It wasn’t the highest-volume trade deadline by any means. We saw 18 trades involving 37 players Monday. But many of the biggest names did change addresses. Six of the 10 assets I listed in my top 10 trade candidates got dealt over the past week: Ryan McDonagh, Evander Kane, Rick Nash, Derick Brassard, Patrick Maroon and Thomas Vanek. But a few of the most ballyhooed players didn’t have to pack their bags in the end. What happened? And what will be their fates going forward? Let’s look at the top three players who stayed put.
1. ERIK KARLSSON
Why he didn’t go: We know the Ottawa Senators and GM Pierre Dorion tried. As reported throughout deadline day by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, negotiations dragged out until the final hours and minutes, with half a dozen teams in on Karlsson. The Most prominent suitor was supposedly the Vegas Golden Knights. In the end, nothing happened. As reported by beat writer and THN Ottawa correspondent Bruce Garrioch, Dorion said after the deadline it would’ve taken a “special hockey deal to move Erik Karlsson, and we didn’t feel that was something that was on the table.”
Look at all the pieces involved in Monday’s Ryan McDonagh trade. Landing Karlsson would’ve required a crazy cornucopia of first-round picks, prospects and probably at least one viable established NHLer. The acquiring team may or may not have had to take on Bobby Ryan’s $7.25-million cap hit for four more seasons after this one as a condition of a Karlsson deal, too. It was just too complicated to execute as a mid-season transaction, especially when, as Dorion explained, he was getting calls on pretty much all his players. There were only so many hours in the day to figure this thing out, and the suitors had to weigh acquiring Karlsson, who is a superstar but appears diminished recovering from foot surgery, versus likely gutting their franchises’ futures to get him.
What happens now: Unless Ottawa gets a new owner between now and July 1, it’s difficult to imagine Karlsson wanting to stay, especially when he was reportedly in on the trade idea. We can thus expect interest to skyrocket again around the draft, but a potential Karlsson trade will be very different this time. Instead of acquiring him for this spring plus all next season, essentially two playoff runs, a team trading for him would get just one year of Karlsson. Would that drop the price? Or would it scare teams off? Karlsson, a 2019 UFA, is also eligible to sign an extension July 1, so it stands to reason an acquiring team might want to know (unofficially) that Karlsson is ready to sign long-term. Extending him, however, means likely paying him at least $10 million annually for max term. And any team adding that much money to the books likely can’t afford to take on Ryan’s cap hit, too. Interestingly, the deep-pocketed Golden Knights would be one of the only teams equipped to play around with their cap space to facilitate a summer Karlsson blockbuster.
A trade can and likely will happen by draft day, but it will once again be extremely complicated – just for new reasons.
2. MAX PACIORETTY
Why he didn’t go: Pacioretty had no clauses in his contract restricting his movement. He has a team-friendly cap hit of just $4.5 million through 2018-19. He ranks seventh in the NHL in goals over the past five seasons. He was thus an extremely attractive trade chip, but it appears teams got scared away by the market price. Matt Duchene fetched three prospects, a first- and second-round pick earlier this season, while Rick Nash – merely a rental as a pending UFA – netted a first-rounder, solid NHLer and prospect over the weekend. So perhaps GM Marc Bergevin’s phone didn’t ring because no team had the package of assets necessary to pry the captain away. Or the few teams that did – like the Tampa Bay Lightning – weren’t after forward upgrades and used their assets to upgrade at a different position. Plus we know now ‘Patches’ desperately wanted to stay a Hab, as he explained in a heartfelt discussion with media Monday night.
What happens now: Conspiracy theory: nothing major happens as long as Bergevin remains Montreal GM. Think it’s a coincidence that a team positioned as an clear seller only really sold off the obvious piece, UFA Tomas Plekanec? Bergevin is the man who traded P.K. Subban and Mikhail Sergachev and signed Karl Alzner in the name of building a win-right-now-at-all-costs contender. If Bergevin trades away any of Montreal’s star assets, truly kickstarting a rebuild, he is essentially admitting he failed to make this team a winner, which opens him up to a firing. I thus don’t see Bergevin making any scorched-earth moves. If owner Geoff Molson decides to axe his GM, the successor theoretically would have carte blanche to deal star assets.
3. MIKE GREEN
Why he didn’t go: Ugh. This one hurts. Of the clear-cut rentals, Green was the only big-ticket one not to get traded Monday. Karlsson and Pacioretty can still get traded later, but Green, a pending UFA, will now likely be lost for nothing. He agreed to waive his no-trade clause to head to the Lightning or Washington Capitals, but nothing materialized. As GM Ken Holland admitted, teams were concerned about Green’s neck injury, which has shelved him since Feb. 15, and one team even asked for his medical reports. It’s pretty clear the injury scared teams away from a trade, especially when Holland’s asking price would’ve been high, likely including a first-round pick and a prospect.
What happens now: The Red Wings have expressed interest in re-signing Green, and he likes playing in Detroit. But it’s clear the Wings are years away from Stanley Cup contention. Green doesn’t have a ring, has never even played deeper than Round 2 of the playoffs and turns 33 in October. He’s still good enough to earn a multi-year offer – he went to the All-Star Game this year, after all – so he’s not yet at the stage of his career where he has to sign a one-year “mercenary” deal and hope to get flipped to a contender at the trade deadline. Green should receive legit offers from Stanley Cup hopefuls. Maybe a reunion with the Capitals is in the offing if they can’t re-sign John Carlson?