The NHL trade deadline arrives this Friday and with several major moves already made, more are expected as teams aim to improve their Stanley Cup chances or to the contrary sell off assets to improve their future.
The New York Islanders made the first major trade ahead of the deadline by acquiring centreman Bo Horvat from Vancouver Canucks and his addition has paid instant dividends.
The Islanders made the Eastern Conference for two seasons straight before missing the playoffs entirely last season. With a post-season place at risk again, in large part due to struggles scoring, the Islanders moved early to add 27-year-old Horvat and he already has eight points (five goals, three assists) in 11 games.
His form has helped the Islanders (31-25-7) move into the first Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference and cover for the loss of second top point scorer Mathew Barzal (51 points) who has been ruled out for the remainder of the regular season at least with a lower-body injury.
The Toronto Maple Leafs haven't won a playoff series since 2004, and with a first-round meeting with Tampa Bay Lightning all but guaranteed, General Manager Kyle Dubas has made a major splash by bringing in former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Ryan O'Reilly and fellow centre Noel Acciari from St. Louis Blues plus defenceman Jake McCabe and forward Sam Lafferty from Chicago Blackhawks.
O'Reilly is by far the most high-profile addition but the other three all bolster the Leafs depth which has been much questioned.
32-year-old O'Reilly led the Blues to their first ever Stanley Cup in 2019. O'Reilly has five points (three goals, two assists) in five games, playing in a top six which already boasts the offensive talents of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander and John Tavares.
With several draft picks going out of the door in the pair of trades, Dubas is banking that the moves will not only help them avenge their seven-game defeat to Tampa Bay last season, but assist in their +700 quest to end their NHL record drought of 55-years without a championship.
While the Leafs' depth has improved, so has the Lightning's who have won the Stanley Cup twice in the past three seasons.
To load up their bottom six further, Tampa Bay have added Tanner Jeannot who has scored 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 54 games for the Predators this season.
The 25-year-old stands at 6'2" and his gritty style extends perfectly to the playoffs where the Lightning will aim to make a fourth consecutive Final appearance and deliver on their +1400 odds of re-gaining the championship from Colorado Avalanche.
The New Jersey Devils haven't made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for four seasons and just once since making the Final in 2012.
But, led by a young core of high draft picks, the Devils have shot back into contention this season and their third best 39-15-5 record has prompted General Manager Tom Fitzgerald into action by acquiring high-scoring winger Timo Meier from the San Jose Sharks.
The 26-year-old joins countrymen Nico Hischier and Jonas Siegenthaler on the Devils roster and will supplement an offence which already sits fifth in the league averaging 2.63 goals per game.
Meier scored 31 goals and 52 points in 57 games for the Sharks and at 6'1" adds a level of size to a roster which has been heavily praised for its skill level but had few forwards obviously built for the Stanley Cup playoffs which the Devils are now +900 to win the Stanley Cup.
Currently 11 points ahead of anyone else, the Boston Bruins are -3000 to finish first in the NHL standings and win the Presidents’ Trophy.
However, despite being on pace to record the best regular season record in history, the Bruins aren't resting on their laurels and have acquired defenceman Dmitry Orlov and rugged winger Garnet Hathaway from the Washington Capitals to support their +375 hopes of winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2011.
Orlov brings championship experience with the Washington Capitals in 2008 and had 19 points (three goals, 16 assists) in 43 games with the Caps this season. Hathaway had 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in 59 games and led the team with 198 hits.
All of the most noteworthy moves have been made in the Eastern Conference, though in recent days the Avalanche (+500 to win the Cup again) re-acquired rugged defenceman Jack Johnson who helped them lift the championship last season before moving to Chicago Blackhawks.
With Captain Mark Stone placed on long-term injured reserve, the Vegas Golden Knights have used that cap space to acquire Ivan Barbashev from the St. Louis Blues.
The 27-year-old scored 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) and while won’t replace Stone (38 points, including 17 goals) like-for-like, his physicality (132 hits this season), reliable defensive play and strong secondary scoring will be important for Vegas as they aim to deliver on their +1500 odds of winning the Stanley Cup for the first time.
Like their competitors, the East's New York Rangers have already loaded up by acquiring former Stanley Cup Champion Vladimir Tarasenko from the Blues. But, heavy speculation suggests they are going to tool up even further with the addition of three-time Champion and certain Hall of Famer Patrick Kane from the Chicago Blackhawks.
Before the move for the 34-year-old is confirmed the Rangers are +1400 to win the Stanley Cup.
Arizona Coyotes defenceman Jakob Chychrun and less likely Sharks' Erik Karlsson are two other stars who could be on the move prior to Friday's deadline with Los Angeles Kings, Edmonton Oilers and Washington Capitals all reportedly looking at deals.
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