The 2021 NHL trade deadline was this week. “Dead” being the operative word.
There were only 17 deals made on April 12, involving 26 players. Compare that with last season’s deadline day, which yielded 32 trades involving 55 players. But the 2020 NHL trade deadline happened in “the before times.” Obviously, a lot has changed.
The COVID-19 pandemic shifted the economic landscape for the NHL. The flat salary cap of $81.5 million this season, and in subsequent seasons, left teams unable to trade out high-salaried players or take them on without some creative maneuvers, such as having a third team shoulder part of the cap hit in a side deal. The lack of ticket revenue around the league left some teams cautious about adding players with high base salaries or with term left on their contracts beyond this season. Also impacting trades with term: The Seattle expansion draft happening this summer, as teams are restricted in the number of players they can protect from the tentacles of the Kraken.
There were other pandemic-related issue too, such as the quarantine necessary for players crossing the Canadian border. Then there were the factors commonplace at any deadline: The ask for a trade being too high, and teams that should be dealing players away standing pat because they’re in a playoff race (or close enough to believe they’re in it).
Which teams made out the best at a less-than-busy trade deadline? Here is our NHL trade deadline report card, where there were many more winners than losers.
Note: Emily Kaplan graded teams from the East and Central divisions, and Greg Wyshynski graded the West and North divisions. Clubs are listed alphabetically at each grade, with separate groups for teams with plus grades, regular grades and minus grades within the overall letter.
Key additions: F Emil Heineman, 2022 second-round pick, 2022 third-round pick
Missed opportunity: Trading 34-year-old center Derek Ryan, the kind of depth center and effective penalty killer a contender might want. But, perhaps, might not want at $3.125 million against the cap.
Our take: The Flames could use some good news after hiring coach Darryl Sutter didn’t spark a turnaround in their disappointing season. They received some at the trade deadline. Bennett asked for a trade earlier this season. Even though he reportedly rescinded the request, he was traded to the Panthers for a 2022 second-rounder and an intriguing prospect in Heineman. Drafted at No. 43 last year, Heineman is a powerful skater who plays hard and can score goals. So essentially it was two second-rounders for a pending restricted free agent who didn’t want to be there.
GM Brad Treliving also snagged a 2022 third-rounder from the Maple Leafs for Rittich, retaining salary on the deal. The former starting netminder is an unrestricted free agent after this season. Kudos to Treliving for getting both picks in the 2022 draft, which will offer more certainty on prospects than this year’s pandemic-impacted one. The cruel irony of course being that Treliving might not be the one making those picks, based on the Flames’ current status.
Key additions: 2021 first-round pick (TOR), 2021 first-round pick (TB), 2022 third-round pick, 2022 fourth-round pick, 2022 conditional seventh-round pick
Missed opportunity: GM Jarmo Kekalainen doesn’t dwell on missed opportunities. He always acts with conviction. After four straight years of making the playoffs, the Blue Jackets experienced a serious decline this season, and the GM was ready to act. He traded away his captain (Foligno) and one of his most reliable defensemen (Savard). He asked around about pending unrestricted free agent Michael Del Zotto, too, but the market didn’t seem to yield much (plus, Del Zotto’s stock isn’t as high as it was earlier this season). Columbus was even able to muster something for injured Nash (who would have been a desirable name), although it was just a conditional seventh-round pick.
Our take: Leave it to Kekalainen to do what’s hard but necessary. He knew his team didn’t have it this season, so he decided to press reset. “Retool” is the word the Blue Jackets are using, not rebuild.
“I mean, we built this culture,” veteran forward Cam Atkinson said. “It took us a long time to get us to where we are, and I’m sure as hell not going to let this thing slide.”
Kekalainen landed two of the three first-round picks handed out at this deadline. The GM also handled Foligno’s situation with class, so don’t rule out a return this summer — meaning Foligno could potentially play with the draft picks he helped secure. Imagine that.
Missed opportunity: It was surprising to see a few pending unrestricted free agents on the roster stay; mostly goalie Jonathan Bernier, who one scout told me a few weeks ago was the best goalie potentially available at the deadline. Sounds as if the Red Wings could re-sign Bernier, who has battled hard for them. There were also no takers for Luke Glendening, Sam Gagner or Marc Staal. Instead, GM Steve Yzerman opted to focus on roster players his peers found most valuable, such as Mantha for the Capitals and the Avs coveting a reunion with Nemeth.
Our take: Yzerman is engineering a full-on rebuild. The first thing he needed was ammunition, and he certainly has it. After this deadline, the Red Wings have a whopping 19 picks over the first five rounds in the next two years — including five picks in the first two rounds of 2021.
There’s a sense around the league that Yzerman believes the rebuild might take a bit longer, which is why he was willing to part with Mantha; the 26-year-old will be past his prime by the time the Red Wings are ready to contend. While Yzerman has certainly earned trust for how he built the Lightning, he’s also asking for patience. The future might be bright, but he’s also asking Red Wings fans to brace for a few more unmemorable seasons.
Key additions: Conditional 2022 third-round pick; conditional 2023 fourth-round pick
Key subtractions: F Jeff Carter
Missed opportunity: What, they could find a taker for Jeff Carter but Jonathan Quick continues to languish on the roster?
Our take: In the Penguins, the Kings found a team for whom Carter wanted to play. They found a general manager in Ron Hextall, who worked with Carter in Los Angeles as an assistant GM, who was willing to give up two conditional picks for him. We did not have a Jeff Carter trade in 2021 on our NHL deadline bingo board. That GM Rob Blake made it happen earns a high grade, but we’ll go ahead and give him an A for also securing the services of left wing Alex Iafallo for the next four years at $4 million annually.
Missed opportunity: The Islanders were in on Taylor Hall — before they decided to make the trade for Palmieri and Zajac instead — earlier in the week. GM Lou Lamoriello kept tabs on Hall over the weekend and could have swooped in if the package required to trade for him had dropped significantly on Monday. But the Islanders made their choice and seem happy with it.
Our take: New York had one glaring area of need: a replacement for captain Anders Lee, who is out for the rest of the season (ACL). But the Islanders also have to operate under Lamoriello’s rules, meaning the players they brought in had to fit in with the culture. Coburn, Palmieri and Zajac blend in seamlessly (and I’m not just talking about their willingness to shave their facial hair).
It’s the second straight deadline when Lamoriello has wheeled and dealed big, but he also didn’t have to subtract any roster players from the current group. It signals that the Islanders believe their time to win is now.
Key subtractions: 2021 first-round pick, 2022 third-round pick, 2022 fourth-round pick, F Alexander Barabanov
Missed opportunity: Getting a goaltender who’s better than Rittich, also adding another stout defensive defenseman on the back end. But in both cases, inventory was as much of a problem as having the available cap space and player and/or picks with which they were willing to part.
Our take: No one’s sure whether Taylor Hall would have gone to Toronto, because his heart was so set on going to Boston. What we do know is that GM Kyle Dubas was more interested in adding a player like Foligno at the deadline and that he was willing to give up a first-rounder to get him. The Leafs have players like Hall. They’ve failed to win a playoff series in four straight postseasons and were accused of being too easy to play against and of not defending at a championship level. Foligno addresses both deficiencies in a way Hall wouldn’t have, and he joins a parade of veteran players with character whom Dubas has added in the past year: Joe Thornton, T.J. Brodie and Wayne Simmonds among them.
Nash is a very good depth center, and Hutton adds to the defensive depth. The health of goalie Frederik Andersen is obviously a huge issue for this team. Rittich, despite not having the ceiling that Andersen has, is better in some aspects, such as high-danger saves. But the fact remains that the Leafs might try to win the Cup with three goalies with little to no playoff experience — current No. 1 Jack Campbell has none, and Michael Hutchinson is the most tested, with four(!) playoff appearances.
But we still really like what Dubas did here. He knows his team. He knows the needs. And he has given the Maple Leafs nearly everything they need to challenge for the championship. Or win a playoff round. One of the two.
Key subtractions: F Anders Bjork, 2021 second-round pick, 2022 third-round pick
Missed opportunity: None. This was a really good deadline for the Bruins. GM Don Sweeney addressed his two biggest needs without having to give up a first-round pick. I’m told surrendering a first-round pick was pretty much a nonstarter for Boston in talks with other teams, which makes sense because they’ve done it in two of the past three years; those trades were for Rick Nash and Ondrej Kase, and neither move panned out as planned. The Bruins clearly feel OK about Tuukka Rask‘s health (and confident enough in their young goalies) not to pick up reinforcements in net.
Our take: Boston wants to win one more Stanley Cup with its veteran core, and you’ve got to admire the urgency, while also balancing the imperative to avoid mortgaging the future.
