The trade deadline is behind us and while it was light on trades in terms of quantity, there were some major players that changed hands. I did a live blog yesterday that detailed the trades as they happened and offered some of my initial thoughts, but this article was written with a bit more time to reflect on what’s happened. Please note that I’m also considering all the trades that took place over the last week and not just those that happened on Monday.
If you’re interested in more trade deadline content, we also have our Podcast up and Corey Abbott will be publishing an article later in the day, so keep an eye out for that.
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New York Rangers
What the Rangers did in recent weeks had to be painful. It’s not that long ago that the Rangers were a serious Stanley Cup contender and with Henrik Lundqvist in his twilight, I’m sure there was a desire internally to put forth a team that he could finally win his championship with, just as I’m sure many Rangers fans were hoping for the same. Still, it was clear that the Rangers had found themselves stuck in neutral and needed to rebuild.
With that as their acknowledged goal, they certainly didn’t do any half-measures. The Rangers traded away Michael Grabner, Rick Nash, J.T. Miller, and team captain Ryan McDonagh. That’s a lot of talent gone, but they got a big return for it. Some nice prospects in Igor Rykov, Brett Howden, and Libor Hajek, a promising young forward in Vladislav Namestnikov, a second rounder, and at least two first rounders (they also got a conditional second rounder that can turn into a third first rounder). That’s not even a complete list of what has changed hands involving the Rangers, that’s just the highlights.
The bottom line is they were very busy and have gotten their rebuild off to a great start.
Pittsburgh did pay a significant price to land Derick Brassard, including a 2018 first-round pick and a top goalie prospect in Filip Gustavsson, but the move made a lot of sense for the Penguins. Brassard provides themselves with someone who is immensely overqualified for the third-line center job that Pittsburgh has in mind for him, which is exactly what Pittsburgh wants.
Part of the Penguins’ success over the last two years has been due to their ability to roll out three strong scoring lines with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel each leading one. Brassard helps reinforce that third line in the same way that Nick Bonino used to before he left as an unrestricted free agent over the summer. As long as we’re comparing them though, Brassard is capable of doing far more offensively.
Thanks to Vegas retaining part of his contract, Brassard’s annual cap hit is also a manageable $3 million for Pittsburgh and he’s signed through 2018-19 so this is more than a rental.
Pittsburgh has already done the unlikely by win the Stanley Cup two years in a row. They’re in a position to establish themselves as the best dynasty since the 1980s Islanders and if Brassard makes them more likely to accomplish that rare distinction, then it’s absolutely worth it.
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Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning might not be chasing history in the same way Pittsburgh is, but they’re certainly serious Stanley Cup contenders who just got even more threatening with the additions of Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller.
McDonagh is an all-around great defenseman, capable of logging big minutes, chipping in offensively, and sacrificing his body by blocking shots. Put him on a team that already featured Victor Hedman, and the Lightning have one of the best defensive duos in the league. That could make a huge difference going into the playoffs. Plus, McDonagh is signed through 2018-19, so this isn’t all-or-nothing as he could still help them win it all next year even if they fall short this time around.
Miller is comparatively lower impact, but he’ll be a significant factor for Tampa Bay too. He had 22 goals and 56 points in 82 contests last season and has 13 goals and 40 points in 63 games in 2017-18. Those are solid numbers and his presence bolsters an already stacked offense. The drawback here is that Tampa Bay surrendered Vladislav Namestnikov in the same deal, so when considering if the Lightning got better offensively, you have to weigh Miller against Namestnikov rather than just consider Miller as a pure addition. In that regard, Miller helps, but isn’t a big boost, so the main draw was of course McDonagh.
The Lightning did pay handsomely for McDonagh and Miller as they surrendered Namestnikov, two good prospects, a 2018 first-round pick, and a conditional 2019 second-round pick that can become a first rounder if the Lightning win the Stanley Cup in either of the next two seasons. But the Lightning’s window is now, so it makes sense for them to take the plunge.
Detroit Red Wings
I went back-and-forth as to whether or not to include them in the winner’s column or just leave them out of this article altogether. I’m disappointed that they couldn’t find a buyer for Mike Green, but getting three picks (a 2018 first-round selection, 2019 second-round pick, and 2021 third-round pick) for Tomas Tatar seems like a steal. I’ll go over it more when I talk about Vegas later, but I also wasn’t a fan of Tatar’s contract, so I think there will even be some value in just freeing up that cap space.
