Although the NHL trade market produced no whopping deals this year, just about everybody had their nets in the water all the way up until the deadline Wednesday.
Several Stanley Cup contenders caught good players for the postseason grind ahead, while several struggling teams made judicious use of their assets.
Standard disclaimer: Nobody really wins or loses on deadline day because the results of their endeavors are revealed in the coming weeks, months and years.
Nevertheless, here is the league consensus on which teams made savvy moves — and avoided foolish ones — over the past several days:
WASHINGTON CAPITALS: The overall NHL leaders bolstered their loaded lineup with defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, and they gave up nothing more painful than their low first-round pick this summer. They also didn’t lose any assets that could disrupt team chemistry as they chase that elusive first Stanley Cup.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: The defending champs didn’t get Shattenkirk, but general manager Jim Rutherford fleshed out his defense with the additions of veteran blue liners Mark Streit and Ron Hainsey. Rutherford also kept Marc-Andre Fleury, giving the Pens goaltending depth if they need it.
MINNESOTA WILD: Sensing a pattern here? The NHL’s best teams mostly got better, and they usually did it without giving up major assets. The Central Division-leading Wild added steady center Martin Hanzal and Ryan White in a deal for draft picks — a small price to pay for a team with a wide-open window to reach its first Stanley Cup Final.
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: Perhaps there was nostalgia involved in the return of defenseman Johnny Oduya, but the Blackhawks have some awfully good times to recapture. Putting him back alongside fellow Swede Niklas Hjalmarsson down the stretch immediately makes Chicago a nightmare for opposing forwards.
COLORADO AVALANCHE: Their season is a wreck, yet the Avs didn’t panic by giving up on Gabriel Landeskog or Matt Duchene. GM Joe Sakic also gave Jarome Iginla freedom to chase his first Stanley Cup, albeit with the longshot Los Angeles Kings.
FLORIDA PANTHERS: Steady scorer Thomas Vanek for a conditional mid-round draft pick? That’s a no-brainer, and it could be a big factor in the Panthers’ playoff hopes.
VANCOUVER CANUCKS: Good returns for Jannik Hansen and Alex Burrows have created goodwill for embattled GM Jim Benning. The rebuild finally might be underway in earnest.
BUFFALO SABRES: They were the odd team out, failing to make a deal on the NHL’s trade deadline day for the first time since 2002. General manager Tim Murray couldn’t move defensemen Dmitry Kulikov and Cody Franson before their contracts expire, and captain Brian Gionta wasn’t interested enough in a move to pursue it. He acknowledges that’s a “speed bump” in his rebuilding plan.
MONTREAL CANADIENS: They’ve already got a fine team, yet they added no scoring depth and did little to get faster or more versatile in the postseason. Steve Ott, Dwight King and Jordie Benn are capable NHL players, but Washington and Pittsburgh still appear to be a cut above the Habs in total talent, particularly in the offensive end.
ST. LOUIS BLUES: Almost nobody thinks they got enough for Shattenkirk, who could have just stayed and played a key role in helping his longtime club’s playoff push, even if the Blues didn’t re-sign him this summer.
EDMONTON OILERS: They largely stayed pat, deciding to lean on the young core around Connor McDavid as they attempt to end their 10-season playoff drought. And for that, the Sharks, Ducks, Kings and Flames all thank them.
SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN
ARIZONA COYOTES: Millennial GM John Chayka got a decent return for Martin Hanzal and Michael Stone, as long as the Coyotes draft well. But they didn’t appear to maximize their available assets when they kept Shane Doan and Radim Vrbata, who seemed almost certain to bring something to help the Desert Dogs’ latest rebuild.
LOS ANGELES KINGS: Goalie Ben Bishop’s pre-deadline arrival revealed the top brass’ deep ambivalence about Peter Budaj, one of the league’s feel-good stories. If the Kings are actually committed to giving rest to Jonathan Quick while they attempt to get into playoff position, Bishop is an immense acquisition. And while some have scoffed at the addition of the 39-year-old Iginla to an already slow team, they haven’t calculated the importance of Iginla’s leadership and hunger — and let’s just say they’re probably overestimating the importance of departing two-time Cup champion Dwight King.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: GM Steve Yzerman did some nifty roster shuffling to help his chances of re-signing Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat this summer, but he gave up a chunk of his club’s identity to do it. Valtteri Filppula and Brian Boyle will be missed, and Yzerman really didn’t get much for the well-liked Bishop, one of the NHL’s best goalies over the past four years in Tampa Bay.
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