Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Which NHL teams are under the most pressure at the trade deadline?

With​ two weeks to​ go​ until​ the​ trade​ deadline,​ we’re well​ into that fascinating​ time of the​ year​ when wins and​​ losses take a back seat to the rumor mill. Did your favorite team play last night? You’re not sure, but you heard a rumor about them trading a conditional sixth-round pick, so let’s argue about that for a few hours. Honestly, it’s a pretty great time to be a fan.

So today, let’s skip the standings and focus on a far more important ranking: Which teams are under the most pressure to make a deal or two (or three, or four) over the next 12 days? Who can afford to stay quiet if they have to and who absolutely has to do something big?

These aren’t necessarily the teams that will be the busiest; instead, consider it a ranking of the ones that have the toughest jobs ahead of them. We’ll go through the whole league, working our way up from the least to the most pressure. That’s always fun, because there are 31 spots to fill and every fan base adamantly believes that their team has to at least be in the top 10.

We’ll start with a team that’s had a recent habit of showing up in unexpected places on lists and power rankings and the standings.

31. New York Islanders

The Islanders are a good example of the difference between wanting to make a deadline deal and needing to make one. They’re a good team with a legitimate shot at the Stanley Cup and they’ll probably be looking to bring in reinforcements. They might even try to pull off something big, and if they do, their fans will be thrilled.

But what if they don’t? The Islanders are already the season’s best story. Lou Lamoriello, Barry Trotz and friends have pulled off a near-miracle. If they can dominate the deadline too, awesome. But even if they sit it out completely, they’ve already won. And even the most fickle Islanders fans couldn’t possibly have a word of complaint … could they?

30. Washington Capitals

You know that old saying about how when your team wins a championship, you’re not allowed to complain about anything for years afterwards? No fan actually believes that, and if the Capitals implode and miss the playoffs, Brian MacLellan will be ripped for it. But that seems exceedingly unlikely, and without any major holes to address or much cap room to do it with, expectations should be reasonable. Pierre LeBrun says they’ll be “careful buyers” and are “willing to tinker”, which sounds about right. But whatever happens, they’ve already got their rings.

29. Montreal Canadiens

28. Chicago Blackhawks

27. Vancouver Canucks

26. Philadelphia Flyers

Let’s call this the “playing with house money” section. All four teams are either making playoff runs we didn’t think they’d be anywhere close to, or at least looking far better than they did earlier in the season.

It feels weird to have Montreal this low, because it’s Montreal. But they’ve already exceeded expectations, and we’ve gone from Marc Bergevin being on the hottest seat imaginable to the local media insisting he was right all along. Plus, the Habs’ playoff spot seems relatively secure. Bergevin has already made some depth moves to bring in those heavy depth guys he loves so much, but the Habs have been largely absent from the rumor mill on the bigger names.

The Canucks, Hawks and Flyers are all in tougher spots in terms of the playoff picture, and may be tempted to bring in rental help. But with all three teams in various stages of rebuilds, it’s unlikely that any feel pressured to make major moves. The Flyers take the top spot in the group based on having one star UFA in Wayne Simmonds that they’ll need to find a home for, but otherwise at least a few Philadelphia fans are probably too enamored with Carter Hart right now to get mad about a quiet deadline.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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