We’re now into the NHL’s holiday trade freeze, which began on Monday night and runs through next Wednesday. That’s the time of year when GMs don’t trade because they’re not allowed to, which is not to be confused with the rest of the year, when GMs don’t trade because they don’t want to.
OK, that’s a little harsh. The art of the deal has been disappearing from NHL front offices for years now, for a variety of reasons. But trades do still happen, even if they’re less frequent and have less impact. So with New Year’s approaching, now seems like a good time to look back at all the deals made in 2016 and hand out grades to all 30 NHL teams.
We’ll use the database at nhltradetracker.com, and we’ll only worry about deals that involved an actual player—no picks-for-picks shuffling. We’ll look at the best and worst deals that each team made, and we’ll assign everyone a final grade. (Would it be more accurate to wait a few years to see how each deal turns out in the long-term before evaluating it? Sure, but that’s not as much fun, so we’re doing it now.)
To be clear, we’re giving out grades for trades only, not overall front-office performance—if a team knocked it out of the park with drafting and free agency but didn’t do much wheeling and dealing, they won’t score well here. We’ll do the Western Conference today, and be back with the Eastern Conference on Saturday.
And remember, NHL GMs… if you’re not happy with your mark, you still have a few days after the trade freeze to change it.
Best deal: Frederik Anderson to Toronto for a first and a second (plus Jonathan Bernier in a technically separate but related deal). Andersen has been good for the Leafs after a rocky start, but if the Ducks had decided to move on from a guy who needed a new contract, they did well to get two high picks back.
Worst deal: Carl Hagelin for David Perron and Adam Clendening. At the time, it seemed like a reasonable “change of scenery”-type deal, and the Ducks won plenty after it was made. But Hagelin became a key part of a Cup winner, while neither Perron or Clendening are still in the Ducks organization.
To be determined: Michael Sgarbossa to Florida for Logan Shaw in a one-for-one swap of guys who are too old to be prospects but too young to be NHL washouts. As a side note, this apparently minor deal reportedly reflected some of the behind-the-scenes problems in Florida.
Total trades: Ten, if we count Bernier separately
Overall grade: C+. The Andersen deal was solid, and you certainly can’t accuse Bob Murray of standing pat. But the rental deals didn’t help the Ducks get out of the first round, and most of the players they acquired are already out of the organization.
Best deal: Two draft picks for Lawson Crouse and Dave Bolland. This is the kind of deal the Coyotes should be making—they’re eating a terrible contract, but got something of value in return. How much value? Crouse hasn’t shown much at the NHL level yet, but there are flashes, and there’s plenty of time.
Worst deal: A first and second plus Joe Vitale to Detroit for Pavel Datsyuk and a slightly better first. Remember when we all thought the Red Wings would have to pay through the nose to dump Datsyuk’s contract? Unlike the Bolland deal, this time the Coyotes somehow gave up more than they got.
To be determined: A second rounder to Tampa for Anthony DeAngelo. It’s early, but first impressions of DeAngelo have been solid.
Total trades: Twelve
Overall grade: B+. You can’t say the Coyotes weren’t creative. It hasn’t paid off much in the present, but then again, that’s not the point quite yet in Arizona.
Best deal: Kris Russell to Dallas for two prospects and a second. At the risk of setting off yet another round of the Great Kris Russell Debate, let’s just say that this was a solid deadline-day haul for a player the Flames weren’t bringing back.
Worst deal: A second and a conditional third to St. Louis for Brian Elliott. It looked like a steal at the time, but Elliott had a rough start in Calgary. He’s been better recently, so maybe there’s still time to salvage this, but sometimes smart gambles just don’t pay off.
To be determined: Hunter Shinkaruk to Vancouver for Markus Granlund. The rare prospect-for-prospect deal has favoured the Canucks so far, which you’d expect given Granlund is a little bit older.
Total trades: Six
Overall grade: B-. Solid work, but the Elliott deal brings the grade down, at least for now.
Best deal: Jeremy Morin to Toronto for Richard Panik. What seemed like a minor deal turned out to be something-for-nothing for Chicago. While he’s cooled off from a hot start, Panik is playing a valuable top-nine role.
Worst deal: A first, a third and Marko Dano for Andrew Ladd, Jay Harrison and Matt Fraser. A classic “go for it” rental deal that flatlined when the Hawks made a first-round exit.
