Winners, losers of the NHL trade deadline

Movie quote of the day:

“Ah, yes, the past can hurt, but the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.”

– Rafiki, “The Lion King” (1994)

Arguably the busiest day of the NHL regular season passed earlier this week. It was an entertaining few days. A few big names that were expected to be on the trading block were traded and some that weren’t. I felt inspired to do a hockey post for this blog because of it. So for the first time ever, I’m going to break down which teams I thought were “winners” and “losers” of the NHL trade deadline.

Winners:

New York Rangers forward Rick Nash (61) during a game between the Minnesota Wild and New York Rangers at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Bruins (38-15-8, 84 points)
Why: Acquired LW Rick Nash from New York Rangers and C Tommy Wingels from Chicago

The Boston Bruins have one of the younger lineups in the NHL right now (average age of 26.9, No. 12 in the league), so there was a need to add some veterans at the trade deadline. The Bruins managed to do just that by trading for Nash and Wingels, and then signing 39-year-old free agent Brian Gionta. Nash was a huge get for the Bruins. He’ll not only provide a stable veteran presence in the locker room, but he’s also been one of the better players in the NHL since entering the league in 2002, with 435 career goals and 800 career points. Boston isn’t asking too much from him either. He ought to fit in well on the second line with veteran center David Krejci and young winger Jake DeBrusk. Wingels and Gionta aren’t flashy players by any means, but will be a real help as veterans in the locker room and nice depth pieces in the third and fourth lines. As a Bruins fan, I love what they did at the deadline. Boston is all in to win the Stanley Cup this year.

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Ryan Hartman (38) with the puck during the first period against the Washington Capitals at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Nashville Predators (39-14-9, 87 points)
Why: Acquired LW Ryan Hartman from Chicago

Nashville has been on a tear this season with one of the best blue lines and goalies in the NHL. The only area that the Predators needed to improve was adding some depth offensively, particularly on the wing, and they did that by acquiring Hartman. He’s a young piece (just 23 years old) that could bring a spark to Nashville’s wing on the second or third line. Excellent move by the Predators. This is even more important now that Mike Fisher is coming out of retirement. Nashville’s offense is deeper just in time to make a postseason run.

Colorado Avalanche defensemen Erik Johnson (6) defends Edmonton Oilers forward Patrick Maroon (19) during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

New Jersey Devils (33-22-8, 74 points)
Why: Acquired RW Michael Grabner from New York Rangers and LW Patrick Maroon from Edmonton

Despite not having high expectations this season, New Jersey is going for it right now and I have to tip my cap to the Devils. Nobody, including myself, thought they’d do very well this year. This is a young team (average age of 26.5 years old, No. 8 in the NHL) that is really over performing and the Devils wanted to be aggressive and added some veteran offensive players. I love that decision. Grabner and Maroon have both been in the league for at least eight years and will help bring veteran leadership to this young team, and will also bring sufficient wing depth to help make a postseason run.

New York Rangers center Ryan Spooner (23) during the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at Madison Square Garden. This was Spooner’s first game with the Rangers after being acquired from the Boston Bruins. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New York Rangers (27-30-6, 60 points)
Why: Acquired young prospects and assets

Sometimes being the seller and starting over isn’t the worst thing in the world. I’ll give some credit to the Rangers. They know they’re not going anywhere and that their championship window has likely closed, so they decided to just start over. I respect a team that is willing to do that instead of kid with themselves and try to remain viable when it’s clear the team isn’t going to win a championship. The Rangers traded away a few key contributors at the deadline (Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Grabner, Nick Holden, and J.T. Miller) and hauled in a lot, such as young contributors like versatile forward Vladislav Namestnikov and center Ryan Spooner, a few young prospects, and a slew of draft picks including two 2018 first-round picks, a 2018 second-round pick, a 2019 second-round pick (that could become a first-round pick if Tampa Bay wins the Stanley Cup in the next two seasons), a 2018 third-round pick, and a 2018 seventh-round pick. In my opinion, the Rangers won’t be down for long.

