the Oilers and Canucks.

    The Ducks forwards are fast and do not hesitate to get in on the forecheck. They are turning pucks over and winning battles like crazy.

    The Oilers have skill and speed but they have a lot of small forwards and the battle level is just not there in comparison.

    The defence also needs to contribute at both ends. Watching some Canucks games it’s a freaking joke watching the D fail again and again to clear their zone, at the same time the forwards are drifting around in no man’s land, leaving open passing and shooting lanes, letting players walk right in and back them right in.

    Then the forwards try to go on the offence and can’t retrieve a single dump in. The Sedins don’t play with edge, which will be eternally disappointing to Canadian hockey fans. I love watching Henrik pass when he is wide open 20 feat in front of the net with a cleat shot and lane to drive said net.

  • #12MorrisLukowich

    Article is excellent to show how all teams are looking for talent towards the same end.

    Those that say “blow up the oilers core” are completely ignorant. How, what, to who? You would get completely fleeced and be back ten years.

    Present oilers have to play the hand they are felt and make strategic moves. No stud d man is coming. So play to our strengths, build up the Center. A group of 2-3 d men can be as strong as a number one.

    Do something, work on creating balance but it’s not easy.

  • #12MorrisLukowich

    The goal in this years draft should be for the Canucks to land at least one of Chychrun, Juolevi, Bean, Sergachev or McAvoy. After those boys, the talent level drops off steeply.

    Any deadline moves which help give the club assets to trade up to land one of those youngsters is a win.

  • Gary Empey

    You mentioned Hamonic in a 3-way deal, involving a defenceman from Minnesota to replace him for the NY Islanders, with an Edmonton forward being the other piece.

    Why would Hamonic want to leave Minnesota to come to Edmonton, when Edmonton is almost twice the distance to Winnipeg then Minneapolis is ? Unless he definitely wants to play in Canada.

    That’s a legitimate question, because I also heard Minnesota mentioned when there was talk of his request to move closer to his family. Minnesota is not stacked on D to the point they couldn’t use Hamonics’ ability.

    People say after the Buff signing, then Winnipeg is no longer interested in Hamonic. I’m not sure you’re right about that. I think Tyler Myers might come into play here. good defenceman. Good contract for 3 more years. Same age. Shoots Right. I would not be surprised at this move.

    Just an opinion.

    • Gary Empey

      Nice one.

      @everyone: No one is interested in moving young assets for rental players at this point. There is a lot of teams interested in moving their crap players for young assets and high draft picks.