With the NHL’s Feb. 26 trade deadline just over a week away, there’s considerable focus on the clubs expected to be buyers. Stanley Cup contenders such as the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators, as well as playoff bubble teams like the New York Islanders and Anaheim Ducks, dominate the headlines.
However, several clubs that haven’t garnered as much attention in the rumor mill could slip in and potentially make significant moves. Here’s a look at six under-the-radar buyers.
The Hurricanes recently surfaced in the rumor mill when Frank Seravalli added left wing Jeff Skinner to the TSN Trade Bait board. It’s more likely, however, they’ll retain Skinner and instead become buyers at the deadline.
Jockeying with the Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders for an Eastern Conference wild-card spot, the Hurricanes hope to clinch their first playoff berth since 2009. To do so, however, they must improve their offensive output. With a 2.72 goals-for per game, the Hurricanes are the lowest-scoring team (as of Feb. 14, 2018) among those holding postseason positions.
The Hurricanes could pursue an affordable rental scorer, such as Vancouver’s Thomas Vanek or the New York Rangers’ Michael Grabner before the deadline. If they wish to instead add a scoring forward under contract beyond this season, such as Montreal’s Alex Galchenyuk or Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman, they could draw upon their blue-line depth for trade bait.
The Avalanche were surging in the Western Conference standings until leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon was sidelined on Jan. 30 with an upper-body injury. They’ve since dropped four of their last eight games.
Following their 2-0 win on Feb. 14 against Montreal, the Avs (66 points) sat two points shy of a wild-card spot. They could regain their winning ways when MacKinnon returns by month’s end, but his absence suggests they need an additional scoring boost.
In January, there was speculation the Avs could peddle defenseman Tyson Barrie. While Barrie could make an attractive trade chip for a scoring forward, general manager Joe Sakic could retain him and instead look at affordable rental options. TSN’s Frank Seravalli suggested the Avs as a possible destination for Rangers winger Michael Grabner.
Playing in the tough Central Division, the Stars hold one of the Western Conference wild-card berths. They’re trying to catch Winnipeg and St. Louis and some distance between themselves and the Minnesota Wild.
On Monday, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News suggested the Stars could use a top-six winger. Of late, they’ve been linked to Rangers forward Rick Nash. Heika pointed out the Stars have limited cap space and could be unwilling to pay what could be an expensive price for a rental player.
Heika speculated the Stars could consider younger, long-term options such as Montreal’s Max Pacioretty or Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman. Carrying depth in promising young players, the Stars could make a splash at the deadline.
New Jersey Devils
After spending the first half of the season among the top-three clubs in the Metropolitan Division, the Devils are in danger of falling out of playoff contention. Winners of only four of their last 10 games entering their game against Carolina on Feb. 15, they’re clinging to a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
In November, Devils GM Ray Shero caught many observers off-guard by shipping forward Adam Henrique to Anaheim for defenseman Sami Vatanen. He could surprise us again with a significant deal by the deadline.
With 71 points in 56 games, the Capitals are perched atop the Metropolitan Division. They’ve sputtered a bit of late, winning just four of their 10 games approaching their Feb. 15th contest against Minnesota.
The Capitals could benefit from the addition of an experienced defenseman. That could take some pressure off rookies Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey. That could depend, however, on GM Brian MacLellan‘s willingness to invest in another rental blueliner after paying big last year on playoff bust Kevin Shattenkirk.
Jostling with the Nashville Predators for first place in the Central Division, the Jets are getting closer to securing their first playoff berth since 2015. GM Kevin Cheveldayoff could be prompted to bring in an experienced forward or a left-side defenseman to bolster his roster for a deep postseason run.
Recent trade speculation linked the Jets to Rangers winger Rick Nash, but it’s uncertain if he’ll waive his no-movement clause to go to Winnipeg. Left-wing rental options could include Nash’s teammate Michael Grabner, Edmonton’s Patrick Maroon or Vancouver’s Thomas Vanek.
Stats and standings (as of Feb. 14, 2018) via NHL.com.