Several teams made moves before the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline on Monday. But which team is the best in the League after the deadline? We asked six of our writers for their opinions.
Shawn P. Roarke, senior director of editorial
Let's start this roundtable with some controversy. I'm going to say the Vegas Golden Knights. Yes, I see that eight teams have more points than they do, but no team in the League has a better point percentage in February (.792) than the Golden Knights. They are 9-2-1 since Feb. 1, including seven straight wins, and in an eight-day span they defeated the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues and the 2018 champion Washington Capitals, then ended the Tampa Bay Lightning's 11-game winning streak; the win against Tampa Bay came after they acquired defenseman Alec Martinez from the Los Angeles Kings. The Golden Knights are third in average goals per game (3.83) since Feb. 1 but are 11th in average goals against (2.75) during that span. I believe the addition of Martinez will help in that regard, as will the acquisition of backup goalie Robin Lehner from the Chicago Blackhawks. Lehner is a huge upgrade over Malcolm Subban and an excellent insurance policy for No. 1 Marc-Andre Fleury, who has won the Stanley Cup three times and led Vegas to the Final in its first season. Vegas management has been aggressive, in free agency and through trades, during the past three seasons, and everything is coming together now. No team will want to play the Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Video: Trade Deadline: Lehner to Golden Knights
Amalie Benjamin, NHL.com staff writer
The best team in hockey is the one I watch on an everyday basis: the Boston Bruins. The Bruins came off a disappointing Game 7 home loss to the Blues in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final but have come back just as good as the team that got them to that point. They are the stingiest team in the NHL, allowing 2.45 goals per game, and have a goalie (Tuukka Rask) who lost in regulation at home for the first time all season on Tuesday -- and it's the last week of February. They made a couple of additions before the deadline and though I'm not convinced that forward Nick Ritchie, acquired from the Anaheim Ducks, is the answer. I'm intrigued to see the debut of Ondrej Kase -- a forward who came in a separate trade with the Ducks, likely as the latest option to fill the always-open void next to David Krejci. This is a team that came as close as you can come to a title last season, returned with largely the same cast and knows that its championship window is closing. It won't be easy to get back to the Cup Final, with a stacked Eastern Conference (Lightning, Penguins, Washington Capitals), but right now, my money is on the Bruins.
Adam Kimelman, NHL.com deputy managing editor
I'll stay in the Atlantic Division, where I believe the best team in hockey plays -- and sorry Amalie, it's the Lightning, not the Bruins. The Lightning sprinted to the best record in the NHL last season, then got swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the playoffs. Why? In part because they weren't tough enough to play against, especially at forward, and they didn't have depth on defense. Tampa Bay certainly addressed those areas with its moves around the deadline. Blake Coleman, acquired from the New Jersey Devils, and Barclay Goodrow, acquired from the San Jose Sharks, add skill and sandpaper in bottom-six forward roles, and each is versatile enough to play higher in the lineup if needed. Coleman has back-to-back 20-goal seasons, and Goodrow set NHL career highs in goals (eight) and points (24) with San Jose this season before landing in Tampa. Defenseman Zach Bogosian, who was signed on Sunday after the Buffalo Sabres terminated his contract, brings some snarl and 600-plus games of experience in a third-pair role or as a quality veteran extra, something you never can have enough of in the postseason. The Lightning aren't just the most talented team in the League this season, they're now tougher and better equipped to win the Cup.
Video: Super 16: Blues, Bolts top the rankings
Pete Jensen, NHL.com senior fantasy editor
The Capitals did enough before the deadline to solidify themselves as the NHL's most dangerous playoff team. They added veteran forward Ilya Kovalchuk, who can make an impact on the third line if necessary but also can provide flexibility and injury relief in a top-six and/or power-play role. Although Kovalchuk, acquired from the Montreal Canadiens, has limited postseason experience (32 games) and has never won the Stanley Cup, he has displayed a flair for the dramatic throughout his NHL career with 17 regular-season overtime goals, including two this season with the Canadiens, third-most in NHL history behind new teammate Alex Ovechkin (23) and Jaromir Jagr (19). Don't underestimate how much Kovalchuk can learn from his friend Ovechkin, the greatest Russia-born NHL player of all-time, who finally broke through two postseasons ago and won the Cup. The Capitals also made a move to get defenseman Brenden Dillon from San Jose. Dillon is a reliable top-four shutdown guy with plenty of postseason experience, and he addresses their biggest need.
Tom Gulitti, NHL.com staff writer
Other teams made some splashy moves before the trade deadline, but the Blues remain my pick for the best team. The defending Stanley Cup champions' lone trade before the deadline was the acquisition of defenseman Marco Scandella from the Montreal Canadiens to help replace Jay Bouwmeester, who is on long-term injured reserve after having a cardiac episode that will keep him out for the rest of the season. Otherwise, the Blues stood pat, but they didn't need to make any big additions. Forward Vladimir Tarasenko is expected to return from left shoulder surgery, perhaps before the playoffs start, which will be a big boost to a team that's already in first place in the Western Conference. Under the masterful guidance of coach Craig Berube, St. Louis has endured a host of injuries already this season and the experience of getting through that and how they won last season will help them in the playoffs.
Dan Rosen, senior writer
I have to agree with Tom. There are some good candidates in the Lightning, Bruins, Capitals and, yes, even the Golden Knights. But the Blues are the best. They can beat you in a low-scoring game, like they did in defeating the Arizona Coyotes 1-0 on Feb. 20. They can win in a blowout against quality teams, like their 5-1 road win against the Dallas Stars the next night. And they can win in an up-and-down shootout-type of game, as they did when they rallied to defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-5 on Tuesday. They slumped for a bit, but that's over now. The Blues have won five in a row, and I don't see them slumping again. Moreover, they will get Tarasenko back. He's only their best goal-scorer. Forward David Perron has been cold of late, but he can heat up too. They have the advantage on most nights in offense, defense, goaltending, special teams and coaching. It's close, but the Blues are still at the top.