NHL Power Rankings: Every team’s most important person on trade deadline day

It’s NHL trade deadline day: An over-hyped square on the calendar that likely doesn’t change many team’s chances all that much, but one that can still offer a ton of excitement.

Well … usually. Jake Guentzel, Noah Hanifin, Elias Lindholm, Chris Tanev, Vladimir Tarasenko — all the biggest fish have already found new ponds. We can hear James Duthie booing from here as he looks upon the leftovers ahead of a six-hour show.

There may not be a whole lot left to get excited about, but it should still be a busy day as teams try to put the finishing touches on their Stanley Cup quest.

From the top team to the bottom, (almost) every club has someone worth watching or thinking about, and that’s today’s theme. These are the most important people on each team. For now.

Last week: 1
Sean’s ranking: 1
Dom’s ranking: 1

Anton Lundell

The Panthers seem to have already made their big addition, getting Tarasenko on the cheap and immediately putting him on a line with Aleksander Barkov. They were in on Jake Guentzel, too, but swinging a deal with Pittsburgh would’ve been tough, given Florida’s lack of picks, prospects and tradeable NHL players.

Lundell would’ve fit the bill. Now, he’s likely to stay put — in a role that fits him a whole lot better. Florida, with Tarasenko, has one of the more complete top sixes in the league. Lundell, as the third-line center, will benefit as much as anyone, whether from weaker competition or lighter expectations.

Last week: 2
Sean’s ranking: 2
Dom’s ranking: 2

Logan Stankoven

Take one look at the Stars’ depth chart and it’s hard not to view them as the league’s most complete team. They have unreal forward depth littered with two-way talents, scoring threats, and defensive aces. Their blue line now looks set thanks to the emergence of Thomas Harley as a legitimate No. 1 to go along with their other, Miro Heiskanen. Plus the addition of Chris Tanev solidifies their top four completely. With Jake Oettinger in net, there really isn’t much room for upgrade.

That lack of need is made possible by Stankoven, who has taken the NHL by storm in his first six games with five goals and eight points. He already looks like a huge problem for any other team. Most teams in Dallas’ position might’ve added a top-six scorer as a luxury piece. The Stars don’t even have to; they just called one up from the AHL. Stank (elite nickname — his choice, not ours) looks like the real deal.

Last week: 3
Sean’s ranking: 3
Dom’s ranking: 3

Jake Guentzel

Arguably the best offensive player to be moved at any deadline in recent memory lands in Carolina. It’s almost hard to believe, given how cautious the Hurricanes usually are with rentals, and it speaks volumes that Guentzel was the guy they broke their own rules for.

It’s not often a point-per-game scorer is available as a rental to begin with and that meant Guentzel didn’t come cheap. For what he offers though, it was a reasonable one for the Hurricanes to pay. Guentzel is the type of player who can elevate a team up a tier and seriously impact a team’s Stanley Cup chances. For Carolina, he adds some five-on-five oomph and a strong power play shooting threat; a perfect fit.

We’ve been clamoring for Carolina to add a pure offensive threat exactly like this for years and it hasn’t been for a lack of trying (see Tkachuk, Matthew and Pettersson, Elias). Guentzel is obviously not on the level of those guys, but he’s damn good. Good enough for an organizational policy shift in the rental market. Now Guentzel has to show he’s worth it.



NHL trade grades: Jake Guentzel deal is a clean sweep for the Hurricanes

Last week: 10
Sean’s ranking: 4
Dom’s ranking: 4

Casey Mittelstadt

The Avalanche beat the market and got their guy, finally plugging a long-standing hole at 2C. Mittelstadt comes in as an effective player in all three zones, one with serious play-making ability who can create goals for Colorado’s depth. His creativity makes him a perfect fit — but the circumstances of his trade mean he has a lot to live up to. Bowen Byram wasn’t working out, but his age and talent level mean he has the opportunity to haunt Colorado if he realizes his potential. Mittelstadt can mitigate that by being everything he can be as a 2C, and maybe more. And that’s what makes him so important to the Avalanche on deadline day. Colorado looks done; can Mittelstadt truly be the answer?

Last week: 5
Sean’s ranking: 6
Dom’s ranking: 5

Jake DeBrusk

It’s odd to think that DeBrusk is an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s seemed destined to be traded a half-dozen different times in his seven seasons with the Bruins. Is it really going to just … end? If the Bruins want to add elsewhere, maybe not; they’re capped out, at the moment, and DeBrusk seems like one of the few pieces outside Linus Ullmark that a) they’d be willing to trade and b) has real value, consistency issues aside.

If so, Boston would find itself in a predicament similar to several other teams; the supply of rental wingers outstrips the demand. Still, DeBrusk is interesting. He showed signs of being a legit top-line player last season, scoring 27 goals in 63 games thanks in part to an uptick in shot volume and quality, before dipping back down this season.

