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NHL Pacific Division Notebook: Buy or Sell?

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We are just days away from the NHL’s annual trade deadline, and that means we are going to see some trades involving the Pacific Division. It’s a strange year in the Pacific, because there really are only two teams that are out of it right now.

The division is, quite frankly, tiered right now. Both Calgary and San Jose are legit threats to win the whole thing, while Vegas is clearly a playoff team but is a step below those two. The Canucks and Coyotes, in a normal year, would be dead in the water but currently are fighting for playoff spots out west.

Anaheim isn’t too far behind, while both Edmonton and LA are essentially dead in what can best be described as nightmare seasons for both franchises. It’s been an interesting year, and it is only going to get more interesting from here.

So, who buys and who sells? That’s the big question as we sit just days away from the final buzzer. Let’s take a look at each case, shall we?

Calgary Flames:

Give the Flames credit, they got bold this off-season and it has paid off in a big way. The Flames knew they had a great young core, but they also knew their club lacked depth and needed a jolt on the back-end. They got both via their blockbuster trade with Carolina at the draft and free agency. Now, the Flames are sitting pretty and sleepwalking into the playoffs with home ice in the opening round.

Calgary will be buying, and I think they will be all-in. The West isn’t the powerhouse conference it has been in years prior, and the Flames know it. They’ve checked in with Ottawa about Mark Stone and Matt Duchene, and I think they’d be willing to rent Artemi Panarin as well if he gets moved.

The Flames are going for it this season, with their top wants being a veteran left-shot D and a top-six forward.

Status: All-in Buyer

San Jose Sharks:

The Sharks moved all their chips into the middle this summer when they went out and acquired Erik Karlsson from Ottawa. Now that Karlsson and Burns have figured each other out, the Sharks are a machine. They really don’t have a major need on their roster, and should be contending for the Cup come June.

This is the rare case where a contender doesn’t really need anything, but they’ll be looking for fits anyway. The Sharks did claim Michael Haley off waivers on Wednesday as they search for a little toughness, and rumor has it they are talking Ryan Miller with the Ducks.

That might be the only hole for this team, goaltender. Martin Jones has proven over his tenure with the club that he’s money when the games are most important, but Jones has had his fair share of struggles this season. Miller wouldn’t move the needle, but he’s a solid veteran option that can’t hurt.

Lastly, after the deals to bring in Evander Kane and Karlsson, the Sharks really aren’t in position to fire off more assets for a short-term solution.

Status: Buying depth, but likely to stand pat. 

Vegas Golden Knights:

What is Vegas? Sure, they are a playoff team but they are clearly behind the Sharks and Flames and I’m not sure they are a real threat for the Cup. They’ve avoided the second year hangover, but I don’t see how they get out of the first round this spring.

The Golden Knights are certainly looking to add, but they are not in the market for a high priced rental. They could dip their toes into the market for a cheap option like Alex Chiasson out of Edmonton, but they won’t be chasing Panarin or Stone at this point in time.

One route I could see Vegas going? The Tomas Tatar route. They added the forward a year ago for their run to the playoffs, and although it didn’t work out they proved they were willing to spend the assets when they had control over the player. I suspect that will be the case again. Vegas isn’t going to blow their brains out here.

Status: Cautious buyer

Vancouver Canucks:

Youth is being served in the Pacific Northwest. The Canucks have quickly jumped the Oilers in rebuild timeline and are currently in the playoff chase. Raise your hand if you thought that would happen at the start of the season. No one? That’s what I thought.

Jim Benning is still very much rebuilding this Canuck team and will not go crazy trying to add for a playoff push. That said, there is value in making the dance and Benning knows that. The Canucks will test the rental market, but will be looking at the tier below Stone, Duchene and Panarin.

Think Mats Zuccarello or Marcus Johansson. Of course, the Canucks could just do nothing. After all, they got here riding their young talent, and want to keep playing those guys in key roles.

Status: Small-time buyer

Arizona Coyotes:

Considering all of their injuries, it is quite remarkable that the Yotes are still alive in the playoff chase. They won’t change course from their slow and steady build, but the Yotes also won’t be “Everything must go!!!” sellers again this season.

I think Arizona will examine the market for some depth in goal and potentially a scorer. If they could add a winger or two, I think they’d immediately jump the line and gain a Wild Card position. Problem is, I highly doubt they are willing to pay the current prices.

Overall, it is pretty quiet in the desert, but don’t be shocked if Arizona is a sleeper team that does something in that final hour before the deadline. They are looking for any and all deals to help them both now and in the future.

Status: Quiet but lurking

Anaheim Ducks:

Bob Murray knows what he has with this Ducks team, and he knows it isn’t good enough. Attention has turned to the Dallas Eakins era, which will start next season. Not only is the Gulls’ veteran coach going to get the call, but a number of young players will join him on the San Diego-to-Anaheim pipeline. Troy Terry, Sam Steel and Max Jones are just a few of the names fans will need to get familiar with before next season.

In there here and now, expect the Ducks to try to clear roster space and salary. Jakob Silfverberg won’t be going anywhere, but I firmly expect the Ducks to test the market on both Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry. There is already a market for Ryan Getzlaf, but I don’t think there is an appetite to move him at this time.

Keep an eye on the Ducks, they are very likely to be moving out a few pieces prior to the deadline starting with Ryan Miller.

Status: Seller

Edmonton Oilers:

Peter’s plan failed miserably. I can’t say I’m surprised, but it is truly amazing that arguably the worst GM in modern NHL history turned the Edmonton Oilers into a sub-expansion level team around Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Bravo, Peter.

They’ll be missing the playoffs for the 12th time in 13 years and the third time in four years with McDavid. Simply stunning. Keith Gretzky is currently running Hockey Operations and even though his team is seven points out, there is still faint hope Edmonton can make a run for the playoffs. The next two games, both at home, will decide Edmonton’s deadline fate.

I suspect the club will try and move pending UFA’s Alex Petrovic and Alex Chiasson, and believe they will test the market on Kyle Brodziak and Zack Kassian. The owner wants the playoffs, but the smart play is to shed as many contracts and as much salary as possible before the new GM takes over. Give that person a clean slate and let him build something around McDavid.

Status: TBD in the coming, but leaning toward sellers

Los Angeles Kings:

Rob Blake, like Bob Murray, knows what he has and knows it is not good enough. The Kings are too old, too slow and simply not skilled enough. They will not go into a full rebuild, but the Kings know they have to get younger and they have to get faster. I suspect they will try and clear more salary while also trying to add picks and prospects.

Carl Hagelin isn’t expect to last the day in LA, while the club has received interest in both Trevor Lewis and Kyle Clifford. Alec Martinez could be moved for the right package, while the club is trying hard to move failed free agent addition Ilya Kovalchuk.

It’s retool time in LA, and everyone within the organization knows it. Expect their actions in the next few days to reflect that.

Status: Hardcore seller 

Photo Credit: By Resolute (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Alex is a 2016 graduate of Springfield College who is currently a writer with Boston Hockey Now and The Oilers Rig. Outside of writing, you can find Alex in rinks around New England as the Play-by-Play voice of the USPHL’s Boston Junior Bruins. In addition, he does broadcasting work for Northeastern University, Holy Cross And UMass-Lowell. Reach him on Twitter: @Alex_Thomas14

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