The Metropolitan Division is tight at the top and one deal could have a major impact on which of the Penguins, Islanders or Rangers takes top spot in the division. At the bottom of the division, Carolina has some valuable trade chips.
With the Eastern Conference about as wide open as it gets in the parity-laden NHL, the trade deadline could be huge in the Metropolitan Division. Who knows if, come deadline day, a GM from one of the three main contenders swings a deal that changes their team’s fate.
The New York Islanders made their biggest splash in the off-season, trading for blueliners Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy, the latter of whom was signed to a seven-year extension on Tuesday. The New York Rangers are right at the top of the standings thanks to a red hot Rich Nash. And the Pittsburgh Penguins… well, the Penguins have two guys by the name of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin who can be game breakers at any time. But don’t count out the Capitals.
Even the lowly Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets are making some noise heading into the deadline, which could make the Metropolitan extremely active come deadline day.
New York Islanders
The Islanders definitely looked primed to make the playoffs this season, leading the Metropolitan Division, ahead of the Rangers and Penguins? That’s exactly where the Islanders find themselves heading into the deadline and it has caught everyone by surprise.
Because of the injury to Kyle Okposo – a detached retina – expect the Islanders to go looking for a top-six forward, if anything. And Boychuk may be headed for unrestricted free agency, but don’t expect the Islanders to ship him off. Both sides are likely going to work until the final moment on a new deal.
Prominent UFAs: Lubomir Visnovsky ($4.75 million), Boychuk ($3.367 million)
Likely to move: The Islanders are ready to compete now, so expect prospects and picks to go the other way in any deal the Isles make.
Needs: Top-six forward
Salary Cap room: $5.6 million
New York Rangers
A Stanley Cup finalist last season, the Rangers have themselves back in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race and could have home ice advantage in the first round. Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is going to need to get healthy before the Rangers make their playoff push, but once he’s back in the lineup New York will be set.
Add to Lundqvist a Rick Nash that is absolutely terrorizing goaltenders and the Rangers are going to be back competing for the Cup this season. If anything, the Rangers will shop for a depth defenseman.
Likely to move: As Matt Larkin pointed out in the Trade Deadline issue, with so many RFAs and a loaded D corps, Moore is ripe to move.
Needs: Depth defenseman
Hot rumor: The Rangers are pretty interested in Calgary’s Curtis Glencross and, with he and the Flames on the way to separating, there could be a fit there.
Salary Cap room: $1.25 million
The Penguins fatal flaw is depth and if they’re looking for anything at the deadline, it’s improving their depth. Of course they’ve got Crosby and Malkin, and the acquisition of David Perron will help, but adding one more piece up front and another on the blueline could put the Penguins over the top.
Marc-Andre Fleury is playing some of the best hockey of his career and leads the league in shutouts, and is top 10 in goals-against average, save percentage and wins. However, Olli Maatta is out for the year, so replacing him will be key to the Penguins’ success.
Likely to move: Exchanging bottom-six players, borderline NHL prospects and picks could be the play for GM Jim Rutherford
Needs: Depth defense
Hot rumor: Former Pittsburgh Penguin and current Carolina Hurricane Jordan Staal has been discussed as a possible target for the Penguins, but it’s unlikely to happen.
Salary Cap room: $791k
With Barry Trotz behind the bench, the Capitals have shored up their defensive play, Braden Holtby is having the best season of his career and the duo of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom is as good as it gets for present-day scoring tandems.
The story of the Ovechkin-led Capitals has been teams with all the potential to make a deep run but that have failed to get out of the second round and into the Eastern Conference final. If this team can shore up their offense and compliment their dynamic duo with another scoring forward, they could be in business.
Likely to move: Mike Green, prospects and draft picks are the three things the Capitals could potentially move for their big haul at the deadline. Green is only going to move if it comes at the right price, however.
Needs: Top-six forward
Possibilities: Tomas Fleischmann (FLA), Chris Stewart (BUF), Curtis Glencross (CGY), Michael Ryder (NJD), Jiri Tlusty (CAR), Jaromir Jagr (NJD)
Salary Cap room: $2.075 million
Philadelphia is charging hard. They’re 4-2-4 over their last 10 games, have been getting solid goaltending since the all-star break and they’re only four points out of a playoff spot. By the end of the week, it stands to reason that the Flyers could be right on top of the Bruins in the Eastern Conference wild-card race.
