NHL: Trade deadline paves roadmap for final weeks

NHL Trade Deadline

The NHL trade deadline occurred this past Monday afternoon, and with quite a lot of moves made both on deadline day and the days leading up to it, here’s a look at some of the notable moves for teams in the hunt for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and those already looking toward next season:

 

In the push for the playoffs…

Vegas Golden Knights

Defenseman Alec Martinez and goaltender Robin Lehner were two key additions to a Vegas team struggling to keep the puck out of the net this season. Martinez, with one additional year left on his contract at $4 million, is a solid two-way defender who at 32 years old, won’t be the same player who scored the Stanley Cup-winning overtime goal for the Kings five years ago, but is still a serviceable player in both the offensive and defensive zones.

Lehner, meanwhile, will lighten the load on Marc-Andre Fleury, who is having a troublesome year after his first two seasons in Vegas were highly successful. Lehner and Fleury are both good enough to hold the starting job between the pipes, so Vegas won’t have to worry about their goaltending depth in the playoffs.

Vegas also acquired Nick Cousins from Montreal for forward depth. Despite the third-year franchise trading draft picks at the deadline again, Vegas is still in a good place in terms of its current team outlook, prospect pool, and picks in the years to come.

 

Edmonton Oilers

NHL Trade Deadline
“McDavid_Draisaitl.jpg” – (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Edmonton’s two superstars, Connor McDavid (left) and Leon Draisaitl, gained a couple of new teammates for the team’s playoff run this week.

General manager Ken Holland made some shrewd moves in acquiring players with speed to keep up with superstar Connor McDavid. The additions of Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Ennis upfront not only bring speed and depth to the forward group, but Athanasiou did have a 30-goal season last year for Detroit, and he hasn’t played with any two players who can pass the puck like McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.

The addition of Mike Green from Detroit brings a veteran presence to the defensive corps and only costs a conditional draft pick in either 2020 or 2021 and the contract of semi-retired Kyle Brodziak.

With these moves and a weak Western Conference, it looks like the Stanley Cup playoffs will see the return of the game’s premier young superstar for the first time since 2017. Still, a long battle is ahead, as the Oilers sit four points from first in the Pacific Division, but also only four points from missing out on a wild card spot (entering Thursday night’s games).

 

Pittsburgh Penguins

The additions of Jason Zucker and Patrick Marleau gave the Penguins the kind of forward depth needed to make a deep playoff run. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin aren’t “old” per se, but the window for the longtime Penguins duo to claim another Stanley Cup isn’t staying open very long. The Penguins also reacquired Conor Sheary and a depth forward in Evan Rodrigues from Buffalo in exchange for Dominik Kahun…

While Marleau (10 goals, 20 points in 58 games played) isn’t the point-producer he once was, the 40-year old has proven there is still something left in the tank to contribute as a bottom-six forward. Zucker, meanwhile, is an underrated winger who has been stuck on an underperforming Minnesota Wild team for a few years now. On the left-wing of superstars Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, Zucker is sure to be top-six forward Pittsburgh has needed since this summer’s departure of Phil Kessel.

 

New York Islanders

In the week before the trade deadline, GM Lou Lamoriello pulled off a quietly genius move in acquiring veteran Andy Greene, his trusted defenseman from their days together in New Jersey. At Greene’s age, his days as a first pairing blue-liner should have been gone a few years ago, but with coach Barry Trotz’s defensive system and Greene getting fewer high-pressure minutes, the fit should be perfect.

On deadline day itself, Lamoriello pulled off another slick move, acquiring Jean-Gabriel Pageau from Ottawa in exchange for a 2020 conditional first and 2020 conditional second-round pick, and a 2022 third-round pick, before signing the 27-year old to a six-year, $30 million contract extension. Pageau is having a career season, sitting at 25 goals and 41 points entering Wednesday night’s games.

 

Washington Capitals

The acquisitions of defenseman Brenden Dillon from San Jose and Ilya Kovalchuk from Montreal were crafty moves on the part of GM Brian MacLellan. Kovalchuk, one of the most talented shooters in NHL history, was acquired for just a third-round draft pick. The 29-year old Dillon cost the Capitals a 2020 second-round pick and a conditional third-rounder pick in 2021.

With Washington’s hold on first-place in the Metropolitan division sliding due to the team’s recent slump, these two moves add depth at both ends of the ice, and the union of fellow Russians Kovalchuk and Alexander Ovechkin will be one to follow…

 

Best Trade Deadline Performer: 

Carolina Hurricanes

The “Bunch of Jerks” were able to strengthen their squad with a number of bold moves in an effort to return to the Stanley Cup playoffs for the second season in a row. In a tough metropolitan division, where the Hurricanes are still fighting for a playoff spot, GM Don Waddell did not hesitate to make the moves necessary to improve his squad, picking up a highly underrated center in Vincent Trocheck from Florida in exchange for Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, and two prospects.

Then, with two of the team’s top defensemen (Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce) out with long-term injuries, the Canes were able to add pending unrestricted free agent Sami Vatanen from New Jersey and a longer-term solution in Brady Skjei from the New York Rangers.

In summary, the Canes acquired three strong players who probably all needed a change of scenery, and it only cost them two depth forwards, a couple of decent prospects and a couple of draft picks. Trocheck and Skjei both have contracts extending past this season, so the price paid won’t hurt Carolina this summer if they happen to miss out on the playoffs.

