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Predicting the buyers and sellers among fringe playoff teams

theScore logo theScore 2019-01-18 Josh Wegman
a group of people in orange shirts © Andy Devlin / National Hockey League / Getty

The NHL's Feb. 25 trade deadline is just over five weeks away. For teams on the playoff bubble, their results over that span will likely dictate whether they load up for a postseason run or make moves for the future.

With that in mind, let's predict the buyers and sellers among the NHL's fringe playoff teams.

Note: The Montreal Canadiens were excluded from this exercise since general manager Marc Bergevin already expressed his deadline plans.

Anaheim Ducks

Randy Carlyle et al. in uniform: Jonathan Kozub / National Hockey League / Getty © Provided by Score Media Ventures INC Jonathan Kozub / National Hockey League / Getty

The Ducks, mired in a midseason slump, just snapped a 12-game losing streak. The near future doesn't seem much brighter, as 10 of their next 14 contests will be played on the road.

General manager Bob Murray has expressed a desire to re-sign forward Jakob Silfverberg, but if the two sides can't agree on a deal before the deadline, Murray would be foolish to keep his best rental trade chip.

Prediction: Seller

Edmonton Oilers

a baseball player holding a bat: Jeff Vinnick / National Hockey League / Getty © Provided by Score Media Ventures INC Jeff Vinnick / National Hockey League / Getty

The Oilers have a slightly favorable upcoming schedule, with eight of 14 games at home leading up to the deadline and seven against clubs outside the playoff picture.

Edmonton's been so streaky this season, it's anyone's guess as to how the Oilers will perform. But considering CEO Bob Nicholson said in December that Peter Chiarelli's job will be safe if the team makes the playoffs, the GM will likely pull out all the stops.

The work on defense is likely finished - Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera are nearing their returns from injury, and the team made a pair of minor deals for blue-line reinforcements in December - but the Oilers are reportedly on a "full-court press" in search of forward help.

Prediction: Buyer

Minnesota Wild

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The Wild may have the most favorable schedule in the league leading up to the deadline. They play 16 games, with only five against teams currently holding a playoff spot.

Despite the possibility of a hot streak, however, the Wild may be inclined to sell. Paul Fenton took over as GM last offseason, and given the competitive Central Division, he may want to retool the roster, as he began to do with Thursday's trade of Nino Niederreiter for Victor Rask.

Fenton could otherwise stand pat, but with limited cap space this coming summer, that could also mean losing pending unrestricted free agent Eric Staal for nothing.

Prediction: Seller

Vancouver Canucks

a close up of a baseball player holding a bat: Kevin Sousa / National Hockey League / Getty © Provided by Score Media Ventures INC Kevin Sousa / National Hockey League / Getty

Sitting in the thick of the playoff mix, the Canucks will play meaningful games down the stretch for the first time in five years. That will provide valuable experience for a young team - and a winning streak before the deadline could always change the franchise's strategy - but it just doesn't seem like the right time to add to a group that's still a few years away from peaking.

Vancouver's best move for the long term would be acquiring assets in return for its top potential rental, defenseman Alex Edler. He'd need to waive his full no-trade clause, but it wouldn't be shocking to see Edler wearing another uniform before eventually returning to the Canucks on July 1.

Prediction: Seller

Buffalo Sabres

a group of people in uniform: Bill Wippert / National Hockey League / Getty © Provided by Score Media Ventures INC Bill Wippert / National Hockey League / Getty

Losing Jeff Skinner in the offseason would be a massive step backward for the Sabres on their long path to relevance. And the best way to keep the pending UFA around - other than money, of course - is by winning.

With a breezy seven-game home stretch beginning when the calendar flips to February, the Sabres will have a good chance to move up the standings. Doing so would nudge GM Jason Botterill toward buying at the deadline, even if Skinner remains without a new contract.

It's hard to see Buffalo making a major deal, but some under-the-radar veteran additions up front could provide experience and help this young team make the playoffs.

Prediction: Buyer

Carolina Hurricanes

a group of baseball players standing on top of a field: Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty © Provided by Score Media Ventures INC Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

The Hurricanes are surging, and we're not talking about the club's post-win celebrations at home. They've won seven of nine - putting themselves into the playoff hunt - and could sustain the hot streak, with just six of their next 16 games against current playoff teams.

But while owner Tom Dundon wants to reach the postseason, he doesn't seem inclined to lose valuable players for nothing, which explains why pending UFA Micheal Ferland's name has been floating around. The Hurricanes are also reportedly open to trading Dougie Hamilton, but there's no rush considering he's signed through 2020-21.

It's also unlikely that Dundon will be looking for rentals. Perhaps the Hurricanes will acquire a player who's signed long term, or maybe they'll pull off another "pure hockey deal" such as Thursday's Rask-for-Niederreiter trade - potentially even involving Hamilton.

Prediction: Seller

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