2016 will go down as “year of the blockbuster.” Plenty of deals dropped our jaws to the floor. Which trades were the savviest?
Will 2016 go down as the NHL’s greatest year of trading? Quite possibly. Rarely have we seen a season with so many big names dealt for each other in moves designed to help both sides win more games. Typically, we see buyers trading future assets to sellers for stars, but not in 2016, which gave us multiple humdingers, sending social media into frenzies. Which were the best of the year? Here are my top 10. Some worked out better for one team than the other. Some were mutually beneficial.
10. Ducks trade a 2016 conditional third-round pick (traded to Predators; selected Rem Pitlick) to Sabres for Jamie McGinn
Nothing about “21 games of Jamie McGinn” looks special but, anatomically, this was a perfect deadline rental. Anaheim needed a scoring winger and got eight goals from McGinn down the stretch at the cost of a third-rounder. Including the playoffs, McGinn chipped in 10 goals in 28 games. The Ducks bombed out in Round 1, but not because of McGinn. He came exactly as advertised.
9. Ducks trade Patrick Maroon to Oilers for Martin Gernat and a 2016 fourth-round pick (Jack Kopacka)
Maroon has quietly become a pretty useful contributor for the Oil, occasionally getting looks on Connor McDavid’s left wing and showing decent chemistry with him. Maroon has flashed surprising scoring touch for a 6-foot-3, 230-pound tank more commonly known for his fights and hits. He’s contributed 18 goals in 52 games as an Oiler, which pro-rates to 28 over a full season. That’s absolutely worth Gernat and a fourth-rounder. A nice under-the-radar acquisition by Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli.
8. Ducks trade Frederik Andersen to Maple Leafs for a 2016 first-round pick (Sam Steel) and a 2017 second-round pick
Andersen’s season is a strong reminder to pay attention to sample sizes before making proclamations about a trade. The big Dane stumbled badly in his first five games with Toronto, posting an .851 save percentage. Since? A sparkling .937 in 23 games. I must practise what I preach here and remember 23 games isn’t a huge sample size, either, but Andersen’s season SP of .923 isn’t far too off his career mark of .918. Andersen may never become a world-beating Vezina Trophy winner, but he looks competent and calm in the Leafs’ crease, relying on economic movement and using his hulking frame to be effective. It looks right now like Toronto got what it hoped for when it surrendered two plum draft picks and paid Andersen $25 million over five seasons: a respectable No. 1 goalie.
And hey, Anaheim sits pretty here too. It chose Sam Steel with the 2016 first-rounder acquired from Toronto. He was a surprise Canadian world junior snub, yes, but he has torched the WHL with more than two points per game. He’s an exciting forward prospect for the Ducks, and they get what should be a mid-to-high second-rounder in next June’s draft, too.
7. Blackhawks trade Andrew Shaw to Canadiens for two 2016 second-round picks (Alex DeBrincat, Chad Krys)
The best trades bring something useful to both sides. It didn’t take Shaw long to do Andrew Shaw Things in Montreal. We can debate whether he’s a dirty player, but he makes Montreal tougher to play against and should save his best super-pest work for playoff time. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, secured a nice prospect haul considering Shaw’s skill set, useful as it may be, is that of a third-liner. DeBrincat alone could one day make this trade worthwhile for Chicago GM Stan Bowman. The diminutive DeBrincat has done a superb Patrick Kane impression in Erie this season, tearing up the OHL for more than two points per game, world junior Team USA roster snub be damned.
6. Senators trade Mika Zibanejad and a 2018 second-round pick to Rangers for Derick Brassard and a 2018 seventh-round pick
The past calendar year was a throwback to zany trading times of old. We saw more “hockey trades” than usual, including this swap involving Ottawa’s and New York’s prominent scoring-line pivots. The Rangers immediately seemed to be squeezing additional potential out of talented two-way center Zibanejad before he broke his fibula in November. Brassard struggled early in his first season with his hometown club, though he was a bit snakebitten on the scoresheet. Brassard still posted strong possession numbers, won half his faceoffs and had an unlucky shooting percentage. He should be better in the second half.
