With the 2017-18 season now officially at the midway point, each team’s management group has been afford 40+ games to assess and evaluate its chances of making a run for the Stanley Cup. Some teams, like the Vegas Golden Knights and New Jersey Devils, have exceeded even the most optimistic of expectations and look to be playoff bound. Others, like the Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers, have fallen flat on their faces and appear to be morphing from Trade Deadline buyers into Trade Deadline seller.
Struggling Canadian franchises aside, which other NHL teams will find themselves in the seller’s spot come February 26th?
ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski breaks down the sure-fire sellers at the deadline, naming the Canadiens, Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators as teams almost guaranteed to make moves. Amongst these basement dwelling teams are actually some intriguing names however with Max Pacioretty, Evander Kane, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Mike Hoffman as the most appealing.
The Coyotes are unlikely to move Ekman-Larsson for anything less than a total bounty, ditto for the Habs and Pacioretty. Coyotes winger Anthony Duclair has already requested a trade, so consider him sold to the highest bidder.
It’s almost a certainly that the Sabres will look to offload not just Kane, but anyone else not named Rasmus Ristolainen, Jack Eichel or Casey Mittlestadt. This means players like Kyle Okposo, Sam Reinhart, Ryan O’Reilly and goalie Robin Lehner could be on the move.
As for the Sens, it’s no secret that they’re gauging market interest in forward Mike Hoffman. The St. Louis Blues have reportedly shown interest in the speedster, but nothing appears imminent as the Blues have also made their interest in Pacioretty known. Could you imagine a Blues offense with Pacioretty, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jayden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn up front... wow.
Not so quiet on the Western front
Out West, expect there to be just as many deadline sellers as out East. According to Rory Boylen of Sportsnet, the Vancouver Canucks could lead the pack with veteran forward Thomas Vanek and rugged defenseman Erik Gudbranson expected to be traded before the deadline passes.
The 33-year-old Vanek has had a renaissance season with a underpowered Canucks team and has managed to put up 12 goals and 29 points in 42 games this season. If the Canucks can get a pick or a prospect in return for the big Austrian, it’ll be a no brainer move for GM Jim Benning.
As for Gudbranson, multiple reports have indicated that he’d be a great fit with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Due for a raise this offseason, the 26-year-old Gudbranson is set to become a restricted free-agent on July 1st, meaning whichever team acquires his services will have some control over his future.