Scoring, especially outside of the Bruins’ top line, has been an issue all season. Sure, Hall scored only two goals in 37 games. Boston is banking that the winger’s absurdly low 2.3% shooting percentage portends that he’s due for an outburst — or, at the very least, more production — now that he’s in a better lineup with a lesser role. The Bruins also get to audition him to see whether they want to commit long term.
Don’t discount Lazar’s impact on a checking line. Meanwhile, Reilly should be a sneaky good blue-line pickup.
Key additions: F Adam Gaudette, F Brett Connolly, F Vinnie Hinostroza, 2021 second-round pick, 2022 third-round pick, 2021 fifth-round pick, 2021 seventh-round pick, D Riley Stillman, F Henrik Borgstrom, rights to F Ryder Rolston, F Josh Dickinson
Missed opportunity: The Blackhawks were the busiest NHL team the past two weeks, so it’s hard to identify moves that they should have or could have made. The Blackhawks were taking calls on defenseman Nikita Zadorov (whom they acquired last offseason from Colorado), but it looks as if Chicago is happy to have the 26-year-old as part of its future plans, and now needs to figure out an extension.
Our take: Chicago should feel good about this trade deadline. Everything fits within GM Stan Bowman’s rebuilding plan: The Blackhawks picked up more draft capital, more prospects and younger players. Borgstrom is a player to get excited about, and the cost was taking on Connolly’s contract (which isn’t terrible; he just fell out of favor in Florida).
Speaking of Connolly, Bowman also made sure to replace veterans lost, which will help the team stay competitive. The Gaudette-for-Highmore swap might have been Bowman’s finest work, though. Highmore had lost his fourth-line role to Brandon Hagel, and Gaudette is younger with more upside. A change of scenery will benefit both players. If there was a bigger move to be made — similar to the Dylan Strome trade from 2018 — well, that type of business is best done in the summer.
Missed opportunity: The Panthers could have traded Chris Driedger. The 26-year-old made a surprise run as the primary starter earlier in the season, but with Sergei Bobrovsky back and top prospect Spencer Knight signed, he was potentially expendable. Florida decided to hang on to Driedger, determining that he would be important to their playoff aspirations — even if that meant they could lose him for nothing in the expansion draft.
Our take: First-year GM Bill Zito was active, making a flurry of moves to make the Panthers even more intriguing down the stretch. His team has overachieved so far, and the GM felt he owed it to the group to add — while also putting his own stamp on the roster. Besides the trade deadline pickups, Florida also signed former KHL scoring champ Nikita Gusev, who had flamed out in New Jersey.
“We didn’t necessarily have a plan to have a nexus between each acquisition where they all had that similar trait,” Zito said. “But, reflecting back on guys, it seems as if many of them do.”
All of the Panthers’ additions are players with immense talent that hasn’t been realized in the NHL yet. Florida is hoping a fresh start is all those players need to tap into their potential.
Key additions: D David Savard
Key subtractions: 2021 first-round pick, 2021 fourth-round pick, 2022 third-round pick
Missed opportunity: It’s hard to identify a missed opportunity when a team that seemingly could do nothing at all — thanks to cap restraints — found a way to do something. And did something big, to boot.
Explained GM Julien BriseBois: “As I was contemplating this trade, my thought was, if I have the opportunity to acquire David Savard and I passed up on that opportunity and then the playoffs start and eventually we failed in our quest for a championship because our right-shot D wasn’t good enough, that was going to hurt, that was going to hurt a lot.”
Our take: BriseBois clearly likes his chance at repeating as champions, so he’s going for it. The Lightning said goodbye to Zach Bogosian, Braydon Coburn and Kevin Shattenkirk over the summer and never really replaced them. What’s more, the team is trying not to overwhelm top rookie Cal Foote and thus is easing his NHL transition.
The Lightning went against an organizational philosophy not to give up a first-round pick for a rental because they view Savard as a perfect fit. The trade package sent back to Columbus was a big one, but the stakes — a tight cap crunch this season and this summer — called for something drastic.
Key additions: None
Key subtractions: None
Our take: There was no doubt temptation for GM Bill Guerin to add something to his surprising contender in the West Division. He was steadfast in saying he wasn’t going to trade a first-round pick for a rental. He held firm on that vow: Despite interest in Blue Jackets winger Nick Foligno, and a potential family reunion with brother Marcus Foligno on the Wild, there was no way Guerin was going to beat the Maple Leafs’ offer for him, which included a first-round pick.
Should the Wild have added something to bolster their chances in the West playoffs, as a reward to the players for a great campaign? Maybe. But as Guerin said, “our time will come where we do that, but today just wasn’t the day.”
Key additions: D Jon Merrill, D Erik Gustafsson
Key subtractions: D Victor Mete, 2021 fifth-round pick, 2022 seventh-round pick, F Hayden Verbeek
Missed opportunity: Trading Mete to a contender rather than just losing him to the Senators through waivers.
Our take: Three cheers for inactivity. GM Marc Bergevin made his big deals during the offseason, when he added Tyler Toffoli, Josh Anderson, Joel Edmundson, Jake Allen and Corey Perry. He got ahead of the field and traded for center Eric Staal from the Sabres roughly two weeks before the deadline. After dropping Mete on waivers, the Canadiens added a defensive specialist in Merrill from the Red Wings and the more offensive Gustafsson from the Flyers.
Given how pressure-packed this season has been in Montreal, with the head coach and goaltending coach getting fired, it was actually refreshing to see typically aggressive Bergevin take a more measured approach at the deadline and take the long view on this roster. Of course, losing four of five games before the deadline probably encouraged that mindset, too.
Key additions: None
Key subtractions: None
Missed opportunity: The Rangers could have traded 31-year-old Brendan Smith, whose contract expires this summer. With Jack Johnson sidelined the rest of the season, Smith is New York’s most veteran blueliner, and he has quietly played a solid season. The market, or appetite from the Rangers, just wasn’t there. “I think it’s clear that we have a plan in place,” GM Jeff Gorton said. “And nothing that came along was going to add to what we wanted to do and was something we felt was going to help us short term or long term.”
Our take: The Rangers are adhering to their rebuilding plan, and it’s hard to argue with the results. Management wasn’t banking on them to be a playoff team this season, but the team has played well lately and is making a push. This season is all about getting the young players experience.
While the team has been in the pick and prospect accumulation business lately, the Rangers are actually pretty set right now. They had to move Brendan Lemieux in March to create room for the logjam, and they have six picks in the first four rounds of the 2021 draft. Time to let the kids cook.
Key additions: 2022 third-round pick
Missed opportunity: Finding anyone interested in trading for pending free agent Ryan Dzingel, plus not being more ambitious with trying to trade someone such as center Chris Tierney, who has one more year left on his deal.
Our take: If the NHL trade deadline is a party, then GM Pierre Dorion is the guy bringing the pizzas and board games every year. Over the past three seasons, his deadline trades have included Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Matt Duchene, Mark Stone, Derick Brassard, the aforementioned Mr. Dzingel and almost Erik Karlsson, whom he would deal away later in 2018.
So it’s both good news and bad news that the Senators didn’t really have any of those above-average veteran players to move at this deadline. That said, if you wanted a veteran depth defenseman and had a seventh-round pick to burn, Dorion was your guy, as that was the trade for Gudbranson (to the Predators) and for Coburn (to the Islanders). He did nicely on Reilly, getting a third-rounder in 2022 from the Bruins for the 27-year-old pending UFA — not bad, especially since Dorion acquired Reilly in January 2020 for a fifth-rounder and a prospect.
Key additions: F Jeff Carter
Key subtractions: 2022 conditional third-round pick, 2023 fourth-round pick
Missed opportunity: Not getting Sam Bennett. Or Taylor Hall. Or any other forwards on the market. Ownership has given a mandate to win now. Management didn’t want to be reckless with an already-bare prospect and draft pool, but it’s worth wondering whether the Penguins could have done more to improve their chances — especially since the other three teams atop the East all made splashy trades.
Our take: The Penguins have been decimated by injuries once again, especially at center. Carter can play center, and he’s versatile throughout the lineup, which is something president of hockey operations Brian Burke and GM Ron Hextall covet. What’s more, they didn’t surrender a first-round pick.
Burke called his old friends at the Ducks and asked about Ryan Getzlaf. That didn’t work. So Hextall called his old friends at the Kings and landed Carter, a 36-year-old two-time Stanley Cup champion. Well played, and perfectly on brand. We really should have seen it coming.
Missed opportunity: Trading forward Marcus Sorensen, who could have been a decent depth winger on a good team and has an expiring contract. Then again, he has played to a sub-replacement level this season and the market might not have been there.
