The NHL trade deadline passed on Monday, and several playoff contenders bolstered their rosters for a potential Stanley Cup run. We will have to see how the new pieces fit in with their new teams, but this is how I would rank the contenders for Cup with about 20 games to go in the regular season.
10. Washington Capitals
The Capitals are in a four-way race with Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and New Jersey for the Metropolitan Division, but even if they come out on top, I’ve seen nothing to suggest this will finally be their year in the postseason. Superstar Alex Ovechkin, who currently leads the NHL with 39 goals, will need some help to make a run.
9. Los Angeles Kings
Los Angeles is no lock to make the playoffs, but they are top-four in the Western Conference in point differential (+23) and are second in the NHL in goals allowed per game (2.49). Even though they are currently slated as the eight-seed, the Kings will be a tough out if they’re playing in April.
8. Winnipeg Jets
Perhaps the big winner at the trade deadline was Winnipeg, as they pounced on the chance to acquire center Paul Stastny after he was suddenly made available following a six-game skid by St. Louis. Stastny will instantly boost the team’s third line for a postseason run.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto made a move for two-time All-Star defenseman Mike Green at the trade deadline, but unfortunately, Green did not waive his no-trade clause, so the Maple Leafs made no moves yesterday. They will hope the denial doesn’t impact morale, as Toronto won ten-straight games before last night’s shootout loss to Tampa Bay.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins
The defending champs are still in contention for a top-two seed, and they still have Sidney Crosby, so it would be unwise to write off a potential repeat. Like Ovi in Washington, though, Crosby will need others to step up around him other than Evgeni Malkin.
5. Philadelphia Flyers
Philadelphia is 9-0-1 over their past ten games, and they are miraculously atop the Metro Division after an awful start to the season that included a ten-game losing streak. The Flyers are the hottest team in the NHL, and their young talent might not even be experienced enough to be negatively affected by the postseason atmosphere.
4. Boston Bruins
Boston plays stout defense and has exceptional goaltending, so the formula should carry over to playoff hockey in a few weeks. Also, they are the only team in the top-five with a recent Stanley Cup Finals win (2011), so even on a different roster, championship experience and toughness could come into play.
3. Las Vegas Golden Knights
It’s nothing short of amazing that Las Vegas—in their first year of existence—is first in the Western Conference and could finish with the best record in the NHL. People might not be sold on their “star power,” but the Golden Knights will have a great home-ice advantage in the postseason with a league-best 24-5-2 record at home.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning lead the NHL in points, wins, goals, and point differential, and they got even better at the trade deadline by acquiring Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller from New York. Tampa Bay looks like the clear favorite in the Eastern Conference.
1. Nashville Predators
Nashville has a much harder path through their side of the playoffs in the West, but they might have made the biggest move at the trade deadline—and it wasn’t even a trade, as the Predators officially signed former captain Mike Fisher out of retirement for one more title run. The chemistry is great for all these top teams, but it feels like this is the year for Nashville with Fisher, P.K. Subban, and Pekka Rinne leading them again.