It’s that time of year boys and girls. It’s when some teams begin to throw in the towel and prepare for next season. It’s also a time when teams will load up on rental players in the hopes of a long Stanley Cup run. Welcome to the trade deadline window folks. Before we get into who’s in/out and which players may go, let’s simplify the standings a bit a see who else is still in the playoff race. So not counting tonight’s games, I took the point pace standings after the Islanders played their 51st game and these were the results in a nutshell.
In the playoffs for the East in order: Washington (121), Columbus (114), Pittsburgh (114), Rangers (106) Montreal (103) Ottawa (98)
From here on out, unless there is a plague, you can pretty much pencil those teams in and consider them buyers.
In the Atlantic Division, you have Toronto (93) holding down the number 3 spot. For now, unless something drastic changes, I only see the Florida Panthers (88) and the Bruins (86) with a realistic shot at the Leafs.
When it comes to the last wild card spot, the Islanders (90) are currently in that place followed by the Flyers (90), Carolina (88), Florida (88), Bruins (86), and for a little while longer the Devils (85).
Unless the Sabres, Red Wings and Lightning make one hell of a push in the next two weeks, you should expect them to be sellers.
So what will decide which teams will be buyers or sellers in the playoff race? Well, you’re going to have to set a number or a range about what will get that last team into the playoffs. So far this season, I’ve seen the second wild card team go as high as 92 for a point pace, then fade away for a bit. Could the Islanders reach that 92 point pace? Sure they could. Will it be enough? I don’t think so. I think it would be wise to make a range of 92-97 points as a realistic goal for those teams and the higher they go, the better the chance for them to break away from that pack. Unless the Devils continue on their winning streak, it appears they’ll be sellers within the next week or so.
So if I had to categorize the other teams, the Islanders, Flyers, Bruins, Panthers, Hurricanes and Leafs would be considered buyers for the trade deadline. If for some reason the Panthers and Bruins begin to slip, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them become sellers on March 1st. I don’t think the Leafs are going to make a major acquisition as they’ll just run with what they have unless they find a decent rental for a backup goalie and/or another defenseman. I think the three teams to watch are the Hurricanes, Panthers and the Flyers. They could make a splash and give the Isles a tough battle to the end.
So who’s available? Let’s take a look. As of now, these are all the players I have read or heard that are available in some way shape or form:
Coyotes: Hanzal and Doan; Av’s: Duchene, Landeskog and Iginla; St. Louis: Shattenkirk, Berglund; Stars: Oduya, Sharp, Eaves & Hudler; Sabres: Gionta, Kulikov, Franson, Red Wings: Vanek, Ott, Smith, Tatar, Nyquist, Jurco; New Jersey: Parenteau, and Quincy; Tampa; Boyle, & Bishop; If the Hurricanes bow out: Hainsey, Stalberg, McClement, Winnipeg: Stafford, Thornburn, Pavelec, Hutchinson; if the Isles falter look to see Seidenberg traded to a contender; Vancouver: Edler, maybe Burrows.
Also consider the expansion draft and teams on or near the salary cap which is also causes for the lack of trades so far. At some point, maybe as soon as next week, you’ll begin to see teams throw in the towel then the trades will begin. I think the biggest splash of trades will in fact be on March 1st and I’m already taking off work for it. It’s an unofficial holiday for many hockey fans.
As to what the Islanders will do is a good question. I do think they’ll be buyers, but after watching the team over the last few weeks, it’s hard to trade any of them right now. They don’t have a fourth or sixth rounder at this years draft and they have roughly 1.5 million left in cap space, so don’t expect a major move unless it’s a organization-changing, or a package trade. I also wouldn’t be shocked if the Isles simply stood by and ride the current wave they’re on for their push into the playoffs. There’s nothing wrong with window shopping, especially of the price falls for players around draft weekend.