NHL's Second-Half 'Buy-Low' Teams

by Sean Murphy

Tuesday, Feb 14, 2023
With the All-Star break in the rear-view mirror and the trade deadline a few weeks away, we're in what some would call the 'dog days' of the NHL season. It's an excellent time to take stock of all 32 teams and determine which ones could make us some serious bank over the remainder of the regular season. Here are three candidates that I believe could offer considerable value in the coming weeks (and months) based not only on recent results but also by factoring in schedule-based projections.

New York Rangers

I said it coming out of the All-Star break and I certainly stand by it after the Blueshirts acquired Vladimir Tarasenko in a blockbuster trade with the Blues last week - New York is a serious contender in the Eastern Conference. While the Rangers still sit in third place in a crowded Metropolitan Division, there's lots of reason for optimism on Broadway as they have gone a perfect 4-0 since the break and have collected at least a point in seven straight contests going back to January 23rd. A very manageable schedule lies ahead with stops in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary later this week followed by a 13-game stretch that won't see New York play outside the Eastern time zone a single time. As we saw this past Saturday in Carolina when they won 6-2 as +190 underdogs, the betting marketplace hasn't caught up to the Rangers just yet. We've seen the Boston Bruins terrorize the league for much of the campaign and I believe the Blueshirts can pull off a similar act in the final two months of the regular season.

Seattle Kraken

The Pacific Northwest isn't exactly known as a hockey hotbed but the Kraken have certainly made great strides in winning over fans already this season. Seattle was the talk of the league earlier in the campaign when it went on an incredible run that seemingly came out of nowhere. It did cool off considerably prior to the All-Star break and checks into Tuesday's game in Winnipeg having lost three of its last four games overall. With that said, I believe now is an excellent time to 'buy low' with the Kraken after they showed signs of life in Sunday's 4-3 victory in Philadelphia. It's worth noting that they'll play four of their next six games at home not to mention another stretch in March that will see them play five out of six contests at Climate Pledge Arena, where they're in line for some positive regression (they're a .500 team at home but 17-0 on the road, averaging 4.0 goals per contest in the visitor's role). While most have written the Kraken off as a flash in the pan, they're still in the thick of the Western Conference playoff hunt, currently holding down the third and final postseason spot in the Pacific Division. A savvy move or two prior to the trade deadline might be enough to get Seattle over the hump down the stretch.

Colorado Avalanche

When it comes to the teams on the outside looking in in the Western Conference playoff picture, one of these things is not like the other. That's right, the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche would miss the postseason if the regular season were to end today. Of course, they're only a point back of the second Wild Card spot and few believe they'll end up out of the playoff race come April. While we did successfully fade the Avs in a 5-0 blowout loss in Tampa last week, I liked what I saw as they rebounded with a 5-3 road win over the Panthers two nights later. Defending Norris Trophy winner Cale Makar remains sidelined after suffering a blow to the head from Penguins veteran Jeff Carter last week. While playing without Makar is never a positive, perhaps a few less miles on his tires might not be the worst thing come playoff time. After all, Makar (and the rest of the Avs) have played a ton of hockey going back to last season - as is always the case when it comes to defending Stanley Cup champs. I'm willing to bet we'll see Colorado make a splash at the trade deadline and ultimately go on extended run down the stretch and at the moment, we're able to back them at what I consider to be a discounted price on most nights. 

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