The NHL trade deadline is now less than a month away, and this is about the time when the market starts moving. We often see teams try to get a head start on their mid-season roster adjustments, whether it's out of desperation or because they find value on a certain player.
That being said, this year's trade deadline brings some unique complications to the table. Not only does the condensed season provide some challenges when it comes toward evaluating a team's standing, but the mandated 14-day quarantine for players traveling across the border may discourage American teams from dealing with Canadian teams (and vice versa).
CBS Sports HQ Newsletter
Your Ultimate Guide to Every Day in Sports
We bring sports news that matters to your inbox, to help you stay informed and get a winning edge.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Still, there will be buyers and there will be sellers ... and there will be teams struggling to decide which classification to attach to themselves. With that in mind, this week's edition of Power Rankings will take a look at the state of every NHL team and identify a specific priority for that club in relation to the deadline. For some, it will be addressing an area of weakness before they gear up for the playoffs. For others, the emphasis will be on trading a specific player or seeking a specific return.
For everyone, the deadline offers the opportunity to reflect on the present while building for the future.
|Not much. The Lightning already have one of the deepest and most talented teams in the league. They also have almost no money to play with. Their big acquisition down the stretch will be Nikita Kucherov coming off LTIR for the playoffs.
|Depth scoring. They likely can't be as aggressive at the deadline as they have been in years past because they don't have much wiggle room on the cap. That being said, they should look at smaller deals with the goal of adding a bit of goal scoring to their bottom-six.
|Some veteran muscle. Normally this is the time that we recognize the Hurricanes' talent, but say their goaltending could be a problem. But the goaltending has been surprisingly solid this year, even with injury to Petr Mrazek. Instead, the Canes should look to add some heaviness to their game in anticipation of what could be a deep playoff run.
|Scoring. The Islanders remain a defensive juggernaut and an average offensive team, so they could help their chances of making a serious run if they go out and add a little bit of offense. They could use some scoring on the wing in a top- or middle-six role, as well as a depth centerman.
|Goaltending security. The Leafs could stand to add a top-four defenseman and/or some forward depth, but making a strong play for goaltending help could be a game-changer down the stretch. The Leafs rank in the bottom half of the league in team save percentage (.909) and, as we know, consistent play between the pipes is crucial during the postseason. This team is desperate to get over the hump, but is Freddie Andersen the guy you trust to get them there?
|Blue line reinforcement. The Panthers have had one heck of a turnaround this year and one of the biggest reasons for that success is their improved defensive play. They're doing a much better job limiting scoring chances (and getting saves) this year, so they should invest in making sure that they've got the necessary depth to keep the back end in good shape down the stretch.
|Goaltending security. The Caps have pulled it together and look pretty solid across the board at this point, but there should be a little bit of unease with their goalie situation. They've got two young goaltenders and neither has emerged as the clear No. 1, so don't rule out the possibility of them going out and getting a veteran goalie to add some security between the pipes.
|Backup goaltender. Goaltending helped bite the Avs in the playoffs last year so they'd be wise to take precautions in that department this time around, especially with Pavel Francouz not playing yet this season due to injury. Philipp Grubauer has been strong, but bringing in another netminder would provide Colorado with an insurance policy and allow an overworked Grubauer to get some rest down the stretch.
|A finisher. Goaltending will likely be a major factor in how well Minnesota performs down the stretch, but they could help themselves out by picking up some more scoring before the deadline. This is a good team that plays very strong defensively but they can suffer from a lack of offensive firepower. Adding an established scorer to the top of their lineup would be a welcome addition.
|Secondary scoring. Boston basically lives and dies with its first line and that's going to be a problem against good teams down the stretch. If an opposing team can neutralize the Bruins' top offensive unit, Boston isn't going to score much. They desperately need to add another top-six winger that can consistently put the puck in the net.
|Defensive help. I'm sure the Jets are glad they don't need to seek out a top-six centerman again at this deadline but they do still have needs. The top priority is improving the blue line, as the Jets continue to allow too many scoring chances in their own end. They give up more 5v5 high-danger chances per 60 than any other team in the league -- a flaw that is often bailed out by strong goaltending.
|Secondary scoring. It's no secret that the Oilers rely HEAVILY on the contributions of a few players (namely Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, of course) and they're rarely successful when those guys don't produce. Edmonton needs to bring in reinforcements on the offensive end.
|Help on the wing. It's hard to know what Pittsburgh's approach will be considering the recent front office transition, but it seems like the lineup could use a bit of an injection, especially with Jason Zucker out long term.
|Properly evaluate the market. The Flyers have been inconsistent this year and their biggest flaws (defense and goaltending) will probably be tough to correct at the deadline. That being said, they've still got a strong shot at making the playoffs and if they can make upgrades, they should absolutely consider doing so. They'd be wise to honestly evaluate their standing and stick to low-risk deals.
|Flexibility. The Blues are an interesting team to keep an eye on because they could go in any number of directions. There have been rumors surrounding a possible Vince Dunn trade, but I think more than anything St. Louis will want to remain flexible. They've remained competitive despite being hit hard by injuries and they've got some contracts expiring after this season, so keeping phone lines open for short- and long-term moves will be key.
|Utilize draft capital to help this year. Montreal started off the season looking like a legitimate contender and things have since gone sideways, but they should still be looking to push for a playoff spot in that North division. They own 14 draft picks in the 2021 draft, so they should be looking to tap into that stockpile to bring in help for this year and beyond.
|Don't be duped. The Blackhawks' success this year has been pretty stunning and Stan Bowman may be tempted to make a big splash with his eyes on the playoffs, but I don't think anyone truly believes this team is a legitimate contender. The focus should be kept on rebuilding the roster and slowly working toward sustainability. If they find a deal that helps that cause, go for it...but they shouldn't be renting.
|Trade Dave Rittich. Sam Bennett has probably been the most-discussed piece of trade bait in Calgary but Rittich seems like more of a no-brainer. He's in the final year of his contract, other teams need goaltending help, the Flames are on the outside of the playoff picture and they've got a long-term goalie locked up. Get what you can for Rittich.
|Figure out where Buchnevic fits in. Pavel Buchnevic has put the Rangers in a precarious position. He's been one of their best forwards this season, but is heading toward RFA and a significant pay raise. The Rangers must decide if/where he fits into their future plans because his trade value may never be higher than it is right now.
|Acquire draft capital. The Coyotes aren't contending this year and it feels like this team could be headed toward a semi-rebuild. They should be looking to stockpile future assets, be it picks or prospects, wherever possible. They should be especially interested in draft capital considering their first pick in last year's draft came in the No. 111 slot and they ultimately renounced the rights to that prospect.
|Establish positioning. Last season the Stars made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, and this year they could easily be sellers at the deadline. They've got a high ceiling but continue to search for consistency. They could go out and add some much-needed offense to help push for the playoffs, or they could start unloading pieces to build with a longer-term vision. Their play over these next few weeks leading up to the deadline should be huge in determining whether buying or selling is the right play.
|Explore long-term plays. The Kings may be tempted to push for a playoff spot given their positioning in the West division but they should keep their eyes on the future because they're not going to be a serious contender this year. That being said, if they can be aggressive and make a big splash that helps them improve now while also adding a piece to the rebuild, that's a win-win.
|Sell what you can. The Canucks are kind of a mess this year, especially on the back end, so if you can move some expiring contracts (Alex Edler, Jordie Benn, Travis Hamonic, Tanner Pearson, Brandon Sutter) and pick up some additional assets, it's something they should consider. That being said, Jim Benning might be trying to save his job, so there's a chance they stand pat.
|Pick up prospects. The Sharks are once again struggling this season and the need for a rebuild is obvious. They've got some expiring assets that could be moved (Devan Dubnyk, Patrick Marleau, Matt Nieto, Marcus Sorensen) and they should be looking to pick up prospects and/or picks in exchange for those pieces.
|Trade Kyle Palmieri. The Devils were big sellers last season and they could (and should) once again find themselves in that position this year. Their biggest piece is Palmieri, who is a pending UFA on an affordable contract. I thought they should have dealt him last season in order to maximize his value, but they need to unload him this time around.
|Trade Elvis Merzlikins. The Blue Jackets desperately need to rebuild their roster/system, especially on the front end. They could help themselves do that by trading Merzlikins now. He's still young (26) and has a year-and-a-half of control, so he could bring back some decent value while also shedding some salary for Columbus.
|Sell hard. It's probably safe to say the Predators' window is closed but the good news is that they still have a number of pieces that would be very attractive to other teams -- including Mattia Ekholm, Mikael Granlund, Victor Arvidsson, and even Filip Forsberg. Almost no one should be untouchable as the Preds transition to a new era.
|Win the deadline. Arguably no team is as poised to "win" the deadline as sellers than the Ducks. They are fully in a rebuilding phase and can offer up a few pretty attractive pieces with control (Rickard Rakell and Josh Manson), so they should be cashing in.
|Acquire a first-round pick. As one of the league's worst teams and a clear rebuilder, Detroit will be selling. And while they don't have too many super attractive pieces to sell, they are sitting on five draft picks in the 2nd and 3rd rounds this year. They should be looking to package those in a deal in order to get another pick in the first round.
|Move expiring deals. The Senators have eight pending UFA guys on the roster and they'll be looking to shed some of them in order to continue the rebuild. Not only will they be able to acquire some picks/prospects, but they'll also be able to open up additional playing time for the young guys already in the organization.
|Begin the teardown. A lot of attention is going to be paid to what the Sabres do at the deadline because it will likely begin the process of a massive teardown in Buffalo. I don't expect Jack Eichel to be dealt, but almost everyone else is on the table.