The 2020 trade deadline didn’t deliver a cavalcade of blockbusters. The biggest name on the block, Taylor Hall, got moved months ago, and the top remaining name, Chris Kreider, signed a seven-year extension with the New York Rangers Monday. But a handful of important deals did take place – especially if we factor in the weeks leading up to the deadline. It’s trade season, really.
So which teams have made out the best from the start of February through the end of Monday? These are my 2020 trade deadline winners and losers.
Disclaimer: If a team doesn’t make this list, it means I slot it in the middle of the pack between the clear winners and clear losers.
Don Waddell wouldn’t let the injury gods ruin his season. He instead decided to throw down. In separate deals with the Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers, he shipped out Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, a 2020 first-round pick, a 2020 conditional fourth-round pick and prospects Janne Kuokkanen, Eetu Luostarinen and Chase Priskie – and brought in center Vincent Trocheck and defensemen Sami Vatanen and Brady Skjei. With crucial D-men Dougie Hamilton and Brett Pesce out long-term, Waddell didn’t want to roll over and die. He’s added good mobility to the table with Vatanen and Skjei. Carolina also landed one of the best forwards of the day in the versatile, competitive Trocheck, who is immediately the team’s second-best center. The Metro Division is vicious this year, but the Hurricanes knocked the Capitals out of the playoffs last season, don’t forget, and refuse to be intimidated. Whether their goaltending can hold up with James Reimer and Petr Mrazek out remains to be seen, however.
New Jersey Devils
Interim GM Tom Fitzgerald aced a big test over the past couple weeks. He turned Blake Coleman and Vatanen into a first-round pick, a conditional fourth-round pick that can become a third, an NHL-ready center prospect in Kuokkanen and a high-end goal-scoring prospect in Nolan Foote. That constitutes a pretty significant haul for a middle-six winger and middle-pair blueliner, the latter of which is currently injured and a UFA this summer. New Jersey also scored a 2021 fifth-rounder for Wayne Simmonds that could become a fourth if Buffalo makes the playoffs and Simmonds plays 10 games. Maybe the Devils should chop the interim tag off Fitzgerald’s title at this point. He’s earned a longer look in the gig.
The Vladislav Namestnikov, Tyler Ennis and Dylan DeMelo deals were pretty standard stuff. It’s trade deadline 101 for a bad team to auction off depth UFAs for mid-round draft picks. But the haul for Jean-Gabriel Pageau of a 2020 conditional first-rounder, 2020 second-rounder and 2022 conditional third-rounder was impressive. It hurts to lose a versatile player like Pageau, who can score goals, kill penalties and motivate teammates with his beloved personality, but Pageau was just playing too well this season – beyond anyone could’ve imagined. On top of being his usual disruptive self at both ends of the ice, he’s on pace for 33 goals. He’ll never be more valuable than he is right now. It made sense from the Isles’ perspective to sign on for the next six years, shoring up their center depth, but by the time the Senators are competitive again, Pageau’s best years will likely be behind him.
By trading him, the Sens and GM Pierre Dorion have three picks in the 2020 first round – comprising 9.7 percent of the field. And, because they own the lowly Sharks’ first-rounder, the Sens theoretically have a chance to win the lottery twice and pick first and second – before picking for a third time with the Isles’ selection. It probably won’t play out that magically for Ottawa, but whatever happens, the Sens are positioned to do real damage.
We know how GM Jim Rutherford operates at this point: all-in, determined to win as many Cups as possible while Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have good years left, and willing to sacrifice picks and prospects galore to get the team over the hump. It was thus no surprise to see Rutherford surrender a conditional first-round pick and prospect blueliner Calen Addison, along with pending UFA Alex Galchenyuk, to land long-coveted left winger Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild. Fast, defensively responsible, proven as a goal-scorer and capable of playing either wing, Zucker was a dream on-paper fit alongside Crosby, so it was no surprise to see Zucker mesh quickly with three goals in his first four games as a Pen. Pittsburgh also brought back Conor Sheary, who won Cups in 2016 and 2017 with the team, along with Evan Rodrigues in a trade with the Sabres for productive but sometimes-linemate-dependent right winger Dominik Kahun and picked up Patrick Marleau from the San Jose Sharks for a conditional third-round pick.
Sheary should have no problem meshing with his old teammates and old coach Mike Sullivan. The speedy Rodrigues could benefit in a new environment. Marleau, still flashing double-digit goal ability in his age-40 season, brings veteran experience plus a fun “win it for him” factor, which is an important carrot for a team that has already won recent championships. So Rutherford, then, only removed Galchenyuk and Kahun from the active roster and added Zucker, Sheary, Rodrigues and Marleau to the forward group. Not bad at all.
San Jose Sharks
I had resigned to the fact San Jose didn’t have any assets strong enough to net a first-round pick on deadline day. I even tweeted it. I was wrong. Somehow, GM Doug Wilson turned Barclay Goodrow – a good checker but a checker nonetheless – into a first-round pick, sending a third-rounder back Tampa’s way in the process. Given the pick belongs to Tampa, there’s a solid chance it’s 31st overall, but that will still take a bit of the sting out of San Jose’s actual first-rounder belonging to Ottawa. It was part of the 2018 Erik Karlsson trade and not lottery protected. It has been a nightmare season, with the surprise playoff miss and a litany of catastrophic injuries, but Wilson comes out a winner for dusting himself off and using Goodrow, Brenden Dillon and Patrick Marleau to stock up on early-round picks.
Tampa Bay Lightning
They’re already the NHL’s most dominant team, 28-8-2 since the start of December, but good on GM Julien BriseBois for doing everything he can to avoid a repeat of last year’s shocking first-round implosion. If Tampa had any weakness entering the post-season a year ago, it was probably a lack of jam up front – which was the only advantage the Columbus Blue Jackets had in that David-versus-Goliath matchup. After adding Patrick Maroon in the off-season, the Bolts landed Coleman on Feb. 16 from the New Jersey Devils. He was enjoying a career year as a goal-scorer, with 21 in 55 games before the trade, but it’s his blend of work ethic, physicality and penalty-killing acumen that makes him particularly useful for the Bolts’ cause. He might end up being the exact piece Tampa was missing. The price for Goodrow was a jaw-dropping overpay, but he’s a trustworthy grinder who brings more of what the Lightning needed – so it didn’t matter in this context. The Bolts were ready to do whatever it took to position themselves as the alpha-dog team. The Zach Bogosian signing doesn’t move the needle so much, but, hey, it was a low-risk investment.
Yes, the Sabres have played decent hockey lately, winning six out of 10 games. Yes, the Atlantic Division is soft in its middle tier, with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Panthers seemingly competing to see who can hand the other a playoff berth. But despite that, the Sabres remain six points out of a playoff position. It was thus odd to see contradictory behavior from GM Jason Botterill Monday. Trading a 2021 conditional fifth-rounder for Wayne Simmonds was a buyer move. Shipping off Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues for Dominik Kahun had a seller air to it. The price for Simmonds obviously wasn’t much, but why bother at this point? If you’re sitting in limbo at best, he’s not going to put you over the top. The trade felt a bit desperate.
The Flames were known to be in the market for a scoring right winger. They’re under immense pressure to make the playoffs. And they walk way with…defensemen Erik Gustafsson and Derek Forbort. Gustafsson brings some offensive acumen to a team that has struggled to generate offense this season, and big stay-at-home type Forbort adds depth. Both can help a banged-up D-corps awaiting the return of Mark Giordano and Travis Hamonic. But the Pacific Division is so wide open right now that the Flames could’ve had as much potential to win it as any team had they landed the piece they really needed. It’s one thing for a rebuilding or transitioning team to play things conservatively. It’s another for a clear win-now squad to miss out. It was a bad day for GM Brad Treliving.
They have the defense and the goaltending. They’ve seen strides this season from young forwards such as Denis Gurianov. But Dallas still doesn’t have enough punch from its forwards. The Stars 25th in the NHL in goals per game and 23rd in shots on goal per game. This is a win-now team that pushed the eventual Cup champion to double overtime of Game 7 in Round 2 last year, so it would’ve been nice to see GM Jim Nill find an upgrade. Instead, the Stars were as quiet as any team in the league on deadline day. Nill’s assertion Monday that they can’t keep giving away picks is understandable, but any team that signs Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry in the summer is trying to go all the way, no? Doing nothing Monday felt like walking back that philosophy.
On the surface, dealing Trocheck for a package of Haula, Wallmark and prospects Luostarinen and Priskie seemed like a decent hedging of bets for GM Dale Tallon. But I see this deal through a different lens after Sportsnet Chris Johnston’s report that Panthers ownership wants to shave $10 million in salary next season – yep, less than one year after signing goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year deal with a $10-million AAV. The Trocheck trade, which involved surrendering the better player, also freed up cap space. Factoring in the payroll-cutting edict, it’s hard not to wonder if Tallon was forced to make a cost-cutting deal disguised as a hockey trade. Yuck.
Let it sink in again that Goodrow fetched a first-round pick. The Habs and GM Marc Bergevin were sitting on Tomas Tatar and Jeff Petry. Tatar can play both wings and is averaging close to a point per game this season. Petry is a versatile right-shot defenseman who can log big minutes. Each has a year left on his contract. Each could’ve fetched a first-rounder and a lot more today. Sitting six points out and already having played a conference-high 64 games, the Habs aren’t a serious playoff threat. Given the market in a relatively underwhelming trade-deadline year, Bergevin could’ve ruled the day. Instead, he’s trying to keep the Habs competitive. Given how strong the Lightning and Bruins are right now, it’s not even the ideal window to be a good team in the Atlantic anyway. Montreal would be better off loading up for a few seasons down the road. That’s what Ottawa is doing.
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