Down Goes Brown: NHL Eastern Conference trade grades

Ottawa Senators forward Matt Duchene pots his second as a Senators thanks to a puck that comes right to him after a fortunate bounce.

The NHL’s holiday trade freeze ends at midnight tomorrow. That leaves the league’s GMs with four more days to get any last-minute deals into the “2017” file.

This year, it sounds like some teams might be looking to do exactly that. But most will probably call it a year. These days, trades are relatively rare in the NHL, with many teams going an entire year without making any moves of any real significance.

And that’s all the more reason to celebrate the deals we do get. So today, as NHL GMs enjoy their last few days off before having to answer their phones again, it’s time for our annual trade grades column, in which we hand every team their marks for all the deals they’ve made over the course of the calendar year.

One ground rule: As always, we’re only counting trades that involve at least one actual player. That rules out the kinds of pick-for-pick trades that happen on the draft floor, since those are typically more math exercises than actual hockey trades. This year, that also means we’ll be skipping some of the Golden Knights’ trades that fell into the “draft pick for expansion draft considerations” category, since the league in its infinite wisdom decided not to tell us what those considerations were.

That still leaves us with plenty to work with, even if most of the deals fall well below the blockbuster level. Today, we lead off with the Eastern Conference. Tomorrow, it’s on to the West.


Metro Division

Carolina Hurricanes

Best deal: Getting Trevor van Riemsdyk for a second-round pick from Vegas at the expansion draft. He’s been a decent fit on a team already flush with young blueliners.

Worst deal: Getting Marcus Kruger for a fifth hasn’t yielded much yet, although it also didn’t cost much.
To be determined: Scott Darling hasn’t looked great in Carolina so far. But he only cost them a third-rounder, so we’ll hold off on judging that deal for now.

Total trades: Seven.

Overall grade: A-. The Hurricanes did some nice work, both as deadline sellers and offseason buyers. But this grade will look too high in hindsight if Darling doesn’t come around.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Best deal: Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad is one of those fun deals we’ll be debating for years to come, but for now it’s advantage Blue Jackets.

Worst deal: Sending prospect Dillon Heatherington to Dallas for Lauri Korpikoski. The Jackets’ deadline was a bit of a dud given how strong their season had been, yielding only Korpikoski and Kyle Quincey. Neither stuck around, but at least Quincey saw the ice during the playoffs.

To be determined: Whether giving up a first and a second was worth unloading David Clarkson’s albatross of a contract on the Golden Knights.

Total trades: Five.

Overall grade: B+. A stronger deadline push would have been nice, but the Panarin deal takes away some of that sting.

New Jersey Devils

Best deal: While there were smaller pieces involved, getting Sami Vatanen from the Ducks for Adam Henrique felt like an old school hockey trade, and it’s one that should end up being a win for both teams involved.

Well, as long as this doesn’t happen again:

Worst deal: Giving up a second and a fourth for Mirco Mueller and a fifth seemed like an overpay at the time, and remains so today.

To be determined: Whether Marcus Johansson can get back to being healthy and productive. It looked like the Devils had taken the cap-strapped Capitals to the cleaners when they landed Johansson for two picks in the offseason, but so far it hasn’t paid off like we thought.

Total trades: Ten.

Overall grade: B. Ray Shero knows what he’s doing, and the standings show it.

New York Islanders

Best deal: Getting Jordan Eberle from the Oilers for Ryan Strome. It was a cap-inspired deal, sure, but Eberle has fit in well after a slow start.

Worst deal: Sending a first, a second and a prospect to the Knights to protect their exposed players and escape Mikhail Graboski’s contract. This was the kind of salary-dump deal we expected to see Vegas make plenty of, but only the Islanders and Blue Jackets ended up coughing up a first. A caveat: We’ll never know who the Knights would have taken, but if this move saved Strome then the Eberle deal probably makes it worthwhile.

To be determined: Whether Travis Haminoc can get back on track in Calgary and make the Isles regret moving him for picks.

Total trades: Four.

Overall grade: B+. Despite going sixteen months between trades, Garth Snow continues to be surprisingly good at this.

New York Rangers

Best deal: Getting a first and Anthony DeAngelo from Arizona for Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta, which hasn’t worked out at all for the Coyotes. That doesn’t automatically make it a win for the Rangers, but these days keeping an eye on the future seems like the right play for Jeff Gorton.

Worst deal: Adding Brendan Smith at the deadline for picks. Not because it was a bad move – it turned out fine – but because in hindsight, a more aggressive move might have been in order given how the Rangers’ eventual crossover wildcard trip to the Atlantic represented a golden opportunity to make a deep playoff run.

To be determined: Where Peter Holland gets moved to next in his ongoing quest to play for every franchise in the league.

Total trades: Six.

Overall grade: B-. Lots of small moves this year, but some bigger decisions are on the horizon.

Philadelphia Flyers

Best deal: Getting Valtteri Filppula for next to nothing when the Lightning needed to dump his contract at the deadline. He’s overpaid, sure, but still productive enough that they could flip him at the deadline for a pick.

Worst deal: The blockbuster that sent Brayden Schenn to St. Louis, if only because he’s on pace for a career year.

To be determined: Whether Ron Hextall, who’s only made a dozen deals in over three years on the job, picks up the pace as the rebuilding Flyers chase a playoff spot.

Total trades: Four.

Overall grade: B-. Seeing Schenn linger around the top ten in scoring isn’t fun, but the Flyers still got a decent haul in that deal.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Best deal: Getting Ron Hainsey as a from the Hurricanes for a second. When you win the Cup, all your deadline day rentals look good, and the Penguins ended up desperately needing the blueline depth.

Worst deal: Giving up a first-round pick for Ryan Reaves. That deal always sounds worse than it was – the pick was 31st overall, and they got a second back – and Reaves has done his job as well as they could ask. But you have to wonder if they couldn’t have done more with that pick.

To be determined: Whether Derrick Pouliot can use his opportunity in Vancouver to make the Pens regret giving up on him too early.

Total trades: Eight.

Overall grade: B+. Jim Rutherford continues to be one of the more active GMs, both in terms of trading and winning Cups. No doubt that’s just a coincidence. Now about those Kris Letang rumors…

Washington Capitals

Best deal: Getting Kevin Shattenkirk from the Blues. With only five deals to work with, we’re going to at least give Brian MacLellan credit for landing the biggest fish at the deadline. No, it didn’t work, but at least you can’t say the GM didn’t do everything he could to take a run at the Cup.

Worst deal: Sending Marcus Johansson to the Devils for two picks. These are the deals you have to make when you don’t manage the salary cap well.

To be determined: What this year’s deadline looks like if the Caps are still leading the Metro. Do you swing hard again, or get gun shy after last year and back off?

Total trades: Five.

Overall grade: C+. Shattenkirk made sense at the time and was worth the risk, but these days Capitals fans are way past giving out points just for effort.

Atlantic Division

Boston Bruins

Best deal: Getting Drew Stafford for a conditional sixth.

Worst deal: Giving up a conditional sixth for Drew Stafford.

To be determined: Whether Don Sweeney was informed that the 2016 holiday freeze ended.

Total trades: One.

Overall grade: D-. Mostly for the lack of activity. But in hindsight the Atlantic was wide open for the taking, so the Bruins playing it safe feels like a mistake.

Buffalo Sabres

Best deal: Sending Marcus Foligno, Tyler Ellis and a third to the Wild for Marco Scandella, Jason Pominville and a fourth. This was essentially a salary dump by Minnesota, so you’d expect it to work out well for Buffalo, and it has. Pominville is nearly outscoring Ellis and Foligno on his own, while Scandella is second on the blueline in terms of ice time.

Worst deal: Giving up Nicolas Deslauriers for Zach Redmond, although that’s a minor deal that earns this spot mainly be default.

To be determined: Whether Nathan Beaulieu turns out to be worth the third round pick the Sabres surrendered to Montreal. People applauded the deal at the time, although Beaulieu’s impact has been minimal so far.

Total trades: Five.

Overall grade: B. The deals made by Tim Murray and Jason Botterill were decent. The question, in hindsight, is whether they did enough.

Detroit Red Wings

Best deal: Getting a second and a third for Smith was part of a solid deadline haul.

