The top teams in the east can be split into three groups. The first is the smallest, the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins who are clearly the elite of the conference. The teams nipping at their heels, the Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers who are all but locks for the playoffs and might need one or two tweaks. And the third is the group that in order to be considered a serious threat to represent the east in the Stanley Cup finals, need two to three pieces.
New York Rangers: Buy. While they currently have the fewest goals allowed in the NHL, only two teams in the top 8 of the east have scored fewer goals. Adding some depth scoring gives them a better shot at getting through a series with Boston or Washington who have good goaltending.
Boston Bruins: Swap. The defending champions are four points up on their nearest division rival with five games in hand. The rest don’t even bear thinking about. What they should and probably will do is add a depth defenseman, possibly moving Corvo for a better fit, and possibly a steady forward with some playoff experience.
Washington Capitals: Swap. Assuming a taker can be had for Alex Semin or a similar superfluous part a shutdown defenseman who can lend Alzner and Carlson a hand on the blueline and shutdown opposing forwards in the second round and later.
Philadelphia Flyers: Swap. Defense. Please someone find this team a solid defenseman or three. Yes the goaltending needs to be (a lot) better but defensemen not named Timonen who aren’t pylons would be a benefit. They have plenty of offense, but only the Senators are allowing more goals per game of teams currently in playoff position.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Provisional Sell. The team has iced a lot of players this year, and is in pretty good shape to go past the first round. If Crosby and Staal can get back into the lineup, they can move some of the prospects who they don’t expect to use next year or extend new contracts to for cap space to go after one or two of the big name free agents in the off season.
All Stars Senators: Stand. While undoubtedly Alfredsson could could bring a solid price if shipped out, he and the chance at some success in the playoffs after the postseason drought the team has experienced of late are probably more valuable to the team. If they could pick up a good defenseman without bankrupting themselves it would help but with so young a crew I’m not sure they go too deep even if they add Weber or Suter.
Florida Panthers: Buy. Offensive depth is needed. This team is pretty damn scrappy and solidly talented as it is and major overhauls are not needed. If they can find someone to sell them a top six forward, perhaps the Dallas Stars can be talked into parting with Morrow as is rumored. Who knows, the Sunrise air could revive him as it has a couple others on the roster.
New Jersey Devils: Sell. First to an owner who can afford the team, then work on acquiring a fuller roster in the off season. What happens with Parise is paramount, with the goaltending this team is getting and a serious lack of depth there’s not much the team can do to still be playing in the second round.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Swap. With some of the pending UFA’s they won’t be able to keep, getting a 3rd center or top four defenseman would be helpful, getting a couple good penalty killers might be wiser, especially since they’re more likely to be able to keep a mid or low tier salary. Drafting 30th is a good sign, entering the playoffs with the 30th ranked penalty kill makes it unlikely you’ll get that far.
Winnipeg Jets: Swap: If a prospect or two can be pried loose to add something to either the offense or defense they’d be better off than they are now. Utterly average in both offense and defense is not going to do much to push you into the playoff.
Montreal Canadiens. Sell. Locals can complain about the defense all they want. They’ve allowed the twelfth fewest goals, and that’s with a bunch of rookies and second year players eating most of the minutes. Selling off some of the depth that’s (in theory) been well evaluated thanks to all the injuries could let them draft some impact forwards over the next year or two, or possibly land a few as other cities blow their team up this off season.