Last week: 11
Sean’s ranking: 5
Dom’s ranking: 6

Alec Martinez

Will he go on LTIR? Probably depends on whether Vegas needs another $5.25 million in cap space. Either way, we’re probably going to get an extended look at Hanifin as Alex Pietrangelo’s partner on the top pair.

Last week: 4
Sean’s ranking: 7
Dom’s ranking: 8

Kaapo Kakko

Things would be a lot better for the Rangers if Kakko built on last season’s breakout and turned into a real impact NHLer — you know, like most No. 2 picks. Instead, the 23-year-old has taken another step back and he’s now by far the Rangers’ most interesting player heading into the deadline. Do other teams see any value in Kakko — enough for him to land a big fish? We’ll have to wait and find out with the end result saying a lot about where Kakko’s career stands.

Best case: The Rangers like him a lot, believe in his continued development and weren’t willing to part with him.

Worst case: The ship has sailed on his value, even as a trade commodity to other teams who didn’t view him as a very appetizing asset.

Last week: 8
Sean’s ranking: 9
Dom’s ranking: 7

Cody Ceci

With a trade for Troy Stecher (wow, he’s still around?!), the Oilers may be done, according to our own Daniel Nugent-Bowman. That would be a real shame for a team that has serious Stanley Cup upside and a few holes in the lineup. They may arguably be the best team, but they’re far from the most complete team.

There are a few ways to go with Edmonton, but our most important player has to be Ceci. He’s a player who is a bit out of his depth in a shutdown role and the easiest spot for the Oilers to make an upgrade. Theoretically anyway. With the defense market getting thin, the Oilers look to be out of options that are unequivocal upgrades. Are they really going to rest their Cup hopes on Ceci in the top four? It sure looks like it.

Last week: 7
Sean’s ranking: 8
Dom’s ranking: 9

Nils Hoglander

Hoglander’s name had bounced around the rumor mill, largely in connection with Guentzel. Given Thursday’s moves, though, he seems destined to stay put and see where his breakout season goes. He’s second on the Canucks in five-on-five goals/60, with 1.58, and is a major part of their top six. That’s not the type of guy any contender wants to trade in the first place.

Last week: 6
Sean’s ranking: 10 
Dom’s ranking: 10

Brad Treliving

The Maple Leafs have traded two thirds, a fifth and a sixth for two depth defensemen. Surely that can’t be it, right? Right now all eyes are on Treliving, in his first deadline as Leafs GM, to do something that moves the needle a lot more than Joel Edmundson and Ilya Lyubushkin. It still feels like the Leafs need a bigger name upgrade on defense and also some forward help. With the rest of the league’s powers loading up, the pressure is on for Treliving’s Leafs to keep up.



NHL trade grades: Joel Edmundson is potentially a huge downgrade for Maple Leafs

Last week: 9
Sean’s ranking: 11
Dom’s ranking: 11

Kevin Cheveldayoff

The Jets have around $6 million in deadline space and a roster that, while much improved, could still be upgraded in plenty of spots. Specifically, there are more than enough rental wingers on the market. If Cheveldayoff makes it through the day without adding one of them, fans in Winnipeg should be upset. Go get Jason Zucker or something! Come on!

Last week: 12
Sean’s ranking: 12 
Dom’s ranking: 12

Pierre-Luc Dubois

The Kings don’t have a whole lot of flexibility at the deadline and it’s partly because of Dubois and his now onerous contract. You know what would be nice for the Kings? If Dubois realized he was Pierre-Luc Dubois and remembered how to be an effective top-line center. We’ve all heard the term “own rental,” right? Well, this is the same idea. Dubois elevating his game to where it should be would provide a big boost.

Last week: 14
Sean’s ranking: 13 
Dom’s ranking: 13

Alex Carrier

The Predators just won eight games in a row and are comfortably in a playoff spot. They’ve got a 72 percent chance of making it with not much of any competition in the West. Usually, a team in Nashville’s position is a buyer or at least a team that stands pat.

But this season has been a fascinating one, given how many playoff teams or would-be playoff teams have accepted their fate and thought long-term instead. It’s refreshing, but that doesn’t make it any less difficult of a decision. That’s where Nashville is with Carrier: A solid top-four defenseman who plays the right side. That’s a highly coveted player around this time of year and with the defenseman market being picked clean apart, he may just be the best rental left.

Trading Carrier makes Nashville worse now and feels like a slap to the players in the room who have worked hard to get the Predators here. But long term it feels like the right way to go for a franchise that isn’t close to contending just yet.

Last week: 16
Sean’s ranking: 14
Dom’s ranking: 15

Tanner Jeannot

Importance is a relative term. Some people are important on deadline day because they’ll be on the move. Some are important because they’ll be making the moves. Tanner Jeannot is important as a lesson for any and all front offices, including this one.

  1. Just because you can overpay, doesn’t mean you should overpay.
  2. Even the smartest teams can make mistakes. Costly ones.
  3. Sometimes the best move is the one you don’t make.

All three lessons didn’t need any hindsight to realize how bad the Jeannoy trade was at the time. Tampa Bay is paying for its own hubris now. The Lightning lost the Hanifin sweepstakes, likely a result of not having a first-round pick until 2026. That’s the butterfly effect of moving a 2025 first (and a whole lot more) for Jeannot at last year’s deadline, a move they didn’t need to and shouldn’t have made in the first place.

Keep that in mind for any team making a trade on deadline day for the sake of it: Those assets could be better used in the future — even if they don’t help the team now.

Last week: 17
Sean’s ranking: 17
Dom’s ranking: 14

Ilya Sorokin

The Islanders are always secretive about their machinations and that makes them a fascinating team on deadline day. They’re surging under Patrick Roy and could bolster their lineup further. With everyone else in the Metro essentially throwing in the towel, the Islanders are in a nice position to take over. That all depends on Ilya Sorokin being the guy he was last year. Anything the team does on deadline day hinges on him taking them to the playoffs — and maybe even far within them. It all rests on his shoulders, and if not for his immense potential to steal a lot of games, the Islanders might be sellers right now, too.

Last week: 13
Sean’s ranking: 15
Dom’s ranking: 17

Steve Yzerman

Some GMs are, relatively, open books. Some are vaults. Some are vaults locked inside bigger vaults buried at the bottom of a quarry. And some are Yzerman. All we know is that he’s got a team currently in playoff position and the capacity to add nearly $14 million in contracts. He should consider spending some of that money because Detroit is 18th in the NHL in actual goals percentage and 29th in expected.

Last week: 15
Sean’s ranking: 16
Dom’s ranking: 16

Scott Laughton

It seems like most of Philadelphia’s deadline decisions have been made. Sean Walker is an Avalanche. Nick Seeler signed for four years and $10.8 million. Laughton, though, remains a Flyer — and an interesting case. His numbers have taken a steep downturn this season, largely due to his defensive play, and he doesn’t score enough to make up for it. He checks plenty of intangible boxes, and he was a versatile, effective middle-six player not long ago, but 2023-24 hasn’t been kind to him. To his credit, he’s played his best hockey since the All-Star break, a strong attempt to show just how much he wants to remain a Flyer.

Last week: 18
Sean’s ranking: 18
Dom’s ranking: 19

Pavel Buchnevich

When it comes to Buchnevich, Jeremy Rutherford says, Blues GM Doug Armstrong “is looking for a haul — one that could include a first-round pick, a recently drafted high-end prospect and maybe more. Definitely more if the Blues are retaining any of Buchnevich’s $5.8 million salary cap hit for the remainder of this season as well as next season.”

He’s worth all that. Point-per-game wingers with term don’t grow on trees. Beyond that, though, as Rutherford writes, whatever Armstrong decides to do will say a whole lot about his plan for the next few years.



Rutherford: If Blues trade Buchnevich, it’s time to start calling this a rebuild

Last week: 19
Sean’s ranking: 19
Dom’s ranking: 18

Tyler Toffoli

It’s hard to believe that we’re talking about Toffoli here, given how things started for both him and the Devils this season, but he was held out of their game on Thursday night. That doesn’t make a trade inevitable — but it comes close. If a contract extension truly isn’t in the cards, Toffoli will make sense as a fallback plan for the teams that failed to land Guentzel. He drives offense at five-on-five and scores, reliably, at a 30-goal pace. That’s worth something nice. Now, New Jersey certainly didn’t acquire him to flip at the deadline, but that’s another problem entirely.

Last week: 24
Sean’s ranking: 20
Dom’s ranking: 20

Jacob Markstrom

Calgary has stated that it won’t be trading Markstrom until the summer, a quote that seemed to rub Markstrom the wrong way. Wrong enough to spur a last-minute deal? Probably not, but he’s still the man to watch in Calgary with everyone else out the door. The Devils’ playoff hopes are in the toilet, so who knows how many other interested parties remain. That’s part of the reason the team suggested he would be moved in the summer instead. Still, Markstrom remains an option — the best goalie option for any team looking to upgrade there.

Last week: 22
Sean’s ranking: 21
Dom’s ranking: 21

Jordan Eberle

Should he stay or should he go — that’s the question plaguing Seattle going into the deadline with Eberle. There have been talks about an extension with some sticking points on term. Where those talks lead will ultimately determine whether Eberle is a Kraken for the long haul, or if he’s off to play playoff hockey somewhere else. He would be a great grab for any team looking for some five-on-five scoring punch.

