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How trade deadline moves have panned out for NHL playoff teams

·15-min read

Welcome to 10 Insights and Observations. Every week, I’ll use this space to highlight teams, players, storylines, and general musings around the NHL, and perhaps at times, the greater hockey world. We are changing it up this week, with a look back at the additions teams made ahead of the playoffs.

We have a tendency to immediately rate things in sports – draft classes, trades, signings and the like — without ever actually going back and evaluating how they played out. Although the season isn’t over yet, we are getting a clearer picture of how teams fared at the NHL trade deadline.

For the purposes of this review, we did not look at teams that failed to make the playoffs as they generally make moves with an eye towards the future. We also did not just look at moves made on deadline day. Teams are lauded for getting business done early and beating the market, so we wanted to recognize that here.

Boston Bruins

  • Acquired defenseman Josh Brown and a conditional 2022 seventh-round pick from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for forward Zach Senyshyn and a 2022 fifth-round pick

  • Acquired defenseman Hampus Lindholm from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for defensemen John Moore and Urho Vaakanainen, a 2022 first-round pick, 2023 second-round pick and 2024 second-round pick

The big haul for Boston was acquiring Lindholm, and they immediately safeguarded the move by locking him into an eight-year, $52-million extension.

Lindholm was slotted in next to Charlie McAvoy, giving the Bruins one of the best top pairings in the league. They controlled almost 60 percent of the shot share across the board and were on for 12 goals for to just three against at 5-on-5 in the 10 regular-season games he played with the Bruins. They carried the control of play through the playoffs, but goaltending was not kind to them as they were outscored by one at 5-on-5. All in all, McAvoy is 24, Lindholm is 28, they looked like a legit top pairing and have many good years to go.

Moore was a cap dump, Vaakanainen had some flashes but was generally not working his way up the depth chart just yet — although he's still young and has some promise — and the picks are wild cards. I don’t think Boston has any regrets here at this point. Brown is a pending UFA and was a depth acquisition who played accordingly.

Calgary Flames

  • Acquired forward Ryan Carpenter from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a 2024 fifth-round pick

  • Acquired forward Calle Jarnkrok from the Seattle Kraken in exchange for a 2022 second-round pick, 2023 third-round pick and 2024 seventh-round pick

  • Acquired forward Tyler Toffoli from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for forward Tyler Pitlick, the rights to unsigned forward Emil Heineman, a 2022 or 2023 first-round pick, 2023 fifth-round pick and conditional 2024 fourth-round pick

The Flames did not get as far as many expected and while the majority of that blame will be shouldered by their core, their trades did not exactly push them over the edge. Jarnkrok had four assists in 17 regular-season games after the trade followed by four points in 12 playoff games. It was a steep price to pay for a player who didn’t produce much and is a pending UFA. If he walks now, it’s a disappointing move.

Conversely, Toffoli is signed for two more seasons and at the age of 30, still has good hockey left in him. He put up 23 points in 37 regular season games with Calgary followed by five points in 12 games in the playoffs. Like Jarnkrok, you wanted more from him but at least he’s signed beyond this season at a good cap hit. He can’t replace Johnny Gaudreau – few can – but at least he provides some level of insurance.

And for good measure, Carpenter is also a pending UFA and played zero playoff games, though Calgary paid very little for him. It was fair for Calgary to go for it – it would have been indefensible to not, in fact – but it didn’t go the way they had hoped it would and the acquisitions played a role in that. Toffoli will have to be a good player moving forward to at least make this deadline palatable.

Carolina Hurricanes

  • Acquired forward Max Domi and defenseman Tyler Inamoto from the Columbus Blue Jackets via the Florida Panthers in a three-team trade; Columbus received defenseman Aidan Hreschuk, while Florida received forward Egor Korshkov and a 2022 sixth-round pick

The Hurricanes didn’t do much at the deadline and so far it hasn’t been a bad play by them. In fact, their one move of note paid off in a big way, as Domi scored twice in Game 7 to eliminate the Bruins. That’s the kind of thing front offices dream of happening when they make a move.

Colorado Avalanche

  • Acquired defenseman Josh Manson from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for defenseman Drew Helleson and a 2023 second-round pick

  • Acquired forward Andrew Cogliano from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2024 fifth-round pick

  • Acquired forward Artturi Lehkonen from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for defenseman Justin Barron and a 2024 second-round pick

The Avalanche have to be pretty happy with their deadline so far, but we still need to see how far they actually go. Yes, they paid up across the board, but they are in a pure go-for it mode. Their stars are in their primes. Their UFA list is extensive and they can’t possibly afford to keep everyone. They had to push their chips in and so far it’s working out pretty well.

Lehkonen is just a really good player who contributes all over the ice and has four goals through nine playoff games. He’s only 26 and is an RFA when the season ends, so no matter what happens the Avalanche are in control there.

