Winners and losers of the 2021 NHL trade deadline


The 2021 NHL trade deadline was like no other, from the current economic landscape to immigration and quarantine challenges to the non-traditional format for the season. There were just 17 trades involving 26 players on trade deadline day, but some teams did significantly better than others.

Here are our winners and losers for the trade deadline. Full team-by-team report cards will arrive on Friday.

More coverage:
Grades for every big trade
Trade tracker

Wyshynski: Taylor Hall has wanted to play for the Boston Bruins for years. He flirted with them as a free agent last summer, but the sides couldn’t make a contract work. So he signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Buffalo Sabres to hang with Jack Eichel and maybe end up with the long-term extension that he’s sought.

It turned out to be disastrous on the ice, as Buffalo was a hot mess and Hall had just two goals in 37 games. Buffalo decided to trade him at the deadline, but Hall controlled his fate courtesy of the full no-movement clause that Sabres GM Kevyn Adams handed him this offseason. When Boston entered the derby for his services, the competition was over.

“Definitely, the no-move really helped me become a Bruin,” Hall said on Monday.

So Taylor Hall got an $8 million salary from a contract with the Sabres and still ended up in Boston for a playoff run, with a chance to audition for a long-term deal with the Bruins. It’s good to see Taylor Hall get a little lucky in something other than his team’s draft lottery. (Boston Bruins, please don’t turn that last statement into the ultimate irony by season’s end.)


Loser: Buffalo Sabres

Kaplan: Everything about 2021 has been brutal for Buffalo. The Sabres endured an 18-game winless streak, the longest of the salary cap era. They fired yet another coach, Ralph Krueger, and captain Jack Eichel has remained sidelined with injury. The Sabres’ offseason acquisitions of Hall and Eric Staal generated decent optimism, and let’s just say that excitement evaporated fast.

With Hall, Staal and Brandon Montour all on expiring contracts, the Sabres were hoping to leverage those players for future draft picks and prospects. They did, but the return leaves a lot to be desired: a second-round pick, two third round picks, a fifth-round pick and Anders Bjork (39 points in 138 career NHL games), despite retaining a ton of salary.

Goalie Linus Ullmark stuck around with the hopes the sides can reach an extension, but there’s also a chance the 27-year-old can just walk as an unrestricted free agent this summer. This isn’t all on rookie GM Kevyn Adams, who got a tough assignment in his first year on the job. Though he held out and asked for a first-round pick for Hall, sources tell ESPN no team was willing to offer one. And with Hall holding a no-movement clause — therefore having some control over his destiny — the Sabres had to take what they could get.

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Greg Wyshynski defends Buffalo Sabres GM Kevyn Adams for what he got from Boston in the Taylor Hall trade.


Winner: East Division

Kaplan: I thought the race atop the Central Division was going to get heated, with the Hurricanes, Panthers and Lightning all jockeying for position. What went down in the East Division is far more fascinating.

All four teams atop the East made massive moves, giving that race extra juice down the stretch. The Islanders kicked things off by acquiring Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the Devils — two players to help fill the void of captain Anders Lee, who is out with a blown ACL, and who both seem to fit the Islanders culture seamlessly. The Penguins grabbed Jeff Carter from Los Angeles, a wise move for a team that’s been decimated by injuries at the center position. The Bruins picked up a nice depth defenseman in Mike Reilly then landed forwards Curtis Lazar and Hall — without having to surrender a first-round pick for the latter.

Then the Capitals had to keep up with the Joneses, of course, landing Michael Raffl for the bottom six then making the biggest move of all on Monday: Acquiring 26-year-old Anthony Mantha from the Red Wings, trading away Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, a 2021 first-round pick and 2022 second-round pick in return.

The East is filled with plenty of intrigue over the next month, especially knowing the first two playoff rounds will be intradivisional. And did we mention that of the Bruins’ remaining 17 games, six of them are against Hall and Lazar’s old team, the Sabres? All of those will be must-watch games.


Loser: West Division

Wyshynski: It’s such a stereotypical East vs. West dynamic, as one division was high-strung and aggressive while the other division was all “like, what deadline, maaaaan?”

The Avalanche and Golden Knights are in a Kong vs. Godzilla march to a playoff showdown, but neither team escalated their arsenal with a blockbuster deadline move. Colorado added goalie insurance in Devan Dubnyk and reunited with center Carl Soderberg. The Golden Knights made a nice deal for the versatile Mattias Janmark, but this was a bit of a comedown after previous deadline scores like Robin Lehner and Mark Stone. The Wild wouldn’t part with a first-round pick in order to upgrade. The Coyotes and Blues stood pat, while the Kings sent Jeff Carter back East.

Meanwhile, who are the Ducks, exactly? The team traded Ben Hutton to the Leafs for fifth-rounder and acquired defenseman Haydn Fleury from the Hurricanes … and that was it. The Ducks should be aggressively transitioning their roster towards a youth movement. Instead, they held onto all of their veteran assets, from Josh Manson to Rickard Rakell. GM Bob Murray could have traded captain Ryan Getzlaf, too, if there was a “significant enough return” to help the team. There was not. The sooner the Ducks realize the reality of their surroundings (i.e. the division basement), the quicker they can start to turn things around.


Kaplan: If there’s one thing to know about Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen, it’s that he always acts with conviction. The Blue Jackets have four straight playoff berths, and kept overachieving despite losing big names in free agency. But in 2021, they fell back to Earth. Only the Red Wings have fewer points in the Central Division. Instead of dwelling on a season lost, Kekalainen got to work.

Despite speculation that “rental players” wouldn’t yield a big return in 2021, Kekalainen snagged two first-round picks for players on expiring contracts, Nick Foligno and David Savard. What’s more, the GM handled the situation with his captain, Foligno, with class and transparency; I wouldn’t rule out a reunion this summer.

The other thing about Kekalainen: he rarely panics, he just adapts. “We wouldn’t call [this season] a step back,” Kekalainen said. “We can do the reload and decide the pace of it with the moves we make in the offseason and we’ll be better for it.”


Wyshynski: The Jets have one of the NHL’s deepest collection of forwards, with Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Kyle Connor, Blake Wheeler, Pierre-Luc Dubois and others. They have one of the top two goalies in the NHL in Connor Hellebuyck.

They do not have a defense corps that is on par with either of those two other parts of their lineup, and … they added Jordie Benn for a sixth-round pick.

Yes, they’re likely going to have promising Ville Heinola on their blue line shortly. But this team needed one more impact defenseman, and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff couldn’t pry one loose.

“We looked at a few other things. We tried to do a few other things today that might have been big swings, but the players that we targeted didn’t move,” he said.

That’s too bad. This team was one or two pieces away from being a serious contender to come out of the North Division.


Winner: Florida Panthers

Wyshynski: I’ll admit I underestimated the Panthers’ trade for Brandon Montour. But after seeing the return for David Savard, bringing in Montour for a third-rounder was a bargain.

That was one of a couple of interesting moves for GM Bill Zito at the deadline. He traded a 2022 second-rounder and prospect Emil Heineman for Flames center Sam Bennett, who wanted a change in scenery and will be playing for a restricted free agent contract. His playoff production can’t be ignored, either.

They also added some additional skill in free agent Nikita Gusev who was released by the Devils. (Stick-tap to the Chicago Blackhawks for helping the Panthers make the money work in a pair of salary-dumping trades.) We’re still not sure how far Florida will get without Aaron Ekblad, but these moves combined with their keeping goale Chris Driedger around is a signal to the players that the organization is serious about this playoff push.


Loser: Cap flexibility

Kaplan: The NHL’s salary cap remains at $81.5 million, and life in a flat-cap world just doesn’t jibe with a lot of GMs. (The salary cap has risen every year since the last lockout, one of many reasons the pandemic and economic losses over the last 13 months have jolted even the best-laid plans). As many league folks predicted, the phrase “retained salary” had everyone buzzing on Monday. Beginning with the Eric Staal trade on March 26, 11 trades have included some retention of salary.

Teams with flexibility — looking at you, Detroit and San Jose — were able to weaponize their space, essentially buying themselves draft picks by inserting themselves in deals as “brokers.” Teams in a pinch — Tampa Bay and Vegas among them — entered the week with virtually no cap space, but somehow finagled a way to make moves anyway.

In a few weeks, the Stanley Cup playoffs will begin, and the salary cap will essentially go away. It’s a loophole that will allow Nikita Kucherov to join the already stacked Tampa Bay Lightning, who have $0 in projected cap space and still must figure out what to do when other players come off long-term injured reserve before the end of the regular season.

While we admire the creativity on display, that lack of cap space surely drove down the volume of deals.

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Emily Kaplan breaks down the NHL trade deadline, including how the Bruins, Islanders and Capitals improved their teams.


Wyshynski: The Maple Leafs haven’t won a playoff series since 2004. The knock on them has been that don’t defend or do the “little things” well enough to win in the postseason. Nick Foligno does both, which is why many teams other than the Leafs were in the market for the pending unrestricted free agent’s services.

Toronto traded away a premium package including a first-round pick, but so what? GM Kyle Dubas has been meticulously crafting this roster with veteran character players for the last year, and Foligno feels like a “last piece” guy.

I also liked David Rittich as goalie insurance for Jack Campbell and Frederik Andersen, Riley Nash as a depth defensive center and Ben Hutton as another defenseman in the mix. A Stanley Cup contender just got better, and Dubas sent an emphatic message to his players and their fans that this is the year to go for it.


Loser: Chaos

Kaplan: A few weeks ago we all thought the Predators were poised to be the biggest movers of the trade deadline. They were listening to everything, including deals for star forward Filip Forsberg and one of their top defensemen, Mattias Ekholm. Over the last month, only the Avalanche have picked up more points than the Predators, and that prevented Nashville from doing anything — except taking a flier on Erik Gudbranson for a seventh-round pick.

Teams were interested in Philly’s Scott Laughton, but the versatile forward worked out an extension with the Flyers (five years, $15 million). Ditto for Alex Iafallo and the Kings (four years, $16 million). Linus Ullmark wasn’t traded from the Sabres, in hopes both sides can work out an extension before this summer. Heck, there was barely any goalie movement, outside of veteran Devan Dubnyk landing with Colorado and David Rittich being sent to Toronto.

“Just wait for the draft,” one agent told me Monday afternoon. “That’s when the fireworks will happen.”

So while today might have been a little sleepier than other recent deadline days, perhaps we’ll get our frenzy this summer.





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Washington Capitals trade Jonas Siegenthaler to New Jersey Devils for third-round pick


NEWARK, N.J. — The New Jersey Devils acquired defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler from the Washington Capitals on Sunday for a 2021 third-round pick.

Washington clears $800,000 in salary-cap space before the trade deadline Monday by dealing one of the eight defensemen on its active roster. New Jersey gets a 23-year-old left shot on the blue line for its rebuilding efforts.

Siegenthaler is a restricted free agent after this season. The 2015 second-round pick from Switzerland has 13 points in 97 regular-season NHL games, all with the Capitals.

He hasn’t played — save for 28 seconds in one game as Washington’s seventh defenseman — since Feb. 7.

“I know that Jonas wants to play, he wanted to play, so I hope it is a good fit for him,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “Even though you might be upset you are not in the lineup, he never vocalized that or never made waves with what he was doing and he wanted to play and I respect him for that. But he worked his tail off and I wish him the best.”

The third-round pick the Devils are sending to the Capitals is either Arizona’s that they acquired by trading 2018 MVP Taylor Hall to the Coyotes last year or their own. If the Coyotes don’t transfer the pick to New Jersey this year, the Devils will give the Capitals their own third-rounder.

New Jersey put veteran defenseman Sami Vatanen on waivers Sunday and could also trade Dmitry Kulikov and Ryan Murray before the deadline. Siegenthaler could give the Devils some defensive balance.

“He might be a good [defense partner] for one of our offensive guys,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “A big defenseman, a real good penalty-killer. I think he can really help that part of our game.”



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2021 NHL trade deadline – Grades for all the biggest deals


The 2021 NHL trade deadline is fast approaching, and all deals must be completed by 3 p.m. ET on Monday, April 12. We’ve gone through the deals we’d like to see, a team-by-team guide to the deadline, and a player-by-player look at the individuals that could be on a new team by next week.

As each major deal happens, national NHL reporter Emily Kaplan and senior NHL writer Greg Wyshynski will be grading both GMs involved on the particulars of each swap.

The most recent trade grades are at the top, and we’ll continue to update right through the final deadline deals.

Saturday, April 10

Tampa Bay Lightning get: D David Savard, D Brian Lashoff
Columbus Blue Jackets get: 2021 first-round pick, 2022 third-round pick
Detroit Red Wings get: 2021 fourth-round pick

If you’ve heard GM Julien BriseBois talk over the past few weeks, he has been stressing that it’s going to be very hard for the Lightning to do anything at the deadline, because of their lack of cap space. Lo and behold, he found a way.

For the second straight trade deadline, Tampa Bay was aggressive. But unlike last season, the Lightning moved a first-round pick for a player (Savard) whose contract expires this summer. That typically goes against the front office’s philosophy on “rental players,” but it also shows that Tampa Bay really thinks it has a chance to repeat as Stanley Cup champs.

The cap gymnastics are complicated. BriseBois essentially asked his peers to absorb some salary: Columbus retained 50% of Savard’s cap hit to trade him to Detroit; Detroit retained 50% of the remainder to trade him to the Lightning, meaning Tampa Bay added $1,062,500 to its cap. The Lightning are not in the clear yet. Jan Rutta was put on long-term injured reserve, but he is expected back by the end of the season. That’s a later problem.

For now, Savard is a prototypical deadline addition because he is experienced and a tough competitor, and he is going to do all the small things right. The 30-year-old has 38 games of playoff experience, including averaging 25:42 minutes per game in 10 contests during the 2020 postseason bubble. The right-handed defenseman is big (6-foot-2, 229 pounds) and plays a physical game; he has 89 blocked shots in just 40 games this season.

Savard’s individual metrics on the Blue Jackets weren’t great, but put him on a winning team, and in the Lightning’s structure, and he is a great cultural fit. The Lightning have been looking for defensive reinforcements, as they never really replaced Zach Bogosian and Kevin Shattenkirk, both of whom left in free agency. The Lightning also have been trying to shelter the minutes of rookie Cal Foote, easing his development.

The Central Division has three elite teams in the Lightning, Hurricanes and Panthers, and one dangerous challenger in whomever snags the fourth playoff spot. Seeing that the first two playoff rounds are intradivisional, BriseBois likely saw this as a necessary move to stay ahead of the Joneses.

Giving up three draft picks is a bit rich. However, Tampa Bay is banking on another long run, so the first-round pick should be a late one. The Lightning now have a third-, fifth- and sixth-round pick and two seventh-round picks in 2021; in 2022, they’ll be without a second- and third-rounder. But win the Stanley Cup again and no one will be complaining.

Savard was respected to an tremendous degree within the Blue Jackets organization. He had played his entire 10-year career in Columbus, did everything asked of him and showed up to an optional practice on his very last day, fully aware he was going to be traded. It’s not easy to lose someone like that.

But the Blue Jackets — who have four straight playoff berths and have kept overachieving despite losing big names in free agency — have fallen back to earth this season. Columbus has gone 15-19-8 through 42 games; only the Red Wings have fewer points in the Central Division. It’s clear this team needs some retooling, which made Savard, on an expiring contract, an obvious player to trade. There’s been a lot of speculation and chatter among NHL evaluators that “rental players” wouldn’t yield big returns this year, in part because of an imbalance of teams looking to add and subtract. That Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen was able to hold Savard until two days before the trade deadline and yield this return is strong management. It also is helpful that ownership was willing to absorb some of the cap hit, which upped the return.

