31 Thoughts: How recent Stanley Cup champions approached trade deadline

During Hockey Night in Canada the panel discussed how some of the younger coaches in the NHL have brought a new viewpoint of taking control of their teams.

• Flames want to use open cap space
• John Hynes’ fit as head coach in Nashville
• Will the Canadiens be deadline sellers?

This one is going to be bad for trade-deadline coverage. (Team media-relations people: delete this section from the daily clippings before your hockey-operations staff reads it.)

In several interviews over the last two weeks, Tampa Bay GM Julien BriseBois referenced a personal study of the last 10 deadlines. How the Stanley Cup champion approached things, who made moves, who didn’t, and where everyone ended up.

What were the results?

“I’m not doing the work for you,” he laughed.

Unfortunate. But if you take some time to go through those seasons, patterns emerge.

First: the trend is moving away from late-season blockbusters. Pittsburgh traded for Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz in 2009; Boston for Tomas Kaberle, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley in 2011; Los Angeles for Jeff Carter in 2012 and Marian Gaborik in 2014.

The 2016 Penguins were the last to perform radical in-season surgery. After lurching through the start and a coaching change, they made hockey trades for Trevor Daley in December and Carl Hagelin in January. In February, they added Justin Schultz for a third-rounder.

The last three Stanley Cup champions tinkered. The 2017 Penguins added Ron Hainsey and Mark Streit. They cost Pittsburgh an AHL player, a second and a fourth. Hainsey played a big role on a decimated blueline, Streit had two points in three games during that memorable Eastern Conference final against Ottawa.

The 2018 Capitals gave up a third-rounder for Michal Kempny, who had an impactful playoff and remains with the team. The 2019 Blues’ in-season trades involved Jakub Jerabek, Jared Coreau and Michael Del Zotto. Del Zotto came at the end, for a sixth-rounder.

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Second: Only one champion in the last seven years — the 2015 Blackhawks, in a trade for Antoine Vermette — moved a first-round pick at deadline time. The Bruins did it in 2011, and the Kings in 2012. The 2009 Penguins, 2013 Blackhawks, 2014 Kings and 2018 Capitals made their first-round selection as scheduled. The 2010 Blackhawks and 2017 Penguins made draft-day deals that affected their spots.

That doesn’t mean, however, you should be afraid to move these assets. The Blues gave up their 2019 first on July 1, 2018 — trading for Ryan O’Reilly. The Penguins gave up their 2016 first-rounder on July 1, 2015 — trading for Phil Kessel. Without those moves, those two teams don’t win.

“I would bet,” one GM said Tuesday, “that Julien is looking at the draft, and seeing how many other first-rounders were traded for players who didn’t make enough of a difference.”

We can argue amongst ourselves about “enough of a difference,” but the list of in-season traded players who have cost first-round selections from 2015 to 2019 includes Cody Franson, Martin Hanzal, Ryan Hartman, Kevin Hayes, Andrew Ladd, Ryan Miller, Rick Nash, Andrej Sekera, Kevin Shattenkirk, Paul Stastny and Thomas Vanek (rentals); Jake Muzzin, Martin St. Louis and Tomas Tatar (non-rentals); Braydon Coburn, Patrick Eaves, Evander Kane and Ryan McDonagh (re-signed by the teams who acquired them); and the unique Matt Duchene, both a rental (Columbus) and a non-rental (Ottawa). The Senators have San Jose’s upcoming first-rounder for Erik Karlsson, too.

At the 2018 draft, the Capitals picked 31st just 15 days after winning it all. The five selections made right in front of them (Jacob Bernard-Docker, Nicolas Beaudin, Nils Lundkvist, Rasmus Sandin and Joe Veleno) were involved in deadline trades.

Then there’s the Lightning’s own history. Twice during the previous five seasons, they stepped up to the plate and took Ruthian swings. In 2014, as St. Louis’s relationship with the organization deteriorated, Tampa sent him to the Rangers with a second-rounder for Ryan Callahan, two firsts and a seventh. Ben Bishop got hurt, and they were swept in the first round by Montreal.

