NHL Power Rankings: Trade Deadline Grades Edition

Former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello. (Galit Rodan/CP)

It is completely, utterly and unequivocally unjust to start judging general managers’ moves (and non-moves) at the 2018 NHL trade deadline a mere 48 hours after the fact.

So, let’s do it.

The rental players have only gotten their surnames stitched onto funny-looking sweaters, the draft picks haven’t even been selected let alone had time to develop, and Tomas Plekanec’s wife still doesn’t recognize him without his goatee.

Nevertheless, we present… NHL Power Rankings: Trade Deadline Grades Edition.

As per our weekly ritual, all 31 teams are ranked in order of their current awesomeness. The write-ups feature a letter grade and brief note on each GM’s performance at crunch time.

1. Tampa Bay Lightning

A. Steve Yzerman gets stuff done. The is the second deadline in which he’s taken the Rangers captain, and now he’s addressed his biggest need (solid, minutes-munching defender) for two runs at the Cup. Ryan McDonagh should flourish in Tampa, and the versatile J.T. Miller is a nice alternative to Vladislav Namestnikov, whom Yzerman may have had to trade anyway or overpay in arbitration this summer.

2. Nashville Predators

B+. The Blackhawks giving a good player to the Predators (and the Blues giving a good player to the Jets) at the deadline illustrates the tectonic shift in the Central Division. Ryan Hartman, 23, didn’t come cheap, but his salary is ($863,333) — and as an RFA with no arbitration rights this summer, he’ll remain under Nashville’s control. One game, one game-winner for Hartman. Also: Mike Fisher is signed and well-rested and ready to chase the dream for a team that looks even better than the one that went to the 2017 final.

3. Winnipeg Jets

A. Kevin Cheveldayoff, you sly dog, you. With the sneaky addition of Paul Stastny, the Jets’ strength at centre is almost as deep as Pittsburgh’s. Mark Scheifele, Bryan Little and Stastny? All three are responsible and can score. Plus, the Winnipeg players get rewarded for their excellent season. Well done.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs

B-. Count the moves Lou Lamoriello didn’t make: avoiding the injured Mike Green, not mortgaging the future for McDonagh, keeping James van Riemsdyk, Leo Komarov and Tyler Bozak. The Leafs were the quietest of the three Atlantic superpowers, and we don’t mind the patient approach this year. Renting Plekanec gives Mike Babcock his coveted centre depth and another penalty killer, and we approve of holding on to the UFAs. Dealing them away would’ve sent a bad message to the kids and blown the Leafs’ hopes of a deep run.

5. Vegas Golden Knights

C-. Vegas Golden Knights, buyer and last team at the table for Erik Karlsson: Who saw that coming? Three draft picks for Tomas Tatar at a $5.3-million cap hit seems like an overpay, but maybe some of that Vegas magic will rub off on a 27-year-old whose best season always feels like it’s going to be the next one.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins

A. By landing Derick Brassard from Ottawa, Jim Rutherford has assembled hockey’s most dangerous centre ice trio. Brassard should flourish against weaker matchups. And if he can spark some chemistry with Phil Kessel? Look out. Pittsburgh is sticking with the kill-’em-with-forward-depth formula. The Penguins will pummel you in waves.

7. Philadelphia Flyers

A. The Flyers’ contention for a division title is sweet gravy after overcoming a 10-game losing slump and fire-the-coach chants this season. Ron Hextall’s bunch is ahead of schedule, so there’s no reason to rush. Adding Petr Mrazek to give his players a chance was a smart move. And picking up Johnny Oduya for free is a fine depth move.

8. Boston Bruins

B-. No doubt Rick Nash was the biggest household name on the rental market, but is he that much of an upgrade over Ryan Spooner? Maybe. Dumping Matt Beleskey’s salary was shrewd, and it’s seldom fair to judge trade winners hours after the fact, but I think the Rangers did very well on Nash here — especially if he returns to New York this summer. The jury is out on the Brian Gionta signing.

9. Minnesota Wild

C. Maybe the hands of Chuck Fletcher, who still doesn’t have a contract beyond June, were tied. Maybe the GM felt burnt by last year’s ill-fated Martin Hanzal rental. Maybe the best trades are the ones you don’t make. That’s the hope in Minnesota, where the Wild are quietly playing great hockey. So Fletcher traded defenceman Mike Reilly to Montreal and waived Chris Stewart, who got scooped by Calgary. Fringe work.

10. Dallas Stars

C-. Quite surprised Jim Nill sat this one out, but maybe he looked at the strength of Nashville and Winnipeg and (correctly) thought, “We’re not quite as deep.”

11. Washington Capitals

B. We like how Brian MacLellan evaluated his team. Sure, he reportedly kicked tires on all the big defencemen (Green, McDonagh, Karlsson) but was wise to make a couple small moves — adding blueliners Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek — to give his group depth down the stretch.

12. Anaheim Ducks

C. Anaheim was linked in rumours to Max Pacioretty, but GM Bob Murray didn’t pull the trigger on anything earth-shattering, nor was it imperative that he do so. He swapped Chris Wagner for the Islanders’ Jason Chimera. Ho hum.

13. Los Angeles Kings

B-. The Kings were knotted in rumours with Pacioretty and Evander Kane but ultimately didn’t do much beyond swapping Dion Phaneuf for Marian Gaborik, which does make them better. A healthy Jeff Carter might be all they need to make the post-season.

