Will Montreal make another move? Will Tampa Bay shore up an injured blueline? And is this the beginning of Toronto’s rebuild? THN’s Trade Deadline preview for the Atlantic Division breaks down what could go down on deadline day.
If there’s going to be trade action in any division, the Atlantic is the one to watch. With Montreal, Tampa Bay and Detroit fighting for top spot, Boston and Florida trading punches in the Wild Card and Toronto set for a full rebuild, there’s potential for the entire division to be shaken up on March 2. Even if the star players, such as Maple Leafs Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf, aren’t moved at the deadline, there are going to be changes coming to the Atlantic as the teams either push for a shot in the wide open Eastern Conference or shuffle the deck and build for the future.
Montreal Canadiens The Canadiens are unique in that when it comes to underlying statistics, the team has been far from phenomenal, yet their record says otherwise. The play of Carey Price, maybe the best goaltender in the world at this very moment, has Montreal atop the Atlantic and could be enough to carry them to the Stanley Cup final. If anything holds Montreal back, though, it will be their porous defense. The Canadiens’ blueline is home to quite a few big, bulky defenders and it would be wise for the Canadiens to add another puck mover to the mix. They could also benefit from some added scoring punch up front, as their 157 goals ties them for 22nd in the NHL. GM Marc Bergevin isn’t afraid of making a deal at the deadline as witnessed by his acquisitions of Tomas Vanek and Michael Ryder in the past. Already the Canadiens have gone out and acquired Devante Smith-Pelly from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Jiri Sekac and that could be just the start of Bergevin’s moves. Prominent UFAs: Manny Malholtra ($850k), Sergei Gonchar ($5 million), Mike Weaver ($1.75 million) Key RFAs: Alex Galchenyuk, Michael Bournival, Christian Thomas, Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi. Likely to move: Lars Eller ($3.5 million), P.A. Parenteau ($4 million), Alexei Emelin ($4.1 million) are all trade options now that Sekac has been dealt. Needs: Top-six forward; puck-moving defenseman. Possibilities: Chris Stewart (BUF), Curtis Glencross (CGY), Antoine Vermette (ARI); Jeff Petry (EDM), Kimmo Timonen (PHI) Hot rumor: Montreal has been actively shopping Eller and Emelin, but Emelin’s injury will hurt the Canadiens’ ability to move him. Salary Cap room: $932k Tampa Bay Lightning Though the Canadiens may be sitting atop the Eastern Conference, the Lightning are still considered by many to be the favorites in the East. They have the firepower in Steven Stamkos, the depth with Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat, a solid defense with Anton Stralman and Victor Hedman and great goaltending with Ben Bishop. However, injuries hit their blueline and the team lost Radko Gudas and Matt Carle. Losing two of their top-six defensemen could hurt come playoff time when rolling your entire lineup is of utmost importance. Prominent UFAs: Brenden Morrow ($1.55 million) Key RFAs: Brett Connolly, Mark Barberio, Andrej Sustr Likely to move: Prospects and picks are most likely to be sent the other way as Tampa Bay is ready to compete now. Needs: Rental defenseman, depth defenseman Possibilities: Andrej Sekera (CAR), Zybnek Michalek (ARI), Jan Hejda (COL) Hot rumor: The Lightning might look at Sekera for the right price, writes Pierre Lebrun. Salary Cap room: $3 million Detroit Red Wings Another season, another year of the Red Wings positioning themselves for a playoff run. Ho hum. Just when it feels like the old guard is about to move on and the fresh faces are due for a struggle, a few top-flight prospects show up and rejuvenate the Wings. There are a few reasons why Detroit has become one of the model franchises and their yearly success is a big one. The Red Wings have reportedly been in the hunt for a right-handed defenseman for the past two seasons. Many thought they were looking hard at acquiring Tyler Myers from the Buffalo Sabres, but the Winnipeg Jets stepped in an acquired the former Calder Trophy winner in the Evander Kane deal. However, there remain a few options for the Red Wings. Prominent UFAs: Jonas Gustavsson ($1.85 million) Key RFAs: Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Jurco, Joakim Andersson, Teemu Pulkkinen, Brendan Smith Likely to move: Detroit has plenty of good prospects, and a run in the wide-open East might require trading some of them. Jakub Kindl ($2.4 million) has been rumored to be available. Needs: Top-four defenseman Possibilities: Andrej Sekera (CAR), Jeff Petry (EDM), Mike Green (WSH), Keith Yandle (ARI) Hot rumor: Helene St. James reported Detroit may be happy standing pat than spending prospects. Salary Cap room: $1.8 million Boston Bruins Whether or not Boston is a buyer or a seller is entirely dependent on how hot GM Peter Chiarelli feels his seat is. The team has a strong enough core to make a deep playoff run, but with David Krejci sidelined for nearly the rest of the regular season, the Bruins need for a top-six scoring forward has increased tenfold. The Bruins are three points up on the Florida Panthers and the Philadelphia