Best NHL trade deadline ever?
I don't know how you could say it wasn't. Pretty much every player rumored to be available over the last few months -- Jakob Chychrun, Bo Horvat, Timo Meier, Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O'Reilly, etc. -- was dealt to a new team.
The Eastern Conference, in particular, saw its teams load up for the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs in a major way. All of the players listed above, including many others, went to teams in the East.
Bruins' trades give them the toughness, tenacity needed for 2023 playoffs
Here's our recap of the biggest winners and losers from the 2023 trade deadline.
The Bruins took a team that ranked No. 2 in goals scored, No. 1 in goals allowed, No. 8 on the power play and No. 1 on the penalty kill and added three quality players in defenseman Dmitry Orlov and forwards Garnet Hathaway and Tyler Bertuzzi. Orlov has been fantastic so far, tallying eight points in four games and playing on all three defense pairings. Hathaway and Bertuzzi give the Bruins much-needed depth for the third and fourth lines with left wingers Taylor Hall (LTIR) and Nick Foligno (IR) out of the lineup due to injuries.
The cost to acquire these players wasn't cheap. The Bruins don't have a first-round pick until 2025. They won't pick in the second round until 2026. But the Bruins were smart to go all-in. They're on pace to break the record for most points and wins in a single season. They have the most complete roster the franchise has had in a long, long time.
B's general manager Don Sweeney did his job and shored up the roster weaknesses. Now it's on the players to get it across the finish line by winning the Stanley Cup. Anything less than a title in 2023 would be a massive disappointment for this franchise.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs are all-in. They gave up multiple first-round picks, plus many other assets, to acquire center Ryan O'Reilly, bottom-six forwards Noel Acciari and Sam Lafferty, top-four defenseman Jake McCabe, and depth defensemen Luke Schenn and Erik Gustafsson.
Toronto's depth down the middle is exceptional with Auston Matthews, John Tavares and O'Reilly. The Leafs also have better depth on the blue line than they've had in a while. If the goaltending holds up -- and it currently ranks No. 7 in save percentage -- Toronto will have a good chance of defeating the Lightning in the first round and earning the franchise's first playoff series win since 2004.
New York Rangers
The Rangers made a huge splash at the trade deadline, acquiring two top-six wingers in Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane, while holding on to their top prospects. Tarasenko and Kane are both former Stanley Cup winners with a proven playoff pedigree.
New York now has plenty of firepower for the postseason, where it could face some of the top 10 scoring teams (Bruins, Leafs, Devils, Lightning).
New Jersey Devils
The Devils made a huge upgrade to bring in top-six forward Timo Meier, who has scored 31 goals in 57 games. He adds plenty of high-end skill to an already potent top-six in New Jersey that includes Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier and Ondrej Palat, among others. The Devils also acquired bottom-six forward Curtis Lazar from the Canucks. Lazar is a tough, reliable player who can take on hard defensive assignments. He's also signed for two more seasons at a team-friendly salary cap hit of only $1 million.
The Devils are a team on the rise and could have saved their assets for future seasons. But you have to give them credit for upgrading this year's team and trying to take advantage of this special opportunity.
The Lars Eller addition is a good one. He's a reliable center with 96 games of playoff experience, including a Stanley Cup ring from the 2017-18 Washington Capitals. Bringing back defenseman Jack Johnson for depth was a solid move, too.
But the real reason the Avalanche are trade deadline winners is the fact that most of the best players traded went to Eastern Conference teams. Furthermore, Colorado's top competitors in the West -- Dallas, Seattle, Minnesota, Los Angeles, Vegas -- didn't make huge blockbuster deals. Most of them made a move or two, but nothing that would vault them to the Avalanche's level.
The results of the trade deadline make the Avalanche the clear favorite to repeat as Western Conference champions.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues had several veterans on expiring contracts, and general manager Doug Armstrong dealt most of them.
Trading away Ryan O'Reilly, Ivan Barbashev and Vladimir Tarasenko netted the Blues two first-round picks, a second-round pick, prospect Zach Dean (Vegas' 2021 first-round pick), plus many other picks/players.
The Blues could have as many as three first-round picks in what has been labeled a deep and very talented 2023 NHL Draft class. They also could use those picks to trade for a star player. Either way, Armstrong has plenty of options for retooling his roster.
Jakob Chychrun trade rumors had been going on for years. So many teams were linked to the talented top-four defenseman. The Coyotes sat him out beginning Feb. 10 and traded him to the Ottawa Senators more than two weeks later for a pretty underwhelming package.
