2017 NHL Trade Deadline Preview

With a few days off between their next game and a week to go before the trade deadline, I thought it would be good to do a quick summary/overview of where each team stands as far as whether they are buyers or sellers.  As most NHL followers know, the trade deadline is the point at which every team determines whether they are all in for the playoffs and the Cup, or if they are all-in for the future.  Unrestricted free agents and draft picks are often the pieces to move but sometimes players with time still left on their contracts will be shipped around too.  Perhaps what makes this particular trade deadline unique is (at the time of this writing) that all but two teams are within ten points of a playoffs.  While this makes for interesting hockey for the last six-to-eight weeks of the season, it makes wheeling and dealing more expensive as demand is up and supply is down.

What I have for you is a rundown of all thirty NHL teams and a ranking of one through five, one being “selling/long-term project”, five being “buying/all-in for the Cup”, and three being “somewhere in-between”  and gave each ranking six teams to make it more difficult and interesting for me.  Grab some popcorn, because it’s a big read.


Arizona Coyotes (7th in Pacific, 13th in West, 13 points out of playoff spot)


  • Four UFAs (notables: Martin Hanzal, Radim Vrbata, Shane Doan), five RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 29th out of 30 ($41.518M)


It’s hard not to pity the Coyotes, who seem constantly in rebuild mode, because they really have not been able to find a stable footing for their franchise.  Nevertheless, the Coyotes are going to have a lot of money to play with next season so they might as well start shedding contracts now.  Case in point: they shipped off RHD Michael Stone to Calgary for a third-rounder this year and a conditional fifth-rounder next year if he re-signs with the Flames.  They have a good number of talented young players and a potential top-five draft pick will almost certainly help them in further developing their farm system.  They must be looking forward to the future, if only because the present is not great.

Carolina Hurricanes (8th in Metropolitan, 16th in East, 10 points out of playoff spot)


  • Six UFAs (notables: Ron Hainsey, Bryan Bickell {IR}), four RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 30th out of 30 ($40.605M)


Ten points is not an insurmountable gap to make up in 27 games, but any hope the Hurricanes have of making up that gap is dwindling.  Losers of their last five and seven of ten make it less likely that GM Ron Francis will be encouraged enough to make any overtures at the playoffs.  Unfortunately for them, they haven’t got a lot to offer in exchange for prospects or picks; Hainsey also has a limited no-movement clause which will make shipping off the veteran defenseman a little trickier.  However, Carolina has a steadily improving prospects pool already and another high lottery pick this year will certainly help with that.  Having the most salary cap space is also great, but with Carolina as a mostly undesirable place to play means they have to grow from within.

Colorado Avalanche (7th in Central, 14th in West, 27 points out of playoff spot)


  • Seven UFAs (notables: Jarome Iginla), four RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 21st out of 30 ($52.065M)


The Avalanche are in such miserable shape that the players being brought up the most in trade rumors are the guys with at least two more years left on their contracts: LW Gabriel Landeskog and C Matt Duchene.  Unlike Arizona and Carolina, Colorado hasn’t managed their finances as well and they’re supposedly keen to shed the ~$11.6M those two players are worth.  Adding injury to insult is the loss of young defenseman Nikita Zadorov to an ankle fracture.  The Avs need to rebuild, and if they can ship off Landeskog and Duchene for picks, prospects, cap relief…anything they can get will put them on the right track.  Of course, Colorado is in the driver’s seat for the first overall pick, and while that’s never a guarantee, it’s certainly a welcome consolation prize for being so terrible.

Dallas Stars (6th in Central, 12th in West, 6 points out of playoff spot)


  • Seven UFAs (notables: Patrick Sharp, Patrick Eaves, Ales Hemsky {IR}), seven RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 26th out of 30 ($49.695M)


Like Carolina, the Stars are not so far out of the playoff race that they couldn’t make a play for it, but it would likely be a fool’s errand without upgrades on defense or in goal.  There had been a lot of buzz about Dallas being a possible landing spot for Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury, but that would be tough for either team to swing without Dallas sending back Kari Lehtonen, who like Fleury has a limited no-movement clause.  What’s most likely to happen here is that Dallas may find someone to take Eaves and his twenty-one goals for some prospect/pick package, or Sharp and his leadership (at $5M).  Dallas is one of the League’s many bubble teams, neither good enough to make a serious playoff run nor bad enough to get a quality draft pick out of it, and they’ve lost seven of their last ten, so they may as well get as close to the bottom as they can and play for next year.

