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Metropolitan Division Weekly Roundup: Buyers and Sellers 2019 Edition

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We predict which teams will buy and which will sell at the deadline — and it’s not just based on standings.

Jamie Kellner

1. New York Islanders: 63 Points (29-15-5)

Buy

This year has gone a lot different than most expected for the Islanders. Many thought with John Tavares leaving the Isles would be bottom feeders, but instead they are on top of the division. They cannot afford to let this opportunity slip through their grasp. One fun move would be to see the Isles flip Valtteri Filppula for Derick Brassard within the division. That deal would make the Isles stronger up the middle and allows the Penguins to get more cap space and to move on from Brassard.

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at New York Islanders Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The most obvious and realistic move is to trade Josh Ho-Sang. Ho-Sang has proven to be NHL ready but does not seem to be in favor with management. Ho-Sang is an RFA at the end of this season without arbitration rights, which makes his value even higher. They can look to trade him for a top six winger, potentially with Detroit for Gustav Nyquist or more aggressively for any of the Rangers wingers in division. Both teams are looking to get young pieces and have expiring wingers. They will have some difficulty making a deal since they only have two picks in the first four rounds, so any pick traded will leave them empty handed at the draft.

2. Washington Capitals: 60 Points (27-17-6)

Buy but don’t overreact

The Caps are already in a good spot, despite being in a lengthy seven game slide. The Caps are set up well with one of the best bottom sixes that they have had in recent years, and have a log jam at winger with Andre Burakovsky. They could use help on the blue line — their third pairing consists of Brooks Orpik and Madison Bowey — but they cost $2 million combined. What they can do is solve two problems at once by trading Burakovsky. They can get rid of his cap hit and get an NHL defenseman in return. Burakovsky is only 23 and is an RFA with arbitration rights this season.

He is having his worst season as a pro with just six goals and six assists but has higher upside if he gets consistent top six minutes. One potential target could be the Canucks and Alex Edler; the cap doesn’t work perfectly with Edler making $5 million which would mean the Canucks would have to retain some cap hit. The Canucks in return would have exclusive rights to an RFA that can be around on their team for years to come.

3. Columbus Blue Jackets: 59 Points (28-18-3)

Painfully Sell

The Blue Jackets desperately want to make it out of the first round of the playoffs, which they’ve never done - the only NHL club to haven that distinction. With that in mind, they will not sell, but they should. They are about to sell off the future to make the team better now but also in doing so they are going to lose their two best players for almost nothing, which will set them back much further than if they just admitted defeat now and sold.

Both Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky would command high returns on the market. Each can get a first round pick plus either prospects or NHL ready players, even more so if teams are trying to pry them away from Columbus.

The Leafs could be great trading partners for Panarin with their good young players being RFA’s allowing the Blue Jackets to re-sign. They could also look across divisions to Arizona, who are only 2 points out of a playoff spot and want to desperately make the playoffs themselves. They need both a goaltender and depth with eight players on injured reserve. They also have a full farm system after years of drafting in the top 10.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins: 58 Points (26-17-6)

Buy

The Penguins will always be in buy mode until Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are done. The Penguins have already been active with three trades this season, most recentlay last week when they traded Jamie Oleksiak back to the Stars for the same pick they traded in the first place. This seemed like a strange move by the Stars who essentially let the Penguins have a young defenseman in his prime for a season and a half for free (and signed him to a new, more expensive contract to boot). It is no secret that the Penguins are trying to trade Derick Brassard, who they acquired in a huge three-team trade last season.

The weird thing about trading Brassard is that his trade value has only gone down, and they aren’t going to be able to find a more skilled center to play on the third line. But it just seems that he is not a fit and will be traded for quite possibly a less skilled center.

The other moves for the Penguins are likely to be smaller tweaks as the idea of trading Phil Kessel evaporated earlier in the season. Expect bottom six and mid round picks to be the only action outside of Brassard.

