The end is near for some. For others, it’s just the beginning.
The majority of teams are past the halfway point of the regular season. The marathon part of the year is over, it is now a dead sprint to the finish line and to playoff hockey.
Buyers and sellers will soon come forth as we approach the trade deadline. There are obvious active participants as we approach Feb. 26th, but also inactive participants. You have teams like Vegas who are willing to stand pat and trust their current rosters as they embark on a playoff push. Regardless, everything is now kicked up a notch..
Today we will discuss teams that are willing to buy or sell. It also cannot be stressed enough that the greatest tournament in sports (the Stanley Cup Playoffs) is right around the corner. We will dissect the statuses of the handful of teams most likely making moves, but will also note that the battle for Hockey’s Holy Grail is near. Nevertheless, who’s buying and who’s selling??
Buyers–>The St. Louis Blues.
Yeah, I got to do it. In the most humble and non-biased way possible, the St. Louis Blues need to be buyers as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. They have been fighting the injured reserve all year, which has taken a toll on their depth. Their top point getter (at the time of injury) Jaden Schwartz went down with an ankle injury on December 9th. Since then, the Blues have won just six games and have scored only 26 goals in their last 14 games sitting in 2nd place in the Central..
GM Doug Armstrong has said to Hockey Central that the team is not in the market for a rental player (reported by Sportsnet). With their limited cap space they have expressed interest in a 28 year old Mike Hoffman (Senators) who is signed through 2020. Hoffman would be a vital piece to St. Louis having scored 27, 29, and 26 goals the past three seasons. They have Ottawa’s attention as well with their prospect collection (Jordan Kyrou/Klim Kostin) and seem to be ready to make a move. Getting Schwartz back within the month and adding another sniper in the mix puts St. Louis in a much better position heading into the postseason.
Tuesday night marks the last game for the Blues before their bye week. They have played far more games than everyone in their division at 46 (after Tues.) making a win crucial. St. Louis will take the ice against the Florida Panthers at Scottrade Center at 7pmCT before getting a chance to rest and refuel.
The Habs are currently seven points behind Pittsburgh for the second wild card spot in the East. They are in a bad spot because they would have to leapfrog six teams, three of which have games in hand on them. Their position prior to the trade deadline has been deemed as sellers. The Canadiens have scored 13 goals in their last eight games. Montreal is in no way out of the playoff race, but Carey Price would have to go on a run down the stretch as they are 29th in the league in scoring (2.46 goals per game).
Max Pacioretty (Canadiens Captain) has been reported as the main player on the trading block. It’s hard to imagine with Pacioretty having five of Montreal’s 12 30-goal campaigns in the last 20 seasons. He has immense value as the 29-year old is not even a rental with one year beyond 2018 remaining on his contract. GM Marc Bergevin has said that while the team is obviously looking for picks and prospects, they also are eyeing a top goal scorer in return for the Habs’ captain.
Montreal is off until Saturday when they are home to the Boston Bruins. They have 40 games remaining to make some sort of push, but it is almost clear they cannot compete with playoff teams. With points in only four of their last 10 and just seven wins away from home it’s going to be a tough road down the stretch.
Buyers–>Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Blue Jackets made a splash in the offseason acquiring Artemi Panarin. Everything seemed to be falling into place as they were atop the Metro Division for the majority of the first half. The Capitals hot streak that has surged them to the top along with key injuries to Columbus makes them buyers at the trade deadline. The Jackets are currently without top players Cam Atkinson, Alexander Wennberg and Brandon Dubinsky. Columbus is currently just 24th in the league in scoring putting in 2.71 goals per game.
As the Jackets continue to battle in getting healthy, GM Jarmo Kekalainen will definitely look to add to his contending team. He is said to be targeting a top two center by the February 26 deadline. Kekalainen has approximately 4.3 million in cap space to work with as he eyes former Blue Jacket Derick Brassard. The 30 year old has played in 40 games this year for Ottawa with 11 goals and 16 assists. The Canadien born center spent his first six years in Columbus and could most certainly bolster their somewhat underachieving offense.
The Blue Jackets sit in third place in the Metropolitan Division. They have played two more games than Washington and three more than New Jersey coming into Tuesday. It is going to be a dog fight to the very end of the regular season for home-ice advantage. Columbus has the talent to compete, but are again looking for help with 38 games remaining on their schedule.
“Let’s getter goin’ here”
All of this is very relevant information as we approach almost one month until the trade deadline. The reshaping of teams will soon commence, but there is a much greater circumstance forthcoming. Every game and every two points on the line now takes greater significance..
We are two and a half months away from playoff hockey. Two and a half months away from throwing the standings and seedings away and the best teams competing for Lord Stanley’s Cup..
It is the toughest trophy to win in sports, and the decisions made prior to February 26th have great impact. I don’t even want to talk about it anymore. Let’s just getter goin’ and enjoy it.
“From Our Haus to Yours”