Detroit Red Wings (8th in Atlantic, 15th in the East, 8 points out of playoff spot)


  • Three UFAs (notables: Brendan Smith), six RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 4th out of 30 ($66.897M)


The last season at Joe Louis Arena hasn’t gone great for the Red Wings, who look pretty hopeless with Frans Nielsen, Jonathan Ericsson, and Jimmy Howard out for the rest of the year.  Detroit also has a ton of money tied up in their roster, which doesn’t bode well for them with six more RFAs next season.  They also have four players who will have no-movement clauses next season.  Maybe if everyone is healthy, Detroit is a playoff team, and could be a decent one at that…but the three UFAs they have account for just $8.1M.  They need more breathing room if they’re going to restock with their young guys and offseason acquisitions.  Smith has been linked as possibly going to the Penguins; could they be tempted by Derrick Pouliot and a first-rounder? (The Penguins are likely hoping anyone will be tempted to take Pouliot.)

Vancouver Canucks (6th in Pacific, 11th in West, 4 points out of playoff spot)


  • Five UFAs (notables: Ryan Miller), six RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 17th out of 30 ($56.675M)


The winds of change are blowing in the Pacific Northwest.  Vancouver has just five players signed to contracts beyond next season, which means they have a lot to plan for.  Is it worth trying to eke out a playoff run? Probably not, but the problem for Vancouver is the lack of movable pieces.  Alex Burrows would have been trade bait, but he has a full no-movement clause so, unless he waives that, he and his $4.5M contract are not going anywhere.  There’s a further $20M tied up in the Sedin brothers and Loui Eriksson, who also have full no-movement clauses.  Vancouver has some good young guys coming up, so if they can move some contracts and make room for the future, it would probably be better than ending up with a middle-first-rounder and a brief playoff appearance.


Buffalo Sabres (6th in Atlantic, 12th in East, 4 points out of playoff spot)


  • Six UFAs (notables: Dmitry Kulikov, Brian Gionta, Cody Franson), four RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 28th out of 30 ($48.368M)


Dan Bylsma’s Sabres are doing fine in their rebuilding efforts; a good mix of veterans and young guys with more prospects coming through the system, and a healthy chunk of money to play with next season.  What is confusing are their basic metrics: 25th in goals per game, 15th in goals against; 2nd in power play percentage and 2nd-to-last in penalty kill.  I guess that’s how you explain being just on the outside of a playoff spot.  Kulikov is due for a raise at 26 years old and he’ll be highly coveted for a rental, but I have a sneaking suspicion that, unless a top prospect is on the other end, Buffalo sits pat on him.  A two-way forward with PK chops, maybe like Martin Hanzal, would possibly be a good addition for them.

Calgary Flames (4th in Pacific, 8th in West, 1 point into playoff spot)


  • Seven UFAs (notables: Dennis Wideman, Kris Versteeg), five RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 22nd out of 30 ($51.175M)


The Flames future is looking pretty good.  That some of their prospects are already filling in on the pro level and mixing in well with the veterans speaks to that.  They are certainly looking to buy, as they already have in acquiring Michael Stone from Arizona for draft pick(s), but what they may need is another scorer.  Are they strong enough to make it through the first round without one? Perhaps not.  They did surprise some by making it through to the second round a couple of years ago.  Another forward who can fill the net could make Calgary a much more serious threat for a playoff run.  In either event, Calgary is in great shape and doesn’t have to do anything to impress anyone, but a good run in the playoffs will set the kids up with some experience for the (very near) future.

