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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Ranking the NHL’s top centers for 2021


There are the Academy Awards, and then there’s the Oscar for Best Picture. There are the NHL awards, and then there’s the Hart Trophy for most valuable player.

There are the 2021 ESPN positional rankings for wingers, defensemen and goalies — and then there’s the one everyone’s been anticipating since the series started, the top 10 centers in the NHL.

“I could have given you a top 20 and they would have all been outstanding players,” said one NHL coach, as he enthusiastically shared his ranking. “The centers — by far — had the best players on any of these lists.”

As a reminder on how these rankings were produced, we canvassed 10 active NHL players — seven skaters, three goaltenders — and 10 individuals in team hockey operations, from coaches to general managers to player personnel executives. The surveys were conducted over the past two months. Respondents were asked to rank their top 10 players at center, winger, defenseman and goaltender, based on a predetermined list of the top 20-30 players at each position. Players who were ranked in the top 10 on each ballot were given a numerical score — No. 1 earned 10 points, No. 2 earned 9 points and so on.

Following our lists of the top 10 wingers, top 10 defensemen and top 10 goalies, here are the positional rankings for centers for the 2020-21 season, according to those in the NHL we surveyed. Much as our coach discovered, taking what could be a top 20 and narrowing it to a top 10 means some very worthy candidates end up in the honorable mentions.

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

McDavid, 24, was the clear No. 1 among our respondents, matching Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy for the most first-place votes (16) in our positional rankings. Since 2017-18, no player in the NHL has more points (385) or a higher points-per-game average (1.47) than McDavid. He leads the NHL in even-strength (259) and power-play points (120) in that 262-game span.

McDavid leads all players with 64 points through 38 games this season.

The knock on McDavid has been that he’s a one-dimensional player. “McDavid is obviously a fabulous player. But he hasn’t filled in all of his holes yet,” said one NHL coach.

While he’s not a Selke Trophy finalist yet, McDavid has shown a discernible improvement defensively this season in expected goals against at 5-on-5 (2.22 per 60 minutes). He’s also on track to get over 50% in faceoff wins for the first time in his career.

He has two scoring titles, two player of the year awards from the NHLPA and one Hart Trophy. He’s Connor McDavid, and he’s the best center in the world.


Since 2017-18, MacKinnon is second among centers with a 1.29 points-per-game average. In 2021, the two-time Hart Trophy finalist has 43 points through 33 games during a season interrupted by injury.

The gap between the 25-year-old Avalanche star and McDavid was considerable, but MacKinnon was a solid second choice in our ranking. He was ranked first overall by one NHL coach and a veteran NHL defenseman. He was ranked second overall on eight ballots; in total, MacKinnon made the top five on 17 of 20 ballots.

But while McDavid made the top 10 on every survey, one NHL player personnel official and a veteran defenseman left MacKinnon completely off of their top 10s.


One of the most gifted goal-scoring centers the NHL has seen in the past 30 years, Matthews has a goals-per-game average of 0.58 for his career. From 2005 through this season, only Alex Ovechkin — you know, the guy chasing Wayne Gretzky’s all-time record — has a higher one (0.61). When it comes to goals per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play, Matthews is first by a wide margin (1.52) over Ovechkin (1.21).

Matthews was ranked third on half of the surveys submitted. He didn’t receive a first-place ranking, but was second on three ballots.

One veteran NHL defenseman ranked Matthews outside the top 10, the only respondent to do so. “He’s a heck of an offensive player. If you’re building a team around a center, of course you need goals. But you have to have that defensive side too,” the defenseman said. “In the D zone, that’s a big thing. He’ll get there eventually.”

One NHL coach who had him ranked sixth overall agreed with that assessment. “If you’re looking purely at the offensive side of the game, he’s a star,” he said, “but there’s a part of Matthews’ game that’s not there yet.”

Or as another NHL coach put it: “Two-way centers are how you win. Not all these guys are there yet. I don’t think McDavid is quite there yet and I don’t think Matthews is right there yet. But they produce so much, you have to put them up there.”


And the crowd chanted, “You still got it (clap, clap, clap clap clap)!” Or at least the respondents to this survey did.

Crosby, 33, has 43 points through 37 games this season, which is in line with his point production in 2019-20. His days of challenging for the league scoring title could be in the rearview mirror, but he remains one of the NHL’s most dynamic and complete players, building on a career that rates among the greatest in hockey history.

Crosby didn’t receive a first-place ranking but was second on two surveys, third on two others and fourth on eight more.

“It was really hard for me not to put Crosby first, to be honest with you. Has he just slipped enough where other guys get the nod? That was the question for me,” said one NHL coach who had him fourth.

However, one NHL general manager and another player personnel executive left Crosby completely out of their top 10s.

Nevertheless, Sid The Kid had enough support to place fourth overall, above some of the better young centers in the NHL today.

“He’s a generational player,” said another NHL coach.

The reigning Hart Trophy winner and NHLPA player of the year is third to McDavid and MacKinnon in points-per-game average among centers since 2017-18 (1.27). The 25-year-old is having another extraordinary season offensively, with 56 points in 38 games. His goals-per-game average is down a shade from two straight seasons of 0.61, but there aren’t too many centers in the NHL who could dream of hitting 0.61 goals per game to begin with.

The knock on Draisaitl remains that he doesn’t defend well, which was an incantation used by critics against his MVP candidacy last season.

One NHL coach wasn’t buying it. “I think he’s easily as good defensively as McDavid,” he said, ranking Draisaitl third on his ballot.

Draisaitl received two third-place votes, five fourth-place votes and three fifth-place votes. He was left out of the top 10 on three ballots: one from an NHL general manager, one from a veteran NHL forward and one from a veteran NHL defenseman.


Since he was drafted second overall behind McDavid in 2015, Eichel has 355 points in 375 career games, including 18 points in 21 games this season before he was injured. All of this has come while playing for a series of awful Buffalo Sabres teams. Consider that Kirby Dach has played more Stanley Cup playoffs games than Eichel, and he was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2019.

His teams stink. Eichel does not. In fact, one veteran NHL defenseman ranked him first overall on his ballot.