The first-round pick will be a low one, but Columbus could use more young players; drafting and developing has been the model Kekalainen prefers best.

Now, he faces more tough decisions. Will Kekalainen move his captain, Nick Foligno? What about defenseman Michael Del Zotto? How about players with more than one year left on their contract? Those latter deals are probably best saved for summer.

What does Detroit GM Steve Yzerman want more than anything right now? Draft picks. And so he went out and bought one. What’s more, Detroit trades away the captain of its AHL team … only to ensure that that player remains with the Grand Rapids Griffins for the rest of the season. Genius.


Colorado Avalanche get: G Devan Dubnyk
San Jose Sharks get: D Greg Pateryn, 2021 fifth-round pick

The Avalanche are firing on all cylinders. Over the past month, they have lost just once in 17 games. No team has accumulated more points or scored more goals per game than the Avs in that span. Only two teams have recorded fewer goals against per game. A big part of that success has been Philipp Grubauer, who is having a Vezina Trophy-caliber season. Through 33 games, he has 24 wins and a .919 save percentage.

However, the Avs also know this: They are just one Grubauer injury away from disaster.

The team saw this unfold in last year’s postseason bubble. I’ve talked to members of the Avalanche about it; if they weren’t down to their third-string goalie in the second-round series against the Stars, they really believe they would have moved on to the Western Conference finals. Instead, Colorado was sent home, disappointed, but knowing the team had as good of a chance to win the Cup in 2021.

With Pavel Francouz sidelined due to a lower-body injury, the Avs have worked Grubauer hard. And it has become apparent that their Achilles’ heel could be exposed again unless GM Joe Sakic did something about it. Sakic acquired Jonas Johansson from the Sabres last month, and it’s never a bad idea to have more goaltending depth. But what the Avs really needed was a veteran for insurance. That’s Dubnyk.

Dubnyk is in his 12th NHL season and is a consummate professional. While he is only four years removed from finishing fifth in Vezina voting, he has been a sub-.900 save percentage goalie in each of the past two seasons. The 34-year-old should improve while playing under Colorado’s much better defensive structure, but it’s fair to wonder if Sakic could have found a more exciting option out there. Then again, while the Avs are trying to win now, they are conscious of the future too. And before this trade, Colorado was already without a second-, fourth- and sixth-round pick in the 2021 draft. They don’t want to jeopardize too much, but they also might not be done yet.

As for Pateryn: He played only eight games for Colorado this season. With Friday’s addition of Patrik Nemethwho plays a similar role — Pateryn was viewed as a player who could be traded away, and Colorado is happy to clear his cap space, which is a shade over $2 million.

San Jose GM Doug Wilson wished Devan Dubnyk well on Saturday, saying he “brought the element of consummate professionalism and class” while mentoring a lot of younger players. That’s shorthand for: We really respect the guy, but we don’t need him anymore.

The Sharks are making a surprising run at the fourth playoff spot in the West Division, but they know no matter how the season finishes, they need to focus on long-term planning. The Sharks have put off a rebuild (or at the very least a retool), and it’s coming back to haunt them. There’s an urgency to get younger players into the lineup and stockpile draft picks or else things could really get dire.

Martin Jones is having a resurgence, and the Sharks obviously want to ride that out, considering their financial commitment to the player. (He is making $5.75 million per season through 2023-24.) The Sharks also want to give two of their young goalies in the organization — 22-year-old Alexei Melnichuk and 23-year-old Josef Korenar — an opportunity to get some starts. That meant that they could trade Dubnyk.

In Pateryn, the Sharks get a pending free agent who is a serviceable NHL defenseman and offers some insurance on the blue line for this surprising playoff push, if nothing else.

That they were able to recoup a fifth-rounder for Dubnyk feels about right. Overall a solid, if unexciting, transaction for Wilson. — Kaplan


Florida Panthers get: D Brandon Montour
Buffalo Sabres get: 2021 third-round pick

Are the Panthers getting the Brandon Montour whom Buffalo traded for in 2019 or the Brandon Montour who is leaving the Sabres after 112 underwhelming games?

When the Sabres acquired him, Montour was seen as a solid, young defenseman with an even higher ceiling. He had 63 points in 169 games in Anaheim, skating 20:47 on average. He blocked shots and delivered hits. Buffalo saw that promise, traded a conditional first-round pick for him and … watched Montour become one of the NHL’s most ineffective defensemen on the defensive side of the puck.

Montour had an expected goals percentage of 46.12% during his three seasons in Buffalo, including 44.67% this season through 38 games. He has averaged 0.38 points per game offensively but has been an absolute drag defensively on the Sabres. In three seasons, Montour has a minus-12.5 goals scored above average and has cost his team 2.3 wins in the standings. He has been sub-replacement level for the Sabres.

The operative phrase here: “for the Sabres.” The majority of his time in Buffalo was spent under the ultimately ineffective coaching of Ralph Krueger, on a porous defensive team. Montour has seven points in 12 games under new interim coach Don Granato, skating to a plus-1 rating. He played on the penalty kill, and he saw power-play time in Buffalo, as well.

The Panthers made two trades with the Chicago Blackhawks recently to open up some cap space, the majority of it leaving with forward Brett Connolly ($3.5 million average annual value). With Aaron Ekblad done for at least the regular season after fracturing his left leg, the Panthers prioritized adding a defenseman at the deadline, and Montour could slide in on a pairing with MacKenzie Weegar.

If a change in scenery does the trick and Montour rediscovers his defensive game — that is, if the “Buffalo effect” is real — this could be a very good stopgap move, as Montour is a pending unrestricted free agent. Either way, the risk was only a third-round pick for a team with eyes on the postseason.

First, a little history lesson.

In February 2019, the Sabres acquired Montour for defenseman Brendan Guhle, who is currently in the AHL and a conditional first-round pick. The pick the Sabres ended up sending to Anaheim was acquired from the San Jose Sharks in the Evander Kane trade, on the condition that he re-signed with San Jose and that the Sharks made the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs.

Before that second condition was met, the Sabres traded a conditional first to Anaheim for Montour. The condition: That the Ducks would receive either the Sharks’ first-rounder in 2019 or the St. Louis Blues‘ first-rounder in 2019, which Buffalo acquired in the Ryan O’Reilly trade. If the Blues’ pick was between Nos. 20 and 31 (it was), then Anaheim had the option to take either the Blues’ or the Sharks’ first-rounder from Buffalo. The Sharks and the Blues actually met in the Western Conference finals with the fate of the Ducks’ conditional first-rounder on the line. The Blues won the West, and Anaheim used the Sharks’ pick to draft winger Brayden Tracey at No. 29 overall, courtesy of the Sabres.

History lesson over. Pencils down.

At the time, the acquisition of Montour was praised. He was young. He was under contract beyond that season, and the Sabres would control his rights after that. But like … well, pretty much everything under the previous regime, good intentions don’t ensure good results, and Montour languished on the Sabres’ blue line.

Given that — and the fact that Montour is a pending free agent — a third-round pick seemed like the ceiling for GM Kevyn Adams, especially since the Sabres didn’t retain any salary to make the deal work. A frustrating erosion of value for a 26-year-old defenseman, but that’s reality for Buffalo in this trade market. — Wyshynski

Wednesday, April 7

New York Islanders get: RW Kyle Palmieri, C Travis Zajac
New Jersey Devils get: F A.J. Greer, F Mason Jobst, 2021 first-round pick, conditional 2022 fourth-round pick

GM Lou Lamoriello said it best when explaining the Islanders’ trade for Palmieri and Zajac: There are no surprises with these two. “I know what they bring on the ice. I also know what kind of people they are and what they bring to the locker room. Chemistry is very important for me,” he said.

They’ve played against these Islanders with frequency. They’ve played with New York defenseman Andy Greene, who was a career Devils defenseman before Lamoriello reached over to Jersey and added him for the Islanders at last season’s trade deadline. For better or for worse, there are no surprises here about the players the Islanders acquired.

It’ll mostly be for the better.

Palmieri is having a down year — there’s no getting around that. The question is whether a short-term change in scenery can reignite his offense. He’s been better than 0.33 goals per game since 2015-16; this season, he’s at 0.24, with eight goals in 34 games. He has not been lower than 0.66 points per game during that span; this season, he’s at 0.50. Palmieri has some encouraging underlying numbers (51.41 expected goals percentage). This isn’t a case of his production hitting some kind of sudden, steep decline. Whether they deploy him on the left of Mathew Barzal or on the right of Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Palmieri is going to help fill the offensive void left by the loss of Anders Lee for the season.

Zajac was an interesting addition to the deal. His best days are behind him, and he has managed a 46.88 expected goals percentage at 5-on-5. Like Palmieri, he’s been a sub-replacement-level player for the Devils this season. His calling card used to be as a penalty killer, but he has been ineffective there, too.

What he is at age 35 is a strong character player who can chip in on offense (18 points in 33 games) while playing a bottom-six role. It also gives the Islanders considerable experience and depth at the center spot: Barzal, Brock Nelson, Pageau, Casey Cizikas and now Zajac. Lamoriello drafted him. Lamoriello knows him. He’ll be properly cast by Barry Trotz.

This isn’t the kind of trade that secures a Stanley Cup for the Islanders. But it is the kind of trade that, if they’re so blessed to hoist the chalice at the end of the season, they’ll look back on as having added vital pieces to complete the puzzle. And it didn’t cost them much at all, given that the return didn’t include an upper-tier prospect and did include a first-round pick in a very mysterious draft.

If the market for Palmieri was as robust as it appeared to be — the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins were among the reportedly interested teams — then one wonders if the Devils couldn’t have acquired a prospect, rather than a low first-round pick in a draft that many general managers admit is a complete crapshoot thanks to the lack of in-person scouting and other COVID-19-related impacts.

Essentially, that’s what the trade was: Palmieri for a first-rounder. Greer and Jobst are depth talents on expiring contracts, although Greer has the potential to contribute. Zajac’s trade value was extremely limited due to his age, effectiveness and full no-trade clause. It was likely going to be a team in the New York metropolitan area or back home in Winnipeg, or it was nothing. So the conditional fourth-rounder for Zajac is what it is.

As I’ve written about before, it’s a weird NHL trade deadline. Maybe given all the odd forces affecting teams, this was the best return that GM Tom Fitzgerald could get for Palmieri in a down season. That’s something we’ll know for sure when the dust settles after Monday’s deadline.

And it’s not out of the question that the Devils have gotten a first-round pick for a player who‘s back on their roster next season via unrestricted free agency. Fitzgerald called trading Palmieri “a business decision between Kyle and this organization at this moment.” I asked Fitzgerald about that possibility; he shut it down by saying Palmieri is now on another team and he can’t comment. Which wasn’t a “no.”

Still, the value coming back to New Jersey for having retained 50% of both players’ salaries should have been a bit more than a low first-rounder, two depth players and a fourth-round pick that becomes a third if the Islanders make the Stanley Cup Final.

Now they’re left hoping that the Islanders stumble a bit to make that first-rounder a higher one. Well, everyone but their GM is hoping that, apparently.

“I hope the pick we get is the 32nd pick. I hope both of these gentlemen win the Cup,” said Fitzgerald. — Wyshynski





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New York Islanders make splash as NHL’s trade deadline nears, acquire Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac


The New York Islanders acquired New Jersey Devils winger Kyle Palmieri on Wednesday night, landing one of the most coveted forwards ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

The Islanders acquired Palmieri, 30, and veteran center Travis Zajac, 35, from New Jersey for depth forwards A.J. Greer and Mason Jobst, the Islanders’ first-round pick in the 2021 NHL draft and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.

The Devils retained 50% of the salaries for both players in order to make the trade work under the $81.5 million salary cap. Palmieri’s cap hit of $4.65 million dropped to $2.325 million; Zajac’s $5.75 million cap hit dropped to $2.875 million. Both players are unrestricted free agents after the season.

Palmieri, who had received interest from other teams, including the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, heading into the deadline, has eight goals and nine assists in 34 games this season. But it’s his tenacity as a forward and his offensive pedigree that had teams lining up for him after the Devils made it clear they intended to trade him: Palmieri had scored 132 goals from 2015 to 2020 with the Devils.

“It’s been a bit of a crazy week, starting with the scratch Sunday,” said Palmieri, who did not play this week for New Jersey while talks were occurring. “When I heard the Islanders were an option, I couldn’t have been more excited. Little bit of anxiety waiting for that call, but difficult to contain my excitement.”

The Islanders had sought a veteran winger at the deadline, after losing captain Anders Lee for the season with a right knee injury.

Zajac, who waived his no-trade clause to join the Islanders, is a versatile center who played on New Jersey’s power play and on their penalty kill. He has 18 points in 33 games this season. Zajac had been a Devil since 2006-07, playing all 1,024 of his NHL games with the franchise. He was drafted 20th overall in 2004 by current Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello, who spent over two decades at the helm in New Jersey.

“I think at this point I wanted a chance to win,” Zajac said. “I believe this is the team that has all the aspects of a winner. I want to help them in any way possible. For me it was the right time. I was fortunate to have such a great career in New Jersey, tons of great people.”

The condition — the fourth-round selection in the deal — relates to the length of the Islanders’ postseason run. If New York makes the Stanley Cup Final, the pick will move to the third round in either 2022 or 2023. At that point, the Islanders will have the option to decide which one they’d like to transfer.

The Devils now have nine picks in the 2021 NHL Draft. And it’s the second consecutive season they found a trading partner with the Islanders. Before the league paused last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Islanders acquired former Devils defenseman and captain Andy Greene for a prospect and a draft pick. The Islanders went on to advance to the Eastern Conference finals after play resumed in the Toronto bubble.

“I feel my relationship with Lou is extremely strong. There’s a trust factor between the both of us, and that’s important to Lou and it’s very important to me,” Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald said. “Last year, we were dealing with the same thing … there are players that Lou values on our team, for obvious reasons.

“For me, players want to play for Lou, especially his ex-players, and I think that’s important through all this and Travis was no different. He knows what the environment’s going to be, he knows what the expectations will be.”



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NHL trade grades – New York Islanders swing big again in adding Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils


The New York Islanders have made a splashy play ahead of the NHL’s Monday trade deadline, dealing for veteran New Jersey Devils forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac.

The Isles dealt depth players A.J. Greer and Mason Jobst to the Devils, along with their first-round pick in the 2021 draft and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2022 draft. The Devils will be retaining 50% of Palmieri and Zajac’s cap hits as part of the terms.

How did both general managers do in this swap? Here are our grades for the trade:

GM Lou Lamoriello said it best when explaining the Islanders’ trade for Palmieri and Zajac: There are no surprises with these two. “I know what they bring on the ice. I also know what kind of people they are and what they bring to the locker room. Chemistry is very important for me,” he said.

They’ve played against these Islanders with frequency. They’ve played with New York defenseman Andy Greene, who was a career Devils defenseman before Lamoriello reached over to Jersey and added him for the Islanders at last season’s trade deadline. For better or for worse, there are no surprises here about the players the Islanders acquired.

It’ll mostly be for the better.

Palmieri is having a down year — there’s no getting around that. The question is whether a short-term change in scenery can reignite his offense. He’s been better than 0.33 goals per game since 2015-16; this season, he’s at 0.24, with eight goals in 34 games. He has not been lower than 0.66 points per game during that span; this season, he’s at 0.50. Palmieri has some encouraging underlying numbers (51.41 expected goals percentage). This isn’t a case of his production hitting some kind of sudden, steep decline. Whether they deploy him on the left of Mathew Barzal or on the right of Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Palmieri is going to help fill the offensive void left by the loss of Anders Lee for the season.