Nashville Predators (4th in Central, 7th in West, 3 points into playoff spot)


  • Five UFAs (notables: Mike Fisher), three RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 16th out of 30 ($55.656M)


Nashville is becoming a model of mediocrity.  They’re right in the middle of their division, right in the middle of the playoff discussion, they’re even five and five in their last ten games.  They’ll end the season right in the middle of the salary cap rankings.  They haven’t been able to get out of the second round of the playoffs despite having a very talented goaltender.  Something has to give or they’re going to continue to be on the bubble, and that’s no place to be if you want to move forward.  The buzz has them as a possible buyer for Colorado’s Matt Duchene, which would at least move them in an offensive direction.  They do have some talented young guys coming along nicely, and perhaps they’ll bring the team further in the years to come.  Unfortunately Fisher has a full no-trade clause and his is the only big contract coming off the books next year, so they’ll have to play it smart with their finances for the next few years.

New Jersey Devils (7th in Metropolitan, 14th in East, 6 points out of playoff spot)


  • Four UFAs (notables: Kyle Quincey), six RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 25th out of 30 ($50.124M)


That the Devils are only six points out of a playoff spot despite being second-to-last in goals per game is a testament to just how well Cory Schneider has played this year.  Adding Taylor Hall and Beau Bennett apparently didn’t fix their offensive issues! New Jersey is likely not a serious threat to make the playoffs but they could look to add some young depth or draft picks to their squad as Ray Shero continues his rebuilding project.  Unfortunately the Devils have four players making over $5M locked into full no-trade clause contracts for at least the next two seasons (then Kyle Palmieri adds his $4.65M cap hit to that list), which is nice for consistency and all but perhaps belies a lack of faith in their prospects.  Quincey is attracting attention from suitors League-wide, so that might be a good opportunity to help invest in the future.

Tampa Bay Lightning (7th in Atlantic, 13th in East, 6 points out of playoff spot)


  • Three UFAs (notables: Ben Bishop, Brian Boyle), six RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 12th out of 30 ($60.436M)


You’ve gotta pity the Lightning.  Injuries to Bishop, Steven Stamkos, and Ryan Callahan (among others) have derailed their franchise for going on two years.  Bishop will likely walk as Andrei Vasilevski has made himself even more valuable than Bishop, and four of their RFAs are due for big raises (Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Andrej Sustr, and Jonathan Drouin).  Healthy, they are a threat for the Cup, but they will likely miss the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.  Boyle is being eyeballed as a relatively low-cost option at center and he has a good two-way game.  It would not surprise me at all to see Boyle move and Tampa can get some more draft picks to resupply their farm system.

Winnipeg Jets (5th in Central, 9th in West, 1 point out of playoff spot)


  • Four UFAs (notables: Drew Stafford), five RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 17th out of 30 ($54.415M)


The Jets have a bright future ahead of them, what with having arguably one of the best farm systems in the League.  That doesn’t necessarily help them right now, but they are already knocking on the playoff door with two of their top defensemen, Toby Enstrom and Tyler Myers, out due to injury.  The future will come at them very fast though, as next year they have five UFAs and seven RFAs; only six players are signed beyond 2018.  Being without Enstrom and Myers has definitely hurt the Jets on the ice, as they are 27th in goals against and 26th in penalty kill.  It might not be a bad idea to find some defensive help if they want to make a run at the playoffs, but Myers might not make it back in time for it to even matter.  The sooner he makes it back, so long as the Jets remain in the hunt, the better for Winnipeg’s young guys as they can perhaps get some playoff experience.


Chicago Blackhawks (2nd in Central, 2nd in West, 15 points into playoff spot)


  • Five UFAs (notables: Brian Campbell, Andrew Desjardins), six RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 5th out of 30 ($65.752M)


Chicago’s in the hunt for yet another Cup, behind only the Wild in the West.  They’re healthy too, so unless something changes on that front they’ll be a threat for at least the Conference Finals again after an early dismissal last year.  The Blackhawks’ biggest problem is their penalty kill; while they are the 25th-least penalized team in the league, they suck at killing those few penalties and sit 28th in that metric, worse than the Avalanche, Canucks, and Coyotes.  Ouch! Their power-play isn’t great either, at 17th, but the Blackhawks are notorious (if only anecdotally) for taking it relatively easy in the regular season and then flooring it in the playoffs, so it could just be a ruse.  I suspect they’ll maybe make a depth addition to shore up their special teams and be their typically deadly selves come the postseason.

Columbus Blue Jackets (3rd in Metropolitan, 3rd in East, 13 points into playoff spot)


  • One UFA (notables: Sam Gagner), five RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 3rd out of 30 ($67.697M)


The Blue Jackets certainly have the look of a team that is in the mood to win the Cup in the next season or two.  They have eight players signed beyond next season, and only three on no-movement contracts, so it’s now or never.  After nearly tying the Penguins’ League record for consecutive wins (they got to 16), they have neither won nor lost more than two games in a row…which works fine when you’ve built yourself a nice buffer like they did.  Special teams might be a question mark for them; they’re last in power-play opportunities (4th in power play percentage) and fourth-to-last in power-play opportunities against (11th in penalty killing); is the lack of experience a detriment when you’re very efficient at them?  They’re the second-youngest team in the League; will the lack of experience be a detriment? They could be on the lookout for a veteran presence to help guide them in the playoffs.

Los Angeles Kings (5th in Pacific, 10th in West, 2 points out of playoff spot)


  • Two UFAs (notables: none), six RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 13th out of 30 ($60.229M)


Anyone with questions about why the Kings are potentially missing the playoffs needn’t look further than in goal.  Jonathan Quick has been out of action all season, so Peter Budaj and former Penguin Jeff Zatkoff have had to fill in for the two-time Cup winner.  Quick is expected to return sometime around March, and the Kings will be hoping Quick will have little-to-no rust if they are to make a run in the playoffs.  Strangely, it’s been the Kings’ offense that has been lacking, as they sit 24th in goals per game and 23rd in power play percentage.  What’s perhaps hurt the most is that the Kings have lost ten one goal games, one less than the League-leading Coyotes.  They need to find a goal scorer; if they can, and if they can make the playoffs, and if Quick plays great after his injury, they are capable of going deep in the postseason.

Minnesota Wild (1st in Central, 1st in West, 20 points into playoff spot)


  • 3 UFAs (notables: none), six RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 10th out of 30 ($60.639M)


Minnesota is having a great season, and it seems about time that they get themselves further than the second round for once.  Having spent almost right up to the salary cap, the Wild seem determined to make sure this is the year it happens.  They have six players on no-movement contracts (four are on full NMCs), and their expiring RFAs add up to ~$8M, so they’re not in a great position to be wheeling and dealing.  They really don’t have much to improve upon; their even-strength and special teams rankings are all in the top ten.  Right now their mission should be to stay the course, try and stay healthy, and figure out how to beat the Blackhawks in the playoffs.

New York Islanders (5th in Metropolitan, 10th in East, tied for second Wild Card)


  • Two UFAs (notables: Dennis Seidenberg), three RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 1st out of 30 ($68.898M)


In years past, the Islanders have shown themselves to be stingy, tough opponents, but this year that stinginess has evaporated and they sit at 24th in goals against per game.  Their special teams play, which has also been a strength for them, is also disappointing as both their power play and penalty kill are in the bottom third in the League.  They’ve also been dealing with injuries to players like Travis Hamonic and Mikhail Grabovski, key players who aren’t just skilled but are leaders on the Isle.  It’s tough sledding ahead for New York, who are not enjoying their new home in Brooklyn (and their fans are just not coming out, at a rate of 82.2% of capacity, good for 2nd-to-last in the League).  Finally, as if that weren’t enough, they have the most money tied up in contracts of any team and they’ll head into 2017-18 in the same position unless they make some moves.  They have played the entire on the edge of a skate blade, and now, if they’re going to make a play for the playoffs, they almost certainly have to do it with the team they have.

