NHL Power Rankings: Teams that need to be most active at trade deadline

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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we take another look ahead to the trade deadline (Feb. 24, 3 p.m. ET) and the teams that are in most need of a move.

Some teams need some help just to get in the playoffs.

Others need the missing piece to take them from a playoff team to a Stanley Cup contender.

We are trying to focus on teams that have a chance to make the playoffs and be potential buyers.

Important to note, just to avoid any confusion: This is NOT a ranking of team quality or which team is playing best. It is strictly a ranking of which team is need of making a trade to add to its roster over the next few weeks. We take an occasional break from simply ranking team performance. This is one of those times. 

To the rankings!

Bubble teams with most pressing needs

• New York Islanders. Their overall record looks great, but the Islanders have been an average (at best) team for two months now and are still in desperate need of offense. Lou Lamoriello has made just one trade in his year-and-a-half with the team (he acquired Matt Martin not long after he was hired) and it’s time for him to add to his roster.

• Edmonton Oilers. With the Pacific Division being as weak as it is with no clear-cut favorite at the moment there is actually manageable path here for the Oilers to make a deep run in the playoffs. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl can take over any game and win it by themselves, but they can’t do it by themselves every single night. Get them some forward help and finally make something out of the best scoring duo in the league.

• Florida Panthers. Sergei Bobrovsky is taking all of the blame for their goal prevention issues, but the defense bleeds shots and chances against. If they shore that up a little Panthers fans would have reason to be excited.

• Toronto Maple Leafs. They could use a backup goalie upgrade to take some of the workload off of Frederik Andersen. They could also use a defensive upgrade.

• Columbus Blue Jackets. They do not have the trade assets to go all in like they did a year ago, but a little extra offense would go a long way.

• Vegas Golden Knights. Like Toronto, some goaltending depth would be significant for the stretch run of the regular season. They could also use an upgrade to their blue line.

• Carolina Hurricanes. The Dougie Hamilton injury creates a pretty big hole on their blue line. Maybe a spot for Sami Vatanen here?

Contenders that could use some extra help

• St. Louis Blues. They’ve found more offense than I expected them to without Vladimir Tarasenko, but they are in the market for a top-six winger. That could put them over the top for a repeat run in the West.

• Pittsburgh Penguins. You know Jim Rutherford is going to make a trade. He just is. It is what he does. He always does. The only question is whether he adds a top-line winger to replace Jake Guentzel, or if he adds some depth to his fourth line, or makes a tweak to his defense. He might even do all three.

• Colorado Avalanche. The X-factor in the West because they could do pretty much anything they want with their trade assets and salary cap space. When you have a window to win the Stanley Cup you owe it to yourself, your players, and your fans to go for it. That window is there for the Avalanche, and they have the long-term salary flexibility to add someone that is not just a rental.

• Dallas Stars. As long as their goaltending holds up they will be a tough out, but they need more offense.

• Boston Bruins. A depth move or two along the same lines as the Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson additions last year would seem to be in order here.

Teams that need to figure out what they are

• Chicago Blackhawks. Stan Bowman needs to decide if his bubble team is good enough to add to right now and if he wants to risk losing Robin Lehner and/or Erik Gustafsson for nothing this offseason. They are in the playoff race, but not enough of a lock to be a true buyer.

• Calgary Flames. They weren’t as good as their record looked a year ago, but they are probably not as bad as their current record. The lack of a true contender in their division might push them to make a move.

• Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers’ trade deadline plans might depend on which version of the team shows up over the next two weeks.

• Nashville Predators. If they figure out the special teams and get in the playoffs this could be a team that goes on a run. But they put themselves in quite a hole that getting there is going to be a struggle and have some pending free agents. They are in that middle ground between buyer and seller. The next few games will dictate where this goes.

Is there room for another move?

• Arizona Coyotes. They already made their big move — Taylor Hall — and a lot of people that aren’t paying attention to their situation may not realize just how close they are to the salary cap. Do they have the flexibility — and the resources after adding Hall — to make another move? Seems like this is the roster they will sink or swim with this season.

• Vancouver Canucks. They do not have a lot of salary cap space, their first-round pick (assuming they make the playoffs) is going to Tampa Bay as a result of the J.T. Miller trade, and for as good as they have been they still need to keep their eyes on the bigger, long-term picture. Their options are very limited.

Really now, what do these teams actually need?

• Tampa Bay Lightning. On paper this is still one of the most complete rosters in the league. They could always tweak something at the bottom of the lineup, but there is nothing here that is a major need.

• Washington Capitals. The biggest (and maybe only) question with the Capitals right now is the fact Braden Holtby may not be very good anymore and is a question mark going into the playoffs. The good news is his replacement (Ilya Samsonov) is already on the roster and looks to be outstanding.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Stars’ Polak, Canucks’ Baertschi won’t report to NHL camps

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Dallas defenseman Roman Polak and Vancouver forward Sven Baertschi on Saturday joined the list of players who won’t be reporting to training camp for the resumption of the NHL season.

Baertschi told the Canucks he’d be opting out of participating in the expanded 24-team playoffs, following Calgary defenseman Travis Hamonic informing the Flames he won’t be playing because of family reasons. Polak is not on the Stars’ roster for the start of training camp Monday, and a team spokesman said the 34-year-old veteran won’t be attending at this time.

Polak is a pending free agent who last month agreed to a deal in his native Czech Republic next season and told reporters there he wasn’t planning on returning to the NHL if play resumed. Baertschi, who spent much of this season in the minors, is under contract through 2020-21.

”Sven informed us late yesterday that he has chosen to opt out of the NHL return to play program,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning said. ”It was a difficult decision but ultimately one we respect and understand.”

The Tampa Bay Lightning won’t have captain Steven Stamkos at 100% for the opening of camp because of a lower-body injury, but they’re optimistic he’ll be ready when games get under way in early August. GM Julien BriseBois said Stamkos fully recovered from core muscle surgery in early March but was injured again during voluntary workouts.

”We don’t have a specific timeline for when he will be a full participant in camp, but we expect he will be ready in time for games,” BriseBois said. ”He’s here, he’s skating, he’s been getting treatment, he’s been coming to Amalie (Arena) doing his dry land work. But he will not be a full participant on Day One of training camp.”

While Stamkos has a better chance of being ready for Tampa Bay’s next game than he would have after surgery if the playoffs had started in mid-April, the Flames will have to cope without Hamonic when they open their series against Winnipeg on Aug. 1.

Hamonic became the first player to publicly choose not to play in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hamonic’s daughter was hospitalized last year with respiratory issues, and he and his wife also have a baby boy. Their health concerns, not the soon-to-be 30-year-old’s impending free agency, led him to opt out.

”I wish I could lace up my skates and be out there battling, blocking a shot and helping my team win, but my family has and always will come first,” Hamonic said. ”Being my little kids’ dad every day is the most important job I have. I love this game and by team. This is a decision that is extremely hard for me to make.”

Flames general manager Brad Treliving said, ”While we will miss Travis in our lineup, we understand and respect his decision.”

The Lightning already got a pandemic scare when three players and additional staff tested positive for the novel coronavirus last month. The positive test results forced the team to close its facilities for a brief period of time.

The Minnesota Wild, who face the Canucks in the qualifying round, ruled out defenseman Greg Pateryn indefinitely with an upper-body injury. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Saturday the league will be taking over injury and illness disclosure from teams as a way of protecting player privacy.

Lightning’s Stamkos injured again at start of training camp

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Captain Steven Stamkos will be limited at the start of Tampa Bay Lightning training camp because of a new lower-body injury.

General manager Julien BriseBois said Saturday that Stamkos fully recovered from core muscle surgery in early March but was injured again during voluntary workouts. Stamkos is expected to be ready for the start of the NHL’s expanded 24-team Stanley Cup playoffs in early August.

”We don’t have a specific timeline for when he will be a full participant in camp, but we expect he will be ready in time for games,” BriseBois said. ”He’s here, he’s skating, he’s been getting treatment, he’s been coming to Amalie (Arena) doing his dry land work. But he will not be a full participant on Day One of training camp.”

Unlike Stamkos, the Calgary Flames won’t have defenseman Travis Hamonic for the resumption of the hockey season after he decided to opt out for family reasons. Hamonic on Friday night became the first player to publicly choose not to play in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hamonic’s daughter was hospitalized last year with respiratory issues, and he and his wife also have a baby boy. Their health concerns, not the soon-to-be 30-year-old’s impending free agency, led him to opt out.

”I wish I could lace up my skates and be out there battling, blocking a shot and helping my team win, but my family has and always will come first,” Hamonic said. ”Being my little kids’ dad every day is the most important job I have. I love this game and by team. This is a decision that is extremely hard for me to make.”

Flames general manager Brad Treliving said, ”While we will miss Travis in our lineup, we understand and respect his decision.”

The Lightning already got a pandemic scare when three players and additional staff tested positive for the novel coronavirus last month. The positive test results forced the team to close its facilities for a brief period of time.

Flames’ Hamonic is first player to opt out of NHL’s return

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Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic has been the first player to opt out of the NHL’s Return to Play program.

“Earlier this evening Travis called me to inform us that he has decided to opt out of the NHL Return to Play Program,” said Flames general manager Brad Treliving. “Travis explained that due to family considerations, he has made the difficult decision not to participate in the Stanley Cup Qualifier and Playoffs.

“While we will miss Travis in our line-up, we understand and respect his decision. Our focus remains on preparation for training camp and our upcoming series in the NHL Qualifying Round.”

[Full Stanley Cup Qualifying Round schedule]

As part of the RTP plan that was ratified Friday evening, any player can opt out without penalty by Monday’s 5 p.m. ET deadline.

In a statement posted through his agent’s Twitter account, Hamonic cited a respiratory virus his young daughter battled last year and the recent birth of his son as the reasons why he will not be joining the Flames.

“My family has and always will come first,” he said. “Being my little kids’ dad every day is the most important job I have.”

The 29-year-old Hamonic, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this off-season, played 50 games for Calgary this season. He recorded 12 points and was second the team in average ice time per game (21:12) behind Mark Giordano.

The Flames will face the Jets in a best-of-five Stanley Cup Qualifier series in the Edmonton hub

MORE:
NHL, NHLPA ratify CBA, return to play agreement
NHL salary cap to stay flat at $81.5M

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Hockey is back: NHL, NHLPA ratify CBA, return to play agreement

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The NHL and NHLPA made the return official: hockey is back.

Remarkably, the NHL and NHLPA also extended the Collective Bargaining Agreement through at least 2025-26, ensuring almost unthinkable labor peace for fans. None of this means that COVID-19 won’t wreck the party, but the NHL and NHLPA cemented those return details on Friday.

The timetable for the NHL return won’t leave much room to breathe. Players can opt-out of a return-to-play plan for a variety of reasons, but must make such decisions by Monday, July 13 at 5 p.m. ET.

This comes shortly after the two sides announced a memorandum of understanding earlier this week. The NHL attempting a two-city, 24-team playoff plan is bold enough; extending the CBA through at least 2025-26 makes this an incredible achievement. For hockey fans who’ve grown accustomed to lockouts, lasting labor peace feels almost unthinkable.

If hockey fans need more reasons to be ecstatic, consider this. The CBA extension sets the stage for NHL players to participate in the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympics. That decision hinges on an agreement between the league and the International Olympic Committee, but this is a landmark day for the future of the NHL.

[Full schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers]

Read more about the NHL return via this official document:

NHL playoff hubs in Edmonton and Toronto; 2020 Stanley Cup Final in Edmonton

After many twists and turns, Edmonton and Toronto were named as the two hub cities. Each city will host 12 teams (limited to 52 personnel apiece). Edmonton will hold the 12 Western Conference teams, and is also the planned spot for the 2020 Stanley Cup Final. Meanwhile, the 12 Eastern Conference teams will play in Toronto.

With COVID-19 spikes in areas like Las Vegas and protocol stumbles in Vancouver, it’s been difficult to forecast which cities would serve as the two hubs. Now we know. Edmonton, in particular, has avoided the worst of COVID-19 outbreaks. Toronto’s dealt with more struggles (see: the outbreaks in Ontario in the map below), but brings some strengths for the NHL while not being hit as hard as many problem areas in the U.S.:

Alberta with 8,482 cases; Ontario with 36,178 as of Thursday (via the Canadian government)

[More on Edmonton and Toronto serving as NHL playoff hubs.]

Now, for the when: Key Dates for 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, NHL Free Agency, Draft

So, we just covered the “where” for the NHL’s playoff return to award a 2020 Stanley Cup. Let’s cover the “when.”

July 13: Training camps open (Phase 3) and 5 p.m. ET deadline for players to opt out
July 26: Teams report to their hub city
July 28-30: Exhibition games
Aug 1: Stanley Cup Qualifiers begin (Phase 4)
Aug 10: Phase 2 of NHL Draft Lottery to determine No. 1 overall pick
Aug 11: First Round begins
Aug 25: Second Round begins
Sept. 8: Conference Finals begin
Sept. 22: Stanley Cup Final begins
Oct 4: Last possible date for Stanley Cup to be awarded
Oct. 9-10: 2020 NHL Draft (must follow end of Cup Final and take place before free agency)
Mid-Oct.: free agent period opens
Nov. 17: Training camps open for 2020-21 season
Dec. 1: 2020-21 NHL season begins

All of dates listed are, of course, tentative.

[Want even more details on critical dates for the NHL return? Click here.]

CBA extension keeps NHL salary cap flat for at least 2020-21

NHL, NHLPA hammer out a CBA extension, including flat salary cap and return to Olympics

Again, these agreements don’t just cover a playoff format where the 2020 Stanley Cup would be awarded. The CBA extension means lockout prevention through 2025-26, and possibly even 2026-27. That CBA extension sets the stage for the NHL’s return to the Olympics, pending an agreement with the IOC.

Consider some of the high points. You can read more about the flat cap and other financial details here.

  • It’s possible that the two sides could extend the CBA for one additional season (through 2026-27).
  • The two sides agreed to a flat $81.5 million salary cap for 2020-21.
  • That $81.5 million mark could also stick for multiple seasons. It all hinges on whether or not revenue bounces back — and when.
  • Players hate escrow, so limiting its impact was key. There will be a 20-percent cap on escrow for 2020-21. From there, escrow will scale down until it drops to six percent.
  • The two sides agreed to bring NHL players back to Olympic competition — pending negotiations with the International Olympic Committee. If that goes through, NHL players would participate in 2022 Winter Olympics (in Beijing) and the 2026 Winter Olympics (in Milan).
  • Players will defer salary to account for the financial impact of COVID-19.
  • The CBA extension accounts for certain salary cap loopholes. In short, contracts won’t be as front-loaded, salary bonuses won’t be greatly changed, and no-trade clauses will be honored more faithfully.

So, again fans: rejoice, and hold your breath. Maybe cross your fingers, too — especially in hopes that this process happens as safely as possible. This is huge stuff, and PHT will cover the developments as they unfold.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.