Zajac was an interesting addition to the deal. His best days are behind him, and he has managed a 46.88 expected goals percentage at 5-on-5. Like Palmieri, he’s been a sub-replacement-level player for the Devils this season. His calling card used to be as a penalty killer, but he has been ineffective there, too.

What he is at age 35 is a strong character player who can chip in on offense (18 points in 33 games) while playing a bottom-six role. It also gives the Islanders considerable experience and depth at the center spot: Barzal, Brock Nelson, Pageau, Casey Cizikas and now Zajac. Lamoriello drafted him. Lamoriello knows him. He’ll be properly cast by Barry Trotz.

This isn’t the kind of trade that secures a Stanley Cup for the Islanders. But it is the kind of trade that, if they’re so blessed to hoist the chalice at the end of the season, they’ll look back on as having added vital pieces to complete the puzzle. And it didn’t cost them much at all, given that the return didn’t include an upper-tier prospect and did include a first-round pick in a very mysterious draft.


If the market for Palmieri was as robust as it appeared to be — the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins were among the reportedly interested teams — then one wonders if the Devils couldn’t have acquired a prospect, rather than a low first-round pick in a draft that many general managers admit is a complete crapshoot thanks to the lack of in-person scouting and other COVID-19-related impacts.

Essentially, that’s what the trade was: Palmieri for a first-rounder. Greer and Jobst are depth talents on expiring contracts, although Greer has the potential to contribute. Zajac’s trade value was extremely limited due to his age, effectiveness and full no-trade clause. It was likely going to be a team in the New York metropolitan area or back home in Winnipeg, or it was nothing. So the conditional fourth-rounder for Zajac is what it is.

As I’ve written about before, it’s a weird NHL trade deadline. Maybe given all the odd forces affecting teams, this was the best return that GM Tom Fitzgerald could get for Palmieri in a down season. That’s something we’ll know for sure when the dust settles after Monday’s deadline.

And it’s not out of the question that the Devils have gotten a first-round pick for a player who‘s back on their roster next season via unrestricted free agency. Fitzgerald called trading Palmieri “a business decision between Kyle and this organization at this moment.” I asked Fitzgerald about that possibility; he shut it down by saying Palmieri is now on another team and he can’t comment. Which wasn’t a “no.”

Still, the value coming back to New Jersey for having retained 50% of both players’ salaries should have been a bit more than a low first-rounder, two depth players and a fourth-round pick that becomes a third if the Islanders make the Stanley Cup Final.

Now they’re left hoping that the Islanders stumble a bit to make that first-rounder a higher one. Well, everyone but their GM is hoping that, apparently.

“I hope the pick we get is the 32nd pick. I hope both of these gentlemen win the Cup,” said Fitzgerald.



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2021 NHL Awards Watch – Projecting the races with a month left in the season


Ever since the NHL realigned its teams into four new divisions and decided to have those teams play each other for just 56 games, there’s been a lingering question about how this format would impact NHL Awards voting.

(All due respect to the writers and broadcasters covering the North Division, but we imagine you haven’t caught many Florida games this season while watching Oilers vs. Leafs for the seventh time …)

This week, we gained some clarity on that question: The Profession Hockey Writers Association announced a “single-season adjustment” to its voting process.

“This season’s divisional realignment created an unprecedented disparity in divisional representation that needed to be rectified to ensure a more equitable delegation. As such, the PHWA’s Executive Board unanimously moved to better balance the voting bloc by selecting 20 voters from each division, plus 20 at-large voters, for a total of 100 voters,” the PHWA said in a statement.

Essentially, instead of 155 members voting on the awards, it will be 100 voters split up by the four divisions and at-large members — the latter category is where you’ll find yours truly and Emily Kaplan.

It’s a necessary recalibration to balance the voting as best we can. Otherwise, it would have been 82 voters from the North Division stuffing the ballot box. And we can’t have that, can we?

Here’s the NHL Awards Watch for April. This is informed speculation, taken from conversations around hockey and with voters, regarding the current contenders for each award. Keep in mind that the PHWA votes for the Hart, Norris, Calder, Selke and Lady Byng; broadcasters vote for the Jack Adams; and general managers handle the Vezina. Also keep in mind the unofficial “you gotta be in it to win it” protocol for the Hart and the Jack Adams.

All stats from Hockey-Reference.com, Natural Stat Trick and Evolving Hockey.

Jump ahead:
Ross | Richard | Hart
Norris | Selke | Vezina
Calder | Byng | Adams

Art Ross Trophy (points leader)

Current leader: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (64 points, 39 games played)
Watch out for: Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers (57 points, 39 GP)
Dark horse: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (49 points, 39 GP)

Rocket Richard Trophy (leading goal scorer)

Current leader: Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (27 goals, 36 GP)
Watch out for: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (22 goals, 39 GP)
Dark horse: Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche (21 goals, 38 GP)


Hart Trophy (MVP)

Leader: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Finalists: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks; Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

I’m not familiar with the engraving process for the Hart Trophy. However long it takes, they could save valuable time and just put Connor McDavid’s name on it now under “2020-21.”

McDavid was the top MVP choice for every voter we surveyed, the only unanimous awards pick. There’s no reason to contort logic and find another candidate: The Oilers have a 97.3% chance of making the postseason this season, per Money Puck, and McDavid is the primary reason for that. No “but they’re not a playoff team!” caveats negating his candidacy. We’re free and clear to get behind Connor as MVP.

Consider that he leads the NHL with 64 points and has a 1.64 points-per-game average. Yes, it’s a truncated season, but that would be the highest single-season average since Mario Lemieux‘s 1.77 points per game over 43 games in 2000-01, which is pretty good company to keep. McDavid leads the NHL with 17 goals scored above average, and he is responsible for adding three wins to the Oilers this season. He’s also playing the best defense of his career, which is to say he’s playing defense. A truly special season for a truly special player.

The knock on Matthews was that he missed time to injury and he wasn’t leading his team in scoring. Well, he missed only three games, he has moved within a point of Mitchell Marner‘s 47 points and has the Leafs’ leading scorer beat in points per game (1.28), which is really where the focus should be in this janky season. Otherwise, Matthews is having an incredible goal-scoring season, with 27 in 36 games, nine of them qualifying as game-winning goals, the highest total in the NHL this season.

These three candidates were also our top three last month, although one wonders if Kane will meet the “gotta be in it to win it” threshold with the Blackhawks’ playoff chances hovering around 11.9%, per Money Puck. But he’s your classic MVP candidate on a bubble team. His 49 points are 13 clear of the next-highest scorer on the team, Alex DeBrincat, who directly benefits from playing with Patrick Kane. I think he makes the top three if the Blackhawks make the playoffs.

There are five other candidates worth mentioning here, two of whom have Hart trophies on their mantles already.

Draisaitl is three goals and seven points away from McDavid’s totals. What happens if Connor has the narrative, but last season’s MVP has him beat in both of those categories?

Nathan MacKinnon has finished second for the Hart twice, and he is in the middle of a monthlong offensive heater that has turned the Colorado Avalanche into a juggernaut. His 1.32 points-per-game average is impressive, and he could get that “best player on the best team” shine.

I’d watch out for Sidney Crosby, too. He has 43 points in 37 games to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he has gotten support on the NHL.com trophy tracker. If a “33-year-old Crosby carries injured Penguins to postseason” narrative gains steam … well, it’s not a coincidence the guy’s been nominated for the Hart eight times. Voters love Sid, and the Penguins might well win the East Division.

The other two players are found in the Sunshine State. Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy should absolutely be on the short list for MVP candidates. He’s dominating in traditional stats (.932 save percentage) and analytically (27.3 goals saved above average, adding 4.7 wins to the Lightning this season).

Finally, Aleksander Barkov of the surprising Florida Panthers does so much to help that team win on both ends of the ice. He leads the Panthers with 1.21 points per game, and he has an impressive 10.9 goals scored above replacement. Given what division he’s in and where he plays, it’s going to be tough to generate enough widespread support to overtake the more famous names. But this could easily be a season in which Barkov gets the Selke Trophy for a Hart-worthy year, aka “The Ryan O’Reilly Award.”


Norris Trophy (top defenseman)

Leader: Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Finalists: John Carlson, Washington Capitals; Adam Fox, New York Rangers

Everything is pointing to Hedman here.

He was first on every ballot we surveyed, save for one. He’s leading his team and all defensemen in scoring with 36 points in 38 games, skating 25 minutes, 31 seconds per game on average. He has the residual glow of an awesome championship run in which he won the Conn Smythe. He’s also due: This would be his fifth straight Norris nomination and he hasn’t won since 2017-18.

But after Hedman, things get interesting. The Norris Trophy race might be the one most affected by the conference realignment and intradivisional scheduling.

Darnell Nurse of the Edmonton Oilers and Jeff Petry of the Montreal Canadiens have been absolutely awesome in the North Division. Jakob Chychrun of the Arizona Coyotes has had a breakout campaign in the West Division. So has the Avs’ Samuel Girard, who was the only non-Hedman defenseman to get a first-place vote in our canvassing. His teammate Devon Toews has been great, and so have two of Toews’ former New York Islanders teammates: Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock.

But how much have voters from other divisions seen of these defensemen, considering none of them can really get by on reputation alone?

The exception to that is the Rangers’ Fox, who we think has played himself into the top three even if he was actually better last season. Fox has 33 points in 36 games this season, has averaged 24:42 of ice time per game and has respectable underlying numbers. But he’s getting those “is this the next Brian Leetch?!” stories on national websites that, say, Girard and Toews aren’t. I think he has broken through the realignment boundaries.

In a season this isolated, I do think reputation plus performance equals a Norris nomination. Shea Theodore had a breakout postseason for the Vegas Golden Knights and has been terrific this season. Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings has had a bit of a renaissance. Kris Letang has 28 points in 36 games, is averaging 24:36 of ice time per game and has been awfully steady for the Penguins.

But if we’re going with a reputation-based finalist, then we’re going with John Carlson. He has 32 points in 36 games for the Capitals, and he has been in the top five for the Norris for the past three seasons. I’m not sure he ends up here — especially as a minus player — but for now it’s a comfortable known commodity.

The Avalanche situation for the Norris, by the way, is fascinating. Cale Makar has 25 points in 26 games to lead all defensemen in points per game (0.96). It’s all going to come down to sample size and whether missing 12 games in a 56-game season is too large of an absence. Girard is the hipster pick: 30 points in 36 games and a much better all-around season than Makar analytically. Toews, however, has the best expected goals percentage of the three (62.55).

Do they all cancel each other out, or does Makar overshadow the other two like he’s Conner4Real and they’re The Style Boyz?


Calder Trophy (top rookie)

Leader: Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild
Finalists: Kevin Lankinen, Chicago Blackhawks; Ty Smith, New Jersey Devils

Kaprizov pretty much has this locked up at this point. He has 31 points in 37 games, several reels of highlights and is credited — correctly or incorrectly — with igniting the Wild with his offensive spark. He was named first for the Calder on all but one of the ballots we canvassed.

One of his teammates, goalie Kaapo Kahkonen, has a real case for also getting a Calder nomination. He has gone 12-6-0 with a .920 save percentage in his first 18 appearances. But it’s a really crowded field: Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers has been solid after a so-so start; Jake Oettinger of the Dallas Stars has been good in Ben Bishop‘s absence; and Alex Nedeljkovic has turned the Carolina Hurricanes‘ two-headed goalie monster into a hydra. But none of them have the work rate of Vitek Vanecek of the Capitals (26 games) or Lankinen of the Blackhawks (27 games), and Vanecek doesn’t have Lankinen’s stats (.918 save percentage) or impact on his team. So we’ll say that the Chicago netminder still has a lane for the Calder.

The other spot could go to a forward such as Jason Robertson of the Stars or the Ottawa SenatorsJosh Norris or Tim Stützle. But we’ve long predicted it’ll be a forward, goalie and defenseman for the Calder, and Ty Smith of the Devils remains the third finalist for now. He has 19 points in 36 games, skating 19:41 per game, and has been a difference-maker for them. But he could have some competition from across the river in K’Andre Miller, who plays more (20:43) and is a plus-13 while partnering with Jacob Trouba and Brendan Smith.


Vezina Trophy (top goaltender)

Note: The NHL’s general managers vote for this award

Leader: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
Finalists: Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights; Philipp Grubauer, Colorado Avalanche

Vasilevskiy is the only lock as a finalist here. Vezina voters have historically tended to overvalue wins, so his 23-5-1 record is a huge plus mark in his column. So is his .932 save percentage, which is the best for any goalie with at least 25 appearances this season. He’s been a Vezina finalist for three straight seasons, winning the award once. There’s no reason to believe that streak will be broken.

Grubauer had more wins than Vasilevskiy (24-7-1) through Monday’s games, with a tremendous .926 save percentage and a 1.83 goals-against average. He has also appeared in 32 of the Avs’ 38 games in a season in which his backup, Pavel Francouz, has missed the entire campaign. The Avalanche are quite good beyond their goaltending — they’re first in shot suppression (25.2 shots against per game) by a wide margin — but Grubauer’s work shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Fleury probably still has the third spot, although Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets is making an increasingly compelling case after having won the Vezina last season. Hellebuyck is the last line of defense for a team whose blue line is its weakest aspect, and he is fourth in goals saved above average (19.1) while playing in 31 games. Fleury is fifth in GSAA (18.5), continues to have gaudy traditional stats (17-9-0, .924 save percentage) and has that redemption narrative going for him, too. But Hellebuyck has been a Vezina finalist twice in four seasons. Fleury has been never been one in 17 years. Maybe the GMs just don’t like him like that; maybe he breaks the streak this year.

Other goalies to watch: Semyon Varlamov of the New York Islanders (16-7-3, .922 save percentage), Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators (.928 save percentage) and Mike Smith of the Edmonton Oilers (13-3-2, .919 save percentage).

Oh, and let’s not forget the most intriguing Vezina question: How many games does Jack Campbell of the Toronto Maple Leafs have to play in a 56-game season to qualify? He’s 9-0-0 with a .944 save percentage and a 1.53 goals-against average in nine games.


Selke Trophy (best defensive forward)

Leader: Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
Finalists: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins; Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights

As mentioned earlier, Barkov has a Hart Trophy case: 40 points in 33 games, a team-best 64.05 expected goals percentage and skating 21:04 per game. But we’ve seen this movie before with players such as Ryan O’Reilly, Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews; a well-rounded player with MVP bona fides gets the Selke as an acknowledgement of his value.

It does help that Barkov has a legit case for top defensive forward, too: He has won 53.6% of his faceoffs, plays a role on the penalty kill, and the Panthers have 1.74 expected goals per 60 minutes when he’s on the ice. All of this while committing only three minor penalties. Barkov has never been a Selke finalist, so there’s a certain “his turn” aspect of this, too.

It’s never not Bergeron’s turn, having been a Selke finalist for a record nine straight seasons. Both the Bruins center and Barkov were listed for the Selke on two ballots. Bergeron’s calling card is the faceoff circle, and he has an astounding 63.1% winning percentage this season. The Bruins have a 1.86 expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 with Bergeron out there. Also, he’s Patrice Bergeron, and he’s seeking his record-breaking fifth Selke win.

Mark Stone was also listed on two different ballots from the voters we canvassed. The Vegas star is trying to become the first winger to win the Selke since Jere Lehtinen in 2002-03. He has a slightly higher expected goals against per 60 (1.99) than the other two finalists, but no one in the NHL since the great Pavel Datsyuk has been this adept at stealing opponents’ pucks as Stone, who leads the NHL with 39 takeaways in 36 games. (If you’re curious, he has 239 over the past three seasons, and no other player has more than 182.)

There’s a slew of other candidates for the award. Among the other first-place finishers on our voters’ ballots were O’Reilly, Minnesota’s Joel Eriksson Ek and Montreal’s Phillip Danault.


