NHL Power Rankings: A new No. 1, plus our 32-item trade deadline wish list – The Athletic

Sean Gentille and Dom LuszczyszynMar 1, 2024

Follow the latest NHL trade deadline news in The Athletic’s live blog.

The NHL trade deadline is one week from today, and it’s only natural that the Rankings Boys add to the pile of nonstop coverage. What else is there even to talk about?

Every team has a wish list going into March 8 — and so do we. Here’s one thing we want for each team, heading into next Friday and beyond.

1. Florida Panthers, 40-16-4

Last week: 2
Sean’s ranking: 1
Dom’s ranking: 1

Go get a winger with some offensive pop

Lost in the latest round of Nick Cousins discourse — imagine that, coming from the player voted by his peers as having the most punchable face — is the fact that he’s getting regular minutes on the Panthers’ second line. Good as they are, that shouldn’t happen, right? The man has three goals in 47 games. That’s not the skill level you want skating with Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk. Same goes for Eetu Luostarinen (16 points) and Evan Rodrigues (eight goals). They’re useful players, to varying degrees, but having all three in your top nine could cause problems as secondary scoring gets more crucial.

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2. Dallas Stars, 36-17-9

Last week: 7
Sean’s ranking: 2
Dom’s ranking: 2

One top-four shutdown defenseman

Mission accomplished.

The Stars made a massive splash in the West, acquiring the highly coveted Chris Tanev on Wednesday and didn’t spend all that much to get him either. That’s probably all the team needed to do this deadline, as they’re already very deep up front and have one of the game’s best goalies in Jake Oettinger. Defensive depth has been the primary concern all season, and though the emergence of Thomas Harley has helped, the Stars still needed one more true top-four guy. Tanev is that: a defensive stopper with some strong puck-moving chops. He should be a perfect fit for the Stars, and his addition arguably makes Dallas the league’s most complete team.

3. Carolina Hurricanes, 36-18-6

Last week: 3
Sean’s ranking: 3
Dom’s ranking: 3

Call Jim Rutherford back one more time just to be sure

Just before Thursday’s action, we got a Friedge-bomb: that the Canucks and Elias Pettersson resumed negotiations after trade talks with the Hurricanes. Wait — what?!

We’ve always talked about Carolina’s need for oomph and the Hurricanes have certainly tried hard to obtain it. They missed out on Tkachuk before last season and now were apparently in talks for one of the game’s best centers in Elias Pettersson. It’s safe to assume that the door is closed, but with Pettersson being exactly what this team always needs, one more phone call couldn’t hurt. For now, we can just imagine what a one-two punch of Pettersson and Sebastian Aho would’ve looked like.

4. New York Rangers, 40-17-3

Last week: 1
Sean’s ranking: 4
Dom’s ranking: 4

Plug some holes in the bottom six — as usual

For the last three years, it’s been the same story with the Rangers. The team gets bailed out by an elite power play and elite goaltending en route to elite results. It’s a winning formula, no need to hate — especially with how the team usually handles the deadline. They’ve done well to plug depth holes in each of the past two seasons, enough to make the team look a lot more formidable come playoff time. That need hasn’t gone away despite a 10-1-0 stretch since the All-Star break, considering the team’s wins have been entirely fuelled by Igor Shesterkin’s return to form. With their underlying numbers slipping and Shesterkin back to being elite, it’s time the Rangers do their thing: get some cromulent guys for the bottom six.

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5. Boston Bruins, 35-12-14

Last week: 4
Sean’s ranking: 6
Dom’s ranking: 5

See if they can get a cap space advance

Boston figures to have about $20 million in space … once the offseason hits. You’d imagine that Don Sweeney would like to borrow a Noah Hanifin-sized chunk for the next week. It’d make his life a lot easier. Alas, the NHL doesn’t have a GM equivalent of payday loans, so Sweeney is stuck improving his Cup-caliber roster around the margins.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs, 34-17-8

Last week: 6
Sean’s ranking: 7 
Dom’s ranking: 6

Convince this version of Tyler Bertuzzi to stick around

Bertuzzi scored again on Thursday night, giving him six goals in his last seven games and equaling his output in his first 51 for the Leafs. Not a typo. That’s the guy Toronto thought they were getting: a middle-six menace who’s capable of potting 20-25, then a legit source of secondary offense once the playoffs roll around. Now, somehow, he’s back on track. (Originally, we had “bring back Ilya Lyubushkin, for whatever reason,” but they beat us to the punch.)

7. Vancouver Canucks, 38-17-7

Last week: 5
Sean’s ranking: 5
Dom’s ranking: 10

A return to PDO wonderland

That’s now six losses in their last seven games, five of which by more than one goal. The Regressioning is upon us.

Things were a lot smoother in Vancouver when everyone was scoring at will, but for the first time all season, the Canucks are facing some real adversity. That’s something all good teams go through. The Canucks wouldn’t be the first contender to hit a wall and go on a little losing streak — this isn’t any indication of whether the Canucks are a contender or not.

Thankfully, the team built up a massive cushion to start the season and that means very little is in jeopardy with these losses. The Canucks are still a playoff lock and a safe bet to win the division. But it is eye-opening what happens when the team starts getting a few bounces against them. If the Canucks aim to do any damage this postseason, they’ll need to get back on track and back to doing what they do best: inexplicably shooting 20 percent from the field.

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8. Edmonton Oilers, 35-20-2

Last week: 9
Sean’s ranking: 8
Dom’s ranking: 7

A top-six scoring winger (who doesn’t need the power play to put up numbers)

Jake Guentzel? Pavel Buchnevich? Jordan Eberle? Anthony Mantha? They’re all fantastic options to varying degrees; all could really beef up Edmonton’s arsenal. Is that the Oilers’ most pressing concern? Not really. But there probably isn’t a real upgrade on Cody Ceci available, so why not turn a strength into an even larger strength? The Oilers are an offensive juggernaut, but one more weapon could really put the volume up to 11.

9. Winnipeg Jets, 37-16-5

Last week: 12
Sean’s ranking: 9
Dom’s ranking: 9

More offense from Kyle Connor

Connor’s goal-scoring streak ended at four against Dallas on Thursday, but an injury that cost him a few weeks and the slump that followed still seem to be in the rearview mirror. Winnipeg is unlikely to make any major additions at the deadline; getting one of the league’s best shooters back on track might be good enough. He scored twice in more than a month of games and still has 24 on the season.

10. Colorado Avalanche, 37-19-5

Last week: 10
Sean’s ranking: 10
Dom’s ranking: 8

A second-line center — doesn’t matter who, anyone will do

The Avs’ 2024 offseason, everybody! Colton has been fine. Johansen, largely, has been not fine. And Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and Mikko Rantanen still carry way too much of the load.

11. Vegas Golden Knights, 33-20-7

Last week: 13
Sean’s ranking: 11
Dom’s ranking: 12

Someone to spend all their newfound riches on

To the surprise of no one, the Golden Knights enter the trade deadline with a lot of cap space. Thank you once again to Mark Stone, who is one of the league’s most valuable players for how timely his injury troubles always are. That’s real leadership. (Side note: we do not believe there’s any conspiracy here, and Vegas would of course rather have its captain on the team to help battle for home ice in the first round — but it is funny that it’s happening again).

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That means Vegas can once again go big game hunting at the deadline. Maybe that means one big fish. Maybe it means a few medium fish. All we know is that Vegas should be real busy here in an effort to make the best and most expensive playoff roster.

12. Los Angeles Kings, 30-19-10

Last week: 8
Sean’s ranking: 13 
Dom’s ranking: 11

More 2024 Cam Talbot

Talbot was one of the biggest reasons for the Kings’ early-season run. Then, shortly after the calendar flipped, he went in the tank. From Jan. 7 to Feb. 13, he went 0-5-2 with an .860 save percentage and the worst GSAx in the league (minus-9.04). He’s since shown signs of life, putting up a .949 in his previous three starts heading into Thursday’s game against Vancouver. The Kings need that version to stick around.

13. Detroit Red Wings, 33-21-6

Last week: 14
Sean’s ranking: 12
Dom’s ranking: 13

A little bit of recklessness

Are the Red Wings a perfect team? Nope. Are they in full control of a wild-card spot? Absolutely. The future cap situation is tricky, the defensive mix is complicated and the forward group is full of pretty good players. None of that lends itself to easy deadline additions — and it shouldn’t matter. Someone in the East needs to buy, and someone needs to make the playoffs. Might as well be them.

14. Nashville Predators, 34-25-2

Last week: 19
Sean’s ranking: 15 
Dom’s ranking: 14

To trade Juuse Saros

Yeah, yeah, yeah — they’ve won seven straight and have a pretty firm grip on the final playoff spot in the West. Trading an elite goalie under those circumstances feels ludicrous. But there’s one team where a move like that makes sense and it’s this one.

It’s not necessarily a tanking effort, it’s a bold one with eyes toward the future — namely Yaroslav Askarov. The 21-year-old was picked 11th in 2020 and is performing well in the AHL. He looks like Nashville’s goalie of the future. While it may be wiser for him to develop slowly behind Saros, it’s also worth considering the kind of assets Saros can fetch in a trade; assets that could help Nashville build around a guy like Askarov.

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Saros’ value may never be higher and the Predators already have an heir apparent. Despite the hot streak, the time to deal him may be now.