“Jack Eichel is the best center in the NHL. I put him over Connor. The biggest thing for me is that he hasn’t had anyone to play with for most of his career,” he said.

That was Eichel’s only first-place vote, although he did receive a second-place ranking from a veteran NHL goaltender. Eichel appeared on every top-10 ranking save three of them: one from a veteran NHL defenseman, one from a veteran NHL forward and one from a head coach.

The coach said that Eichel isn’t as “hard to play against” as some other top centers, using Anze Kopitar as a counterpoint. “Is Kopitar a harder guy to play against than Jack Eichel? Yes, he is,” he said. “But that doesn’t make Jack Eichel a poor player.”


Why does Bergeron belong here? “When you think of the two best lines in hockey, you think of the one centered by Nathan MacKinnon and one centered by Patrice Bergeron,” said an NHL coach, “so there’s your answer there.”

Bergeron, 35, has been the heart of the Bruins’ “Perfection Line” for the past few seasons, skating with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and dominating on both ends of the ice. But it’s Bergeron’s defense that earns him this ranking. One of the best faceoff men in the history of the NHL, Bergeron is a four-time Selke Trophy winner and is working on nine straight seasons as a finalist for the award.

He’s the defensive standard by which others are judged.


Barkov is eighth in points-per-game average among centers over the past three seasons (1.09), ranking higher than players like Eichel and Bergeron. That includes 40 points through 33 games this season for the surprising Panthers. His defensive prowess has him in the Selke conversation annually, although he’s been unable to break through to become a finalist.

“He can produce offense and absolutely dominate the game on defense. That’s such a huge asset to have,” one NHL coach said.

Making this list should help shake the “underrated” label from the Panthers center — in fact, one general manager had him ranked first on his ballot, over McDavid and Matthews. But then again, seven respondents had him outside their top 10s altogether.

“He’s close. Very close to the top 10,” said one NHL coach who left him off his list. “But I’m a huge fan of Barkov. He does everything right.”


Point is an offensive dynamo and a defensive stopper. Since 2017-18, the Lightning center has the 14th-best points-per-game average among centers in the regular season (0.96), but has the second-best rate in the playoffs (1.14) for centers who played at least 30 postseason games in that span. Victor Hedman took home the Conn Smythe for the Lightning’s bubble Stanley Cup win; with 33 points in 38 games, Point had a case for it, too.

“He absolutely has to be on this list after the playoffs he had,” said an NHL skater.

One fellow forward had Point second on his ballot, but that was the highest ranking he received. Point was left off of nine ballots.


There were 30 centers in the pool. Twenty of them are still splashing around while Barzal managed to take the final spot in the top 10.

Since 2017-18, the Islanders star is 10th among centers in points per 60 at 5-on-5 (2.38). He has 34 points through 38 games this season. The 23-year-old is the most impactful offensive player for his team and has improved every season.

Like other young centers on this list, Barzal gets dinged by some for his defense and faceoffs — he’s a career 42.3% in the dot. But one NHL veteran skater offered up a counterargument:

“Barzal is a negative in the faceoff circle. That’s absolutely true. But make no mistake: He gives a s— about defense.”


Honorable mentions

As you can see, some very, very good centers are on the outside looking in with respect to this list. A few notes on the notables:

  • Ryan O’Reilly of the St. Louis Blues was the runner-up to Barzal for the ranking’s final spot (25 points). The 30-year-old has 34 points in 37 games this season. “You know you’re in for a tough night because he’s so good in the corners, in both zones,” said one NHL skater who had him 10th overall. One NHL coach had O’Reilly third overall, but cautioned: “He doesn’t score the way the other guys [at the top] do.”

  • After O’Reilly was Elias Pettersson of the Vancouver Canucks, whose numbers have taken a step back (21 points in 26 games) in a season marred by injury and his team’s underperformance. “I really like Pettersson. He’s a hell of a player. But he hasn’t quite done it yet,” said one NHL coach who left Pettersson out of his top 10.

  • After Pettersson came a tie (16 points) between Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele and Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar, the latter of whom has had a resurgent offensive season in 2021, with 39 points in 36 games. “He’s a perfect example of a guy who plays both ways really well,” said one NHL defenseman of Kopitar.

  • Penguins fans have no doubt noticed that Evgeni Malkin didn’t make the top 10. In fact, the potential Hall of Famer received only one seventh-place vote and one ninth-place vote. “Sid is an all-arounder. Malkin could be one, but he only does it sometimes,” said an NHL coach who left him outside the top 10. “When he’s on, he’s legitimately dominant. He’s better than Sid. You just have to hope the giant is sleeping when you play them.”

  • Of the 30 centers in the pool, only four failed to make the top 10 on any of the 20 ballots: Bo Horvat of the Canucks, Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning and John Tavares of the Toronto Maple Leafs.



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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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NHL trade tiers by position


The NHL trade deadline owes a debt of gratitude to the Canadian government.

On Thursday, a league source confirmed to ESPN that the 14-day quarantine for NHL players traded from U.S. teams to Canadian teams would be reduced to seven days, with additional COVID-19 testing. This removes a roadblock for North Division teams seeking to reach across the border to complete deals ahead of the April 12 trade deadline.

But that was only one of several unusual influences on this season’s trade market. Consider:

  • The flat $81.5 million salary cap that limits the trade options for teams, unless they’re shipping out money as well.

  • The expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken looming in the offseason. There are more nuanced rules, but the basic requirements for teams: They must protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goalie.

  • The fact that some teams aren’t eager to overreact to what they see as an anomalous, COVID-impacted season.

As trade activity intensifies ahead of the April 12, 3 p.m. ET deadline, here is a tier-by-tier look at the rentals, the investments and the wild-card stars whose availability could turn this deadline on its collective head.

All salary and contract information comes from our friends at CapFriendly unless otherwise noted. Stats are collected from sites such as Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference and Evolving Hockey.