Lady Byng Trophy (gentlemanly play)

This is the part where I mention that the Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly play should be voted on by the league’s on-ice officials or by the National Hockey League Players’ Association.

This award typically goes to the player with the most points and the fewest penalty minutes, which could mean Matthews (8 PIM) or Barkov (6 PIM) or Anze Kopitar (6 PIM). But what we really want to see is a defenseman win the award for only the second time since 1953-54. There’s only one name that matters here: the Carolina HurricanesJaccob Slavin, who plays 23:14 per game and has taken one penalty in 34 contests this season.

A goalie, meanwhile, has never won the award. Do Marc-Andre Fleury‘s two penalty minutes disqualify him?


Jack Adams Award (best coach)

Note: The NHL Broadcasters’ Association votes on this award.

Leader: Joel Quenneville, Florida Panthers
Finalists: Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs; Barry Trotz, New York Islanders

The Panthers have a .718 points percentage through 39 games. Unless they plummet in the standings without Aaron Ekblad — and they won their first five games without him — Quenneville is going to win his second Jack Adams in a walk. He never won one with the Chicago Blackhawks, having only previously won the Jack with the St. Louis Blues in 1999-2000.

The rest of the field is anyone’s guess. One of our voters lobbied for Rod Brind’Amour of the Carolina Hurricanes. Another liked Mike Sullivan of the Pittsburgh Penguins. We imagine that Minnesota Wild coach Dean Evason, Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice and Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar will get some attention. But if the Maple Leafs win the North, and remain in the top 10 defensively, it’s easy to see Keefe getting some deserved credit. Trotz, meanwhile, has two Jack Adams wins, including with the Islanders in 2018-19. New York is vying for a division title. Their coach is their MVP.





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NHL Power Rankings – 1-31 poll, plus the biggest trade-deadline sticking point for every team


The NHL trade deadline is Monday, and because this season is so unusual, each team is operating under its own unique circumstance. For this week’s NHL Power Rankings, we identified a sticking point for every team heading into the deadline.

How we rank: The ESPN hockey editorial staff submits selections ranking teams 1 to 31 — taking into account game results, injuries and upcoming schedule — and those results are tabulated in the list featured here.

Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to our Week 11 edition, published on March 31. Points percentages are through the games of April 6.

Previous ranking: 4
Points percentage: .737
Next seven days: @ MIN (Apr. 7); @ ANA (Apr. 9, 11); vs. ARI (Apr. 12)

Getting a reinforcement in goal needs to be a sticking point for Colorado. The Avalanche were derailed by goalie injuries in last year’s playoffs. For as good as this team is, it is one Philipp Grubauer injury away from disaster.

Previous ranking: 7
Points percentage: .700
Next seven days: @ CAR (Apr. 8); @ DAL (Apr. 10, 13)

The Panthers could be a player on or before Monday; they’re contending ahead of expectations, have plenty of cap space and an owner hungry to win. Florida could involve goalie Chris Driedger as part of a trade, but if the return isn’t great, he is worth keeping for the stretch run and playoffs.

Previous ranking: 5
Points percentage: .692
Next seven days: vs. BOS (Apr. 8); @ BUF (Apr. 9); @ BOS (Apr. 11); vs. PHI (Apr. 13)

The Capitals landing a defenseman at the deadline has become a recent annual tradition. But this season, it’s probably not in the plans. They’re not as weak at the position, and to engineer that trade, Washington would have to move salary out.

Previous ranking: 2
Points percentage: .724
Next seven days: vs. FLA (Apr. 8); vs. DET (Apr. 10, 12)

The Canes have the cap space to go after anyone — and they just might, especially if it’s a right-shot defenseman. Carolina could part with a first-round pick or any recent draftees, but 2020 first-rounder Seth Jarvis would be a sticking point.

Previous ranking: 3
Points percentage: .692
Next seven days: @ CBJ (Apr. 8); @ NSH (Apr. 10, 13)

General manager Julien BriseBois has been harping for weeks (months?) that the Lightning don’t have cap space, so a trade is unlikely. We’ll see if they stick to this, or if the Panthers and Canes push BriseBois to do something creative and unexpected.

Previous ranking: 1
Points percentage: .703
Next seven days: @ STL (Apr. 7); vs. ARI (Apr. 9, 11); @ LA (Apr. 12)

For the Golden Knights, it’s all about the salary cap — and Vegas doesn’t have any wiggle room right now. The Golden Knights played one game last week in which they were forced to dress only 17 players because of cap constraints, and another game with 16.

Previous ranking: 9
Points percentage: .705
Next seven days: vs. MTL (Apr. 7); vs. OTT (Apr. 10); @ MTL (Apr. 12); vs. CGY (Apr. 13)

The Maple Leafs could be looking to add a player (like a goalie or a forward), but cost certainty is going to be a big deal. For the cap-strapped team, getting a player with term remaining on his contract is of no small concern.

Previous ranking: 8
Points percentage: .641
Next seven days: @ NYR (Apr. 8); @ NJ (Apr. 9, 11)

The challenge for GM Ron Hextall and president Brian Burke: Reward a team that has worked hard all season and could have a shot at the Stanley Cup — without mortgaging too much of the future. Unfortunately, former GM Jim Rutherford did too much of the latter in service of the former.

Previous ranking: 10
Points percentage: .692
Next seven days: vs. PHI (Apr. 8); vs. NYR (Apr. 9, 11)

We all believe the Islanders are looking for an Anders Lee replacement. A Kyle Palmieri trade feels like an inevitability, but getting into a bidding war would give New York pause. There are plenty of other stealth moves GM Lou Lamoriello could make.

Previous ranking: 6
Points percentage: .649
Next seven days: vs. COL (Apr. 7); @ STL (Apr. 9, 10); vs. STL (Apr. 12)

GM Bill Guerin has said he’s not afraid to ruffle feathers; after all, he nearly traded Zach Parise to the Isles at last year’s deadline. Minnesota knows it will likely lose a good player in the Seattle expansion draft, but positioning itself for that process is still a consideration.

Previous ranking: 13
Points percentage: .639
Next seven days: @ WSH (Apr. 8); @ PHI (Apr. 10); vs. WSH (Apr. 11); vs. BUF (Apr. 13)

For the Bruins, this deadline is all about whether they feel they can give up yet another first-rounder. Boston gave up a first-round draft pick in 2020 (for Ondrej Kase) and in 2018 (for Rick Nash). Can they afford to go that route again?

Previous ranking: 11
Points percentage: .628
Next seven days: @ MTL (Apr. 8, 10); @ OTT (Apr. 12)

The Jets are looking good, and they are probably looking to add a player (likely a veteran defensive-minded defenseman) at the trade deadline. But if any team asks about Cole Perfetti or Ville Heinola in return, the Jets are far less likely to listen.

Previous ranking: 12
Points percentage: .615
Next seven days: @ OTT (Apr. 7, 8); @ CGY (Apr. 10); vs. VAN (Apr. 12)

The Oilers will likely be quiet, maybe trading for a depth center at most. But whatever Edmonton does, the team is not wanting to give up more draft picks — especially since it is already without a second- and third-rounder in 2021.

Previous ranking: 14
Points percentage: .614
Next seven days: @ TOR (Apr. 7); vs. WPG (Apr. 8, 10); vs. TOR (Apr. 12)

GM Marc Bergevin stealthily added Eric Staal on March 26, and it doesn’t feel like he’s done. The team was believed to be in on adding a defenseman, but Brendan Gallagher‘s fractured thumb could force a change in plans.

Previous ranking: 17
Points percentage: .551
Next seven days: @ LA (Apr. 7); @ VGS (Apr. 9, 11); @ COL (Apr. 12)

The Coyotes were poised to be a big player at the deadline — and hopefully begin to restock their draft-pick stash and prospect pipeline — but the fact they’re still in the playoff mix could halt that. Upcoming results against the Kings and Golden Knights could dictate what the Yotes do.

Previous ranking: 18
Points percentage: .539
Next seven days: vs. PIT (Apr. 8); @ NYI (Apr. 9, 11); @ NJ (Apr. 13)

New York isn’t likely to make a big splash at the deadline. The Rangers have hoped someone would trade for Tony DeAngelo, but the defenseman’s dismissal from the roster is a non-starter for a lot of teams.

Previous ranking: 19
Points percentage: .539
Next seven days: @ NYI (Apr. 8); vs. BOS (Apr. 10); vs. BUF (Apr. 11); @ WSH (Apr. 13)

Playoff-bound teams would love to trade for Scott Laughton, the do-everything grinder. Even though he’s a pending free agent, he could be a non-starter for the Flyers. Laughton is simply too valuable to give up.

Previous ranking: 16
Points percentage: .538
Next seven days: @ DET (Apr. 8); vs. TB (Apr. 10); vs. DAL (Apr. 11); vs. TB (Apr. 13)

Now that the team has turned things around, thanks to a recent six-game winning streak, it seems that making the playoffs might be a sticking point for GM David Poile; he won’t want to diminish the team’s chances. So all the talk about a Mattias Ekholm trade might be moot.

Previous ranking: 26
Points percentage: .500
Next seven days: vs. LA (Apr. 9, 10); vs. ANA (Apr. 12)

The Sharks keep winning, which has brought them into the playoff race. Look out for San Jose as a destination for players with big contracts — if the trade comes with young players, prospects or draft picks. Young talent is what the Sharks need most right now.

Previous ranking: 20
Points percentage: .513
Next seven days: vs. DAL (Apr. 8); @ CBJ (Apr. 10, 12)

Everything for the Blackhawks is in context of the long view. The rebuild isn’t over in the eyes of management. If a deal doesn’t help the team for next season and beyond, that’s going to be a sticking point.

Previous ranking: 22
Points percentage: .486
Next seven days: @ CHI (Apr. 8); vs. FLA (Apr. 10); @ NSH (Apr. 11); vs. FLA (Apr. 13)

The Stars traded Jamie Oleksiak to the Penguins in 2017 and then reacquired him in 2019. If the defenseman is traded again, does Dallas jeopardize the chance to sign him as a free agent this summer?

Previous ranking: 15
Points percentage: .500
Next seven days: vs. VGS (Apr. 7); vs. MIN (Apr. 9, 10); @ MIN (Apr. 12)

GM Doug Armstrong is known for bold moves, and this team feels like it could use an injection of energy. However, the Blues’ recent poor play — they are on a seven-game losing streak — could be a reason to stand pat.

Previous ranking: 23
Points percentage: .473
Next seven days: @ EDM (Apr. 12)

A COVID outbreak has befallen the Canucks, and Vancouver is out of action for the foreseeable future. Health of players and their families is of the greatest concern, but it could also alter GM Jim Benning’s deadline plans.

Previous ranking: 21
Points percentage: .459
Next seven days: vs. ARI (Apr. 7); @ SJ (Apr. 9, 10); vs. VGS (Apr. 12)

The Kings are still lurking in the playoff race, but that doesn’t really complicate the big-picture rebuild — it just shows L.A. is a little ahead of schedule. The moves GM Rob Blake makes at the deadline could hinge on whether L.A. believes it will sign Alex Iafallo to an extension.

Previous ranking: 25
Points percentage: .463
Next seven days: vs. TB (Apr. 8); vs. CHI (Apr. 10, 12)

If the Blue Jackets want to trade away players, David Savard is a good bet to be one of them. But what will they do with captain Nick Foligno? He’s too important to the team in the event of a potential playoff run, but the pending free agent is also of interest to many other teams.

Previous ranking: 27
Points percentage: .432
Next seven days: @ BUF (Apr. 8); vs. PIT (Apr. 9, 11); vs. NYR (Apr. 13)

It appears that Kyle Palmieri is on his way out of town. The Devils ideally would like to recoup the second-round pick they dealt to Vegas in the Nikita Gusev trade, though New Jersey does possess the Isles’ 2021 second-rounder (from the Andy Greene deal last season).

Previous ranking: 24
Points percentage: .438
Next seven days: vs. EDM (Apr. 10; @ TOR (Apr. 13)

The sputtering Flames are going to do something, and they’ll probably trade away some pending UFAs. That said, a Johnny Gaudreau trade is much more likely over the summer, when the Flames can involve more teams and get a better return.

Previous ranking: 28
Points percentage: .390
Next seven days: vs. NSH (Apr. 8); @ CAR (Apr. 10, 12)

It’s a good bet the Red Wings will, once again, be trading away a handful of players next week, and there is plenty of interest on Detroit’s roster. GM Steve Yzerman‘s sticking point might be players with term; those trades are better done in the summer.

Previous ranking: 29
Points percentage: .385
Next seven days: vs. EDM (Apr. 7, 8); @ TOR (Apr. 10); vs. WPG (Apr. 12)

Once again, the Senators are likely looking to be trading players away at the deadline, especially those on expiring contracts. Ottawa is without fourth- and fifth-round picks in the upcoming draft, so it’s going to be important to remedy that shortcoming.

Previous ranking: 30
Points percentage: .388
Next seven days: vs. COL (Apr. 9, 11); @ SJ (Apr. 12)

The Ducks continue to retool; there are a lot of veterans of interest to contenders (especially if the Ducks are willing to retain some salary), but how many will GM Bob Murray actually trade? The biggest sticking point is Rickard Rakell.

Previous ranking: 31
Points percentage: .316
Next seven days: vs. NJ (Apr. 8); vs. WSH (Apr. 9); @ PHI (Apr. 11); @ BOS (Apr. 13)

The Sabres were a mess in March, which should lead to them trading many players away at the deadline. While pending free agents such as Taylor Hall and Brandon Montour seem likely to go, parting with foundational pieces could be a sticking point; those are moves for summertime.



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Alex Ovechkin climbs list of NHL all-time, power-play goal scorers in Washington Capitals’ victory


NEWARK, N.J. — Alex Ovechkin moved into a second-place tie on the all-time list for NHL power-play goals and the Washington Capitals beat the New Jersey Devils 5-4 on Sunday, completing a sweep of their eight-game season series.

Ovechkin’s second-period goal was his 265th with the extra man, tying him with Brett Hull for second place and leaving him nine behind all-time league leader Dave Andreychuk (274).

The 35-year-old Russian, who also picked up two assists, has 19 goals this season and 725 in his career. He is six goals shy of tying Marcel Dionne for fifth place all time in the NHL.

Like most of his personal marks, Ovechkin downplayed the significance of the goal.

“Keep going,” he said. “It is what it is.”

Ilya Samsonov was a big reason the Capitals finished off the sweep, making 35 saves, including 29 in the opening 40 minutes.

T.J. Oshie, Conor Sheary, Carl Hagelin and Evgeny Kuznetsov also scored for Washington. The eight-game sweep was the first in team history against a single opponent.

Travis Zajac scored twice and Yegor Sharangovich and Jesper Bratt once for New Jersey, which trailed 3-2 after two periods despite outshooting the Caps 31-12. Mackenzie Blackwood faced 19 shots.

After Zajac and Oshie scored in the first period, Sheary gave the Caps the lead at 3:21 of the second period with a shot that deflected off the jersey of Devils defenseman Damon Severson and fluttered into the net.

Ovechkin stretched the lead to two goals, slam-dunking the rebound of Nicklas Backstrom‘s shot that slipped through Blackwood’s pads. The power play was set up when Dmitry Kulikov high-sticked Ovechkin in the face.

“He’s going to be a legend in the game,” Devils defenseman Ryan Murray said. “You know, it’s our job to shut him down. But, of course, you appreciate what he’s done over his career.”

Sharangovich got New Jersey within 3-2 late in the second period but Hagelin and Kuznetsov scored early in the third to stretch the margin to 5-2. Bratt and Zajac got the Devils within a goal with 4:07 to play. They never got closer.

