As a primer to the trade deadline, it’s important to know where teams stand in terms of cap space to know whether deals are even really possible — and what kind of deals can be feasible. For some, deals can still be made so long as a corresponding move to shed salary is made concurrently. For others, they’re projected to have enough cap space to fit in a number of high end contracts without going over the cap ceiling at season’s end.
It makes for an intricate landscape of buyers and sellers, and teams that can take on deadweight cap hits in return for an exciting prospect or promising NHLer in order to free a team up enough to acquire an impact piece today.
Cap hits are accrued on a daily basis. CapFriendly defines the projected deadline cap space as “the total sum of cap hit values that the current daily cap hit can be increased by to remain cap compliant below the cap ceiling at seasons end.”
This season, the Eastern Conference’s playoff picture is a lot less fixed at this time of year than has been in years past. Usually, the East is pretty much set with the order mostly to be confirmed by the end of the year. Today, there are six teams within six points of the last playoff spot. That’s likely to convince many teams to either make a move to finalize a strong push into a playoff position or hold steady without big upgrades. So expect some buyers to come from the East.
Out West, there are four teams within six points of that last Wild Card position. However, Dallas hasn’t given much of an indication they can put together any kind of consistent win streak this season to make a push to a playoff position. So if you take them out, there’s three teams pushing for the last Wild Card and could be looking to be sellers.
Cap Space Projections
According to CapFriendly, the teams with the most projected cap space available at the trade deadline are Carolina Hurricanes (most likely not making the playoffs), the Florida Panthers (will likely look to shore up their roster to hang onto the third place spot in the division), New Jersey Devils (six points back of a playoff position), and the Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets, one of the teams Dallas would have to jump in order to have a prayer at a playoff position, have the most cap space available for trade deadline moves in the West. Just one point out of a playoff position but with more games played than most in the division, Winnipeg could look to be a big mover at the deadline to secure a playoff spot.
Teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, Calgary Flames, and Arizona Coyotes can still make trades since they can get some additional cap relief by utilizing long-term injured reserve, though the magnitude of their moves are harder to pinpoint with them already up against the cap ceiling.