In the aftermath of the trade deadline, colleague Matt Larkin ran down which teams won and lost the deadline. Among the winners were the Carolina Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators, teams that got exactly what they needed, be it extra pieces for a Stanley Cup run or futures for the rentals on their roster. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars wound up among the losers, be it for their puzzling choices or inaction.
But what it means to win or lose on deadline day as a franchise is not the same as what it means to win or lose as a player. Thus, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at Monday’s moves – and Monday’s moves only, as trades happening prior were not considered – and view it through the eyes of the players themselves.
With that in mind, which players benefitted most Monday and which players should be most upset by what did or, in one case, didn’t happen? Here’s a look at five players who won and lost on deadline day:
Andreas Athanasiou – Detroit Red Wings to Edmonton Oilers
There’s more to this than simply getting out of Detroit, which could itself be considered a win given the Red Wings have been historically awful this season and are all but guaranteed to finish dead-last in the NHL. As soon as his move to Edmonton was announced, Athanasiou was pencilled in as a top-six winger, which means one of two things: either he plays alongside Connor McDavid or alongside Leon Draisaitl. Difficult to see any downside there.
Athanasiou’s speed seemingly makes him a great fit as McDavid’s winger, and if Athanasiou can develop chemistry with No. 97 there’s no telling what kind of numbers the duo could produce as the Oilers seek a post-season berth. But potential playoff games and playing with one of the best one-two center punches in the league aside, there’s a third victory for Athanasiou here, especially if he does find an offensive spark in Edmonton. The 25-year-old is set to become a restricted free agent at season’s end. If he produces at a top-six rate and looks like he could be a long-term solution on the wing for the Oilers, he’s going to get himself a nice new contract.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Ottawa Senators to New York Islanders
As is the case with Athanasiou, the instant victory for Pageau is moving from a league bottom feeder to a team in the thick of the post-season race. But better than any of that for Pageau is that it took mere hours for him to get the one thing he’s needed all season: a new contract.
A pending unrestricted free agent heading into the deadline, the high price the Islanders paid for Pageau – picks in the first, second and third rounds, the latter conditioned upon New York winning the Stanley Cup – sent a message that the organization believes their window is open and set to remain that way for the next few seasons. And they sent a stronger message that Pageau was no simple rental later in the day when they inked him to a six-year, $30-million extension. That’s a tidy raise for Pageau, whose current contract carried a $3.1-million cap hit. The 27-year-old earned it with a 24-goal, 40-point output in 60 games this season.
Will Pageau maintain that scoring rate? Unlikely, especially not as a part of coach Barry Trotz’s defense-first system. But Pageau is also the perfect fit for Trotz’s Islanders, an intelligent and versatile two-way forward who kills penalties with aplomb and would be any coach’s dream.
Patrick Marleau – San Jose Sharks to Pittsburgh Penguins
Traded and then bought out ahead of the season, Marleau seemed destined to end up back with the Sharks ahead of the 2019-20 season. And while that didn’t materialize, injuries and a popgun offense necessitated San Jose’s signing of the 40-year-old winger days into the season, and he managed to score 10 goals and 20 points in 58 games while proving he had more than fumes left in the tank. With the Sharks foundering, however, the dream scenario of Marleau returning to his longtime home and helping San Jose hoist its first Stanley Cup had gone up in smoke. That didn’t mean Marleau’s dreams of winning a championship before his career was up were dashed, though, and his move to the Penguins gives him one more shot.
Marleau isn’t going to be a feature of the offense in Pittsburgh, of that much we can be sure, but he can certainly contribute as a bottom-six piece for the Penguins. Heck, he could even skate on the second power play unit, which is an added bonus. Pittsburgh is a legitimate Stanley Cup threat this season and they’ve only improved ahead of the deadline. Once healthy, the Penguins will be a short-odds contender.
Vincent Trocheck – Florida Panthers to Carolina Hurricanes
Winning at the deadline for players isn’t all about going from a basement team to a contender. In the case of Trocheck, in fact, getting flipped from Florida to Carolina was a lateral move of sorts. The Panthers are four points back of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 70 points in 62 games, while the Hurricanes are two back of the final post-season berth with 74 points in 61 games.
What makes this a win for Trocheck, though, is that he’s going to an organization that is heading in the right direction and desired what he brings to the forward corps. Carolina saw a valuable, middle-six forward who can play down the middle or on either wing, contribute offensively, play sound defensive hockey and has excellent analytics. Then the Hurricanes went out and paid the price to get the 26-year-old, a sign the franchise is invested in winning. After moving out Trocheck, it feels as though the opposite can be said of the Panthers.
Wayne Simmonds – New Jersey Devils to Buffalo Sabres
We panned the trade and not without reason. It didn’t and still doesn’t make sense that the Sabres sold any assets at the deadline to acquire even a single piece given they’re as far out of the post-season race as they are and that a bottom-six veteran winger isn’t going to alter Buffalo’s fate. And yes, even if the cost was nothing more than a single, late-rounds pick, it was still more than the Sabres should have given up.
That said, Simmonds can consider this an audition. If he performs well, maybe he’s found himself a surefire landing spot for next season. The Sabres clearly see value in the 31-year-old and he has chipped in eight goals and 24 points this season. Maybe he finds a fit on the power play with Jack Eichel over the late stages of the season, gets hot at the right time and lands a nice ticket for the 2020-21 campaign. There’s nothing but opportunity in Buffalo for Simmonds.
