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NHL power rankings: Who are contenders ahead of the trade deadline?

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The Sabres, Canadiens and Jets are going nowhere, fast. The allure of the playoffs and the millions of dollars it generates is real: Ask the Blue Jackets, who snatched the franchise’s first playoff series win after making the choice to buy and not to sell. The trade deadline, just a few weeks away, presents a hard fork in the season before each franchise’s path diverges toward a playoff push or a mediocre conclusion. And neither Buffalo, Montreal or Winnipeg have much to stake their postseason hopes to.

The rest of the league isn’t settled, but a few groupings have emerged. The Capitals, Bruins, Blues, Lightning and Penguins solidify the NHL’s top tier. The Avalanche, Islanders, Stars, Leafs and Hurricanes rear the next group of potential contenders. Teams like the Flyers, Golden Knights, Panthers, Oilers and Flames are on the cusp of rising up, while the Canucks and Blue Jackets, improbably, hold a top-10 position in the standings. Everybody else? Good luck.

Now that the Battle of Alberta has concluded and brought playoff-esque resentment to hockey in February, here’s how we see teams stacking up this week:

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