Worst deal: Only getting a third (and Dylan McIlrath’s contract slot) for Thomas Vanek at the deadline. That deal didn’t work out for the Panthers either, but the rumor mill had the Wings getting more for a Vanek rental.

To be determined: Whether Riley Sheehan can rediscover his offense in Pittsburgh and make the Wings regret moving on from him. In the meantime, they turned him into a pair of thirds.

Total trades: Eight.

Overall grade: B. They spent this year mostly moving fringe pieces for smaller returns. That’s fine – you’ve got to start somewhere – but there’s more work ahead.

Florida Panthers

Best deal: Giving up a third for Vanek as a rental didn’t work, since they missed the playoffs and he bolted as a UFA. But at the time, it seemed like decent value.

Worst deal: Sending Reilly Smith to the Knights for a fourth. On its own, this is a questionable salary dump. Knowing that it was a tandem deal with the Knights taking Jonathan Marchessault is just perplexing.

To be determined: Whether the league will issue any fines to the Panthers or Stars for the Ludwig Bystrom/Reece Scarlett trade that clearly involves two made-up names.

Total trades: Six.

Overall grade: D+. I’m really not clear on what the Panthers are doing. And based on the standings, whatever it is isn’t working.

Montreal Canadiens

Best deal: Sending a fourth and Greg Pateryn to Dallas for Jordie Benn, who at least plays regular minutes these days. You’d think with this many deals we’d have a more obvious winner to offer, but here we are.

Worst deal: Giving up a sixth-round pick for Steve Ott. It was a minor deal, but it was symbolic of a strange deadline that saw the first-place Canadiens decide to go for grit and sandpaper over skill in an apparent effort to load up for a long playoff run that never happened. Benn worked out OK, while the rest were largely busts.

To be determined: It’s too early to tell on the Jonathan Drouin trade, although Mikhail Sergachev looks awfully good in Tampa so far.

Total trades: Fourteen, tying them for the most in the league.

Overall grade: C-. You can’t say Marc Bergevin wasn’t busy. And yet my guess is that Habs fans will still be more concerned with the deals he didn’t make than the many that he did.

Ottawa Senators

Best deal: Somehow getting a second-round pick for Curtis Lazar, who had no future in Ottawa.

Worst deal: Giving up a decent prospect in Jonathan Dahlen for Alex Burrows at the deadline. At the time I defended the deal from some fans who thought it was absolutely terrible, and I think that reasoning holds up well. But it was still an overpay, as was the extension that followed.

To be determined: Whether the Matt Duchene deal looks as bad after five years as it does after five weeks. It won’t, but right now Sens fans are waiting on some sort of good news when it comes to the biggest trade in recent Senators history. (Well, at least for now.)

Total trades: Seven.

Overall grade: B-. In a league of timid GMs, at least Pierre Dorion isn’t afraid to make a move. But results have been very mixed so far.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Best deal: Getting Sergachev and a second for Drouin, who’d wanted out for the better part of a year. Steve Yzerman played that whole situation just about perfectly.

Worst deal: Sending Brian Boyle to Toronto at the deadline. Yes, it was a cap-inspired rental. But the Lightning went the seller route by sending a key depth piece to the Leafs, then missed out on a playoff spot by a single point to… the Leafs.

To be determined: Whether they could have got more for 2016 Vezina finalist Ben Bishop than the relative pittance they ended up with by holding him until the deadline.

Total trades: Eleven

Overall grade: B+. I know we’ve all decided that Steve Yzerman is a ninja, but the Lightning’s deadline was a head-scratcher. Still, the Drouin deal more than makes up for it.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Best deal: I guess we have to go with the Boyle deal. He didn’t stick around long, but he did make a great play to set up a playoff overtime winner.

Worst deal: Only getting a seventh for Jhonas Enroth? The Leafs didn’t make any major moves this year, so we don’t have much to work with.

To be determined: Whether Calvin Pickard can fight his way up through the system to make getting him from the Knights look like a steal.

Total trades: Five

Overall grade: C+. Oddly, none of the Leafs trades came during the offseason, making them one of the only teams to take the summer off. Overall they did fine, but they didn’t do much.

That does it for the East. We’ll be back tomorrow for the Western Conference, featuring four Canadian teams, two-thirds of the Duchene blockbuster, and those crafty Golden Knights.

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