Manson formed a good pairing with Samuel Girard, the only two Avalanche defensemen playing more than Cale Makar and Devon Toews. He has an overtime winner, too. If you’re a Cup team and you acquire a guy who is playing the third most minutes among your defensemen for a second-round pick and a pretty good prospect, you sign on the dotted line every single time.

Cogliano is also playing fairly regularly and is a fixture on the Avalanche penalty kill, and he came at a low cost. It looks like a pretty good deadline so far but nobody will really care if they don’t at least make the conference finals.

Dallas Stars

  • Acquired forward Vladislav Namestnikov from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a 2024 fourth-round pick

  • Acquired goaltender Scott Wedgewood from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a conditional 2023 fourth-round pick

This was a lowkey great deadline for Dallas. In his debut, Wedgewood made 44 saves — and went three-for-three in the shootout — in a 4-3 win over the Hurricanes. He also shut out Tampa Bay. For a team that was scratching and clawing to make the playoffs, he helped them get there.

Namestnikov also contributed a little as well, with five points in 15 games followed by two in seven playoff games. Watching Jake Oettinger emerge in the playoffs made it all worthwhile for the Stars.

Both players are pending UFAs.

Edmonton Oilers

  • Acquired forward Derick Brassard from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round pick

  • Acquired defenseman Brett Kulak from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for defenseman William Lagesson, a conditional 2022 second-round pick and 2024 seventh-round pick

While Brassard has only played one playoff game, Kulak has been a regular and even somewhat steadying presence for the Oilers on defense. He’s sixth among Oilers defensemen in minutes played per game but there’s something to be said for being a consistent, regular contributor and helping to round out an entire unit.

The Oilers are no longer drowning Darnell Nurse in minutes and every defender helps. Nurse leads all Edmonton blueliners with an average of 21:19, while Kulak is sixth at 17:18. And now, the Oilers are going to the conference finals. It’s not always the splashy moves that pay off, and the Kulak move makes the deadline a win for the Oilers.

Florida Panthers

  • Acquired defenseman Robert Hagg from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a 2022 sixth-round pick

  • Acquired defenseman Ben Chiarot from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for forward prospect Ty Smilanic, a 2023 first-round pick and 2022 fourth-round pick

  • Acquired forwards Claude Giroux, Connor Bunnaman and German Rubtsov, and a 2024 fifth-round pick from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for forward Owen Tippett, a 2024 or 2025 first-round pick and a 2023 third-round pick

The Panthers were aggressive buyers and ultimately flamed out in the second round, getting swept by Tampa Bay. Chiarot was outscored at 5-on-5 in the playoffs while Giroux put up a respectable eight points in 10 games, although he was pulled off a near historically bad playoff power play. And, of course, they didn’t go very far. For all those picks and prospects, there’s not much to say here. Just a disappointing playoff after such a strong regular season and busy deadline.

Los Angeles Kings

  • Acquired defenseman Troy Stecher from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a 2022 seventh-round pick

Sometimes it's the trades that cost so little that end up working out quite well. The Kings lost in the first round, but Stecher helped them make the playoffs in the first place, logging minutes as Drew Doughty was lost for the season. Then he put up four points in four playoff games. Not bad for the cost of a seventh-round pick. He’s a pending UFA as well, so if they bring him back on the cheap the Kings are laughing.

Minnesota Wild

  • Acquired goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a conditional 2022 first-round pick

  • Acquired defenseman Jacob Middleton from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen and a 2022 fifth-round pick

  • Acquired a 2022 second-round pick from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for forward Jack McBain

  • Acquired forward Nicolas Deslauriers from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a 2023 third-round pick

  • Acquired forward Tyson Jost from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for forward Nico Sturm

Minnesota was aggressive after a good season despite the cap problems looming over the team. Unfortunately, the Wild lost in the first round. All the adds were fine enough fits. Fleury was decent but not spectacular. Middleton ate some minutes and is an RFA coming into his own. Deslauriers is a fourth line character guy, but they paid a third for three regular season goals in 20 games and zero points in five playoff games. Jost was a little disappointing and while still young enough, he’s getting $2 million next season on a team strapped for cash. So, there will be some carryover. Deslauriers and Fleury are UFAs and you can't rule out either one or both returning. But on the whole, the Wild paid quite a bit and didn’t go anywhere.

Rangers forward Andrew Copp has proven to be one of the best pickups from the NHL trade deadline. (Getty Images)
Rangers forward Andrew Copp has proven to be one of the best pickups from the NHL trade deadline. (Getty Images)

New York Rangers

  • Acquired forward Tyler Motte from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round pick

  • Acquired forward Andrew Copp and a 2023 sixth-round pick from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for forward Morgan Barron, two conditional 2022 or 2023 second-round picks and a 2023 fifth-round pick

  • Acquired forward Nick Merkley from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for defenseman Anthony Bitetto

  • Acquired forward Frank Vatrano from the Florida Panthers in exchange for the lower selection of either New York's 2022 fourth-round pick or Winnipeg's 2022 fourth-round pick (previously acquired by the Rangers)

  • Acquired defenseman Justin Braun from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a 2023 third-round pick

Unlike many teams, the Rangers have received a strong return on investment.

