Another trade deadline in the NHL has come and gone, and although we won’t know the final outcomes of the deals for another few months, or possibly years, it’s always fun to try and figure out who seized the day at the deadline and who made the most puzzling, head-scratching moves after the dust had settled. The trade deadline isn’t what it once was, as teams are now equally likely to make deals in the days leading up to the deadline instead of on the actual day of it. However, there were still some big moves made, and even more that were expected to be completed but never quite materialized. With that being said, we’ll take a look back at which teams helped themselves the most heading into the deadline and which ones made moves that didn’t really do themselves any favors.
On Monday night, the Capitals captured the biggest fish in the pond that is the trade market, getting defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a 2017 first-round pick, conditional draft picks, and forwards Zach Sanford and Brad Malone. Earlier this week, I talked about how bold this move is and that if they’re going to finally win the Stanley Cup, this is the year to do it. Washington didn’t have to completely sell the farm to get Shattenkirk, who will be an unrestricted free agent, and his addition makes a stacked roster that much better. With Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom getting older, a handful of guys who will be UFA’s, and several restricted free agents that will need raises, now was the time for the Capitals to make a big move like this one.
Tampa Bay Lightning
In the midst of a disappointing season, the Lightning still find themselves in the middle of the hunt for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. However, with goalie Ben Bishop and center Brian Boyle due to become UFA’s, Bolts general manager Steve Yzerman decided he didn’t want to lose them for nothing, packaging them both in separate deals for picks and prospects, with the Lightning also getting Kings goalie Peter Budaj in return to back up Andrei Vasilevskiy. But Yzerman’s crowning achievement was offloading 32-year-old center Valtteri Filppula and two draft picks to Philadelphia for Mark Streit and then flipping Streit to Pittsburgh for another pick. Filppula’s $5 million salary comes off the books, the Lightning don’t have to retain any of his salary, and they get to protect someone else in the expansion draft since Filppula had no-move and modified no-trade clauses. That salary cap space will come in handy for re-signing RFA’s Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Johnson, and Ondrej Palat.
The same franchise that has been heavily criticized for trying to retool on the fly with an aging, talent-deficient roster finally realized that a full-scale rebuild was needed and got off to a good start in that department with a pair of trades. They sent aging pest Alex Burrows to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for intriguing forward prospect Jonathan Dahlen, and then followed it up by dealing Jannik Hansen to the San Jose Sharks for another up-and-coming forward prospect, Nikolay Goldobin. While Dahlen and Goldobin might not help out right away, these moves are the kind of forward-thinking trades that will help restock the team’s farm system. In addition, the Canucks got a conditional fourth-round pick in the Hansen trade that will become a first-round choice if the Sharks win the Stanley Cup. With the Western Conference being as wide open as its been in a while, the possibility of that happening is strong.
Rumored to be in the sweepstakes for Shattenkirk, the Penguins still went out and bolstered their defensive depth, acquiring Ron Hainsey, Frank Corrado, and Mark Streit in separate trades. This was much-needed, as Pittsburgh will not have the services of Trevor Daley or Olli Maatta for several weeks due to both having surgery for different injuries. It also helps to have as much depth on the blue line as possible, especially since Pittsburgh couldn’t stand pat after watching division rival Washington pick up the best player on the market. Although goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury looked like a shoo-in to be moved in order to be able to protect Matt Murray at the expansion draft, Fleury was kept due to the fact the trade market for goalies just wasn’t there. Fleury is still a candidate to get moved in the offseason when general manager Jim Rutherford could probably get a better deal. Don’t be surprised if he also makes a move with Vegas before the expansion draft to ensure the Golden Knights don’t select either of his goalies.
I went back and forth on the Wild as a winner at this year’s trade deadline. They paid a hefty price to acquire centers Martin Hanzal and Ryan White in the same deal from the Arizona Coyotes: A 2017 first-round pick, a 2018 second-round pick, and a 2019 conditional fourth-round pick along with Grayson Downing. But when you take a deeper look at the deal, it was one that Minnesota could afford to make. The 2017 draft is not considered a strong one, and they also didn’t give up any elite prospects in order to pry Hanzal away from the Coyotes. Hanzal was considered the top center available at the deadline, and his acquisition makes the Western Conference-leading Wild that much tougher to go against and that much stronger down the middle. The 6’6″ Hanzal can contribute offensively at both ends of the rink, kill penalties, and has won almost 56% of his faceoffs. For the first time, the Wild were in a position to make a bold move at the deadline in their bid for the franchise’s first Stanley Cup, and they made quite the move with that goal in mind.
The Canadiens were one of the busiest teams at the trade deadline, adding forwards such as Steve Ott from Detroit, Andreas Martinsen from Colorado, and Dwight King from Los Angeles. They also sent defenseman Greg Pateryn to Dallas for fellow blueliner Jordie Benn, and swapped forward to David Desharnais to Edmonton for defenseman Brandon Davidson. The Habs certainly added some size and grittiness to their lineup. But did they really get better? Taking a look at all of the moves, you can’t really say they did. This was a team in desperate need of scoring help, particularly at center, and they came up empty in that department. Players like Thomas Vanek, Radim Vrbata, and Valtteri Filppula could’ve provided them with some offensive depth, but they chose not to go that route. Today’s NHL is highly predicated on speed, yet Montreal added a ton of size and some grit to their lineup. They needed goal-scoring, and didn’t do anything to fix that problem.
Los Angeles Kings
Another team that has struggled to score goals this season, the Kings were expected to be on the hunt for a forward or two that could provide some depth up front and make some offensive contributions. Instead, they made the decision to add goalie Ben Bishop and a fifth-round pick in 2017 from the Tampa Bay Lightning as an insurance policy for Jonathan Quick, who recently returned from a groin injury that cost him four months of action. They sent defensive prospect Erik Cernak, backup goalie Peter Budaj, and a seventh-round pick to Tampa Bay in the Bishop trade. Don’t be surprised if Bishop doesn’t stick around since he’s going to be a UFA. The Kings also moved out Dwight King to Montreal in order to make room for Jarome Iginla, who was picked up from Colorado for a fourth-round pick. While Iginla is more than likely going to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame one day, he’s in the twilight of his career and no longer has the speed to keep up in today’s NHL. L.A. also failed to find a taker for Marian Gaborik, whose contract carries a cap hit of $4.875 million and runs through 2021.
The Senators have been neck-and-neck with the Boston Bruins for second place in the Atlantic Division, and are still within striking distance of Montreal for the top spot in the division. Yet the moves they made were head-scratchers. It’s one thing to add Burrows from the Canucks at the deadline. It’s another to give up Dahlen, a promising prospect, for him. It’s yet another to give the 35-year-old pest extraordinaire a two-year extension worth $2.5 million a year when he’s past his prime. Ottawa also added Viktor Stalberg from Carolina for a draft pick, and finished the deadline proceedings by dealing forward Curtis Lazar and defenseman Mike Kostka to Calgary for defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka and a second-round pick in this year’s draft. Lazar is a 2013 first-round pick whose career has stalled, as he just couldn’t crack Ottawa’s lineup. The Sens’ moves didn’t really move the needle, and if Lazar ends up jump-starting his career with that fresh start in Calgary, it could be a move they’ll regret down the line.
New York Islanders
The Isles are just one point out of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference after a dreadful start to their season. Goalie Jaroslav Halak, who has been buried in the AHL for the last few months, was considered to be a possible target for a team in need of an experienced backup goalie or a temporary starter. However, the Islanders were unable to move him and his $4.5 million contract. If there was any team that could’ve stood to make a move to bolster their roster at the deadline, it was this one. They’ve needed a running mate for franchise center John Tavares, and they didn’t get one. In fact, they didn’t make any moves at all. They were also rumored to be a landing spot for Avalanche center Matt Duchene, but nothing ever materialized. New York didn’t need to sell the farm to make a massive move, but adding depth at forward wouldn’t have been a bad idea.
Buffalo’s rebuild has hit a bit of a snag this year, as early injuries to Jack Eichel and Evander Kane helped derail their season before it could get going. With the Sabres likely to miss the playoffs for a sixth straight season, they had a chance to acquire some future assets at the deadline. Four of their players, foward Brian Gionta, defensemen Cody Franson and Dimitry Kulikov, and goalie Anders Nilsson are all unrestricted free agents and could’ve all fetched a return of some sort. Instead, they didn’t make any deals and now risk losing all four of those players for nothing in return. Kane has 22 goals in 51 games this season and has a salary cap hit of $5.25 million on a contract that runs through the end of the 2017-18 season. If there’s one move you can’t criticize Buffalo for, it was not dealing Kane at this year’s deadline, although there were a few rumors that he might have been on the move. Don’t be surprised if he’s a guy that ends up getting dealt at next year’s deadline if the Sabres are on the outside of the playoff picture yet again.
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