Our take: Sharks GM Doug Wilson got into the contract laundering business this trade deadline. They acquired a 2022 fifth-round pick for retaining a portion of Mattias Janmark‘s salary in his trade to Vegas. They picked up a 2021 fourth-round pick for retaining salary on Nick Foligno to facilitate his trade to Toronto and sent Noesen to the Leafs. Barabanov is a KHL import who never earned a steady gig with the Leafs, playing just 8:37 per game on average in 13 contests. Besides giving them an awesome name in the pipeline, Magnus Chrona also gives the Sharks some potential as a 20-year-old goalie prospect from the University of Denver who stands 6-foot-5.
We’ll knock this grade down a bit because they traded Dubnyk, one of the only goalies on the market with playoff experience, for a fifth-rounder and defenseman Greg Pateryn, after getting Dubnyk from the Wild for a fifth-rounder before the season.
Key additions: F Mattias Janmark
Key subtractions: 2021 second-round pick, 2022 third-round pick, 2022 fifth-round pick
Missed opportunity: Making another big splash, as the Knights have done at every trade deadline in franchise history: Tomas Tatar, Mark Stone, Robin Lehner. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying on Kelly McCrimmon’s part.
Our take: The Knights were happy with the roster they have, and rightfully so as one of the NHL’s clear Stanley Cup contenders. But if there has been a constant struggle for the team over the past couple of seasons, it’s been depth at center and finding the right mix to solidify an effective third line.
Janmark is a speedy forward who played several roles for the Stars in his first four seasons in the league before signing with the Blackhawks. He can play in the middle; he can play on the wing; and he can play up and down the lineup. His first game was spent with Alex Tuch and Tomas Nosek. The cap-strapped Knights made the deal work by having Chicago pick up a portion of the cap hit and having San Jose pick up even more of it, hence the draft capital going the other way.
But Vegas was dealing from a position of strength there. Given the options and the economics, it was a fine addition here, if not the blockbusters we’re used to seeing from the Golden Knights at the deadline.
Key additions: None
Key subtractions: None
Missed opportunity: Not trading Jamie Oleksiak. The defenseman, whose contract expires this summer, was of high interest to several teams. However, Stars GM Jim Nill said they would trade the 28-year-old only if the team was blown away with an offer. It wasn’t. Dallas views Oleksiak as an important part of its push for the playoffs, and it also would like to re-sign him this summer. The Stars have already traded Oleksiak once before reacquiring him; it’s probably kindest not to put him through that again.
Our take: The Stars sit outside of playoff position but are hoping they have enough fuel to pass the Blackhawks and Predators. Dallas does have three games in hand. The Stars also are getting some reinforcements outside of the trade market. Dallas claimed defenseman Sami Vatanen on waivers, and it hopes to welcome back Tyler Seguin before the end of the season. The Stars haven’t been at full strength all season, but we know what they’re capable of, even if the results haven’t been there. So it’s wise to stay the course.
Key additions: D Dmitry Kulikov
Key subtractions: Conditional 2022 fourth-round pick
Missed opportunity: It wasn’t a bumper crop as far as centers go, but the Oilers could have found someone on an expiring contract to help upgrade the depth at that position.
Our take: A few teams clearly communicated to their players and the rest of the hockey world who they really are. One of those teams was the Oilers. This is not a Stanley Cup contender. This is a team with several needs in its lineup that wasn’t going to dig into its draft picks and prospects to address them at this time.
Former Devils defenseman Kulikov is a fine bandage on the left side, a defensive defenseman who can kill penalties. He’ll come off the books this offseason. So will Alex Chiasson, Adam Larsson, Tyson Barrie and Mike Smith. The Oilers are going to finally have a little cap flexibility for GM Ken Holland, and one assumes they’ll be more active going forward.
Key additions: 2021 first-round pick (NYI), 2022 fourth-round pick, 2022 conditional fourth-round pick, 2021 seventh-round pick, F A.J. Greer, F Mason Jobst
Key subtractions: F Kyle Palmieri, F Travis Zajac, D Dmitry Kulikov
Missed opportunity: Not trading defenseman Ryan Murray, though GM Tom Fitzgerald had some sound reasoning. “I just didn’t feel that the offers were something of value to us as an organization, to take another veteran out of this lineup,” Fitzgerald said. “We still want to be competitive. … Ryan still helps us stay competitive, and I just wasn’t giving players away.”
