When formulating early trade season plans for teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences, the East has a slight advantage. At least a few teams there are showing early signs of falling out of the playoff race and establishing themselves as possible sellers.
“Nobody in the West is out of it,” one general manager said this week. “If you look at the East, other than Carolina, Columbus and maybe Toronto, everybody else is in it. Everybody else has a chance to win. If you’re looking to add, it’s hard to find a dance partner.”
The East is the biggest hope in developing a higher number of sellers in the short term. Buffalo is still in the early part of the building process and could fade further away from the playoff race as the deadline closes in. In Philadelphia, GM Ron Hextall has shown he’s not afraid to move veteran players even if his team is in the playoff mix, just to keep the rebuilding plan on schedule there.
There are also big-name players in the East whose presence in the trade rumor mill will only get more pronounced as the deadline approaches. As long as Steven Stamkos remains unsigned, trade talk will surround him. Ryan Johansen is another hot commodity if the Blue Jackets decide they’re ready to move on.
With that in mind, here’s a team-by-team Eastern Conference primer for the unofficial start of trading season that opens once January arrives: