- As rumors ramp up ahead of Monday's deadline, we break down the nine most pressing needs around the league.
The NHL trade deadline is just a few days away and the league’s top teams are readied for an arms race, attempting to match the Flames and Sharks in the West and the Lightning in the East. With plenty of big names still available, teams will look to bolster their playoff odds before the Feb. 25 deadline passes. Here’s a look at teams’ top needs going into Monday:
1) Ottawa Senators: Assets
The Ottawa Senators, sitting with a league-worst 49 points, have the biggest landscape-shifting players available at the deadline. They found a new home in Columbus for Matt Duchene, but the future of Mark Stone and 20-goal-scorer Ryan Dzingel is not yet decided. Once they determine whether or not Stone will re-sign, the Senators need to strip their lineup bare and acquire future assets. Ottawa didn't have a first round pick after trading it away to Colorado for Duchene in 2017, but got a lottery-protected one for 2019, plus a conditional first-round pick for 2020.
Potential trade partners: Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, Boston Bruins, Columbus Blue Jackets.
2) Nashville Predators: Top-Six Forward
After losing P.K. Subban, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson for stretches due to injury, the Nashville Predators are finally healthy. Still, the Predators have posted a 5–4–1 record since the All-Star break, and less-than-inspiring depth at forward after their first line hasn’t helped. Sitting at 31st in the NHL with a 12.6 PP%, the Predators need an infusion of scoring and skill. They missed out on the Western Conference Final last season, but this team could be good enough to bring Nashville its first Stanley Cup in the franchise’s 20-year history.
Potential deadline targets: Artemi Panarin (Columbus), Mark Stone (Ottawa), Wayne Simmonds (Philadelphia).
3) Winnipeg Jets: Second-Line Center
The Winnipeg Jets top line has been of the best in the NHL with Nikolaj Ehlers healthy, but their second unit has struggled to find consistency. Bryan Little and Patrik Laine haven’t produced. Last year, the Jets added Paul Stastny at the deadline and posted a 15–4–1 record the rest of the way, outscoring opponents 69–54 with Laine scoring 13 goals. The Jets need a similar remedy this season, but it will cost them if they decide to go after Matt Duchene.
Potential deadline targets: Kevin Hayes (New York).
4) Columbus Blue Jackets: Franchise direction
Besides the Ottawa Senators, the Blue Jackets hold the most tantalizing trade deadline pieces in Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. Now equipped with Duchene, however, the Blue Jackets could be going all in for a playoff run. General manager Jarmo Kekäläinen has made it clear that even after acquiring Duchene, he will only trade Panarin if it is the right offere that is more than just a few draft picks. This is one of their most talented rosters and they haven’t won a playoff series in their 19-year history, but the Blue Jackets have been moving in and out of the final wild card spot in the East, and Panarin and Bobrovsky will become unrestricted free agents.
Potential trade partners: Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars.
5) Dallas Stars: Top-Six Forward
The Dallas Stars launched a 5–1–1 hot streak coming out of the All-Star break but they’ve tailed off since, losing three in a row while being outscored 14–3. Goaltending and a young blue line, anchored by John Klingberg, Esa Lindell and Miro Heiskanen, have kept the Stars in playoff contention but a lack of scoring threatens their postseason hopes. The Stars have scored the third-fewest goals in the NHL. While they do have Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov and Jamie Benn, none of their other wingers have tallied more than 20 points this season.
Potential deadline targets: Artemi Panarin (Columbus), Mats Zuccarello (New York), Ryan Dzingel (Ottawa), Michael Ferland (Carolina).
6) San Jose Sharks: Goaltending
When the San Jose Sharks are playing their best hockey, there is no team in the league besides the Tampa Bay Lightning that can match their sheer top-to-bottom firepower. The same can’t be said for their goaltending, though. No goalie with at least 40 starts has a lower save percentage than Martin Jones (.896), and his GAA against current playoff teams sits at 3.16. That won’t be good enough in the playoffs. Jones has a penchant for surrendering softies and the Sharks would be better off with league-average goaltending.
Potential deadline targets: Jimmy Howard (Detroit), Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus), Ryan Miller (Anaheim).
7) Toronto Maple Leafs: Top-Six Defenseman
Nazem Kadri’s concussion has shifted William Nylander to the third line and put their offense in flux for the time being, but the team’s biggest need is to shore up the fringes of their defense. The Leafs bolstered their blue line by acquiring Jake Muzzin from the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 28. Still, for a team with legitimate Stanley Cup hopes, Muzzin, Nikita Zaitsev, Jake Gardiner and Travis Dermott don’t inspire a ton of confidence as bottom-four defensemen ahead of a potential playoff series with the Bruins or Lightning.
Potential deadline targets: Radko Gudas (Philadelphia), Adam McQuaid (New York).
8) Vegas Golden Knights: Top-Nine Winger
The Vegas Golden Knights, the defending Western Conference champions, currently sit in third in the Pacific division and have upwards of $16 million in cap space to play with. The Golden Knights will continue to ride 34-year-old Marc-Andre Fluery until he breaks down. Their defense is good enough—Vegas is top-five in PK% and shots against per game—but the offense could use a boost. William Karlsson has cooled down from his 43-goal season, and another winger could help prime the Golden Knights for another postseason run.
Potential deadline targets: Mats Zuccarello (New York), Ryan Dzingel (Ottawa), Michael Ferland (Carolina).
9) Boston Bruins: Top-Nine Winger, Top-Six Defenseman
The Boston Bruins acquired third-line center Charlie Coyle from the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 20, and aside from David Pastrnak’s thumb injury, they finally seem to be healthy heading into a postseason run. In their last 10 games, the Bruins are 9–0–1 and are averaging 3.6 goals per game. Coyle will slot in as the team’s third line center, but the Bruins can still improve around the edges. Zdeno Chara is logging 21 minutes per game and some blue line help wouldn’t hurt. Last year’s wild miss on the Rick Nash trade might temper Boston’s willingness to land on of this year’s more costly players.
Potential deadline targets: Mark Stone (Ottawa), Chris Kreider (New York), Wayne Simmonds (Philadelphia), Alex Chiasson (Edmonton), Radko Gudas (Philadelphia).