Identifying buyers and sellers as the deadline approaches

Dave Reginek / National Hockey League / Getty

The trade deadline is one of the trickiest times of the year for NHL general managers.

Should contenders trust their current roster, or bring in reinforcements? And should bubble teams try to compete with the top dogs?

Last year, the Columbus Blue Jackets went all-in, acquiring Ryan Dzingel and Matt Duchene to take a run at the Stanley Cup. They went on to squeeze into the playoffs and shockingly sweep the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round, but then bowed out in the second. The St. Louis Blues, meanwhile, took home the Cup after making just one minor deal on deadline day to bring in Michael Del Zotto, who didn't appear in a single game during the playoffs.

Let's take a look at the likely buyers and sellers, and which teams are facing tough decisions.

Big spenders

Scott Audette / National Hockey League / Getty

Tampa Bay Lightning

Top prospects: Cal Foote, Nolan Foote, Alexander Volkov, Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk, Alex Barre-Boulet, Mathieu Joseph

Draft pick situation: The Lightning are only missing their fifth-round selection in the upcoming draft. They'll get an additional first-round pick in 2020 if the Canucks make the playoffs, and that selection transfers to next year if Vancouver misses the posteason. Tampa also owns the Red Wings' fourth-round selection and the Senators' sixth-round pick in this year's draft.

The Lightning will get two first-round picks either this year or in 2021. Few top contenders possess that sort of draft capital, so Tampa should use it to reinforce an already deep team. After a historic campaign and an embarrassing sweep in the first round last year, the Lightning will be back with a vengeance this postseason.

Boston Bruins

Top prospects: Jack Studnicka, Zach Senyshyn, Urho Vaakanainen, Trent Frederic, John Beecher, Axel Andersson

Draft pick situation: The Bruins sent away their fourth-round pick in the upcoming draft.

Once again sitting atop the league's standings, Boston should be looking to add some secondary scoring to help one of the league's top lines.

Colorado Avalanche

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

Top prospects: Bowen Byram, Shane Bowers, Conor Timmins, Alex Newhook, Martin Kaut

Draft pick situation: The Avalanche don't have their second-round pick in the upcoming draft. However, their picks from the Maple Leafs and Panthers make up for the team not owning its selections in the third and sixth rounds.

With a lot of cap space, Colorado can take on almost anybody's cap hit. General manager Joe Sakic can use one of the league's best prospect groups to mortgage a bit of his team's future while grabbing a title now and still remaining a top contender for years to come.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Top prospects: Samuel Poulin, Filip Hallander, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Kasper Bjorkqvist, Nathan Legare

Draft pick situation: Pittsburgh is missing its first-, second- and seventh-round selections in the upcoming draft.

With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin entering the twilight of their careers, it's almost now or never for them to win another Cup. The Penguins made a big splash Monday, dealing away a first-round pick, Calen Addison, and Alex Galchenyuk to bring in Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild. General manager Jim Rutherford may be content with just the single move, but there's still a chance he looks to add even more depth.


Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

New Jersey Devils

Players who can be moved: Wayne Simmonds, Sami Vatanen, P.K. Subban

The Devils took a big swing this past summer, bringing in Simmonds, Subban, and Nikita Gusev and selecting Jack Hughes first overall. It didn't work out, but it was still a dedicated home-run effort.

The team shipped out Taylor Hall earlier this season, and there's now a young core in New Jersey to build upon. Selling off some veteran players at the deadline can go a long way toward the Devils' rebuild.

Ottawa Senators

Players who can be moved: Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Anthony Duclair, Craig Anderson, Vladislav Namestnikov, Mikkel Boedker, Ron Hainsey, Dylan DeMelo, Chris Tierney

The Senators' roster turnover has been stunning, with just a handful of players left from their team that made it within one goal of the Stanley Cup Final in 2017.

It looks like Ottawa will have two lottery picks, one via the San Jose Sharks, and three second-round selections in this year's draft. The Senators would be wise to bring in even more assets, adding to their young core that includes Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot.

Los Angeles Kings

Juan Ocampo / National Hockey League / Getty

Players who can be moved: Tyler Toffoli, Alec Martinez, Trevor Lewis

The Kings are hoping to quickly rebuild because Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty aren't getting younger. Destined for a top-five pick in this year's draft, Los Angeles will need to add more talent to fast-track the process.

Bubble teams facing tough decisions

Mark Blinch / National Hockey League / Getty

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs' core is set for the next several years, but there aren't many draft picks at their disposal. With just a few players set to hit free agency this summer and the recent emergence of blue-liners Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren, general manager Kyle Dubas needs to decide whether he should trust his group and ride out the season, or bring in another body or two.

Facing a tight playoff race in the East, there's no guarantee the Leafs will even make the postseason.

Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes have the misfortune of playing in one of the league's toughest divisions, and they're sitting in the second wild-card spot in the East despite earning 67 points.

Carolina holds a few picks in the upcoming draft, including an extra selection in each of the first three rounds. If general manager Don Waddell decides he wants to make a splash at the deadline, there's more than enough ammunition for him to work with.

Florida Panthers

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

In a major move this past summer, the Panthers paid Sergei Bobrovsky big bucks. Florida could now use some help defensively to support its high-octane group of forwards.

With the team in a close race against the Maple Leafs for the third spot in the Atlantic Division, there's also no guarantee the Panthers will make the playoffs. Bobrovsky took some time to settle into the crease in the Sunshine State, so perhaps general manager Dale Tallon decides to take a mulligan on the year.

Nashville Predators

David Poile seems to never sit still at the trade deadline. As usual, the Central Division is competitive, with Nashville eight points behind the Dallas Stars for third place. However, Pacific Division teams have struggled all season long, leaving the wild-card spots in the West wide-open.

Poile will need to decide whether it's worth being aggressive, especially if Nashville seems destined to be a wild-card team.

Vegas Golden Knights

Jeff Bottari / National Hockey League / Getty

There seems to be a new Pacific Division leader daily. Just four points separate the top five teams in the division, and the Golden Knights could easily end up taking the crown.

With a healthy amount of picks in the upcoming two drafts and a bitter taste in their mouths from last year's postseason result, the Golden Knights may look to bolster their roster. Last season, Vegas' acquisition of Mark Stone was the biggest trade at the deadline.

Winnipeg Jets

The Jets have been in dire need of a defenseman all season long, and they may be wise to add one while close to a playoff spot. Now that they know Dustin Byfuglien won't be returning this season, it could be time to act. If Winnipeg can catch fire at the right time, the club could be one of the toughest outs in the playoffs.

Edmonton Oilers

Andy Devlin / National Hockey League / Getty

Boasting the league's top two scorers in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers should have no reason not to be a playoff team. Still, with the Pacific Division wide-open, there is a chance they wind up missing the postseason. Given the elite level at which Draisaitl and McDavid are playing, failing to add some secondary scoring to help them would constitute a huge opportunity wasted. Ahead of his first trade deadline with the Oilers, Ken Holland has a number of tough decisions to mull over.

Identifying buyers and sellers as the deadline approaches
  Got something to say? Leave a comment below!

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox