The NHL trade deadline is officially in the rearview and it was a busy day of moving and shaking across the league. A number of significant deals went down, so let’s take a look at who came out as winners and losers on deadline day.
Winner: Mark Stone & the Golden Knights
Vegas made the day’s biggest move with the acquisition of Mark Stone, who is an outstanding 200-foot player. Not only will he be able to provide additional offense for Vegas’ top six, which now is one of the most impressive in the league, but he’ll also be a key shutdown guy against opposing teams’ top forwards. He’s a legitimate Selke candidate and that will help Vegas in potential postseason matchups against offensively talented teams like the Predators, Jets, Sharks and Flames.
On top of acquiring Stone, who is on the final year of his current contract, they also agreed to an extension for the 26-year-old winger. The eight-year deal is expected to carry an AAV north of $9 million, though the deal can’t be signed until Friday.
While that’s a hefty price for Stone, who is about to hit the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career, it’s one that the Golden Knights can afford to pay given their financial flexibility. Locking him up long term is a big-time score for the organization. It’s also a big-time score for Stone, who gets to escape Ottawa while getting very rich in the process.
In return, it cost Vegas one of their top prospects in Erik Brannstrom, a gifted 19-year-old defenseman who has the tools to potentially be a franchise blue liner down the road. Brannstrom will be a huge piece for the Senators‘ rebuild and he’ll likely join the team next season.
It’s tough to surrender a prospect with as much potential as Brannstrom, but Vegas is in a position to win now and Stone is a difference-maker that can help the franchise do that. And considering the Knights only had to give up a second-rounder and Oscar Lindberg in addition to Brannstrom, that’s a price worth paying — especially since Stone won’t be a rental.
Loser: Calgary Flames
It was a pretty boring and disappointing deadline for the Flames, who didn’t make any notable moves other than adding defenseman Oscar Fantenberg in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings. The Flames could have benefited from bolstering their depth or adding goaltending insurance to prevent a disaster scenario in which they’d have to rely on Mike Smith, but they did neither. It was surprising considering how many big names the Flames were linked to, most notably Stone. They reportedly balked at the high asking prices.
Making matters worse for Calgary, many of the team’s Western conference foes — including the Jets, Predators, Sharks, and Golden Knights — made impactful moves that should make them more of a threat down the stretch. You can’t say the same for the Flames despite a number of available options on the market that would have made sense.
Loser: Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins wanted to address their blue line at the deadline, as it’s a defensive corps that has deficiencies and is quite banged up at the moment. They decided to do that by trading for…Chris Wideman and Erik Gudbranson? Uh, okay then.
Sure, the additions give the Penguins more depth on defense, but it’s not exactly good depth.
Pittsburgh will be Wideman’s fourth team this season alone, as he’s already played for Ottawa, Edmonton and Florida this year. He hasn’t been able to consistently stay in the lineup in any of those places.
Gudbranson, meanwhile, is statistically one of the worst defensemen in the league this season. He’s pretty awful in his own zone and, uh, he’s signed at $4 million AAV for two more seasons beyond this one. The Penguins may pair him with Jack Johnson, another pretty terrible defenseman.
So, uh, yeah. Maybe general manager Jim Rutherford has some sort of grand plan that will make us all look silly for mocking these deals, but right now they look like a few of the worst moves made Monday. It all looks so much worse when you consider that the Penguins indirectly turned Carl Hagelin, who had $4 million AAV on an expiring deal, into Gudbranson — a worse player at the same price for two more years. Yikes.
Winner: Nashville Predators
One of Nashville’s biggest flaws in each of their past two playoff runs has been a lack of secondary scoring and forward depth, and that’s something they clearly wanted to address at this year’s deadline. Not only did they go out and add Brian Boyle early, but they also added Mikael Granlund and Wayne Simmonds on Monday.
Granlund, 26, has been a 20-goal, high 60-point player in each of the past two seasons and he’ll serve as a dynamic secondary playmaker for the Preds. He’s a very good pickup and also a non-rental, as he’s signed for another year beyond this season at good value ($5.75 AAV).
Simmonds isn’t quite the player he once was but he brings a solid mix of skill and physicality that should make him a valuable depth piece for the Predators, especially during the grueling months of the postseason. Simmonds can impose his will on opponents and be productive in the dirty areas down low. He might be the spark that Nashville has been missing.
Also a huge factor for the Predators’ deadline moves: They didn’t have to surrender any major future assets in making their improvements. They were able to keep top prospects Eeli Tolvanen and Dante Fabbro, plus keep their first-round pick in this year’s draft. Just a masterful job by general manager David Poile on Monday.
