To the delight of many hockey fans and pundits alike, it was an extremely active NHL trade deadline day on Monday with big names like Ryan McDonagh, Evander Kane and Tomas Tatar involved in deals even as much of the action had taken place in the days prior to the actual deadline. In fact a bevy of first round picks changed hands on deadline day, which speaks to just how many teams believe they have a legitimate shot at a Cup run in a wide open season.
Here is a rundown of the winners and losers from the 2018 NHL trade deadline with the simple truth being that we won’t truly know until after this season has concluded:
Tampa Bay Lightning – Steve Yzerman is at the top of his game as an NHL general manager, and he showed why again on Monday by doing whatever it took to close the deal and land Rangers frontline defenseman Ryan McDonagh. You add McDonagh to a star-studded roster of Nikita Kucherov, Steve Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Ryan Callahan, Brayden point and Andrei Vasilevskiy, and you’re talking about the best team in the Eastern Conference, on paper anyway. The Lightning had to pay a steep price including Vladislav Namestnikov, a first round pick and a wealth of prospects, but Tampa Bay is absolutely in “win now” mode with their group of players. Dealing for McDonagh and JT Miller is exactly that kind of trade that could put a team over the top, and that puts them squarely in the “winners” category.
New York Rangers – Speaking of Ryan McDonagh, the struggling Rangers decided they were going to flip a number of core veteran players and reload with a group of younger prospects and prime draft picks. So Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton shipped out Nick Holden, Rick Nash, Michael Grabner, McDonagh and JT Miller to the Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning and New Jersey Devils, and turned that into a haul that included Vladislav Namestnikov, Ryan Spooner, two first round picks, a conditional third first round pick, a second round pick, a third round pick, a seventh round pick and five young prospects of varying degrees of promise. That’s a tremendously quick makeover for a Rangers team that was going nowhere fast with their previous core group after a run that fell just short of a Stanley Cup title, and a lot of young assets for New York to turn into an exciting young hockey club. Gorton and the Blueshirts starred at the NHL trade deadline, and they maximized their return on the veteran pieces that they traded away.
Boston Bruins – Don Sweeney had a couple of goals going into the deadline. One was a veteran top-6 power forward winger that could play with David Krejci, and the other was a number of veteran depth pieces to augment the NHL roster mix of proven veterans and exciting rookies that have taken the NHL by storm over the last three months. The Bruins turned a 2018 first round pick and a number of extra pieces into landing the premier rental winger on the trade market in 33-year-old Rick Nash, who could be a truly dangerous offensive player on the second line with David Krejci during a playoff run. The Bruins also signed or traded for Brian Gionta, Nick Holden and Tommy Wingels, who give the Bruins proven, veteran depth at the wings, on the back end and up-front in case the young players can’t hold up their end of the bargain in the pressure-packed playoffs. The bottom line for the Bruins is that they’re a much better team coming out of the deadline than they were going into it, and that’s the name of the game for every NHL team.
Winnipeg Jets – Winnipeg looked like they were going to be frustrated in their attempts to land a center when they lost out on the sweepstakes for Derick Brassard and Tomas Plekanec, and that would have been a shame given how good the Jets have been this season. Instead the Jets pulled a rabbit out of their hat and somehow managed to pry Paul Stastny out of the St. Louis Blues with a first round pick and local college hockey prospect Erik Foley, and added an important piece to a Winnipeg team that’s already teeming with talent even prior to this trade. Give Kevin Cheveldayoff credit for working diligently until the right deal was finalized for the Jets, and now Winnipeg is set up for a potentially long run in the Western Conference this season.
Ottawa Senators – The Senators teased and tricked their way to everybody thinking that franchise D-man Erik Karlsson was going to get moved ahead of Monday’s trade deadline, and teams were lining up with their offers. But it didn’t happen even as things are falling apart in Ottawa, and some desperate teams appear to have even been willing to take on Bobby Ryan’s albatross of a contract to make it happen. Instead the Senators opted to hold onto a player in Karlsson that may already have one foot out of the door mentally, and continue prolonging a futile limbo where Ottawa certainly isn’t competitive, and probably needs to begin rebuilding things from the ground up. For a team as completely out of it as the Senators are this season, they did surprisingly little with their roster to start any kind of a rebuilding campaign outside of trading Derick Brassard to Pittsburgh. They didn’t move Mike Hoffman or JG Pageau and now have a player in Karlsson that everybody knows is going to be moved this summer in a blockbuster decision. The Bruins could have picked up the speed on their rebuild with some bold moves this week, but it simply didn’t happen for Pierre Dorion.
Washington Capitals – While other Eastern Conference teams in Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Boston added to their rosters with significant upgrades at the trade deadline, the Capitals did absolutely nothing to improve a team in playoff position. Certainly some of it is about a Capitals team that’s already pretty well put together for the playoff haul, but it’s also about a Washington group that was never really in the mix for any of the big names despite their place in the standings. Perhaps Washington has decided they’re not going to waste valuable future assets on rental players leading up to what’s been a challenging playoff atmosphere for the Capitals, But doing nothing is pretty unforgivable for a Washington team in decent playoff position, and with as good of a chance as anybody in a wide open Eastern Conference. Washington was one of the teams that was outmaneuvered by the Lightning for Ryan McDonagh at the deadline.
Buffalo Sabres – Sabres GM Jeff Botterill got only a conditional second round pick for Evander Kane as a prime rental piece, and wasn’t able to move Josh Gorges, Robin Lehner or Benoit Pouliot as deadline deals. It looks nobody was really interested in Buffalo’s spare parts. Who could have ever guessed that? It certainly looks like the San Jose Sharks could benefit greatly from a rental like Kane that will be on his best behavior for the next couple of months while looking for a big contract, but they were the only NHL team that reportedly showed serious interest in Kane. Perhaps it was just as well that the Sabres sat out this trade deadline aside from flipping Kane to the San Jose Sharks, and focus instead on trying to organize their remaining young pieces into a hockey team that might actually win a few games down the stretch and into the postseason.