14. San Jose Sharks

B+. Doug Wilson sent a clear message to his group that he wants to make the playoffs. He didn’t have to give up much for Kane and will entertain the idea of re-signing the rental winger if he fits. Kane could spark some chemistry with Joe Pavelski or Logan Couture and be the steal of the deadline.

15. Calgary Flames

B. Brad Treliving already made his power moves in the summer and can’t be sure his inconsistent Flames are good enough to even make the playoffs, so there was no point chasing. We like the no-risk pickup of Chris Stewart off waivers. We don’t like the poor assessment of Mike Smith’s injury severity. The best move might’ve been adding a goalie weeks ago.

16. Florida Panthers

C. The Panthers poked around some of the bigger names with term but ultimately stayed pat, and couldn’t drum up interest on UFA Radim Vrbata. Despite the Cats’ strong play since the return of Roberto Luongo, the playoffs remain a long shot — and this was not the year to sell the farm.

17. New Jersey Devils

A. We’re big fans of the work Ray Shero is doing in New Jersey. He had cap space, and added two of the best wingers — Michael Grabner and Patrick Maroon — available. Based on business, the Devils have a better chance of securing a wild-card spot than, say, idle Florida, Carolina and the Islanders.

18. Columbus Blue Jackets

B+. The belief in Columbus is strong. The Jackets keep Jack Johnson and add Mark Letestu, Thomas Vanek and Ian Cole for fair prices. They make the dance? Give them a hindsight A. They miss and Johnson walks for nothing? Give them a 20/20 D-. But right now we appreciate the aggression. Someone has to want the wild card.

19. St. Louis Blues

C+. Doug Armstrong sent quite the message to his roster, which had lost six straight games, by making so many key players available and dealing away Stastny to a rival: You’re not good enough to truly contend. After hanging onto David Backes and Troy Brouwer too long, Armstrong appears to be through with letting UFAs walk for nothing: Kevin Shattenkirk last year, and now Stastny. Food for thought: Does the GM still focus on moves for the future if he doesn’t sign a four-year extension himself a couple months ago?

20. Colorado Avalanche

C. With the Avalanche fading from the playoff picture, perhaps GM Joe Sakic could’ve found a buyer for winger Blake Comeau, who’s having a solid season.

21. Detroit Red Wings

C+. On one hand, Ken Holland did some tidy work getting three high draft picks from Vegas for the talented-but-expensive Tomas Tatar and getting something (anything!) for Petr Mrazek, who’s been on the block for about two years. On the other hand, how in the world do you not trade Mike Green, the only right-shot D of any value?

22. Carolina Hurricanes

C. If Carolina misses out on the playoffs to New Jersey or Columbus, we could blame Ron Francis’s trade shyness. On the flip side, it’s hard for a GM to reward a dressing room that loses five straight at the deadline.

23. New York Islanders

C-. Garth Snow’s failure to address his goaltending and defence this season, when he has one of hockey’s most dynamic forward units is puzzling. His grade drops to an F here if John Tavares walks for nothing (but we doubt it).

24. Edmonton Oilers

B. Peter Chiarelli had two guys to move — Letestu and Maroon — and he moved them. Maroon may even be amenable to coming back as a UFA. It was wise not to do anything too crazy at this point.

25. New York Rangers

A. Jeff Gorton put his, um, reputation on the line when he publicly outlined the sell-off plan before executing it. His goal is to get bad and get picks, and that he did, selling off five everyday pieces and working right until the buzzer. Now, the pressure shifts to the Rangers’ scouts.

26. Vancouver Canucks

C-. Because Vanek is so streaky, and because his rental to Florida at this time last year never yielded a playoff berth, we’re not surprised his market was lukewarm. That said, Jim Benning failed to get a draft pick. Will he come to regret the Erik Gudbranson signing? The defenceman surely had some trade value this month. We’ll see.

27. Ottawa Senators

D-. Pierre Dorion was certainly active. We liked that he flipped Cole and was able to get a first-rounder for Brassard. But Dorion’s roster is a shadow of the group that went to the 2017 Eastern Conference final. Somehow the Senators have managed to cast shade over their relationships with Karlsson, Daniel Alfredsson, Marc Methot, Dion Phaneuf, Bobby Ryan, Kyle Turris, Brassard, Tom Anselmi, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Zach Smith and Mike Hoffman in a span of eight months. And now a bunch of good players are stuck on a bad team after multiple rounds of rumours.

28. Arizona Coyotes

C+. Rumours around Max Domi, Oliver-Ekman Larsson and Niklas Hjalmarsson flared up fast and fizzled just as quickly this season. John Chayka’s big move was to acquire (and sign) solid backup goalie Darcy Kuemper from L.A., and deal away Tobias Rieder, who probably wasn’t sticking around anyway.

29. Chicago Blackhawks

B-. Stan Bowman realized what he has — a team in sharp decline — and was able to sell a couple pieces to restock the cupboards.

30. Montreal Canadiens

C. Marc Bergevin got a fair return for Plekanec, but after the ringer Pacioretty has been put through in this lost season, Montreal better get a nice return for its captain this summer.

31. Buffalo Sabres

C-. Jason Botterill had to move Kane, so he did. But the rookie GM said he only had one legitimate offer for arguably the best winger on the rental market. We wonder if Kane would’ve fetched a better haul if he was traded in the summer or the fall or…. Point is, did Botterill wait too long?

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