Canadian Teams at the Deadline: Who Will Sell? and Who Will Buy?
Canadian Teams at the Deadline
Well, it’s that time of the year again! Time to dust off your GM glasses and decide what’s going to happen at the NHL Trade Deadline! In the NHL, we establish that anything can happen. Heck, the last-place team in January last year went on to win the Stanley Cup, so what can the story be this year?
In the Canadian NHL Market, expectations are clearly high for some, and low for others. Call it a roller coaster of emotions if you will. Teams may prep to make some big-time purchases, while others may want to unload contracts to make cap space, as well as acquiring new assets. With that in mind, let’s see where your favourite Canadian team will probably be, come February 24.
Calgary Flames: Buyers
The Calgary Flames have had quite the season. They went from vastly underachieving and having struggling to score and defend, to actually becoming slightly more consistent. However, with just 60 points to their name, Calgary has themselves in a bit of a struggle. They sit just 25th in the league for goals scored and every average in every other section of their team. Strangely, despite their success in goal, Calgary has a -17 goal differential and currently have a total of only 146 goals scored this season. Simply, not good enough for a playoff-calibre team.
Biggest Need: Top 6 Goal-Scoring
It’s no secret that Calgary needs a goal-scorer to put the puck in the net for them. General Manager, Brad Treliving, has reportedly not been keen on adding rental players to his roster; meaning he would most likely want some control should he acquire one. Calgary however, only has around $1.6 million in cap space, which is not a lot of wiggle room. Treliving’s search won’t be easy and expect many teams to expect a big sum to acquire a prime-time scoring forward. Adding a forward could help with a core of Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm at the forefront of the team’s offense.
Edmonton Oilers: Buyers
Let’s be honest. We desperately need a Flames-Oilers playoff series to stretch 14 games instead of just 7 right? Well, one thing at a time. Edmonton has had quite a successful year compared to last year’s shortcomings. The team has the best power-play in the league (29.5%) and also sits 7th on the penalty-kill (82.9%) With a record of 28-18-6, the Oilers seem to be destined for the playoffs for the first time in 3 years. So what can be asked for? Well, let’s see.
Biggest Need: Secondary Scoring
Don’t get me wrong. I love watching Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl light up teams every night and have unreal seasons. I just feel that I want to see more from this team offensively. James Neal went from bounce-back candidate to just ice cold in a matter of just a few months, and the only other significant contributors are Zack Kassian and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Like the Flames above, Edmonton has very little cap space to fidget with, but they do need help putting that puck in the back of the net when the two-headed monster is off the ice.
Montreal Canadiens: Sellers
Wow, what a difference a year makes. A year ago, Montreal was so close to making the playoffs, now, two long losing streaks in November and December really changed the team’s hopes. Injuries to key players like Jonathan Drouin and Brendan Gallagher stung a lot and Carey Price was struggling significantly this season. Now, the team is not out of it by any means, but they have 55 points and are slipping further and further away from the post-season with every loss that piles up. Marc Bergevin needs to realize the team needs to commit to either a rebuild or contending, a hybrid is really confusing and the record shows.
Biggest Need: Prospects
Now Montreal has had examples of good prospects that they have acquired (Nick Suzuki, Noah Juulsen, among others) but need to work on acquiring and developing the right talent. Jesperi Kotkaniemi has hit a snag and Ryan Poehling has had issues with injuries, but they need more to compliment the team. The team, I believe, has potential, if players are even traded down the line, I expect big-time names such as Tomas Tatar (2 yrs, $4.8 mil) and Jeff Petry (2 yrs, $5.5 mil) to stay put in Quebec for the time being.
Ottawa Senators: Sellers
Over off in the far off land of Kanata, Ontario, the Senators are actually not as bad as their record shows. For 28th in the league, the team has some bright parts for them. Anthony Duclair emerging as a prime goal-scorer, Thomas Chabot becoming the team’s cornerstone on the blue line, and many other complementary pieces, such as Connor Brown, Chris Tierney and Brady Tkachuk. However, its obvious the rebuild is strong and the team is looking to sell many of their upcoming UFA’s.
Biggest Need: A Plethora of Assets
All the praise to the Ottawa Senators aside, the team is still far from perfect. The team needs to add more in many areas. D.J Smith has done an exceptional job in Ottawa in his first head coaching gig, however, he needs more talent. Ottawa already has 2 first-round picks (San Jose’s and their own) as well as a total of 11 picks in the 2020 draft. With other players likely to be shipped off to contenders for large hauls, expect Ottawa’s rebuild to be improving substantially in the coming years.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Buyers
Oh goodness, do I have to talk about my Maple Leafs? Everyone else already did it! Can’t I just pass? Alright fine, I’ll throw my two cents in.
How should I put this? At the time of writing this post, the Leafs are in dire straits. After a very crushing 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers, the team also lost Frederik Andersen to injury in the 1st period of that game. Now, the Leafs are far from done this season. They sit with 63 points this season so far and are still an offensive dynamo of a team. Which means the biggest hole has to be…
Biggest Need: Defense. Defense. Defense.
Yes, I wrote it 3 times because this team needs it badly. The Leafs Penalty Kill sits at just about 77%, good for 25th in the league. Not great. The biggest issue has to be consistency in addition to injuries. I will not dissect any specific player’s performance as I am sure the team hears enough criticism as it is, however, the biggest need many seem to point to is a top-4 right shot defenseman to add to their team. While there are not many rentals that Toronto can snag, reports of expressing interest in players with term are being discussed. The Leafs may have untouchables, but do have pieces to get deals done. The key here is what is fair value to other teams, and how can they manage to keep under the salary cap.
Vancouver Canucks: Buyers
The Vancouver Canucks are a very pleasant surprise on the season. They went into this season as a fringe playoff team and now as of this post, sit at the top of the Pacific Division with 65 points. Every aspect of the Canucks game is solid from front to back. The youth is shining with Elias Petterson and Brock Boeser, Quinn Hughes is making a strong case for the Calder Trophy and the tandem of Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko has been key. So, what else does this team need?
Biggest Need: Bottom-Six Scoring
The Canucks are a team that could surprise a lot of other opponents should they make a run in the playoffs. They do however need to add more depth to their team. While the likes of Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette are nice surprises, this team is missing players like Josh Leivo to help their scoring depth. Although the team does have limited cap space going into the deadline, Vancouver could see themselves making some small tinkers to their team and possibly even unload a contract or two in the process. (Sven Baertschi and Loui Eriksson to name a few.)
Winnipeg Jets: Buyers
This team is in a weird situation. The Jets are currently on the outside looking in with just 56 points in 53 games played. That puts them 3 back of the Arizona Coyotes for the final wild-card spot in the west. Despite their success, the team has had one glaring issue since the start of the season.
Biggest Need: Defense. Lots of it.
The Winnipeg Jets have been known for one glaring issue this year, the defense unit. Unlike Toronto’s, the Jets have had one of the most injury-depleted and inconsistent blue lines in the NHL. It’s so bad that all right-handed shot defensemen they had last season are all gone. (Jacob Trouba traded, Tyler Myers signed with Vancouver, Dustin Byfuglien in the process of a contract termination). If that is not bad enough, their penalty kill is sitting 29th at 74.1%. To paint how poor that is, the only teams with even worse percentages are the Minnesota Wild (73.5%) and the Detroit Red Wings (73.2%).
Now, granted, once the whole Byfuglien situation is finalized the team can have more of a sense as what they can do, but given the expectations after the last 2 seasons, Kevin Cheveldayoff has to try and throw what he can to make the playoffs. The challenge, of course, is Winnipeg being arguably the most undesirable destination for hockey players, it will be a tough bargain. However, once this situation is closed, the clock is ticking for the Jets.
In conclusion, these moves are obviously predictions and may or may not happen between now and the trade deadline. The question still looms large, who and where are players going to be moved to and what will each return look like? We will see in due time.
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