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NHL Trade Deadline Primer: Atlantic Division rumor roundup

Sifting through the dirt to find tangible leads heading into the NHLs trade deadline.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Ottawa Senators
Jan 16, 2019; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators right wing Mark Stone (61) speaks with center Matt Duchene (95) in the third period against the Colorado Avalanche at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The Buyers

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning honestly don’t need to do anything this deadline. They got their man on defense last year in Ryan McDonagh to anchor that position. Right now, the team has seven defensemen that they have to rotate because they’re all great. Plus, Jan Rutta was brought in earlier in the year to provide some NHL-calibre insurance in the AHL. They have the deepest forward corps in the NHL with an abundance of centers and quality forwards on the first-place Syracuse Crunch in case any injuries come up. Both Andrei Vasilevskiy and Louis Domingue have been amazing. What more does the team need?

The team has about $8 million worth in cap space at the deadline to add anyone they want. It could be a Wayne Simmonds, who networks have been praying happens so they can talk about it, or someone else. But the reality is there’s not much news out there on the Tampa front, and after judging it ourselves, it doesn’t look like there should be.

  • What Darren Dreger has been saying about the Lightning and free-agent forwards. [Raw Charge]

Toronto Maple Leafs

Following the Jake Muzzin trade earlier this month, it doesn’t look like the Maple Leafs are going to do anything big this Monday. Fans have been screaming on the internet to get rid of the likes of Nikita Zaitsev, Patrick Marleau, and Ron Hainsey, but nothing from the team indicates that those things will happen. Most likely, the Leafs will go get another defenseman they can put in the top-six ahead of the aging Hainsey. Players like Nick Jensen and Radko Gudas have been confirmed to have been discussed. Beyond that (Adam McQuaid), there’s not much information that passes the smell-test.

In terms of next year and beyond, the Muzzin trade protects the Leafs from having to lose Jake Gardiner in free agency. Calle Rosen has been the best defenseman in the AHL and should make the team out of camp easily. Teenagers Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin (who are already in the AHL) should also make the NHL in the coming years, possibly even next year for Liljegren, who was the 17th overall pick in 2017. GM Kyle Dubas has been consistent in his thoughts that teams defense will be solved internally as the team keeps its contending window open for the better part of the next decade.

At forward, there doesn’t look to be many holes. Even when the Leafs lost Nazem Kadri to a concussion earlier this week, they were able to replace him with William Nylander. Nylander has quietly become the Leafs best player, too. He looks dominant, even with players like Patrick Marleau and Connor Brown on his wings.

Boston Bruins

The Bruins were looking for a forward to help the middle-six find more production than what they have, so they went and got Charlie Coyle from the Minnesota Wild. Now, the return might bite them some day, but right now, we’re talking about the upcoming playoffs.

Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens are seventh in the Eastern Conference (sort of, the seedings are weird, just go with it) and have decided that they would (maybe) like a centerman. And boy, could they use one.

It’s been rumored for the past few weeks, but on Friday morning Bob McKenzie was on the radio and explained that he was getting both yes’s and no’s from Montreal on whether the Habs are in on Duchene. It seems like the team is wrestling with their decision at the moment. Some prominent fans want this to either happen on July 1st or be a sign-and-trade. One guarantees Duchene won’t be around for a playoff run, and the other makes is really unlikely, unless a contract comes together really quickly.

  • It doesn’t look like the Canadiens are too worried about offense. [Sportsnet]

The Sellers

Ottawa Senators

Will the Ottawa Senators be able to be cap compliant next year? Usually we think about teams spending more than what they’re allowed in a season, but with the news that Matt Duchene, Mark Stone, and Ryan Dzingel officially on the trade market, there aren’t many players making much money on the Sens next year. Fun fact, depending on how much Cody Ceci (who might be traded) makes next year, the Sens defense combined might be making less money than the team-friendly contract of Nikita Kucherov.

