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The five best deadline deals made this season

The Penguins are in the final in part because of the play of rearguard Ron Hainsey, so where does the blueliner's acquisition rank among the best moves made on deadline day?

With the post-season whittled down to its two top teams, it’s hard to believe that it was almost exactly three months ago that dozens of clubs, especially those with Stanley Cup aspirations, took a look at their rosters and decided where and who they needed to add at the trade deadline.

On deadline day, which came on March 1 this season, there were 20 trades made involving dozens of players, with another 22 swaps coming in the month leading up to the trade freeze. Some of those were minor deals involving players who didn’t so much as sniff the big league after they were moved and some of those were deals made with the future and nothing more in mind. 

But a handful of the swaps that occurred down the stretch were made specifically with the post-season in mind. And all of those deals worked out. This much is true. However, that’s not necessarily to say they worked out for the team that was looking to strength their squad heading into the playoffs. In fact, in one particular case, it was quite the opposite — the big swap benefitted the team that missed the dance altogether more than it did the post-season bound club.

So, while there may be some surprises, take a look back at the best deadline deals made this season:

5. Filppula flipped to the Flyers as Lightning clear cap space

To PHI: Valtteri Filppula, 2017 fourth-round pick, 2017 conditional seventh-round pick

To TB: Mark Streit

At the time of the deadline, Philadelphia wasn’t all that far out of a post-season spot and the Flyers saw a way to potentially bring some more punch to a somewhat mediocre attack by bringing Fippula aboard. The goal was to have him come into the lineup in a second-line role, providing some offense between alongside Wayne Simmonds. He managed to do so, putting up five goals and eight points in 20 games, but it didn’t help the Flyers in their chase for the post-season. 

However, missing the playoffs in the fashion they did helped Philadelphia out in the end. They landed in just the right spot to win the second-overall pick in the draft lottery. And having Filppula around, even if his deal is quite costly, does help the Flyers’ offense.

The deal was also quite the win for the Lightning, too. Moving out Filppula’s $5 million cap hit made enough space to fix a potential off-season cap space issue, and Tampa Bay managed to swap Streit with Pittsburgh before the deadline hit, landing a 2018 fourth-round pick in return.

4. Smith broadway bound as Blueshirts bolster blueline

To NYR: Brendan Smith

To DET: 2017 third-round pick, 2018 second-round pick

The Rangers desperately needed a puck-moving defenseman on the backend, and the assumption by some was that would see New York chase after and potentially land Kevin Shattenkirk. The ties between the rearguard and the Rangers had long been made. But on deadline day, it was Smith, not Shattenkirk, that headed to the Big Apple. 

That’s a good thing for the Rangers for a few reasons. First, Shattenkirk’s performance in the post-season with the Washington Capitals was mediocre. Second, New York gave up much less for a defenseman who fit nicely onto their second pairing down the stretch and into the playoffs. And third, the Rangers gave up much less than they would have had to in a swap for Shattenkirk. All good things for the Blueshirts.

And that’s not to say that shipping out Smith didn’t net the Red Wings a decent return. The third-round pick in the upcoming draft was the fourth third-rounder Detroit acquired, and a few of those can be flipped to move up in the draft in June. In addition, the second-rounder gives Detroit Ottawa’s second-round selection in 2018. Not bad.

3. Coyotes get a haul for Hanzal

To ARI: Grayson Downing, 2017 first-round pick, 2018 second-round pick, 2019 conditional fourth-round pick

To MIN: Martin Hanzal, Ryan White, 2017 fourth-round pick

If a trade goes bust for one squad, that usually means it was a hit for the other. That was certainly the case for the Coyotes when it came to the Hanzal deal.

Hanzal was considered arguably the top center available at the deadline, especially with his size and two-way ability, and that made several GMs covet the pivot. It seemed that was especially the case in the Western Conference. And with a few teams interested in landing Hanzal, it was the Wild who really stepped up to bat, shipping out a trio of picks and minor leaguer Grayson Downing in order to land the center. After the trade, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher hinted that it was a move made in part to keep Hanzal away from other top clubs in the West.

The deal backfired for Minnesota, though. Hanzal came through with four goals and 13 points in 20 regular season games, but managed just one point, a goal, in the playoffs as the Wild were booted in five games by the underdog St. Louis Blues.

As for Arizona, well, GM John Chayka now has five picks in the first three rounds this summer, including two first-round selections, and recouped the 2018 second-round pick he traded away in the acquisition of youngster Lawson Crouse.

2. Eaves drops into Ducks’ top-six

To ANA: Patrick Eaves

To DAL: 2017 conditional second-round pick

After what had been an absolute dream season for Eaves, he headed towards the trade deadline looking like the perfect cost-effective top-six addition that a team could make. And with the Dallas Stars so far out of the playoff race, it was a no-brainer that Eaves would be moved on.

The deal that eventually pried him out of Dallas was Anaheim’s offer of a conditional second-round pick — more on that in a second — and Eaves’ time with the Ducks was absolutely dynamite. From the deadline on, Eaves scored 11 goals and 14 points, making him the most effective goal scorer the Ducks had post-deadline. In the playoffs, he continued to produce, too. Eaves scored one goal and three points as Anaheim swept the Calgary Flames, and potted another goal in the opening game of the second round series against the Oilers. Unfortunately, by Game 3, Eaves fell injured, but Anaheim managed to get by Edmonton in seven games and earn a trip to the Western Conference final.

The kicker in all of this, though, is that the deal ended up bringing the Stars a first-round choice because the Ducks made the conference final. The condition on the second-round pick was that it turned into a first if Anaheim made it through to the West final. So, after the draft lottery, the Stars now hold two first-round picks, including the third-overall choice.

1. Penguins shore up defense with Hainsey acquisition

To PIT: Ron Hainsey

To CAR: Danny Kristo, 2017 second-round pick

By trade deadline standards, this deal happened quite early. With more than a week to go until the March 1 deadline, the Penguins were looking to add some pieces to fixed up a banged up defensive corps and GM Jim Rutherford went looking to his former organization, the Carolina Hurricanes, for some help. Familiar with Hainsey from his time there, Rutherford targeted the veteran defenseman and pried him out of Carolina for prospect Danny Kristo and a second-round selection.

With the Penguins two games from the Stanley Cup, the trade couldn’t look any better. Down the stretch in Pittsburgh, Hainsey slotted into the top four and skated more than 21 minutes per night on the back end, but more bumps and bruises to the D-corps has turned Hainsey into a top-pairing guy for the Penguins right now. He’s averaging 21:04 per game, second only to Brian Dumoulin, and Hainsey has skated more than 25 minutes per game through the opening two contests in the final.

Hainsey also happens to be finding the scoresheet, too. With one goal and six points, he and Shattenkirk are tied as the top playoff point producers of anyone who was acquired at the deadline. And making it all the better for Hainsey is that this 21-game run in the post-season is the very first in his 900-plus game career. He had never played a playoff game prior.

It’s actually a deal that helped out the Hurricanes, too. Kristo didn’t appear in the NHL and, as a free agent, may be unlikely to do so in Carolina, but the draft pick gives the Hurricanes six choices in the first three rounds and three in the second round alone. Carolina GM Ron Francis can potentially use those to move up and take a player he covets or keep them all and add further to a fairly strong crop of prospects.

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