The NHL trade deadline can completely change the landscape of the league. The deadline came at 3 p.m. on Monday with a flurry of trades as teams tried to best position themselves for a playoff run or for the future.
The Capitals made two trades earlier in the week in acquiring both Carl Hagelin and Nick Jensen, but how do they stack up in a tight Metropolitan Division race after the deadline? Here’s a look at the moves each team in the division made.
One note first: I am considering trades that took place on Feb. 1 or later as “deadline trades.” They do not have to be limited only to deals made on Monday.
Here are the grades:
Key additions: Forward Tomas Jurco
Key subtractions: Forward Cliff Pu
The Hurricanes are one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Only one team in the entire league has earned more points that Carolina since Dec. 31. Messing with a roster while it is hot can be an easy way to mess with a team’s chemistry. Plus, this team looks to be ahead of schedule. There’s no reason to sell off assets so I like what they did by deciding to ride the hot hand and for not trading away Micheal Ferland.
The only reason they get a B+ instead of an A is because Carolina traded away Cliff Pu in their only trade of the day on Monday for another minor league forward. The Hurricanes acquired Pu, along with a second, third and sixth round draft pick in the trade package with Buffalo for Jeff Skinner. That was an awful trade then and it doesn’t look any better now after trading away the lone player they acquired in that deal.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Key additions: Forward Matt Duchene, forward Ryan Dzingel, defenseman Adam McQuaid, goalie Keith Kinkaid
Key subtractions: Forward Anthony Duclair, 2019 lottery-protected first-round draft pick, 2019 fourth-round draft pick, conditional 2020 first-round draft pick, 2020 second-round draft pick, 2021 second-round draft pick, 2022 fifth-round draft pick
I am very torn on the Blue Jackets. Columbus is all-in and they let everyone know they were all-in by bringing in two highly skilled forwards in Duchene and Dzingel and then continuing to give out draft picks like candy for McQuaid and Kinkaid.
Did they get better? Yes. You can’t really argue that they didn’t. The problem is Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. Both players are on the last year of their contracts and neither are expected to return to Columbus. Already facing the prospect of losing their top two players, the Blue Jackets now also blew their future apart by trading away practically all of their draft picks. As of now, Columbus has only a third and a seventh-round pick for the 2019 draft.
So a team that has never won a playoff series in franchise history is poised to lose its top two players next season and decided to trade away a ton of draft picks for one last run. I can’t argue that Columbus didn’t get better, but faced with choosing between the present or the future, the Blue Jackets didn’t just choose the present, they torched their future.
New Jersey Devils
Key additions: Defenseman Connor Carrick, 2019 second-round draft pick, 2019 third-round draft pick
Key subtractions: Goalie Keith Kinkaid, forward Marcus Johansson, forward Brian Boyle, defenseman Ben Lovejoy
Sell! Sell! Sell!
The Devils did a decent job unloading their assets, but they hardly pulled in a king’s ransom. Sometimes you can rob a team that gets nervous at the deadline looking for something to add, but New Jersey just didn’t have top quality players to sell and was hurt by the fact that a lot of the top trade targets went all the way up to the deadline.
New York Islanders
Key additions: None
Key subtractions: None
Even though the Islanders are in first place of the Metro Division, they are very much ahead of schedule. No one expected them to be this good this early.
Does anyone really see New York as a serious Cup contender? I don’t. Sure, the Islanders could have used a sniper to add some offensive punch, but I would not sell off any future assets just to bolster a roster I feel is overachieving.
Don’t mess with your future. This roster brought you this far, let’s see how far they can go.
New York Rangers
Key additions: Forward Brendan Lemieux, 2019 first-round pick, 2019 second-round draft pick, 2022 conditional fourth-round draft pick
Key subtractions: Forward Mats Zuccarello, forward Kevin Hayes, defenseman Adam McQuaid
New York got a pretty good return for their top players, but now seems like it would have been a good time to move Henrik Lundqvist and it doesn’t sound like that was ever really on the table. He has a no movement clause and if he won’t waive it, this is obviously moot, but he’s 36-years old and the team is in a full rebuild…except for its best player who absolutely is not the goalie of the future. What would teams like Calgary or Edmonton be willing to give up for a guy like Lundqvist? This seems like a missed opportunity.
Key additions: Goalie Cam Talbot, forward, Ryan Hartman, defenseman David Schlemko, forward Byron Froese, conditional fourth-round draft pick
Key subtractions: Forward Wayne Simmonds, Forward Dale Weise, defenseman Christian Folin
Simmonds was considered to be one of the top prizes of the deadline. The Flyers reportedly wanted a first-round pick and a prospect for him. They settled for Hartman and a conditional fourth-round pick.
