On December 16, 2019, just a week and a half before Christmas, the Arizona Coyotes got their present early. Taylor Hall, the 2018 Hart Trophy winner who propelled the New Jersey Devils to the playoffs a couple years ago, was coming to the desert in exchange for a few prospects and draft picks. It was a risky move, but for Arizona, it was the right one to make. With the Pacific Division heating up, the Coyotes needed to figure out a way to break through, and acquiring Hall should help to give Arizona at least a spot in the playoffs.
For most teams, however, the holiday roster freeze gives way to the real Christmas Day: the trade deadline. Buyers put together their wish lists in order to find that piece or two that will lead them to a Stanley Cup. Sellers look to trade their top assets now in hopes of landing pieces to ensure a brighter future. In a couple months, the NHL landscape will change dramatically as some of hockey’s best players are introduced as the newest members of contending teams.
What this article will have are what teams are hoping for at the deadline or before then. There won’t be many specific destinations for players (those don’t usually come up until next month,) but the needs for certain teams are apparent at this point. So with the holidays coming up, let’s take a look at what tops the gift lists.
Anaheim Ducks: A rebuild could be on the horizon for the once-Mighty Ducks. The deadline should give fans a good idea of where GM Bob Murray stands on the issue. Backup goaltender Ryan Miller is the obvious trade chip, but who else could Anaheim send off? Jakob Silfverberg could be an interesting sell-high candidate. Adam Henrique, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson could also be in play. If one of them ends up going, it’ll be an indication that Anaheim wants to build for the future.
Arizona Coyotes: They got their man already. Now strapped to the salary cap ceiling, they’re likely finished making moves until the summer. Someone will probably call about Antti Raanta or Adin Hill, though.
Boston Bruins: The one thing that concerns everyone about the Bruins is depth. The Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line is arguably the best in hockey right now, but teams don’t win it all by living and dying on one line. The Bruins have the draft capital and financial wiggle room to make a deal work, and top wing players should be available for the taking. They were linked to new free agent Ilya Kovalchuk for a reason.
Buffalo Sabres: Buffalo has more than a few extra defensemen laying around. Zach Bogosian, Marco Scandella, and Colin Miller should all be treated as potential trade chips. One of them, a prospect, and a draft pick or two should be enough to give Buffalo some much-needed scoring depth. Hope they don’t mind retaining a bit of Bogosian’s salary though.
Calgary Flames: The Johnny Gaudreau trade talks seem to have finally died down, but the wheel is still spinning in Calgary. Michael Frolik, TJ Brodie, and Travis Hamonic are all on expiring deals with little chance of re-signing. With Calgary still in contention for a top-3 spot in the Pacific, expect them to make a hockey trade to better their chances and get a good return on value.
Carolina Hurricanes: Sure, the Hurricanes will likely land a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but why stop there? With the strongest group of contenders out of all the divisions, any team from the Metropolitan might be seeking to make a move. With substantial draft capital and a good financial situation, the Hurricanes have the best chance at pulling a deadline acquisition.
Chicago Blackhawks: Unfortunately, Blackhawks fans, Brent Seabrook is not getting traded. Erik Gustafsson may be having a down year from last season’s 60-point outburst, but Stan Bowman may as well take what he can get. Even more interesting, however, is what happens to the goaltending tandem of Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner. Both are free agents at the year, and there’s little chance Chicago keeps both of them around. Decisions, decisions.
Colorado Avalanche: The once-favorite to land Taylor Hall came up short, but that won’t stop the Avalanche from trying again. They are arguably the favorite to represent the West in the Stanley Cup Final, but they could use that big piece to push them over the top. Expect them to be connected to all of the top forward rentals come deadline time.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets infamously went all-in last season at the deadline, and this is the result. They don’t have much to sell, so at this point, they won’t really do anything. It’s time for them to look at free agency. Getting involved in the goalie market is the expectation.
Dallas Stars: The Stars haven’t gone under from the Jim Montgomery saga, at least not yet. They went big on Mats Zuccarello last season, and with the general lack of resources they have, it’s likely they choose to stand pat and hope for a Blues-style hot streak to end the season. Getting Jamie Benn going will help.