Flyers are charging hard. From the time the season began, the Bruins have been looking to add to their top-six and if there was ever a time to pull the trigger it’s now. Prominent UFAs: Gregory Campbell ($1.6 million), Daniel Paille ($1.3 million), Carl Soderberg ($1 million), Adam McQuaid ($1.567 million), Matt Bartkowski ($1.25 million) Key RFAs: Reilly Smith, Craig Cunningham, Jordan Caron, Ryan Spooner, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug Likely to move: The Bruins can’t mortgage the future, so picks will be on the move. Needs: Top-six forward Possibilities: Chris Stewart (BUF), Tomas Fleischmann (FLA), Michael Ryder (NJD), Jiri Tlusty (CAR) Hot rumor: Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe reported three potential targets could be Mike Green, Keith Yandle or Jaromir Jagr. Salary Cap room: $1.68 million Florida Panthers Florida has been unexpectedly good this season and, playoffs or not, there’s a lot for this team to grow on going forward. It’s going to be important for the team to keep building on their young core and acquiring some depth pieces for prospects that may not fit into the plans could go a long way in the future. On top of a solid core of young forwards, the team has veteran netminding in Roberto Luongo and solid defensemen in Brian Campbell, Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson and youngster Aaron Ekblad. Prominent UFAs: Tomas Fleischmann ($4.5 million), Scottie Upshall ($3.5 million), Sean Bergenheim ($2.75 million), Tomas Kopecky ($3 million) Key RFAs: Jonathan Huberdeau, Jimmy Hayes Likely to move: Bergenheim has requested a trade, Tomas Kopecky is a UFA that could draw interest for a low-round pick. Picks and prospects could also be dealt if the Panthers go after a big fish. Needs: Goal-scoring forward Possibilities: Phil Kessel (TOR), Curtis Glencross (CGY) Hot rumor: The Kessel rumor is about as big as it gets for the Panthers. Salary Cap room: $2.5 million Ottawa Senators The Senators have some good, young pieces, but even still they’re a few years away from being a contender. Once their prospects mature, they may have a shot, but the best thing the Senators can do right now is stock the cupboard with draft picks and hope for a few good selections that can make the team a competitor for years to come. Signing defenseman Marc Methot was a solid move by GM Bryan Murray and now Ottawa has to build on that and look to the future. Prominent UFAs: Erik Condra ($1.25 million) Key RFAs: Mika Zibanejad, Alex Chiasson, Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Jean-Gabriel Pageau Likely to move: Chris Phillips ($2.5 million), David Legwand ($3 million) and Chris Neil ($1.9 million) are veteran presences that could be on the move as rentals. Needs: Prospects and picks Possibilities: Moving Neil and/or Phillips could land the Senators any combination of either. Hot rumor: After being traded for the first time in his career last deadline, Legwand could be on the move yet again. Salary Cap room: $12.2 million Toronto Maple Leafs The Maple Leafs are heading in the wrong direction fast since the firing of Randy Carlyle. They have only three wins under Peter Horachek and president Brendan Shanahan has reportedly gotten the go-ahead for a full on rebuild. No one – save Morgan Rielly – is untouchable, according to some reports. Kessel and Phaneuf are two intriguing options for any team. Whether or not they’re moved at the deadline will likely be dependent on the price teams want to pay. Prominent UFAs: Daniel Winnik ($1.3 million), David Booth ($1.1 million), Olli Jokinen ($2.5 million) Key RFAs: Nazem Kadri, Richard Panik, Jonathan Bernier Likely to move: Who isn’t? It could be a firesale at the deadline for the Leafs. Look for each of Winnik, Booth and Jokinen to possibly be shipped out to the highest bidder. Needs: Draft picks and prospects. The Maple Leafs need to start from scratch. Possibilities: Trading Kessel could help kickstart the rebuild and it appears that he’s on his way out of Toronto. Hot rumor: Roman Polak may only last one season in Toronto, as he has been drawing interest. Salary Cap room: $1.73 million Buffalo Sabres What Buffalo has already been able to accomplish for their future is incredible. By trading Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, two prospects and a draft pick for Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian, the Sabres added a major offensive piece to the puzzle. If Kane becomes a 30-goal scorer again, the Sabres are in a great position for the future. The Sabres have a handful of unrestricted free agents that could be moved out at the deadline, too. If they ship them out, get picks back and hit a couple of homeruns, Buffalo’s rebuild make take fewer years that one could have ever expected. Prominent UFAs: Chris Stewart ($4.15 million), Torrey Mitchell ($1.9 million), Andrej Meszaros ($4.125 million) Key RFAs: Brian Flynn Likely to move: Stewart has been rumored to move all season, and what better time than the deadline? Needs: All prospects and picks can set the Sabres up to get better Possibilities: Landing another first-round pick would be a coup, but even a few mid-rounders would be nice. Hot rumor: Chris Stewart to Boston has been rumored all year. Salary Cap room: $9.03 million