The Leading Buyers Approaching the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline

The NHL’s February 24 trade deadline is fast approaching. The coming days will see continuing speculation over which teams are buyers and which will become sellers.

Boston Bruins

Having fallen short to the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins are all-in for another run at the big mug this year. Currently jockeying with the Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the Eastern Conference and the league standings, the Bruins are a serious Cup contender.

Secondary scoring depth remains their Achilles’ heel. Their production drops sharply beyond the top line of center Patrice Bergeron and wingers David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. Only three other players – Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci, and Charlie Coyle – have double-digits in goals. DeBrusk is close to reaching 20 (18), but he’s been inconsistent.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has a recent history of significant moves before the trade deadline. He could pursue a scoring winger for Krejci’s line. Trade targets could include New York Rangers left wing Chris Kreider, Los Angeles Kings forward Tyler Toffoli, or New Jersey Devils right wing Kyle Palmieri.

Colorado Avalanche

Led by superstar forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Miko Rantanen, the Avalanche are challenging the Blues for the top spot in the Western Conference. There’s persistent media chatter suggesting GM Joe Sakic could make a big splash before the deadline.

With over $31 million in projected salary-cap space, Sakic has the most leeway to land a significant talent, bring in some affordable depth, or both. The Athletic’s Ryan S. Clark recently speculated the Avs GM could pursue a second-pairing defenseman or a big, middle-six forward. Losing center Nazem Kadri for several weeks to injury is a concern, but Clark doesn’t expect that’ll shift Sakic’s priorities.

Sakic has depth in talented prospects and draft picks to dangle as trade bait. Clark believes he’d prefer bringing in someone with term on their contract over a rental player. If so, perhaps he’d have interest in Minnesota Wild blueliner Jonas Brodin or winger Marcus Foligno or Philadelphia Flyers rearguard Shayne Gostisbehere.

Florida Panthers

The Panthers are among this season’s highest-scoring clubs. Unfortunately, they’re also one of the worst defensive teams. As a result, they’re once again in danger of missing the postseason.

GM Dale Tallon‘s made no secret of his desire to bring stability to his blueliner. He’s in the market for an experienced defense partner for Aaron Ekblad. With little more than $141K in trade deadline cap room, he’ll have to do a dollar-in, dollar-out deal to address that need.

Tallon could draw upon his depth in scoring forwards. Mike Hoffman has surfaced in recent trade chatter. With 21 goals and 46 points, the 30-year-old winger is among the Panthers’ leading scorers. He’ll also become an unrestricted free agent this summer and perhaps too expensive to retain. The Los Angeles Kings’ Alec Martinez could be on Tallon’s wish list, though he’ll probably have to throw in a conditional draft pick or prospect.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Leafs GM Kyle Dubas made a significant move earlier this month, acquiring backup goaltender Jack Campbell and checking-line winger Kyle Clifford. Depending on the status of sidelined defensemen Morgan Rielly and Cody Ceci, he could be in the market for blueline depth.

Should Rielly, Ceci, and winger Ilya Mikheyev remain on long-term injured reserve for the remainder of the regular season, TSN’s Frank Seravalli observed that’ll give Dubas over $9 million to bolster his defense corps. Since there’s no salary cap in the postseason, he wouldn’t have to free up the cap room when those sidelined players return to action.

Assuming those three players are out until the playoffs, expect Dubas to go after one or two experienced defensemen. New Jersey Devils blueliner Sami Vatanen and San Jose Sharks d-man Brenden Dillon could be viable rental options.

Winnipeg Jets

Last summer’s departures of Jacob Trouba, Tyler Myers, and Ben Chiarot to free agency seriously depleted the Jets’ defense corps. Factor in the ongoing absence of Dustin Byfuglien and the Jets thin blueline depth could jeopardize their playoff hopes.

Recent reports indicate a mutual contract termination could be in the works with Byfuglien, freeing up his annual average value ($7.6 million) for this season and next. That would provide GM Kevin Cheveldayoff with sufficient room to bring in some blueline help.

Cheveldayoff has several options to choose from. If he wants someone with term left on their contract, the Wild’s Matt Dumba or Jonas Brodin, the Kings’ Alec Martinez or the Flyers’ Shayne Gostisbehere could be available. Rental targets could include the Devils’ Vatanen, the Sharks’ Brenden Dillon, or the Ottawa Senators’ Dylan DeMelo.