Philadelphia Flyers (6th in Metropolitan, 11th in East, 3 points out of playoff spot)


  • Seven UFAs (notables: Mark Streit, Michael Del Zotto), four RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 24th out of 30 ($50.896M)


It’s been a back-and-forth kind of season for the Flyers.  After starting the season 9-10-3, they rattled off 10 straight wins, only to then lose 12 of 15.  Like the Islanders, they’re underachieving, but unlike the Islanders, Philadelphia has the cap room and the expiring contracts to unload for and prepare for next season and beyond.  39-year-old Streit and 26-year-old Del Zotto are worth ~$9M between them, so perhaps it would be best to offload one or both of them and get at least some draft picks instead of losing them for nothing.  The Flyers may be prepared to move on from them anyway as they have a couple of highly-touted defensemen coming up through the system, but perhaps they see benefit in making a playoff appearance to get experience for the young guys already in Philly.  Perhaps, but in any event the sooner the Flyers can pop their bubble, the better (for them, anyway) because the Metropolitan division is not getting any weaker.


Boston Bruins (5th in Atlantic, 9th in East, tied for second Wild Card spot)


  • Two UFAs (notables: John-Michael Liles), five RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 7th out of 30 ($61.44M)


Boston cut Claude Julien loose on February 7 and won four straight.  The Bruins hadn’t won four straight since November 2015.  It’s hard not to think that Julien’s axing was a long time coming, but the Bruins’ front office has to take some blame for Boston’s ineffectual play.  They have seven players with no-movement clauses including Pylon Supreme Zdeno Chara.  The good news for Boston is that they have breathing room ($4.3M) against the cap so they are definitely in play for rentals.  Look for them to try and add another goal-scorer to help bring their 17th-ranked offense up.  It’ll just be a question of how much that offense is worth to the Bruins’ front office (and maybe GM Don Sweeney won’t continue his comedy of errors in acquiring it).

Edmonton Oilers (2nd in Pacific, 4th in West, 10 points into playoff spot)


  • Three UFAs (notables: Kris Russell), five RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 19th out of 30 ($52.963M)


Eleven years have passed since the Oilers last made the playoffs (lost to the Hurricanes in the Finals, in fact).  What a difference Connor McDavid makes.  Of course he’s not the only player improving the Oilers’ fortunes, but he’s damn good.  Cam Talbot turned into the goaltender Edmonton needed, and the blue line corps has not fallen apart, helped along by picking up Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall (what a steal).  If they can find a winger to shore up their depth…but that’s a problem League-wide.  I don’t expect them to be shopping Russell, who doesn’t have great metrics but blocks tons of shots, but if they could flip him for a depth forward I’m sure GM Peter Chiarelli would be willing to go for that.  Either way, Edmonton is legit and only getting legit-er.

Montreal Canadiens (1st in Atlantic, 5th in East, 6 points into playoff spot)


  • Four UFAs (notables: Andrei Markov, Alexander Radulov), four RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 27th out of 30 ($48.951M)


The good news for Montreal is that they have a lot of money coming off the books for next year (~$20M).  The bad news is that Montreal hasn’t got much room to improve right now.  The Atlantic Division is such a mess that the division leader will likely face either the Rangers or the Blue Jackets.  This isn’t even mentioning that the Canadiens fired Michel Therrien and hired Claude Julien straight out of his removal in Boston.  Julien is fairly satisfied with the Canadiens, feeling that the team just needs some tweaking, especially in the puck possession department.  I’m afraid Mr. Julien is talking out of his ass; Montreal is fourth in Fenwick percentage and third in Corsi percentage (the team he left behind in Boston was first in both).  What they do need is stop playing in their own end: they’re 23rd in offensive zone start percentage.  If they can fix that and get their offense going, they’ll be in much better shape and a much tougher opponent in the playoffs

Pittsburgh Penguins (2nd in Metropolitan, 2nd in East, 16 points into playoff spot)


  • Six UFAs (notables: Chris Kunitz, Trevor Daley), three RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 8th out of 30 ($61.420M)


Pittsburgh has a whopping eight players with no movement clauses on their contracts, which is kinda fine since they’re almost all guys the Penguins want to keep around for years.  The Penguins have two main issues heading into the trade deadline: waning health (particularly on the blue-line), and, of course, the conundrum of how to keep Matt Murray with the expansion draft looming.  The Penguins have been heard to be suitors for just about any defenseman who would be better than Derrick Pouliot, who is actually turning into a budding left-winger; have you seen his stickhandling on some of those goals?! All joking aside, the Pens’ defensive depth is being challenged and exposed by injuries and if they could obtain help there without damaging their impressive offense (1st in the League) or its future, they will have better hopes for repeating.  As it stands though, I believe the price for such help, particularly for a defending Cup champion, will be too steep for GM Jim Rutherford…unless it means trading away Marc-Andre Fleury, two-birds-one-stone style.

San Jose Sharks (1st in Pacific, 3rd in West, 13 points into playoff spot)


  • 3 UFAs (notables: Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau), 3 RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 20th out of 30 ($52.82M)


The defending Western Conference champions are once again in the playoff discussion, spearheaded by an outstanding season by Brent Burns, who ought to be in the Hart discussion.  (He’s tied with Sidney Crosby in offensive point shares, for crying out loud.)  With Jumbo Joe and Marleau in the last year of their contracts, the Sharks are itching to win one for their veterans.  Impressively they still have a couple million dollars to play with and help their offense (15th in goals per game, 22nd in power play).  One possible concern is Martin Jones; while the Sharks are 3rd in goals against, Jones has regressed a little bit from last season and is surprisingly average.  It’s not a large deviation, but with Jones being the foundation of the Sharks defense, he has to pick up his play and the Sharks must be sure to cut him a break now and then.  They are in a fairly comfortable position to make the playoffs, so that wouldn’t be out of the question.

Toronto Maple Leafs (3rd in Atlantic, 7th in East, 1 point into playoff spot)


  • 4 UFAs (notables: Roman Polak), 3 RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 18th out of 30 ($53.159M)


Toronto’s resurgence was hardly a surprise, particularly after winning the Auston Matthews sweepstakes, but now the focus must be on defense.  The Leafs are 23rd in goals against, with Frederik Andersen facing the heaviest workload of his career.  He’s been good enough to keep the Maple Leafs in contention, but if Toronto wants to make a surprising run in the playoffs, he’s going to need to play better, or get help.  Their spotty defense can be excused somewhat due to its youth (average age: 25.7 y/o) and missing Stephane Robidas, but it can’t be excused completely.  The good news for Toronto: they have $28M in cap room right now.  They could go out and trade for an expiring contract…or they could go get a guy with years on his contract if they wanted (like one of Colorado’s trade baits).  They may choose to play it safe though, as they have only four players signed beyond next year, and a lot of RFAs due for raises.  One way or another, Toronto’s star is (finally) rising.


Anaheim Ducks (3rd in Pacific, 5th in West, 8 points into playoff spot)


  • Three UFAs (notables: Jonathan Bernier), two RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 2nd out of 30 ($68.578M)


Anaheim has finished first in the Pacific Division four years in a row with mixed results but, after going to the Conference Finals in 2015, they were dumped in the First Round by Nashville last year. Bruce Boudreau was done and Randy Carlyle was brought back to perhaps rekindle what worked when they won the Cup in 2007.  Anaheim’s defensive game is strong (6th in the League in goals against, 7th in penalty kill) but their offense is not so great at 21st.  Perhaps being the 4th-most penalized team in the League is disrupting their ability to get an offense going? Ultimately Anaheim needs to shake things up and stay relevant because they have both Calgary and Los Angeles nipping at their heels and they’ve already been eclipsed by Edmonton.  They need another scorer, badly.

Florida Panthers (4th in Atlantic, 8th in East, tied for second Wild Card spot)


  • Three UFAs (notables: Jaromir Jagr, Jakub Kindl), four RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 14th out of 30 ($59.908M)


#jagrwatch2017? Seems like an annual rite of passage that fans (well, probably mostly Penguins fans) get hopeful that #68 skates for Pittsburgh again, but nothing happens each year.  I would not hold my breath again this year, as Mr. Jagr seems to like the South Florida weather.  The Panthers had an interesting first half of the season: injuries to key contributors Aleksander Barkov, Jussi Jokinen, Alex Petrovic, and of course Jonathan Huberdeau depressed Florida to the point that head coach Gerard Gallant was fired.  Was it a reasonable decision? Probably not, but them’s the breaks.  Now that the team is healthy, the challenge is to get back to the playoffs and show that they’re better than the first round exit they suffered last year.  They have the cap room to play with if they want to make a big splash and tell the League they’re serious about winning now.