Jump to:
Rentals: Center | Wing | Defense
With term: Center | Wing | Defense
Goalies

CENTERS FOR RENT

Age: 24 | Stats: 31 GP | 3 G | 3 A | 6 P
Contract: $2.55 million AAV, RFA this summer, no trade protection

Bennett’s trade request went public last month, with his agent saying that the center needs a change in scenery. GM Brad Treliving answered that request on Calgary sports radio: “We’ll determine, whether it be Sam Bennett or anybody else, what their scenery is and when it’s going to change.” Perhaps that ends up being before the trade deadline.

There was some hope the coaching change to Darryl Sutter could spark Bennett’s game. His ice time has increased. The lack of offensive production in the regular season, something that has plagued him during his seven seasons with the Flames, has unfortunately continued.

Age: 31 | Stats: 31 GP | 3 G | 6 A | 9 P
Contract: $1.8 million AAV, UFA this summer, no trade protection

Glendening, 31, can play all three forward positions and gives you around 15 minutes per game. But the reason anyone is dabbling in the Luke Glendening business is his prowess in the faceoff circle: Through 31 games, he has won 314 of 489 faceoffs for an incredible 64.2% winning percentage. He has been linked to the Canadiens, who are not good on faceoffs (48%).

Age: 28 | Stats: 29 GP | 6 G | 6 A | 12 P
Contract: $3.75 million AAV, UFA this summer, no trade protection

He’s the most coveted center available due to his contract, his age (29) and his offensive potential. However, Granlund’s 0.41 points-per-game average is his lowest since his rookie season, despite an uptick in ice time (19:27) and offensive zone starts (57%). It still makes sense for the Predators to move him, with only a 20% chance of making the playoffs per Money Puck. But they might want to keep him for a playoff push in the Central if they don’t get back the value they’re seeking.

Age: 29 | Stats: 29 GP | 3 G | 6 A | 9 P
Contract: $1.75 million AAV, UFA this summer, no trade protection

If the Predators are going to move a center, Haula would seem the most likely. He’s the worst player in goals scored above average (-4.5) and hasn’t generated a fraction of the offense the team hoped he could, with nine points in 29 games on a third line that’s been a drag on possession. But he’s a veteran hand with a cap-friendly contract and could likely be had for a middle-round pick.

Age: 31 | Stats: 32 GP | 2 G | 4 A | 6 P
Contract: $2.75 million AAV, UFA this summer, no trade protection

Nash’s stock has risen this season, as the checking center played well when pressed into service in the Jackets’ top six. While it hasn’t led to an offensive uptick, his defense has been a steadying presence. If Columbus is in the hunt, the Blue Jackets might end up keeping him around as a versatile option at their thinnest position. But Florida Panthers beat writer George Richards recently speculated that Nash could be reunited with GM Bill Zito in Sunrise, Florida.

Age: 36 | Stats: 31 GP | 3 G | 7 A | 10 P
Contract: $3.25 million AAV, UFA this summer, 10-team no-trade list

Staal didn’t choose to fester in the mess that is the Sabres. The Sabres chose him, trading for the 36-year-old in the offseason. His trade protection complicates things, but it’s hard to imagine Staal won’t be moved to a contender at the deadline. His 10 points in 31 games and minus-20 are glaringly bad, but Staal has created high-danger chances for a team that plays too much on the perimeter. Carolina fans and media have been trying to will a reunion with the Hurricanes (and brother Jordan) into existence.

Age: 31 | Stats: 35 GP | 6 G | 2 A | 8 P
Contract: $4.375 million AAV, UFA this summer, 15-team no-trade list

The Canucks have a 3.4% chance of making the playoffs, so let the selling begin. Sutter is a bottom-six center who wins faceoffs (55.5%) and chips in with occasional goals. His lines are consistently on the negative side of possession relative to his teammates. His salary-cap hit is a shade too high under a flat cap, and his trade protection limits the market.

CENTERS WITH TERM

Age: 20 | Stats: 14 GP | 2 G | 1 A | 3 P
Contract: $894,167 AAV, RFA in 2022, no trade protection

The No. 5 overall pick in 2018 has floundered in the Coyotes’ development pipeline. He has only seven points in 34 career NHL games and one goal in 12 AHL games this season. He’s just 20, but he’s a holdover from the John Chayka regime, and there’s no reason to believe GM Bill Armstrong is wedded to Hayton as a building block for the future, especially with him underperforming.

Age: 31 | Stats: 30 GP | 9 G | 6 A | 15 P
Contract: $5.825 million AAV, UFA in 2024, 10-team no trade list

With Ryan Getzlaf having no interest in waiving his no-move clause to leave Anaheim, the Ducks will continue trying to move their other veteran center’s considerable contract. Henrique cleared waivers in February without any takers. The Ducks might have to eat up to 50% of the contract to get real value back under a flat cap. He has been their third-best player in goals scored above average (2.7) and excels in the faceoff circle. Good player, but that’s a rough contract in these trying times.

Age: 26 | Stats: 32 GP | 5 G | 9 A | 14 P
Contract: $3.5 million AAV, UFA in 2023, no trade protection

The Leafs know what they have here in Kerfoot: around 14:36 in ice time per game, around 0.44 points per game per season and a frustrating inability to excel in the faceoff circle. The theory is that Toronto would move Kerfoot if it found the right upgrade for his spot on the roster. He’s only 26 and has two more years left on his reasonable deal.

WINGERS FOR RENT

Age: 28 | Stats: 21 GP | 7 G | 2 A | 9 P
Contract: $3.375 million AAV, UFA this summer, no trade protection

His versatility in the lineup and relatively small cap number should make him a desirable asset for the Senators. He had five goals in his first 10 games back in Ottawa after the Hurricanes shipped him there for Cedric Paquette and Alex Galchenyuk in February. The question is whether Ottawa would like to retain him beyond this season, and if he’d be interested in circling back with the Senators if they deal him now.

Age: 33 | Stats: 33 GP | 5 G | 7 A | 12 P
Contract: $5.5 million AAV, UFA this summer, 10-team no-trade list

It’s funny: Foligno started his career in Ottawa, and arrived in Columbus in 2012, but he’s absolutely one of those players who would look odd wearing another jersey. That’s how synonymous the captain is with the Blue Jackets franchise.

But, he’s 33 years old and facing free agency. He also has an incredible amount of value for a contender looking to bolster its bottom six with a strong defensive player who can chip in offensively and brings it in the playoffs. But with the Blue Jackets inching toward the playoff bubble, do they keep him?

Age: 24 | Stats: 32 GP | 9 G | 16 A | 25 P
Contract: $775,000 AAV, RFA this summer, no trade protection

It’s really simple: GM Bill Armstrong builds through the draft. The Coyotes do not have a first-round pick this season because the NHL took it away, penalizing the franchise for the previous regime’s violation of the combine testing policy. Garland, 26, has 25 points in 32 games and can bring back a first-round pick and much more for a franchise looking to reload. To the surprise of no one, the Boston Bruins are rumored to have interest in the Scituate, Massachusetts, native.

Age: 28 | Stats: 20 GP | 2 G | 3 A | 5 P
Contract: $4.5 million AAV, UFA this summer, eight-team no-trade list

The best that could be said about Gusev is that his contract is expiring. Otherwise, his offensive production has been paltry despite a massive leap in offensive zone starts (64%), and he has minus-6.3 goals scored above average, worst on the Devils. The 28-year-old has trade protection, too.

Age: 29 | Stats: 31 GP | 2 G | 15 A | 17 P
Contract: $8 million AAV, UFA this summer, no-move clause

Hall is one of the most complicated game-changing players available. On Thursday, Hall said he would “for sure” listen to trade options if offered by GM Kevyn Adams. The Sabres would have to pick up a healthy portion of his cap hit to facilitate any trade with a solid return. What does that return look like for a player whose stock has plummeted as though a bunch of Reddit users got bored with trading it? He has two goals (!) and 15 assists in 31 games. That’s a 2.7 shooting percentage.

Many of the analytics point to a player whose level of care and commitment is much higher than that of some of his teammates, which is good. The perfect situation for Hall: second-line left wing on a team like Colorado, Toronto, Boston or the New York Islanders. Can the Sabres gin up a bidding war for him among contenders for whom he’d waive his no-movement clause?

Age: 41 | Stats: 31 GP | 1 G | 4 A | 5 P
Contract: $700,000 AAV, UFA this summer, no trade protection

Marleau told Kevin Kurz of The Athletic that he would be open to a trade at the deadline to a contender, much like the deal that sent him to Pittsburgh last season. Of course, now he’s a year older (41) and his output this season won’t exactly have teams pounding down GM Doug Wilson’s door. He’s 13 games away from Gordie Howe’s all-time record for games played.

Age: 29 | Stats: 29 GP | 6 G | 9 A | 15 P
Contract: $4.65 million AAV, UFA this summer, eight-team no-trade list

The Devils are blessed with two great young centers in Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes. In theory, it would be nice to have someone for them to pass the puck to over the next few seasons. That’s why it’s not outlandish to think that the 30-year-old Palmieri could get another contract in New Jersey.

But it’s also not outlandish to think that he could bring back a lot at the trade deadline to continue the Devils’ rebuild. His offensive numbers are a tick down this season, but he’s coming off five straight seasons of 20 or more goals. One obvious potential landing spot: the Islanders. Palmieri, a Smithtown, New York, native, screams “Barry Trotz Guy” with the way he competes.

Age: 28 | Stats: 33 GP | 6 G | 5 A | 11 P
Contract: $3.75 million AAV, UFA this summer, no trade protection

He’s currently out four weeks with a lower-body injury, and GM Jim Benning has spoken about trying to extend the 28-year-old winger, who had played well on the Canucks’ top six with Bo Horvat. That would seem to be the plan, but Vancouver had been listening to offers for the solid two-way forward. The injury might complicate matters.

Age: 25 | Stats: 29 GP | 11 G | 9 A | 20 P
Contract: $5.2 million AAV, RFA this summer, no trade protection

The 25-year-old, who can play on the wing or at center, would seem to be part of the solution in Buffalo, with three straight 20-goal seasons and 20 points in his first 29 games this season. But the Sabres have more holes than a block of Swiss, he’s going to make bank on his next long-term contract, and he’s coveted by several teams. He would bring back an impressive return, given his age and status as a controllable asset since he’s an RFA instead of UFA this summer.

Age: 33 | Stats: 30 GP | 6 G | 7 A | 13 P
Contract: $1 million AAV, UFA this summer, no trade protection

Is it too much to ask to get Bobby Ryan a chance to contribute to a Stanley Cup contender? Ryan’s one-year “show me” contract saw him increase his points-per-game (0.43) and shots-per-game (2.30) rates over last season, playing 15:44 per contest. His cap number makes him extremely portable, if someone is willing to give him the chance.

WINGERS WITH TERM

Age: 36 | Stats: 30 GP | 14 G | 7 A | 21 P
Contract: $5.875 million AAV, UFA in 2022, seven-team no-trade list

The most attractive forward asset from the Kings is Alex Iafallo, but there are indications he’ll be extended by the Kings. Brown is in the penultimate campaign of his eight-year, $47 million contract and is having a career renaissance at 36 years old, with 14 goals in 30 games. He’s a veteran leader they like having around, but it’s hard to imagine his stock ever being as high as it is now. There’s been speculation he could be an Anders Lee replacement for the Islanders.

Age: 24 | Stats: 21 GP | 3 G | 4 A | 7 P
Contract: $3.675 million AAV, UFA in 2022, no trade protection

Another trade deadline, another spin in the rumor mill for the 24-year-old winger. DeBrusk has struggled this season offensively, has been sub-replacement level for the Bruins overall, and was a healthy scratch at times this season.

“Clearly, we understand that Jake’s not where he needs to be: He recognizes that, takes ownership of it. And we have to do everything we possibly can to put him in a situation that he can work his way out of it, and work is a big part of that,” said GM Don Sweeney. That established, DeBrusk likely only leaves Boston as part of a package for a significant trade target.

Age: 29 | Stats: 27 GP | 9 G | 6 A | 15 P
Contract: $2 million AAV, UFA in 2022, no trade protection

The perfect time to sell on this versatile forward. Jarnkrok has 15 points in 27 games playing 15:34 per contest. He’s in his prime (29) with a very portable contract that could also be Kraken bait. But it’s all contingent on where the Predators see themselves as a contender, both this season and next.

Age: 36 | Stats: 29 GP | 3 G | 9 A | 12 P
Contract: $7,538,461 AAV, UFA in 2025 full no-move clause

Times have not be swell for Parise and the Wild. He was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career this month, paying the price of an extended overtime shift. His ice time is fluctuating. He could use a change in scenery. But with his age (36) and his trade protection, it’s not like there’s going to be a bidding war for Parise.

But, given how close the Islanders and GM Lou Lamoriello — who drafted Parise in New Jersey — got to acquiring him last year, it’s worth listing him in case those conversations happen again. But he’s a year older and the salary cap is much flatter.

Age: 27 | Stats: 34 GP | 6 G | 15 A | 21 P
Contract: $3,789,444 AAV, UFA in 2022, no trade protection

A few general managers we surveyed said there were surprised Rakell might be available. For a 27-year-old with that low of a cap number and that high of an offensive ceiling — he’s the Ducks’ leading scorer and has hit 30 goals twice in his career — to become available is rare. But Anaheim needs to transition to its next phase, and dangling him for young assets and draft picks is one way to facilitate that. With that contract for this season and next, it’ll be quite a high return.

Age: 24 | Stats: 32 GP | 4 G | 0 A | 4 P
Contract: $2.55 million AAV, RFA in 2022, no trade protection

Squarely on the block and headed out of Vancouver after a disastrous season offensively. There was a deal with Anaheim that seemed close — potentially for Danton Heinen — but fell through. There was a report this week that a deal with the Panthers for Markus Nutivaara could be in the cards. A change of scenery here is mandatory, for the team and the player.

DEFENSEMEN FOR RENT

Age: 33 | Stats: 31 GP | 1 G | 8 A | 9 P
Contract: $2 million AAV, UFA in summer, five-team no trade clause

Benn’s average ice time has dropped to 14:40 per game this season, and he has been more effective in that role from a possession and expected goals against (2.68 per 60 minutes) perspective. A nice addition to someone’s third pairing, and can play both sides.

Age: 32 | Stats: 22 GP | 0 G | 2 A | 2 P
Contract: $3,937,500 AAV, UFA in summer, no trade protection

Demers’ trade protection ended last season. The Panthers are still retaining $562,500 of his salary this season, dropping his cap hit down from $4.5 million. He’s a sub-replacement level player this season, whose ice time has dropped by nearly three minutes per game (17:41). The 33-year-old has been a healthy scratch, too. He used to be known as a somewhat reliable two-way defenseman; he has 13 points in his past 72 games.

Age: 24 | Stats: 31 GP | 5 G | 7 A | 12 P
Contract: $1.875 million AAV, RFA in summer, no trade protection

Dunn was on the trading block earlier in the year, but the 24-year-old puck mover has actually played more on average (19:36) than he has in any previous season. He has played alongside Marco Scandella, Robert Bortuzzo, Colton Parayko and Justin Faulk. Dunn has been valuable and effective this season; do the Blues protect him in the expansion draft over Faulk?

Age: 34 | Stats: 36 GP | 0 G | 6 A | 6 P
Contract: $6 million AAV, UFA in summer, no-move clause

There’s a notion that Edler, 34, would waive his no-move clause for a shot at a Stanley Cup. While it would appear Edler’s offensive numbers have fallen off a cliff this season, with a 0.17 points-per-game average, please note the dramatic change in his deployment: Edler is starting only 23.33% of his shifts in the attacking zone.

Age: 35 | Stats: 33 GP | 1 G | 3 A | 4 P
Contract: $5.475 million AAV, UFA in summer, eight-team no-trade clause

Goligoski, 35, has been positioned as the “option B” behind Mattias Ekholm for teams seeking a defensive defenseman but not wanting to pay Mattias Ekholm prices. Unlike the Predators defenseman, Goligoski has an expiring contract. He’ll give you 22:27 per game on average, and has been consistently good in his own end. Maybe another team can figure out how a player who had never been below 0.36 points per game is scoring just 0.12 points per game this season.

Age: 30 | Stats: 19 GP | 0 G | 2 A | 2 P
Contract: $1.25 million AAV, UFA in summer, full no-move clause

Hamonic joins Benn and Edler as veteran Canucks defensemen who are hitting unrestricted free agency after this season. Unlike the other two, he has full no-move protection and has a stated desire to play only in Western Canada. So unless the Winnipeg Jets come calling — and they might! — Hamonic is hoping to remain in Vancouver. “When we decided on Vancouver, we looked at it as a long-term situation of where we wanted to be for my career and family. I’ve loved every second of it and it’s been a good fit,” he said recently.

Age: 30 | Stats: 29 GP | 0 G | 2 A | 2 P
Contract: $1.15 million AAV, UFA in summer, no trade protection

Another defensive defenseman option, the 30-year-old Kulikov plays the left side and averages 19:27 per game. His calling card has been as a penalty killer, but the Devils’ 31st-ranked PK isn’t exactly something for the résumé this season.

Age: 29 | Stats: 27 GP | 0 G | 4 A | 4 P
Contract: $925,000 AAV, UFA in summer, no trade protection

A steal for some thrifty shopper out there, Merrill has arguably been the Red Wings’ best defenseman this season. He skates over 19 minutes per game on average, and is their top defenseman in expected goals percentage at 5-on-5 (46.25%, on a terrible team).

Age: 26 | Stats: 29 GP | 1 G | 8 A | 9 P
Contract: $3.850 million AAV, UFA in summer, no trade protection

Montour has been Buffalo’s best defenseman this season, and not just by default. He has a better expected goals percentage than his teammates (47.96) and skates 20:47 per game on average. His offensive output is on par with last season. It’s a fire sale. The 26-year-old blueliner, who can play both sides, should be part of it.