The focus is on the future, but it could hurt young players’ development (including goalie Mackenzie Blackwood) if they’re on a truly terrible team.
Our take: The Palmieri trade was inevitable after the Devils and Palmieri’s camp couldn’t agree on a long-term extension. According to sources, the term on the deal was the big holdup. Being able to snag one of just three first-round picks that were moved at the deadline was a solid piece of business for Fitzgerald, even if this quote didn’t exactly sit well with all Devils fans: “I hope the pick we get is the 32nd pick. I hope both of these gentlemen win the Cup.”
I thought the Devils could have received a better pick for Kulikov, but the conditions on the fourth-round pick are that it becomes a third-rounder if Edmonton wins one playoff round this year. So Fitzgerald will be rooting for the Oilers as well as the Islanders this spring.
Key additions: None
Key subtractions: None
Missed opportunity: Trading 35-year-old defenseman Alex Goligoski, a pending unrestricted free agent. Given how high the returns were for other “defensive defenseman” rentals, like David Savard — and how much that kind of role player was in demand — one assumes the Coyotes would have gotten something here. But GM Bill Armstrong believed that keeping Goligoski around for a playoff push and as a mentor for burgeoning star Jakob Chychrun was more important than parting with him for a middle-round pick.
Our take: The Coyotes were in a weird place here. They had some players like Derick Brassard and Jason Demers who evidently didn’t generate enough interest at the deadline. They had players like defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and goalie Antti Raanta who certainly would have brought back a return, but Hjalmarsson has a no-move clause he wasn’t willing to waive and Raanta was injured.
But mostly, Armstrong didn’t want to pull apart a team that had admirably battled through adversity to contend for a playoff spot in the West Division. The Coyotes had a 34% chance of making the playoffs on Monday. A few low-percentage draft picks weren’t enough to sway him to tear apart the team, even though the Coyotes clearly need more draft capital.
Key additions: D Jani Hakanpaa, 2022 sixth-round pick
Key subtractions: D Haydn Fleury
Missed opportunity: Not making a splash. Teuvo Teravainen (concussion) remains sidelined with no timetable to return; a scoring winger would have been good insurance. The Canes wanted a right-shot defenseman, but they opted for a little-known 29-year-old with 47 games of NHL experience. There was also the chance to upgrade in goal.
But the looming expansion draft and upcoming contract negotiations for Dougie Hamilton and Andrei Svechnikov are clearly weighing on management. GM Don Waddell opted for cost certainty, and for a pretty boring deadline.
Our take: The Canes were super active at the 2020 deadline, adding Brady Skjei, Sami Vatanen and Vincent Trocheck. In 2021, Carolina entered trade deadline day in first place in its division and management played it much more conservatively.
However, it’s a tight race and the Lightning and the Panthers made big additions to their blue lines. In Hakanpaa, Carolina is getting someone who fits a need (physical, stay-at-home, right-shot defenseman) but might not be an impact player.
Key additions: G Devan Dubnyk, C Carl Soderberg, D Patrik Nemeth
Key subtractions: Rights to F Ryder Rolston, F Josh Dickinson, 2022 fourth-round pick, D Greg Pateryn, 2021 fifth-round pick
Missed opportunity: Acquiring another high-impact veteran goal-scoring winger. The Avalanche were in on Taylor Hall, and there were intriguing options like Kyle Palmieri available. A rental like that would have really filled out one of the best lineups in the NHL.
Our take: How one grades the Avalanche here is contingent entirely on how one feels about Dubnyk as their backup to Philipp Grubauer now that Pavel Francouz is officially done for the season after surgery. The 34-year-old has 26 games of playoff experience, and has certainly been better this season for the Sharks than he was last season for the Wild. But he was still a sub-replacement goalie with a .905 save percentage over his past seven appearances.
That said, getting Nemeth from Detroit and reuniting with Soderberg from Chicago were both solid depth moves, adding size for that seemingly inevitable showdown with Vegas in the playoffs. While we weren’t crazy about the Dubnyk trade, and wish the Avalanche could have added one more veteran winger, this is still a team in the upper echelon of Stanley Cup contenders, thanks to what GM Joe Sakic has done the past several seasons.