New York Rangers (4th in Metropolitan, 4th in East, 12 points into playoff spot)


  • Zero UFAs, six RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 6th out of 30 ($63.15M)


It’s been an off season for Henrik Lundqvist, perhaps being haunted by visions of Penguins flying at him left and right in his sleep, and as Lundqvist goes, so do the Rangers.  Offensively, the Rangers are behind only Pittsburgh in goals scored, and defensively they are doing their best at suppressing shots, sitting 21st in shots against, but 20th in save percentage.  This is what happens when you stick Dan Girardi and his $5.5M/year contract on the ice for 19 minutes a night.  Are they in the market some defensive help? Maybe, but they don’t have a ton of cap room and there aren’t many appealing pieces on their roster that they can swap out.  Their path in the playoffs might be fairly easy if they stay on the Atlantic division side of the bracket, so maybe they will just need to hunker down and protect Hank better.  Still, they’ve gotta be looking for a way to replace Girardi’s minutes.

Ottawa Senators (2nd in Atlantic, 6th in East, 4 points into playoff spot)


  • Five UFAs (notables: Tommy Wingels), five RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 9th out of 30 ($60.687M)


A late tough break for the Senators as they lose Bobby Ryan for almost the rest of the season to a broken finger, coming just after losing another right winger in Mark Stone to Jacob Trouba’s elbow.  Staying healthy has been a challenge for the Senators, as they’re also without Clarke MacArthur for the season.  They have gotten another good year out of Craig Anderson (3rd in save percentage, 10th in goals against average), and they’re 6th in goals against, but the offense just isn’t there.  Erik Karlsson is doing everything he can, as usual, but there’s only so much he can do (despite playing almost 27 minutes a night).  If the Sens could add a sniper and drag their shooting percentage up some, that would probably be the best thing for them right now.

St. Louis Blues (3rd in Central, 6th in West, 3 points into playoff spot)


  • Three UFAs (notables: Kevin Shattenkirk, Patrik Berglund), two RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 10th out of 30 ($60.494M)


St. Louis is coming into the trade deadline having won 7 out of 10 (after firing Ken Hitchcock and promoting former Penguins coach Mike Yeo) and looking like they’re finally coming together in time for another playoff run.  Goaltender Jake Allen had a rough start to the year but appears to be rounding back into form.  Yet there is a tenuous hope that the Blues will make a deep run in the playoffs, or else they will lose Shattenkirk to free agency for nothing.  The price for Shattenkirk? Reportedly a prospect AND at a conditional first/second-round pick.  They are under deep pressure to make a move, either to improve enough to be a tough playoff team, or sacrifice and get ready for the future.  I don’t think they’ll trade a defenseman when they need more defense (21st in goals against), so all they can hope for is a smooth postseason.

Washington Capitals (1st in Metropolitan, 1st in East, 19 points into playoff spot)


  • Four UFAs (notables: T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams), seven RFAs
  • Projected salary cap ranking next season: 23rd out of 30 ($51.063M)


This is it for the Washington Capitals.  (Okay, maybe not IT it, but getting close to it.)  They are en route to their second consecutive President’s Trophy, they have dominated the League in doing so, they’re second in goals for, first in goals against, in the top six in power play and penalty kill…they have no excuse not to get beyond the second round.  So, why are they a five on my ranking? Because the pressure for them to succeed is so overwhelming they might need to add either some depth or a big name to ensure that they are in the Cup discussion.  So, could they swing a big move? With hardly any room against the cap, it might take some doing, but acquiring a skilled defenseman might be just what the Capitals need to make it all the way.

tl;dr summary

  1. Arizona
  2. Buffalo
    New Jersey
    Tampa Bay
  3. Chicago
    Los Angeles
    NY Islanders
  4. Boston
    San Jose
  5. Anaheim
    NY Rangers
    St. Louis

Thanks for reading!