The final major window for NHL teams to finalize their roster is closing near the Monday trade deadline.
Each of the four makeshift divisions of this season has a similar dynamic, with three teams comfortably at the top and then a packet of clubs aspiring for the fourth and final postseason spot. Only six teams have seven or more points from a playoff spot. This year’s deadline figures to be competitive, but activity is also likely to suffer from logistic concerns.
Due to health protocols, players being traded on the US-Canada border will have to quarantine for seven days upon arrival of their new team.
Even players traded between two US-based teams, such as ex-Ranger Brendan Lemieux, were traded to Los Angeles, likely to have to quarantine along the length based on a number of factors. The deadline expires about a month before the end of the 56-game regular season, so teams are making deals with the playoffs in mind.
Top teams may seek the final run for the Stanley Cup run, while clubs must decide to sell below or try for the vault in the postseason.
In addition, the salary cap was flat this season and will not go into the next season. Some teams set their maximum budgets below the cap, giving financial flexibility at a premium.
There are also teams aligning their roster to minimize the impact of the upcoming expansion draft, in which they will be able to protect 11 players and their entry-level players from being selected by the Seattle Cracks.
Contenders: Islanders, Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins
The Islanders would be without their captain Ander Lee for the rest of the season, and they lost a solid contributor to defenseman Devon Toes in the off-season. The silver lining is that Lee’s long-term change in the injured reserve list allows him to take undone pay.
A top-six forward to replace Lee and the Islanders’ upcoming offense and power play was shown to be an obvious choice. The Islanders on Wednesday acquired wing Kyle Palmieri and veteran center Travis Zajac from the Devils in exchange for a first-round pick in 2021, a conditional fourth-rounder in 2022 and a pair of minor-leagues.
The Devils retain 50 percent of Palmeri and Zajac’s salaries, which expire after this season, so the Islanders can take another step forward before Monday’s deadline.
“I’m excited to have him be a part of our organization right now,” Islanders general manager Lu Lamoriello said. Lamorillo drafted Zajac in the first round in 2004 during his tenure with the Devils. “I know what they bring on ice. I also know who they are as people, how well they will fit in the locker room here. Chemistry is very important to me. “
The Capitals and Penguins are against salary cap. Washington could use the most depth at center, where a pair of injuries exposed the team early in the season, and in goal, where its two primary netminders combined only 61 games of NHL experience entering this month .
Pittsburgh is peaking at the right time, and its recent play has not shown many shortcomings. In previous years, the Penguins were bold on the trade deadline, but they are under new management, with first-year general manager Ron Hextall, who was traditionally more conservative with the Flyers than his predecessor, Jim Rutherford. The Penguins do not even have a first, third or fourth round pick in the 2021 draft, but if center Evgeny Malkin remains in the position of being injured for a long time until the playoffs, there may be some salary cap flexibility.
Devils and Buffalo likely to be sellers, with Sabers predecessor Taylor Hall, the most valuable player of 2018, from recent games, According to several reports. Even after Palmieri was traded, the Devils have three experienced defensemen heading to unrestricted free agency this season with two more next year.
Contenders: Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oils
The Maple Leafs have been the most formidable team in the division for most of the year and are loaded to the grit with bargain-priced veterans like Wayne Simmonds, Joe Thornton and Zac Bogosian in the off-season. They are tight against the cap, as are the Edmonton Oilers, who would love to find a way to pursue supporting cast around Conor McDavid and Leon Drassitel. McDavid ranks first in scoring Leaguide, and Dreistel is second.
The second-placed jet should have about $ 3.5 million in flexibility, which can be used to get a solid piece if creative. General manager Kevin Chevalayoff has failed to pursue big trades by acquiring Paul Stasti in 2018, Kevin Hayes in 2019 and Pierre-Luke Dubois in this season.
The Jets have some flexibility next season, should they opt for a non-rental chase. The Jets will likely focus on their blue line, and the most iconic two-way defenseman will be Mattius Ekholm of Nashville. But the Predators closed the march to a six-game win and set a high price.
Within the division, Vancouver defenseman Alex Adler is a veteran on an eviction deal, who may waive his no-movement clause to join a contender, though his $ 6 million cap hit may be a little disrespectful. Calgary center Sam Bennett asked for the trade before the Flames’ coaching change. Calgary winger Johnny Gowderu, a powerful scorer who is largely a cunning player, may not have been a perfect fit for Darryl Sutter’s playing style. Sutter, who rarely discusses individual players positively or negatively, used the satire to demand more from Gadru on the occasion of Gaudru’s 500th career game last month.
Contenders: Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes
Lighting has turned into a spectacular title defense, with not even wing Nikita Kucharov, their top forward, all season. Carolina Central had the top team in March, giving Martin Necas’ breakout performance 17 points in 14 games and goalscorer Alex Nedeljkovic, who went 6-1-1 with 1.85 goals against average. . Florida gave the combination of winger Jonathan Huberde and Alexander Barkov for another successful month, one of the best seasons in franchise history.
While Tampa is against the salary cap, Carolina and Florida in particular have flexibility. Most of Carolina’s defensemen are likely to be exposed to the draft expansion, so it is possible that the Hurricanes will deal with one in a timeframe to deal with a situation where they lose one of their regulars in the off-season . They would instead seek further, as their goalscoring position froze between Nedeljkovic and the now-healthy Petr Majek, who returned to the lineup this week for the first time since 30 January.
Florida has the highest cap spot of any team in a playoff spot, but also has significant holes in its lineup. Aaron Ekblad, the Panthers’ top defenseman, will create a critical void by June with a broken leg. Nashville can shape the time frame as a whole, as it can chart its course based on whether the March-March growth continues. If the Predators choose to sell and reconfigure, they can keep talented players like Ekolo ahead, Mikel Granlund and defenseman Ryan Ellis ahead in the game.
Contenders: Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Minnesota Wild
Opposing coaches and players such as the Kings Todd McLeanan and Drew Doughty, publicly acknowledged that playoffs berths were locked in Colorado, Vegas and Minnesota. Leaving St. Louis, Arizona and San Jose in a three-way scuffle for the final playoff.
The top goalscorer of the march in Colorado, right-wing Mikoko Ranten, was the top goalkeeper, Philippe Grubauer, who won a league-best 12 games with 1.56 goals.
Vegas, which has been aggressive in its short history, has a deep but already expensive roster. While Colorado has few options, it has a surplus of talent at almost every position, with the possible exception of a backup goaltender, given that Pavel Frankos has been injured all season.
Minnesota is in dire need of help on the power play that ranks in the league’s bottom five. Despite the emergence of Joel Erikson — one, the Wild lacks a true No. 1 center, and a smooth passer could open up opportunities for wing-drivers such as 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, although its position is complicated by injuries, with forward Rickard Raquel and defenseman Hampus Lindholm out.