We saw four Canadian teams make the playoffs thanks to the North Division last year, but this season looks like it could be a different story. As it stands, Calgary and Toronto are the only two teams headed for the postseason. Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver are currently looking in from the outside, while Ottawa and Montreal have been on the outside for some time.
Despite the varied table differences between all seven Canadian clubs, everyone should be active in one way or another by the close of trading. As March 21 approaches, let’s take a look at how each team should approach this year’s deadline.
Calgary Flames: Trust what you have
Space for the deadline cap: $870,000
The Flames have already made a splash in the trade market by signing Tyler Toffoli well ahead of the deadline. As a result, the team now boasts one of the deepest forward groups in the league. Add to that an elite goaltender and a competent blue line, and you find yourself with one of the toughest teams in the NHL to play against.
Calgary is short on cap space and has a depleted set of draft picks. They managed to nab Toffoli without giving up any of their best prospects, which was a neat job by GM Brad Treliving. At this point, Calgary must stand firm and trust what they have put together. As of February 1, the Flames have won 14 of 17 games; The team is in full swing and will be a nightmare in the playoffs. Perhaps the club will decide to add a deep defender or an inexpensive forward, but it wouldn’t be at all surprising if they are quiet.
Edmonton Oiler: Trade for a goalkeeper
Space for the deadline cap: $591,000
Enough is enough in Edmonton. The club started the year by net-confiding Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen – it didn’t work out. Smith, who will soon be 40, has been on and off at IR all year and when he’s played he hasn’t been great. Koskinen has scored the majority of starts as a result, but only managed a .904 percentage and -4.46 goals over average. He’s been playing well lately, but if the Oilers want to get deep into the playoffs, he can’t be the one standing in the circle. The Oilers are the 12th-best team in the league with 3.21 goals scored per game, but 11th-worst with 3.21 goals allowed per game. A fix on the net could go a long way.
There are a number of options in the goalkeeper market with Marc-Andre Fleury being by far the best option out there. He’s proven on numerous occasions he has what it takes to lead a team to the Stanley Cup Finals and can give Edmonton the stability they desperately need. It has not been confirmed whether or not he would accept a trade from Chicago, but the asking price will likely be high. If he allowed a deal, Edmonton would fall upon him. Otherwise, the Oilers could be looking for an upgrade with Joonas Korpisalo, Braden Holtby or Jaroslav Halak.
Montreal Canadiens: Sell, sell, sell
Space for the deadline cap: $7.7 million
Canadians have been going back and forth between buyers and sellers at cut-off date for the past decade, but this is the first year in a long time that a bona fide fire sale could go under. Ben Chiarot will almost certainly be dealt, but the team has a handful of other players who could presumably find a new home.
Artturi Lehkonen, Brett Kulak, Cedric Paquette, Mathieu Perreault and Chris Wideman are all on expiring contracts and could be postponed. Montreal’s big names like Jeff Petry and Brendan Gallagher will likely only be moved in the summer — if they’re treated at all. Montreal has played great hockey under new head coach Martin St. Louis, which may discourage the team from selling and rebuilding cornerstone veterans. Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton’s phone will surely be ringing non-stop for many players in their roster. They are not in a position to sell anyone cheap at this point, but if the right deal comes along you should accept it without hesitation as they are ushering in a new era in Montreal.
Ottawa Senators: Use the cap space
Space for the deadline cap: $55 million
Senators don’t have many assets to sell as of this year’s deadline. Michael Del Zotto and Tyler Ennis were able to post mediocre returns; Nick Paul, Erik Brannstrom and Chris Tierney, who could still be a part of the team’s future, are not suspensions to postpone. What the Senators do have, however, is an enormous amount of caps that can be used to their advantage.
Competitors across the league will be pushed right to the ceiling and will be desperate to drop some salary to gear up for the playoffs. The senators could be big winners if they help facilitate trade, either by taking on contracts or simply taking their paychecks as a third party. The club has a great base of young stallions and is getting closer to competition but they are not there yet. Eugene Melnyk and Pierre Dorion will have to capitalize on the accumulation of assets if they don’t want to be in that position next year.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Support the blue line
Space for the deadline cap: $3.7 million
The Maple Leafs could go different paths this year by deadline, but all signs point to the club bringing in a defender to bolster their mediocre defensive group. Sheldon Keefe and Kyle Dubas have both expressed their faith in Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek, so it seems unlikely that the team will add a keeper. Maybe Campbell’s minor injury changes things, but he’s still her type when it comes to the playoffs, assuming he’s healthy. The team’s forward group is deep and dangerous and doesn’t require much tinkering. She scored 3.71 goals per game – the fourth best in the NHL.
Toronto needs to address its defensive issues and bring in a solid blue liner. Things are trending with Jake Muzzin returning to the lineup before the playoffs, which is a great sign. Still, giving big minutes to Travis Dermott and Justin Holl won’t work out in the postseason. Dubas has said he is not keen on the idea of bringing a player on loan this year but there are a number of defenders with expiring contracts that the club can easily acquire and perhaps at a bargain price. Experienced blue liners Justin Braun, Luke Schenn, Damon Severson or Ben Chiarot could fit the bill and provide some much-needed help to the Leafs.
Vancouver Canucks: Don’t make a panic move
Space for the deadline cap: $2.4 million
The Canucks may have a slim chance of making the playoffs at this point, but that doesn’t mean they should be big sellers. Brock Boeser and JT Miller have been swirling around the rumor mill for the past few months, but parting ways with either player at this point could end up being a huge mistake.
Miller has proven himself since landing in Vancouver, and with another year on his contract, there’s no reason to sell just yet. He could still be up for extra time so there’s no real rush to trade him and he’s been one of the team’s best and most consistent players. A split from 25-year-old Boeser wouldn’t be wise unless the yield is massive. Despite having a bit of a poor year, he’s still on track for an impressive 27 goals while he’s third on the team with a 58.39 expected goals percentage.
The start of the season was a nightmare in Vancouver but things are looking better. With new management, a new coach and the team moving in the right direction, there is no urgent need to sack one of the team’s stars. When a team makes an offer they can’t refuse, that’s a different story. But there is no need to take a trade at this point just to shake things up.
Winnipeg Jets: Trade with Andrew Copp
Space for the deadline cap: $669,000
Much like the Canucks, the Jets are a great team on paper that just haven’t been able to pull themselves together this season. Many considered the team a potential Stanley Cup contender to enter the year. But even reaching the playoffs seems out of reach. The Jets have too much talent across their lineup to be as bad as they were, but something is clearly wrong. They don’t have many loan players on the market but Copp should generate a lot of interest in the league when he’s available.
The versatile forward is exactly the kind of depth player that rival teams are looking to add by deadline. Much like forwards Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman, who have been big deadline signings in the past, he could be just what bottom-six teams need for a much-needed boost. He can play center or wing and is on course for a career-high 50 points this year. Copp should be able to land a nice package for the Jets and would give the team some time to address its bigger underlying off-season issues.
(Salary source: CapFriendly)
(Statistics Source: Natural Stat Trick)