Age: 27 | Stats: 22 GP | 0 G | 4 A | 4 P
Contract: $3.850 million AAV, UFA in summer, no trade protection

The defensive defenseman has averaged 18:16 per game on average, but has lagged behind his teammates in expected goals percentage (44.68). His salary under the flat cap might be a little high given his season, but the 27-year-old could have value.

Age: 30 | Stats: 32 GP | 0 G | 5 A | 5 P
Contract: $4.25 million AAV, UFA in summer, no trade protection

The 30-year-old, right-handed defenseman is having an uncharacteristic off year, with a minus-12 while playing his lowest average ice time in three years (19:40). But he’s a defensive defenseman with an expiring contract, and that means he’ll have value on the market; the Blue Jackets would do well to maximize it.

Age: 34 | Stats: 33 GP | 2 G | 4 A | 6 P
Contract: $5.7 million AAV, UFA in summer, full no-move clause

The 34-year-old blueliner has skated 18:14 per game on average, including work on the penalty kill. He has 107 playoff games to his credit, which is no doubt attractive to contenders out there. The Red Wings will have to retain a portion of that cap hit to get good value back, and he has control over his next destination.

Age: 29 | Stats: 20 GP | 2 G | 3 A | 5 P
Contract: $2 million AAV, UFA in summer, no trade protection

Vatanen must be feeling like the trade deadline is on Groundhog Day, after getting dealt just last season from the Devils to the Hurricanes. The 29-year-old puck mover could be on the move again, despite his numbers being down across the board.

DEFENSEMEN WITH TERM

Age: 25 | Stats: 6 GP | 0 G | 1 A | 1 P
Contract: $3.725 million AAV, RFA in 2022, no trade protection

It’s entirely possible that GM Jeff Gorton just lets DeAngelo sit through the season into the summer where he either becomes a member of the Seattle Kraken or gets the last year of his contract bought out. But if a team feels it can handle his considerable baggage and is desperate for a puck-moving defenseman who can run a power play, this would be a low price.

Age: 26 | Stats: 26 GP | 5 G | 6 A | 11 P
Contract: $6 million AAV, UFA in 2023, no trade protection

Dumba has trade protection that kicks in this summer. The Wild are in a pickle for the expansion draft, having to protect Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon and Ryan Suter, who have no-movement clauses. But Dumba plays 22:09 per game, has been one the team’s best defenseman this season (58.62 expected goals percentage) and is only 26. Unless he’s part of a considerable package for a considerable player, one imagines he’ll stick out the rest of the season for the playoff-contending Wild.

Age: 30 | Stats: 26 GP | 5 G | 9 A | 14 P
Contract: $3.75 million AAV, UFA in 2022, no trade protection

The belle of the trade deadline ball among defensemen. The 30-year-old has been an outstanding two-way defenseman for the Predators over the last several seasons: Skating around 23 minutes per game, helping to drive possession and averaging over 0.50 points per game in his best seasons. He’s a complete player whose star would shined brighter were it not for Roman Josi winning a Norris Trophy and Ryan Ellis being an analytics darling.

If the Predators decide to deal him, they’ll expect a package resembling what the Kings received for Jake Muzzin in 2019: a first-round pick, a blue-chip prospect and another prospect. Or, failing that: a first-rounder and an NHL-caliber player. Teams have been lining up for weeks to land Ekholm if the Predators deal him.

Age: 29 | Stats: 8 GP | 0 G | 1 A | 1 P
Contract: $4.1 million AAV, UFA in 2022, 12-team no-trade list

The 29-year-old defenseman has shown in the last few seasons that his 37-point performance in 2017-18 was an anomaly. He can be a potent defensive defenseman even without the point output, but has been in need of a change in scenery for a couple of years now. He’s back from an injury absence and has a ton of value if GM Bob Murray wants to deal him — and if Murray’s asking price isn’t unreasonably high.

Age: 28 | Stats: 29 GP | 3 G | 3 A | 6 P
Contract: $4.1 million AAV, UFA in 2022, 12-team no-trade list

Like nearly everyone else on the Sabres, Miller has been a disappointment this season, skating to a minus-18. The 28-year-old needs a refresh. He averaged 0.48 points per game in two campaigns with the Golden Knights; he’s averaged 0.21 in 80 games with Buffalo. Miller can be a very nice piece on someone’s blue line, but that extra contract year with the expansion draft looming could be a problem — but not for Buffalo, who would surely expose him to the Kraken.

GOALIES

Age: 32 | Stats: 17 GP | 8-6-0 | 0.918 SV% | 2.78 GAA
Contract: $3 million AAV, UFA this summer, no trade protection

Bernier, 32, is in his 13th NHL season, and has played himself onto the radar of any team looking for goalie depth. He’s saved seven goals above average this season, in posting a .918 save percentage in 17 games for a porous Red Wings defense. Hopefully a recent leg injury doesn’t linger.

Age: 34 | Stats: 16 GP | 3-8-2 | 0.899 SV% | 3.19 GAA
Contract: $3 million AAV, UFA this summer, 10-team no-trade list

Dubnyk said he’d like to remain in San Jose and have “an opportunity to see what a normal season would be like in this beautiful place.” But it’s also been reported that he would waive his trade protection to play with a contender. Dubnyk’s played well in March (.907 save percentage) and might garner interest because of his expiring deal.

Age: 30 | Stats: 18 GP | 7-7-2 | 0.914 SV% | 2.41 GAA
Contract: $4.5 million AAV, UFA in 2022, no trade protection

Injuries have plagued the Coyotes’ goalies this season. Antti Raanta has appeared on many trade deadline “big boards,” but how many teams are going to ante up for Antti when he’s been injury-prone for the last three seasons? Kuemper hasn’t been much healthier, but he should be back by the trade deadline. He’s also a better goalie who has an incredible postseason run in the bubble to his credit.

The Coyotes are desperate to get a first-round pick this season; Kuemper won’t move unless a first (and more) are coming back to the desert.