GM Ron Hextall has said he won’t go out of his way at the deadline to buy and that he is against mortgaging the team’s future for a short run in the postseason, but that doesn’t mean the Flyers will stand pat. If they fall further out of the race, the Flyers could even become sellers.
Key RFAs: Michael Del Zotto
Likely to move: If the Flyers slide out of the playoff race, look for Timonen to be dealt to a contender. He may be 39 and coming off blood clots that have sidelined him for most of the year, but he can still be effective. Braydon Coburn and Nicklas Grossmann could draw interest if Philadelphia sells.
Needs: Prospects, especially on the blueline, and picks.
Possibilities: Jeff Petry (EDM), Andrej Sekera (CAR), Keith Yandle (ARI)
Salary Cap room: $2.18 million
New Jersey Devils
The Devils are loaded with veteran forwards that would be able to help teams looking to buy a top-six forward, and that’s exactly the kind of player you will see New Jersey ship out at the deadline.
New Jersey has been far from good this season and they need to get Cory Schneider some help on defense and add some young, NHL ready prospects that can help them. However, they probably don’t have the assets to make that a reality shy of moving one of their young defensemen.
Prominent UFAs: Jaromir Jagr ($5.5 million), Michael Ryder ($3.5 million), Martin Havlat ($1.5 million), Jordin Tootoo ($550k), Steve Bernier ($516k), Scott Gomez ($390k), Marek Zidlicky ($4 million), Bryce Salvador ($3.17 million), Peter Harrold ($615k)
Likely to move: Jagr has involved in rumors for weeks, Ryder could help a top-six, Havlat is cheap and could have some upside, Gomez has been scoring and the old, immobile defensemen Zidlicky and Salvador could be worth some late-round picks if dealt.
Needs: Prospects and picks will be really valuable for New Jersey going forward.
Possibilities: New Jersey sends all their UFAs packing and gets some high- to mid-round draft picks.
Hot rumor: GM Lou Lamoriello doesn’t want a full rebuild, so don’t expect Larsson to be going anywhere or for their to be a run on young Devils traded.
Salary Cap room: $2.88 million
Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus’ season was derailed by injuries, so expect the Blue Jackets to use the injury-riddled off-year to stock up whatever prospects or players they feel they need for future seasons now. The high draft selection will help the team and add to a young core and that’s about all Columbus really needs to do.
Rumors have surfaced that James Wisniewski is available and any trade involving the blueliner could net Columbus a second- or third-round draft pick, which would be a good get for the Blue Jackets. If they add a prospect to it, they might be able to get a prospect and a late draft pick.
Likely to move: Wisniewski ($5.5 million) is most likely, but don’t sleep on the Blue Jackets also trading RFAs Atkinson and Calvert. Shipping out young, NHL ready players could land Columbus solid pieces for the future.
Needs: Draft picks will be what the Blue Jackets are after.
Possibilities: Wisniewski, Atkinson and Calvert gone with at least a couple of second- or third-round picks added to their coffers.
Hot rumor: No trade of Wisniewski has happened yet, but that Jarmo Kekalainen has had to address it to the media likely means he’s working hard on it.
Salary Cap room: $5.42 million
No team in the division has more ready to move pieces that could bring back more than Carolina.
GM Ron Francis has his chance to put his stamp on the direction of the Hurricanes for years to come, and a solid trade deadline is the first step. There’s going to be players leaving Carolina on March 2 and if Francis is able to make some savvy moves, he could expedite the Hurricanes’ rebuild.
Likely to move: If you were to break the players into three tiers – with tier one being the most likely to move – Sekera and Tlusty would be tier one, McClement would be tier two and Gleason would be tier three.
Needs: Like many struggling clubs, the Hurricanes simply need prospects and picks.
Possibilities: Sekera has many suitors and is going to be one of the biggest prizes on deadline day at this point.
Hot rumor: The biggest rumor saw Jordan Staal potentially getting dealt back to the Penguins, but that was squashed. Now it’s a matter of shipping players to the highest bidder.
Salary Cap room: $3.82 million