Part of the problem was that he had a modified no-trade clause and, per multiple reports, would not waive it for a deal with Calgary. That limited the Flyers in what they could do somewhat, but it really seems like they got burned by waiting until the last minute to deal him.
Key additions: Defenseman Erik Gudbranson, forward Nick Bjugstad, forward Jared McCann
Key subtractions: Forward Derick Brassard, forward Riley Sheahan, forward Tanner Pearson, 2019 second-round draft pick
Pittsburgh needed to get rid of Brassard and they turned that into a decent return. They needed to get rid of Pearson and get some defensive depth, but was Gudbrandson and minor-leaguer Chris Wideman really the best they could do? The obsession general manager Jim Rutherford has in making his team more physical led to Pittsburgh trading away a first-round(!!!) draft pick and Oskar Sundqvist for Ryan Reaves and a second-round pick last year.
To put it mildly, Gudbranson has not been good during his tenure in Vancouver. Pittsburgh is not just fighting to contend for a Stanley Cup, they are fighting just to get into the playoffs this year. Was Gudbranson really the best they could do to improve their defense? It doesn’t seem like it. If this team is really all in, which they always claim to be with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, there were better options for them to pursue to make the defense better. Sure, they added a body, but I am not sure they got any better because of it.
Key additions: Defenseman Nick Jensen, Forward Carl Hagelin
Key subtractions: Defenseman Madison Bowey, 2020 second-round draft pick
The Caps went for the low-key moves in much the same way they did last season. Jensen is a right-shot that gives the team some depth and some options on the blue line, which has not been nearly as good this year as expected. Hagelin, meanwhile adds speed and both players should help the Caps’ penalty kill that ranks 23rd in the NHL.
However, Andre Burakovsky was a player they likely needed to be dealt. It is somewhat surprising he remains in Washington. His qualifying number for next season is high and his play has always been inconsistent. He is playing well right now, but there are 19 games left in the regular season. Will he still be playing well in April? That would require much more consistency from him than we typically see.
Other Stanley Cup contenders:
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning sat out this year’s trade deadline and why not? They are the by far the best team in the NHL. There’s no reason to tinker with this roster.
The Flames were conspicuously absent from any of the trade buzz as they made no moves, though there were rumors that they were looking into players like Simmonds. Like the Islanders, Calgary is a team that is way ahead of schedule in terms of how good they are this season. Unlike the Islanders, however, the Flames look like legitimate Cup contenders and it would not have hurt to try to add to this roster, especially a goalie given this teams’ questions in net.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks are really starting to hit their stride and added forward Gustav Nyquist to the mix. Considering how long it took this team to gel, adding a new player is a concern, but adding Nyquist on the forward lines is a lot different than adding Erik Karlsson to a defense than already had Brent Burns. The Sharks look like an even more dangerous team now, though goaltending remains a concern.
The Bruins had one goal for this trade deadline and that was to add depth scoring. I am not sure if Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson are enough of a boost to get them past teams like Tampa. Nyquist would have been a really good fit here.
Toronto Maple Leafs
It was a quiet month for Toronto as the Leafs made a few minor moves, but nothing significant. Their big trade came back in January with the addition of Jake Muzzin. There is some concern that this team has too much finesse and can be pushed around which is a problem with a first-round matchup against Boston likely on the horizon, but there’s no sense in giving up assets for a tough guy defenseman or forward just to be a healthy scratch in the playoffs.
The Jets know their time is now and may be a bit nervous about their recent struggles as they were very busy on Monday. The biggest move of the day for Winnipeg was the addition of Kevin Hayes who is expected to play second-line center. This marks the second straight year the Jets have given up a first-round draft pick for a rental, which is never a smart move in my book. Still, I believe this is the team to beat in the West and the addition of Hayes makes me even more confident.
The Predators claimed one of the top prizes of the deadline with Simmonds and they did it for cheap, giving up only Hartman and fourth-round pick. Simmonds’ production has steadily dropped off from year to year and he may not have much left in the tank for a long playoff run, but Nashville has looked off lately and needed a big move to keep up with the Jets.
Vegas Golden Knights
The biggest name to move on Monday was Mark Stone and he was claimed by Vegas. To some surprise, it did not take a first-round draft pick to get him. Part of the package headed to Ottawa, however, is prospect Erik Brannstrom who is widely considered one of the top prospects in the world. It will be interesting to see how he develops. Vegas is essentially locked into third place in the Pacific meaning they will face San Jose or Calgary in the first round. Either series would be a daunting task for the Golden Knights so they needed a player like Stone to bolster their roster. This is a big-time addition for Vegas and Stone is expected to sign an extension to remain in the desert.
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