Down Goes Brown: Eastern Conference trade grades for 2016

The guys on Hockey Central at noon break down what the Leafs should do with James Van Riemsdyk

On Thursday, we went through the Western Conference and graded each team on the trades they made in 2016. Today, it’s the Eastern Conference’s turn.

Once again, we’ll use the database at, and we’ll be focused on trades that involved at least one actual player. Each team gets a grade based on their trading only—if the GM did other things right, that’s fine, but it doesn’t show up here.

And yes, technically, a team could render all of this moot by pulling off a monster blockbuster when the holiday trade freeze is lifted a few days before New Year’s Eve. Let’s just say I’m guessing that won’t happen. Prove me wrong, NHL GMs!

Boston Bruins

Best deal: Anthony Camara and two picks to Carolina for Jean-Michael Liles. Liles is still on the team, so this one wins by default.

Worst deal: A second and fourth to New Jersey for Lee Stempniak. Normally when you make a deadline rental deal, you’d like to at least make the playoffs.

To be determined: What Don Sweeney has been doing since the trade deadline.

Total trades: Two

Overall grade: D+. Despite being linked in several high-profile rumors, deadline day was it for Boston. They’ve been better than expected this year, so we can’t dump on them too much. Still, teams that have missed the playoffs two straight years don’t typically take the conservative approach.

Buffalo Sabres

Best deal: A fourth to St. Louis for Anders Nilsson. It flew under the radar at the time, but Nilsson’s been very good so far this year.

Worst deal: A third rounder to Nashville for Jimmy Vesey. You can see what Tim Murray was doing here, and it was a gamble worth making. But in hindsight, the Sabres gave up a decent pick for nothing at all.

To be determined: Jason Akeson, Philip Varone and Jerome Gauthier-Leduc to Ottawa for Michael Sdao, Alexander Guptill, Cole Schneider and Eric O`Dell. I have no recollection of this seven-player deal happening, none of the players are young enough to be prospects, and only Schneider is in the NHL. When you get together with your uncle, you swap funny stories. When Tim Murray does it, he swaps seven career minor-leaguers.

Total trades: Six

Overall grade: C+. After a busy last few years, Murray eased off in 2016. That’s understandable, but he may need to get busy again in 2017.

Carolina Hurricanes

Best deal: A second and a third to Chicago for Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen. The Hurricanes found a big market team straining against the cap and took advantage.

Worst deal: Eric Staal to the Rangers for two seconds and Aleksi Saarela. Not a bad deal, and almost certainly the best they could reasonably do. But when you trade The Franchise, you’d like to think you’re going to get a major haul in return. They didn’t quite.

To be determined: Future considerations to Vancouver for Dane Fox. Fox is minor league depth, so there’s not much to see here. I just wanted to point out that this happened in March, making it one of those rare “after the trade deadline” moves.

Total trades: Seven

Overall grade: A-. The Teravainen move was a steal, and even the Staal deal was decent.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Best deal: Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones, if only for the sheer “holy cow” moment when it was announced. Midseason blockbusters are so rare these days, it was fun to see one actually pulled off.

Worst deal: Kerby Rychel to the Leafs for Scott Harrington and a conditional pick. Rychel is still a quasi-prospect, although he hasn’t done anything in Toronto yet. Look, it’s slim pickings in Columbus.

To be determined: I guess it’s that Ryan Stanton/Cody Goloubef deal, since it’s the only other one they made.

Total trades: Three

Overall grade: B. The Blue Jackets only made three deals all year? What do they think they are, Cup contenders? [Double-checks.] Oh. OK then, carry on I guess.

Detroit Red Wings

Best deal: Dumping Pavel Datsyuk’s deal on the Coyotes. It should have cost them a fortune; instead they moved down a few spots in the first round, picked up a second rounder and freed up a ton of space. Ridiculous.

Worst deal: Jakub Kindl to the Panthers for a sixth. Another cap space move, although one that saw them basically give away an NHL player. Not awful, but we don’t have much to choose from.

To be determined: A third rounder to the Sharks for Dylan Sadowy, a 20-year-old prospect.