The Sens were wrestling with their purse strings for what feels like the past month, trying to get a contract for Duchene and Stone that worked. The hang-up people were hearing was that the Sens weren’t able to provide the July 1st bonus money the players were asking (players like John Tavares and Auston Matthews get ~90% of their salary in a lump sum on July 1st as a “signing bonus”).

The Sens were supposed to make a definitive choice over a week ago to either keep or decide to let go of these players, but they dragged out their deadline seemingly until Thursday night when they kept Duchene, Stone, and Dzingel in the press box as injury protection.

So, all three are on the market. Not only is this a bad look on the financial stability of the team, but the reputation the team has for not being able to keep good players has only gotten worse. It’s going to be a long rebuild for the Sens.

  • Scouts from Nashville (could you imagine after the Duchene/Turris trade), Winnipeg, Columbus, and Montreal have all been heavily scouting the Sens recently. [Seven Silver Sens]
  • What are people feeling in Ottawa? [31 Thoughts]
  • Senators want four pieces in exchange for Mark Stone. [TSN]

UPDATE:

Columbus looks to be going all in on the playoffs this season.

Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings have lots of pending free agents on their roster.

Gustav Nyquist leads the list of Red Wings who could be of help to another team in the playoffs, but none of the big insiders have brought his name up very much at all in recent days. Still, he’ll get moved. Perhaps even for the first, second, and third-round pick haul Tomas Tatar got.

Thomas Vanek is the other forward I can see being moved, but his value is low. The man is 35-years-old and only has 12 goals, 29 points in 53 games this season. The Red Wings have been trying to move Luke Glendening for years, but there has never been anyone willing to bite on a $1.8 million for two more years for a fourth liner. I don’t see it changing, no matter how much Mike Babcock apparently liked him.

Jimmy Howard is the next big player on the market. The (deserved) All-Star goaltender is in the final year of his deal, and at a reduced cap hit, could be a great backup option for a team looking to solidify that position. On the other hand, people in Detroit have voiced that the feeling is 50/50 on whether Howard stays and signs a short-term extension or gets moved. Good goaltending is hard to come by and having a guy who can ease the transition to the future is probably more valuable than not.

Nick Jensen is the last of the big names likely on their way out of Detroit. Analytics people in Toronto have been clamouring for this player for the better part of the year, and it appears the Leafs front office agrees in that respect.

Florida Panthers

For weeks, the big news around Florida was that they were going to get Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky for a non-playoff year so they could sign them sooner than later for the next 6-8 years. Those rumors have quieted significantly as it seems like they will just try and get them on July 1st. The Panthers are reportedly the front-runners in that sense for Panarin.

But you never know. The Panthers are kings at doing silly things.

Lastly, the Panthers acquired Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan (and a few picks) for Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann earlier in the month. Both Brassard and Sheahan are pending UFAs, so re-trading them for futures is probably going to happen at some point between now and Monday. These are two, essentially, fourth-line centers in case anyone wants to bulk up without spending too much (Brassard has a cap hit of $3M, and Sheahan makes $2.1M). As of right now, there aren’t any leads linking them to anywhere.

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres aren’t far out of a playoff spot, but the five-point gap with three of the two teams they need to jump being Columbus, Montreal, and Carolina, there’s not much reason to buy at the deadline for what might be a futile effort (remind me about this when I write about Edmonton).

Jeff Skinner and Jason Pominville are the only two prominent unrestricted free agents in Buffalo right now. It sounds like Pominville is quietly on the market and could see the 36-year-old with 24 points in 54 games go for something in the range of a mid-round pick. At his age and decrease in production (not to mention his $5.6M cap hit that the Sabres will have to retain on), there’s not much value there. But there is some.

On the Skinner front, it looks like the two camps are planning to sign an extension between now and July 1st when Skinner can go to any team he wants. The two sides like each other a lot and Jeff seems to be comfortable in his role for seemingly the first time. For the contract, the length will likely be the full eight years for the 27-year-old, as it keeps the number as low as possible.

  • 75-ish minutes in, Bob McKenzie addresses the Skinner contract. [TSN Bobcast]
  • GM Jason Botterill on the state of the franchise as of Feb 20. [Die by the Blade]