New Jersey was short-handed up front, as right wing Kyle Palmieri sat out for precautionary reasons. Stephen Bartlett, his agent, said on social media that the move was made in anticipation of a trade in the coming days or weeks. The trade deadline is April 12.

Palmieri, 30, has scored at least 24 goals in each of his first five seasons with the Devils. New Jersey and Palmieri’s camp had been in discussions — off and on during the season — regarding a potential contract extension. He is regarded as one of the more appealing goal scorers in this trade market, and as an unrestricted free agent this summer, could well end up back in New Jersey on a different deal next season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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2021 NHL trade deadline guides for all 31 teams


The 2021 NHL trade deadline arrives on April 12 at 3 p.m. ET. There will be teams seeking to trade players that are no longer in their rebuilding plans. There will be teams seeking to add players to complete their championship plans.

This all sounds normal, but this season’s trade season is anything but typical thanks to the COVID pandemic. Players from American franchise that are traded to Canadian teams are subject to a seven-day quarantine. The flat salary cap of $81.5 million — for this season and subsequent ones — has forced teams to retain salary on trades or seek money in, money out deals with other teams. The lack of any significant ticket revenue for the last year has teams looking to slash payrolls while other teams reconsider every dollar they add to theirs.

Meanwhile, the Seattle Kraken and the looming expansion draft are also impacting the trade market.

Get caught up on the players and picks in play, as well as the restrictions and potential moves for every NHL team ahead of the deadline with this comprehensive guide. Who stays? Who goes? Find out below.

Stats are collected from sites such as Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference and Evolving Hockey.

Note: Emily Kaplan provides the guide for the East and Central teams, while Greg Wyshynski handles the North and West clubs.

Jump to a team:
ANA | ARI | BOS | BUF | CGY | CAR | CHI
COL | CBJ | DAL | DET | EDM | FLA

LA | MIN | MTL | NSH | NJ | NYI
NYR | OTT | PHI | PIT | SJ | STL
TB | TOR | VAN | VGS | WSH | WPG

East Division

Status: Selective additions required

Players, picks in play: LW/RW Anders Bjork ($1.6 million, RFA in 2023), LW Jake DeBrusk ($3.675 million, RFA in 2022), 2021 first-round pick

What to watch: The Bruins have been on the cusp of another Stanley Cup for some time, and should go all-in before their core truly ages out. Boston GM Don Sweeney and coach Bruce Cassidy have been pretty transparent about their team’s biggest flaw, though it’s obvious for everyone to see: 5-on-5 scoring is an issue. Heck, the Bruins played their first five games against the Devils, the second-worst team in the division, without scoring a goal during 5-on-5 play. The Bruins had been hoping for more from their middle six and could dangle young-but-underperforming DeBrusk and Bjork as trade options. Returns may not be what the Bruins hope, though.

Much was made about the Bruins’ blue-line turnover this offseason — specifically, parting with stalwarts Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug. However, the young group, led by Norris Trophy candidate Charlie McAvoy, has held it together quite well. That said, the Bruins could stealthily be looking for top-four blue-line help. They’d specifically target a left-shot defenseman, and Mattias Ekholm‘s name (as well as cap hit, and extra year left on his contract) will certainly entice the Bruins’ front office, as well as fans. A wild card would be getting insurance in goal, as Tuukka Rask is dealing with a lingering injury.

What they should do: With defenseman John Moore missing the remainder of the season after March 22 hip surgery, Boston’s backup options are even thinner. However, that is not the Bruins’ most pressing need. The focus on April 12 should be all about getting scoring help, and a middle-six winger is what this team should be targeting. Taylor Hall could be brought in for as low as a second-round pick at this point, and if that’s what Buffalo ends up asking for, the Bruins shouldn’t hesitate. Hall will be supremely motivated and may do better in a second-line role at this point. Kyle Palmieri and Nick Foligno are both high-character, high-effort players who would fit in well with the Bruins’ culture.


Status: Anyone could be on the move

Players, picks in play: LW Taylor Hall ($8 million, UFA in 2021, no-movement clause), C Casey Mittelstadt ($874,125, RFA in 2021), RW/LW Tobias Rieder ($700,000, UFA in 2021), D Colin Miller ($3.875 million, UFA in 2022), D Brandon Montour ($3.85 million, UFA in 2021), RW Sam Reinhart ($5.2 million, RFA in 2021), D Rasmus Ristolainen ($5.4 million, UFA in 2022), LW/C Riley Sheahan ($700,000, UFA in 2021)

What to watch: Everything is on the table for the Sabres, the worst team in the NHL this season. First-year GM Kevyn Adams and his closest advisor, VP of hockey administration Mark Jakubowski, need to think reboot for this team after things spiraled out of control this season. Considering there’s absolutely no shot at the playoffs, all pending UFAs — yes, including their prized free-agent find, Taylor Hall — should be on the move. Unfortunately, Jake McCabe is unmovable due to a season-ending injury.

The Sabres got their business started early, sending Eric Staal to the Canadiens on March 26 for a third- and fifth-rounder. Unfortunately, Hall may not yield a first-round pick at this point, considering his production.

The bigger issue is what to do with players with one or more years remaining on their contracts. As it pertains to captain Jack Eichelwho remains out with an upper-body injury — even if the team is considering a trade involving the captain, it is much likelier to happen at the draft, or later in the offseason.

What they should do: Get busy. It’s all about putting Buffalo in the best position for success in the future, and that means stockpiling draft picks. A player like Mittelstadt, who is an RFA this summer, would benefit from a change of scenery. He hasn’t lived up to his potential in Buffalo, and though it’s never easy to give up on a top-10 pick so soon (he was selected No. 8 in 2017) nothing is ideal about the situation.

Though Reinhart has been the Sabres’ most consistent forward this season, Buffalo should even consider moving him, Miller, Montour and Sheahan; all would be better off playing playoff hockey elsewhere this spring.


Status: The rebuild continues

Players, picks in play: RW Nikita Gusev ($4.5 million, UFA in 2021, eight-team no-trade list), RW Kyle Palmieri ($4.65 million, UFA in 2021, eight-team no-trade list), Travis Zajac ($5.75 million, UFA in 2021, no-trade clause), D Connor Carrick ($1.5 million, UFA in 2021), D Dmitry Kulikov ($1.15 million, UFA in 2021), D Ryan Murray ($4.6 million, UFA in 2021), D Sami Vatanen ($2 million, UFA in 2021)

What to watch: GM Tom Fitzgerald said his team will be ready to go for it once its two centerpieces, Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, hit their prime. We’re not there yet, so it’s going to be another season of tough goodbyes.

Of the Devils’ available defenseman, Kulikov and Murray are the most attractive to other teams. The two biggest decisions on Fitzgerald’s plate are what to do with Palmieri (the team’s most consistent forward over the last five seasons) and Zajac (the current longest-tenured Devil). Zajac’s no-trade clause means he gets a say in what happens. The Devils and Palmieri have talked about an extension. If nothing gets done, there are plenty of contenders — specifically, the Bruins and Islanders — interested in adding the veteran winger.

What they should do: The Devils aren’t rushing the rebuild. Though there’s certainly a hope that they will be more competitive next season, they aren’t banking on a quick turnaround. In the 2022 offseason, they’ll also clear considerable cap space with P.K. Subban‘s contract ($9 million annual cap hit) coming off the books. Supplement that with a few extra draft picks and prospects and New Jersey is in much better shape.

Gusev, Zajac, Kulikov and Murray should all find new homes. The Devils can’t get rid of all of their available defenseman, or it could harm development the rest of the season. As for Palmieri — he should probably go too. Who knows, he can always circle back in free agency.


Status: Looking for an Anders Lee replacement

Players, picks in play: 2021 first-round pick, LW Kieffer Bellows (entry-level contract, RFA in 2021), prospects Samuel Bolduc, Bode Wilde, Robin Salo

What to watch: The Islanders have a strong team identity, and they’re hoping the experience of last year’s run to the Eastern Conference finals is a jumping-off point for even more sustained success this postseason. New York was off to a terrific start before captain Anders Lee blew out his ACL. Lee led the team in goals at the time of his injury.

The Islanders can’t replace the intangibles and leadership Lee brought off the ice, but they are looking to replace some of his offensive production. GM Lou Lamoriello is not typically one to telegraph his moves, but everything indicates that the team is looking for a scoring winger ahead of April 12. That said, keep in mind that this is Lamoriello, one of the most secretive GMs in the game. So it’s also smart to expect the unexpected as well.

What they should do: The Islanders have one clear area of need, so they should go out and address it. Taylor Hall is a natural fit to slide into Lee’s spot on the left wing, alongside Mathew Barzal. Dustin Brown and Kyle Palmieri could also make sense. For the Islanders, it’s all about getting the right character guys to blend in with their team identity and culture. That’s why the top of the Islanders dream list should be another captain: Nick Foligno of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Islanders have drafted well recently, so they could afford to give up a first-round pick if needed. Seldom-used rookie Kieffer Bellows has promise, but could be included in a package as well.


Status: Likely idle

Players, picks in play: D Tony DeAngelo ($4.8 million, UFA in 2022), C Colin Blackwell ($725,000, UFA in 2022), Kevin Rooney ($750,000, UFA in 2022) D Brendan Smith ($4.35 million, UFA in 2021)

What to watch: Things could be really quiet on the Rangers front. Management isn’t losing sight of the bigger picture — which is the full rebuild — and though New York is inching closer to contention, it’s not there yet. GM Jeff Gorton already made one pre-deadline move, sending rugged winger Brendan Lemieux to the Kings for a fourth-round pick. That was really done to clear up some lineup spots because the Rangers get their own trade deadline “acquisition” in Vitali Kravtsov, the No. 9 pick of the 2018 draft who is signed, quarantined, and ready to be inserted into the lineup.

The Rangers still have DeAngelo on the books, but no teams seem interested in the player New York sent home for character issues. More than likely, it’s looking like DeAngelo will be retained until this summer, exposed for the Seattle expansion draft, then bought out.

What they should do: Nothing. Unless Gorton can wrangle a great deal for a young, exciting player who‘s under contract beyond this season, there’s no need for the Rangers to do much. If there are moves to be made, they can be done around the draft.

Rooney and Smith could yield a middle-round pick each, though the Rangers would probably need to retain part of Smith’s salary. The 28-year-old Blackwell could garner interest for his recent play. His increased playing time has come at the expense of younger players whom the Rangers would like to be developing right now. Once again, it’s all about the long game for New York at this juncture.


Status: Tweener

Players, picks in play: D Erik Gustafsson ($3 million, UFA in 2021), C Scott Laughton ($2.3 million, UFA in 2021), LW Michael Raffl ($1.6 million, UFA in 2021), D Justin Braun ($1.8 million, UFA in 2022), 2021 first-round pick

What to watch: The Flyers expected to be contenders in 2021, but their season derailed after a brutal month of March. It’s still possible to get back on track, but time is ticking. The first thing they need to do is stop the bleeding, and a lot of the issues fall on the blue line. Philadelphia could be looking for defensemen reinforcements; the Flyers never seemed to recover from the surprise retirement of Matt Niskanen in the offseason.

Philly is also considering getting goaltending reinforcements. Carter Hart has struggled, and they don’t want to overburden him with pressure (especially when the blue line is so leaky). It doesn’t seem like there’s a trade partner for Shayne Gostisbehere — especially after he went unclaimed on waivers — so it would be surprising to see movement there. If Philly is going to execute a trade, it would have to give up another roster player or future draft picks and/or prospects.

What they should do: If the Predators decide they’re willing to part with Mattias Ekholm, he could be a fit for the Flyers. But the Flyers would likely have to give up their 2021 first round pick, a top prospect (like the recently signed Cam York) and maybe even something else. Ekholm is signed through next season, but Philly would want to sign him to an extension, and make sure he is protected for the expansion draft. It’s a lot to navigate.

Considering the way this season has unraveled, it might be best to play it conservative and make big moves around the draft. That means sending Gustafsson and Raffl away for middle-round picks. Laughton should stick around; he’s too valuable to the bottom six, and could be re-signed in the offseason anyway.


Status: Looking for depth

Players, picks in play: 2022 second-round pick, 2022 third-round pick, D Juuso Riikola ($1.15 million, UFA in 2021), D Marcus Pettersson ($4,025,175, UFA in 2025)

What to watch: Under former GM Jim Rutherford, you knew what you were going to get ahead of the trade deadline. Rutherford often telegraphed his moves. He also had no problem trading away first-round picks or the organizations’ top prospects — two things he did often.

The new regime of Brian Burke and Ron Hextall have promised a more conservative approach, knowing they need to plan for life after Sidney Crosby. So don’t expect them to part with their 2021 second-round pick (they’re already without 2021 draft picks in the first, third, fourth and sixth rounds). The team could use a reinforcement at center, with Teddy Blueger and Evgeni Malkin both injured. However, that’s no longer as dire a need with the emergence of Frederick Gaudreau.

What they should do: The Penguins should seek depth forwards. Luke Glendening makes a lot of sense, given his versatility and affordability ($1.8 million annual cap hit). Nashville’s Mikael Granlund or Erik Haula would also be good pickups. To make it work, the Penguins could send Pettersson or Riikola the other way. There’s a logjam on the left side, so this is an area of strength, though it sounds as if Pittsburgh management doesn’t mind having depth options there.

Nonetheless, whatever the Penguins do, they can’t dip too far into their pool of draft picks. In 2022 they finally have a full arsenal of picks. Burke and Hextall were hired to draft players, and to keep them around.


Status: Another center would be nice

Players, picks in play: D Jonas Siegenthaler ($800,000, UFA in 2021)

What to watch: Well, the Capitals would like to make additions as they go for their second Stanley Cup in four years. One problem: they don’t have any cap space with which to work. If they add a player, they’d likely have to lose a player.

It was long believed that the Capitals would look for a veteran goalie for insurance, since they’re rolling with two youngsters, in Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek. There is a reason they signed Henrik Lundqvist this offseason. However, Samsonov and Vanecek have played well enough lately that this may no longer be necessary.

Adding a defenseman at the deadline has become somewhat of a yearly tradition for the Capitals, but the trend may end here. Washington should be getting blue-line help when Michal Kempny, who is back skating, is activated off LTIR.

What they should do: If the Capitals are going to add to their group, it should be at center. Lars Eller‘s recent absence exposed Washington’s weakness down the gut. Winger T.J. Oshie filled in admirably, but that’s just not going to fly come playoff time. They are one injury away from disaster. Rangers center Colin Blackwell, with a cap hit of $750,000 and under contract through 2022, would be a smart target. A one-for-one swap for Siegenthaler; who says no?

Though adding a goalie would be nice, it’s not worth sacrificing a current roster player to make that move work, salary-wise. Roll with the youngsters; they’ve shown enough promise.

Central Division

Status: A little bit going out, a little bit coming in

Players, picks in play: G Alex Nedeljkovic ($737,500, RFA in 2021), G James Reimer ($3.4 million, UFA in 2021), D Haydn Fleury ($1.3 million, RFA in 2022), 2021 first-round pick

What to watch: After making it to the Eastern Conference finals in 2019 but flaming out of the 2020 bubble, the Hurricanes are looking to take the next step and get over their playoff hump. It’s been a strong 2021 so far. With Petr Mrazek returning from injury (broken thumb) the Canes will have three goalies on their roster. It’s a luxury a lot of teams would like to have, but it’s just that: a luxury. If Carolina is looking to make a trade, involving one of their goalies makes sense. It would likely be the rookie Nedeljkovic or veteran Reimer on the move.

