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NHL trade deadline approaches: Which teams could be buyers, sellers?

  • April 08, 2021

NHL trade activity had been limited this season because of the stagnant salary cap and the requirement that traded players quarantine first before suiting up for their new team.

But that changed Wednesday night with the New York Islanders acquiring New Jersey Devils forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac for a first-round pick, a conditional fourth-rounder and two American Hockey League forwards.

That could start getting things moving leading up to the April 12 deadline as contenders get their last shot this season to improve their teams for a playoff run, and bottom-rung teams will be able to load up on prospects and draft picks to aid their rebuilding programs. Plus, it’s another opportunity for teams to get their rosters in shape before the Seattle Kraken’s expansion draft July 21.

A look at teams that could be active:


Buffalo Sabres left wing Taylor Hall has two goals and 17 assists this season.

Buffalo Sabres: Though they’re playing better since ending an 18-game winless streak, they’ll try to get something for their pending unrestricted free agents. Even with his down year, Taylor Hall should get a nice return. Defenseman Brandon Montour could draw interest. 

Detroit Red Wings: General manager Steve Yzerman signed a bunch of players to one-year deals last offseason so he could move them if needed. Bobby Ryan and Marc Staal fit in that group. Other pending unrestricted free agents include goalie Jonathan Bernier and Luke Glendening.

Sizing up the deals that occurred before the April 12 deadline

Ottawa Senators: Forward Ryan Dzingel was a previous trade deadline move when the Senators dealt him to the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2019. The Senators reacquired him this season, but he could move again. Rugged defenseman Erik Gudbranson is a pending UFA.

Anaheim Ducks: They’re among the top spenders but are last in the West. They don’t have a lot of UFAs, but currently injured Rickard Rakell has a year left on his deal. The Ducks moved top prospect Trevor Zegras to the American Hockey League. A deadline move could bring him back and get him more ice time. Backup goalie Ryan Miller could give a team depth in net.


Boston Bruins: Their depth, particularly on defense, has been exposed by injuries, and their secondary scoring is average. They don’t have a lot of cap space so they’ll have to be creative.

Florida Panthers: Though the Panthers are weathering the absence of defenseman Aaron Ekblad, it might help to acquire a blue-liner in case he’s out longer than the projected 12 weeks.

Toronto Maple Leafs: GM Kyle Dubas has said he would be willing to trade a top prospect for scoring help.

Winnipeg Jets: They were already believed to be in the market for a defenseman, plus forward Blake Wheeler is out indefinitely with concussion-like symptoms after being elbowed in the head. But they’re tight against the salary cap.

Colorado Avalanche: They’re surging at the right time and scoring depth could help. Are they satisfied with recent acquisition Jonas Johansson or do they go for more goaltending depth? They were knocked out of the playoffs by injuries last year, including to their top goalie, Phiipp Grubauer.

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