The dust has finally settled since the February 25th NHL trade deadline. This year’s NHL deadline saw no shortage of talent on the move with a whopping 22 trades made on the final day alone.
As always, some teams fared better than others. With only about a month left until the end of the season, the trades made have had a chance to pan out and some looked better when they were made than they do two weeks later now. That being said, let’s look at the winners, losers and the teams that fell somewhere in between.
The Predators finally managed to get the forward depth they’ve been wanting for so long and didn’t break the bank to do it. They managed to trade for Brian Boyle, Mikael Granlund and Wayne Simmonds with the biggest piece going out being forward Kevin Fiala.
Granlund is an instant improvement over the younger Fiala and the addition of Simmonds as a rental at a very low price fits Nashville’s roster needs and play style perfectly. Boyle is a proven playoff producer that adds even more grit to the Predators lineup.
The Predators have arguably the best defensive core in the NHL and the addition of scoring depth to help out makes them a scary opponent come playoff time. As long as regular season Rinne shows up rather than playoff Rinne at least.
San Jose Sharks:
The San Jose Sharks are in a win now mode. As their roster continues to get older, they’re seeing their window to make a deep playoff run get smaller and smaller.
On a team with an impressively deep defensive core and a solid goaltender, forward help was all they needed. They got this in Gustav Nyquist from the Detroit Red Wings. He’s already got 50 points on the year so far and makes the Sharks top six forward group pretty scary.
In addition to the addition of Nyquist, the Sharks also added forward prospect Jonathan Dahlen from the Vancouver Canucks. Dahlen was considered a top prospect when he was drafted in 2016, but hasn’t found his way into the NHL just yet. The price of Linus Karlsson to acquire a promising prospect is a good deal for the Sharks.
The Bruins have one of the best first lines in hockey in David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron as well as Brad Marchand. It’s just everything after that that appears to be the problem for Boston.
Like many other teams at the deadline, the Bruins were in desperate need of forward help which they found in Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson from the Minnesota Wild and New Jersey Devils respectively.
The Bruins are in a win now mode, so losing a developing player in Ryan Donato won’t hurt them right now and Charlie Coyle provides the Bruins with center stability from an established player and former 50 point scorer. Johansson also adds a veteran scoring presence that can fuel scorers like Jake DeBrusk and the resurging David Krejci.
The Canadiens find themselves on this list for doing nothing.
While most expected the Canadiens to be a bottom tier team this season, they’re tied for the last wild card spot in the East with plenty of young talent on the roster and in the system.
The best move for the Canadiens to make was no move. If they end up making the playoffs, the addition of a rental won’t guarantee playoff success and it certainly won’t guarantee a Stanley Cup.
As they stand, the Habs aren’t prepared for a run at the cup. The best thing for their future is to wait and let the players they have develop. Sacrificing the future for what would ultimately be an unsuccessful run at the Cup isn’t a good trade.
Vegas Golden Knights:
The Vegas Golden Knights added an elite winger in Mark Stone and were able to quickly sign him to an eight-year deal with an AAV of $9.5 million. While they had to give up their top prospect to get him, this move gives the Golden Knights a new top line forward for many seasons to come at a reasonable cap hit.
Erik Brannstrom will have a bright future in the NHL, but Mark Stone from the Ottawa Senators certainly the price worth losing him for. The Golden Knights top-nine forward group is the stuff of nightmares for goaltenders and the Knights are primed to make another deep run in the playoffs.
Besides, the Golden Knights are exempt from the upcoming expansion draft, so they won’t have to worry about losing any players off of their roster anytime soon.
Columbus Blue Jackets:
This one is rough. Really rough.
It’s not often that you see a team with an elite goalie and forward entering free agency in the same offseason. Unless this team is a front runner for the Stanley Cup with cap space and confidence that at least one of them would be re-signing, the obvious decision would be to trade the players as rentals to the highest bidders and cash in on first-round picks and top prospects, right? Apparently, that would make too much sense for the Blue Jackets.
Instead of getting value back from players that will almost certainly leave in free agency, they decide to become buyers and go all in with, you guessed it, more players that will almost certainly leave in free agency this summer.
The Blue Jackets traded for both Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel from the Ottawa Senators and lost Anthony Duclair, forward prospects Vitaly Abramov and Jonathan Davidsson their 2019 first-round pick, 2020 second-round pick and 2021 second-round pick. They also acquired defensemen Adam McQuaid from the Rangers for their 2019 fourth and seventh-round picks and defensemen Julius Bergman.
This would be a risky move even if the Blue Jackets were comfortable in a playoff spot, but they aren’t. They’re currently battling for the last wild card spot in the East and are tied with Montreal for points. Their remaining schedule isn’t exactly easy either as they’ll see the Boston Bruins three times in their last thirteen games and the Calgary Flames once.
To make matters worse, they’re averaging just over 1.6 goals per game since the trade deadline and have been shutout in three of their eight games since then. Those aren’t the numbers you’d like to see from a team fighting for to claim a playoff spot.
This gamble by Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen may very well blow up in his face and they currently have very little assets to build off of if (or when) all of the players they traded for sign somewhere else in free agency. They have a whopping two picks in this year’s draft, their third and seventh and are guaranteed to not have their second and third-round picks next year. If this worst-case scenario plays out for the Columbus Blue Jackets, heads might be rolling in the Blue Jackets front office.
Everyone knew the Senators would be selling the farm at the deadline and the return wasn’t awful. They got a defensive prospect with a very high ceiling in Erik Brannstrom from the Golden Knights, a first-round pick in the upcoming draft that may be a lottery pick from the Columbus Blue Jackets, the talented, if sometimes problematic, forward Anthony Duclair and a handful of other draft picks including three second-round picks over the next two years and a conditional first-round pick in next year’s draft if Matt Duchene re-signs in Columbus.
Considering that Duchene, Stone and Dzingel most likely weren’t going to re-sign in Ottawa, the return they got for these players is certainly better than watching them walk away for free. That being said, the fact that they were in this position to begin with still makes them losers at the deadline.
Somehow, the Senators trade to acquire Matt Duchene now looks even worse. The Colorado Avalanche have the Senators first-round pick in this year’s draft that has a good chance of being first overall as the Senators are securely last place in the league and no Matt Duchene to show for it. In just two seasons, the Senators have gone from losing game seven of the Eastern Conference finals to stuck in the middle of what looks to be a long rebuild with not a lot of upside in sight for the near future.
One of the slowest blue lines in the NHL somehow managed to get slower.
After signing Jack Johnson in the offseason, the Penguins traded forward Tanner Pearson for defensemen Erik Gudbranson who is notoriously slow.
Over his past three seasons with the Canucks, Gudbranson’s best plus/minus rating was -7 and boasts a -92 rating for his career. He isn’t even a direct upgrade over any of the Penguins current defensemen, but if they had to get him, at least they didn’t give more than Tanner Pearson.
While the trade for Nick Bjugstad and forward Jared McCann is working out for the Penguins so far, trading for and playing Gudbranson is completely unnecessary for the Penguins.
The Flyers traded for yet another goalie and got a rather disappointing return for pending free agent Wayne Simmonds.
Acquiring Cam Talbot isn’t a completely pointless trade though as he has been a mentor and summer training partner for the Edmonton native Carter Hart who is undoubtedly the Flyers goalie of the future.
As for Simmonds, it’s crazy to think that a fourth-round pick and Ryan Hartman was the best package available to get him. Even though he’ll be a free agent this summer, Simmonds was one of the most talked about trade pieces on the market this year.
Zuccarello got a second and third-round pick, Hayes got a prospect and a first-round pick, Johansson got a second and a fourth-round pick, Dzingel got two second-round picks and Anthony Duclair, so why did Simmonds only earn a fourth-round pick and Ryan Hartman, who has just two assists with the Flyers since the trade? In addition, Hartman will be a restricted free agent this summer and therefore, will need a new contract.
While the Flyers weren’t going to be a playoff team before these trades, they haven’t been put in a better position for next year by them either.
Somewhere in between:
Tampa Bay Lightning:
The Lightning didn’t do anything because they didn’t need to.
This is a huge vote of confidence for the team from their general manager, but it’s hard to imagine that the Lighting couldn’t have put together a better package for Simmonds than Nashville did. For example, a third and rotating forward Adam Erne would have been a player and pick upgrade over Nashville’s package.
When asked about the Lightning’s silence at the deadline, Tampa Bay Lightning GM Julien BriseBois said that he didn’t see a move that would make the Tampa Bay Lightning better than they already are. That speaks to the depth and dominance of the Lightning this season and the faith that the front office has in the players they have.
There’s no doubt that the Lightning have been the best team in the league so far, but they’ve fallen flat in the playoffs in recent years. By no means would a rental have guaranteed playoff success, but it could have increased the odds for a team that’s already the favourite.
The Wild made the first steps in their rebuild this offseason by trading Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle for Ryan Donato and Kevin Fiala.
With these trades, they cleared cap space and got a bit younger as well, but neither of these moves were substantial enough to fix the Wild’s salary cap or age issues. Donato and Fiala will both be free agents this summer and will need new contracts as well.
Season in and season out, the Wild are a very okay team that can’t seem to find playoff success past the first round or so. They’re currently in a state of limbo that’s keeping them from committing to a rebuild or trying to contend. These two trades push them in the direction of a rebuild, or at least a retool, but they don’t have enough cap space to rebuild effectively as they stand.
The Stars made a great move in acquiring a talented forward in Mats Zuccarello from the New York Rangers and he immediately contributed by notching a goal and an assist in his first game with the Stats.
The problem is his arm which was broken while blocking a shot later in that game and he’s expected to miss at least two more weeks while he heals. The Stars are currently in the thick of the Western wild-card battle with four teams standing tall within three points of one another.
If there’s one thing the Stars really need, it’s scoring help. While their top line is strong, it’s just about everything found below that needs work. Zuccarello fits this need perfectly but will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. If the Stars miss the playoffs and Zuccarello leaves in free agency, the Stars will have essentially lost a second and third-round draft pick for nothing.