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After Hurricanes land Kuznetsov, Guentzel, East rivals follow with trade deadline deals of their own

NHL: Washington Capitals at Dallas Stars

Jan 27, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) in action during the game between the Dallas Stars and the Washington Capitals at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Once the Carolina Hurricanes began stocking up in the hours before the NHL trade deadline, it didn’t take long for the league’s many other contenders to join in on Friday.

The Hurricanes kicked off the final day of trading by acquiring center Evgeny Kuznetsov from the Washington Capitals. Washington acquired a 2025 third-round pick and is retaining half of his salary through next season — a cap hit of $7.8 million with $8 million due in 2024-25.

It was Carolina’s second considerable move in 12 hours, after the Hurricanes landed scoring winger Jake Guentzel from Pittsburgh in a blockbuster deal.

What followed was a string of moves made mostly by Eastern Conference rivals in a bid to keep up.

Two days after acquiring Vladimir Tarasenko from Ottawa, the league-leading Florida Panthers added depth and leadership in landing Buffalo’s Kyle Okposo. Buffalo acquired minor-league defenseman Calle Sjalin in a deal that provides the 35-year-old Sabres captain a chance to compete in the playoffs in what could be his final NHL season.

The Boston Bruins became the last of the top contenders in the East to add, getting three-time Cup champion Patrick Maroon from Minnesota for young forward Luke Toporowski and a conditional 2026 sixth-round pick.

The Metropolitan Division-leading New York Rangers added blue-line depth by acquiring Chad Ruhwedel from a Penguins team that is suddenly entering a rebuilding mode.

And Philadelphia shored up its defense by acquiring veteran Erik Johnson for a fourth-round draft pick in a deal with Buffalo.

In the West, the surging Jets acquired forward Tyler Toffoli in a trade with New Jersey to become Winnipeg’s latest addition after landing center Sean Monahan from Montreal during the All-Star break. The Devils acquired a 2024 third- and a 2025 second-round pick while also retaining half of the pending free agent’s salary for the remainder of the season.

And the Nashville Predators, who hold one of the West’s two wild-card spots, attempted to shore up their playoff position by getting forward Jason Zucker from Arizona for a sixth-rounder this year.

The focus remains on the Hurricanes, who continued adding to an already talented roster, and a team that fell short after managing a combined six goals in being swept by Florida in the Eastern Conference finals.

“Evgeny is a high-level playmaker who will add to our offensive firepower,” Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said. “He brings even more playoff experience to our lineup, and we’re excited to give him a fresh start in Carolina.”

Kuznetsov, 31, cleared waivers last weekend upon being able to practice after receiving care from the player assistance program. He was then demoted to the minors, with Capitals GM Brian MacLellan saying he would attempt to trade the player who led Washington in scoring during its run to win the 2018 Stanley Cup.

Guentzel is eager to join the Hurricanes and get back on the ice, with the trade coming as he is on the verge of returning to play after missing nearly a month with an upper body injury.

“You know what the team’s done in the past and how close they’ve been,” Guentzel said Friday. “This is a special team. They’ve got a lot of high-end players, and they’re really well-coached.”

There remain numerous players who are in position to be dealt before the deadline, with much of the focus on goalies. Calgary’s Jacob Markstrom, Montreal’s Jake Allen and Boston’s Linus Ullmark are among the candidates being shopped.

The Capitals might not be done with Nic Dowd, Charlie Lindgren and Max Pacioretty considered to be on the market.

Seattle, which traded center Alexander Wennberg to the New York Rangers earlier in the week, did not have to do the same with winger Jordan Eberle. The Kraken agreed to terms with Eberle on a two-year contract worth $9.5 million.

The Los Angeles Kings are the only team among the top 12 Stanley Cup favorites not to make a significant addition over the past several weeks.

Meantime, its the Capitals and Penguins who find themselves in the unusual position of being sellers at the trade deadline after a near two decades of dominance that began with the arrivals of Alex Ovechkin in Washington in 2004 and Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh a year later. Two teams that have combined to win four Stanley Cups since are focusing on the future with both in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season.

“It’s a tough situation, we understand. Just enjoy playing the game and play hockey. It’s a great group here, great people around, great organization. I still believe in myself,” Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin said Friday.

The 37-year-old Malkin, however, made it clear he’s not given up on the season, though the Penguins sit eight points out of contention.

“Maybe a couple new guys give us energy, who knows?” he said. “We still believe we have, not big chance, but we still believe we have a chance to make the playoffs.”

If Kuznetsov helps the Hurricanes win it all for the second time in franchise history, they would send first- and fifth-round picks in this year’s draft to Pittsburgh to complete the deal for Guentzel, a pending free agent who has twice been a 20-goal scorer.

Kuznetsov was already in North Carolina prior to the deal, practicing with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears in preparation for their game at Charlotte on Friday night.