Fierce rivals, the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins currently find themselves in much different situations
With the NHL's February 27 trade deadline fast approaching, the Northeast Division continues to be among the most perplexing in the league. While the Boston Bruins are contenders as expected, the Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres are having extremely disappointing seasons.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, who seem to improve annually, are clinging to the eighth playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. The Ottawa Senators, who were supposed to be near the bottom of the standings, currently find themselves sitting in seventh place.
Evidently, each team in the division will have a different approach to the trade deadline, and rightfully so. After all, 17 points separate the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres. While some teams will look to buy, others will look to sell off their assets in hopes of making their team more competitive in the coming years.
So who are the buyers? The Sellers? Which players in the Northeast Division could be on the move? Who are these teams targeting? Keep reading to find out.
The Boston Bruins are probably the most comfortable team in the Northeast Division currently. They have amassed a total of 72 points in the standings, good enough for second in the Eastern Conference. However, recent injuries to Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley could force the Bruins into making a panic trade.
The Boston Bruins possess what is arguably the greatest goaltending tandem in the game today, so goaltending depth obviously isn't a priority.
A puck-moving defenceman is something Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli would love to add. There are numerous players on the open market who fit that bill, including Marek Zidlicky of the Minnesota Wild and Pavel Kubina of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Kubina is a particularly interesting commodity, as Lightning GM Steve Yzerman recently asked him to provide a list of five teams to which he would accept a trade, and Boston would likely be a favourable destination.
With the aforementioned injuries to key forwards Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley, adding a forward could be the top priority for the Bruins. However, according to Peter Chiarelli, the Bruins will handle the goings-on of the trade deadline with care, as he feels comfortable with his current contingent of forwards.
The Buffalo Sabres' struggles during the 2011-2012 campaign have been well-documented.
After the team brought in Brad Boyes at the trade deadline last year, followed by Christian Ehrhoff, Ville Leino and Robyn Regehr during the offseason, many saw the Sabres as a team who could be a contender in the Eastern Conference.
However, the Sabres have miserably failed to live up to expectations. The team currently sits in last place in the East, and third-last in the NHL. Brad Boyes has scored just three goals this season. Former Calder Memorial Trophy winner Tyler Myers has mustered just 15 points. Former Vezina Trophy winner Ryan Miller has posted a save percentage of just .906. The entire organization is a mess right now.
With what seems to be a top-five draft pick in their possession, the Sabres could look to completely remodel their roster. If so, that starts now.
Boyes, along with Paul Gaustad is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and could be moved to a team looking to add depth to their forward unit. Boyes is a capable goal-scorer, and Gaustad a physical centre.
Other Buffalo players who are rumoured to be potential trade bait include Derek Roy and Drew Stafford. Roy is a first or second-line centre who, when healthy, can put up great offensive numbers. He has apparently caught the interest of the Chicago Blackhawks. Stafford is another physical presence who can fit in effectively in a contending team's top-nine forward group. The Edmonton Oilers are among the teams who are rumoured to be interested in him.
Much like the Buffalo Sabres, the Montreal Canadiens were supposed to be a much, much better team this season.
The Habs currently sit 11th in the Eastern Conference, with a postseason berth seaming like a long shot, especially considering the team dealt hulking defender Hal Gill to the Nashville Predators recently, officially making them sellers leading up to the trade deadline.
It appears as though Gill was just the first domino to fall in Montreal, as Chris Campoli, Andrei Kostitsyn and Travis Moen are all impending unrestricted free agents. In Chris Campoli, a team could acquire a puck-moving defenceman who could fit on a third defensive pairing and also make a difference to the power play. In Kostitsyn, any team looking to add some scoring depth could find a solid fit, as he is a capable 20-goal scorer when healthy.
Finally, in Moen, a team could add a chippy bottom-six forward with Stanley Cup-winning experience.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Ottawa Senators find themselves in a playoff spot leading up to the trade deadline. However, they sit just five points ahead of the ninth-place Washington Capitals, so they could look to the trade route to bolster their roster in the coming days.
One priority for the Senators should be their goaltending. Although starting goalie Craig Anderson hasn't put up the best numbers, it's largely due to the fact that he handles the vast majority of the team's starts. Anderson has appeared in 54 of the team's 60 games so far. Finding a backup goaltender who is capable of handling a handful of starts heading down the stretch could be integral to the Senators' success.
The Senators don't boast an overly-deep pool of defenders, but led by Erik Karlsson, they get the job done. No Ottawa blueliner has looked out of place this season, which has been a big reason why the Senators are nowhere near the bottom of the standings.
The Senators' forward group, much like their defence, isn't one of the deepest in the league. However, Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson regaining their form has to be considered a massive bright spot. Still, the Sens could benefit from adding another top-nine forward, preferably one who plays effectively on both sides of the puck. But as ESPN's Pierre LeBrun reports, general manager Bryan Murray isn't prepared to deal a prospect in exchange for a short-term fix.
The ever-improving Toronto Maple Leafs seem to have finally inched their way to respectability.
Toronto currently sits eighth in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Washington Capitals. The thing is, the Leafs don't have a pressing need.
Although sometimes inconsistent, the goaltending tandem of James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson has been decent. This season, they have combined to stop 90.6 percent of Toronto's shots against. Brian Burke and his staff should be comfortable with the two in the event that the team makes the playoffs.
The Maple Leafs defence is fairly deep, led by captain Dion Phaneuf. Other than the underachieving Mike Komisarek, no Toronto defender has been noticeably ineffective. Both Jake Gardiner and Carl Gunnarson have been pleasant surprises this season, as both would be categorized as solid two-way defencemen.
Obviously, the Maple Leafs would like to add size up front. The team has been linked to the likes of Bobby Ryan, James van Riemsdyk and most recently, Rick Nash, but it's believed that Brian Burke would not be willing to give up the assets necessary to land one of those high-end talents.
It seems, for now at least, that the Toronto Maple Leafs will just have to sit tight and hope that their current roster can get them back in the postseason for the first time since the lockout.