The 2016 trade deadline is behind us and you could be forgiven if you felt underwhelmed. While there ended up being a respectable 19 trades in total on Monday, there wasn't much in the way of impact players changing hands. However that's mostly because the juicier players got dealt ahead of time.
With that in mind when discussing the trade deadline's winners and losers, we'll be talking about the entire month of February's trades and not just the ones that occurred on Monday.
Chicago already has a battle tested and proven core, so the Blackhawks really didn't need to do anything big to get them ready for the playoffs. Instead they could focus on adding complimentary pieces and in that regard they succeeded spectacularly.
The Blackhawks added Tim Jackman, Tomas Fleischmann, Dale Weise, Christian Ehrhoff, Matt Fraser, Jay Harrison, and Andrew Ladd. Among that group, Ladd is the only one that might earn a lot of headlines in weeks and months to come, but one thing Chicago certainly isn't lacking now is depth.
Chicago was already a fair bet to win its fourth Stanley Cup in just seven years before the Blackhawks started adding pieces, but they're in a meaningfully better position now.
This couldn't have been easy for the Hurricanes. Carolina's chances of making the playoffs weren't great, but the Hurricanes still had a shot and that means something extra when you haven't gotten to the first round since 2009. Still, if the Hurricanes allowed Eric Staal to walk for nothing as a free agent, that would have been a meaningful setback for the organization and if you're going to trade your captain for picks and a prospect, then you need to fully embrace the fact that you're a trade deadline seller.
Carolina went that route and it should be to its benefit long-term. The Hurricanes couldn't get a first rounder out of the New York Rangers for Eric Staal, but that's not shocking given Staal's decline in recent years. Even still, Carolina got two second round picks (2016 and 2017) as well as 19-year-old forward Aleksi Saarela, who was taken with the 89th overall pick in 2015.
With that done, Carolina added another prospect in 20-year-old Valentin Zykov and a conditional fifth-round pick from Los Angeles in exchange for Kris Versteeg and finally they managed to get 22-year-old forward Anthony Camara, a third-round pick, and a fifth rounder from Boston for John-Michael Liles.
The Hurricanes have some pain ahead of them, which has to be tough to swallow given how long it's been since they had a good season, but they did the right thing over the course of the last few days.
The Panthers have been a pleasant surprise this season with a 35-19-8 record and after years of struggles, it certainly seems appropriate for them to go out and add to this squad in the hopes of winning their first playoff series since 1996.
In that context, Florida added forwards Jiri Hudler and Teddy Purcell as well as defenseman Jakub Kindl, but most importantly, the Panthers did so without breaking the bank. Those three players cost Florida four picks in total and none of them were first rounders. Florida gave up a 2nd, 3rd, 4th and sixth, which is a significant sacrifice, but also a fairly good one given the return.
Calgary arguably executed the best deal of the month when they shipped defenseman Kris Russell to Dallas in exchange for Jyrki Jokipakka, Brett Pollock, and a conditional second-round pick that has the potential to turn into a first rounder if Dallas makes it to the Western Conference Final.
You could argue it from Dallas' side by saying that the Stars were at least addressing one of their most significant needs, but it's hard to see this as anything other than a win for Calgary. Look at it this way: the Flames acquired Russell from St. Louis roughly a year and a half ago for a fourth round pick. So that's a huge return on their investment.
The Flames also moved Jiri Hudler for a second rounder and a fourth-round selection, which isn't amazing, but it's fine given that Hudler might have left as an unrestricted free agent this summer anyways. Getting Hunter Shinkaruk from Vancouver in exchange for Markus Granlund could also look like a strong move for Calgary in a few years, depending on how the promising 21-year-old forward develops.
St. Louis Blues
It's hard for me to be too hard on the Blues because I'm looking at some of the prices spent on mid-range talent and I can't help but feel that St. Louis was justified in staying quiet. At the same time, St. Louis is a team that should be in win-now mode.
The Blues have fielded strong contenders for the last few years, but they've suffered three straight disappointing first-round exits. At this point even a decent playoff run would be seen as a step in the right direction and it's unfortunate that the Blues' front office didn't do anything this month to push them towards that goal.
Are the Boston Bruins going to win the Stanley Cup? Anything's possible, but the odds are against them. Their actions over the last few days suggest that they think otherwise though.
