NHL Trade Deadline Analysis: Atlantic Division
It’s that time of the year again, when the playoff race starts and every playoff contender and hopeful fight for a spot in the 2016 postseason. It’s also nearing that time when every team tries to look for pieces to deal and get better either for the playoffs or for the future. That said, for the next four weeks, I’ll be analyzing every team’s surpluses and needs per division leading up to the trade deadline on February 29th.
Oh yes, and I’m doing the teams in alphabetical order. This week, we’ll take a look at the Atlantic Division.
Needs: Depth forwards & prospects
Final analysis: A team that’s been in rebuild mode for quite some time, they already had acquired former Jet Evander Kane from Winnipeg in a previous year. They’ve also got Jamie McGinn and Ryan O’ Reilly, who were acquired this past offseason from the Colorado Avalanche. Of course, to cap it all off, they drafted one of the two generational talents in Jack Eichel at number two overall in the 2015 NHL Draft. Look for them to sell a few players on their roster to fill their offensive depth for the long run.
Final analysis: The Bruins have been performing pretty well recently, mainly their veterans doing the work. One thing that’s been in their plans has been signing forward Loui Eriksson, who is due to be a UFA soon. However, they could be forced to move him if things come to plan. Considering they traded defenseman Dougie Hamilton to the Calgary Flames last offseason, they’re going to need to look to fill that void on the blue line.
Detroit Red Wings
Final analysis: The Detroit Red Wings have always been an interesting team to watch. As it stands right now, their playoff run is at 25. It’s looking more and more likely that they’ll keep that playoff streak in tact with 26 straight playoff runs this year. While it’s unlikely they’ll do anything at the trade deadline, I wouldn’t be surprised if they made a few changes in the offseason, mainly with their goaltending position, as it’s looking more and more like Petr Mrazek will be taking the starter position away from Jimmy Howard, who has struggled in net since last season. They could also use some help on their blue line, maybe add a top defenseman to help with their defensive cause.
Needs: Forwards or defensemen
Final analysis: Who’d of thought, before the season, that the Florida Panthers would be a serious contender for the playoffs? With sole possession of first place in the Atlantic, this team has been rolling on all cylinders with now a 5-game winning streak. According to General Fanager, the Panthers currently have $18.4 million in cap space, so general manager Dave Tallon has plenty of room to add another forward or top-tier defenseman if he’s serious about having a shot at Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Needs: Depth forwards
Final analysis: From an outside fan, if you had told me the Habs weren’t in a position of making the playoffs this year, I’d have looked at you as if you were crazy. However, I guess that’s the reality of not having Carey Price in the line-up very much. The 28-year-old goaltender has dealt with injuries almost all season, first dealing with a lower-body injury that kept him out for nine games from Oct. 30th to Nov. 19th, and then re-aggravating the injury in a game against the New York Rangers on Nov. 25th. However, with back-up goalie Mike Condon replacing him and former Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens taking over back-up position, the Canadiens have not fared very well, going a combined 4-12-1.
However, that is not to say that goaltending is the issue. A goalie can only do so much to help his team out. Whoever’s guarding the net needs help, and he needs help badly. This team needs to resolve their scoring issues. Defenseman PK Subban only has 4 goals on the season. Max Pacioretty has 19 goals. Plekanec only has 9 on the season, and Galchenyuk and Gallagher are both tied on the team with 12 goals. Now, Subban does lead the team with 35 helpers, and Plekanec isn’t far behind with 26 apples, but the numbers do tell the story. And it’s a scary one. Something has to be done. Most nights, the offense is nowhere to be found. Someone has to spark the offense somehow. That said, GM Marc Bergevin has already been one of the teams under fire for executing the trade that sent enforcer John Scott to, not even the Habs, but to the St. John’s Ice Caps. So, maybe they call him up for a spark? Or do they trade for more depth at the forward position? I think they’ve got to trade for offense.
Needs: Top-six forward and veteran defenseman
Final analysis: The Senators have the second worst goal differential in the League (-22). They’ve scored 146 goals, but have also allowed 148. They could use some help on offense and on the blue line if they’re going to make another postseason run.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Final analysis: There’s been a lot of talk recently in the trade rumor mill involving 2013 first round pick Jonathan Drouin and captain Steven Stamkos.
We all know that Jonathan Drouin essentially had his agent back the Tampa Bay Lightning into a corner, even when they tried so hard to avoid having him dealt. Well, after failing to report to an AHL game that featured their farm team, the Syracuse Crunch, against the Toronto Marlies on January 3rd, it seems the 20-year-old is forcing general manager Steve Yzerman’s hand here, and apparently on the advice of his agent, Allan Walsh. However, will it actually happen before the trade deadline? Yzerman has said and maintained his stance that he would only pull the trigger on a Drouin trade if it helps the Lightning get better. If nothing happens before February 29th, look for this story to pick back up come Draft Day.
As for Stamkos, while the front office still has not begun contract talks with the veteran sniper, I highly doubt the Lightning will move him. Honestly, they have no reason to. Stamkos has said that he wants to stay a Lightning and win a Cup with the team, and he hasn’t strayed from that. One important thing to note is that even if they were looking to trade him, they’d have to ask him to waive his NMC, which again, he is unlikely to do (unless he changes his mind, of course). There’s been a lot of talks about whether or not he’ll end up in Toronto eventually, and heck, who wouldn’t want a goal scorer of his caliber? In the end, though, I say he stays in Tampa Bay.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Final analysis: Ever since Mike Babcock signed the NHL’s richest salary for a head coach at $50 million, it seems that the Leafs are headed in the right direction, so far. Babcock has said he wanted to instill a winning mentality in the locker room and within the team, and he wasn’t kidding. Now, granted, it’s only been… not even a full season, but in my opinion this Toronto Maple Leafs team looks somewhat more confident than last year’s, when they just looked totally lost altogether playing with no confidence. This team has had its flashes of brilliance, and — make no mistake about it — this is still just one part of the rebuilding process in Toronto, but I have a feeling that if this team puts all the right pieces of the puzzle together, along with that winning mentality, that’ll put together for a very interesting team to come in the future.
In the meantime, there’s been quite a bit of focus on their back-up Jonathan Bernier, and whether or not he’s on his way out the door, because it seems like their starter, James Reimer, has gained a lot more trust from the coaching staff and fans than Bernier has, and keep in mind Bernier’s been down in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies. Maybe they trade him for a few draft picks or prospects so they can call up another goalie from their farm system? Who knows what’ll happen, but look for this team to be moving a few more pieces in the near future.
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