Ottawa Senators forward Derick Brassard (19) hits a slapshot against Toronto Maple Leafs in the third period at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Penguins (36-24-4, 76 points)
Why: Acquired D Derick Brassard from Ottawa

The back-to-back defending champions really needed to improve its blue line if it wanted to keep defending its title. Pittsburgh currently ranks No. 15 in the NHL in goals allowed despite having one of the best goalies in Matt Murray. I don’t think that’s good enough for this team to make a deep postseason run. So, the Penguins made an excellent decision to trade for defenseman Brassard from Ottawa before the deadline. I think he’ll make a great fit in Pittsburgh. He’s a pretty good defenseman that will be able to help keep opponents from scoring and is also a threat to score on the offensive end, which will be helpful because Pittsburgh already has a lot of offensive firepower.

Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane (9) waits for a faceoff during the second period against the Los Angeles Kings at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

San Jose Sharks (34-21-9, 77 points)
Why: Acquired LW Evander Kane from Buffalo

When you’re in the same division as the Vegas Golden Knights – the team best team in the Western Conference in points and No. 2 in the NHL in goals per game – you need to able to score offensively. Before the trade deadline, San Jose sat around middle of the pack in the league in goals per game (No. 17). The Sharks have enough offensive weapons to get to the playoffs with Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton, but Thornton is getting up there in age and they needed to add some depth along the wing. Acquiring Evander Kane is going to go a long way to improve San Jose’s offense – who has tallied at least 40 points each of the last two seasons. He’s likely going to give the Sharks some sufficient scoring on the second line.

New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) during the first period in the 2018 Winter Classic hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning (43-17-3, 89 points)
Why: Acquired D Ryan McDonagh and LW J.T. Miller from New York Rangers

The best team in the NHL just got a lot better at the trade deadline. The Lightning already have the NHL’s best offense in terms of goals per game and ranks No. 6 in the league in goals allowed per game, and they added depth some in both categories. Ryan McDonagh isn’t much of an offensive threat, but he’s still one of the best defensemen in the NHL. McDonagh paired with Victor Hedman on the same blue line with Andrei Vasilevskiy at goalie is going to make it very hard for the opponents to score. Offensively, you can never go wrong adding some scoring depth to your third or fourth line, so trading for J.T. Miller makes a ton of sense too. Tampa Bay is in a tight race in the Atlantic division, but I’m having a hard time not imagining the Lightning winning the President’s Trophy this season.

St. Louis Blues center Paul Stastny (26) skates against the Dallas Stars during the game at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Winnipeg Jets (37-17-9, 83 points)
Why: Acquired C Paul Stastny from St. Louis

Winnipeg’s acquisition of Stastny makes a ton of sense. The Jets are one of the youngest teams in the NHL (average age of 26.8, No. 10) and they needed some veterans to mix in their offensive lines to help some of the talented younger guys like Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers, Patrik Laine, and Max Scheifele. The Jets are also in a tight race in the Central division with Nashville, Minnesota, and even Dallas. They needed to find a way to improve their roster to try to separate themselves from the rest of the division. Getting Stastny checks all of those boxes. He’s been in the league since 2006, he’s recorded at least 40 points in eight of his last nine seasons, and he comes from St. Louis with a lot of playoff experience, which will help this young team down the stretch. Excellent move by Winnipeg.

Losers:

Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn (14), center Tyler Seguin (91), defenseman Marc Methot (33), right wing Alexander Radulov (47) and defenseman Stephen Johns (28) celebrates a goal by Seguin against the Winnipeg Jets during the second period at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Stars (36-23-4, 76 points)
Why: No major moves

Like I just said, Nashville, Winnipeg, Minnesota, and Dallas are all in a tight race to win the Central division. The teams leading that division, Nashville and Winnipeg, made significant improvements to its rosters at the trade deadline whereas Dallas was idle. That’s not always the worst thing to do, but I feel like Dallas had to make some sort of splash. The Stars are barely a playoff team right now in the standings and play in a tough division. I’m just not sure doing nothing was the right move.

Montreal Canadiens left wing Alex Galchenyuk (27) celebrates his gaol against Florida Panthers goalie James Reimer (34) with teammate left wing Max Pacioretty (67) during the second period at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal Canadiens (23-29-10, 56 points)
Why: Didn’t trade away LW Max Pacioretty or LW Alex Galchenyuk

Remember what I said, regarding the New York Rangers, that I respect a team that is willing to realize it has no chance anymore and decides to sell its assets and rebuild instead of barely hanging on to remain viable? Montreal didn’t do that. I really don’t understand what Montreal’s plan was for the trade deadline at all. The Canadiens aren’t anywhere close to playoff contention and play in the Atlantic division where Tampa Bay, Boston, and Toronto have all but clinched the top three playoff spots, and all three of those teams are likely going to be competing for the division title over the next five years. This was a prime opportunity for Montreal to get some value for Pacioretty and Galchenyuk, whose contracts are up within the next three years and will probably go somewhere else when they become free agents. Teams in playoff contention are willing to give up high draft picks for wing depth at this point in the season. The only thing I can guess is since neither Pacioretty and Galchenyuk are free agents after this season, maybe Montreal sees next year as the defining year to decide whether or not to blow it up and start over.