Last week: 23
Sean’s ranking: 22
Dom’s ranking: 22

Patrick Maroon

The Wild had one pending UFA, winger Brandon Duhaime, and they sent him to the Avs on Thursday for a second-round pick. Don’t expect anything major from them. It’s worth noting, though, that Bill Guerin told The Athletic that he’d gotten some calls on Maroon, who hasn’t played since having back surgery in February. Time to put a dollar amount on that locker-room presence.

Last week: 21
Sean’s ranking: 23
Dom’s ranking: 24

Nic Dowd

We’ve been over this plenty, so we’ll keep it short: Dowd is a really good fourth-liner center who succeeds in truly brutal minutes and scores more goals than you’d guess from a player with that much defensive value. A contender will acquire him and be better for it.

24. Pittsburgh Penguins, 28-25-8

Last week: 20
Sean’s ranking: 24
Dom’s ranking: 23

Reilly Smith

Outside of some flashes at the start of the season, Smith hasn’t worked out in Pittsburgh. Before 2023-24, though, he was a reliable 60-point scorer and a good rush player who brought plenty to a middle six. He’s signed through next season at $5 million AAV. If the Penguins retain some of that, and he snaps out of whatever funk he’s been in, he’d be a decent addition to a winger-needy term.

Last week: 26
Sean’s ranking: 25
Dom’s ranking: 25

Erik Johnson

Leadership goes a long way at the deadline. So does size and being a right-shot defenseman. But it also helps to be, ya know, a net positive on the ice. Johnson arguably isn’t that anymore so any trade for him is an intangibles play to be a contending team’s seventh man. That has value, but the return likely won’t be much. If Johnson is all the Sabres have to offer, this will certainly be a boring day in Buffalo. Doesn’t matter — they got all the excitement out of the way two days ago.

Last week: 28
Sean’s ranking: 26
Dom’s ranking: 26

Andrew Peeke

Is it bad to be a bottom-five team with nothing noteworthy to trade at the deadline? Columbus is far from the only team in that awkward situation, but at the very least Peeke is available. Any playoff team who wants a guy who couldn’t crack Columbus’ blue line, please come on down!

Last week: 27
Sean’s ranking: 27
Dom’s ranking: 27

David Savard

We’re only three years out from Savard netting Columbus a first- and third-rounder. That’s not in the cards for Montreal, but he’s still (say it again) a tall, physical, penalty-killing, right-shot defenseman. GMs love those. Also, he’s signed through 2024-25 at $3.5 million. With a bit of retention, he’d make sense on a lot of third pairs, even though his results with the Canadiens this season have been middling.

Last week: 25
Sean’s ranking: 28
Dom’s ranking: 28

Jakob Chychrun

We’re turning the clocks forward, prepping for St. Patrick’s Day and talking about Jakob Chychrun getting traded. Must be March. Given the sharp downturn in his performance with Ottawa — and away from the pump-and-dump minutes he’d gotten in Arizona — it should be tough for the Sens to recoup their investment. On the other hand, he’s a big, skillsy dude who still, somehow, is only 25. And no matter what, we’ll be having the same conversation next year.

Last week: 30
Sean’s ranking: 29
Dom’s ranking: 29

Matt Dumba

This year was supposed to be different for both Arizona and Dumba. The Coyotes were hoping to play more meaningful hockey and Dumba was hoping to prove he still had what it took as a bonafide top-four defenseman. Neither has come to fruition, but there’s still hope for Dumba in the right situation. He’s Arizona’s best trade asset at the moment, but it would’ve been nice if he could’ve figured things out in the desert. His return may not be much as a result.

Last week: 29
Sean’s ranking: 30
Dom’s ranking: 30

Frank Vatrano

One of us seems to go out of his way to rag on ol’ Frank — very unfair — but with Adam Henrique in Edmonton, he’s the Ducks’ most attractive (realistic) deadline piece. Are there some red flags present? Sure, starting with the fact that most of Vatrano’s production has come on the power play. Still, there aren’t many 29-goal scorers to be had. With a little salary retention mixed in with his $3.65 million AAV deal, which has one year remaining, he’d make sense somewhere.

Last week: 31
Sean’s ranking: 31
Dom’s ranking: 31

Alexander Barabanov

San Jose, mercifully, sent Anthony Duclair to the Lightning on Thursday night. We’ll see what happens with Barabanov, another winger who’d been held out for precautionary purposes. He’s been abysmal this season, putting up three goals, seven assists and five-on-five numbers that are bad even for the Sharks. Best of luck to all involved.

Last week: 32
Sean’s ranking: 32
Dom’s ranking: 32

Connor Bedard

Bedard is the most important person in Chicago’s organization every day, and deadline day won’t be any different for a team that truly has nothing to offer to the rest of the league.

(Top photo of Noah Hanifin: David Becker / NHLI via Getty Images)

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