 

Questionable decisions:

Florida Panthers

Only a couple of points out of a playoff spot despite an underwhelming season, and yet the Panthers still made the Vincent Trocheck trade. Yes, they did get two NHL players in return, but neither is the player Trocheck is. With multi-million dollar summer signing Sergei Bobrovsky struggling between the pipes this season, why trade one of your team’s best two-way forwards (a second-line center at that) if you weren’t going to get some defensive help in return?

This move was much too confusing to call a good one, and making the move this close to a playoff spot might just show a certain lack of confidence GM Dale Tallon has in his team.

 

Tampa Bay Lightning

The pressure must already be on first-year GM Julien BriseBois in Tampa. Last year’s Tampa Bay Lightning won an NHL record-tying 62 games, and finished with 128 points before their embarrassing first-round collapse, getting swept out of the playoffs by the Columbus Blue Jackets. This year started off slowly for Tampa, but the team has recently gone on an impressive run that sees them chasing the President’s Trophy again.

However, last week’s trade for Blake Coleman, an excellent two-way forward having a career season (21 goals at the time of the trade) was considered an overpayment, as the Lightning sent top prospect Nolan Foote and a conditional first-round pick (Vancouver’s) the other way. Luckily for Tampa, Coleman still has a very good contract, with one year remaining and only a $1.8 million salary-cap hit.

The move that really turned heads was on deadline day when Tampa sent their own first-round pick to San Jose in exchange for career depth forward Barclay Goodrow and a San Jose third-rounder. Goodrow has a career-high 25 points in only 63 games this season but has never been a point-producing forward. In fact, with two more goals, Goodrow will hit double-digits in the goals column for the first time in his career.

It’s becoming clear the philosophy in Tampa Bay is “win now.”

 

Biggest Loser:

Toronto Maple Leafs

If you compare where the Hurricanes and Maple Leafs both stand in their respective divisions, you can assume the Maple Leafs have a much better shot at making the playoffs due to the lack of competition in the Atlantic. In fact, all Toronto has to do is stave off Florida for the third and final automatic playoff spot in the division, while the loser of that battle still has a chance, but with ground to make up, in the Eastern Conference wild-card race.

Still, there was added pressure on the young GM, Kyle Dubas, who fired coach Mike Babcock earlier this season and has seen a highly talented Leafs team underperform to its high expectations. On top of it all, in the last game before the deadline, the Leafs made the unfortunate memory of being the team who lost to its own minor league team’s Zamboni driver (actually, it’s called an ice resurfacer, and “Zamboni” is a brand, but that’s another article for another day… or you can, y’know… Google it yourself).

The trade deadline saw the Leafs do nothing spectacular,

 

Building for the future

Ottawa Senators

The Senators have a young team with a lot of potential, and with expectations in Ottawa on the low end all season, it was easy to see GM Pierre Dorion moving expiring contracts for draft picks. In return for Dylan DeMelo, Vladislav Namestnikov, Tyler Ennis and the big piece mentioned earlier, J.G. Pageau, Ottawa now has a scary amount of draft picks. In fact, Ottawa owns three first-round picks in this summer’s NHL draft, and two of those picks are likely lottery picks.

 

New Jersey Devils

Andy Greene, Blake Coleman, Wayne Simmonds, and Sami Vatanen all saw their time as Devils come to an end this deadline, but the returns were favorable as New Jersey loads up for the future under interim GM, Tom Fitzgerald. The Devils do have a decent prospect pool already, but considering Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes were luck-of-the-draw first-overall picks, the remaining draft picks during the five-year Ray Shero era have yet to make an impact (only Pavel Zacha, Jesper Bratt and Mackenzie Blackwood have become full-time NHL players).

 

San Jose Sharks

Moving Goodrow, Dillon and Marleau were moves in a bad season which brought back a first, second and third-round draft picks. With Goodrow’s return of a (likely) late first-round pick, this was enough for Sharks’ GM Doug Wilson to win the award for the “best value deal” of the day. For Wilson, though, the only negative came from a move that could not be made (continue reading)…

 

The unfortunate story…

Joe Thornton

NHL Trade Deadline
“Martinez_Thornton.jpeg” – (Associated Press, Marcio Jose Sanchez)
https://apnews.com/1efc92658cdb4e8cb5c2ed2d68f36687/Sharks-re-sign-forwards-Joe-Thornton,-Tomas-Hertl
While Alec Martinez (left) moves from SoCal for Sin City, longtime Northern California resident Joe Thornton (right) won’t get a chance at a Stanley Cup this year.

“Jumbo” Joe has endured a disappointing and certainly unexpected season in San Jose. At the end of his career, all he wanted was another shot at winning a Stanley Cup, and while calls likely came in for the 6’4″ center, a deal did not get made. Meanwhile, his longtime friend and teammate Marleau did get a chance, leaving San Jose (again) in his move to the Penguins.

For what it’s worth, if the bearded beauty does decide to return to the NHL next season, he could be celebrating his 41st birthday on July 2nd with a new contract elsewhere, and there should be suitors for a veteran locker room presence who could still make an impact in a deep forward group looking for a fourth-line center who could still contribute on the power play.

 

 

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