Total trades: Three

Overall grade: B. Three deals is actually a busy year for Ken Holland; he made two in 2015, and one each on 2014 and 2013. Still, that Datsyuk move was some Houdini stuff.

Florida Panthers

Best deal: A fourth and a sixth to the Rangers for Keith Yandle. The Panthers raised a few eyebrows by jumping the line for Yandle, but it paid off when they got the contract done ahead of July 1. Was it a good contract? Not necessarily. But the trade itself did what it was designed to.

Worst deal: Lawson Crouse and Dave Bolland to Phoenix for a second and a third. Man, that Bolland contract was awful. It cost the Panthers one of their better prospects to unload it.

To be determined: Getting some nice picks and prospects for Erik Gudbranson seemed like a good idea at the time, although it’s come in for some criticism by those who don’t think the Panthers are hard to play against anymore. Time will tell, although we’re betting it still ends up as a win for Florida.

Total trades: A league-high 14. One by each member of the front office who got to be in charge of trading this year.

Overall grade: C+. What a mess. The Panthers made a ton of deals, none of which really stand out as especially terrible or particularly great. You have to give them credit for being aggressive in a league where that makes them an outlier, but none of this has really paid off so far this season.

Montreal Canadiens

Best deal: Lars Eller to the Capitals for two second-round picks. The Canadiens then turned around and sent two different seconds to the Blackhawks for Andrew Shaw. If you consider the picks a wash—which they’re not quite, but it’s close enough—then this turns into Eller for Shaw, and the latter has been the better addition so far this season.

Worst deal: Jared Tinordi and Stefan Fournier to Arizona for Victor Bartley and John Scott, just because of the awful taste it left in everyone’s mouth at the time. The Canadiens had their reasons, as we later found out, but at the time this one felt like the league messing with Scott over the all-star fiasco.

To be determined: P.K. Subban for Shea Weber. Yes, it’s a copout to put this trade in this section. At the time, there was a strong case to be made that the deal was a disaster. Weber’s strong start has quieted that talk, and even had some on the anti-Subban side declaring victory. The reality is that the Habs took a major risk, and so far it’s paid off. But with nearly a full decade left on Weber’s deal, this one could still go very badly.

Total trades: Eight

Overall grade: B-. Marc Bergevin has been playing with fire, but so far it’s resulted in a first-place team. So far.

New Jersey Devils

Best deal: Adam Larsson for Taylor Hall. We know why the Oilers felt that they needed to make this deal. That doesn’t change the fact that it was an absolute steal from the Devils’ perspective.

Worst deal: A third rounder to Pittsburgh for Beau Bennett, I guess, since he hasn’t done much. But even that deal isn’t all that bad.

To be determined: There’s an outside chance that the Stefan Matteau for Devante Smith-Pelly deal could still come back to bite them.

Total trades: Seven

Overall grade: A. In addition to pilfering Hall, they added several picks at the deadline and got a second rounder for taking on Marc Savard’s cap hit. That makes for a very solid year by Ray Shero.

New York Islanders

Best deal: They gave up a third-round pick to get Shane Prince, which was their best deal by default.

Worst deal: Taylor Beck for Marc-Andre Cliché, who left as a free agent.

To be determined: Why a team that’s plunged out of the playoff race before Christmas has only made two trades all year.

Total trades: Two

Overall grade: D-. They say you never want to make a move when your team is struggling. “They” are people who want you to keep struggling and finish last.

New York Rangers

Best deal: Derick Brassard and a seventh for Mika Zibanejad and a second. The Rangers got younger and cheaper, and quite possibly better, all in one trade. Zibanejad’s injury takes some of the luster off of this one, but it was still a very good deal.

Worst deal: Aleksi Saarela and two seconds for Eric Staal. Reports of Staal’s demise have been exaggerated, at least based on his resurgence in Minnesota. But as the Rangers’ big deadline acquisition, he was largely a bust.

To be determined: It’s probably too late for Dylan McIlrath to turn out to be more than he’s been at the NHL level, but we can’t write off the possibility entirely.