The Canes have a well-balanced and high-functioning forward group. The blue line is also an area of strength, but Carolina could look to add a right-shot defenseman to balance things out. The Canes were busy at last year’s deadline, acquiring one rental (Sami Vatanen) and two players with term left on their deals (Vincent Trocheck, Brady Skjei). This year, if Carolina is active again, it would be surprising to see them shell out for a rental.

What they should do: Considering the league-wide thirst for goaltending, Carolina should move one of its goalies. That could help facilitate a trade for a right-shot defenseman. At first blush, Carolina’s blue line looks just fine, albeit a little imbalanced with so many left shots. A team can never have too much insurance on the back end. The Canes are also going to run into some issues at the expansion draft of which defensemen to protect — especially when they re-sign Dougie Hamilton this offseason. Adding somebody else to the mix could help assuage those issues. Columbus’ David Savard would be a great addition, but the Canes may shy away from players on expiring contracts.


Status: Eyes on the long term

Players, picks in play: Weaponizable cap space; C/LW Carl Soderberg ($1 million, UFA in 2021), C Lucas Wallmark ($950,000, RFA in 2021), C/LW Mattias Janmark ($2.25 million, UFA in 2021)

What to watch: The Blackhawks were one of the season’s pleasant surprises in the first half but have tailed off considerably in March. They have been eyeing a rebuild for the past few years but finally admitted to it this past offseason. That means whatever they do will have the big picture in mind. Sure, a playoff appearance would be sweet, but for Chicago, it’s all about winning sustainably again.

This means that the team won’t be in the market to acquire any players on expiring deals; the Blackhawks simply aren’t interested in giving up any of their draft picks or prospects. They could, however, move players of their own on expiring deals — such as Janmark, Wallmark and Soderberg. The Blackhawks also find themselves flush in cap space, thanks to several high-profile players on long-term injured reserve (Brent Seabrook, Jonathan Toews, Zack Smith). If any contending teams are looking to clear some money off the books, Chicago is a team they could call — and the Blackhawks are happy to listen, as long as the deal would also include draft picks or young players they can incorporate into long-term plans. Oh, how the tables have turned.

What they should do: First, the Blackhawks should seriously entertain offers on their two pending UFAs, Janmark and Soderberg. Wallmark, a pending RFA, should probably be on the move too. Chicago isn’t secure enough in the standings to justify keeping those players, and those lineup spots could easily be used to give young players more experience down the stretch.

Now for the fun part: Weaponize that cap space! After years of being strapped against the cap, forcing the team to unload contracts, Chicago can now take advantage of teams in a similar predicament. We’ll see whether anyone is feeling that desperate, but it won’t hurt the Blackhawks to try.


Status: Retooling on the fly

Players, picks in play: D David Savard ($4.25 million, UFA in 2021), LW Nick Foligno ($5.5 million, UFA in 2021, 10-team no trade list), C/RW Riley Nash ($2.75 million, UFA in 2021), C/LW Max Domi ($5.3 million, UFA in 2022), D Michael Del Zotto ($700,000, UFA in 2021), G Elvis Merzlikins ($4 million, UFA in 2022)

What to watch: The Blue Jackets are playing catch-up in the Central Division, and the question is whether GM Jarmo Kekalainen thinks his team has enough oomph for a late-season push. A playoff spot is still within reach, but if management isn’t confident in the direction of the current group, it would behoove them to trade a few players on expiring contracts.

Savard’s name has been circulated quite a bit, and because of a dearth of high-quality defenseman available, there will be interest in him by many a contending team. The 30-year-old isn’t having his best season (his average ice time has dipped by nearly a minute per game) but he plays a gritty defensive game, and could be revived on a new team.

The Blue Jackets face a big quandary with Foligno, their captain. If Columbus is thinking playoffs, they can’t let Foligno go. He’s too important — sound defensively, high effort, even higher character. That said, he’d also be the most coveted player available on Columbus’ roster, for that very reason.

Domi hasn’t lived up to expectations in Columbus just yet, so the Jackets could try to flip him. The wild card is Merzlikins. Organizationally, goaltending is an area of strength, so this is where Columbus could take advantage of some truly goaltending-needy teams.

What they should do: Columbus should treat this season as a chance to do a slight retooling. Coach John Tortorella’s contract is up after this season, and it’s unclear if he’ll return next season. It’s not encouraging that the team couldn’t make it work with Pierre Luc-Dubois, who was drafted No. 3 overall in 2016 to be the franchise’s No. 1 center. And whatever they’re asking of Patrik Laine isn’t meshing with the player, as he’s lost on this team.

The available player who could command the biggest return is Merzlikins, and if there are desperate teams calling, Columbus shouldn’t hesitate to strike. As for Foligno, I’d leave it up to the player. If he wants out, I’d respect his wish. If he wants to ride it out (and will re-sign in the offseason) the captain deserves the chance to see this through.


Status: Listening to offers for UFAs

Players, picks in play: D Jamie Oleksiak ($2.1375 million, UFA in 2021), D Mark Pysyk ($750,000, UFA in 2021), LW Andrew Cogliano ($3.25 million, UFA in 2021, six-team no-trade list), LW/RW Blake Comeau ($2.4 million, UFA in 2021), G Anton Khudobin ($3.33 million, UFA in 2023, four-team no-trade list)

What to watch: After making it to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, it’s been a slower-than-desired start for the Stars. Dallas is still within striking distance of a playoff spot, and has games in hand, but needs to get hot, soon. The Stars don’t have a ton of cap space with which to work, given Ben Bishop and Tyler Seguin are poised to come off LTIR. But that’s a good thing: both players can act as the team’s own “acquisitions” at the trade deadline. And the Stars won’t have to worry about the usual deadline headaches like, how will those players adjust and fit in with the team?

Most likely, the Stars will take a modest approach on April 12, and try to keep the band together the best they can. If Dallas is looking to make a splash, it could part with Khudobin — a hero of the 2020 bubble — but that’s only if somebody wows them with a package. Oleksiak, the big physical defenseman, is attractive to a lot of teams. But if the Stars think they can snag a playoff spot still, there’s no reason to move him off the roster.

What they should do: The Stars should mostly stand pat and see if they can drum up some late-season magic. However, GM Jim Nill should continue to take calls on the pending UFAs (as he has been doing). If teams want to take on a Cogliano, Comeau or Pysyk and throw in some mid-round draft picks in return, it’s worth considering. Pysyk hasn’t been able to take control of the No. 6 defenseman spot, and the team seems comfortable using Joel Hanley there. Cogliano and Comeau are usually the type of gritty veterans other teams like to add around this time. They have the trust of coach Rick Bowness, so it also wouldn’t be surprising to see both stay.


Status: Stick to the Yzerplan

Players, picks in play: G Jonathan Bernier ($3 million, UFA in 2021), C/RW Sam Gagner ($850,000, UFA in 2021), C Luke Glendening ($1.8 million, UFA in 2021), RW Bobby Ryan ($1 million, UFA in 2021), D Marc Staal ($5.7 million, UFA in 2021, no-movement clause), D Jon Merrill ($925,000, UFA in 2021)

What to watch: After a record 25 consecutive seasons of making the playoffs, the Red Wings are poised to miss the postseason for the fifth straight year. Detroit has improved from its bottom-dwelling 2019-20 self (in which it finished with 23 fewer points than anyone else and a minus-123 goal differential). Even better news: This could be the last season of pain. The Red Wings clear considerable cap space this summer, allowing GM Steve Yzerman to truly begin shaping the roster to his liking.

But Yzerman’s entire master plan is about building the Red Wings into a winner again through the draft, and draft picks and prospects are what he covets most right now. There are very few untouchables on this roster — and several players on expiring deals who are ideal candidates to help a contender. If Bernier is healthy, he is one of the best available goalies this spring. Glendening, who has versatility and a highly attractive sub-$2 million cap hit, is also garnering a ton of interest.

What they should do: Anyone who can go, must go. OK, maybe that’s a little dramatic. But there are plenty of players on the Red Wings’ roster who are not serving a huge purpose in a losing season but could be very useful elsewhere.

If Bernier is healthy, send him on his way. Glendening and Ryan have enticingly low cap hits for their level of service. They’re as good as gone. Even if Merrill has been Detroit’s best defenseman this season, the Red Wings should say goodbye to him too (if they really like him, they can always re-sign him in free agency).

The biggest win is if Detroit finds a new home for Staal, whom Detroit took from New York this offseason in exchange for a second-round pick. That would mean Yzerman pulled off the rare “double flip” of a player. There’s a reason Yzerman is viewed as the best GM in the game today.


Status: Looking to add

Players, picks in play: G Chris Driedger ($850,000, UFA in 2021), C Henrik Borgstrom (unsigned, but Panthers hold his NHL rights)

What to watch: The Panthers are having a renaissance season. This is the best the team has looked in at least five years, when Jaromir Jagr was leading the team in points, and Roberto Luongo was holding it down in goal.

However, the Panthers got a huge blow last weekend when Aaron Ekblad, who was having a Norris Trophy-caliber season, suffered a gruesome leg fracture. Surgery will keep him sidelined for 12 weeks. First-year GM Bill Zito has a long-term game plan for the team, but he wants to reward the current roster for playing so well in the season’s first half. That’s the conundrum he faces. The 2015-16 season represents isolated success. The Panthers have made it to the playoffs only twice in 18 years, and made it past the first round just once.

Going “all in” and jeopardizing top prospects (or future prospects) doesn’t align with the big picture of sustained success. So they’ll try to improve, without giving up too much.

What they should do: If Zito doesn’t want to give up a first-round pick or any of the top prospects — and Florida does have a strong pool of talented prospects — the only option might be to see if another team is interested in Driedger. The 26-year-old was a breakout star of the first half, but now that Sergei Bobrovsky has taken over the net, Driedger’s presence could be viewed as expendable. Plus, the Panthers risk losing him in the Seattle expansion draft this summer, so it might be better to get something for him rather than lose him for nothing.

As for attempts to replace Ekblad are concerned, the Panthers should try to snag Vince Dunn away from St. Louis. He’s only 24-years-old, and is a restricted free agent this summer, meaning Florida would be getting a player it could incorporate into its future plans as well. An all-around win.


Status: The deadline’s wild-card team

Players, picks in play: D Mattias Ekholm ($3.75 million, UFA in 2022), C/RW Mikael Granlund ($3.75 million, UFA in 2021), C Erik Haula ($1.75 million, UFA in 2021), RW Viktor Arvidsson ($4.25 million, UFA in 2024), LW Filip Forsberg ($6 million, UFA in 2022), LW Calle Jarnkrok ($2 million, UFA in 2022)

What to watch: Two weeks ago, we would have told you that the Predators were poised to be one of the biggest sellers of the 2021 trade deadline. Then something unexpected happened: The Preds started winning. Nashville recorded the most wins (eight) and highest winning percentage (.889) over the last two weeks in March to bring itself back into the Central Division playoff race.

GM David Poile now faces a quandary. His team has been a bit stale lately, having not made it past the first round of the playoffs since their 2017 run to the Stanley Cup Final. An influx of youth is needed. So how does the team balance maintaining a winning culture with the long view?

Ekholm remains one of the best defenseman available right now, with an attractive cap hit — and, perhaps most importantly, one extra year remaining on the deal. It might be much tougher for the Predators to part with other marquee players, such as Arvidsson and Forsberg, given their standing right now.

What they should do: If the Predators stand pat with this group, they could make the playoffs. But it would likely be as the fourth seed in the Central Division, setting up a date with the Lightning or Hurricanes in the first round. That’s a tough series to win, and if Nashville flames out again, it will begin next season exactly as it started this one.

Poile should move Ekholm, considering he would get a big return. He should also part with two pending UFA forwards, Granlund and Haula, getting draft picks and prospects in return. That’s what the team needs most right now. Plus, their roster spots can be given to younger players who need the experience.


Status: Small tweaks, if any

Players, picks in play: 2021 first-round pick, Alex Barre-Boulet ($759,258, RFA in 2021), Tyler Johnson ($5 million, UFA in 2024, no-trade clause), Mathieu Joseph ($737,500, RFA in 2022)

What to watch: GM Julien BriseBois won the 2020 trade deadline. A year has passed, so we can say that with confidence. The Lightning picked up a pair of underrated forwards, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow, who teamed up as part of an important third line en route to the team’s Stanley Cup. What’s more: Both forwards had extra years left on their deals.

These are the types of moves everyone is trying to emulate this year, and it’s not going to be as easy for the Lightning to accomplish something similar in 2021.

If there is an area of need, it’s help on the blue line, especially as the organization doesn’t want to overburden rookie Cal Foote. Philosophically, BriseBois has strayed away from players on expiring deals, but perhaps he’ll make an exception if a player like David Savard of Columbus is available. Don’t discount BriseBois, who has the capacity to pull off something creative and unexpected.

What they should do: Stand pat. No need to get cute or complicated when you don’t need to. Tampa has no cap space, so if it brings in a player, it has to lose someone to balance things out. And why would you remove anyone from this lineup? The Lightning have looked every bit like a defending Stanley Cup champ; hungry and poised for another one. BriseBois was already forced to move Alexander Volkov and may need to clear even more space when Mitchell Stephens is ready to return.

Plus, the Lightning are already expecting reinforcements: Nikita Kucherov, who has missed the entire season, is expected back for the playoffs. (Thanks to a fun loophole, salary cap issues become null come playoff time).

North Division

Status: Tweener

Players, picks in play: 2021 first-round pick, C Sam Bennett ($2.55 million, RFA in 2021), C Derek Ryan ($3.125 million, UFA in 2021), G David Rittich ($2.75 million, UFA in 2021)

What to watch: On April 1, the Flames had a 10.7% chance of making the playoffs, per Money Puck. That’s probably high enough to prevent them from trading too many players away at the deadline — Calgary didn’t lure Darryl Sutter off the farm for an in-season dismantling. Is it enough to make the Flames a team to make additions? One would hope they’d have a more measured view of their current status than to give away the future for a futile push for the postseason. But GM Brad Treliving has been all-in all season.

What they should do: If they can find teams that want to trade for Bennett and Ryan, make those deals. The lack of goaltenders with expiring contracts available could make Rittich valuable, and the Flames should listen. But obviously the heavy lifting will come in the offseason, as Calgary takes a microscope to its core of players to see that — finally — it’s time to move on from the Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau era.


Status: Finding Connor and Leon some help

Players, picks in play: First-round pick in 2021, second-round pick in 2022, D Caleb Jones ($850,000, RFA in 2022), D William Lagesson ($725,000, RFA in 2022)

What to watch: The Oilers are reportedly targeting two forward positions. The first is acquiring a center to play in their bottom six, preferably right-handed and preferably one that can win a faceoff — Edmonton is 12th in the NHL with a 50.7 team faceoff winning percentage, a figure boosted by the fact that Leon Draisaitl is winning 56% of his draws.

The second is a top-six left winger, so they can stop having to use Kyle “two goals in 23 games” Turris up there when Draisaitl moves up to McDavid’s line.

What they should do: Edmonton is another team in a money in, money out situation because of their salary cap number. But they also lack many draft picks and prospects to deal: The Oilers don’t have picks in the second, third and fifth rounds this summer. Luke Glendening would seem like an obvious fix for their faceoff issues, and GM Ken Holland signed him as a free agent while with the Red Wings.

As for a top-six winger, we all want the Taylor Hall reunion, don’t we? The money doesn’t really work and Hall is having a nightmare season that may not warrant the investment, but if we say it enough maybe we can conjure a trade into existence.

Other than that, the Oilers will wait until the offseason to reconfigure parts of their defense and goaltending.


