Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
With just over a month left before the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline, teams from around the Metropolitan Division are looking at how best to position themselves for a postseason run or over the long run. While teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders look like they’re going to be big buyers, others like the New Jersey Devils are most likely going to sell off assets to build for the future. NoVa Caps takes a look at where every team in the Metropolitan Division stands with about five weeks left before the trade deadline.
Current Cap Space: $2,525,336
Pending UFAs: D Justin Schultz, F Alex Galchenyuk
The Penguins are looking for a forward to make up for the loss of leading scorer Jake Guentzel, who underwent shoulder surgery on December 31 and will miss the remainder of the regular season. The word on the street in Pittsburgh is that they are looking to move Galchenyuk, who has just five goals in 40 games this season after he was acquired in the Phil Kessel trade with the Arizona Coyotes last June. Even though they are tied for eighth with the Carolina Hurricanes with an average of 2.71 goals-against per game, they might also want to look for another defenseman as Brian Dumoulin, who has been recovering from ankle surgery and not played since November 30, and Justin Schultz, who has been out since December 17 with a lower-body injury, have both missed significant time this season.
New York Islanders
Current Cap Space: $13,501,170
Pending UFAs: G Thomas Greiss, F Tom Kuhnackl, C Derick Brassard, F Matt Martin
The Islanders could use some help up front as their average of 2.87 goals-per-game ranks 21st in the NHL and is the fifth-lowest among teams that currently occupy a Stanley Cup Playoff spot. Their top-six group seems to be in good shape with talent as five of those players have double-digits in goals. However, their third-line wingers – Ross Johnston and Tom Kuhnackl – have just three goals each this season. If they are going to stand a chance against teams like the Capitals and Penguins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they are going to have to have four lines rolling, and right now they just have three. Defense and goaltending are not issues on Long Island as they currently rank sixth with an average of 2.70 goals-against per game and a .928 team save percentage.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Current Cap Space: $14,860,658
Pending UFAs: F Nathan Gerbe
The Blue Jackets have done a complete 180 in the past month to climb into the first wild-card in the Eastern Conference, changing GM Jarmo Kekalainen’s trade deadline plans. Like the Islanders, the Blue Jackets are solid defensively as their average of 2.53 goals-against per game is the third-lowest in the NHL this season and goaltending-wise with an .932 save percentage, the third-best, but could use some help up front as their average of 2.69 goals-per-game is the eighth-worst and their 17.2% power-play efficiency is the ninth-worst. They have just five players in double-digit goals and none who have more than 20. In a competitive division, the Blue Jackets will likely finish the season in a wild-card spot if they make the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at all, meaning that they will need to get some more offense if they stand a chance against the Capitals or Boston Bruins in the first round.
Current Cap Space: $1,332,368
Pending UFAs: F Tyler Pitlick, D Justin Braun, G Brian Elliott
The Flyers rank in the middle of the pack in both offense (tied for 14th – 3.06) and defense (13th – 2.96) but are tied with the Edmonton Oilers for 26th in team save percentage (.910). However, they are not going to take the net away from Carter Hart, who has a .905 save percentage and a 2.61 goals-against average and was known as one of the best goaltending prospects in the league. Outside of the crease, they could use another third-line winger and a third-line center as Oskar Lindblom (Ewing’s sarcoma) is out for the rest of the season while it isn’t a guarantee that Nolan Patrick (migraines) will return either.
Current Cap Space: $2,888,645
Pending UFAs: C Erik Haula, F Justin Williams, D Joel Edmundson, D Trevor van Riemsdyk
The Hurricanes could use another top-nine forward to compete with some of the teams who have the firepower in the Metropolitan Division (as they rank 12th with an average of 3.15 goals-per-game) but it’s not the end of the world if they pass. Justin Williams returned to the lineup on Sunday, the Hurricanes have one of the league’s deepest bluelines in the league as it averages 2.71 goals-against per game (seventh-fewest in the league). They are fine in the crease as they currently have a .918 team save percentage. It could be a pretty quiet trade deadline in Raleighwood.
New York Rangers
Current Cap Space: $2,879,448
Pending UFAs: F Chris Kreider, F Jesper Fast, C Gregg McKegg, F Michael Haley
The Rangers will likely do what they have done at the trade deadline in each of the past two seasons (selling off assets) as they currently sit eight points behind the Flyers for the second wild-card spot. There have been trade rumblings around Kreider, who has 16 goals and 31 points in 46 games, all season long, so he will likely be dealt. The Rangers could deal their other three pending unrestricted free agents but it is doubtful that they could get much in return. Though, Fast, who has eight goals and 21 points in 45 games this season, could woo some suitors.
New Jersey Devils
Current Cap Space: $16,218,367
Pending UFAs: F Wayne Simmonds, F Kevin Rooney, D Andy Greene, D Sami Vatanen, G Louie Domingue
The Devils will be big sellers at the trade deadline as they have been one of the league’s biggest disappointments this season and have already dealt 2018 Hart Trophy winner as league MVP Taylor Hall. Simmonds has been most talked about when it comes to trading pending unrestricted free agents for the Devils, though Vatanen could land a nice return too. In addition to this season’s free agents, forward Kyle Palmeri, center Travis Zajac, forward Nikita Gusev, forward Blake Coleman, and defenseman Connor Carrick could become unrestricted free agents after next season and could be traded. Coleman and Palmeri have been mentioned among names that could be on the move within the next month, and Coleman’s combination of scoring and grit could make him attractive to a lot of teams heading into the playoffs.
Current Cap Space: $1,598,629
Pending UFAs: Braden Holtby, Radko Gudas
As is the case every season, the Capitals are more likely to be buyers than sellers come trade deadline time. Their offense is as good as any as it averages 3.55 goals-per-game, the fifth-highest rate in the league. The offense from the third-line was missing for most of the season but Carl Hagelin has picked it up with goals in back-to-back games and Richard Panik has three goals and eight points in his last 16 games after a slow start. Defenseman Nick Jensen has been inconsistent and unable to grab a permanent spot in the top-four with Dmitry Orlov as he and Radko Gudas have taken turns in that spot. Even though the Capitals’ average of 2.90 goals-against per game is tied for the 10th-best in the league, it might not be a bad idea to add a defenseman who could stay put in that spot if it works under the salary cap. Even though Braden Holtby has struggled for the last three weeks and may not return next season, he isn’t going anywhere at the deadline. The last time Holtby faced a similar slump, he returned to carry the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup championship. GM Brian MacLellan told the media that he’s looking at depth pieces but expect the Capitals to land a defenseman if they do anything at all.
By Harrison Brown