After a relatively quiet NHL trade deadline day, teams have a new, single focus in mind. The postseason. Many teams like the New York Islanders beefed up their rosters in advance of the April 12 trade deadline. But the Washington Capitals went down to the wire, sneaking in the Anthony Mantha deal as the NHL trade deadline neared.
Many teams added depth players to pad their rosters for the playoffs, hoping that a complete and healthy roster stacked with talent and solid players will lead them to the ultimate glory. Some clubs hope their additions take them to the later rounds, while others hope their additions could pull them into a playoff spot, giving them a chance to compete for Lord Stanley. In short, they’re looking to win. Here are the five clubs most likely to make a run after the NHL trade deadline.
Trading Richard Panik and Jakub Vrana for Anthony Mantha was the blockbuster deal no one was expecting on NHL trade deadline day. They added Michael Raffl while stacking their forward corps in the hopes of another long postseason run or another Stanley Cup victory. Mantha’s season has been respectable, considering he spent most of the year on the bottom of the barrel Detroit Red Wings. He’s racked up 12 goals and 11 assists in 43 games. But joining the ranks of Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeni Kuznetsov, he’s likely to contribute offensively and score big goals when the Caps need it, bringing leadership and dedication to an already veteran camp.
The Caps had given Jakub Vrana many chances to shine, but he didn’t seem to find his stride in Washington. Mantha, however, played a strong game in his debut with his new team. It’s a promising glimpse into the future.
The Preds went on a run before the NHL trade deadline hit, forcing them to change their plan for April 12. For a while, they were offering a fire sale, making most of their players available for trade. But, then, something clicked in Nashville. Things started to turn. General manager David Poile recanted his previous offerings and took his key players off the trade block. Almost overnight, the Predators became buyers instead of sellers at the deadline. They prepared for the final stretch of the season by adding Erik Gudbranson on the blue line, and could very likely continue their Cinderella second half by going on a run to officially secure the final playoff spot in the Central Division.
New York Islanders
The New York Islanders made the bulk of their moves ahead of the NHL trade deadline, acquiring Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils. But that doesn’t mean they were silent. They also traded for Braydon Coburn, likely in a move to bring depth to their blue line. Earlier on in the season, the Isles lost their captain Anders Lee before going on a nine-game win streak and finding themselves in first place.
The Isles are touted as a serious cup contender, and are one of the likeliest clubs to go on a deep playoff run because of their offensive skill, defensive stability and Vezina-worthy goaltending from Semyon Varlamov. Add in solid, cup-winning coaching from Barry Trotz and the depth moves made ahead of the deadline, and this team has all the pieces for a Stanley Cup victory.
The Bruins have made several deep playoff runs in the last few years, most notably heading all the way to the Stanley Cup final in 2019. They have one of the most offensively-talented forward groups in the league, complete with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. But in the early morning of the NHL trade deadline, they acquired the one player everyone was talking about ahead of April 12: Taylor Hall. Adding the former Hart Trophy winner up front could bolster the club, who currently has a dismal plus-six goal differential.
While Hall only has two goals on the season, it’s reasonable to assume that playing with a supremely talented Bruins club could help him find the back of the net more often–especially as he becomes a free agent at the end of the season, and will be looking to sign a new, long-term contract over the summer.
While the Canes were already a top contender in the league, they added some grit on the back end by trading Haydn Fleury for Jani Hakanpaa, one of the top hitters in the NHL to date. He’ll be a depth player and compliment the club’s offensive defensemen like Sebastian Aho, while adding the physicality needed to make a deep playoff run. With some of the best goaltending in the league coming from the Carolina crease, this club could make a run at any given moment, take the Central Division title and run away with the playoffs. All they need is the opportunity.