There’s no doubt going to be some hard decisions with only about a quarter of the season remaining. The Scotia North Division seems to be cut into four parts. First there’s the top three, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, and Edmonton Oilers, battling for the division title. Next there’s the Montreal Canadiens, who could swing up or down. Then we have the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks battling to catch Montreal for the final playoff spot. Last, we have the Ottawa Senators at the bottom of the division.
Ottawa Senators: Sellers
The Ottawa Senators are in the Scotia North basement. I am thinking they will definitely be sellers. They have nine unrestricted free agents and also have a couple of key players that could be very valuable to another team’s playoff run. This would not only make room for some of their prospects to move up onto the roster, but could also open the door to a deal with the Leafs. Since a deal with the Leafs would be within the same province, players would not have to quarantine. Ryan Dzingel or Erik Gudbranson are the obvious trade bait for me with cap hits of $3.375 million and $4.0 million respectively.
Vancouver Canucks: Sellers
The Vancouver Canucks have to be sellers after a slower start to the season and hovering in limbo of making a playoff spot. They have some expiring contracts, some of which are seasoned veterans that would return players that could be used now rather than later. Brandon Sutter ($4.375 million) and Alexander Edler ($6.0 million) seem like obvious choices to pick from.
Calgary Flames: Buyers or Sellers
The Calgary Flames are in a tail-spin right now and something definitely needs to be done. This all begins with Johnny Gaudreau who has one year left on his contract. So if the Flames want to get anything in return for Gaudreau, it has to be now. Problem is, it likely will not be done before the trade deadline. It is better to wait until the off-season when they have 31 teams able to have a look under the hood. Right now the Flames are more likely to make smaller moves for draft picks. They have a handful of smaller fish to work with like Sam Bennett ($2.55 million), David Rittich ($2.75 million) and Derek Ryan (3.125 million).
Montreal Canadiens: Buyers
The Montreal Canadiens are a team that is on a roller coaster right now – ups and downs every week it seems. They spent over $100 million over the off-season adding some key players. But early season goaltending struggles from Carey Price and scoring struggles some nights have the Habs in limbo. They are likely going to try to add at least one big name to shore up the lineup for what they hope will be a cup run. Canadiens’ trade bait includes Paul Byron ($3.4 million) and Artturi Lehkonen ($2.4 million).
Winnipeg Jets: Buyers or Sellers
The Winnipeg Jets are in playoff position right now, eight points ahead of Montreal. But they are also just six points out of the top spot in the division. They are in a spot to try and grab a big name, just pick up a couple of smaller but potential dark horse players, or just ride out the rest of the season and hope to somehow get past the Toronto Maple Leafs and whoever comes out of the other divisions. If they do look to make a deal, the Jets are likely to trade draft picks rather than players already in the system.
Edmonton Oilers: Neither
The Edmonton Oilers are a team that appears to be ready to make a playoff run. Although they may want to make a minor tweak or two to bolster their lineup, but they have no money to do that. This is partially due to Oscar Klefbom being on Long Term Injury Reserve. So that, mixed with the fact that the Oilers don’t have any secondnd, third or fifth round picks in the draft, puts a big damper on the Oilers’ trading.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Buyers or Sellers
The Toronto Maple Leafs are the kings of the court right now in the Scotia North Division. They sit in first place in the division and are tied for first overall in the NHL. So do you make a move to drive the team over the top into the promised land? Or do you go with the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” If I am the Leafs and I am looking to make a deal to bolster for a cup run, I’m potentially looking at trading Alexander Kerfoot ($3.5 million) or even first round draft pick-up Rodion Amirov. He is valuable now, but by the time he is NHL ready, the Leafs could be busted. The Leafs also have about a hundred draft picks in the next couple drafts it seems.
So as the Scotia North Division playoff race heats up, the trade deadline on Monday, April 12th could get very interesting.
I’m Jason Beisick and I’ll be covering the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers for the Belly Up Hockey team. You can follow me on Twitter as well for general sports talk and likely some trash talk as well.