It’s that time of the NHL season. The annual holiday, er, trade deadline is upon us. While you want your team to make that blockbuster deal, it may not happen. Do I want the Blue Jackets to make a move for Connor McDavid? Of course! It will happen, I promise. Regardless, this is the time where teams need to determine where the rest of their season will go. Let’s take a look at the Discover Central Division, and see which teams should be buyers, and which will be sellers.
Carolina Hurricanes: Buyers
The Carolina Hurricanes have significantly improved over the last few seasons. Most of this in part to players like Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, and Vincent Trocheck. The Hurricanes will almost certainly be buyers and have already begun to have some rumors surrounding the team. As reported by NHL Trade Rumors, they are shopping 30-year-old defenseman, Jake Gardiner. The Hurricanes will be looking for offensive help to bolster the lack of goal production as of late. They also have a trio of great goalies to add if they want to make a splash in the market.
Keep an eye on Carolina, though. They are just one piece away from being absolute powerhouses. They are almost as physically strong as their head coach, Rod Brind’Amour.
Chicago Blackhawks: Sellers
The Chicago Blackhawks have taken some heavy losses since last season. Their losses include goaltender Corey Crawford, Brent Seabrook, captain Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad, and before his recent return, Kirby Dach. While the Blackhawks have exceeded just about all expectations this year, I believe GM Stan Bowman is more focused on the future, as he should be. The Blackhawks just completed a trade with the Florida Panthers and in return, getting Brett Connolly, Riley Stillman, and Henrik Borgstrom. Bowman had this to say about the addition of Bjorgstrom:
“We are receiving a very exciting, young player with a bright future in Henrik Borgstrom. He is a high-end talent and we think he has the ability to be a big-time player for us.”Stan Bowman on the addition of Henrik Borgstrom.
Because of the heavy losses, expect to see the Blackhawks making moves to garner trade capital for larger moves during the offseason. The Blackhawks have a very bright future ahead of them, there is no need to mess around with it now.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Sellers
It seems there has been constant drama and struggle within the Columbus Blue Jackets. There have been major free agent departures and a heavy lack of depth at the center position. Their most recent top-line center, Pierre-Luc Dubois, was traded only a few games into the season in return for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic. While the Blue Jackets have consistently struggled in the goal department, they have always had a very noticeable group of defensemen, notably Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. There has been much interest in pending free agent captain Nick Foligno. David Savard was recently traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a 2021 1st-round draft pick, and a 2022 3rd round pick. In addition to Savard, Riley Nash has been traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a conditional 2022 7-round pick.
Based on the injuries, interest level, and lack of consistency, expect the Blue Jackets to be selling. They want to try to gain draft picks to make a massive splash in the offseason. To top it all off, head coach John Tortorella is in the last season of his contract and is not expected to return.
Dallas Stars: Sellers
The Dallas Stars are fresh off of a Stanley Cup final appearance, but things are seeming to be catching up. The loss of Tyler Seguin has been immensely visible this season as the Stars are currently in 6th place behind the Chicago Blackhawks, but with 3 games in hand. Dallas is currently home to one of the league’s best power plays, thanks heavily in part to Joe Pavelski. Outside of the power play, the Stars have one of the hottest rookies as of late in Jason Robertson as well as third-year defenseman, Miro Heiskanen.
While the Stars still have their star power, I think that they will be sellers, if they do anything. They are still needing to bolster their offensive numbers in the bottom 6, as well as getting another big blue liner. Realistically, don’t expect to see Dallas as very active for the deadline.
Detroit Red Wings: Sellers
We all pretty much saw this one coming, right? The Detroit Red Wings are just about in full-blown rebuild mode and have played as such. Detroit is currently sitting with 18 players who will be a free agent at the end of the season (UFA & RFA), and due to this, expect to see some moves from Detroit to gain draft capital and hopefully get a top-3 pick this upcoming draft to make up for last season. GM Steve Yzerman has said that they are rebuilding, so many of the players can be on the trading block. Names to have been linked this far have been 31-year-old center Luke Glendening, defenseman Marc Staal, and goaltender Jonathan Bernier.
Expect to see the Red Wings make a few moves to either hold another player’s salary in a three team trade, or trade some of the highly sought after players to get more draft picks for this upcoming draft and off season.
Florida Panthers: Buyers
While we all saw the Red Wings being sellers, very few people saw the Panthers sitting in the position they are in. The Panthers have been the biggest surprise this season, as they are currently in a three-way battle for first place in the Central Division between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Tampa Bay Lightning. With the recent additions of Alexander Wennberg, Patric Hornqvist, Anthony Duclair, and Markus Nutivaara, the Panthers have transformed their culture and are a powerhouse. Also having one of the best goaltending tandems in the league with Sergei Bobrovsky and Chris Driedger, Florida is expected to make a deep run into the postseason.
With their loss of Aaron Ekblad, the Panthers will be buyers to solidify their blue line. They have recently acquired Brandon Montour, to help but I would expect to see another move to either help their defensive corps with the depth, or get another bottom 6 forward to deal with the injury to Anthony Duclair.
Nashville Predators: Buyers
While the Nashville Predators started the season off horribly, they have begun to find their way as of late. The Preds are currently sitting in 4th place in the Central Division, just ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks. Helping to lead the charge for Nashville is defending Norris trophy winner Roman Josi, Erik Haula, and the goalie tandem of Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros. The Predators are sitting in a playoff spot but are struggling with injuries to Filip Forsberg, Matt Duchene, and Mark Borowiecki. Erik Haula, Mattias Ekholm and Mikael Granlund have all been linked to trade rumors as of late to multiple teams.
Due to the injuries to their forward corps, being in a playoff spot, and the recent struggles of Chicago, expect to see Nashville make some moves for rentals to pick up a middle 6 forward and a bottom pair defenseman to help improve their depth for the remainder of the season.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Buyers
The defending Stanley Cup Champions are on an absolute tear. The Tampa Bay Lightning are making a solid case to become back-to-back champions. The craziest part is that they are doing all of this without their all-star forward, Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov was sidelined for the season with hip surgery, but is practicing with the team, and is slated to make a (hopeful) return by the time the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin. The reigning champs just bolstered their blue line by acquiring shot-blocking machine David Savard from the Columbus Blue Jackets at a heavy discount. In addition, they have been enjoying the presence and production of Blake Coleman, Patrick Maroon, Brayden Point, and Victor Hedman.
It is hard to think that Tampa would get knocked out of the playoffs, especially with Columbus being nowhere near that mark. Expect Tampa to not make many more moves except for some AHL depth, or to recoup another untimely injury. I fully expect Tampa Bay to make it to the finals once again.
My name is Alex Nuttle and I am the Columbus Blue Jackets contributor for Belly Up Sports & Belly Up Hockey. I also contribute to Fantasy Hockey, NWHL, AHL, and anything hockey. Follow me on Twitter for the most up-to-date hockey content and news(@anuttle_cbj). I also have a podcast, Cannons & Tomahawks, that talks about all things NHL, NWHL, CHL, and everything else hockey. Give us a follow and subscribe to our YouTube!