The Final Stretch: Who Are The Top Stanley Cup Contenders After The Trade Deadline?

With the dust from Tuesday’s whirlwind trade deadline now settled, the push for the NHL playoffs kicks into its highest gear.

It was a more wild trade deadline than normal. Heading into Monday the league, for seemingly the first time in years, didn’t have a handful of truly elite, powerhouse teams that were significantly ahead of the pack in terms of their playoff chances. This parity, with almost every team that’s currently in a playoff spot possessing a very strong chance at making a deep run, created a proverbial arms race as most of these teams added one or two veteran rentals to help their cause.

With the deadline now in the past and trading frozen until the summer, the rosters that teams have now will be the ones that they have to head into the playoffs with (not including minor league call-ups, of course). Taking that into account, which two teams currently have the best odds at going the distance and playing for hockey’s ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup?

Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers made it to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, and they're in great shape to do it again this year (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers made it to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, and they’re in great shape to do it again this year (Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)

Eastern Conference: New York Rangers

Deadline Additions: Keith Yandle, James Sheppard

Before the deadline the only dramatic weakness on the New York Rangers’ roster was the need for an offensive, puck-moving defenseman that could quarterback the powerplay.

Enter Keith Yandle.

Yandle, regularly one of the NHL’s highest-scoring blueliners, cost the Rangers a very hefty package (John Moore, prospect Anthony Duclair, a 1st round pick and a 2nd round pick) but is arguably the final piece of the puzzle that the organization needs to make a serious playoff push.

New York is currently second in the league in terms of goals-per-game with 3.11, so their forward group is doing fantastic, and adding Yandle to a back end that already has Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Kevin Klein and Dan Boyle also gives them one of, if not the best, defenses in the league. Add in all-world goaltender Henrik Lundqvist behind the 18 skaters and the Rangers are a team that’s built for success from top to bottom.

The Rangers came painstakingly close to winning it all last year, losing in the Cup finals to the Los Angeles Kings. With their strong play all season, bolstered now by the addition of Yandle, a shot at redemption is firmly within their grasp.

Vladimir Tarasenko is only 23, but he's already the best offensive weapon on the St. Louis Blues  (Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)
Vladimir Tarasenko is only 23, but he’s already the best offensive weapon on the St. Louis Blues (Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)

Western Conference: St. Louis Blues

Deadline Additions: Zbynek Michalek, Olli Jokinen

The Blues didn’t make a blockbuster move before the deadline, but really, they didn’t need to. They were legitimate contenders before, and the acquisitions of veteran depth in Zbynek Michalek and Olli Jokinen only cement that fact.

The Western Conference is, once again, completely brutal this year, but the Blues’ balance pushes them slightly ahead of the pack. With Anaheim having young goalies, Nashville lacking a game-breaking offensive talent, and Patrick Kane out injured for Chicago, the Blues are the only major player in the West without a big, exploitable weakness.

Offense and goaltending have hurt St. Louis in recent years, but with Vladamir Tarasenko bursting into superstar territory and Brian Elliott putting up good numbers all season long, those issues seem to be a thing of the past. They’re sitting 3rd in the conference right now, but boast the best goal differential at a +38.

It’s going to be another long, arduous road to escape the Western Conference, but right now the Blues are the team that’s most primed to do it.

29 thoughts on “The Final Stretch: Who Are The Top Stanley Cup Contenders After The Trade Deadline?”

  1. Rangers will get booted by Islanders or Canadiens. Blues? They will play two goalies each and every game in the playoffs until the fast elimination by the first team they meet…

  2. The Rangers are under-sized. Most of the Eastern Conference teams play finesse hockey, most of the Western Conference teams play power hockey. A 195 lb. defenseman like Yandle will have problems trying to scrum with a top forward like Anze Kopitar or David Backes for example who weighs 225 or so.
    St. Louis figured out they needed to add size and toughness when the Kings blew them out 4-0 in the playoffs 3 years ago. They became much harder to beat.
    Whichever team survives the Eastern Conference playoff grind, Detroit. Pittsburgh, Montreal and the NYI’s might be the exceptions, will be much smaller and lighter than the Western Conference playoff grind survivor. The Western Conference teams have few skaters under 200 lbs. They grind it out better in the corners, along the boards, and in front of the net. The Eastern
    Conference is more speed skating, fast-break hockey so to speak.
    Power will out-muscle finesse. It helps explain why the Western Conference teams won 6 of the last 8 Stanley Cup championships.
    Just my opinion.

  3. “The Rangers came painstakingly close to winning it all last year”, to funny. Kings BLEW them off. Cup winner will be the west again.

    • Only 1 game in the entire series wasn’t a toss up. Kings won game 1 in over time and games 2 and 5 in double overtime. That series was much closer than history will remember, but I’m guessing you didn’t actually watch.

      • Maybe BLEW was heavy handed but there was never a doubt kings would win 7 game series. Im surprised it went 5. Just ask Vegas.

  4. Don’t count out the habs – not a fan but Carey Price and PK Subban can make the difference. They could have beat NYR is Carey didn’t get hurt last year.

  5. Rags will choke like they always do. Any of the top 6 teams in the east can advance to the Cup finals this year.

  6. I’ll agree that the Rangers look like the team out of the East but for the West I’m thinking the Kings will be representing that conference again. When the Kings turn it on it seems they can’t be stopped and without Kane I don’t see the Hawks getting it done.

    • The Kings have to get in first. Right now they don’t qualify. Can the Wild keep it up? Pretty much on top of it since they got Doobie. But their schedule gets much tougher after mid March.

  7. Hard to win the Cup when you have one hand wrapped around your neck because you are CHOKERS! Blues are nothing but FRAUDS – this team has been post-season chokers for 3 years in a row and NOTHING I see from them now makes me think anything different. When the ice “shrinks” and games mean more the Blues will once again show their true colors and come up small in the post-season. There is a 0% chance the make the SCF and maybe a 10% chance they make the WCF.

    • Frauds!?! I don’t think so. The Blues organization has spent the last 4 years building this team. If everyone stays healthy, unlike last year when 6-7 top players were injured going down the final stretch and entering the playoffs, they will have a great chance. I sure hope you eat your words Erik or choke on them! Lets Go Blues #ourteam

    • Im glad you are that worried that you took time time to post a paragraph about how much you thinks the Blues will choke………Redwings fan maybe. LMAO

      • NOPE! Fan of the 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup Champions…………..and before you say “Bandwagon Fan” – think again. I go back to the days of Maguire’s Mess and when the Kings and Montreal were in the same division. I saw The Triple Crown line play. I am a diehard fan

      • Eric: I am a lonnnnnnnnnnnnngtime (as in 40 years) fan of the Defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings. Recall 2012 and 2013 SCP. I know if the SCP began today the Kings would not be in but they will make it and they WILL last longer than the Choking Dog Blues

        • Hey you went 44 years without a championship and then they decided to show up. You guys have had some great teams recently. Everybodys reign comes to an end eventually. I however have class and don’t bash other towns teams because trust me as passionate as you are about LA I am about the Blues. Our day will come.

    • I agree, though I’d rather they focus on getting healthy and not on the president’s cup. But if it happens great!
      ETA To parade down Market Street: 3.5 months.

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