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.
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.
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.