Outlook for East Division Teams Heading Into NHL Trade Deadline

Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images

Despite the fact that the NHL Trade Deadline is six days away, there has not been much movement across the league due to travel restrictions, mandatory quarantines, and the flat salary cap. NoVa Caps takes a look at where each team in the East Division stands leading up to Monday at 3 PM ET:

Buffalo Sabres

Status: Sellers

Trade Deadline Cap Space: $2,285,923

Pending UFAs: F Taylor Hall, C Riley Sheahan, F Tobias Reider, C Steven Fogarty, D Brendan Montour, D Matt Irwin, D Jake McCabe, G Linus Ullmark, G Carter Hutton

Already dealt: C Eric Staal (Montreal Canadiens), G Jonas Johansson (Colorado Avalanche)

Needs: The Sabres currently sit dead last in the East Division by 10 points and are expected to be huge sellers within the next week.

Hall, who has just two goals, 19 points, and a -21 rating in 37 games during his first season in Buffalo, has been a major disappointment since signing a one-year deal in the offseason and is expected to be traded for the second time in as many seasons.

Montour, who has four goals, 12 points, a -12 rating, a 46.59% five-on-five Corsi-for percentage, and a 45.52% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage in 35 games this season and is only 26, could also be a hot commodity on the market with teams in need of defensemen in a season where they need organization depth.

Ullmark, 27, has played admirably this season as he has gone 7-5-3 with a .921 save percentage and a 2.44 goals-against average, so the Sabres could use him as bait to lure in prospects and assets to help them improve their farm system.

Expect a lot of noise out of Buffalo within the next week as GM Kevyn Adams has been busy working the phones.

New Jersey Devils

Status: Sellers

Trade Deadline Cap Space: $37,138,944

Pending UFAs: F Kyle Palmeri, C Travis Zajac, D Ryan Murray, D Sami Vatanen, D Dmitry Kulikov, G Scott Wedgewood, G Aaron Dell

Already dealt: N/A

Needs: The Devils currently sit 12 points out of the final Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the East Division and are expected to be sellers.

There have been some loud rumblings that Palmeri, who was held out of the team’s 5-4 loss to the Washington Capitals on Sunday for “precautionary reasons,” will be dealt. The 30-year-old has eight goals, 17 points, and a -2 rating in 34 games this season.

There has not been any significant noise about their other pending unrestricted free agents but it is reasonable to think that they will be fielding calls on the others, especially their defenseman. Kulikov has had an impressive season as he has posted a 53.65% Corsi-for percentage, a 54.07% expected goals-for percentage, and a 53.01% scoring chances-for percentage in 35 games this season and could net the Devils a nice return. The 30-year-old carries a $1.15 million cap hit through the end of the season.

Murray, 27, has not been as impressive as he has recorded a 47.07% Corsi-for percentage, a 45% expected goals-for percentage, and a 46.04% scoring chances-for percentage in 28 games. The Devils could have a harder time moving him as he makes $4.6 million through the end of the season.

Vatanen, 29, has also not been at his best this season with just a 49.63% Corsi-for percentage, a 47.99% expected goals-for percentage, and a 47.23% scoring chances-for percentage in 26 games this season.

It is questionable whether the Devils will want to part with Zajac, who has played his full 1023-game NHL career in New Jersey, and their goalies likely will not fetch much of a return.

New York Rangers

Status: Light Buyers

Trade Deadline Cap Space: $17,524,709

Pending UFAs: F Phil Di Giuseppe, D Brendan Smith

Already dealt: F Brendan Lemieux (Los Angeles Kings)

Needs: The Rangers have played well defensively this season as they rank 11th in the NHL with a 2.62 goals-against per game average but they could use some more defensive depth in a tough East Division after they parted ways with Anthony DeAngelo, especially on the left side. The Rangers currently have rookie K’Andre Miller, who has a 49.01% Corsi-for percentage, a 48.08% expected goals-for percentage, and a 48.16% scoring chances-for percentage, playing in their top-four defensive unit. Perhaps it would be the best thing to play him in the third-pairing.

The Rangers have some solid forward depth led by Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad as they average 3.14 goals-per-game (tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for 11th). Though, they could use some help on the power play as their 17.9% power play efficiency is 11th.

The Rangers might also look for a faceoff specialist as their 45% faceoff-winning efficiency is dead last in the NHL.

With no major unrestricted free agents coming up, the Rangers are not expected to be big sellers as they have the past couple of seasons but they almost certainly will not be going all-in as they currently trail the Bruins, who have two games in hand, by five points.

Philadelphia Flyers

Status: Light Buyers

Trade Deadline Cap Space: $4,136,212

Pending UFAs: F Scott Laughton, F Michael Raffl, D Erik Gustafsson, D Samuel Morin, G Brian Elliott

Needs: There have been some rumblings that the Flyers will make a major move when the deadline comes around. They have been linked to Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm as they currently rank 30th with an average of 3.54 goals-against per game and 29th with a 73.2% penalty-killing efficiency.

After defenseman Matt Niskanen retired in the offseason, the Flyers signed Gustafsson to help but he has frequently been a healthy scratch as he has played in only 24 games this season despite recording a goal and 10 points. They have played Justin Braun in Niskanen’s place and the top pairing of Braun and Ivan Provorov has not exactly worked out as they have combined for a 48.4% expected goals-for percentage in 225.4 minutes playing together.

The Flyers could also look for some goaltending help as their .8864 five-on-five save percentage this season ranks last. Carter Hart has had a down season as he has gone 8-9-4 with an .871 save percentage and a 3.92 goals-against average.

They trail the Bruins by five points and Boston has two games in hand, so the Flyers are in a hole. It looks like they will be buyers in the next week but it is going to be tough for them to break into a top-four spot, especially with the way their goaltenders have played this season. Philadelphia is 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, so management could decide to pass on big moves if the price is too high.

Boston Bruins

Status: Buyers

Trade Deadline Cap Space: $4,848,202

Pending UFAs: C David Krejci, C Sean Kuraly, D Steven Kampfer, D Jared Tinordi, G Tuukka Rask, G Jaroslav Halak, D Kevan Miller

Needs: After losing left-handed defensemen Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara in free agency over the offseason, the Bruins could use one with experience as they currently have two rookies in Jeremy Lauzon and Jakob Zboril and Matt Grzelyck as their top-pairing defenseman. While the Bruins rank sixth with a 2.49 goals-against per game average, they could use more experience on the left side to get through a division like the East.

The Bruins could also use some depth scoring as their top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak have combined for 45 of the team’s 95 goals (47.37%). Forward Brett Ritchie (10) is their only other forward with at least 10 goals this season.

The Bruins have been rumored to be looking for a defenseman and have also been linked to Ekholm. They have fallen off after a hot start to the season as they have gone 9-9-4 since a 10-1-2 start and are hanging on to the fourth seed in the East Division.

The Bruins will have to fight off the Penguins and Flyers for a spot and they should with their veteran experience, top line, and goaltending tandem of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak but they will likely need some reinforcements on offense and defense to go through the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Status: Buyers

Trade Deadline Cap Space: $1,527,983

Pending UFAs: F Colton Sceviour, F Evan Rodrigues, D Cody Ceci

Needs: The Penguins’ biggest question is in goal. While their tandem of Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith have combined for a .9281 five-on-five save percentage this season, the two  (combined) have just a single game of Stanley Cup Playoff experience. If the team wants to go far in the division, they could use a safety net in goal.

The Penguins may also need a penalty killer as they entered Tuesday with a 78.3% penalty-killing rate, which was good for 19th, even though they have averaged 2.68 goals-against per game.

The Penguins have not been rumored to be in the market for any specific player even though goaltending appears to be the top need leading into the NHL Trade Deadline.

They have been active at the trade deadline in years past but that could change under GM Ron Hextall. The Penguins have been running hot recently as they are 17-7-1 in their last 25 games but they will likely need to make another addition to get into the same tier as the Capitals and Islanders since they will most likely have to get through at least one of them in the postseason.

New York Islanders

Status: Buyers

Trade Deadline Cap Space: $2,038,434

Pending UFAs: C Casey Cizikas, D Andy Greene

Needs: With captain Anders Lee out for the season, it has been rumored that the Islanders are in the market for a forward even though their average of 3.00 goals-per-game is tied for 13th. Word on the street is that they could be a big buyer in the next week as they have been linked to Palmeri.

However, the Islanders would have to get creative to add a major name as they do not have much money to bring in an impact forward. They will likely want someone who can help their 19.2% power-play efficiency, which ranks 21st.

The Islanders are in good shape on defense, which averages 2.34 goals-against per game and 27.4 shots-against per game (both third), and in goal as their .9259 five-on-five save percentage ranks 10th. Considering that they have their eyes set on a forward with limited cap space, the Islanders are expected to be quiet on moves when it comes to defense.

With the Islanders seeking a replacement for Lee, expect to hear their name in the news throughout the next week.

Washington Capitals

Status: Buyers

Trade Deadline Cap Space: $0

Pending UFAs: F Alex Ovechkin, F Conor Sheary, D Zdeno Chara

Needs: The Capitals do not appear to have any gaping needs, but they have averaged an above-average 3.22 goals-against per game in their past nine. The team has eight NHL defensemen but they could still make some changes. GM Brian MacLellan has acquired at least one defenseman at each of his six trade deadlines on the job.

There has been word that the Capitals could be in the market for an experienced goalie as Ilya Samsonov or Vitek Vanecek have yet to play a Stanley Cup Playoff game in their career. The Capitals could also look for another center as they have had to play right-wing T.J. Oshie in the middle when Lars Eller missed seven games in March.

The Capitals have scratched forward Richard Panik for three of the past five games and the 30-year-old has just three goals, nine points, and a -9 rating in 36 games this season. He could be moved to free up some cap space but it will likely cost the Capitals a mid-draft pick as teams are hesitant to take on such a contract. Panik will count $2.75 million against the salary cap for the next two seasons after this one.

There is not much need in Washington as the Capitals are one of the deepest teams in the NHL but they could upgrade for one last run with their core group of players.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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4 Responses to Outlook for East Division Teams Heading Into NHL Trade Deadline

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  3. Marky says:

    I think the Caps should not invest in the current team and just stand pat and let the season/playoffs play out. Bmac has a lot of work to do in the offseason with re signing and such but they need to reconfigure the defense. Dillon has been very shaky lately while Jensen has been excellent. Chara will be gone and maybe another defender in the expansion draft.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      I generally agree, Marky. The issue is you are running out of runway in the Ovechkin/Backstrom era, and seasons are dwindling. I think he wants to keep reloading, rather than rebuild, until they retire or it’s obvious the team is no longer a cup contender, whichever comes first.

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