To be determined: Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell to the Hurricanes for a second and third. It was great for Carolina, but that doesn’t mean it has to be terrible for Chicago. They made the move for cap room to keep the core together and chase another Cup, and if that happens, the trade will make some sense.
Total trades: Nine
Overall grade: C+. Stan Bowman is one of the league’s more aggressive GMs on the trade front. When you play that way, well, you win some, you lose some.
Best deal: Reto Berra for Rocco Grimaldi. The diminutive Grimaldi hasn’t done much in the NHL and maybe never will. But the Avs were set in goal (or seemed to be), and rolling the dice on a young-ish guy with skill isn’t the worst risk in the world.
Worst deal: Alex Tanguay and two prospects for Mikkel Boedker. This was a trade-deadline rental for a team that missed the playoffs by five points, and sure looks like it could use the prospect depth right now.
To be determined: Ryan Stanton to Columbus for Cody Goloubef. This one just happened last month, but it saw the Avs give up a guy who wasn’t playing for a guy who sometimes might. If Goloubef can settle into a third-pairing role, that’s a small win.
Total trades: Seven
Overall grade: C-. The Avs did the majority of their dealing while trying to bulk up at the deadline, which didn’t work. They’ll have their work cut out for them as a disappointing season wears on.
Best deal: Getting Kris Russell from Calgary for two prospects and pick. Hey, at least Russell was part of a playoff win. That doesn’t make it a good deal, but as we’ll see, there’s not much competition for “best” honours here.
Worst deal: Alex Goligoski to the Coyotes for a fifth. Once they decided they weren’t re-signing Goligoski, getting something was better than nothing. But his absence has hurt far more than anyone expected.
To be determined: They’re going to get a goalie at some point, right? They’re not really going to do a playoff run with the current tandem, are they? Why are all the Stars fans awkwardly avoiding eye contact right now?
Total trades: Three
Overall grade: D. One big-name addition that didn’t work out, one departure that hurt more than expected, one other minor deal that hasn’t mattered, and so far nothing at all to fix their most obvious problem. I’m as big a Jim Nill fan as they come, but 2016 was a weak year on the trade front.
Best deal: A fourth (and Martin Gernat’s SPC slot) to Anaheim for Patrick Maroon. Maroon managed more points in 16 games in Edmonton than he had in 56 in Anaheim, and has been productive again this year.
Worst deal: Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson. It’s been litigated to death so we won’t dive in too deep, but let’s be clear: The Oilers are better this year because of Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot, not because they gave up an elite winger for a decent top-four defenceman.
To be determined: Nail Yakupov to St. Louis for Zach Pochiro and a third. It was time to cut bait on the former first-overall pick, but no Oilers fan would be shocked to see Yakupov suddenly wake up and blossom somewhere else after running out of chances in Edmonton.
Total trades: Seven
Overall grade: C. One controversial blockbuster, two smaller moves, and four minor deadline deals. It feels like the Oilers were busier than this, doesn’t it? They were in other areas, but in terms of trading, Peter Chiarelli basically made one major move and that was it.
Best deal: Jordan Weal and a third to Philadelphia for Vincent Lecavalier and Luke Schenn. This looked more than a little iffy at the time, but Lecavalier turned out to still have something in the tank.
Worst deal: Christian Ehrhoff for Ron Scuderi. This one was more sad than anything; the change of scenery didn’t really work in either case, and neither guy is in the league anymore.
To be determined: Nick Ebert for Jack Campbell. The former 11th-overall pick couldn’t stick on the roster even with Jonathan Quick hurt, but he’s still young enough that we can’t write him off quite yet.
Total trades: Five. None of which were with the Blue Jackets, which explains why the Kings didn’t win the Cup.
Overall grade: C+. They didn’t do much, and in hindsight that wasn’t enough.
Best deal: Niklas Backstrom and a sixth to Calgary for David Jones. Backstrom wasn’t going to play for the Wild anymore, and Jones did… a little.
Worst deal: Brett Sutter for Scott Sabourin, I guess?
To be determined: Michael Keranen for Conor Allen, in that it is to be determined if we ever hear of either guy ever again.
Total trades: Three
Overall grade: C. Three minor deals, none especially good or bad. That’s some solid C-studenting right there.