Total trades: Six

Overall grade: B-. The Rangers no longer seem to want to be the team that’s in on every big name, but it wasn’t a bad year’s work for Jeff Gorton and company.

Ottawa Senators

Best deal: Getting Mike Condon for a fifth-round pick in November has already paid off, and should continue to.

Worst deal: The nine-player Dion Phaneuf monstrosity. Every Leaf fan was prepared to have to eat a huge chunk of Phaneuf’s contract just to get out of it. Instead, the Senators took on the full deal in exchange for some expiring contracts, and even gave up a pick and a prospect in the process. Phaneuf isn’t the pylon he was made out to be in Toronto, but he’s not a $7-million player now, let alone for the next four full seasons (and on a team that’s notoriously budget-conscious). The Senators might want to hope the Golden Knights bail them out on this one.

To be determined: The Zibanejad deal with New York was a win for the Rangers, but that doesn’t mean it was a loss for Ottawa. Brassard has fit in nicely, and he doesn’t need a new deal until 2019. If Zibanejad blossoms then this one could look like a mistake, but for now both teams are happy.

Total trades: Eight

Overall grade: C+. Some overall decent work surrounded by one deal that could end up being a disaster.

Philadelphia Flyers

Best deal: Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn to the Kings for Jordan Weal and a third. This classic salary dump worked out fine for the Kings, but still made too much sense for the Flyers not to jump at.

Worst deal: Petr Straka for a conditional seventh is our only other option.

To be determined: What have they done with the real Ron Hextall?

Total trades: Two

Overall grade: B-. The patient rebuild continues in Philadelphia. They didn’t do much, but sometimes you don’t necessarily need to.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Best deal: David Perron and Adam Clendening for Carl Hagelin. Hagelin, of course, went on to form the HBK line with Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino, two other players recently acquired by Jim Rutherford via trade.

Worst deal: I’m not sure there is one, unless Condon somehow comes back to burn them during a playoff series.

To be determined: Let’s wait and see a little more from Justin Schultz before we decide if getting him from Edmonton for a third rounder was a good deal or a great one.

Total trades: Six

Overall grade: A-. Rutherford didn’t pull off any Kessel-style blockbusters this year, but he didn’t need to. Every weak-kneed GM who fails to make a deal inevitably mumbles something about how only one team wins the Stanley Cup. Yeah, this one.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Best deal: Anthony DeAngelo for a second-round pick…

Worst deal: …was the only trade they made all year…

To be determined: …so I have to stretch it out over three sections.

Total trades: One

Overall grade: C. They barely did anything, but are you going to give a failing grade to Steve Yzerman?

Toronto Maple Leafs

Best deal: The Phaneuf deal with Ottawa. Even if you want to somehow argue that the trade works for the Senators, it was an outright windfall for the Leafs. Once this season ends, they’ll be completely free of both Phaneuf’s contract and all the ones they took back in this trade, just in time for their strip-it-down reset to flip into the build-it-back-up phase.

Worst deal: James Reimer and Jeremy Morin to San Jose for Alex Stalock, Raffi Torres and a fourth-round pick. You take what the market will offer, but that didn’t seem like much for a guy who was having a very solid year.

To be determined: Giving Peter Holland away for virtually nothing probably won’t come back to haunt them, but it would be a very Maple Leafs thing if it did.

Total trades: 10

Overall grade: B+. That’s almost entirely for the Phaneuf miracle.

Washington Capitals

Best deal: Adding Daniel Winnik and a fifth while getting the Leafs to eat Brooks Laich’s remaining contract was probably worth Connor Carrick and a second, given that the Caps are contenders right now. But man, it was ice cold.

Worst deal: A third to Buffalo for Mike Weber. It’s a minor miss, but Weber didn’t play much last season, and he’s spending this one in the AHL.

To be determined: Giving up two seconds for Eller’s meager production so far looks bad, although we can give him a bit more time to settle in.

Total trades: Three

Overall grade: C+. The Capitals didn’t do much, which makes sense given how good they looked last season. But after a second-round exit, you’re left wondering “What if…?”

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