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What is each Atlantic team after at the trade deadline?

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Vicken Polatian
1 month ago
We’re a week away from the NHL Trade Deadline, and it seems like one of the quietest ones in years. Not a ton of big names are available, and a lot of teams still think they have a shot of making the postseason, even though we know better (see: Islanders, New York & Capitals, Washington).
But of course, it’s always about the Toronto Maple Leafs, and to make it to the promised land, they must first get through the Atlantic Division. The toughest division in all of sports.
So, what are the Leafs, and their rivals up to as we approach March 8th?
Florida Panthers:
If there’s any team ready to step into the playoffs with their roster just the way it is, it’s the Florida Panthers. The perfect combination of skilled, gritty, and ratty. 
This D-corps is built for the playoffs. Anchored by Aaron Eklblad, and NHL +/- leader Gustav Forsling, their top pair has been an absolute force. Mean and nasty, Leaf fans know how hard it is to get to the blue paint against this team, especially when the referees put the whistles away. Florida took a swing on a declining Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who is playing over 18 minutes a night and has fit right in on their bottom pair. 
If there is one thing Florida could use, it would be a little more depth scoring. Everyone’s favourite player, Nick Cousins, is currently slotted in at second-line LW but has just 8 points in 43 games.  With no first-round picks for the next couple of seasons, Florida would probably be better suited looking in the bargain bin. Two former Panthers in Reilly Smith or Anthony Duclair could be the perfect fit to round out the top six and would come much cheaper than a blockbuster move like acquiring Jake Guentzel. 
Boston Bruins:
Boston, like Florida, is at the top of the standings solely because of the play of their backend. Charlie McAvoy is exactly what fans of the Maple Leafs have wanted in Toronto since, well, forever. Right-shot, skates well, moves the puck, clears the crease, and plays 25 minutes a night. Playing close to half the game with McAvoy on the ice, and arguably the best 1-2 punch in goal, the Bruins are built to play low-scoring, low-event playoff hockey.
However, losing Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci has left Boston looking vulnerable for the first time in a long time. Adding at the centre position is a must for General Manager Don Sweeney, but after pushing all-in last season, and the lack of top-end centres available they may actually be better suited to stand pat. With Philadelphia still hanging on to a playoff spot, it’s uncertain whether they’ll go into full “sell mode”, but with Scott Laughton’s name circulating the rumour mill recently, I wouldn’t be surprised if Boston isn’t at least checking the price tag. 
Toronto Maple Leafs:
Toronto leads the league in GF/GP at 3.66. With the recent bump of captain John Tavares to the third line, the Leafs have been attacking their opponents in waves. Three lines that can score, and even a fourth line with Pontus Holmberg, David Kampf, and Ryan Reaves that’s been great on the forecheck and created scoring chances off the cycle.
The Leafs made their first move of the deadline yesterday, re-acquiring former Leaf Ilya Lyubushkin from the Anaheim Ducks in a three-way deal with the Carolina Hurricanes. So, that’s one dead down. Though the Leafs lead the league in scoring, they’re 21st in GA/GP. That number should improve with a healthy Joseph Woll and rejuvenated Ilya Samsonov. Still, the addition of Lyubushkin probably shouldn’t be the only move they make.
Treliving seems intent on keeping his first-round pick, and that may be the best move forward. With Chris Tanev off the board, the options don’t look all that impressive, but if we remember back to last year, Luke Schenn wasn’t exactly everybody’s first option either. Rielly plays his best when he has a reliable shutdown partner on his right side. We’ll see if Lyubushkin ends up being that guy for Toronto. 
Detroit Red Wings: 
Boy, has the “Yzerplan” started to come together in a big way. The addition of Patrick Kane has been an absolute home run for the Red Wings, who look to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. After backstopping the Panthers to the postseason last year, Alex Lyon seems poised to do it again for Detroit. 
Detroit isn’t quite at the level of the other teams at the top of the Atlantic, but one thing they do have is draft capital. The Red Wings can be as aggressive as they want with Stevie-Y really looking to make some noise. Anthony Mantha has been a name being mentioned more and more as a possible addition for Detroit, but with over $10 million in cap space, and all their draft picks available, I wouldn’t be shocked to see a serious push for the aforementioned Jake Guentzel. 
Tampa Bay Lightning: 
Something just doesn’t seem right with Tampa this season. It could be fatigue, it could be age, it could be injuries, but they just don’t seem like the cup contenders of the past decade. 
Julien Brisebois has a solid reputation as a general manager, but last deadline he made, in my opinion, the worst trade in recent memory in acquiring Tanner Jeannot. Five draft picks for a guy with 12 points in 42 games is not exactly what Brisebois had in mind. 
With the loss of Mikhail Sergachev for the season and the lack of assets in the cupboard due to last season’s arms race in the Atlantic, I’d imagine a quiet deadline for the Lightning. However, if I were a betting man, and I am, I would put a significant amount of money on Noah Hanifin ending up in Tampa in the offseason. Until then, they’ll most likely sit and wait.
Buffalo Sabres:
This was supposed to be the year. Finally, Buffalo was going to get over the hump and make the leap into the playoffs. Instead, they threw their goalie of the future into the deep end, and it was over before it even began. Tage Thompson has had a down year while dealing with some injury issues, and the Sabres have left their fan base wanting more once again.
Casey Mittelstadt’s name has come up as a potential trade candidate, but I’d imagine Buffalo GM Kevyn Adams hangs on to the 25-year-old having his best season in the NHL to date. With a plethora of upcoming UFAs in Victor Olofsson, Zemgus Girgensons, Kyle Okposo, Tyson Jost, Eric Robinson, and Erik Johnson, I’d imagine the Sabres make a bunch of smaller moves to add some draft capital before the deadline. 
Montreal Canadiens:
We thought Montreal would be bad, and we were right. A lot of holes, and a lot of work to be done, but this is exactly what the Canadiens were expecting as they rebuild their roster. Juraj Slafkovsky has taken a step forward, but the Habs would want to add more young talent around him to build around. 
How is Jake Allen still a Montreal Canadien? There are several teams in desperate need of a goalie, it’s time for Kent Hughes to pull the trigger. Tanner Pearson could also fetch the Habs a late pick if a playoff team is looking for some grit and experience on their fourth line. 
Ottawa Senators:
This was supposed to be the year. Finally, Ottawa was going to get over the hu… wait a minute. We already did this for the Buffalo Sabres. Goaltending was the Senators’ biggest downfall once again. It doesn’t matter who they put in there, no one seems to be able to stop the puck. 
The Senators do have a decent-looking team on paper, but they can’t seem to put it all together. 
Tarasenko already has one foot out the door, but if the Senators really want to make a splash, Jakob Chychrun would easily be the best defenceman on the market. The Senators don’t seem as close to the playoffs as many thought at the beginning of the season, so adding what could be 4 or 5 meaningful assets for a player who is unlikely to re-sign in Ottawa might be their best option ahead of the deadline. 
All in all, I don’t anticipate much movement in the Atlantic during the deadline, mostly because of all the assets spent last year at this time.
But I would keep my eye on Steve Yzerman, as he’s not one to stay patient for too long. 

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