Predicting the buyers and sellers among fringe playoff teams

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The NHL's Feb. 25 trade deadline is just over five weeks away, and that stretch will be crucial for teams on the playoff bubble, as their results will likely dictate whether they load up for a postseason run or make moves for the future.

With that in mind, let's predict the buyers and sellers among the NHL's fringe playoff teams.

Note: The Montreal Canadiens were excluded from this exercise since general manager Marc Bergevin already expressed his deadline plans.

Anaheim Ducks

Jonathan Kozub / National Hockey League / Getty
GP Points Points back of playoffs Goal differential
48 49 0 (outside playoffs due to tie breaker) -27

The Ducks are mired in a midseason slump, having just snapped their 12-game losing streak. And the road ahead doesn't seem much brighter, as 10 of their next 14 contests leading up to the deadline will be played away from home.

General manager Bob Murray has expressed a desire to re-sign forward Jakob Silfverberg, but if the two sides can't agree on a deal before the deadline, Murray would be foolish to keep his best rental trade chip.

Prediction: Seller

Edmonton Oilers

Jeff Vinnick / National Hockey League / Getty
GP Points Points back of playoffs Goal differential
47 49 0 (outside playoffs due to tie breaker) -12

The Oilers have a slightly favorable upcoming schedule, with eight of 14 games at home leading up to the deadline and seven coming against teams currently outside of the playoff picture.

Considering how streaky the Oilers have been this season, it's anyone's guess as to how they'll perform. But considering CEO Bob Nicholson said in December that GM Peter Chiarelli's job will be safe if the team makes the playoffs, Chiarelli will likely pull out all the stops in hopes of making it happen.

The work on defense is likely finished - Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera are nearing returns following a pair of minor deals in December - but the Oilers are reportedly on a "full-court press" in search of forward help.

Prediction: Buyer

Minnesota Wild

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty
GP Points Points back of playoffs Goal differential
47 49 -- -6

The Wild may have the most favorable schedule in the league over the next five weeks. They play 16 games leading up to the deadline, with only five against teams currently holding a playoff spot.

However, despite a potential hot streak, the Wild may be inclined to sell. Paul Fenton took over as GM last offseason, and given the competitive Central Division, he may want to retool the roster with his own vision, as he began to do with Thursday's trade of Nino Niederreiter for Victor Rask.

Fenton could otherwise stand pat, but with limited cap space this coming summer, doing so could also mean losing pending unrestricted free agent Eric Staal for nothing.

Prediction: Seller

Vancouver Canucks

Kevin Sousa / National Hockey League / Getty
GP Points Points back of playoffs Goal differential
48 48 1 -13

Sitting right in the thick of the playoff mix, the Canucks will play meaningful games down the stretch for the first time in five years. That will provide valuable experience for a young team - and a winning streak before the deadline could always change the strategy - but it just doesn't seem like the right time to add to a group that's still a few years away from peaking.

Vancouver's best move for the long term would be acquiring assets in return for its top potential rental, defenseman Alex Edler. He'd need to waive his full no-trade clause, but it wouldn't be shocking to see Edler wearing another uniform down the stretch before returning to the Canucks on July 1.

Prediction: Seller

Buffalo Sabres

Bill Wippert / National Hockey League / Getty
GP Points Points back of playoffs Goal differential
47 54 2 -3

Losing Jeff Skinner in the offseason would be a massive step backward for the Sabres on their long path to relevance. And the best way to keep the pending UFA around - other than money, of course - is by winning.

With a breezy seven-game home stretch beginning when the calendar flips to February, the Sabres will have a good chance to move up the standings. Doing so would help GM Jason Botterill lean toward buying at the deadline, even if Skinner remains without a new deal.

It's hard to see Buffalo making a major deal, but some under-the-radar veteran additions up front could provide valuable experience and help this young team make the playoffs.

Prediction: Buyer

Carolina Hurricanes

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty
GP Points Points back of playoffs Goal differential
46 49 7 -11

The Hurricanes are surging right now, and we're not talking about the club's post-win celebrations at home. They've won seven of nine - putting themselves into the playoff hunt - and could sustain the hot streak with just six of their next 16 game coming against current playoff teams.

But while owner Tom Dundon wants to reach the postseason, he doesn't seem inclined to lose valuable players for nothing, which explains why pending UFA Micheal Ferland's name has been floating around the rumor mill. The Hurricanes are also reportedly open to trading Dougie Hamilton, but there's simply no rush considering he's signed through 2020-21.

It's also unlikely that Dundon will be looking for rentals who can walk after the season. Perhaps the Hurricanes will acquire a player who's signed long term, or maybe they'll pull off another "pure hockey deal" - such as Thursday's Rask-for-Niederreiter trade - potentially even involving Hamilton.

Prediction: Seller

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