Boston sacrificed four draft picks and 22-year-old Anthony Camara for the sake of getting Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles. Those are the types of complimentary players that can push a great team over the edge, but they aren't going to turn a good team into a great one.
At the end of the day, I think Boston simply overspent and for the sake of what will probably be a mild return. And if the Bruins fail to re-sign Loui Eriksson following an early playoff exit, then that will be the real blow in all of this.
Tampa Bay Lightning
GM Steve Yzerman made it clear ahead of time that he wouldn't trade Steven Stamkos, which I can understand given Tampa Bay's 37-22-4 record. At the same time, could you imagine if the Lightning fail in their goal of winning the Stanley Cup and then Stamkos walks as a free agent. To lose out on getting a return for Stamkos in the cap era would be arguably the biggest blow that any franchise has suffered since the new system started.
Trading Stamkos would be painful, especially in the context of this season, but it might have also been critical for the Lightning in the long run. But then again, Yzerman is obviously privy to information I don't have. I couldn't tell you how close the team is to signing Stamkos or what other teams offered for him. Perhaps Yzerman did listen to offers on Stamkos and was left unimpressed compared to the caliber of the player he'd be sacrificing.
So I really can't be too harsh on Tampa Bay for Stamkos. Instead, I'm actually more concerned with the handling of the Jonathan Drouin situation. The argument is that Yzerman has no pressure on him to trade Drouin in a timely fashion because he controls Drouin's fate still. That's partially true, but the longer Drouin isn't playing hockey during this key point in his development, the less likely teams are to make a significant offer for him. We'll see what happens this summer, but it wouldn't be surprising to me if Tampa Bay ultimately ends up getting a fairly mild return for the 2013 third overall pick despite the delay.
We've highlighted a team that should have been a buyer, but didn't take the plunge, a team that probably shouldn't have been an aggressive buyer, but was one regardless, and a team in a weird situation that may have hurt itself long-term through inaction. Now let's address Vancouver, a franchise that was clearly a seller, but didn't actually sell anything.
Radim Vrbata, Dan Hamhuis, and Matt Bartkowski all seemed like clear cut assets to sell, but now all three of them might end up leaving the team as unrestricted free agents instead. And this isn't like Tampa Bay or Boston where you could at least make the argument that they were at least playing on the idea that they could do something special this year. Vancouver is 24-25-12 so barring a miracle, the Canucks aren't in line to do much of anything special for the remainder of 2015-16.
Honorable Mentions -
Toronto Maple Leafs
I thought about putting the Maple Leafs into the winners column, but at the end of the day, they really didn't impress me all that much. I'm not suggesting that they have been making bad trades, but after parting ways with Dion Phaneuf, Shawn Matthias, Roman Polak, Nick Spaling, and James Reimer, the total return was...fine.
Toronto did collect three second round picks and that's not nothing, but it's also nothing to get excited over either. Nor was it a steal or a setback given what they surrendered. Really the biggest news out of all of this is that Toronto got out from other another major contract in the Phaneuf trade. That extra cap space might be a big factor for the Maple Leafs in a few years, but it's not likely to make a difference in the short or perhaps even mid-term.
If I was to summarize Toronto's deadline actions in a sentence I would say: This was another step in the process that was executed adequately.
I'm just going to copy and paste what I wrote last year at this time about the Oilers. Is it lazy? Unquestionably. But this is the NHL's Groundhog Day team anyways:
"I have mixed feelings about this one. Strictly speaking, I don't think the Oilers got a bad return in their trades. At the same time, I have to wonder if it was really in their best interests to dump Teddy Purcell for another draft pick rather than re-sign him. We're talking about a forward that's 30 years old and it's not like Edmonton couldn't benefit from what veteran leadership they can get at this point.
"Building for the future is something I can typically get behind, but Edmonton hasn't made the playoffs since 2006. So at what point does the team commit itself to breaking the cycle?"
To answer the question that I've repeated the last two years, hopefully this summer. Maybe they'll trade Nail Yakupov, maybe they'll move someone else. Maybe they'll make a blockbuster signing...but I wouldn't count on them luring any big names to play for them until they prove they're capable as an organization of making the playoffs again.
To be fair to Edmonton, last summer was about shaking up the franchise from a front office and coaching perspective. Maybe this summer will be about shaking up their roster. Until that happens, I simply can't bring myself to get interested in another deadline of the Oilers being mild sellers.