Best deal: Shea Weber for P.K. Subban. Look, we can argue over whether or not this deal made sense for Montreal, and we will, in part two. But Nashville found a way to clear out a really tough contract for a smaller-market team, and they got a younger, cheaper (overall) and quite possibly better player at the same position. It was a great deal then, it was a great deal during Weber’s hot start, and it’s still great now that Subban is finding his groove.
Worst deal: Conor Allen for Patrick Mullen. The Predators didn’t really make any bad deals, so I just wanted to mention Conor Allen again in case he ever googles himself. Hi Conor!
To be determined: Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen. It made sense—the Predators had a stacked blueline and needed help up front. But let’s check back in five years and see if Nashville gave up on a Norris winner.
Total trades: Six
Overall grade: A. Just on principle alone. David Poile pulled off two of the biggest three or four trades of the year, both of which were one-for-one deals without any throw-ins or complicating nonsense. That’s old school. The only downside is that he took the second half of the year off. Come back to us, Crazy David, a desperate league needs you to remind us how it’s done.
Best deal: Alex Stalock, Ben Smith and a conditional fourth for James Reimer and Jeremy Morin. The Sharks basically rented a very solid goaltender for a fourth-round pick. They sure have the Maple Leafs’ number.
Worst deal: Two seconds and Raffi Torres for Roman Polak and Nick Spaling. The Sharks basically gave up two high picks for a few months of a below-average defenceman. The Maple Leafs sure have their number.
To be determined: A third and fourth to Arizona for Maxim Letunov and a sixth. Letunov’s a big centre who’s still in college and won’t be cracking the San Jose lineup any time soon.
Total trades: Four
Overall grade: B+. The Sharks didn’t do much beyond some deadline tinkering, and in hindsight that was the right call.
Best deal: Brian Elliott to the Flames for a second and a third. We covered this one in Calgary’s section, but from the Blues’ perspective, they got what they could for a guy that they’d decided to move on from. It wasn’t a great haul, especially compared to what other goalies have brought back, but it wasn’t bad.
Worst deal: I’m not sure there was one. Giving up a marginal prospect and a fifth for Anders Nilsson at the deadline looks iffy considering he barely played, but they flipped him for a fourth in the summer and may have actually come out ahead.
To be determined: The Yakupov deal. Hey, take a swing at a former first overall if you get the chance. But so far, the returns aren’t encouraging.
Total trades: Four
Overall grade: B. It was a quiet year for Doug Armstrong. For the most part, his deals seem like good ones, although you wonder if Blues fans don’t wish he’d brought in just a few more reinforcements for what turned out to be a deep playoff push.
Best deal: Um… well… the Shinkakurk-for-Granlund deal seems OK so far.
Worst deal: Getting Erik Gudbransson for Jared McCann and two picks was criticized at the time, although old school types seemed to like it. These days it’s being held up as a mistake on Florida’s end, but it’s hard to see how it’s any kind of success for a Vancouver team that needs more picks and prospects, not fewer.
To be determined: They gave up former first rounder Nicklas Jensen to rent Emerson Etem for a half season. Jensen hasn’t done much in New York but is young enough to still have a shot at making an impact.
Total trades: Five
Overall grade: C-. The bigger story here is the deals you don’t see listed because the Canucks didn’t make them—namely, anything that would signal a rebuild. That drum has been beaten all season long, and to their credit the Canucks are hanging tougher than expected in the Western playoff race. But chances are Jim Benning is going to have a lot more work cut out for him in 2017.
Best deal: Andrew Ladd, Jay Harrison and Matt Fraser to Chicago for Marko Dano and a first. It was a disappointing trade deadline for most of the sellers, but Kevin Cheveldayoff made his move a few days early and it paid off with a very nice return for a player who wasn’t coming back anyway. It was easily the Jets’ best trade of the year.
Worst deal: Andrew Ladd, Jay Harrison and Matt Fraser to Chicago for Marko Dano and a first. It was also their only trade of the year.
To be determined: Andrew Ladd, Jay Harrison and Matt Fraser to Chicago for Marko Dano and a first. You get the idea.
Total trades: One
Overall grade: B+. They batted 1.000. And come on, the notoriously trade-averse Cheveldayoff made a major blockbuster in 2015. What did you want, to see him do it two years in a row? He’s not a machine!
That wraps up the West. We’ll be back on the weekend to see how the Eastern Conference did.