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Looking for Answers: An Atlantic Division trade deadline preview

(Sam Donsig/Intermission Sports)


The Atlantic Division is once again shaping into a dogfight, with multiple teams in the playoff race. The Florida Panthers and the Boston Bruins lead the division and look like serious cup contenders while the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators, who are at the bottom of the division, look to the future. Others find themselves somewhere in between, adding some intrigue to trade deadline season.

It should be an interesting end to the season in this division, so let's take a look at where each team stands and what they need ahead of the deadline. 

Boston Bruins 

Once again, to the surprise of absolutely no one, the Boston Bruins are looking like a contender. Despite not having David Krejci or Patrice Bergeron, they have looked as strong as ever and look to be prepared for cup contenders. 

With a formidable defence and offence and arguably the best goaltending duo in the league, there isn't much to critique about this team. With a core this strong, the Bruins should be looking to go all in once again this year.

The only real concern is if this team does go out early in the playoffs, as it has in recent years, do they have enough pieces to start a rebuild? 

With no draft picks until the third round this year, it is hard to say what the Bruins would be able to add at the deadline. With the question of whether the team is ready for the future looming, whether to add, stand pat or something in between is the Bruins’ biggest decision. 

Buffalo Sabres 

The Buffalo Sabres are at one of the most frustrating places in their rebuild. They have all the young pieces for a great team but it hasn't delivered results yet. Buffalo fans are starving for a playoff team and they absolutely deserve it.

At this point, they probably won’t be getting it this year. 

The Sabres have some unrestricted free agents on their roster, including Erik Johnson, Zemgus Girgensons, Kyle Okposo and Victor Olofsson. If the Sabres truly believe in their core, the best move would be to let go of these free agents for some younger players who can help get this team over the top. 

Additionally, whether at this deadline or in the offseason, they should be looking for players on longer contracts who can develop alongside this core. Some picks and prospects cannot hurt for now, but the rebuild has already been longer and doesn’t need to get too much longer.

Detroit Red Wings 

The Detroit Red Wings are picking up some steam at the right moment. They are currently on a six-game win streak and sit in a rather unique position. 

The Red Wings seem to be rather secure in the first wild-card spot. The reemergence of Patrick Kane has been impressive and Red Wings fans have to be happy with the result. 30 points in 28 is an impressive feat for someone who supposedly went through a career-ending injury.

It's not all sunshine and rainbows in Detroit though and there is room for additions. They struggle defensively, currently allowing the eighth most shots against per game in the league.  If they want to make a serious playoff push, the Red Wings should look to be adding a top-four defenceman.

Florida Panthers

The Panthers are still one of the scariest teams in the East, if not the League. They have somehow only gotten better. 

The team faced injuries from the run to the finals in 2023, most notably with Matthew Tkachuk suffering from a broken sternum.

This team doesn't really have any glaring flaws that need to be addressed. Sam Reinhart is having an unbelievable season by his standards – 39 goals on the season – and filling a scoring role that might have stood out previously, while their defence has been formidable. 

Some depth scoring would be nice but considering the fact the Panthers are currently fourth in the league, it would be best for Bill Zito to stick with the roster he currently has.  

Montreal Canadiens 

The Montreal Canadiens are still in the thick of their rebuild and will most likely be sellers once again. 

They were able to successfully move Sean Monahan and land a first-round pick for him, after getting a first-round pick for taking on his contract before the season. 

Teams will be turning to the Canadiens as they look to offload pieces. There is high interest around Jake Allen, and others will inevitably be available. 

It will be interesting to see what GM Kent Hughes can pull off at the deadline. 

Ottawa Senators 

The Senators have been frustrating to follow for the last couple of years with scandals surrounding the roster and management. This year, they have had the worst of luck with suspensions and more.

They have effective young pieces with players such as Tim Stutzle and Brady Tkachuk to be a threat in the East but it seems that they just cannot come together to form a winning team. 

The sensible move is for the Senators to sell, though conservatively. Teams will test the Sens for asking prices on players such as Vladimir Tarasenko and Jakob Chychrun. 

The Senators are in a similar situation as they are working with a very limited amount of cap space. With most of their young core locked up long-term, the next step is likely to add some veteran presence to help them develop, though that may have to come in the offseason. 

Tampa Bay Lightning 

For the first time in six years, the Tampa Bay Lightning have doubts about their postseason aspirations. Despite Nikita Kucherov having an out-of-this-world year, the rest of the team around him looks questionable. 

They are currently sitting with 69 points in the second wild-card spot. The next team is currently six points behind, so the Lightning are strong hopefuls, but not obvious contenders.

The team will have to fight their way to a strong finish to the season if they have any hopes of making the playoffs. 

There have been some questions regarding this roster, as it is not like the roster of past years. The depth has been severely lacking and the defence is hurt, while Andrei Vasilevskiy has not been the same since returning from his injury. 

With the Lightning looking weaker than past years, it would not be wise to give up their future for any significant additions. Their cupboard has already been emptied plenty over the years. 

Outside of Steven Stamkos, there are no other big-name players with expiring contracts, so selling does not make sense either. The best course of action for Julien Brisebois would be to hold tight and let the season run its course. 

Toronto Maple Leafs 

The Toronto Maple Leafs are starting to pick up steam at the right time. It looks like Sheldon Keefe has – at least for now – found the right line combinations for this team. 

Auston Matthews has been unreal when it comes to goal-scoring and will most likely have a season we have not seen in years (70 goals?) and the rest of that core is performing at a high level. 

Add in Ilya Samsonov coming back to form and Joseph Woll’s return soon from injury, and this team looks poised to make a splash at this year's deadline.

The biggest question mark for the Leafs has been their defence core, which has looked playable at best and can be very shaky at times. As such, Brad Treliving's main target for the deadline should be looking for a right-handed defenceman who can be a proper partner for Morgan Rielly. 

That move would be a step in the right direction but realistically, this team is still more than one defenceman away from having a true Stanley Cup-contending core. 


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