Detroit Red Wings: The Red Wings are eliminated from the postseason every way but mathematically. Steve Yzerman should be selling everything he can, but what is there to sell? The best pending UFA they have at the moment is Mike Green, and even he’s 34 and his best years are behind him. No wonder the Red Wings have looked to their RFAs to get some value, and it looks like Andreas Athanasiou is the play. He’s having a down year, though, so teams might not be willing to buy at the initial asking price.
Edmonton Oilers: Edmonton has the chance to get some serious financial flexibility next offseason, meaning they might just leave the team alone for now. If the Oilers find themselves barely hanging on to a playoff spot, though, those plans might change. Chances are they’ll try to find a complement to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but anything is on the table.
Florida Panthers: After Joel Quenneville and Sergei Bobrovsky were brought into the fold, Florida was expected to be competing for a spot in the playoffs. They are, but they could certainly use that one piece for stability purposes. Pending UFA Mike Hoffman is no guarantee to come back to the Panthers, so maybe a hockey trade can be engineered with him as the centerpiece. A defenseman could be of interest to them.
Los Angeles Kings: Even in the competitive Pacific, the Kings look ready to rebuild one piece at a time. Tyler Toffoli is a near-certainty to be gone. Kyle Clifford and Trevor Lewis are options to shore up a contender’s bottom six. Even veteran and 2014 Stanley Cup hero Alec Martinez is a name that will be thrown around. The Kings have one of the best prospect groups in the entire NHL, and they will have plenty of chances to build on that at the deadline.
Minnesota Wild: Out of all of the teams, the Wild might be the hardest team to predict. Part of me thinks they’ll flame out and sink back to sell status again. Another part believes the Wild have what it takes to sneak into the final wild card spot. Where the Wild are by the end of January should be indicative of what they plan to do. Question: does Mikko Koivu decide to try his luck at a Cup elsewhere if the former happens?
Montreal Canadiens: No team looks to be more in buying contention than Les Canadiens. They have all the assets that sellers want to claim, and Marc Bergevin could find himself without a job if Montreal misses the postseason again. He didn’t go far in the Hall saga, but he could go for a couple of pieces at the deadline to help his case. Like Colorado, expect them to be an automatic connection for big names.
Nashville Predators: The power play is still bad, the goaltending has fallen apart, and Peter Laviolette’s job is in jeopardy. They would love to sell Kyle Turris and be free of most of his contract, but it could end up with a deal similar to Patrick Marleau getting out of Toronto. The long-tenured Laviolette could also be the sixth coach fired during the season, barring any other changes. At least the PK Subban trade looks better than it did a few months ago?
New Jersey Devils: The big domino has fallen, but there’s a chance for another one at the deadline. There are rumblings that the aforementioned Subban is quickly finding himself on the outs in New Jersey, which isn’t a surprise given his struggles this season. That said, I’m not convinced he’s on his way out, but New Jersey has plenty of pieces to ship out for future returns. At least two of Wayne Simmonds, Miles Wood, Sami Vatanen, and Andy Greene will be on new teams come mid-February.
New York Islanders: The Islanders are as close to a complete team as it gets, which is amazing after they lost John Tavares last summer. While defense and goaltending are set, Barry Trotz could use a premier scoring threat to get the offense to be more than respectable. Josh Ho-Sang and Michael Dal Colle are prime “change of scenery” material, so expect them to be dangled on the block for a team wanting any reclamation projects. Expect them to be tied to the top forwards, or at least the second tier.
New York Rangers: Barring a sudden leap into the playoff picture, the Rangers will likely embrace the final stages of their rebuild. Chris Kreider is almost certainly gone, and Jeff Gorton should get quite the deal out of him. Maybe more interesting of a name on the block is Ryan Strome, who has shown he can center a second line at the NHL level. Do the Rangers view him as a part of their long-term future, or do they feel they can sell higher on him now than later? His status is a coin flip at the moment.
