The NHL trade deadline is less than a week away, and this is the time of year when teams have to decide whether to buy, sell, or stay as they are. For teams in the Central Division, those divides are a bit unclear.
Entering play on Saturday, the Dallas Stars lead the division with a record of 30-16-12 and 72 points. Right behind them are the Winnipeg Jets at 35-23-1 and 71 points. The Stars have one game in hand that could help them retain their first-place position.
These two squads have been within a handful of points of one another for the majority of this season, despite neither team being expected to be in such a position.
Which teams in the Central can contend for the Stanley Cup?
The favorite, of course, was the Colorado Avalanche. After winning it all in 2022, the Avs are 32-19-5 (69 points). That puts the Avs one point behind the Minnesota Wild, whose record is 32-21-6 (70 points). Colorado has three games in hand over Minnesota.
Behind the Wild and Avalanche are the Nashville Predators (28-22-6, 62 points) and St. Louis Blues (26-28-4, 56 points). The Arizona Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks round out the bottom of the Central as two of the worst teams in the Western Conference.
With as tight as this division is, I am expecting these teams to each make at least one move to bolster their lineups. Having said that, I am not about to predict trades or even which teams will buy and which teams will sell.
This is about which teams in the Central are true contenders for the Cup and which ones are pretenders due for an early postseason exit.
Before getting into that, it’s worth noting that the Blackhawks and Coyotes will not be discussed in this article. While fans could debate the other six teams in the Central and how good they are, there is nothing to debate when it comes to the Hawks and Yotes.
Now, without further ado, here are the contenders and pretenders in the Central Division in 2023.