At the end of the day, I’m encouraged by how the Red Wings have been rebuilding their farm system. They had six picks in the first three rounds last year, they’ll have at least six picks in the first three rounds this year (seven depending on what happens with the Mrazek trade conditions) and they already have at least four picks in the first three rounds for 2019 (plus a fifth, again depending on that Mrazek trade). Stockpiling draft picks might not guarantee success, but it puts teams in a position to make good things happen and that’s what Detroit has done.
At the end of the day, the Canucks are a basement team that can’t seem to successfully trade assets. I can understand them not wanting to move the Sedin twins given what they’ve meant to the franchise and, honestly, there might not have been much of a market for them anyways. However, they couldn’t even secure a draft pick for Thomas Vanek.
Maybe that simply wasn’t an option with him, but I can’t help but wonder if the situation was mismanaged to the point where that became the case. He has 17 goals and 41 points in 61 contests this season. Given the picks flying around over the last week, I really find it hard to believe that today’s outcome marked the best possible for the Canucks. Even if it was, the Canucks didn’t do anything today to make the team that will hopefully eventually be led by Brock Boeser to look meaningfully better in the future.
This season was a huge disappointment for Edmonton and ultimately the response from the Oilers’ management was rather muted. They basically got a pair of third round picks over trades for Brandon Davidson and Patrick Maroon respectively.
The Davidson trade was fine, but it’s disappointing that Maroon didn’t go for more given that he’s a gritty forward with 27 goals last season and another 14 this season.
Of course, Edmonton’s bigger trades in recent years haven’t looked good. Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson, Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome, Griffin Reinhart for a draft pick that turned into Mathew Barzal…maybe Edmonton is better off if it moves away from making trades.
Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights have been this season’s Cinderella story and that hasn’t changed, so please don’t take the fact that I’m including them here as an indication that I’m criticizing the team overall. They’re a huge success story and while I find that a lot of hockey fans like to bash GM George McPhee, I think he needs to be acknowledged as the architect of Vegas’ rise this season.
That acknowledged, I hate the Tomas Tatar trade, which saw Vegas trade a first-round pick, second-round pick, and third-round pick to Detroit. Yes, Tatar is signed through 2020-21, so this is more than a rental and, yes, he’s 27-years-old, so Vegas is buying his prime years. However, even at his best, he’s an okay second-rounder and while he’s locked up, it’s to a bad contract. That four-year, $21.2 million deal seems like too much for what he provides, which significantly hinders his already decidedly “meh” appeal. To give up three high picks for that seems very excessive and while I still like a lot about the Golden Knights, I see this trade as something that made their overall situation worse.
I was on the fence about putting them here, but I do feel like they needed to do more than make a couple minor trades for defensemen. Here’s the thing: I look at what’s happened to the New York Rangers and think that’s the position that the Washington Capitals are in danger of finding themselves in in the not too distant future.
The Rangers had a superstar in Henrik Lundqvist and a strong core around him, but they just never could quite win a championship during that window and now it’s reasonable to wonder if they’ll be able to rebuild in time for Lundqvist to get another shot.
Washington similarly is built around a superstar, in this case Alex Ovechkin, and while he’s still at the top of his game, he’s also 32-years-old so you have to wonder how many more great opportunities they’ll have with him leading the charge. So far the Capitals haven’t even come close to winning it all with Ovechkin and while they have a chance to make a serious push this season, they watched the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, and New Jersey Devils all make significant additions while they were quiet.
The Capitals goal of winning the Cup this year has gotten harder over the last week.
I think the trades Ottawa made were fine in regards to the return and I don’t fault the Senators for hanging onto Erik Karlsson, especially when there will be another opportunity to trade him over the summer if he ultimately has no interest in re-signing. However, this franchise just seems like such a mess right now. There was some optimism about them thanks to their run to the Eastern Conference Final last season and for a brief time it looked like the Matt Duchene trade could be a step in the right direction, but the Senators have just collapsed and that’s only drawn more attention to their ongoing attendance problems and the tension between some of the fans and Senators owner Eugene Melnyk.
So while I don’t fault the Senators trade moves, there is an underlining issue here that remains unresolved.
The Bruins made a big splash by acquiring Rick Nash from the New York Rangers. They’re in a position to make a serious playoff run, but even in the context of what players were going for during the deadline, I feel like the Bruins overpaid. I think I might ultimately just value Nash less than most as I have very little faith in his ability to be a consistent offensive threat anymore. I couldn’t bring myself to put the Bruins in either the winner or loser column, so I’ll simply acknowledge here that they also were a major player in this year’s deadline happenings.