Danton Heinen – Boston Bruins to Anaheim Ducks
Cost-cutting measures are bound to happen at some point for every franchise. Such is the reality of the salary cap era. With that in mind, Heinen seems to have been a victim of circumstance in Boston. The Bruins are loaded with talent and have some important free agent concerns this summer, most notably defenseman Torey Krug, so every penny saved matters. And really, looking at it from a financial perspective is the only way to make good sense of the Bruins’ decision to send Heinen to the Ducks for Nick Ritchie, which otherwise seems to be a push.
It’s not that there are no positives for Heinen, 24, in Anaheim. He’ll get the opportunity to skate up the lineup, perhaps even in the Ducks’ top six. But he’s also going from a Boston team that was one of the handful of legitimate Stanley Cup favorites this season to an Anaheim outfit that won’t make the playoffs this season and is likely a few campaigns out from consistent post-season contention.
At least the weather is nice?
Dominik Kahun – Pittsburgh Penguins to Buffalo Sabres
Unlike Simmonds, who is getting the chance to audition in Buffalo, Kahun didn’t really need that opportunity, nor is it one he’s going to be able to appreciate as much knowing what he’s left behind.
With the Penguins, the 24-year-old RFA-to-be was having himself a quality season as a depth contributor. His 10 goals and 27 points were in line with the 13 goals and 37 points he had produced a season prior as a rookie, and Kahun looked as though he was carving out a nice niche for himself in Pittsburgh as a role-playing scorer on a top-heavy, Stanley Cup-contending team. And, yes, while Kahun will get the same opportunity to produce and maybe even a shot at top-six work with the Sabres, he hardly comes out a winner here when he’s going to be spending the early part of his summer getting ready for next season while his former Penguins teammates are chasing a championship.
Joe Thornton – San Jose Sharks
There was chatter heading into the weekend and talk throughout Monday that Thornton was open to moving on. There were even reported suitors, the Panthers and Dallas Stars among them. When Marleau was sent packing by the Sharks, too, one couldn’t help but feel Thornton’s exit from San Jose was on the horizon.
The hours ticked by, the deadline drew closer and then the trade freeze came into effect with Thornton remaining a Shark. Thornton admitted his disappointment, too, saying “it would have been nice to have a chance” to chase the Stanley Cup after “hunting this thing down for 22 years,” according to The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz.
Heading into the season, it was believed this could be Thornton’s last go-round in the NHL. He’s 40 and on his third consecutive one-year contract. He’s past the back-nine of his career and rounding the bend towards the clubhouse. And that he’ll be in San Jose for the remainder of this season means there’s an honest-to-goodness possibility he ends his career as a member of a lottery team. If this season is the end of the line, Thornton will hang ‘em up as the second-highest scoring player in NHL history to retire without winning a Stanley Cup.
Robin Lehner – Chicago Blackhawks to Vegas Golden Knights
This might seem a strange inclusion to some. Lehner, 28, is going from a Blackhawks team on the outskirts of the wild-card race to a Golden Knights club that is in top spot in the Pacific Division and has potential to make a deep playoff run. But there are more factors to consider. For instance, Lehner is going from a role as a split-starter to likely backup to Marc-Andre Fleury. The newcomer in Vegas will have to unseat the incumbent and steal the job if he wants to spend the playoffs as the go-to guy for the Golden Knights.
More importantly, though, there has to be some disappointment here for Lehner, who is staring down another summer of uncertainty. Last summer, the Islanders stunned everyone by letting the Vezina Trophy finalist walk. This off-season, he’ll be looking for another gig once again, as there’s no chance he’s re-signed by a cap-strapped Vegas team. Lehner will have more competition, too, with the likes of Braden Holtby, Jaroslav Halak, Anton Khudobin and Jacob Markstrom set to become UFAs this summer. According to The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus, Lehner wanted to try to make a three-year deal work with the Blackhawks. It didn’t come to fruition. So, potential Cup run aside, it’s an unfortunate turn of events for a goaltender who seems interested in finding a long-term home.
Sam Gagner – Edmonton Oilers to Detroit Red Wings
It’d be easy to say this is simply a situation that is the inverse of Athanasiou’s move to Edmonton, but there’s more to it than that. For seven seasons at the beginning of his career, Gagner was one of the fixtures of the Oilers’ roster and was supposed to be one of the players who helped right the ship for a franchise that had sailed far off course. Instead, despite his best efforts through nearly 500 games with the organization, he didn’t once taste the post-season in Edmonton. Ahead of the 2014-15 season, he was moved to the Tampa Bay Lightning and subsequently on to the Arizona Coyotes, which began a run of four teams in four seasons.
Late last season, though, the Vancouver Canucks moved Gagner to the Oilers, and this season seemed to be his chance, at long last, to help Edmonton to the post-season. Alas, that won’t be the case. Gagner was part of the Athanasiou trade package, a throw-in to make the money work. Given the way the past couple season have gone for the 30-year-old, who knows how many campaigns Gagner has left as an NHL regular. It has to be tough to realize that after nearly 550 games as an Oiler, he might never be part of an Edmonton team that makes the post-season.
(All salary cap information via CapFriendly)
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