Age: 26 | Stats: 12 GP | 5-3-2 | 0.912 SV% | 2.91 GAA
Contract: $4 million AAV, UFA in 2022, no trade protection

Joonas Korpisalo and Merzlikins are both under contract for next season. Barring a side deal, one of them would be in danger of ending up in Seattle in the expansion draft. This could easily be Korpisalo on the trade block instead of Elvis, but we’ll assume the Jackets want to deal the goalie with the higher cap hit — even if he might have the higher upside. The important thing to know about Columbus: The future in goal is in 21-year-old prospect Daniil Tarasov.

Age: 35 | Stats: 14 GP | 6-6-2 | 0.898 SV% | 2.91 GAA
Contract: $5.8 million AAV, UFA in 2023, no trade protection

The 35-year-old goalie hasn’t had a notable campaign since 2017-18, and is barely above replacement this season. But goalies with two Stanley Cup rings and a Conn Smythe aren’t exactly commonplace, and Quick has gotten a little more attention on the trade market as he nears the end of his 10-year contract.

Age: 28 | Stats: 12 GP | 3-6-1 | 0.908 SV% | 2.86 GAA
Contract: $2.75 million AAV, UFA this summer, no trade protection

Given how few goalies are available with expiring contracts, the Flames should shop “Big Save Dave” hard to teams like the Washington Capitals. He has a .908 save percentage in 12 games this season for Calgary, which has Louis Domingue on the taxi squad ready to move up if a trade goes down.





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NHL Power Rankings – 1-31 poll, plus a bold second-half prediction for every team


We’re past the midseason mark of this abridged 56-game 2021 NHL season, and the April 12 trade deadline is just around the corner. For this week’s NHL Power Rankings, we offer up bold predictions 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 9 edition, published on March 17. Points percentages are through the games of March 23.

Previous ranking: 3
Points percentage: .781
Next seven days: @ DAL (March 25); @ CAR (March 27, 28); vs. CBJ (March 30)

The Lightning are 4-0-1 in the second half of a back-to-back set of games this season. Look for Tampa Bay to go the entire season without losing in regulation when playing the day before. If any team can do it, it’s the defending champs.

Previous ranking: 4
Points percentage: .750
Next seven days: @ COL (March 25, 27); vs. LA (March 29)

Max Pacioretty has led the Golden Knights in the goal department for most of the season, but Alex Tuch will make a late push to finish ahead. The 24-year-old Tuch can be a streaky scorer, and he’s having a great season so far, with 13 goals to Pacioretty’s 16.

Previous ranking: 2
Points percentage: .726
Next seven days: @ CBJ (March 25); vs. TB (March 27, 28); @ CHI (March 30)

Martin Necas has been a delight to watch, and he has especially thrived when given the opportunity with Sebastian Aho on the top line. For the second half of the season, look for Necas to score the most of any Canes player not named Aho.

Previous ranking: 1
Points percentage: .688
Next seven days: @ CHI (March 25); @ DAL (March 27, 28); vs. DET (March 30)

Aaron Ekblad finishes as a Norris Trophy finalist. This is not what anyone would have predicted heading into the season, but the 25-year-old defenseman has been just that good for a very good Panthers team.

Previous ranking: 10
Points percentage: .694
Next seven days: vs. VGS (March 25, 27); vs. ANA (March 29)

Philipp Grubauer will finish as a Vezina Trophy finalist. He’s been sensational of late; in 11 March starts, he has nine wins (including three shutouts) and a .943 save percentage. Expect the Avs to ride Grubauer heavily down the stretch, especially if they can’t land another backup at the deadline.

Previous ranking: 6
Points percentage: .710
Next seven days: vs. NJ (March 25, 26); vs. NYR (March 28); @ NYR (March 30)

The Rangers are the only team against which the Caps have a sub-.500 record this season (Washington is 1-3). The Caps have four more games against the Blueshirts but can’t find a way to even the score.

Previous ranking: 5
Points percentage: .697
Next seven days: @ BOS (March 25); @ PIT (March 27, 29)

The Isles are going to find a way to replace captain Anders Lee (out for the season with an ACL injury) before the trade deadline. But Lou Lamoriello never telegraphs his moves, so expect the replacement to be someone unexpected.

Previous ranking: 9
Points percentage: .656
Next seven days: @ OTT (March 25); vs. EDM (March 27, 29)

Frederik Andersen hasn’t been at his best this season, and he has a nagging lower-body injury. Instead of acquiring a goalie, the Maple Leafs will finish the season and ride into the playoffs with Jack Campbell as their No. 1.

Previous ranking: 7
Points percentage: .650
Next seven days: vs. ANA (March 24); vs. STL (March 25); @ SJ (March 29)

The Wild look like a different team this season. Not only will Minnesota qualify for the postseason, but the Wild will win a playoff round for the first time since 2015; they are on their fourth coach and third GM since then, but the Dean EvasonBill Guerin combo seems to have found a winning formula.

Previous ranking: 11
Points percentage: .643
Next seven days: vs. NYI (March 25); vs. BUF (March 27); vs. NJ (March 28, 30)

Ahead of the trade deadline, rumors about the Bruins are flying: Mattias Ekholm, Taylor Hall, P.K. Subban and Kyle Palmieri have all been speculatively shipped to town. Watch the Bruins … do absolutely nothing, and stick with the team they have.

Previous ranking: 12
Points percentage: .625
Next seven days: @ VAN (March 24); @ CGY (March 26, 27, 29)

Kyle Connor will finish among the top five in the NHL goal-scoring race. The 24-year-old Michigan native is just on the outside looking in right now. Since 2017-18, Connor quietly ranks No. 7 in the NHL in goals scored, above Patrick Kane and Steven Stamkos.

Previous ranking: 8
Points percentage: .625
Next seven days: vs. BUF (March 24, 25); vs. NYI (March 27, 29)

Despite being tight on cap space, the Penguins will find a way to add to their roster ahead of the trade deadline. It will probably be a depth player, nothing splashy, but execs Ron Hextall and Brian Burke want to put their stamp on the roster.

Previous ranking: 14
Points percentage: .618
Next seven days: @ TOR (March 27, 29)

Connor McDavid became the fastest player to reach 60 points since Mario Lemieux in 2002-03. Saying that McDavid will reach 100 points in this 56-game season isn’t even that bold of a prediction, because he’s nearly on pace.