Key additions: 2021 fifth-round pick, 2022 seventh-round pick
Missed opportunity: Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher said he woke up on Monday morning not knowing whether the team would trade Scott Laughton or sign him. There was plenty of interest in the versatile forward. But the Flyers decided they valued him too much, plus Laughton wanted to stay. So Philadelphia signed the 26-year-old to a five-year, $15 million extension — deciding that if the rest of the league’s opinion of the player was so high, letting him go would be regrettable.
Our take: The Flyers have been stumbling. Entering the deadline, they were 8-12-3 since the beginning of March, plagued by defensive lapses and poor goaltending. They have allowed the second most goals per game in the league. There’s always a temptation to be drastic in a situation like this. Instead, Fletcher took the prudent approach; he’ll reassess his team in the offseason, when the market for many players will be better.
That said, getting some defensive help wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world. The Flyers were linked to players such as Mattias Ekholm early. Though the deals to acquire defensemen were a little rich in some cases, Philadelphia is going to continue to leave its goaltenders high and dry with this group.
Key additions: F Anthony Mantha
Missed opportunity: Not getting a goalie. The Capitals signed Henrik Lundqvist in the offseason because they weren’t sure they could count on two youngsters, Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek, in a season with Cup aspirations. Lundqvist’s heart condition unfortunately has kept him out, despite his trying to return. The Caps could have been in on any of the veteran goalies on the market — Jonathan Bernier, Devan Dubnyk, David Rittich — but instead decided to ride it out with the personnel they have. Mostly, Washington decided that Samsonov and Vanecek had shown enough to earn trust.
Our take: Well, this was unexpected. GM Brian MacLellan made the biggest splash of Monday with a blockbuster deal with the Red Wings. Although the trade package heading to Detroit was extremely rich — and parting with the underachieving but promising Vrana could come back to bite the Caps — Washington acted with conviction.
For the Caps, this was about improving the group (they really like Mantha and believe he can be a regular scorer in their lineup) but also about cost certainty. With Alex Ovechkin‘s contract negotiation looming this summer, the fact that Mantha is under contract for three more years was attractive. Vrana was due a new contract, and Panik, at $2.75 million for two more years, wasn’t adding much. It’s a risk to give up so much draft capital, but it’s one worth taking.
Key additions: D Erik Gudbranson
Key subtractions: D Brandon Fortunato, 2023 seventh-round pick
Missed opportunity: Not trading Mikael Granlund. The Predators are back in the playoff mix, which had GM David Poile backing off from doing anything major. He’s now talking about getting Filip Forsberg and Mattias Ekholm extended before next season (both players are UFAs in 2022). The Predators also might try to extend Granlund, who is a UFA this summer. Poile said he didn’t want to trade Granlund as he’s been a big part of the Predators’ success, but he also would have yielded a high return — and like it or not, Nashville has to start thinking about a retool.
Our take: A few weeks ago, the Predators were poised to be the trade deadline’s biggest traders. Then the team rattled off 12 wins in 15 games, pushing themselves into playoff position, and Poile decided to stand pat. I understand the pressure he feels to make the playoffs, but do we really believe Nashville has what it takes to make a run? The Predators will likely make the playoffs as a fourth seed, where they’re vulnerable for yet another early exit. That further stalls the inevitable rebuild. At some point, Poile is going to need to face the music.
Key additions: None
Key subtractions: None
Missed opportunity: Trading away any of their pending unrestricted free agents, such as Tyler Bozak, Mike Hoffman or Jaden Schwartz, or pending restricted free-agent Vince Dunn. Or course, things did get a little more complicated for GM Doug Armstrong than anticipated.
Our take: Armstrong has shown an ability in the past to be merciless with his team at the deadline, trading away players such as Paul Stastny and Kevin Shattenkirk when the Blues were in playoff contention. But not this time. The Blues have a 41.6% chance of making the playoffs, per Money Puck, and were in the midst of a three-game winning streak ahead of the deadline.
“Certainly the play of the last three games and being in a playoff spot today was a reflection of really deciding to stand pat with this group,” Armstrong said.
The Blues didn’t improve their team for the short term, thanks in part to the flat cap; or flip players for long-term help. If this ends up with St. Louis making the playoffs and making noise, then it’ll look like a shrewd move. If this ends up with the Blues missing the playoffs, or just being cannon fodder for the Avalanche or Golden Knights, it’ll look short-sighted.