Ottawa Senators: Ottawa has only eight players locked up beyond this season, so there are plenty of expiring contracts that can be moved. Chief among them is Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Anthony Duclair, who have broken out and helped Ottawa be better that most experts believed. The Senators would love to keep them around, but would the packages they can get in exchange for them end up giving them equal value? Other useful players who could end up on the block are Vladislav Namestnikov, Connor Brown, Dylan DeMelo, and Ron Hainsey.
Philadelphia Flyers: If there’s one name to watch from the Flyers in this situation, it’s Shayne Gostisbehere. The offensive-minded rearguard has talent and a proven track record, but he is clearly not jelling in Alain Vigneault’s system. With three more years on his deal, Gostisbehere will not be a rental, meaning he can fetch a higher return than normal. Expect him to be part of a hockey trade for a top-six wing, where the Flyers have been ravaged by injury.
Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins have been surprisingly resilient, surviving injuries to the likes of Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, Justin Schultz, and Brian Dumoulin to enjoy the season they’re having. Alex Galchenyuk seems to be the name brought up in trade talks the most, but will anyone be interested in giving anything up for him again? They’re as likely to pull off a move as they are to stand pat and rely on their current roster. It just depends on what they can get for Galchenyuk.
San Jose Sharks: Longtime buyers in this situation, the floundering Sharks might be on the opposite end of the deadline deals this time. They also have only two draft picks in the first three round, and their first-round pick is Ottawa property. GM Doug Wilson will want to keep Brenden Dillon and Melker Karlsson just in case the Sharks finally get the spark they need, but if they can’t find it, they will likely be shipped off. Would they also be willing to let Joe Thornton go so he can get one more chance at a Cup? He deserves so much better than what he’s gotten.
St. Louis Blues: It will take some work to keep the current core of St. Louis intact. Alex Pietrangelo could be playing his final year in a Blues jersey, so they may want to get one more run together. Expect hockey trades for rentals in order to gain cap space for next season, if anything. Even if they whiff, they’ll get Vladimir Tarasenko back for the postseason. Win-win scenario.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning, no pun intended, could certainly use a shock to the system. Money will have to be cleared up, so how do they plan to do it? Do they consider moving someone like Ondrej Palat for a rental in order to clear up some more cap space? Put them in the same boat as the Blues.
Toronto Maple Leafs: A team not far removed from a playoff spot can rarely be considered a seller, but a terrible cap situation will do that. If the Leafs want to get a backup goaltender or cheap defensive depth, they’ll have to give something up in return. Expiring contracts of defensemen Tyson Barrie, Jake Muzzin, and Cody Ceci could be on the trade block. Zach Hyman could also be an option as well to bolster another team’s middle six. Isn’t cap hell wonderful?
Vancouver Canucks: The fact no one claimed Sven Baertschi off the waiver wire is telling to his market at the moment. If the Canucks want to push for the playoffs through trades, they’ll have to think of alternative gameplans. Anyone except Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat, Quinn Hughes, and Thatcher Demko could be available for the right price. Travis Green’s job may be counting on it.
Vegas Golden Knights: Only two and a half years old, and Vegas already has a penchant for big deadline moves with Tomas Tatar and Mark Stone. This time, the Golden Knights will want to add a defenseman to the mix. The one problem is that they would have to get rid of a player in order to make the deal work, but they do have a decent number of expiring contracts to ship out. The right move could be what gives them the Pacific Division.
Washington Capitals: The least likely team to do anything at the deadline, and with good reason. The Capitals may be strapped to the cap ceiling, but they are the current favorites to win the Presidents Trophy this year. Why mess with success, is the prevailing theory for the Capitals to follow. Expect minor changes, if anything at all, but nothing too substantial.
Winnipeg Jets: The Jets have gotten a second-line center two straight years, but this year is looking to be different. They could trade someone like Adam Lowry for a rental defenseman, but there’s another name the Jets will be monitoring closely. If Dustin Byfuglien comes back from his season-long hiatus, Winnipeg’s defense goes up a notch or two. It could be the difference between a dark horse run and another first round exit, assuming Winnipeg makes the playoffs at all.