Revisiting biggest NHL trades from the 2019 offseason
Upon reflecting about his first season with the Maple Leafs following a trade featuring Nazem Kadri and Tyson Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot admitted that he wasn’t as consistent as he would have liked. Indeed, people don’t look back favorably for the Maple Leafs’ side of one of the biggest trades of the 2019 NHL offseason.
(There’s some interesting insight from Thursday’s Kerfoot conference call, which you can peruse via reporters including TSN’s Kristen Shilton.)
As interesting as it is to hear about the highs and lows of Kerfoot’s season, this also gives us a chance to revisit the biggest trades of the 2019 NHL offseason as a whole. Some teams made enough momentous trades to earn their own categories, such as Kerfoot’s Maple Leafs.
Misadventures for Maple Leafs in 2019 offseason NHL trades
When judging a trade, it’s crucial to consider context. Even when you grade on a curve, the trades didn’t always pan out for Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas.
- Point the finger at Lou Lamoriello for a shaky-from-the-start contract for Patrick Marleau. Many could see how problematic that deal would be once Mitch Marner (in particular) needed a new deal. Even so, it’s fair to wonder if they could’ve convinced someone to eat that final year for less than the cost of a 2020 first-round pick. At least the Maple Leafs seem poised to make the (hypothetical, 24-team) playoffs.
- Moving back to Kerfoot, context matters a bit here, too.
Following another ugly postseason suspension, many believed the Maple Leafs needed to trade Nazem Kadri. They also were feeling the cap crunch, so getting a discounted Tyson Barrie provided a nice replacement for outgoing Jake Gardiner.
While the gap between Kadri and Kerfoot might be a bit exaggerated ...
... the bottom line is that the trade didn’t meet expectations for the Maple Leafs.
- One of the odder moves was the jam-packed trade where Toronto ridded itself of the ugly Nikita Zaitsev contract (Dubas shakes his fist at Lou, again), even if it meant losing Connor Brown.
The oddest part, really, revolved around how adamant Dubas was about Cody Ceci being better than people believed. Instead, Ceci was kind of a disaster.
If the Maple Leafs divest themselves of Ceci after 2019-20, then it was still worth it. Zaitsev’s contract was bad, and much longer. But it was a funky situation that rounded out an all-over-the-place offseason. Maybe there were shades of appeasing an eventually outgoing Mike Babcock?
To some extent, Toronto’s flexibility was limited. They didn’t fare as well as some of the other savvy teams, though.
Deals with the Devils not scorching teams as much
OK, that’s not totally fair. If we’re being sober, the wheels came off of the wagon thanks to some mix of atrocious goaltending and questionable coaching.
Even so, the Devils made aggressive moves to improve, and splashy trades set the stage for disappointments and dysfunction. The headliner that went horribly, horribly wrong was, of course, the P.K. Subban trade.
While it still feels like the Predators could have gotten more for Subban, they did clean up space to sign Matt Duchene, and in a more abstract sense keep Roman Josi. Even those with tempered expectations didn’t expect this season from Subban. Consider that Subban ranked dead last on the Devils according to Evolving Hockey’s GAR metric:
While there’s hope that Subban may rebound, the extended collapse of his game played a big role in the front office upheaval in New Jersey.
Nikita Gusev’s situation wasn’t nearly as dramatic, and while Gusev performed reasonably well, he didn’t light the hockey world on fire. The Golden Knights probably aren’t losing much sleep over his departure ... at least yet.
The Devils recouped some of their draft capital by trading the likes of Taylor Hall during the deadline, but coughing up four significant draft picks for Subban + Gusev didn’t work out so well.
Pondering other teams making one or more noteworthy trades
Vegas Golden Knights
No, the Golden Knights didn’t parallel the Maple Leafs in every way. They didn’t have the same enormous RFA headaches, and the uncertainty that surrounded those situations.
But they still needed to shed some salaries. While I can’t say I loved every move and thought process, things worked out reasonably well for Vegas in the grand scheme of things.
They managed to land something for Gusev’s rights in the form of a second and third-round pick. They also landed a second-rounder for Colin Miller, who couldn’t seem to stay out of the doghouse, and who didn’t have the greatest season in Buffalo. Nicolas Roy may just make them break even (or better?) in the Erik Haula trade.
Again, not sure about every decision -- all of this straining, yet spending so much on Ryan Reaves? -- but the Golden Knights got a lot right. Toronto might even feel a little jealous.
Fascinating Miller trade between Canucks, Lightning
Speaking of desperate situations, the Lightning didn’t have much of a choice but to trade J.T. Miller. So, to get a first-round pick (and third-rounder) for their troubles? More Lightning wizardry.
On paper, it looked like the Canucks might be overreaching in much the same way the Devils did. Miller cost more in assets, after all.
But ... Miller ended up being a tremendous player; he was a legitimate first-line winger for Vancouver. Subban, well ... yeah.
So this was a rare deal where you could make a strong argument for both sides. I think the Lightning were more shrewd, especially considering limited options (Dubas grumbles again), but the Canucks received big returns from their risky investment (now Shero’s grumbling).
Penguins, Oilers often busy making trades
You might not top the steal the Penguins pulled off in nabbing splendid rookie defenseman John Marino for just a sixth-round pick from the Oilers.
That ended up being the best move during a summer where they unloaded some problems. That included the staggering Phil Kessel trade, and also convincing someone to take on Erik Gudbranson’s contract. With Kessel mainly offering “meh” in Arizona, and Alex Galchenyuk being part of the Jason Zucker trade, the Penguins have to feel pretty good about their latest series of dramatic decisions.
The Oilers likely received a decent confidence boost from seeing James Neal start so much hotter than Milan Lucic that it became a punchline. With Lucic being a better possession player, that gap narrowed when Neal cooled off.
Really, the true winner might not be crowned until we see if the Oilers can wiggle free from the Neal contract and/or the Flames get rid of Lucic’s deal. Really, that might be the key takeaway even after all these assessments: we may not yet know the final “winners” of the biggest trades of the 2019 NHL offseason for some time.
- My issue isn’t and wasn’t with the Blues trading for Justin Faulk. Instead, handing him a pricey extension looked risky, and he hasn’t really soothed those concerns with middling play. Hmm.
- Would it be fair to lean toward “TBD” on the Andre Burakovsky trade, at least when realizing things were going sour between Burakovsky and the Caps? That’s the way I lean.
- Speaking of TBD, the intriguing Henri Jokiharju - Alex Nylander trade remains unsolved.
- The Canadiens really got the best of the Blackhawks by nabbing a second and third-round pick for Andrew Shaw.
- You’re forgiven if it slipped your mind that Carl Soderberg and Jimmy Vesey were traded.