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NHL trade deadline buyers, sellers: Avalanche, Rangers among teams most likely to be active

The trade deadline is just over a week away, and many NHL teams will be attempting to improve their rosters for a potential postseason push. As a result, a few big moves involving contending teams have already been struck.

The Vancouver Canucks made the first big acquisitions on the trade market when they acquired center Elias Lindholm from the Calgary Flames in a massive deal. In exchange for Lindholm, the Flames acquired forward Andrei Kuzmenko, defenseman Hunter Brzustewicz, defenseman Joni Jurmo, a 2024 first-round pick and a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick.

Shortly after Lindholm was dealt, the Winnipeg Jets acquired center Sean Monahan in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens landed a 2024 first-round pick and a 2027 conditional third-round pick in exchange for the veteran forward.

Lindholm and Monahan are two of the biggest names that will come off of the board, but plenty of pieces could still be on the move prior to the March 8 trade deadline. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at which teams could be buyers and which sellers as the deadline approaches.

Buyers

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Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche are battling it out with the Dallas Stars for the Central Division crown in the West, and have looked like a juggernaut capable of a Stanley Cup run. While the Avalanche probably aren’t going to make a huge splash, this is a team that would definitely benefit from adding some depth prior to the deadline. 

Goaltender Alexandar Georgiev has enjoyed a sensational season, but has already played in 49 games with two months still remaining in the regular season. In an effort to not burn out their star goaltender, it would make a ton of sense for the Avalanche to add a backup goaltender as no suitable backup is currently on the roster. Marc-Andre Fleury once looked like a possibility, but the Minnesota Wild are in the thick of the Wild Card race, so it’s tough to see them parting with the veteran goaltender. Still, somebody like Kaapo Kahkonen of the San Jose Sharks could be an option if the Sharks decide to move him.

It also wouldn’t be surprising if the Avalanche added some bottom-six depth at the forward position. A player like Philadelphia Flyers forward Scott Laughton would make sense for a team that isn’t exactly overrun with depth up the middle at the center position.

New York Rangers

The New York Rangers have spent the majority of the 2023-24 season atop the Metropolitan Division race. However, that’s not to say the team hasn’t been without its trials and tribulations.

The injury bug has really chewed into the Rangers’ depth at the forward position. Young, promising forward Filip Chytil is out for the season with an upper-body injury, and he was limited to just 10 games on the year. Meanwhile, New York also recently lost veteran winger Blake Wheeler for the season due to a lower-body injury.

As a result of those two massive losses, it’s hard to imagine the Rangers moving onward with their current group of forwards as the Stanley Cup Playoffs creep closer. Outside of Vincent Trocheck and Mika Zibanejad, there isn’t a ton to write home about at the center position for the Rangers, so the franchise likely will attempt to address that position prior to the trade deadline. New York does have nearly $4.5 million in cap space, so a veteran acquisition is a move the team can afford to make.

Vegas Golden Knights

The Vegas Golden Knights captured their first Stanley Cup in franchise history last season. While they were able to keep the majority of that roster intact, repeating as Stanley Cup champions has certainly been an uphill battle in 2023-24.

Much like the Rangers, the Golden Knights have really been affected by injuries thus far this season. Star forward Jack Eichel has been out since mid-January after having surgery to address a lower-body injury, while Mark Stone was recently diagnosed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury. With the amount of attrition Vegas has dealt with this season, it’s very possible the team is looking to upgrade its roster at the trade deadline.

If the Golden Knights decide to make a move, the team could look to acquire a familiar face. Veteran winger Reilly Smith was a cap causality this past summer, and the team traded him to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a third-round pick. Considering what they gave up was relatively low, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Golden Knights kicked the tires on Smith. The Penguins are currently nine points out of a playoff spot and could be sellers at the trade deadline.   

Sellers

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San Jose Sharks

The San Jose Sharks have failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the last four seasons, registering less than 30 wins in three of those campaigns. The Sharks are currently tied for the fewest points (35) in the league, so it’s hard to imagine the franchise won’t be selling off as many assets as possible prior to the trade deadline.

The Sharks do have a surplus of forwards that could be available for contending teams. The most intriguing asset the Sharks could be looking to deal is center Mikael Granlund. Granlund isn’t a flashy player at this stage of his career, but would still be a solid veteran presence as a team’s second- or third-line center. He has continued to be a terrific facilitator even for an underperforming Sharks team as he’s tallied 27 assists on the year. 

Fellow forwards Anthony Duclair and Mike Hoffman also could be the move. While Duclair’s 19 points (11 goals, eight assists) may not seem that exciting, this is a player that scored 31 goals during the 2021-22 season as a member of the Florida Panthers. In the right scenario, Duclair could be a huge addition to a Stanley Cup contender. On the other hand, Hoffman was salary filler in the Erik Karlsson trade when the Sharks acquired him. Still, Hoffman could provide some offensive punch on a team’s fourth line and likely wouldn’t cost much at acquire. 

Anaheim Ducks

The future is bright for the Anaheim Ducks with a surplus of talent in tow, but that doesn’t mean the team will sit idly at the trade deadline. The Ducks have an abundance of depth at the forward position, but a few players could still be on the move.

The biggest name that could be on the trading block is star center Trevor Zegras. Now, Zegras did receive a three-year contract extension that pays him $5.75 million per season this past fall, but it wasn’t a massive contract like many envisioned. Considering the Ducks wasn’t comfortable committing to Zegras long-term, that leads to speculation he could be dealt for the right price. There’s certainly no rush for Anaheim to move Zegras, so it’s far from a guarantee he gets moved at the trade deadline.

The most likely to be dealt is veteran forward Adam Henrique. With Lindholm and Monahan already off the board, teams could be aggressively targeting Henrique in the coming days. He’s capable of being a solid option as a contending team’s second- or third-line center. While he’s not a dangerous goal scorer, he still thrives when he gets near the net. He’s been one of the Ducks’ most productive forwards offensively in 2023-24, so he’ll likely be on quite a few teams’ radar leading up to March 8.

Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators were expected to be a contender in 2023-24, but that hasn’t exactly been the case this season. The Seantors are 16 points outside of the playoff picture, so it’s likely they’ll be sellers at the trade deadline.

Winger Vladimir Tarasenko is likely the top player that could be moved at the deadline. Tarasenko signed a one-year deal in the offseason with the Senators after receiving interest from the Carolina Hurricanes and a few other teams. The veteran forward may not be an elite winger at this stage of his career, but is still productive enough to play in a contending team’s top six. Tarasenko likely wouldn’t demand a huge track package in return for his services, so Stanley Cup contenders will likely show interest.

Much like the Trevor Zegras situation in Anaheim, Ottawa has a similar situation with defenseman Jakob Chychrun. The Senators acquired Chychrun at the 2023 deadline thinking that they were close to be a playoff team, but that hasn’t come to fruition. With Thomas Chabot and Jake Sanderson already signed for the foreseeable future, it’s hard to imagine the team wanting to pay Chychrun a similar price tag before he’s a free agent next summer. There’s not a huge rush, but it’s possible the Senators would move him for the right offer.

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