5. Coyotes trade Joe Vitale, a 2016 first-round pick (Dennis Cholowski) and a 2016 second-round pick (Filip Hronek) to Red Wings for Pavel Datsyuk and a 2016 first-round pick (Jakob Chychrun)
Some brilliant use of the cap by GM John Chayka and the Coyotes here. Arizona was just about the only team properly situated to swallow the $7.5-million cap hit of Datsyuk, which counted for Detroit even though he’d left for the KHL. ‘Zona lent a helping hand and in turn jumped up from 20th to 16th in the first round of the 2016 draft, allowing them to select promising blueliner Jakob Chychrun. That same weekend, the Desert Dogs drafted center Clayton Keller and traded for young blueliner Anthony DeAngelo. Not bad. Detroit did fine on this deal, too, wriggling free of Datsyuk, which freed up money to pursue free agents such as Frans Nielsen.
4. Ducks trade Carl Hagelin to Penguins for David Perron and Adam Clendening
Moves like this are why the Pens’ Jim Rutherford won GM of the year – and the Stanley Cup. After installing Mike Sullivan as coach in December, Rutherford sought out a player tailored to Sullivan’s system, which emphasized speed, north-south puck movement, stretch passes and oodles of shot attempts. Enter Hagelin, one of the fastest players on the planet. Before long he formed the ‘H’ on the HBK line with Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel. We know what happened after that.
3. Oilers trade Taylor Hall to Devils for Adam Larsson
Many years will pass before we can look back and properly grade this trade, albeit it would be a shock if the Devils didn’t win this one, a straight-up swap involving no picks or salary retention. Whatever happens, this deal deserves top-three status because it was such a shocker. Two teams addressing their needs with a true hockey trade. Hall didn’t hide the fact the trade stabbed him in the back, either.
2. Blue Jackets trade Ryan Johansen to Predators for Seth Jones
Fitting to see Nashville GM David Poile earn the top two spots on this list. The man is a cowboy, never afraid of aggressive moves. He stunned the hockey world with this 1-for-1 swap with the Columbus Blue Jackets in January. It made perfect sense for both sides. The Preds had a surplus of talented young blueliners but lacked a No. 1 center, while Columbus needed a horse of a D-man to build around along with Zach Werenski. Johansen hasn’t performed as a bona fide first-liner, and Jones battled an injury early in 2016-17, so it may be a few years before we really know who won this deal. Further reading: Jones and Johansen took me inside the trade last year to explain what happens when you find out you’re part of a blockbuster mid-season.
1. Canadiens trade P.K. Subban to Predators for Shea Weber
There was never a doubt. Clearly this deal ranks No.1. Subban for Weber was historic. Few times in NHL history have we seen two legitimate star players, pillars of their franchises, traded for each other straight up. The Habs and Preds dropped an absolute bomb here. The deal happened June 29, two days before Subban’s no-trade clause kicked in for the last six years of his contract, and Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin decided to pull the plug. In Weber, he acquired a player four years older and less effective than Subban at either end of the ice according to analytics. Bergevin also got a tough, stoic leader, which evidently was what the franchise wanted instead of the exuberant Subban.
We’ll debate who won this trade for years to come. Weber enjoyed a phenomenal start to the season along with the Canadiens as a whole, so he takes Round 1, but Subban was slowly rounding into form until an upper-body injury slowed him over the past couple weeks, and he’s already had a huge positive impact on Nashville’s fan base and marketing. The new guard, myself included, will stand in Subban’s corner, while the old guard will champion the no-nonsense Weber as the superior acquisition. Regardless, it seems both franchises got exactly what they wanted in this deal. For now.
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to thn.com. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin