With the NHL Draft next week and the start of free agency eight days away, the landscape of the Atlantic Division is sure to change. The Buffalo Sabres appear to be focused on adding a top-four defenseman and possibly a veteran goaltender in the next couple weeks. Moves that could catapult them into one of the top three spots, but their division rivals will also be focusing on their areas of need.
— Winnipeg Sports Talk (@SportsTalkWPG) April 19, 2023
Here is what can be expected from the four Atlantic Division clubs that made the postseason:
Boston: After a regular season for the ages and being upset by Florida, the biggest question for the Bruins is what to do if Patrice Bergeron and/or David Krejci retire. GM Don Sweeney will have a difficult time replacing either with a thin free-agent class. A trade for one-year rentals like Mark Scheifele or Pierre-Luc Dubois might be less costly than signing Ryan O’Reilly.
Florida: Coming off a long playoff run, the Panthers have about $10 million in cap space, but could face the start of the season without top defenseman Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour. Re-signing Radko Gudas will be tough, but GM Bill Zito will need to find bodies on the blueline until his injured defensemen return.
Tampa Bay: With no cap space to speak of, GM Julien Brisebois will have to work some magic to be able to re-sign veteran forward Alex Killorn and/or RFA Ross Colton. Winger Tanner Jeannot also has to be signed, so acquiring a player on LTIR to move chess pieces around the board is a possibility.
Toronto: The Leafs seem to be making progress on an extension for Auston Matthews, but a deal for William Nylander is in question based on what he wants on a new deal. GM Brad Treliving may be looking to get bigger on the blueline as he did in Calgary, and a buyout of goalie Matt Murray is likely.
Here is what the three other non-playoff clubs may do:
Detroit: The Red Wings are in a similar position to the Sabres, pushing for a playoff spot and loaded with prospects and draft picks. Detroit Hockey Now’s Kevin Allen believes that GM Steve Yzerman would be willing to trade the Wings lower first-round pick at #17 in a deal to add a scoring winger like Alex DeBrincat or Travis Konecny.
Montreal: The Canadiens have long been connected to Dubois, but are playing a game of chicken with Winnipeg, who wants a top return for the restricted free agent. GM Kent Hughes is still in the process of clearing out contracts of veterans like Josh Anderson, Joel Edmundson, and Mike Hoffman and accumulating young assets.
Ottawa: The Senators may be limited by the ownership changeover from the estate of Eugene Melnyk to the group headed by Michael Andlauer. Sens GM Pierre Dorion may be a lame duck but has to deal with the DeBrincat situation, who wants out of Ottawa after one year. Just as last year, the Sens need to upgrade on defense and have to find a starting goalie after the Cam Talbot/Anton Forsberg combo failed.