15. Philadelphia Flyers, 31-22-7

Last week: 11
Sean’s ranking: 14
Dom’s ranking: 15

To not lose sight of the greater goal

The Flyers have been an amazing story this season and currently sit in a playoff spot. That’s a pretty uncomfortable position to be in for a rebuilding team: Do you stick to the plan or do you reward your guys?

As tempting as it may be to ride this found money into an unlikely playoff berth, it feels like the much smarter move for the health of the franchise is to cash in with their player’s values at a high. This Flyers team is so much better than anyone imagined, but going for it limits how good the future Flyers might be. The joy of getting smacked around in the first round isn’t worth risking the chance of building a team strong enough to advance past future first rounds. And that, unfortunately, means selling this season.

16. Tampa Bay Lightning, 32-24-6

Last week: 15
Sean’s ranking: 16
Dom’s ranking: 16

Noah Hanifin

It’s no secret the Lightning have struggled mightily without the puck this season. The injury to Mikhail Sergachev (and also the play of Sergachev when he was healthy) has made an already thin Lightning blue line look like a huge problem for Tampa Bay. As the best defender available, Noah Hanifin can fix that. The Lightning still need to shore up their depth beyond that, but a big splash on the back end could do wonders. Hanifin is the real deal in that regard, a guy who can comfortably be an elite No. 2 on a Cup contender.

17. New York Islanders, 25-20-14

Last week: 17
Sean’s ranking: 17
Dom’s ranking: 18

A hot streak

The Islanders have won three games in a row (or more) just twice this season, the last time being in early December. It’s difficult to gain ground in the playoff race under such circumstances, but with back-to-back wins this week, they have a chance. The Metro is still anyone’s race and a regulation victory against Detroit, a team they could seemingly catch in the wild card race, is big too. The Islanders haven’t lived up to their talent level for most of the year and have been really bad since that last win streak. Maybe a new one can close that chapter and give this team some much-needed momentum.

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18. St. Louis Blues, 30-26-3

Last week: 16
Sean’s ranking: 19
Dom’s ranking: 17

A Pavel Buchnevich derby

The Blues have gotten more proof that their problems go beyond coaching, as Jeremy Rutherford outlined earlier this week. Some of us kinda figured that before they fired Craig Berube, but that’s neither here nor there. Moving Buchnevich, a point-per-game winger with a year remaining on his deal, might not fix anything on their end, but this deadline needs some juice. Think of everyone else, please!

19. New Jersey Devils, 30-25-4

Last week: 18
Sean’s ranking: 18
Dom’s ranking: 19

To ignore Nico Daws’ last few games

Yes, Daws has stabilized the Devils’ situation in net over the last few weeks, in the sense that he hasn’t been one of the few worst goaltenders in the league. He’s still sub-.900 in his last eight starts, though. Nothing has been fixed. They still need a goalie, and they should still be trying to acquire one. Doesn’t have to be Jacob Markstrom, either. Deadline goalie trades rarely happen, but also, teams rarely need one this badly.

20. Pittsburgh Penguins, 27-22-8

Last week: 22
Sean’s ranking: 21
Dom’s ranking: 20

Lots of trades — and not just Jake Guentzel

A recent mini-run hasn’t gotten the Penguins any closer to a wild-card spot, and all told, that’s a good thing. It should make the next week a little easier for them. Guentzel is their prime chip, but GM Kyle Dubas shouldn’t stop with him. Lars Eller is a bottom-six center with defensive value; contending teams love those guys. Reilly Smith was just a relevant piece on a Cup team. Rickard Rakell is … probably immovable, actually. He makes $5 million a year through 2028. Forget about him.

21. Washington Capitals, 27-22-9

Last week: 24
Sean’s ranking: 20
Dom’s ranking: 24

To open up shop

Assuming Brian MacLellan decides to sell — and he should — he’s got a little something for everyone. Specifically, it feels like we’re about to watch a weeklong stampede to secure the services of Nic Dowd, the rare defense-first fourth-line center who isn’t a black hole offensively.

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22. Seattle Kraken, 26-22-11

Last week: 21
Sean’s ranking: 22
Dom’s ranking: 22

Some directional clarity

After a horrid start, it felt clear the Kraken would be big sellers. Then came a nine-game winning streak and a breath of life to the team’s faint playoff hopes. They immediately followed that up with a 2-7-1 slide, only to then win four of their next six. Snip-snap-snip-snap.

The right course of action is to sell. But with the West being as bad as it is in the middle, the Kraken’s hopes never seem completely extinguished. There’s a whole mess of teams in the middle fighting for that final spot and that leaves Seattle with a tougher choice to make. Maybe the next week of games will make that choice easier.

23. Minnesota Wild, 28-26-6

Last week: 20
Sean’s ranking: 24
Dom’s ranking: 21

An acceptance of reality

They might’ve gotten that already, actually, in the form of a 6-1 loss to one of the teams they’re chasing in the wild-card race. Nashville is now eight points ahead of them. It’s over. Pick some guys off the Wild trade tracker, send them out and regroup.

24. Calgary Flames, 29-25-5

Last week: 23
Sean’s ranking: 23
Dom’s ranking: 23

A home run return for Noah Hanifin

The Flames have been the league’s busiest team after moving Elias Lindholm and Chris Tanev in February. But their biggest fish remains without a new home and they need to do their best to hit this deal out of the park. There was optimism on that front after the Lindholm deal, but things have soured since after an extremely light return on Tanev. With the value Hanifin commands above an otherwise extremely thin market, the Flames should have all the leverage. That means a big, juicy package for the best player available. Don’t screw this one up!

25. Ottawa Senators, 25-29-3

Last week: 25
Sean’s ranking: 26
Dom’s ranking: 26

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Saving face on the Jakob Chychrun fiasco

The Senators made a huge bet before the 2022-23 season in trading a high pick for Alex DeBrincat. It didn’t work out and they ended up selling him for a loss the following summer.

The Senators made another huge bet during the 2022-23 trade deadline in trading a first and two seconds for Jakob Chychrun. One year, later history is repeating itself as Chychrun looks likely to be moved. The Senators can’t really afford to make the same mistake twice, and that means trying to minimize the damage with the Chychrun return. They can’t sell him for a loss too — they need to get back as close to what they spent as possible.

26. Buffalo Sabres, 28-28-4

Last week: 26
Sean’s ranking: 25
Dom’s ranking: 25

A finishing kick

It’s nice that they’re holding down the No. 1 spot in Scott Wheeler’s prospect pool rankings (the full list is here). It’s also cold comfort, you’d imagine, for a season that was supposed to go a whole lot better than what we’ve seen. They’re back to fake .500, at least, and Tage Thompson has goals in consecutive games for the first time since December. If they heat up down the stretch, we’ll get to do it all over again in 2024-25.

27. Montreal Canadiens, 23-28-9

Last week: 27
Sean’s ranking: 27
Dom’s ranking: 27

A trade partner for Jake Allen

With Calgary taking Jacob Markstrom off the table and Nashville solidifying its foothold on a playoff spot, it’s starting to look like Jake Allen might be the best goalie available. That’s not the most promising news for teams looking for a goalie, but it’s great news for Montreal which doesn’t have a whole lot else to offer this deadline. The Canadiens just need to find a willing partner and squeeze them for a nice return.

28. Columbus Blue Jackets, 19-30-10

Last week: 28
Sean’s ranking: 28
Dom’s ranking: 28

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Discounted pizza for their fans

Wish granted! Still the worst team in the Eastern Conference, though.

29. Anaheim Ducks, 20-35-3

Last week: 29
Sean’s ranking: 30
Dom’s ranking: 30

Picks, picks picks

The Ducks could be very busy this deadline with six guys on Chris Johnston’s latest trade board. One of those guys, Ilya Lyubushkin, was already moved Thursday night with the Ducks fetching a third on the deal. Adam Henrique and Frank Vatrano should both net more than that too, which should give the Ducks a very nice draft surplus when all is said and done. It could be massive if they really do move Trevor Zegras and/or John Gibson.

30. Arizona Coyotes, 23-31-5

Last week: 30
Sean’s ranking: 29
Dom’s ranking: 29

A win

It’s not just that the Coyotes dropped their 14th straight game on Thursday. It’s that when it began, they were 23-19-3 and squarely in the Western Conference playoff race. Since then, they’ve been outscored 64-33. Make it stop.

31. San Jose Sharks, 15-37-5

Last week: 31
Sean’s ranking: 31
Dom’s ranking: 31

A new home for Anthony Duclair

One of the worst teams we’ve ever seen doesn’t have much in terms of valuable trade commodities. It’s unlikely the Sharks are in the market for a top pick because frankly none of their available players are worth that much. But here at Rankings HQ we’ve always had a soft spot for the speedy Anthony Duclair and would like to see him as far away from this mess as possible. Duclair hasn’t been of much use in San Jose because he’s a complementary piece more than a driver — and in San Jose, there isn’t a whole lot to compliment. That’s a different story on a contender and we’d like to see if that kind of scenery change breathes some new life into his game.

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32. Chicago Blackhawks, 15-40-5

Last week: 32
Sean’s ranking: 32
Dom’s ranking: 32

To not screw up the young guys

That’s the priority from here on out for the Blackhawks; harm reduction. At least Lukas Reichel is enjoying Rockford. As far as deadline fodder is concerned, they’ve basically got none; of their pending UFAs, Tyler Johnson is the most interesting, and he’s not bringing back much.

(Photo: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

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