Some of the reported asking prices for Chychrun included multiple first-round picks and other assets. Arizona got one first-rounder and no elite prospects in this trade.
In addition to this lackluster Chychrun deal, the Coyotes also took on salaries of injured players who will likely never suit up for the franchise. They also retained salary for players who were dealt to other teams. This is how they are going to reach the salary cap floor.
Former Coyotes forward John Scott tweeted what many people feel about this franchise.
The Coyotes are an embarrassment to the league right now, and we have yet to mention the fact they play in a college arena that seats 5,025 people.
Trading for Jesse Puljujärvi was a worthy gamble. He's a good defensive player who could see a scoring uptick in Carolina. Shayne Gostisbehere is a solid third-pairing defenseman who can move the puck and generate scoring chances. But the Hurricanes' blue line was already one of the best in the league.
After Max Pacioretty was lost for the season due to injury, this team needed to acquire a legit scorer in the top-six, someone like Timo Meier, Vladimir Tarasenko or Bo Horvat. All three of those guys ended up going to divisional opponents that the Hurricanes might have to face in the playoffs. The Devils, Rangers, Islanders all made upgrades over the last month.
Carolina's road to the Eastern Conference final is much tougher than it was in January.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning are the three-time defending Eastern Conference champs and already have a tremendous roster. They didn't have a lot of high-end prospects or early-round draft picks to trade. However, they spent a lot of their good remaining assets to acquire Tanner Jeannot from the Predators. Tampa Bay gave up five (!) draft picks (including a 2025 first-rounder and a 2024 second-rounder) for a player who has scored five goals this season. Sure, Jeannot scored 24 last season, but he also shot an unsustainable 19.4 percent.
Jeannot is a good fit with the Lightning and will add some offensive skill and toughness to their bottom six, but the cost was pretty high.
After the Leafs made several moves to beef up their roster, you could now say that they should be favored to beat the Lightning when these teams meet again in Round 1 of the playoffs.
Max Domi was a solid addition for the Stars. He can play left wing or center, and he adds some snarl to their lineup. But with the West wide open and the Stars having a really strong chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final, a more impactful move would have increased Dallas' odds of success. They are in a tough fight with the Golden Knights and Kings for home ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs.
The Jets are a really good team, and with so many contenders in the Western Conference not making blockbuster additions, there was an opportunity for Winnipeg to upgrade its roster for a deep playoff run. Despite owning all of their first- and third-round picks going forward, the Jets didn't make a meaningful acquisition. Nino Niederreiter is a nice player with 18 goals this season and 82 games of playoff experience, but he's not going to move the needle much for Winnipeg. Neither will Vladislav Namestinikov, who the Jets acquired Friday.
The Jets likely remain one impact player away from being a real threat in the West.
After a disappointing debut season as a franchise, the Kraken are likely to make the playoffs for the first time in 2023. Seattle owns all of its upcoming first- and second-round picks, including two extra second-rounders in 2023 and an extra third-rounder in 2024. The Kraken also have some quality prospects. And yet Seattle only added veteran defenseman Jaycob Megna. The Kraken might be playing the long game, which does make sense, but the West is up for grabs and it would've made sense to use a first- or second-round pick for a genuine upgrade.
The Flyers are a mess right now. They have the third-worst record in the East with no clear path back to contender status.
Instead of trading away veterans and stockpiling draft picks and prospects that could accelerate the rebuild, the Flyers didn't make any noteworthy moves. James van Riemsdyk could have helped a contender in need of scoring, but the Flyers held on to him despite the fact he'll be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Veteran defenseman Justin Braun is a pending UFA, too, and he also didn't get dealt.
This was one of the busiest trade deadlines in a long time and draft picks were being dealt left and right. For the Flyers not to get in on that action in a meaningful way is a failure by general manager Chuck Fletcher.
The Penguins are in a tough wild card playoff race. They entered Friday with a one point lead over the Islanders for the No. 1 wild card berth. There are six teams within six points of the Penguins in the standings.
When the Penguins brought back Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang last offseason, they needed to be aggressive in order to maximize what's left of Sidney Crosby's time with the franchise.
Pittsburgh did make several moves over the last couple weeks, acquiring forwards Mikael Granlund and Nick Bonino, as well as defenseman Dmitry Kulikov. But these moves don't move the needle at all. And what's worse is Granlund, who has nine goals in 58 games, is signed for two more seasons at a $5 million salary cap hit. Yikes!
The Athletic's Penguins beat writer Josh Yohe summed up Pittsburgh's deadline with this tweet: