With the NHL trade deadline a couple of weeks away and only two teams technically out of playoff contention it’s difficult to determine for sure which teams should be buyers and which teams should be sellers. Four teams outside of the current playoff picture in the Western Conference are seven points or fewer back of the eighth spot while in the Eastern Conference only five points separate the second Wild Card spot from the bottom of the standings. We narrowed down our list of potential contenders to focus on the team’s most likely to get in and make some noise in the postseason if they become buyers before the upcoming freeze. Here is a look at the NHL teams most in need of a boost at the trade deadline.
How big of a difference would the addition of a star goaltender make in Philadelphia? The Flyers are currently just two points out of the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference and that is despite owning a 2.9 goals allowed per game average that ranks 24th in the NHL. Philadelphia hasn’t been the highest scoring team in the NHL either but part of that is their commitment to a defensive structure needed to help make up for their struggling goaltending. Steve Mason and Michael Neuvirth have combined for a .899 save percentage so far this season so the addition of a No. 1 goaltender would really help the Flyers. Meanwhile, Philadelphia could also use a top-six winger to help take some of the scoring burden off of top forwards like Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek.
The Bruins decided to fire Claude Julien as head coach and replace him with interim head coach Bruce Cassidy. While it’s understandable that they would want to shake things up the addition of a top-six forward might have the bigger impact. Boston is currently in a playoff spot but the teams chasing them have games in hand and a lot can change down the final stretch. The Bruins already lead the NHL in possession and rank second in the NHL in shots allowed so the addition of a pure scorer up front at the trade deadline could really help their overall potential.
Nashville brought in Ryan Johansen and P.K. Subban to help take some of the pressure off of their defensive structure and goaltending but they have still struggled to produce goals this season. The Predators brought back a two-way center in Vernon Fiddler but they could really use some scoring punch in their top-six group. Matt Duchene has been rumored in trade talks for at least a year now and Nashville could make for a strong fit. The Predators are currently holding down the top Wild Card spot in the Western Conference and the addition of a quality scoring forward could really help them up front.
Los Angeles Kings
It’s absolutely incredible that the Kings have managed to hang around the playoff picture despite missing Jonathan Quick for the entire season. Peter Budaj has been outstanding with a 2.11 goals against average and a .917 save percentage and it has helped that Los Angeles has done an excellent job in front of him from a defensive structure standpoint. While the Kings rank fourth in the league in goals allowed per game, they rank just 23rd in goals per game and could definitely use a scoring boost up front. Tyler Toffoli’s return from injury should help but LA could really use a top-six scoring winger to provide a boost for the final push to the playoffs.
Ottawa is currently on pace to make the playoffs as a top-three team in the Atlantic division thanks in big part to some solid goaltending from Craig Anderson and Mike Condon behind head coach Guy Boucher’s defensive system. However, the emphasis on defense has hurt their scoring output as the Senators rank 18th in the NHL with an average of 2.6 goals per game with the 24th ranked powerplay an obvious part of the problem. Ottawa is another team with strong depth down the middle that could use a boost from a scoring winger in their top six forward group. The Senators could be one of the teams in the mix for Matt Duchene and if they can’t add him to their core they could consider a scoring winger like Radim Vrbata or Patrick Eaves as a quality backup option at the NHL trade deadline.
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