Loser: Dallas Stars
Dallas falls into the hard-luck loser category this year. They went out and made a major move when they acquired Mats Zuccarello from the Rangers, but Zuccarello broke his arm in his Stars debut and might miss the remainder of this season. That unfortunate development set Dallas back to square one and they didn’t make any additional moves on Monday.
The Stars could have really benefited from picking up some additional offensive help — they rank third-last in the NHL in goals per game — as they try to make a push for the playoffs down the stretch. Maybe Zuccarello recovers quickly and can get back in time to have a positive impact in the postseason (if Dallas gets there) but, all things considered, it’s hard to feel great about Dallas’ deadline.
Winner: Winnipeg Jets
For the second straight year, Winnipeg was in the market for help down the middle at the trade deadline. After going out and getting Paul Stastny for a package that included a first-round pick last year, the Jets went and got Kevin Hayes from the New York Rangers for a package that included Winnipeg’s first-round pick this year.
Hayes is a pretty solid two-way player and possession-driver that will slot in nicely at center on Winnipeg’s second line alongside Patrik Laine. Hayes, 26, is an unrestricted free agent at year’s end so there’s a decent chance he could walk (like Stastny did last summer) but it’s worth the risk for a Winnipeg team that is among the best in the West. The Jets reached the conference final last year in large part to Stastny’s contributions, so the hope is that Hayes will be able to provide similar contributions this time around.
Loser: Columbus Blue Jackets prospect pool
There’s going to be plenty of uncertainty regarding the Columbus Blue Jackets after this season, but here’s what we know right now: Columbus decided to be extremely aggressive and try to load up at the deadline rather than be the sellers many thought they’d be, and it cost them almost all of their draft picks this year to do so.
Instead of unloading key pieces like Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky — two players who seem likely to depart in free agency this summer — they decided to hold on to them in an effort to go all-in this year. As part of that strategy, the Blue Jackets went on and got Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid and Keith Kinkaid in the days leading up to the deadline.
There’s no doubt that the Duchene and Dzingel adds make the Blue Jackets a better club heading down the stretch, but are they ahead of teams like Tampa (ha, good one), Toronto, Boston or even the Islanders? That’s still up for debate, but they certainly better hope so.
Columbus took a massive gamble in adding additional expiring assets (most notably Duchene, who is set to be a UFA at year’s end) on top of Panarin and Bobrovsky, and if things don’t pan out they could be in a very tough spot. The Blue Jackets’ only selections in this year’s draft will come in the third and seventh rounds.
This is essentially a team that approached the deadline like it’s ‘NHL 19’ and they know they’re not going to play “Be A GM” mode beyond a single season. It’s a bold strategy.
Winner: San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have been one of the best and most dangerous offensive teams in the league to this point in the year, but they were looking to upgrade their depth — specifically the third-line, left-wing slot — and they did that by trading for Gustav Nyquist.
Nyquist is a veteran forward who gives San Jose a little more firepower on the back end. He was second on Detroit in scoring with 49 points (16 goals, 33 assists) through 62 games this season and he’ll get a chance to play with a really good group for the rest of the year. He came at a decent price, too, as he only cost the Sharks a 2019 second-round pick and a 2020 conditional third-round pick. (The latter becomes a second-rounder if the Sharks make 2019 Stanley Cup Final or re-sign Nyquist beyond this season.)
They maybe could have benefited from adding some goaltender insurance as well, as they’ve had some of the worst goaltending in the league so far this year. There were reports that they were exploring a trade for veteran netminder Ryan Miller, but Miller wanted to stay with the Ducks, no deal ever came to fruition and the Sharks never addressed the position anywhere else. Obviously, they feel comfortable enough sticking with what they’ve got.
Loser: Boston Bruins
The Bruins made a few decent depth adds with Charlie Coyle from Minnesota and Marcus Johansson from New Jersey, but that deadline package is pretty underwhelming considering how active Boston seemed to be in a number of discussions. They were linked to names like Stone, Hayes Eric Staal, Tyler Toffoli and more options that would have moved the needle more than the deals they actually made. Adding Coyle and Johansson doesn’t exactly put Boston over the top, especially when you consider they’ve likely got Toronto and potentially Tampa in their postseason future.
Ultimately, the adds make the Bruins a deeper and better team than they were before the deadline, so it’s hard to necessarily call them “losers” here. It just sort of feels like it considering they didn’t get the guy(s) they truly wanted.