5. Carolina Hurricanes: 54 Points (24-20-6)

Buy

It would be a real shame if the Hurricanes were one point out of the playoffs for the second season in a row and decide to turtle at the deadline. With an overflowing farm system that is seeing players get frustrated with roles at times, the time is right to buy. They can sell off some of their assets with the Checkers, picks, and not to mention an NHL top four defenseman to bring back the right assets.

As unhappy as I was with the Don Waddell hiring, he has done a good job with trades outside of the Jeff Skinner deal. He just pulled highway robbery in Minnesota to get Nino Niederreiter. This team is also going to get Jordan Staal back at some point which will be a huge boost, and now they can afford to lose Micheal Ferland for nothing on July 1 if that means they can make a push for the playoffs.

Now, they can move Justin Faulk (not Brett Pesce, not Dougie Hamilton, and not any other defenseman) to be able to bring back a scoring winger to plug into the first or second line to really make the Canes tough to play against down the stretch. This also means that the Hurricanes don’t have to look exclusively for rentals. They can look for a winger with term. The biggest shame this season is that the Canes couldn’t cash in their ticket for “one trade with Peter Chiarelli” that all Metropolitan Division teams seem to have gotten.

6. New York Rangers: 49 Points (21-21-7)

Sell everything that isn’t bolted down

The Rangers will be the most fun team to watch at the deadline and they have been openly admitting that just about everyone is available at the deadline including half of their top six. Kevin Hayes will likely get the largest return, as he is a legitimate top six center with an extremely strong two-way game. Mats Zuccarello has been a 50 point per year scorer for the Rangers is also on an expiring contract and will likely be moved. The only real surprise for the Rangers would be moving Mika Zibanejad. I don’t think he is a player that they are actively shopping, but if a team came to them with the right pieces he could also be moved.

The best/worst part of this rebuild depending on your rooting interests is that the Rangers did it at the perfect time. They had good assets the last two seasons and they are willing to move them for the right pieces. Because they didn’t try to hang on too long, this will be an extremely short rebuild. This deadline they should focus on adding to their defense since it has just been a train wreck this season and is not getting younger. They have three defensemen that are over 30 and four 24 or younger. The problem is that they don’t really have anyone in between who can be a workhorse and stick around in that Brett Pesce type role.

7. Philadelphia Flyers: 48 Points (21-23-6)

Sell

The Philadelphia Flyers are in a transition spot, with an aging corps of players and a young group coming up behind them. The Flyers should be smart and sell off their aging players to get young pieces that are almost NHL ready.

One player that everyone knows that is already on the trade block is Wayne Simmonds. The Flyers have been listening to offers for him for weeks now and is likely to bring solid return as a tough skater who has scoring ability. I would think he gets a similar return as Eric Staal for the Canes, multiple second round picks and a prospect.

The one player that is utterly confusing is Claude Giroux. Giroux is on the wrong side of 30 with three years left on his deal. His current deal is expensive, but Giroux will be 34 by the time a new contract would be considered and would likely be on his way out as the younger players come up and are able to compete realistically. Giroux would bring back an extremely high level of return that could drastically help the Flyers return to a high level of play for a long time at the sacrifice of the next two seasons. But he does have a no move clause so in the end it is on him.

8. New Jersey Devils: 45 Points (19-23-7)

Sell

I mean, this isn’t a hard decision; the Devils are in last place in the division. They are committed to their coach and their philosophy. The issue that they are going to run into is that their aging players aren’t rentals — they all have term left. To get the full return they are going to have to retain salary for players like Andy Greene or Travis Zajac who have multiple years and make over $5 million. The players that could be moved are Ben Lovejoy, Drew Stafford, or Brian Boyle but they aren’t going to push a contender to the next level.

This leaves only one player that will draw high-level interest from multiple teams: Marcus Johansson. Johansson is only 28, can play any forward position and has high scoring potential. His issues are that he has struggled to stay healthy in each of his last two seasons which may scare teams off from trading high level assets for him. The Devils are going to have a tough and likely quiet trade deadline unless they can really get two teams in a bidding war for Johansson.