Where the N.H.L. Contenders Stand Before the Trade Deadline


The final main window for N.H.L. groups to bolster their rosters is closing as the Monday commerce deadline nears.

Each of this season’s 4 makeshift divisions has the same dynamic, with three groups comfortably located at the prime after which a pack of aspiring golf equipment in search of the fourth and closing postseason spot. Only six groups are seven or extra factors out of a playoff spot. This 12 months’s deadline figures to be aggressive, however exercise can also be prone to be fettered by logistical issues.

Because of well being protocols, gamers being traded throughout the U.S.-Canada border could be required to quarantine for seven days upon arrival at their new workforce.

Even gamers traded between two U.S.-based groups, like the former Ranger Brendan Lemieux, who was traded to Los Angeles, will possible need to quarantine, with the size relying on a number of components. The deadline is a couple of month earlier than the finish of the 56-game common season, so groups shall be making offers with the playoffs at prime of thoughts.

The prime groups might search the closing piece for a Stanley Cup run, whereas golf equipment a step beneath should determine to promote or make a transfer to attempt to vault into the postseason.

Furthermore, the wage cap was flat this season and won’t go up subsequent season. Some groups have set their most budgets beneath the cap, inserting monetary flexibility at a premium.

There are additionally groups trying to align their rosters to reduce the affect of the upcoming enlargement draft, during which they may have the ability to shield as much as 11 gamers and their entry-level gamers from being chosen by the Seattle Kraken.

The Islanders shall be with out Anders Lee, their captain, for the remainder of the season, and so they misplaced a stable contributor in defenseman Devon Toews over the low season. The silver lining is that Lee’s shift to the long-term injured reserve checklist offers them flexibility to tackle prorated salaries.

A top-six ahead to interchange Lee and invigorate the Islanders’ middling offense and energy play appeared like an apparent alternative. The Islanders acquired wing Kyle Palmieri and the veteran middle Travis Zajac from the Devils on Wednesday in alternate for a first-round decide in 2021, a conditional fourth-rounder in 2022 and a pair of minor-league forwards.

The Devils retained 50 p.c of Palmieri and Zajac’s salaries, which expire after this season, so the Islanders might nonetheless pursue one other transfer earlier than Monday’s deadline.

“I’m excited to have them a part of our organization right now,” stated Lou Lamoriello, the Islanders’ common supervisor. Lamoriello had drafted Zajac in the first spherical in 2004 throughout his tenure with the Devils. “I know what they bring on the ice. I also know who they are as people, how well they will fit in the locker room here. Chemistry is extremely important to me.”

The Capitals and the Penguins are every up in opposition to the wage cap. Washington might most use depth at middle, the place a pair of accidents uncovered the workforce early in the season, and in aim, the place its two main netminders had solely 61 video games mixed of N.H.L. expertise coming into this month.

Pittsburgh is peaking at the proper time, and its current play hasn’t proven many deficiencies. In years previous, the Penguins have been daring at the commerce deadline, however they’re beneath new administration, that of the first-year General Manager Ron Hextall, who in the previous with the Flyers was historically extra conservative than his predecessor, Jim Rutherford. The Penguins additionally don’t have a primary, third or fourth-round decide in the 2021 draft, however might have some wage cap flexibility if middle Evgeni Malkin stays on long-term injured reserve till the playoffs.

The Devils and Buffalo are prone to be sellers, with the Sabres having preemptively scratched Taylor Hall, the 2018 Most worthy participant, from current video games, according to multiple reports. Even after trading Palmieri, the Devils have three veteran defensemen headed toward unrestricted free agency this season and two more next year.

The Maple Leafs have been the most formidable team in the division for most of the year and loaded up on grit with bargain-priced veterans like Wayne Simmonds, Joe Thornton and Zach Bogosian in the off-season. They are tight against the cap, as are the Edmonton Oilers, who would love to find a way to further augment the supporting cast around Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. McDavid ranks first in scoring leaguewide, and Draisaitl is second.

The second-place Jets should have around $3.5 million in flexibility, which could be used to acquire a solid piece if they are creative. General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has been unabashed in pursuing big trades, acquiring Paul Stastny in 2018, Kevin Hayes in 2019 and Pierre-Luc Dubois this season.

The Jets also have some flexibility going into next season, should they opt to pursue a non-rental. The Jets will likely focus on their blue line, and the most coveted two-way defenseman would be Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm. But the Predators went on a six-game win streak to close March and have set a high price.

Within the division, Vancouver defenseman Alex Edler is a veteran on an expiring deal who could waive his no-movement clause to join a contender, though his $6 million cap hit may be a bit unwieldy. Calgary center Sam Bennett asked for a trade before the Flames’ coaching change. Calgary winger Johnny Gaudreau, a potent scorer who is largely a finesse player, may not be an ideal fit for Darryl Sutter’s style of play. Sutter, who rarely discusses individual players positively or negatively, took the occasion of Gaudreau’s 500th career game last month to employ sarcasm to ask for more from Gaudreau.

The Lightning have turned in a magnificent title defense, even while not having wing Nikita Kucherov, their top forward, all season. Carolina was the Central’s top squad in March, riding breakout performances by forward Martin Necas — 17 points in 14 games — and goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, who went 6-1-1 with a 1.85 goals against average. Florida rode the combination of wingers Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov to another successful month in what has been one of the best seasons in franchise history.

While Tampa is up against the salary cap, Carolina and Florida, in particular, have flexibility. Most of Carolina’s defensemen likely would be subject to exposure in the expansion draft, so it’s possible the Hurricanes would deal one at the deadline to obviate a situation where they lose one of their regulars in the off-season. They would likely seek a forward in return, as their goaltending situation has been solidified between Nedeljkovic and the now-healthy Petr Mrazek, who returned to the lineup this week for the first time since Jan. 30.

Florida has the most cap space of any team in a playoff spot, but also has significant holes in its lineup. Aaron Ekblad, the Panthers’ top defenseman, will be out until June with a broken leg, creating a significant void. Nashville could shape the deadline day as a whole, as it may chart its course based on whether or not its late-March surge continues. If the Predators opt to sell and reconfigure, they could put talented players like Ekholm, forward Mikael Granlund and defenseman Ryan Ellis in play.

Opposing coaches and players like the Kings’ Todd McLellan and Drew Doughty, have conceded publicly that Colorado, Vegas and Minnesota have all but locked up playoff berths. That leaves St. Louis, Arizona and San Jose in a three-way melee for the final playoff spot.

Colorado had March’s top goal-scorer, right wing Mikko Rantanen, top goaltender, Philipp Grubauer, who won a league-best 12 games with a 1.56 goals-against average.

Vegas, which has been aggressive in its brief history, has a deep but already costly roster. While Colorado has some options, it also has a surplus of talent at nearly every position, with the possible exception of backup goaltender, given that Pavel Francouz has been injured all season.

Minnesota desperately needs help on a power play that ranks in the bottom five of the league. Despite the emergence of Joel Eriksson-Ek, the Wild lack a true No. 1 center, and a smooth passer could open up opportunities for play-drivers like wing Kirill Kaprizov and defenseman Jared Spurgeon. A creative, playmaking centerman would probably top Minnesota’s wish list, but the market for centers is expected to be thin.

Anaheim is the most likely seller, though its position has been complicated by injuries, as forward Rickard Rakell and defenseman Hampus Lindholm are out.



Source link Nytimes.com

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