Status: Expect some tinkering

Players, picks in play: 2021 draft picks, LW/RW Paul Byron ($3.4 million, UFA in 2023), LW/RW Artturi Lehkonen ($2.4 million, RFA in 2021)

What to watch: Habs GM Marc Bergevin is one of the NHL’s most aggressive general managers when it comes to augmenting his team — just ask former coach Claude Julien, who was fired after 18 games this season. Bergevin started his work early this deadline season, trading third- and fifth-round picks to the Sabres for veteran center Eric Staal on March 26.

The good news is that this is a fairly solid roster, and the holes won’t likely be addressed until the offseason. The bad news is that the Canadiens are capped out and would be best-served to trade away some salary at the deadline.

What they should do: Byron has been through waivers multiple times. Lehkonen has been a healthy scratch multiple times. Clearing either of their salaries off the books would help ease Montreal’s cap strains, although both could be valuable to the Canadiens in a postseason run.

If the cap space would allow it, the Canadiens would do well to add one more defenseman to the mix for depth. They have a bevy of draft picks — two seconds, two thirds, three fourths and two fifths this season — to use on a D-man with an expiring contract.


Status: The build continues

Players, picks in play: C/LW/RW Ryan Dzingel ($3.375 million, UFA in 2021), D Erik Gudbranson ($4 million, UFA in 2021), D Mike Reilly ($1.5 million, UFA in 2021), C Chris Tierney ($3.5 million, UFA in 2022)

What to watch: What an odd feeling to not see Ottawa GM Pierre Dorion with one of the trade deadline’s most sought-after players. We wish we could say that this means the Senators are done rebuilding and constantly trading away their best players before they leave as free agents.

Alas, it actually means that after dealing away Jean-Gabriel Pageau to the Islanders in 2020, there’s no top-tier veteran player left for Ottawa to move.

What they should do: The Senators could use a few more picks in this year’s draft, lacking fourth- and fifth-rounders and having only one pick in the third. Dzingel could be dealt for a high draft pick or a middle-range prospect. Gudbranson and Reilly would be of interest to contenders, although the latter has enhanced his value more this season than the former.

Tierney, 26, could use a change of scenery after his point production and ice time have fallen this season. Is that extra year of contract term appealing to contenders, or a deterrent with the expansion draft looming?


Status: Major market mover

Players, picks in play: 2021 draft picks, D Travis Dermott ($874,125, RFA in 2021), C Alexander Kerfoot ($3.5 million, UFA in 2023), D Timothy Liljegren ($1,263,333 AAV, RFA in 2022)

What to watch: In the words of GM Kyle Dubas, watch “everything.” The Leafs are all-in this season, and will continue to improve their team by any means necessary. That means dealing top prospects, dealing their first-round pick, dealing a veteran with term like Kerfoot if it meant getting someone better in that role.

Their specific area of need is at the forward position, especially on the wing. But concerns about Frederik Andersen‘s health could mean the Leafs add some goaltending insurance too.

What they should do: Taylor Hall, if the money can be worked out, would be a really intriguing addition to this team. It’s the perfect kind of situation for him, as he could be a supporting cast member while others sweat in the spotlight.

But if they can’t work out the cap situation for a trade with Buffalo, then Hall’s former teammate in New Jersey, Kyle Palmieri, is the kind of player in which the Leafs should be interested.

On the goaltending front, Dubas should be on the phone right now with Florida GM Bill Zito figuring out what else he has to add to goalie Michael Hutchinson in order to trade him for Chris Driedger.


Status: Many veterans potentially on the move

Players, picks in play: D Jordie Benn ($2 million, UFA in 2021), D Alexander Edler ($6 million, UFA in 2021, no-move clause), C Adam Gaudette ($950,000, RFA in 2021), LW Tanner Pearson ($3.75 million, UFA in 2021), C Brandon Sutter ($4.375 million, UFA in 2021, 15-team no-trade clause), LW/RW Jake Virtanen ($2.55 million, UFA in 2022, no trade protection)

What to watch: What a difference a season makes. Last trade deadline, the Canucks landed Tyler Toffoli of the Kings, who helped them advance through a couple of playoff rounds. But thanks to some player regression, injury troubles and poor decisions — like, for example, not re-signing Tyler Toffoli — the Canucks aren’t a playoff contender, and should be looking to build up the pipeline this time around.

They have a number of desirable players, but some are constrained by trade protection: Edler’s no-move clause and Sutter’s partial no-trade clause, primarily. (Then there’s Travis Hamonic‘s no-move clause, but we didn’t list him here because he’s not waiving it for any team not located in Western Canada.) Also muddying the waters is health, as Tanner Pearson is currently out with an injury.

What they should do: Rather than draft picks, the Canucks should leverage their players on expiring deals to try to get younger players on less-expensive deals that can help fill out their bottom six at the forward position.

Moving out Sutter, Edler (if possible), Benn, Gaudette and/or Virtanen all makes sense. But if there’s a thrifty deal to be made to keep Pearson around, GM Jim Benning should consider making it.


Status: Looking to add on D

Players, picks in play: 2021 draft picks, LW Jansen Harkins ($725,000, RFA in 2022), D Sami Niku ($725,000, RFA in 2022)

What to watch: GM Kevin Cheveldayoff already made a splash this season with the Pierre-Luc Dubois trade that saw Patrik Laine head to Columbus. It’s hard to imagine he’d tinker any more with a very deep group of forwards, nor does he have to worry about his goaltending, with Connor Hellebuyck on the roster.

It’s the defensive corps that needs a stopper to really bring the group together. The Jets have their own picks in the first three rounds to deal. Harkins has been a scratch, and Niku likely doesn’t factor into their plans beyond this season based on his place on the depth chart.

What they should do: The defenseman class of 2021 could mean players like Mattias Ekholm, David Savard and Alex Goligoski are on the Jets’ radar. Ekholm is the best of the bunch, but the Predators are back in a playoff race, and he has another year left on his deal.

Goligoski is a possibility as a pending UFA, but Savard also has an expiring contract and is the better player. But after the way Laine’s worked out, will Columbus pick up the phone if Cheveldayoff calls again?

West Division

Status: Let’s make some deals

Players, picks in play: LW/RW Danton Heinen ($2.8 million, RFA in 2021), D Ben Hutton ($950,000, UFA in 2021), C Adam Henrique ($5.825 million, UFA in 2024, 10-team no-trade list), D Josh Manson ($4.1 million, UFA in 2022, 12-team no-trade list), LW/RW Rickard Rakell ($3,789,444, UFA in 2022), LW/RW Jakob Silfverberg ($5.25 million, UFA in 2024, 12-team no-trade list)

What to watch: This will be the third straight season in which Anaheim has missed the playoffs, and the youth movement is on.

Blue-chip winger Trevor Zegras and defenseman Jamie Drysdale join players like Troy Terry, Sam Steel and Max Jones in the next wave for the Ducks. GM Bob Murray can either keep some of his veterans around to augment the young talent, hoping to hit that sweet spot between newbies and veterans like the Kings appear to have done. Or the Ducks can start turning over parts of this roster in a larger overhaul, like (finally) cutting into a defense corps that has been better on paper than on the ice for the last few seasons.

One player that’s gotten a lot of attention is Rakell, the team’s 27-year-old leading scorer who has two 30-goal seasons to his credit. A few general managers were surprised to hear Rakell could be available, given that he’s a player under contract in his prime. If Murray is looking for a significant return — a first-rounder plus more — Rakell could draw that kind of an offer. The Ducks traded Bobby Ryan at 25-years-old with term left on his deal. Same energy here.

What they should do: The obvious answer is to continue to tell Ryan Getzlaf how lovely Denver and Las Vegas are this time of year in the hopes that the 35-year-old captain would be willing to waive his no-move clause. But he’s shown no interest in leaving his family behind in Anaheim to chase (another) Stanley Cup, so let’s assume he’s off the table.

While his trade protection is prohibitive, and the expansion draft complicates things, Manson is someone the Ducks should try to trade. The 29-year-old has value as a physical defenseman — a coveted type of player at this deadline — and both the player and the team would benefit from moving him.


Status: Small moves only

Players, picks in play: LW/RW Drake Caggiula ($700,000, UFA in 2021), D Alex Goligoski ($5.475 million, UFA in 2021, eight-team no-trade list), C Derick Brassard ($1 million, UFA in 2021), D Jason Demers ($3,937,500, UFA in 2021), C Christian Dvorak ($4.45 million, UFA in 2025), G Darcy Kuemper ($4.5 million, UFA in in 2022), D Jordan Oesterle ($1.4 million, UFA in 2021), G Antti Raanta ($4.25 million, UFA in 2021)

What to watch: The Coyotes have two kinds of players in which other teams will be interested. They have veteran players with expiring contracts, with varying degrees of value. Goligoski might have the most in this category, as defensive defensemen are on a lot of teams’ wish lists.

Then there are core players with term remaining. Kuemper, Dvorak and Garland are all on the radar of other teams. They’re also likely not in play at this deadline, despite the return they could generate. Garland, 25, in particular seems to fall into that “other GMs asking about him” category rather than the “Coyotes making calls about him” one.

What they should do: As the trade deadline draws closer, so do the Coyotes to the final playoff spot in the West Division. That probably eliminates any dramatic moves involving players with term — GM Bill Armstrong’s front office is very much still in evaluation mode, and would love to get a look at these core players in the pressures of a playoff race.

Their playoff contention has also given them pause on dealing their UFAs. What signal would it send to the team if they were on the playoff bubble but still shipped out four players? It’s an understandable notion, but the Coyotes would be better served by getting what they can for their UFAs — especially Goligoski, who is going to be catnip to the right contender.


Status: Bolstering for a long playoff run

Players, picks in play: 2021 first-round pick, D Ryan Graves ($3,166,667, UFA in 2023), C J.T. Compher ($3.5 million, UFA in 2023)

What to watch: The Avalanche are in the top tier of Stanley Cup contenders this season, but still have a few places that they can upgrade. Chief among them is backup goaltender to Philipp Grubauer, who has been absolutely spectacular in what is not coincidentally a contract year for him. Pavel Francouz hasn’t played a game this season due to a lingering lower-body injury. Jonas Johansson, recently acquired from Buffalo, is a stop-gap solution. Depending on Francouz’s status, they should be in the market for a proven goalie that can be an insurance policy for Grubauer.

Colorado could also be in the market for an upgrade at center in their bottom six, as Compher has been sub-replacement (minus-1.7 goals) in the 26 games in which he’s played this season. The Avalanche could also use a veteran defenseman with playoff experience. You know, your “Ian Cole” type. Whatever happened to that guy?

There’s always a chance they could shoot for the moon and add a veteran winger on an expiring contract — how great would Kyle Palmieri look on this team — in a money-out, money-in hockey trade.

What they should do: Adrian Dater of Colorado Hockey Now reported that the Avalanche were kicking the tires on James Reimer, of the Hurricanes’ goalie surplus. He’s a pending UFA, a well-liked teammate and just the kind of player for which they’re looking.

We listed Graves among the players in play because he hasn’t been able to reach his heights from last season, and has a very cap-friendly contract. With some interesting left-shot defensemen on the market, there may be a chance for a “hockey deal” trade. But it might also be prudent not to judge a 25-year-old for underperforming in as strange a season as this one.


Status: A little bit going out, a little bit coming in

Players, picks in play: LW/RW Dustin Brown ($5.875 million UFA in 2022, seven-team no-trade list), LW Alex Iafallo ($2.425 million, UFA in 2021), G Jonathan Quick ($5.8 million, UFA in 2023), cap space

What to watch: The Kings are lingering in a playoff race thanks to the Blues cracking open the door for that last seed in the West Division. They have already added, trading for Rangers agitator Brendan Lemieux, who is signed through 2022, and Ottawa defenseman Christian Wolanin.

GM Rob Blake is in a great position: The young players from the deepest farm system in the NHL are starting to fill out the lineup, his veterans are uniformly having better seasons, and Los Angeles is inching back to playoff contender status. While he has long-time Kings to deal — Brown, Quick — he also has his eye on bolstering this roster in the long term.

There’s been speculation that Blake is in the market for a young, left-shot defenseman with contract term; for example, the Kings have the assets to go after Zach Werenski if Columbus feels he’s going to be the next talent to walk out the door in 2022. There’s also been more than a little matchmaking from NHL Cupids between the Kings and the Sabres on a potential Jack Eichel trade.

What they should do: Iafallo is a 27-year-old forward who can thrive in a variety of roles and would certainly bring back value as a rental, but word is that the Kings are more likely to extend him than deal him — which is the correct decision.

If they can find a taker for Quick’s contract, they should leap at the chance, considering how good Cal Petersen has been for them. Brown is a more complicated trade option. Yes, there could be interest in him — look no further than the Islanders’ needs and how Brown’s style would fit with a Barry Trotz team. But he’s been great for the Kings (14 goals in 31 games) as the team remains in a playoff push, and is an important “lead-by-example guy” you want around younger players. Unless it’s an offer Blake can’t refuse from a team on Brown’s accepted destination list, Los Angeles should hang onto him. At the very least, it’ll signal that the team has the pedal down and is full speed towards contention.


Status: Looking to add wisely

Players, picks in play: C/LW Marcus Johansson ($4.5 million, UFA in 2021, 10-team no-trade list), their own first-round pick and Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in 2021

What to watch: GM Bill Guerin has been steadfast in saying that he’s not sacrificing the future of the Wild for contention this season. He’s not a fan of rentals, but isn’t opposed to adding to the team if the cost is low. It’s clear he’s playing the long game with the Wild as a contender. Sure, Guerin has talked about Minnesota as “a team that can beat anybody,” but the reality is that dealing a first-rounder for a veteran on an expiring contract isn’t going to suddenly make the Wild better than Colorado or Vegas.

What they should do: Of their expiring contracts, Johansson appeared to be the most interesting trade option — that is until his recent run as Kevin Fiala‘s linemate showed some glimmers of offensive potential. Guerin is right to play the long game with his assets — the Kirill Kaprizov era just started, after all — but if there was a place where a bargain deal could help immediately it would be in the faceoff circle. The Wild are 30th in the NHL at the dot (45.8%). What would be the cost to bring on Detroit faceoff ace (and pending free agent) Luke Glendening?


Status: Let’s make some deals

Players, picks in play: G Devan Dubnyk ($2,166,667, UFA in 2021, 10-team no-trade clause), C Patrick Marleau ($700,000, UFA in 2021), LW/RW Matt Nieto ($700,000, UFA in 2021), cap space

What to watch: Few teams in the NHL are saddled with the kind of unmovable contracts that the Sharks have. If Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s cap hits weren’t enough of a deterrent, they also have full no-move clauses. Brent Burns has trade protection and an $8 million cap hit through 2025. Evander Kane is untradeable. Martin Jones makes $5.75 million against the cap through 2024, in case anyone else wanted him. All of this makes rebuilding or reloading a rather arduous task for GM Doug Wilson, unless he wants to dig into some of his core players like Logan Couture, Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl. Instead, he’ll likely deal from the bottom of the deck.

With so many teams seeking insurance policies in goal, Dubnyk should bring back something, even if he hasn’t been much better than Jones this season. If Nieto is healthy, he could be worth a look for someone’s bottom six. It’s hard to imagine Marleau breaking Gordie Howe’s all-time games mark in anything but a teal sweater — and his play this season certainly hasn’t sparked a trade market for him. But there’s always the chance some contender wants a solid veteran citizen, and Marleau wants one more crack at the Stanley Cup.

What they should do: Trade every pending UFA that they can and test the waters on Hertl, who is an unrestricted free agent in 2022 — and continue to pray that the Seattle Kraken take Brent Burns’ contract off their books in the expansion draft.


Status: Looking to add

Players, picks in play: D Vince Dunn ($1.875 million, RFA in 2021), RW Mike Hoffman ($4 million, UFA in 2021), first-round pick in 2021

What to watch: The Blues’ dramatic stumble in late March swung the door open to the No. 4 seed in the West Division. St. Louis already had to worry about what upgrades it needed to overcome Colorado or Vegas in the playoffs. Now the Blues have to wonder what moves they need to make just to qualify for the postseason.