New York Islanders center John Tavares (91) talks to right wing Josh Bailey (12) against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

New York Islanders (29-27-7, 65 points)
Why: No major moves

This is another team that I’m not sure what its plan was for the trade deadline. Despite being just four points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Islanders didn’t make any major trades before the deadline. That makes no sense to me because they needed to find a way to improve its roster because they’re in the toughest division in the NHL that has seven teams in the playoff hunt. It’s not like the Islanders didn’t have any glaring needs either. They have one of the worst blue lines and don’t have a true No. 1 goalie, and they rank last in the league in goals allowed because of it. Doing nothing was the worst thing the Islanders could do and I think it’s really going to affect this team down the stretch. They might be able to get hot and squeak into the playoffs, but to make a deep postseason run requires defense and the Islanders just don’t have it.

Ottawa Senators defensemen Erik Karlsson (65) shoots the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Ottawa Senators (21-31-10, 52 points)
Why: Didn’t move D Erik Karlsson

Similarly to Montreal, Ottawa’s championship window has likely closed and the Senators had a prime opportunity to trade away some valuable players and acquire some assets in the process. One of those valuable players is defenseman Erik Karlsson, who is one of the best in the NHL. His contract is up after next season and Ottawa has had some trouble re-signing him, and it’s been indicated that the Senators want to clear some cap room by trading him. They still have him under contract for another season, so it’s not a total disaster, but Ottawa probably should’ve got some value for him this year. Several teams would’ve done just about anything to rent him for a year or two and try to make a championship run. His value will probably go down next year because he’ll likely be just a rental and teams won’t want to give a lot of assets for a rental.

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) skates with the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs (39-20-7, 85 points)
Why: No major moves

I don’t totally blame Toronto for doing almost nothing. The Maple Leafs are loaded with young talent and might’ve just been satisfied with the “stay the course” approach. They have some great veterans already on their roster like Ron Hainsey, Patrick Marleau, and Dominic Moore, and they did trade for veteran center Tomas Plekanec before the deadline. The trade deadline wasn’t a disaster for Toronto by any means. However, I feel like since Boston and Tampa Bay made big acquisitions by getting Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh, the Maple Leafs needed to make a big splash as well to try to keep up with those teams in the division.

Detroit Red Wings left wing Tomas Tatar (21) handles the puck before scoring during the second period against the Boston Bruins at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Vegas Golden Knights (41-17-5, 87 points)
Why: Gave up WAY too much for LW Tomas Tatar

It’s not that I dislike the decision to acquire Tatar. Teams trying to make a deep playoff run always need depth along the wing. However, Vegas gave up three picks to get him, a first-round pick this year, a second-round pick next year, and a third-round pick in 2021. In my opinion, that’s too much to give for a player like Tatar, who has never scored 30 goals in his career. To give up those kinds of assets I expect a better player in return. That being said, it’s still a nice move that will give the Golden Knights depth along the wing, which is going to be key to make a run for the President’s Trophy and the Stanley Cup. Again, my only issue is that I didn’t like what Vegas gave up to get him.

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) celebrates with teammates defenseman John Carlson (74) and right wing T.J. Oshie (77) after scoring a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Capitals (36-21-7, 79 points)
Why: Didn’t beef up the blue line enough

Washington is allowing the most goals amongst teams that are currently slated to make the playoffs (191 goals allowed in 64 games), if the regular season ended today. That can’t happen when you have a goalie as good as Braden Holtby. The Capitals have enough offensive firepower to make the playoffs, but they really needed to bolster their blue line in order to be considered one of the top Stanley Cup contenders. Acquiring Michel Kempny from Chicago will help a little bit, but Washington needed a lot more than just him. I thought for sure that the Capitals would add a bigger name before the deadline, but they didn’t have enough cap space to do so. Relying too much on their talented offensive lines isn’t the way to make deep postseason and reeks of another second round exit.

Thanks for reading

Shane Price
Follow me on Twitter – @priceisright53

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