Previous ranking: 13
Points percentage: .578
Next seven days: @ MIN (March 25); vs. ANA (March 26, 28)

David Perron will finish among the top 10 in the NHL in points. He’s just on the outside looking in right now but has been a force along with linemate Ryan O’Reilly. Perron is averaging higher than a point-per-game pace for the first time in his 14-year NHL career.

Previous ranking: 16
Points percentage: .548
Next seven days: vs. NYR (March 25, 27); @ BUF (March 29)

A lot of folks are ready to write the Flyers off this season. Are we not forgetting the second-half run Philly went on in 2019-20, in which they went on a 19-6-1 run to get within one point of first place at the pause? The prediction here is that they go on a similar run this season.

Previous ranking: 15
Points percentage: .597
Next seven days: @ OTT (March 30)

Carey Price had a sub-.900 save percentage through his first 12 starts, and it cost longtime goaltending coach Stephane Waite his job. But Price (now under the tutelage of Sean Burke) will figure it out and look dominant in the second half.

Previous ranking: 21
Points percentage: .516
Next seven days: @ PHI (March 25, 27); @ WSH (March 28); vs. WSH (March 30)

Pavel Buchnevich will finish as the team MVP of the Rangers’ season. The 25-year-old is having a major breakthrough while leading the team in points, and 22 of 29 of them have come at even strength.

Previous ranking: 19
Points percentage: .516
Next seven days: @ SJ (March 24); @ VGS (March 29)

The Kings have quietly built through the draft. Still, over the next few months, they’ll present Buffalo with a massive offer for Jack Eichel … which will be turned down, and we’ll only hear details about it three years from now.

Previous ranking: 18
Points percentage: .530
Next seven days: vs. FLA (March 25); vs. NSH (March 27, 28); vs. CAR (March 30)

Kirby Dach will provide an immediate spark for the Blackhawks. He will score seven points within his first 10 games, adding an extra wrinkle to Chicago’s playoff push this spring.

Previous ranking: 23
Points percentage: .500
Next seven days: vs. CAR (March 25); @ DET (March 27, 28); @ TB (March 30)

The Blue Jackets have started to turn the corner in March. Since the fourth Central Division playoff spot is well within reach, Columbus will not be a seller at the trade deadline after all.

Previous ranking: 22
Points percentage: .483
Next seven days: vs. TB (March 25); vs. FLA (March 27, 28); @ NSH (March 30)

The Stars have been lagging all season, but they have also played the fewest games of any team in the league. They’ll still make a desperate push and qualify for the playoffs, with Tyler Seguin and Ben Bishop making immediate impacts.

Previous ranking: 17
Points percentage: .500
Next seven days: @ OTT (March 24); vs. WPG (March 26, 27, 29)

Milan Lucic‘s ice time is already up nearly three minutes per game since coach Darryl Sutter took control. Look for Lucic to inherit an even bigger role down the stretch, as he’s no longer as big of a defensive liability.

Previous ranking: 25
Points percentage: .486
Next seven days: vs. WPG (March 24)

The Canucks have already made waiver claims on two Toronto forwards this season: Jimmy Vesey and Travis Boyd. It’s not outrageous that Canucks GM Jim Benning will go for No. 3 — and then owe Leafs GM Kyle Dubas big time for making his life a lot easier.

Previous ranking: 20
Points percentage: .500
Next seven days: vs. SJ (March 26, 27)

With Conor Garland‘s $775,000-per-year salary expiring this summer, and the Coyotes worried about a new contract, they’ll trade their 25-year-old leading scorer for a package of draft picks and/or prospects.

Previous ranking: 26
Points percentage: .470
Next seven days: vs. DET (March 25); @ CHI (March 27, 28); vs. DAL (March 30)

Mattias Ekholm is the Predators player everyone expects to be traded. But the Predators will also find new homes for Mikael Granlund and Brad Richardson, too. There will be some chatter about Filip Forsberg, but he’ll ultimately stay put.

Previous ranking: 24
Points percentage: .467
Next seven days: vs. LA (March 24); @ ARI (March 26, 27); vs. MIN (March 29)

The Sharks will get at least one trade offer on Patrick Marleau, and it will be considered. But ultimately the 41-year-old stays in San Jose and breaks Gordie Howe’s all-time games played record on April 19.

Previous ranking: 27
Points percentage: .467
Next seven days: @ WSH (March 25, 26); @ BOS (March 28, 30)

Only the Sabres have a worse home record than the Devils this season. The Devils have 11 home games remaining, and we don’t have much confidence that they can win more than four of them.

Previous ranking: 30
Points percentage: .364
Next seven days: @ NSH (March 25); vs. CBJ (March 27, 28); @ FLA (March 30)

It’s yet another year of the Red Wings selling at the trade deadline. “At some point here, hopefully we’re not in this position for much longer,” Dylan Larkin said. Bold prediction: The selling ends next season.

Previous ranking: 28
Points percentage: .368
Next seven days: vs. CGY (March 24); vs. TOR (March 25); vs. MTL (March 30)

Drake Batherson will get to 25 goals on the season. He’s already at 11 now — with all but one of them being scored after Feb. 15. If he keeps up this pace, the 22-year-old should have no trouble hitting the total.

Previous ranking: 29
Points percentage: .364
Next seven days: @ MIN (March 24); @ STL (March 26, 28); @ COL (March 29)

No Ducks player will crack 40 points this season — which four NHL players have already reached at the midway point. And if Rickard Rakell is traded, make it that no Ducks player will crack 35 points (a threshold already reached by 11 skaters). It’s been just that bleak for Anaheim offensively.

Previous ranking: 31
Points percentage: .267
Next seven days: @ PIT (March 24, 25); @ BOS (March 27); vs. PHI (March 29)

Nearly everything has been doom and gloom in Buffalo. Jack Eichel (neck injury) won’t be rushing back in another lost season, but the bold prediction is that he’ll return at some point, giving the Sabres something to build on for next season.



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