Five Realistic NHL Trade Deadline Blockbuster Scenarios

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First of all, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!

The NHL season is nearing the halfway point and, as we approach the new year, the landscape has become quite clear. Some teams are emerging as clear contenders, others are firmly entrenching themselves in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes, and the rest stand on shaky ground where one slip-up could end their season in the spring. With every team’s strengths and weaknesses now apparent, the Trade Deadline is already shaping up to be one of the best in recent memory.

Obvious non-competitors like Arizona, Chicago, and San Jose boast some of this year’s premium trade assets that can fetch them a decent price on the market. Vancouver and St. Louis have experienced massive bouts of inconsistency, leading both to the brink of a blowup. Meanwhile, while competitors like Boston, New Jersey, and Vegas have all had moments of brilliance, there are still holes that can be patched up in their lineups. This is exactly the point of the Deadline: sellers put up a quality player and initiate bidding wars between the buyers, whom consist of potential contenders hoping to land a final piece and fringe teams looking for a sparkplug to kickstart a journey into the playoffs and beyond.

Here, I want to discuss five potential scenarios that could occur at the deadline involving some of the biggest names on the market. While future ramifications could make these ideas a bit murky, the players going to new teams have the skillset that contenders need right now. This isn’t to say that all of these players are guaranteed to be moved at the Deadline either, given the high prices teams will have to pay to acquire them; consider these more as sales pitches to specific teams to convince them that a certain player is what they need to get over the hill.

So how does this Deadline play out in Nerd World? Let’s find out.

Scenario #1: A Legend Gets Closer to Home

New York Islanders acquire: F Patrick Kane (25% salary retained), 2023 5th Round Pick

Chicago Blackhawks acquire: F Oliver Wahlstrom, 2023 1st Round Pick, 2024 3rd Round Pick

It was clear from the offseason the Blackhawks had that they weren’t interested in being competitive. Trading Alex DeBrincat to Ottawa, letting Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome walk in free agency, and signing mid-tier free agents like Max Domi and Andreas Athanasiou to use as trade assets later made that philosophy clear. Once that happened, the focus shifted on franchise legends Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, both of whom have expiring contracts and no longer fit with the Blackhawks’ timeline. While neither of them have had memorable seasons thus far, this can largely be equated to the fact that there is practically no one around them for support. While the argument could be made for Toews’s decline, Kane’s history of production still warrants a high price for his services. Pairing him with a true top center like Mathew Barzal can allow him to do more than he’s been able to in Chicago, potentially setting him up for a strong final quarter of the year. Also, while he has a no-move clause attached to his contract, he’d likely be willing to waive it for a chance to return at least close to home (Kane is a Buffalo native) and compete in the playoffs once again.

While Kane would fetch a high price, the Islanders would still come in relatively cautious. The idea of Kane being an expensive rental is a valid cause for concern, and the Islanders don’t have a farm system that can easily replace anything they might lose. Still, a team as historically offense-starved as the Isles should know that they need to change something, and Kane represents a piece that can turn them from inconsistent fringe team to a tough out in the playoffs. Kane would replace Wahlstrom in the lineup, while Chicago would have a solid young NHL player to build a new core around. Adding an extra first would give the Blackhawks potentially three first-round picks in a stacked 2023 draft, giving them the opportunity to kickstart a rebuild with elite talent. The extra third is a sweetener that can have a condition attached to it, but the Hawks retaining salary and adding an extra pick would likely remove any ideas of protection.

The Islanders have needed an elite offensive option for a long time, while the Blackhawks are firmly in a transition period.

Scenario #2: The Hockey Trade

Minnesota Wild acquire: C Bo Horvat, Conditional 2024 4th Round Pick

Vancouver Canucks acquire: D Matt Dumba, F Caedan Bankier, 2023 1st Round Pick, Conditional 2024 2nd Round Pick

The Canucks seem ready to blow it all up. Extension talks with Horvat seem to have been unsuccessful. Brock Boeser has struggled to mesh with Bruce Boudreau’s system and has been allowed to seek a trade. Thatcher Demko pre-injury was seen as a potential buy-low opportunity. Now, rumors have even begun to circulate that Quinn Hughes can be had if a team is willing to pay the massive price needed. While the Canucks have plenty of pieces that can make a rebuild easier, they also need to build a team with capable players to stay competitive. They have the opportunity to accomplish both goals with this trade to Minnesota. The Wild have needed a top-flight center for a little while, and those flaws have been exposed in their two most recent playoff series with Vegas and St. Louis. The idea of gaining Horvat on a career year should be appealing to them, and it is likely he would be on a line with Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello to form a terrifying top line.

Helping Minnesota’s case is the fact that they can offer Vancouver something they desperately need. Dumba has been a name floating around the trade mill for a little while, and the emergence of a defenseman on the right side in Calen Addison may finally give Minnesota the excuse they need to ship him out. While Dumba does have a 10-team no-trade list, I would doubt the Regina native has any team from Western Canada on that list, especially a team like Vancouver who would pair him with Hughes and give him top-pairing minutes out of the box if the latter stays. Bankier has been impressive enough to be on a stacked Team Canada for the upcoming World Junior Championships. Being able to play center should make him even more appealing for the Canucks to add him to the trade. The 2023 1st is a given for a trade of this magnitude, but the conditional picks added would only be if Horvat or Dumba re-sign with their new teams. Otherwise, the picks will not be added in order to keep the value even.

Vancouver and Minnesota certainly have something the other side wants, and it’s become apparent neither player is returning next season. Not only would this give both teams something for their impending free agent, but put them both in a position where they can be successful.

Scenario #3: Hello, Old Friend

New Jersey Devils acquire: F Timo Meier (25% salary retained)

San Jose Sharks acquire: D Damon Severson, F Alexander Holtz, 2023 1st Round Pick

While the Sharks would be more eager to get Erik Karlsson’s contract off of their books, they are more likely to get what they want out of trading Meier. After a slow start to the year, Meier has broken out offensively and looks sets to complete his third 30-goal campaign. While the Sharks would prefer to keep him, he’s also due a $10 million qualifying offer next year that, if accepted, would push him into unrestricted free agency. The risk of losing arguably their best player for nothing is a risk that the Sharks should be unwilling to take. While a lot of teams will want to acquire Meier, the Devils have arguably the best case for him. He’s the piece that the Devils need for them to take the next step up and be a credible threat, while also being young enough (26 years old) to fit with the timeline New Jersey has. Even better for Meier is that he would likely be on a line with Nico Hischier, his real-life friend and linemate on Team Switzerland. While we know what Meier is capable of at this juncture, Hischier is still an ascending talent. Adding Meier can only make him better as a player, and the 1-2 punch of Hischier and Jack Hughes has the potential to become the best in the league at the center position.

While New Jersey would have to make the financials work between a Meier extension and those of the likes of Jesper Bratt and Fabian Zetterlund, they do have some expiring contracts that can be dangled to make the money work. Severson would be a logical choice, as the Devils have emerging young options like Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec who can slide in on the right side. While the Sharks would have an option for an NHL player that can fit in their lineup, the real prize for them here is Holtz. Holtz was expected to cement a top-six role for the Devils this season, but the success the team has experienced this season and the emergence of guys like Zetterlund have clouded his future with the team a bit. Grabbing Holtz would mean the Sharks can pair him with a friend and former teammate as well in William Eklund. Having two top prospects who know what the other is capable of can assist their development dramatically, and I could see both of them being on a top-six line with either Tomas Hertl or Logan Couture. Again, a first-round pick would be necessary, especially if the Sharks are retaining salary.

One player reunites with a friend to push for a Stanley Cup, the other reunites to help push a team back to relevance. This is as realistic and logical a trade option as it gets for the Sharks to move a top talent.

Scenario #4: The Shoe Finally Drops

Edmonton Oilers acquire: D Jakob Chychrun

Arizona Coyotes acquire: F Jesse Puljujarvi, D Philip Broberg, 2023 1st Round Pick, 2024 2nd Round Pick, 2025 3rd Round Pick

Chychrun has been one of the big names on the trade block for a while, but a combination of injuries and struggling to do everything on a poor Coyotes team has kept conversations from truly getting off the ground. However, a strong return to form this year could change that. While the Kings and Senators have been linked to Chychrun in the past, both teams are struggling to keep pace in the playoff hunt right now. If Chychrun wants to go to a team that can compete and the Coyotes want to find a team willing to give them the assets they want, Edmonton would be a good place to look. The defense has struggled to gain much traction this year, forcing Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to try and bail the Oilers out of trouble too many times. That needs to change if the Oilers want to build off of last season’s successful run to the Conference Finals, and Chychrun can be a piece that helps with that. Chychrun has already flashed great potential and still has some term left on his deal, making him an affordable “final piece” option.

The main question with Chychrun is the package that would come back, which the Coyotes described as similar to the deal last deadline that sent Hampus Lindholm to Boston. That means we’re looking at an NHL player, a quality prospect, and multiple high picks. While the Oilers have some options to choose from, Puljujarvi stands out as a player in desperate need of a change of scenery. He’s struggled to do much with either McDavid or Draisaitl, and his lack of confidence has started to show in recent times. Moving him to a place like Arizona where the pressure is drastically reduced and more opportunities to be a consistent top-six presence can only help him out. Broberg could also benefit to a move to the desert, as Arizona has had some success with defenseman like him. Shayne Gostisbehere and Juuso Valimaki have looked like solid reclamation projects, and the development of Janis Moser has been promising. Another gem in Broberg can help create an underrated unit for Arizona to work with. The picks are roughly the same as the Lindholm deal, except one of the second round picks is turned into a third for Arizona to compensate for a higher-ceiling player in Puljujarvi. Regardless, this deal gives the Coyotes a potential 21(!) picks in the first three rounds of the next three drafts. That’s a rebuild trending in the right direction.

Arizona is hoping to get some franchise talent in their system as they try and finally find a combination that works on the ice. Trading away Chychrun for this type of return would help in achieving their ultimate goal.

Scenario #5: Blowing Up the Blues

Toronto Maple Leafs acquire: C Ryan O’Reilly (50% salary retained)

New York Rangers acquire: F Vladimir Tarasenko (25% salary retained)

St. Louis Blues acquire: (from Toronto: F Calle Jarnkrok, F Nick Robertson, 2023 1st Round Pick) (from NYR: F Vitali Kravstov, D Matthew Robertson, 2023 1st Round Pick)

The Blues have had a nightmare season thus far, at least according to their own expectations. Not only have they been insanely inconsistent on the ice, but the team has started to see multiple cracks on the surface. While the dominating headline has been Jordan Binnington trying to become the next Ron Hextall, Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko’s expiring contracts have also come to the hockey world’s attention. Tarasenko has been pushing for a trade out of St. Louis for the past couple of years, while O’Reilly’s up-and-down year has cast doubt over him staying. Toronto has been scouting the Ontario native O’Reilly lately, and a need has arisen for them. A center lineup of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and O’Reilly would be among the league’s best, and adding the veteran would certainly help their penalty kill. Meanwhile, Tarasenko would give the Rangers a quality option on the right side, instantly elevating him to the top line with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, as well as working on the power play with Artemi Panarin. Both would be great options for teams hoping to go far in the postseason.

Meanwhile, what would the Blues gain from trading away two quality forwards. With Toronto needing to shed a little salary outside of the 50% salary retention, the Leafs will look to see who can go the other way. Alexander Kerfoot and Justin Holl would stand as choices, but my first decision would be Jarnkrok. He’s a versatile forward with term left, giving the Blues some options in their middle-six as they rebuild their lineup. Nick Robertson would also be helpful as the prospect going back. While adding him would feel like a punishment to the Leafs for the salary retention, it’s also hard to see where he fits in Toronto’s lineup, especially if they try and re-sign Michael Bunting. He’d get the chance for top-six minutes in a rebuilding St. Louis, likely being paired with Robert Thomas or Jordan Kyrou. Meanwhile, the Tarasenko trade would net the Blues a new power forward and reclamation project in Kravtsov. Kravtsov hasn’t developed as planned in New York, and Gerard Gallant hasn’t been particularly high on him. With a team like St. Louis, Kravtsov would get an opportunity to gain a spot in the middle six. The Rangers also sent Nils Lundkvist off to Dallas due to the glut of young defensemen in their system, and Matthew Robertson would likely also fall victim to the numbers game. With options like Torey Krug and Marco Scandella also on the trade block, a move to St. Louis would give Robertson a path to the NHL. Both teams would have to give their first-round picks in this deal, giving the Blues three picks in the 2023 draft to work with and kickstart a rebuild.

It’s been a tough season for the Blues, but that doesn’t mean it has to end in failure. Getting such returns for their stars would make their transition period easier to swallow.


Winners and Losers of the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline

Credit: Russian Machine Never Breaks

Well, we’ve made it past the trade deadline, and…did it feel slow to anybody else but me?

Sure, the deadline this season was always expected to be slower than normal. Canada still requires a week-long quarantine at minimum, making the acquisition of any players across the border more challenging. There’s also the flat cap preventing contenders from making big moves, and the upcoming expansion draft keeping most teams honest about their personnel decisions. Despite that, trade deadline day was nowhere near as busy as it normally is, with this tweet from Arizona Coyotes insider Craig Morgan perfectly encapsulating the feelings of many a hockey fan.

That said, there are some positives that can be taken away from the deadline. For newer hockey fans, this deadline day is the perfect primer for the insanity that it normally provides; the most explosive and unpredictable day of the season broken down in an easy-to-digest format. Also, while bigger pieces like Mattias Ekholm, Rickard Rakell, and Josh Manson are all remaining with their current teams, it didn’t stop deadline day and the preceding weekend to contain some surprising moves.

With that in mind, I’m bringing back a column from last season. In this post, I’ll break down the five teams that I think did the best work for themselves this deadline, as well as the five I think came up short in their goals. How did your favorite team do this deadline? Let’s find out.

Loser #5: Carolina Hurricanes: Let me preface this segment by saying this: I love the Hurricanes. I think they’re a strong team that solved their biggest issues in goaltending, and the depth has come up so strongly that they didn’t need to do anything drastic to help their chances. That being said, though, couldn’t they have stood to beef up the roster just a little?

Their major competitors in Tampa Bay and Florida also had needs, and they went out of their way to make major moves. Tampa had to convince Columbus and Detroit to eat some salary, but they got the player they were looking for in David Savard. Florida did pay a premium for a proven playoff performer in Sam Bennett, but the moves to acquire Brandon Montour and sign Nikita Gusev should all be helpful for them. What did the Hurricanes do? Give up on a former first-round pick in Haydn Fleury for a depth defenseman and late-round pick. I get that Fleury would have been a prime candidate to get picked up by Seattle in the Expansion Draft, but did they sell just a little too low?

The Hurricanes should still be fine for the postseason, and their performance thus far proves exactly that. I just wonder if they’ve missed a key opportunity to bolster their chances.

Winner #5: Toronto Maple Leafs: I could easily lambast the Maple Leafs for overpaying on rentals. Nick Foligno and David Rittich did fill needs, while Ben Hutton and Riley Nash will provide depth in the postseason, but the deadline day left the Leafs with only three picks in the upcoming draft. So how could they possibly be winners?

Let’s look back on what GM Kyle Dubas said weeks before the deadline. During a press conference, Dubas said that he would be willing to sell top prospects to acquire an impact player. Well, the deadline has now passed, and all of Toronto’s top prospects are still here. Nick Robertson, Rasmus Sandin, Rodion Amirov, Timothy Liljegren, and others are still under the control of Toronto. It’s a good thing too: with players like Frederik Andersen and Zach Hyman likely heading to new teams in the offseason and the expansion draft taking another good player, those prospects will be tasked with filling in roles sooner rather than later.

With Toronto set to take advantage of what’s been a weak North Division, can anyone really blame them for making the necessary moves to do just that? The message to the rest of the league has been sent: Toronto is going all-in.

Loser #4: Philadelphia Flyers: With how the season has gone for the Flyers, it’s no surprise to see them sell off pieces at the deadline. My only question is this: did they sell off the right pieces?

They didn’t get much on Michael Raffl and Erik Gustafsson, but they were necessary moves to make. However, the major trade piece in Scott Laughton wasn’t traded, but rather extended for five years at $3 million AAV. It’s not that the extension was a bad idea but, for a team already loaded with contracts like James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek, it was somewhat confusing. Compare it to the Los Angeles Kings for a moment: they also extended a potential trade piece in Alex Iafallo, but they did it while also shipping out Jeff Carter to make room. They likely wouldn’t have convinced a team to take a shot at JVR or Voracek but, if Philly really liked Laughton that much to extend him, would it have hurt to ask around for the interest in a close-to-expiring deal like Sean Couturier to make room?

This deadline was a weird one for the Flyers, and felt like a directionless array of moves for an equally-directionless team. Perhaps they don’t want to build a roster for Alain Vigneault, who is firmly on the hot seat at the moment.

Winner #4: New York Islanders: Yes, the Islanders did most of their heavy lifting prior to deadline day. That said, the Islanders came in to this stretch of the year with a serious need for offense after the injury to captain Anders Lee. After last season’s big acquisition for Jean-Gabriel Pageau made dividends, Lou Lamoriello made another bold move to bolster his team for the short term.

It was already a good move by the Islanders to acquire both Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from divisional rival New Jersey, as both players have found immediate homes in the top six. However, it’s even better when looking at the price the Islanders had to pay. A first-round pick in a draft that’s not terribly deep on can’t-miss talent, a conditional mid-round pick for next year’s draft, and two B-tier prospects were all it took for Lamoriello to acquire the two forwards. It’s also worth noting that New Jersey is eating half of each player’s salary, so the fact the Islanders could get a discount on two key players is astonishing.

The Islanders have earned their reputation as a tough out in the postseason and a team that can break out on a deep run at a moment’s notice. Shrewd business like this only adds to that claim, and it should make Barry Trotz’s group a Cup sleeper once again.

Loser #3: Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers didn’t just make the losers side because of their deadline moves. Sure, they got a nice depth defenseman in Dmitry Kulikov, but it’s doubtful that that’s the type of move that will move the needle. What earns Edmonton their spot here is the comments made by GM Ken Holland regarding their moves.

I can understand why Holland would be passive, at least to an extent. At the same time, though, why wouldn’t the Oilers decide to go for it here? A Canadian team is guaranteed to go to at least the semifinals, and Toronto got better at the deadline, so what reason is there (going through Winnipeg and Toronto would be easier than having to meet a team like Vegas in the second round)? Maybe the better question is this: how do you feel about this if you’re Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl? You’ve had to carry this team on your back for the last few years, and help still isn’t coming when the chance is there for the taking? It’s unlikely McDavid would go out of his way to demand a trade, but the golden goose won’t remain content for too long if this keeps up.

With the situation shaping up favorably for them, the Oilers should have been one of the league’s big buyers. Instead, their passive dealings might come back to haunt them in a month’s time.

Winner #3: Boston Bruins: It seems the Bruins are always looking for something at the deadline, and last year gave them a mixed bag with Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase trending in different directions. With injuries also affecting the roster, however, hunting for key players at the deadline was more important than ever. To me, at least, the Bruins managed to do just that.

The Bruins started their deadline moves by landing defenseman Mike Reilly from Ottawa for a third-round pick. Reilly is more known for his offensive capabilities than play in his own zone, but that’s a small price to pay for a team that’s seen its defensive corps be ravaged by injury. Where the Bruins made their deadline, however, was the move that brought Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar to Beantown. It was a smart move to buy low on the former Hart Trophy winner, and the hope is that Hall’s play will improve by having real structure around him. It also helps that Curtis Lazar become the Bruin’s top fourth-line forward, replacing a struggling prospect in Anders Bjork that went the other way in the trade.

The Bruins acquired three impact players in the last couple of days, and they didn’t have to give up a first-round pick or an interesting prospect to do it. That’s a good trade deadline weekend in my eyes.

Loser #2: Winnipeg Jets: It’s unsurprising to know what the Jets needed at the deadline. They have a deep forward group and the best goaltender tandem in the North Division, so they just needed an impact defenseman to aid their chances of making it out, come playoff time. Needless to say, what they did just wasn’t enough to get excited over.

Of all of the pieces that were available on defense at the deadline, the Jets settled on Jordie Benn? A proven bottom-pairing option that provides no offensive upside and moves the needle even less than Kulikov did for Edmonton? What scared the Jets off from making the big move and landing either David Savard or Josh Manson? Even if the prices of those players were too high, the likes of Alex Goligoski, Jamie Oleksiak, and Ryan Murray would still be in play at just a slightly higher price than what the Jets paid for Benn.

For a team that needed (and was proven) to make a splash at the deadline, the Jets whiffed on this one. If they get victimized by Edmonton or Toronto in the postseason, remember this decision.

Winner #2: Detroit Red Wings: For the winners, we go from the buyers to the sellers. At first, the Red Wings were shaping up to be a big loser. Bobby Ryan was out for the season, no one bit on Jonathan Bernier or Marc Staal, and the only moves Steve Yzerman could make were minor moves on depth defensemen Patrik Nemeth and Jon Merrill. It seemed like a tough weekend, but in the final minutes…the blockbuster came in.

While it’s hard to lose a key player like Anthony Mantha, his timeline no longer fit with the rebuilding Red Wings, so it made sense to move him. Besides, when the Capitals come knocking with the package they did, who says no? Jakub Vrana is another young scoring forward who compared favorably to Mantha as far as offensive stats go, Richard Panik is a solid, if unspectacular, bottom-six forward who should fill a spot for the Wings, plus a first-round pick in 2021 and second-round pick in 2022. With the picks they acquired, the Red Wings have 22 picks in the next two years to boost the farm system, with half of those picks coming in the first three rounds.

For a team in need of a clear rebuild, the Red Wings committed to their plan and stuck to it. The Yzerplan suddenly looks a lot more interesting heading into the offseason (maybe replace Jeff Blashill with a former Red Wing in Gerard Gallant?)

Loser #1: Buffalo Sabres: At this point, it just seems like twisting the knife to say the Sabres lost the deadline. Everything that could go wrong with Buffalo has in the most hilarious of fashions this season, and it makes me feel bad for Kevyn Adams in a way. Still, I can’t not rip into the Sabres for what they came out of their fire sale with.

Their big trades came in the form of Taylor Hall and Brandon Montour, and they came out with less on all of them. Sure, Hall and Montour are among the players struggling in Buffalo, but that doesn’t excuse what’s happened. The only things the Sabres came out of for Hall and Curtis Lazar was a declining prospect in Anders Bjork and a second-round pick, which didn’t seem close to enough. Montour got a third-round pick, which would be fine, if the Sabres didn’t need to give up a first-round pick and a once-prized prospect in Brendan Guhle to Anaheim. Looks like bad asset management when it comes down to it.

The Sabres were already packing it in for the season, but this deadline further added to the struggles the organization has faced. Frankly, it’s time for them to trade Jack Eichel and other core players and start over.

Winner #1: Columbus Blue Jackets: In a deadline where teams that looked like surefire sellers suddenly wandered into the playoff conversation (hi, Nashville and Arizona), it was a bit refreshing to see Columbus stay the course and sell. It turned out to be a good decision, as Jarmo Kekalainen came out of the deadline with the most impressive haul of any seller.

Trading captain Nick Foligno and a defensive stalwart like David Savard were tough moves to make, but necessary ones to kickstart a rebuild. As a result, both Foligno and Savard each drew more value than the Sabres got for Taylor Hall. The Jackets’ willingness to sell now has them sitting on three first-round picks for this year’s draft. It’s not an ideal draft to have those picks but, for a farm system that drops off after the top two or three prospects, it’s worth it.

The season may be an undisputed disappointment for the Blue Jackets, but at least they had something to cheer about at the deadline. Now the question is whether the Jackets want to try and build around the assets they got this season or go for a more full-fledged rebuild.

The Winners and Losers of the NHL Trade Deadline

As of February 24 at 12:00 PST, the NHL’s busiest time of the year came to an end.

As expected, this trade deadline season was completely chaotic. All 31 teams got in on the action in some way, with the day of the deadline having a record 32 total transactions. Some teams were getting the final pieces for a potential Stanley Cup run. Others were trying to build for the future by selling off established assets. Regardless of the reasons, teams are hoping that what they came out of the deadline with will help them with their current goals.

While we won’t know the results of these trades until years down the road for the most part, it can be apparent right off the bat that some teams got exactly what they needed. There are teams that came in with a plan and executed it to perfection, and there are others that seemed to have no idea what they were doing. With this in mind, today’s post is dedicated to determining the immediate reactions to this year’s deadline activity.

First, I elected to skip players and primarily focus on teams. The reason for this is because it’s pretty easy to determine which players won and lost, so explaining their situations feels redundant to me. Secondly, my criteria on what makes a winner or loser is twofold: did the team get what they need, and whether they got it without sacrificing too much. Keep that in mind as you read through this post.

With that said, let’s get started

Loser #5-Colorado Avalanche

Is it wrong to say that I expected more out of the Avalanche this deadline? They were connected to every major trade chip on the market. They had the cap space to keep them around for a long time, and the assets necessary to pull off a trade. For a team with serious Cup aspirations, that sounds like a recipe for success at the deadline.

Instead, GM Joe Sakic didn’t go for the big fish. That doesn’t exactly mean he sat on his hands, mind you. He picked up Vladislav Namestnikov from Ottawa for a fourth-round pick, and gave back Calle Rosen to Toronto for a depth goaltender in Michael Hutchinson. Colorado’s dealing with a fair share of injuries, as contributors like Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri, Matt Calvert, and Philipp Grubauer are all on the shelf. It appears Sakic is fine with those being his additions instead.

Sakic has done a great job building up a potential juggernaut in the Western Conference. But for a team fighting to claim home-ice advantage in an extremely difficult division, this feels like a missed opportunity.

Winner #5-Washington Capitals

Washington’s trade deadline was a case of the rich getting richer. Already one of the odds-on favorites to win the Stanley Cup this year, one would assume that the Capitals would stand pat and rely on their current roster to bring the championship back to the nation’s capital. Instead, GM Brian MacLellan chose to be bold and further solidify his team’s case.

Their first move was grabbing Brenden Dillon from San Jose for a couple of draft picks. Dillon shores up an already strong back end and will ensure that Tom Wilson is not the only pure source of physicality on the team. Secondly, the Capitals brought along Ilya Kovalchuk from Montreal for a third-round pick. It’s a risky play for the Caps, but if Kovalchuk can continue his solid form from Montreal, it gives the team another quality scoring option.

Dillon and Kovalchuk are adding to a loaded roster, and it’s evident from the wheeling and dealing that the Capitals fancy themselves as legitimate Cup contenders. They look the part of a much better team than before, and that can only mean trouble for the rest of the East.

Loser #4-Buffalo Sabres

Let’s do a little roleplaying, shall we? You’re the GM of the Buffalo Sabres. Your team’s playoff chances are on life support, with little chance that they can control their destiny. Even if you do make the playoffs, you are virtually guaranteed to get smashed by the class of your conference. The fanbase is growing more apathetic by the day, and ownership is disappointed about the team’s efforts.

Sounds like a situation where it’s best to rebuild and count on some incoming prospects, right? If your answer is yes, you are clearly not Jason Botterill.

His idea of what to do for this team is to get one of those wild card spots, no matter the cost. First, he trades a conditional fifth-rounder to New Jersey for an aging power forward in Wayne Simmonds. He will almost certainly be done with this team by the end of the season. Second, a reclamation project in Evan Rodrigues and rental in Conor Sheary turned into an intriguing young player from Pittsburgh in Dominik Kahun. Sounds good, but seriously? No draft picks? No interesting younger prospects? Refusing to trade assets like Michael Frolik and Colin Miller, all while watching Montreal get a better price for Marco Scandella than what you traded him away for?

This team and situation has turned into a cluster this year, and an ill-advised trade deadline only added to the mess that Botterill’s successor will be tasked to clean up. You really don’t think he’s coming back, do you?

Winner #4-Ottawa Senators

If you want to see a rebuilding team approach the deadline correctly, look no further than the Ottawa Senators. Sure, the on-ice results haven’t been good, but between the positive development of Anthony Duclair and keeping owner Eugene Melnyk away from any hot mics, this season hasn’t been a disaster for the Sens. For this, GM Pierre Dorion needs to be given his dues, and this deadline gave more hope for the future.

Trading Dylan DeMelo, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Tyler Ennis for mid-round picks between this year and next were basic moves. Nothing too fancy. But the biggest trade chip of all finally came down, and the price was better than Ottawa fans could have hoped. Jean-Gabriel Pageau was cashed in for a first-round pick, second-round pick, and a conditional third-round pick next year. With these trades, the Ottawa Senators have nine picks in the first three rounds of the draft this year, with two of them almost guaranteed to be lottery selections (that Erik Karlsson trade is still paying dividends for them).

Dorion tends to be fairly criticized from time to time, but the devil must be given his due some time. If these moves lead to a strong farm system that can carry the Senators back to relevance in a few years’ time, he may get a little bit of goodwill back.

Loser #3-Chicago Blackhawks

To be fair, Chicago’s trade deadline wasn’t as bad as it could have been. While the team was straddling the line between playoff hopeful and lottery team, I was worried Stan Bowman was going to go for it again and sell off future assets to win now. It didn’t come to that, but I still ended up feeling underwhelmed.

Erik Gustafsson should have been traded last year is the moral of this story. They could have convinced a team that they could net a strong offensive-minded defenseman and get a possible first-round pick out of the deal. Instead, a rough season capped his trade value, and the Calgary Flames managed to get him for only a third-round pick. Then there’s the Robin Lehner deal. It was evident that the Blackhawks were going to need to choose one goalie to keep into next season, and Lehner’s trade value was much higher than that of Corey Crawford. The issue I have is this: they could have gotten a lot more out of Vegas. A second round pick, a strictly backup goaltender in Malcolm Subban, and a project defenseman in Slava Demin might be a good haul for another player, but for a goaltender in his prime? The value seems to be a bit off there. Also, why didn’t Bowman decide to go after a Brandon Saad deal after seeing what Jason Zucker got for Minnesota?

Stan Bowman gave his trade partners sure things, and they gave him dart throws in return. It isn’t a good look for a GM whose goodwill with the fans has run out. Isn’t there a certain ex-player and quality GM who might have his services available this offseason?

Winner #3-Vegas Golden Knights

Give Vegas credit for always making the trade deadline interesting in their short history. Their deals have been relatively hit (Mark Stone) or miss (Tomas Tatar), but this year, they weren’t expected to make a big splash. Of course, as if paying homage to their home city, GM Kelly McCrimmon once again went gambling.

Their dealing got started by snagging Alec Martinez from a divisional rival in the Los Angeles Kings. The price of two second-round picks was a little steep, but in Martinez, the Knights get a solid two-way defenseman who can eat minutes and has plenty of playoff experience. The deal in itself was good, but the deal for Lehner is what puts Vegas here. The one caveat to a playoff run for Vegas has been if Marc-Andre Fleury, who has been the face of this team’s prior inconsistencies, can maintain a high level of play. With Lehner, that problem has an answer, and the team didn’t even have to give up a first-round pick or top prospect to get him. Adding Nick Cousins to counter a recent string of forward injuries was just the cherry on top.

Vegas had a decent list of needs to fill this trade deadline, and they somehow managed to check them all off without putting themselves in any clear danger. Now imagine if Lehner decides to stick around and be the team’s solution for life after Fleury. It’s not like three of the last four Cup winners changed starting goaltenders during the playoffs or anything. Nope. Not at all.

Loser #2-Tampa Bay Lightning

Really quick disclaimer before we go too far. It was a toss-up to me between the top two losers for who should go where, and there are arguments that each one did worse than the other. Ultimately, the reason why Tampa Bay is number 2 is simply because I don’t think they endangered themselves from losing their playoff spot. That being said…


I mean, if this price were for some combination of Chris Kreider, Kyle Palmieri, Matt Dumba, and Jonas Brodin, I would have gotten it somewhat. Instead, the Lightning thought it was a good idea to trade Nolan Foote (their first round pick this season) and their two first-round selections for two forwards who will ultimately be bottom-six fixtures for the team? No disrespect to the two players in question here, but they were valued way too much by a team that was clearly desperate to not have a repeat of last year. Vegas is too, but at least they traded second-round picks for overall better players.

Granted, all of this can be stomached easier with the Lightning raising the Cup, but even then, they need to ask this: Was it really worth it? The team may be better now than it was before, but the bill for these trades may end up biting this team for years to come.

Winner #2-Edmonton Oilers

After a lackluster final few years with Detroit, Ken Holland needed a fresh start in Edmonton. It’s only fair that he helped his former team and protege Steve Yzerman with their rebuild by taking some established assets from them in order to put his stamp on the Oilers.

Mike Green may have lost a step, but it does shore up the back end and frees them from an LTIR contract in Kyle Brodziak. Tyler Ennis also came at a cheap price for a reliable veteran. The real prize, however, came from a former rising star in Andreas Athanasiou. His price tag (Sam Gagner and a couple of second-round picks) was pretty steep, but young talent tends to boost the package. While his -45 rating is an eyesore, that can mostly be attributed to an awful Red Wings team. Whether he plays on a line with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, or both, that line just got even more dangerous.

With these moves, the Oilers are in position for a dogfight with Vegas and possibly Vancouver to see who can claim the Pacific division. Either way, Holland deserves praise for not only bringing two of the world’s best players back to the playoffs, but for making his team a tough out.

Loser #1-Florida Panthers

Ever since returning to the GM position for the Panthers, Dale Tallon has made a fair share of disastrous moves. The most notorious of them being handing Vegas two-thirds of their top line in the expansion draft. The Panthers made one big move this deadline, and while it’s not as bad, it might end up coming pretty close.

It was expected that the Panthers were going to trade a big player this deadline. Eyes were mostly on Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov, both of whom are unrestricted free agents after this season. Instead, Vincent Trocheck was the guy that got sent off from Broward County. He may be coming off a down year, but top-six centers don’t come cheap. The Panthers will fix that awful defense of theirs with this one, right?

The package was as follows: a rental offensive-minded center in Erik Haula, a bottom-six center in Lucas Wallmark, a B+ prospect in Eetu Luostarainen, and a project defenseman in Chase Priskie. That’s it. And that was the only big trade the Panthers pulled off. No one to help keep Sergei Bobrovsky from having to stop quality chances. No impact players that will be with the team past this year. It’s arguably the biggest whiff of the trade deadline, and we haven’t even seen much of the impact yet.

If the Panthers fail to make the playoffs, Tallon is fired, and the fanbase goes back to their apathetic ways, look no further than this move right here as the catalyst. If you excuse me, it’s time to play Sweetness, cry, and prepare my argument for why the Panthers need to get out of Sunrise immediately. But before I do…

Winner #1-Carolina Hurricanes

I could have just listed the Trocheck trade from the Hurricanes’ perspective, end there, and it would be a good argument for the top spot. However, that would dismiss the other moves the team made to help them out.

With Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce both out with long-term injuries, the Canes needed a couple of quality defensemen to take their spots. Needless to say, they did just that. A first-round pick for Brady Skjei is a high price, but for a young defenseman with plenty of term left, it is a necessary cost. Sami Vatanen from New Jersey came at a much more reasonable price, that being a couple of extra prospects and a conditional fourth-round pick. And for those asking about a goaltender, Carolina’s defense is good enough that they don’t need to worry too much about that. They could probably slot a 42-year-old Zamboni driver in their net and still win.

The Hurricanes knew their situation. They will likely be facing some of the best teams in all of hockey this season, and they needed to make preparations. They did just that with their moves without giving up too much in return. It’s the kind of deadline that GMs dream of.

The Season of Giving: NHL Trade Deadline Hopes

On December 16, 2019, just a week and a half before Christmas, the Arizona Coyotes got their present early. Taylor Hall, the 2018 Hart Trophy winner who propelled the New Jersey Devils to the playoffs a couple years ago, was coming to the desert in exchange for a few prospects and draft picks. It was a risky move, but for Arizona, it was the right one to make. With the Pacific Division heating up, the Coyotes needed to figure out a way to break through, and acquiring Hall should help to give Arizona at least a spot in the playoffs.

For most teams, however, the holiday roster freeze gives way to the real Christmas Day: the trade deadline. Buyers put together their wish lists in order to find that piece or two that will lead them to a Stanley Cup. Sellers look to trade their top assets now in hopes of landing pieces to ensure a brighter future. In a couple months, the NHL landscape will change dramatically as some of hockey’s best players are introduced as the newest members of contending teams.

What this article will have are what teams are hoping for at the deadline or before then. There won’t be many specific destinations for players (those don’t usually come up until next month,) but the needs for certain teams are apparent at this point. So with the holidays coming up, let’s take a look at what tops the gift lists.

Anaheim Ducks: A rebuild could be on the horizon for the once-Mighty Ducks. The deadline should give fans a good idea of where GM Bob Murray stands on the issue. Backup goaltender Ryan Miller is the obvious trade chip, but who else could Anaheim send off? Jakob Silfverberg could be an interesting sell-high candidate. Adam Henrique, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson could also be in play. If one of them ends up going, it’ll be an indication that Anaheim wants to build for the future.

Arizona Coyotes: They got their man already. Now strapped to the salary cap ceiling, they’re likely finished making moves until the summer. Someone will probably call about Antti Raanta or Adin Hill, though.

Boston Bruins: The one thing that concerns everyone about the Bruins is depth. The Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line is arguably the best in hockey right now, but teams don’t win it all by living and dying on one line. The Bruins have the draft capital and financial wiggle room to make a deal work, and top wing players should be available for the taking. They were linked to new free agent Ilya Kovalchuk for a reason.

Buffalo Sabres: Buffalo has more than a few extra defensemen laying around. Zach Bogosian, Marco Scandella, and Colin Miller should all be treated as potential trade chips. One of them, a prospect, and a draft pick or two should be enough to give Buffalo some much-needed scoring depth. Hope they don’t mind retaining a bit of Bogosian’s salary though.

Calgary Flames: The Johnny Gaudreau trade talks seem to have finally died down, but the wheel is still spinning in Calgary. Michael Frolik, TJ Brodie, and Travis Hamonic are all on expiring deals with little chance of re-signing. With Calgary still in contention for a top-3 spot in the Pacific, expect them to make a hockey trade to better their chances and get a good return on value.

Carolina Hurricanes: Sure, the Hurricanes will likely land a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but why stop there? With the strongest group of contenders out of all the divisions, any team from the Metropolitan might be seeking to make a move. With substantial draft capital and a good financial situation, the Hurricanes have the best chance at pulling a deadline acquisition.

Chicago Blackhawks: Unfortunately, Blackhawks fans, Brent Seabrook is not getting traded. Erik Gustafsson may be having a down year from last season’s 60-point outburst, but Stan Bowman may as well take what he can get. Even more interesting, however, is what happens to the goaltending tandem of Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner. Both are free agents at the year, and there’s little chance Chicago keeps both of them around. Decisions, decisions.

Colorado Avalanche: The once-favorite to land Taylor Hall came up short, but that won’t stop the Avalanche from trying again. They are arguably the favorite to represent the West in the Stanley Cup Final, but they could use that big piece to push them over the top. Expect them to be connected to all of the top forward rentals come deadline time.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets infamously went all-in last season at the deadline, and this is the result. They don’t have much to sell, so at this point, they won’t really do anything. It’s time for them to look at free agency. Getting involved in the goalie market is the expectation.

Dallas Stars: The Stars haven’t gone under from the Jim Montgomery saga, at least not yet. They went big on Mats Zuccarello last season, and with the general lack of resources they have, it’s likely they choose to stand pat and hope for a Blues-style hot streak to end the season. Getting Jamie Benn going will help.

Detroit Red Wings: The Red Wings are eliminated from the postseason every way but mathematically. Steve Yzerman should be selling everything he can, but what is there to sell? The best pending UFA they have at the moment is Mike Green, and even he’s 34 and his best years are behind him. No wonder the Red Wings have looked to their RFAs to get some value, and it looks like Andreas Athanasiou is the play. He’s having a down year, though, so teams might not be willing to buy at the initial asking price.

Edmonton Oilers: Edmonton has the chance to get some serious financial flexibility next offseason, meaning they might just leave the team alone for now. If the Oilers find themselves barely hanging on to a playoff spot, though, those plans might change. Chances are they’ll try to find a complement to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but anything is on the table.

Florida Panthers: After Joel Quenneville and Sergei Bobrovsky were brought into the fold, Florida was expected to be competing for a spot in the playoffs. They are, but they could certainly use that one piece for stability purposes. Pending UFA Mike Hoffman is no guarantee to come back to the Panthers, so maybe a hockey trade can be engineered with him as the centerpiece. A defenseman could be of interest to them.

Los Angeles Kings: Even in the competitive Pacific, the Kings look ready to rebuild one piece at a time. Tyler Toffoli is a near-certainty to be gone. Kyle Clifford and Trevor Lewis are options to shore up a contender’s bottom six. Even veteran and 2014 Stanley Cup hero Alec Martinez is a name that will be thrown around. The Kings have one of the best prospect groups in the entire NHL, and they will have plenty of chances to build on that at the deadline.

Minnesota Wild: Out of all of the teams, the Wild might be the hardest team to predict. Part of me thinks they’ll flame out and sink back to sell status again. Another part believes the Wild have what it takes to sneak into the final wild card spot. Where the Wild are by the end of January should be indicative of what they plan to do. Question: does Mikko Koivu decide to try his luck at a Cup elsewhere if the former happens?

Montreal Canadiens: No team looks to be more in buying contention than Les Canadiens. They have all the assets that sellers want to claim, and Marc Bergevin could find himself without a job if Montreal misses the postseason again. He didn’t go far in the Hall saga, but he could go for a couple of pieces at the deadline to help his case. Like Colorado, expect them to be an automatic connection for big names.

Nashville Predators: The power play is still bad, the goaltending has fallen apart, and Peter Laviolette’s job is in jeopardy. They would love to sell Kyle Turris and be free of most of his contract, but it could end up with a deal similar to Patrick Marleau getting out of Toronto. The long-tenured Laviolette could also be the sixth coach fired during the season, barring any other changes. At least the PK Subban trade looks better than it did a few months ago?

New Jersey Devils: The big domino has fallen, but there’s a chance for another one at the deadline. There are rumblings that the aforementioned Subban is quickly finding himself on the outs in New Jersey, which isn’t a surprise given his struggles this season. That said, I’m not convinced he’s on his way out, but New Jersey has plenty of pieces to ship out for future returns. At least two of Wayne Simmonds, Miles Wood, Sami Vatanen, and Andy Greene will be on new teams come mid-February.

New York Islanders: The Islanders are as close to a complete team as it gets, which is amazing after they lost John Tavares last summer. While defense and goaltending are set, Barry Trotz could use a premier scoring threat to get the offense to be more than respectable. Josh Ho-Sang and Michael Dal Colle are prime “change of scenery” material, so expect them to be dangled on the block for a team wanting any reclamation projects. Expect them to be tied to the top forwards, or at least the second tier.

New York Rangers: Barring a sudden leap into the playoff picture, the Rangers will likely embrace the final stages of their rebuild. Chris Kreider is almost certainly gone, and Jeff Gorton should get quite the deal out of him. Maybe more interesting of a name on the block is Ryan Strome, who has shown he can center a second line at the NHL level. Do the Rangers view him as a part of their long-term future, or do they feel they can sell higher on him now than later? His status is a coin flip at the moment.

Ottawa Senators: Ottawa has only eight players locked up beyond this season, so there are plenty of expiring contracts that can be moved. Chief among them is Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Anthony Duclair, who have broken out and helped Ottawa be better that most experts believed. The Senators would love to keep them around, but would the packages they can get in exchange for them end up giving them equal value? Other useful players who could end up on the block are Vladislav Namestnikov, Connor Brown, Dylan DeMelo, and Ron Hainsey.

Philadelphia Flyers: If there’s one name to watch from the Flyers in this situation, it’s Shayne Gostisbehere. The offensive-minded rearguard has talent and a proven track record, but he is clearly not jelling in Alain Vigneault’s system. With three more years on his deal, Gostisbehere will not be a rental, meaning he can fetch a higher return than normal. Expect him to be part of a hockey trade for a top-six wing, where the Flyers have been ravaged by injury.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Penguins have been surprisingly resilient, surviving injuries to the likes of Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, Justin Schultz, and Brian Dumoulin to enjoy the season they’re having. Alex Galchenyuk seems to be the name brought up in trade talks the most, but will anyone be interested in giving anything up for him again? They’re as likely to pull off a move as they are to stand pat and rely on their current roster. It just depends on what they can get for Galchenyuk.

San Jose Sharks: Longtime buyers in this situation, the floundering Sharks might be on the opposite end of the deadline deals this time. They also have only two draft picks in the first three round, and their first-round pick is Ottawa property. GM Doug Wilson will want to keep Brenden Dillon and Melker Karlsson just in case the Sharks finally get the spark they need, but if they can’t find it, they will likely be shipped off. Would they also be willing to let Joe Thornton go so he can get one more chance at a Cup? He deserves so much better than what he’s gotten.

St. Louis Blues: It will take some work to keep the current core of St. Louis intact. Alex Pietrangelo could be playing his final year in a Blues jersey, so they may want to get one more run together. Expect hockey trades for rentals in order to gain cap space for next season, if anything. Even if they whiff, they’ll get Vladimir Tarasenko back for the postseason. Win-win scenario.

Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning, no pun intended, could certainly use a shock to the system. Money will have to be cleared up, so how do they plan to do it? Do they consider moving someone like Ondrej Palat for a rental in order to clear up some more cap space? Put them in the same boat as the Blues.

Toronto Maple Leafs: A team not far removed from a playoff spot can rarely be considered a seller, but a terrible cap situation will do that. If the Leafs want to get a backup goaltender or cheap defensive depth, they’ll have to give something up in return. Expiring contracts of defensemen Tyson Barrie, Jake Muzzin, and Cody Ceci could be on the trade block. Zach Hyman could also be an option as well to bolster another team’s middle six. Isn’t cap hell wonderful?

Vancouver Canucks: The fact no one claimed Sven Baertschi off the waiver wire is telling to his market at the moment. If the Canucks want to push for the playoffs through trades, they’ll have to think of alternative gameplans. Anyone except Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat, Quinn Hughes, and Thatcher Demko could be available for the right price. Travis Green’s job may be counting on it.

Vegas Golden Knights: Only two and a half years old, and Vegas already has a penchant for big deadline moves with Tomas Tatar and Mark Stone. This time, the Golden Knights will want to add a defenseman to the mix. The one problem is that they would have to get rid of a player in order to make the deal work, but they do have a decent number of expiring contracts to ship out. The right move could be what gives them the Pacific Division.

Washington Capitals: The least likely team to do anything at the deadline, and with good reason. The Capitals may be strapped to the cap ceiling, but they are the current favorites to win the Presidents Trophy this year. Why mess with success, is the prevailing theory for the Capitals to follow. Expect minor changes, if anything at all, but nothing too substantial.

Winnipeg Jets: The Jets have gotten a second-line center two straight years, but this year is looking to be different. They could trade someone like Adam Lowry for a rental defenseman, but there’s another name the Jets will be monitoring closely. If Dustin Byfuglien comes back from his season-long hiatus, Winnipeg’s defense goes up a notch or two. It could be the difference between a dark horse run and another first round exit, assuming Winnipeg makes the playoffs at all.