Missed opportunity: Cutting deeper into this roster with moves involving Alexander Edler, Travis Hamonic and Brandon Sutter, all of whom are in the final years of their contracts. But they all had trade protection, too, and we’re trying to find the guy who gave it to them. (Stares at GM Jim Benning.)
Our take: The Canucks did some non-trade business around the trade deadline that should be mentioned here. Goalie Thatcher Demko was given a five-year, $25 million contract extension; and while long-term deals for goalies aren’t preferable as a rule, it’s a good gamble that Demko will continue to progress into a solid starting netminder.
The other was a three-year deal for forward Tanner Pearson, with a $3.25 million annual cap hit — a contract that’s fine, except when taken in context with the other contracts Benning handed out to depth players.
As far as the deadline trades, he blew the Gaudette deal with Chicago, as the 24-year-old pending restricted free agent could have brought back a better player than Highmore. Bowey was a nice bargain pickup from Chicago, however, giving the Canucks a little more flexibility on their blue line. Obviously, there were external factors affecting this deadline for Vancouver, from the flat cap to the expansion draft to the fact that most of the team was in the COVID protocol on Monday.
Key additions: D Jordie Benn
Key subtractions: 2021 sixth-round pick
Missed opportunity: Trading for an impact defenseman. Making a trade involving an impact defenseman. Finding a team that had an impact defenseman, calling it up and saying, “How might we trade for this person?”
Really, we could phrase this about 200 more ways, but we think you get the point here.
Our take: The Jets have quality depth at forward and goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who is at worst the second-best goalie in the NHL today. They’re a team that has been included on many “top 5 Stanley Cup contenders” lists. No disrespect intended for Benn, who is a solid third-pairing defenseman having a good season on a bad Canucks team. But this team needed more than Jordie Benn to boost its blue line.
The counterargument from the Jets is that they have some solid defensive prospects on the way in Ville Heinola and Dylan Samberg and that they didn’t want to dip into their draft capital to trade for a rental. That’s understandable. But so is the fact that the Jets are 30th in the NHL in expected goals against (86.93). There’s talent here. Given the current realignment in the league, there’s a path for the Jets to be a final four team this postseason. Kevin Cheveldayoff & Co. might regret not going for it more at this deadline to bolster the back end.
Key additions: D Haydn Fleury
Key subtractions: D Ben Hutton, D Jani Hakanpaa
Missed opportunity: Sparking a rebuild by trading Rickard Rakell. Or trading Josh Manson. Or trading Jakob Silfverberg. Or trading Adam Henrique. Or trading Ryan Getzlaf, who was open to waiving his no-movement clause for a geographic fit if the Ducks were able to get a solid return for him.
Our take: Perhaps this D stands for “delinquent,” in that GM Bob Murray neglected to become a significant participant at the trade deadline to clear out some salaries and gain valuable resources for the next phase of whatever the Ducks become. If that’s the case, there’s always the chance the Ducks can flip parts of this roster at the NHL draft or in the offseason.
Our fear is that the D stands for “delusional,” in that the Ducks believe that a team with the 28th-best points percentage over the past two seasons (.439) should not be in the midst of a more aggressive rebuild. Either way, there was more Ducks action on Disney+ on Monday than there was at the trade deadline.
Key additions: F Anders Bjork, 2021 second-round pick, 2021 third-round pick, 2021 third-round pick, 2021 fifth-round pick
Key subtractions: F Eric Staal, F Taylor Hall, D Brandon Montour
Missed opportunity: Not getting a first-round pick for Hall. The market just didn’t yield it. The Sabres were also limited by the fact that Hall controlled part of his destiny (in Hall’s own words: “Definitely, the no-move really helped me become a Bruin.”) But that’s not really something GM Kevyn Adams has grounds to complain about. After all, he was the one who handed Hall that one-year, $8 million deal and included the no-movement clause.
Our take: Adams is a rookie GM in a tough spot. The team unraveled, forcing the organization to fire yet another head coach. Adams doesn’t have as much support on the hockey operations staff as other teams do. Franchise center Jack Eichel has been out for weeks, and the team just announced he’ll miss the rest of the season. The market just wasn’t as attractive as it usually is for players on expiring contracts — of which the Sabres had many– not to mention the additional restrictions for Hall. So he got what he could.
Adams did take a risk keeping goaltender Linus Ullmark without agreeing to an extension first. There’s always a chance Ullmark will walk in free agency. At this point, what’s one more piece of adversity for the Sabres?