The two roster players getting the most attention from other teams are Hoffman and Dunn. The Hoff was a healthy scratch recently, which seemed more like a move to get him going than a harbinger of an eventual trade. But given his contract, lack of trade protection and failure to score goals at a considerable clip in St. Louis, he could be on the move in a money-in, money-out deal.

Dunn’s a tough one, given how much the Blues have relied on him as their blue line has suffered through several injuries. He has a good skill set, and defensemen are at a premium at this deadline, but are the Blues better off hanging onto the 24-year-old puck-mover?

What they should do: This is an ideal landing spot for Taylor Hall, if the Sabres winger was willing to waive his … oh, who are we kidding, of course he would waive his no-move clause. The Blues have scored two or fewer goals in eight of 10 recent games. Hall remains a potent offensive talent, even if his production has been sucked into the Buffalo abyss. Trade Hoffman for Hall, with the Sabres retaining the glut of Hall’s cap hit and getting picks or a prospect in the deal. GM Doug Armstrong hasn’t shied away from aggressive moves to upgrade his roster. This would rock the boat.


Status: Poised for another big splash?

Players, picks in play: LW William Carrier ($1.4 million, UFA in 2024), D Nick Holden ($1.7 million, UFA in 2022), RW Ryan Reaves ($1.75 million, UFA in 2022), first-round pick in 2021, New Jersey’s second-round pick in 2021

What to watch: If it’s the trade deadline, the Golden Knights are going to be active. There was the Tomas Tatar trade in their inaugural season, the Mark Stone blockbuster in Year No. 2 and the acquisitions of both Alec Martinez and Robin Lehner last season.

The difference this season is that the Golden Knights have barely any cap space, both due to their offseason signings and the flat cap. That increases the chances that any move they make will be money in, money out, which puts otherwise endearing role players like Carrier and Reaves potentially in play.

What they should do: Vegas is an elite level Stanley Cup contender. They’re also on a “Kong vs. Godzilla” collision course with the Avalanche, and then will potentially have to go through the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the championship. That path would be a lot easier to traverse if the Golden Knights had one more impact center in their lineup. Given their cap situation and the marketplace, that’s likely not an option. But we’ll never bet against Vegas when it comes to making a deadline splash.



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1-31 poll, plus the biggest concern for every team


With the NHL trade deadline less than two weeks away, it’s a good time to take stock. We’ve hit on reasons for optimism for every team in the past. For this week’s power rankings, we identified a reason for concern for all 31 teams.

How we rank: The ESPN hockey editorial staff submits selections ranking teams 1 to 31 — taking into account game results, injuries and upcoming schedule — and those results are tabulated in the list featured here.

Note: Previous ranking for each team refers to our Week 10 edition, published on March 24. Points percentages are through the games of March 30.

Previous ranking: 2
Points percentage: .742
Next seven days: vs. LA (March 31); vs. MIN (Apr. 1, 3); @ STL (Apr. 5)

It’s hard to find weaknesses in the Golden Knights game, and they should only improve as Alex Pietrangelo returns to the lineup. One thing to keep an eye on: Vegas is 19-3-1 against the Ducks, Coyotes, Kings, Sharks and Blues but 5-5 against the other top teams in the division, the Avs and Wild.

Previous ranking: 3
Points percentage: .721
Next seven days: @ CHI (Apr. 1); vs. DAL (Apr. 3, 4); vs. FLA (Apr. 6)

Despite the Canes’ success, the absence of top-line winger Teuvo Teravainen looms. The 26-year-old is sidelined with a concussion and there’s no timetable to return. “It’s a huge loss for a lot of reasons that a lot of people don’t understand,” coach Rod Brind’Amour told ESPN last week.

Previous ranking: 1
Points percentage: .714
Next seven days: vs. CBJ (Apr. 1); vs. DET (Apr. 3, 4); @ CBJ (Apr. 6)

Yes, Tampa Bay is looking like it can repeat as champs. However, the Lightning are averaging more than 10 penalty minutes per game, which is tops in the league. They have a top-10 penalty kill, but it’s something to keep an eye on as we head down the stretch.

Previous ranking: 5
Points percentage: .706
Next seven days: vs. ARI (March 31); vs. STL (Apr. 2, 3); @ MIN (Apr. 5)

The Avalanche are blazing, with their point streak now reaching 11 games. The top line of Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan Mackinnon (combined 35 points over the last seven games) is dynamite again. The concern for the Avs is a common one for them: staying healthy down the stretch.

Previous ranking: 6
Points percentage: .714
Next seven days: @ NYI (Apr. 1); @ NJ (Apr. 2, 4); @ NYI (Apr. 6)

Lars Eller‘s recent absence shined a light on the Caps’ biggest lineup weakness: center depth. Heck, they had T.J. Oshie filling in from his usual spot on the wing, which didn’t do much for the team in the faceoff circle. “We need Lars back,” Oshie said Sunday. “I don’t know if my faceoff percentage can take it anymore.”

Previous ranking: 9
Points percentage: .667
Next seven days: @ SJ (March 31); @ VGS (Apr. 1, 3); vs. COL (Apr. 5)

Coach Dean Evason has tried out seemingly every combination in the world, but the Wild can’t figure out how to get their power play clicking this season. It’s currently worst in the league, hitting at a sub-10% rate. For context: the Hurricanes lead the league at 30%. Big difference.

Previous ranking: 4
Points percentage: .694
Next seven days: vs. DET (Apr. 1); vs. CBJ (Apr. 3, 4); @ CAR (Apr. 6)

Aaron Ekblad was having a Norris Trophy-caliber season, but suffered an ugly injury over the weekend. After undergoing leg surgery, he’s sidelined 12 weeks. GM Bill Zito summed it up: “To be without a player of Aaron’s caliber and character is an irreplaceable loss to our hockey club.”

Previous ranking: 12
Points percentage: .667
Next seven days: @ BOS (Apr. 1, 3); @ NYR (Apr. 6)

After the bad injury luck the Penguins had in 2019-20, good karma had to be coming their way this season, right? Pittsburgh keeps grinding out wins to climb up the standings, but the injuries are piling again. The latest is Tristan Jarry, who mysteriously exited with an upper-body injury after the first period Monday.

Previous ranking: 8
Points percentage: .671
Next seven days: @ WPG (March 31, Apr. 2); @ CGY (Apr. 4, 5)

Jack Campbell has been fantastic — he has a .955 save percentage through six starts — but he’s managing an injury. “The reality is that he hasn’t been playing at 100% and the games take a toll on him,” coach Sheldon Keefe said. That is not ideal when starter Frederik Andersen is also injured.

Previous ranking: 7
Points percentage: .667
Next seven days: vs. WSH (Apr. 1); vs. PHI (Apr. 3); vs. WSH (Apr. 6)

The Islanders were red hot when their captain, Anders Lee, injured his ACL. New York has gone 5-4 since. It’s hard to project GM Lou Lamoriello’s moves, but it sure seems like he’s going to get a scoring winger at the deadline to help compensate for the loss.

Previous ranking: 11
Points percentage: .639
Next seven days: vs. TOR (March 31, Apr. 2); vs. VAN (Apr. 4, 6)

The Jets are set in their forward group, and have enviable depth down the middle. Ahead of the trade deadline, their biggest concern is whether to add to the blue line. Logan Stanley, the 22-year-old first-round pick from 2016, is making his case to remain in the lineup down the stretch.

Previous ranking: 13
Points percentage: .608
Next seven days: vs. CGY (Apr. 2); vs. VAN (Apr. 3); @ MTL (Apr. 5)

Connor McDavid has factored in on over half of all Oilers goals this season, which is the highest mark in the league. Leon Draisaitl has also been fantastic (second in the league in points) but beyond that, depth has been a concern. Forgive us if you’ve heard this story before.

Previous ranking: 10
Points percentage: .641
Next seven days: vs. PIT (Apr. 1, 3); vs. PHI (Apr. 5); @ PHI (Apr. 6)

Scoring at even strength has plagued the Bruins in 2021. We’ll put it bluntly: only the Sabres have scored fewer goals at 5-on-5 than Boston this season. Besides Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, no Bruins player has more than six goals at 5-on-5. They’re looking for more from their depth players.

Previous ranking: 16
Points percentage: .609
Next seven days: @ OTT (Apr. 1); vs. OTT (Apr. 3); vs. EDM (Apr. 5)

Discipline is a bit of an issue in Montreal. The Canadiens have a minus-18 penalty differential. It’s especially problematic since the Habs’ penalty kill is 21st in the league. The only silver lining here: Montreal leads the league in shorthanded goals, with seven.

Previous ranking: 14
Points percentage: .543
Next seven days: @ COL (Apr. 2, 3); vs. VGS (Apr. 5)

The Blues don’t have comfortable footing in the West playoff race, and really could use more scoring. It’s one of the reasons Craig Berube made Mike Hoffman (eight goals) a healthy scratch on Sunday. “I just want more out of him,” the coach said.

Previous ranking: 25
Points percentage: .527
Next seven days: vs. DAL (Apr. 1); vs. CHI (Apr. 3); @ DET (Apr. 6)

The Predators have picked up their game — in large part to much-improved goaltending — to get back in the playoff hunt. But this team was looking to be sellers at the trade deadline. Can they remain competitive, but also plan for the future — and stockpile draft picks and prospects to finally infuse this team with a youth movement?

Previous ranking: 24
Points percentage: .529
Next seven days: @ COL (March 31); @ ANA (Apr. 2, 4); @ LA (Apr. 5)

The Yotes are quietly making a run at a West Division playoff spot, but their offense still isn’t inspiring much confidence. They are last in the league in shots per game, shot differential per game, and rank 25th in goals per game, averaging just a hair over 2.5.

Previous ranking: 17
Points percentage: .514
Next seven days: @ BUF (Apr. 1, 3); vs. PIT (Apr. 6)

Depth down the middle is not one of the Rangers’ strengths this season, and one of the things New York’s centers haven’t been great at are faceoffs. New York ranks dead last in the league, winning only 44.7% of its draws. No regular centers are at 50% or better.

Previous ranking: 15
Points percentage: .559
Next seven days: @ BUF (March 31); @ NYI (Apr. 3); @ BOS (Apr. 5); vs. BOS (Apr. 6)

The Flyers’ season is quickly derailing. The defense has been way too leaky, but all eyes are on Carter Hart. The prized No. 1 goalie hasn’t been himself (8-9-3, .869 save percentage, 4.04 goals-against average) and coach Alain Vigneault is sitting Hart this week because the young netminder “needs to work harder.”

Previous ranking: 19
Points percentage: .527
Next seven days: vs. CAR (Apr. 1); @ NSH (Apr. 3); vs. DAL (Apr. 6)

The Blackhawks have been a sub-.500 team since the beginning of March, slowly losing grip of their playoff footing. The biggest issue is that the underlying statistics predicted this. Per Natural Stat Trick, Chicago ranks 31st in the league in expected goals for percentage at 5-on-5.

Previous ranking: 18
Points percentage: .485
Next seven days: @ VGS (March 31); vs. SJ (Apr. 2, 3); vs. ARI (Apr. 5)

The Kings are hanging in the playoff race, but they haven’t had much luck in tight games. Since the beginning of March, Los Angeles has gone 4-7-2 in one-goal games. That .200 winning percentage ranks 28th in the league in that span; only the Rangers, Habs and Sabres are worse.

Previous ranking: 21
Points percentage: .485
Next seven days: @ NSH (Apr. 1); @ CAR (Apr. 3, 4); @ CHI (Apr. 6)

The fundamental concern for the Stars: Can they get their act together quickly, and go on a winning streak to compensate for their slow start? Dallas’ games-in-hand, which has been its cushion all season long, is slowly dwindling. The Stars can’t afford to wait for the return of Tyler Seguin and Ben Bishop to turn things around.

Previous ranking: 23
Points percentage: .473
Next seven days: vs. CGY (March 31); @ EDM (Apr. 3); @ WPG (Apr. 4, 6)

Even if the Canucks want to do something at the trade deadline, it’s going to be difficult. They have no cap space. Also, Brandon Sutter, Antoine Roussel, and all of their regular defenseman — minus Quinn Hughes, who is on an entry-level contract — have either a no-movement or modified no-trade clause.

Previous ranking: 22
Points percentage: .473
Next seven days: @ VAN (March 31); @ EDM (Apr. 2); vs. TOR (Apr. 4, 5)

The Flames biggest concern right now: Can Darryl Sutter get through to players before it’s too late? Calgary brought back Sutter to light a fire under this group, and he’s doing it with his signature gruff, including calling players out publicly. After an encouraging start with Sutter, the Flames have won one of their last six games.

Previous ranking: 20
Points percentage: .486
Next seven days: @ TB (Apr. 1); @ FLA (Apr. 3, 4); vs. TB (Apr. 6)

Over the last few seasons, the Blue Jackets have developed a reputation as one of the stingiest defensive teams in the league, which can compensate for some lackluster offense. That has not been the case this season, as Columbus is allowing the ninth most goals per game — and still not thriving on offense.

Previous ranking: 26
Points percentage: .471
Next seven days: vs. MIN (March 31); @ LA (Apr. 2, 3); vs. ANA (Apr. 6)

The biggest concern for the Sharks right now: Do they trade Patrick Marleau at the trade deadline? The veteran has said that he’s open to a deal like the one that sent him to Pittsburgh last season. Or, does he stick around and break Gordie Howe’s record for all-time NHL games played while wearing a Sharks sweater, albeit in another lost season?

Previous ranking: 27
Points percentage: .456
Next seven days: vs. WSH (Apr. 2, 4); vs. BUF (Apr. 6)

Oh, what to do with Kyle Palmieri? The pending UFA has been the Devils’ most consistent scorer since joining the team in 2015, scoring at least 24 goals in every season leading up to this one. Does New Jersey work out a long-term extension, or say goodbye to the beloved winger at the trade deadline?

Previous ranking: 28
Points percentage: .378
Next seven days: @ FLA (Apr. 1); @ TB (Apr. 3, 4); vs. NSH (Apr. 6)

If Detroit can build a lead, it’s in good shape. Entering the week, the Red Wings are 11-0-1 when leading after two periods. They don’t have the grit to get out of a hole though, going 0-16-1 when trailing entering the third.

Previous ranking: 29
Points percentage: .389
Next seven days: vs. MTL (Apr. 1); @ MTL (Apr. 3)

The pressing question for the Sens is whether a trio of their marquee prospects, currently in college, are going to decide to go pro this season. North Dakota’s Shane Pinto, Jacob Bernard-Docker and Jake Sanderson’s season ended with a devastating five-overtime loss to Minnesota-Duluth. Will they be in Ottawa this season?

Previous ranking: 30
Points percentage: .378
Next seven days: vs. ARI (Apr. 2, 4); @ SJ (Apr. 6)

Ahead of the trade deadline, the Ducks are poised to be one of the busiest sellers — if they choose to be. For example, Rickard Rakell is an attractive option to many teams (27-years-old, $3.9 million annual cap hit). But can Anaheim get enough in return, and do they want to give up on a player other teams find so valuable?

Previous ranking: 31
Points percentage: .250
Next seven days: vs. PHI (March 31); vs. NYR (Apr. 1, 3); @ NJ (Apr. 6)

Oh, where to begin on the Sabres concerns? The winless streak has hit 18 games, the longest for an NHL team in 17 years. Buffalo blew a 3-0 third period lead against the Flyers Monday, and there’s no timetable for Jack Eichel to return. In one word: morale. That’s the biggest issue in Buffalo right now.



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