Copp had 18 points in 16 regular season games, and has 10 in 12 playoff games. He has fit in really well and looks great with the Rangers. He might be playing so well he’s pricing himself out of New York's future plans, but for the time being he's making big-time plays on the big stage.

Vatrano cost very little for someone with seven points in 12 playoff games, coming off eight goals and 13 points in 22 regular-season games. He is taking reps in the top six at times and only cost a fourth.

Motte has been a good fit on the fourth line and penalty kill, while Braun has been a depth defenseman and penalty killer playing minimal minutes, which isn’t much for the cost of a third-round pick, but when you’re winning and he’s playing regularly, you live with it.

All of them are pending UFAs. It will be interesting to see who, if any, are back next season. But for a team trying to make a run, they added four players who are playing every night in various roles. All things considered, that’s a big win.

Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Acquired forward Rickard Rakell from Anaheim Ducks in exchange for forwards Zach Aston-Reese and Dominik Simon, the rights to goaltender Calle Clang and a 2022 second-round pick

  • Acquired defenseman Nathan Beaulieu from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a conditional 2022 seventh-round pick

Rakell fit in nicely in Pittsburgh with 13 points in 19 games, but like more than a few Penguins, he got hurt in the playoffs and it led to an early departure. It’s a shame. He was showing well, the team looked good, and they suffered numerous injuries at the wrong time. They didn’t give up a massive haul for him by any means, but you’d like to see them capitalize on the twilight years of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin while they can. Rakell is a pending UFA, so we’ll see where it goes. It was just a bummer of a playoffs for the Penguins.

St. Louis Blues

  • Acquired defensemen Nick Leddy and Luke Witkowski from the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for defenseman Jake Walman, forward Oskar Sundqvist and a 2023 second-round pick

While the Blues did pay a pretty penny for Leddy, he has been a horse. He’s third among Blues defensemen in time on ice, but the fourth defenseman on this list – Niko Mikkola – is playing six fewer minutes per game than him. He has five points in eight playoff games. They are in the second round and giving the Avalanche a real run for their money. Leddy is a UFA after the season so if they could bring him back on a discounted deal that would solidify it as a win, but the trade has generally worked out. If they go any further, it’s a slam dunk no matter what.

Tampa Bay Lightning

  • Acquired forward Riley Nash from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for future considerations.

  • Acquired forward Brandon Hagel, a 2022 fourth-round pick and 2024 fourth-round pick from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for forwards Boris Katchouk, Taylor Raddysh and two conditional first-round picks.

  • Acquired forward Nick Paul from the Ottawa Senators for forward Mathieu Joseph and a 2024 fourth-round pick

Similar to Domi with Carolina, Nick Paul’s Game 7 performance against Toronto made it all worthwhile for the Lightning. Tampa is into the third round. Paul and Hagel are two-thirds of what is becoming a very good third line. Nash hasn’t really played but they essentially got him for free. The price for Hagel is obviously huge and it remains to be seen if he’ll really be worth it, but he's also getting paid well below his market value for two more seasons.

Toronto Maple Leafs

  • Acquired defenseman Mark Giordano and forward Colin Blackwell from the Seattle Kraken in exchange for a 2022 second-round pick, 2023 second-round pick and 2024 third-round pick

  • Acquired a 2022 third-round pick in exchange for defenseman Travis Dermott

  • Acquired forward Ryan Dzingel and defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Nick Ritchie and a conditional pick

Even though the Leafs lost in the first round yet again, it turned out to be a pretty good deadline. Giordano helped bring along Timothy Liljegren and just signed a sweetheart deal to stay on for two more seasons. He still has good hockey in him and he’s signed at $800K per year. If he walked it would be one thing, but the extension makes it a slam dunk.

They were able to recoup a pick for a player not working out with the Dermott trade. While it remains to be seen if there will be an extension for Lyubushkin, he paired up with Morgan Rielly and even if he leaves, the Leafs were able to clear Ritchie’s money off the books. So even though they didn’t break through, it’s a deadline that had value this season and beyond.

Washington Capitals

  • Acquired forward Johan Larsson from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a 2023 third-round pick

  • Acquired forward Marcus Johansson from the Seattle Kraken for forward Daniel Sprong, a 2022 fourth-round pick and a 2023 sixth-round pick

It wasn't a terrible deadline considering both players were depth guys and reasonable contributors, but Sprong scored more than Johansson did after the trade, is six years younger and a pending RFA. And the Capitals didn’t advance. They would have made the playoffs regardless and could have lost in the first round while saving themselves a few picks along the way.

If they bring them back at reasonable prices that’s at least a small win as they are both decent enough players, but if they bought at small costs just to lose in Round 1 and watch them walk while losing a decent player along the way, it’s not exactly a banner deadline.

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