Just under the wire in 2018, they acquired McDonagh and JT Miller from the Rangers for Libor Hajek, Brett Howden, Vladislav Namestnikov, a first and a conditional pick that ended up being a second. The Lightning led the Eastern Conference Final 3-2 before the eventual champion Capitals won Games 6 and 7.

The Lightning did make less-intrusive deadline moves in their Stanley Cup Final season of 2015 — sending Radko Gudas, a first and a third to Philadelphia for Coburn, and getting two seconds from Washington for Brett Connolly. But they did a lot of business the previous summer — trading for Jason Garrison, and signing Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman.

There are, of course, reasons to ignore or dispute this research. Only one team can win. God forbid hockey emulates another of my favourite sports (baseball), where three-quarters of the teams don’t even try. There are the situations like last year’s Blue Jackets and this year’s Coyotes, where you have to reward your players/fans by jumping on the gas pedal and playing chicken with that cliff.

It is a window into BriseBois’s thinking. Like any GM, he’ll do something if he thinks it will help. But, as he said during our conversation, “I like our vibe.”

The Lightning are revving up, ending Vancouver’s seven-game streak with a 9-2 electrocution on Tuesday night. Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev need new contracts, and are important pieces of the future. Nothing gives a team a better idea of their value (and the value of others who may be affected by salary decisions) than the playoffs.



1. One final note on the Lightning: they get the same doubts Toronto does. Like counterpart Kyle Dubas, BriseBois shrugs them off. “Our strength is our speed,” he says. “We’re trying to be all over you, swarming you, giving you no time to make plays. That is who we are.” Of course, Maple Leafs fans who look at the standings and are hopeful of avoiding Boston are now sweating a first-round series with Tampa Bay.

2. Was in Calgary last week for an upcoming feature. Speaking of vibes, there is an odd one around the Flames. It’s not something I heard from GM Brad Treliving, but there certainly is a sense changes are coming if they don’t finish strong. They’re really happy with younger players who’ve driven the bus (Rasmus Andersson, Dillon Dube, Andrew Mangiapane) but not as thrilled with some of their top dogs. The most surprising thing is Johnny Gaudreau on pace for just 44 even-strength points. The winger is not a power-play phenomenon. He had 132 the past two seasons, behind only Connor McDavid (165), Nikita Kucherov (144) and Patrick Kane (134). That would be Gaudreau’s lowest since his rookie season. They need him at his best.

3. The Flames opened up cap space by trading Michael Frolik to Buffalo, and Treliving indicated he’s looking to use it. He’s told potential trade partners he prefers term to rentals. If Elias Lindholm is a centre long-term, Treliving will continue to search for a right-wing. If not, he could go in a different direction.

4. This will surprise no one, but Pittsburgh is looking for a forward with Jake Guentzel out of action.

5. I don’t think anyone really believed Justin Williams was going to be anywhere but Carolina, but that didn’t stop teams like Boston, Toronto, Vegas and Washington from asking/pitching. Why did it take so long? There are some negotiating grinders involved here from owner Tom Dundon on down, and everyone tries to make the best deal.

6. Williams’ bonuses: $150,000 for 10 games; $100,000 for 20; $250,000 for playoffs; $100,000 per playoff-round win, $250,000 if Carolina wins the Stanley Cup, $250,000 if he wins the Conn Smythe.

7. For the first time since Jan. 27, 1994, David Poile fired a coach in-season. (That was Jim Schoenfeld replacing Terry Murray in Washington.) A couple of non-Predators analytics people think Nashville’s underlying numbers are strong. For example, they are plus-20 at five-on-five — third in the NHL in goals in that situation, their 103 behind only Colorado (110) and Toronto (106). Because their power play is 23rd and penalty kill 29th, they are an ugly minus-19 in all other situations.

Recognizing that special teams can be delegated to assistants, New Jersey’s penalty kill was very good under Hynes. There were three top-10 appearances in his four full seasons, culminating with fourth overall in 2018-19. The power play fluctuated, finishing ninth in 2015-16 and 10th in 2017-18, but also 21st and 22nd.

8. It’s not hard to find reasons why Hynes was Nashville’s choice. The history with assistant GM Jeff Kealty. Poile’s closeness with Hynes’ former bosses in New Jersey, Ray Shero and Tom Fitzgerald, for a detailed breakdown. Poile has a loyalty to USA Hockey. There is, as with any situation where a coach is fired mid-contract, a financial factor, too. Peter Laviolette had next season remaining, at approximately $2.5 million. Peter DeBoer is above that number (the Predators never contacted San Jose for permission). Hynes, who had the same term in New Jersey as Laviolette had in Nashville, was just under $2 million. They have to pay all of Laviolette’s cash until he is hired elsewhere, and a chunk of Hynes’.

9. Hynes goes from one of the NHL’s youngest teams to its oldest. The Predators’ average age (28.7 at the start of the season) is two years above New Jersey’s. With a veteran group, I’m curious to see if he relaxes some of the rules he had for the Devils. Some of it relates to attire, some of it has to do with timelines.

10. As is to be expected, Poile was grumpy in his media availability. “This is the hardest year I’ve ever had because we’ve been totally unable to meet expectations on ice for our team and for our fans,” he said. “It’s our players. They have to make up their mind to play the way they can.”

The GM said last week he has to weigh the possibility of being a seller at the trade deadline, but that’s not what the Predators really want. We know Kyle Turris has been shopped. I’ve heard Craig Smith’s name, too, and you have to assume he’s tested the market on another UFA-to-be, Mikael Granlund. One name that would get traction is Nick Bonino, under contract for another season at $4.1 million. But it’s hard to see Nashville doing that while still contending to win.

11. Credit to Jeff Marek and Sportsnet Stats for this one, but only one team in the last two seasons has fired a coach when their goaltenders have a save percentage above .900. That’s Anaheim, at .906 last season. Laviolette’s Predators were at .889. Lowest was Dave Hakstol’s Flyers, .874. (Calgary and Dallas are not included.)

12. After adding Ilya Kovalchuk, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin met with his team, telling them, “I still believe in you.” Since then, they lost to Pittsburgh in overtime, to Winnipeg and Detroit in regulation. All of a sudden, they are seven points out with four clubs between them and second wild-card Philadelphia.

By moving Mike Reilly for Marco Scandella, Bergevin opened up a spot on next year’s roster for Alexander Romanov. (Reilly has another year on his contract, Scandella doesn’t.) Internally, Montreal considered Sven Baertschi as an option, but that needed to involve Dale Weise and it couldn’t work. (They never went to the Canucks with it.) Bergevin won’t move his prospects, but, if they don’t climb back into it, what about his veterans?

13. Congratulations to Igor Shestyorkin, who won his first NHL start for the Rangers, over Colorado. I was warned not to assume this means an automatic or immediate move with Alexandar Georgiev. (I don’t expect anything with Henrik Lundqvist). New York is prepared to feel its way through this process. Georgiev is no longer waiver-exempt.

14. Detroit would love to add more draft picks and/or prospects. But it’s been such a tough year that few of the players they’d want to move have increased their value.

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15. It didn’t get a ton of coverage, but Adam Pelech’s injury is a huge loss for the Islanders. Last weekend, head coach Barry Trotz said they will have to mix and match their defence pairs until they determine who fits best with whom. Regular partner Ryan Pulock started anew with Nick Leddy. “When I play with Adam, I’m the one who (goes up ice),” Pulock said. “With Nick, that won’t be the case.”

16. Pulock, who has an absolute bomb of a shot, says he uses a 112 flex stick, and has experimented with something even stiffer. “But I can’t take a wrist shot with it,” he said, so it’s not in use. I’m a big believer that the NHL should be inviting specialists to All-Star for the various competitions, and would love to see Pulock in the hardest shot against Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber. Asked if he’d want the opportunity, he smiled and said he’d love to try.

17. So, I had to know, did Lou Lamoriello say anything to Anthony Beauvillier about his Anna Kendrick tweet? “No,” the winger sheepishly said last weekend. Best reaction he got from the team? “The first time I saw (Trotz) after Christmas, he asked, ‘Well, did she answer?’ in front of everyone.” I got the sense Beauvillier was a little embarrassed about all of the attention, but he shouldn’t be. It was a fun thing.

18. There is word the NHL is considering a women’s three-on-three event as part of this year’s All-Star festivities.

19. St. Louis is on track to be Minnesota’s opponent in the 2021 Winter Classic.

20. Drake Batherson got the call-up last weekend when Anthony Duclair couldn’t go for the Senators against Tampa. You’re going to see him (and other AHL Belleville forwards) get NHL opportunities. Batherson led the AHL in scoring at the time of his recall. Vitaly Abramov, Alex Formenton and Josh Norris are all producing and will get their chances, too. Logan Brown will probably come later. It sure looks like Ottawa wants him playing a ton at the AHL level for a lengthy stretch.

21. Team Canada World Junior captain Barrett Hayton will rejoin the Coyotes on Wednesday, but is expected to miss some time with the injury he suffered in the tournament. What an incredible stretch for him. Huge win over the United States, massive loss to Russia, their anger at him leaving his helmet on for the anthem, getting the team back on track, suffering the injury in the semifinal, gutting it out and scoring a huge goal in the Gold Medal Game.

“Yeah, it was a bit of a roller coaster,” he said Tuesday from his home in Peterborough. “But the feeling of winning…All of (the players), we’re scattered all over. In a month, to get to be that close. It’s unbelievable.”

22. Asked if there was any special moment after the victory, he mentioned the team physician, Dr. Ed Berdusco. “I was hugging him after to show how grateful I was,” Hayton said. “All the work he did with me to play in that final game. When I woke up in the morning, I was not in the best shape. We had to work that massage magic on it.”

He said “the turning point” was heating it up. “I wasn’t going to be allowed to play without passing a test. I had to prove I had enough mobility and strength. Warmup was important, too. I had to show I could perform on the ice.”

Berdusco told Barrie Today, “My ultimate goal is the safety of the athlete and if I thought at some point it was unsafe for an athlete to play, then they don’t play.” There was surprise Hayton had enough juice in his shoulder to fire such a hard and accurate shot, as he did on the 3-3 goal. “I didn’t really know if I could do it, but I wasn’t going to hold anything back at that point.”

23. After the loss to Russia and the controversy that followed, Hayton had a conversation with his NHL GM, John Chayka. “It was definitely adversity for him, but he took ownership and reacted the right way,” Chayka texted. “He didn’t want to dwell on it, or feel sorry for himself. He made a mistake, wanted to move forward, and he did.”

“There are a lot of guys you look up to,” Hayton said. “Your experiences, who you are surrounded by. I’ve been playing for Hockey Canada since the Under-17s, and they do prepare you for what you go through in these tournaments. It’s why we were able to bounce back. You learn to handle adversity, and to prepare your responses to it.”

The gold medal win after that ugly loss reminded me of Team Canada’s Olympic Gold in 2002, a tournament that began with a brutal defeat to Sweden. Hayton added that Tessa Bonhomme told him about a time where the Canadian women overcame a poor start, too. Will he walk into the Coyotes’ room and ask the likes of Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Clayton Keller and Antti Raanta where their countries finished? Hayton liked that one. “I don’t have the audacity to do that,” he laughed.

24. Kyle Bukauskas caught something pretty funny at Toronto’s optional morning skate last Saturday before facing the Islanders. Mason Marchment, who had one NHL game’s experience, took the option. Some of the veterans were just giving it to him. Pretty funny.

25. Michael Hutchinson’s start that night was Toronto’s first by their number two goalie on a non-back-to-back night since Oct. 15, 2018— Garret Sparks against the Kings. (Disclaimer: when Frederik Andersen’s been healthy.)

26. Jason Spezza on Auston Matthews: “He will be a true number one centre in this league. It seems silly to say when he’s going to score 50 goals, but it will happen when he’s got the confidence. He’s confident in his offensive game. He just needs to gain the confidence in his shutdown game. But he will get there.”

27. At different times, Chris Driedger and Rick Wamsley started laughing about each other. “I hated him at the time,” Driedger said Monday. “He was not a fan of me.”

“I didn’t hate him,” Wamsley replied. “I hated his approach to things.”

Seven years after Ottawa drafted him 76th overall, Driedger won his first start, a 3-0 shutout of Nashville as a Florida Panther. Wamsley was the goalie coach for the Senators, and boy did they battle. “I would do stupid things like show up to the gym in flip-flops,” Driedger said.

“Yes, I remember that,” Wamsley replied. “It’s like, when I played, coaches would get mad if you practised with your chinstrap off. If you’re here to work, be ready to work. I remember the first summer, he didn’t show up in great shape. But it’s the first one, so you wait to see the second. He didn’t show up in great shape then, either. I asked what his summer workout was. He said, ‘Monday, Wednesday, Friday…work out. Tuesday/Thursday…hot yoga.’ I was like, ‘You work out three days a week! Hot yoga is good, but that’s a supplement! There’s 60- and 70 year-old women in there, it doesn’t count as your full workout!’”

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28. Wamsley was thrilled for his onetime protege to get that first win, and Driedger appreciated the congratulations. Two years ago, he was in the ECHL with the Brampton Beast and, as a free agent, opted for the Panthers/AHL Springfield because he knew he’d get an opportunity to play. “That’s all I wanted,” he said. His approach is better from working out, to sleep. “I need my eight to eight-and-a-half hours.” The win over the Predators? “Favourite night of my life. My family happened to be here. I had friends on other teams who were injured who were able to get there. My aunt and brother hopped on a red-eye from Vancouver and made it on 23 hours notice. You couldn’t ask for anything better. And it wouldn’t have happened when I was younger.”

What an awesome story. Driedger has a fantastic sense of humour. He backed up Andrew Hammond’s ridiculous run in Ottawa in 2015. “He said, ‘I’m 9-0 as Hammond’s backup, don’t cut me so quick,” Wamsley laughed. “I’m happy for him, he’s a great kid.”

29. Wayne Gretzky turned down an opportunity to coach at the Spengler Cup, which Canada won behind Craig MacTavish and Paul Coffey. But, if he’s interested in the future, I don’t think that invitation goes away.

30. Took a few extra days to think about it, but if there’s anything I’ll remember about the 2010s in hockey, it was “the end of the drought” in several markets. Chicago won its first Stanley Cup in 49 years; Los Angeles its first in 44; Boston its first in 39; Washington its first in 44; St. Louis its first in 51. There should be a reward for supporting a team. Was nice to see those fans get their reward.

31. I remember the first time I met David Stern in-person. It was when Toronto’s three NBA ownership hopefuls were pitching the league. It was supposed to be a secret affair, but John Bitove’s group brought Stern to Scotiabank’s head offices. There were hundreds of employees chanting, “We want the Ball!” as Stern walked through. “This was supposed to be quiet,” he said with a smile, as he walked by. (Bitove later admitted another successful NBA expansion hopeful told him it worked for them.)

The first time I went to an NBA Final was 1996. Weeks earlier, Dennis Rodman told Sports Illustrated that he wanted to play his last game naked. Asked about that, Stern replied, “It certainly would be.” He could be very funny. I never saw his nasty side, but sure heard about it. There were times his staff was worried about questions that could be asked of him — although, in my experience, he seemed to enjoy the sparring. More than once, I saw relief on faces when he didn’t react angrily.

Where I saw the biggest fear of him was in criticizing officials. In Toronto’s first season, there was a game where the Raptors got two foul shots the whole night. I remember it not being undeserved until Damon Stoudamire didn’t get a call in the last seconds with the game on the line. Head coach Brendan Malone gave a stock answer, then agreed to vent completely off the record. One reporter didn’t hear that and started writing it down, and Malone almost lost it. “You think I want to get killed?!” he asked, genuinely worried.

I asked his replacement, Darrell Walker, once about some officiating trend, and he freaked. We got into it, and I didn’t understand why he was being so difficult over something seemingly so innocuous. It was Isiah Thomas who explained that Stern lost it whenever someone gave the media or public any reason to believe to question the impartiality or quality of officiating. And Stern would take on the biggest over that issue. In general, though, I thought his handling of Magic Johnson’s situation after the all-time legend was announced as HIV-positive in 1991 was Stern’s greatest accomplishment. That was leadership.

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