It’s been a day since the NHL’s 2021-22 trade deadline, and in addition to the joy felt in markets that did well on the trade front, there’s already angst, criticism and condemnation for various reasons in other NHL cities. In no particular order, let’s take a brief look at the losers at Deadline Day:
1. Edmonton Oilers: They’ve been getting improved goaltending of late, but the Oilers not too long ago were in goalie hell with their current pair of Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith. In Koskinen’s past two games, he’s put in sub-.900 save percentages, and in two of his past five appearances, Smith has posted a sub.860 SP.
Did Edmonton GM Ken Holland have all the reason in the world to go out and get a better goalie? He sure did. Could that failure to do so come back to haunt him once the playoffs begin? It sure could. Holland had all season long to find another netminder, and he knew the deadline was coming. It didn’t have to come to this, but now, it has. A goaltending crisis may prove to be what sinks the Oilers’ championship aspirations.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs land here with a caveat – namely, the acknowledgment that Toronto GM Kyle Dubas did improve his blueline and fourth line of forwards when he acquired D-man Mark Giordano and forward Colin Blackwell from Seattle on Sunday. However, their most pressing need – a veteran goalie to be given a shot at the No. 1 job until Jack Campbell returns from a rib injury – was not dealt with by the deadline.
That means, if rookie netminder Erik Kallgren crumbles under the pressure of the starter’s role, Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe will have no other alternative but to use Petr Mrazek. And anyone who has watched Mrazek’s recent games will tell you that’s not a good thing. Mrazek’s .884 SP and 3.48 goals-against average show his struggles with Toronto this season, and the pressure is only going to increase on him, whenever the Leafs decide to play him. Another soft goal here or there and Mrazek will be quickly pulled from games.
Dubas has claimed he waived Mrazek over the weekend as a salary cap move, but who’s kidding who - you don’t waive someone you really want to keep around. If, for whatever reason, another franchise decided to take a chance on Mrazek – for this year, and two more years, with a $3.8 million annual cap hit – there would be little in the way of mourning over Mrazek’s departure. Instead, Leafs brass now has to be cold-blooded in their analysis and deployment of goalies. Campbell and Kallgren will get the first chances to run with the No. 1 job, and if they fail, it will fall on Mrazek to get one last shot at proving himself in Toronto.
In any case, this uncertainty around the goalie position makes the Leafs losers on deadline day. There’s no denying the Leafs have solid talent up front, and that their blueline is better and more experienced with Giordano. But goaltending is the most important position there is, and on that front, there are some serious question marks that remain for the Leafs.
3. New Jersey Devils: We said recently that it was going to be tough for the Devils to trade star defenseman P.K. Subban and his giant salary cap hit, and when the deadline came and went, New Jersey GM Tom Fitzgerald could not find a taker for him. That’s understandable.
What isn’t understandable is the fact the Devils did not make a single move on deadline day. This is a team that has underachieved this season. You’re saying there’s not at least one player on their roster capable of helping a playoff contender this year? You’re saying this team needs to stay perfectly intact? There’s no sense making a move just for the sake of making a move, but it feels like the Devils decided just to tread water for the rest of this season, and that’s a missed opportunity to be an improved squad heading into the summer.
4. Vegas Golden Knights: The Golden Knights have had a nightmare season when it comes to injured star players, and GM Kelly McCrimmon likely wishes he hadn’t traded reigning Vezina Trophy-winner Marc-Andre Fleury to Chicago last summer. Current starter Robin Lehner is on the Injured Reserve, with no timeline for an imminent return, so Vegas was another team that should’ve been turning over every rock in the search for help in net.
They dealt away veteran forward Evgeni Davodov’s contract Monday but did not bring in any assistance for current goalie tandem Laurent Brossoit and Logan Thompson. That should not reassure Golden Knights fans that everything is peachy. To the contrary – they’re entering uncharted waters, slumping in the standings to the point they may not even make the playoffs this season. You’d think that would motivate Golden Knights brass to go the extra mile for some type of experienced hand in the post-season, but you’d be wrong. Now, there's a real possibility of a serious letdown in Vegas. And management can’t say they weren’t given a chance to improve a position everyone knows should’ve been improved.