The expectation was that the NHL Trade Deadline Day was going to be a whirlwind.
The reality was it was a slight breeze.
When Monday’s trade deadline came to an end, there were 19 deals totaling 37 players. The two biggest names on the market were Andrew Ladd and Eric Staal were moved, while the rest remaining players moved were essentially depth pieces.
In the immediate aftermath, there were questions about the lack of trades, along with the quality of the deals. And even though it’s difficult to adequately determined which teams were deadline’s winners and losers in short order, Metro took its best shot at breaking down the best and worst deals.
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: General Manager Stan Bowman should win NHL Executive of the Year. Chicago entered the deadline as the reigning, defending, undisputed Stanley Cup Champions. They left it as potentially the frontrunner to win the Cup. Bowman added Ladd from the Winnipeg Jets, Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann from Montreal, and Christian Ehrhoff from Los Angeles. The cost from the Blackhawks end? Rob Scuderi, prospects and three draft picks. With the moves, the Blackhawks are now deep, loaded and seem well-equipped to defend their title.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: While Chicago bolstered its lineup for the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs, Leafs management continued its systemic stockpiling of draft picks and prospects. The Maple Leafs have 12 picks in this June’s draft, eight more in 2017 and another eight in 2018 according to industry website generalfanager.com. The site also noted the Leafs only have 31 contracts on the books totaling $54.2 million next season. That Toronto has intelligent management, prospects and cap space should scare the hell out of the rest of the NHL.
NEW YORK RANGERS: In recent days, coach Alain Vigneault has said he believes the current edition of the Rangers has earned the opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup. Evidently, general manager Jeff Gorton agrees with his coach, as he traded two second round picks and prospect center Aleksi Saarela to Carolina for unrestricted free agent center Eric Staal. At first glance, the trade looks like the traditional Rangers deal, parting with tomorrow for a veteran. But for an aging group that has done everything but win the Cup, time is of the essence. And if the Rangers do win the franchise’s fifth Cup overall, the cost will have been worth it.
CAROLINA HURRICANES: Much like Toronto, Carolina is in the embryonic stages of an organizational rebuilding. GM Ron Francis is off to a good start. Francis was able to pry two picks and Saarela from the Rangers, Valentin Zykov and a conditional fifth round pick from the Kings for Kris Versteeg, and a prospect and two draft picks from Boston for John-Michael Liles. The Hurricanes have 28 picks in the next three drafts and enough cap flexibility to add significant player contracts in trades and free agency.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS: Not sure what GM Garth Snow’s philosophy was heading into the deadline. The Islanders lead Pittsburgh by one point for third place in the Metropolitan Division. While the Penguins added Trevor Daley, Carl Hagelin and Justin Schultz in the last two months, the Islanders response was to trade for Shane Prince and Marc-Andre Cliche. Did we mention that the Rangers and Capitals picked up pieces? Because both did. Right now, the Islanders look like the fourth best team in the division, but is that enough to claim an Eastern Conference Wild Card berth?
VANCOUVER CANUCKS: The Canucks are eight points out of the last Western Conference Wild Card berth. So it doesn’t make perfect sense that GM Jim Benning did not sell off pending UFAs Radim Vrbata and Dan Hamhuis to bring back anything of value.
BOSTON BRUINS: The worst place to be in life and sports is limbo. Which is where the Bruins find themselves. The Bruins entered play Tuesday holding the first Wild Card spot despite having significant holes on defense and a pending UFA in Loui Eriksson. Lee Stempniak brings depth and scoring, but is John-Michael Liles going to solve Boston’s woes on the back end?