Having some time to digest the flurry of moves (and, in some cases, non-moves) of Monday’s trade deadline, we broke out our red marker and assigned a letter grade to each of the 31 general managers.
In our NHL Power Rankings: 31 Trade Deadline Grades Edition, we give a way-too-soon evaluation of all the deals processed as the executives finalized their rosters and game plans for the stretch drive to the playoffs — or the draft lottery.
As always, the clubs are ranked below according to their current awesomeness. The write-ups evaluate the job each GM did over the past few weeks.
B+. The Lightning hit the 100-point mark on Feb. 25. If Tampa wins the Stanley Cup, we’ll be discussing this roster among the greatest ever assembled. Don’t fuss with greatness.
C+. Brad Treliving wrapped up all his heavy lifting last summer. He kept his prized prospects and is banking on James Neal to fly in healthy and rested a month from now. Oscar Fantenberg is a decent depth move. Problem is, the rest of the real Pacific teams just loaded up.
A. Gustav Nyquist, 29, is having the most productive season of his NHL life. It’s been six years since he saw the second round of the post-season. He should be fired up and ready to contribute to a goals-by-committee forward corps.
B. The Bruins needed middle-six wingers who could contribute secondary scoring and grabbed two of them — Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle — for a modest price. Giving up a first-rounder last spring for the underwhelming Rick Nash may have scared Don Sweeney away from the big fish.
B+. Don’t forget that Kyle Dubas obtained the best defenceman traded in-season. The Nic Petan acquisition was a smart little asset-management move, but there’s a feeling the Leafs didn’t see 2019 as their all-in year and will shake up the roster at a deeper level this summer. A little more patience, Toronto is asking for.
C-. Crickets. Lou Lamoriello had the pieces to bolster his overachieving roster but stayed pat. Read into that as you will. Captain Anders Lee, an impending free agent, certainly approves:
A+. Pick a path. No decision is still a decision. Jarmo Kekalainen has some brass nerve. In landing Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Adam McQuaid, the Blue Jackets GM went all the way in, to the point where he could save on travel expenses and only need to send an intern to the draft floor in Vancouver. I love it. John Tortorella, Nick Foligno & Co. have no excuses. Now go make this the longest season in franchise history.
A-. Similar to last season, Brian MacLellan completed some smart, understated work, addressing areas of need — penalty kill, defence depth — with a couple low-risk, under-the-radar gambles: Nick Jensen (already signed to an extension) and Carl Hagelin. Thumbs up.
A. Kevin Cheveldayoff pulled off the Paul Stastny Trade 2.0 in acquiring Kevin Hayes, likely the best two-way centre available and a guy who will push Bryan Little down the lineup. Matt Hendricks was brought in purely for morale, which is not a bad thing. And serviceable D-men like Nathan Beaulieu and Bogdan Kiselevich were added to hold the fort until Josh Morrissey is healthy again.
A. David Poile, as always, is doing his part to provide his core with another chance to go all the way. Wayne Simmonds is the perfect antidote to a horrid power play. Mikael Granlund is a better player right now than Kevin Fiala, and Brian Boyle provides depth up the middle. Fine work here.
11. St. Louis Blues
B-. A post-Christmas turnaround performance slammed the brakes on Doug Armstrong’s plans to subtract, but he wisely didn’t add either. The Blues haven’t proven consistent enough to warrant an arms rce with Winnipeg and Nashville, so the GM just grabbed journeyman defender Michael Del Zotto from the Ducks for a sixth-rounder.
B-. Similar to the Blues, the Hurricanes pulled all of their trade chips off the block. The room earned that through effort. When you have a chance to end the longest playoff drought in the league and sell a few more tickets, you have to do it.
A+. Imagine going overnight from the best hockey player in Kanata to the best hockey player in Las Vegas — and you’re guaranteed $9.5 million gently taxed dollars for the next eight years of your glittery life.
WELCOME TO FABULOUS LAS VEGAS, MARK STONE #VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/ZLuYDykxuK
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) February 26, 2019
C+. How did that Tanner Pearson–Carl Hagelin deal of only a couple months ago work out? Both wingers got flipped again. In Pearson’s case, Jim Rutherford sent him back West (to Vancouver) for the bruising Erik Gudbranson. Rutherford also snatched Chris Wideman from Florida — Wideman’s fourth organization this season — patching holes left by the injured Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang. Making the playoffs is imperative.
B+ A couple of small moves here by Marc Bergevin. Nate Thompson is a fine checking depth centre with experience, and with Michael Chaput not being used, you might as well roll the dice on Jordan Weal. The Habs aren’t one or two pieces away, and the Atlantic is a beast, so it was prudent not to mortgage the future.
C-. We suspect more moves will be on the horizon for Philadelphia this off-season, but we’re surprised Chuck Fletcher couldn’t drive the market a little higher for Wayne Simmonds. Maybe Ryan Hartman will finally find a long-term niche.
17. Florida Panthers
C. As Dale Tallon quietly waits to pounce this summer, he cleared out a couple of players not long for Sunrise — Derick Brassard and Chris Wideman — salvaging what he could for them. The buzz surrounding a potential Mike Hoffman deal never materialized.
18. Dallas Stars
B+. It’s not Jim Nill’s fault Mats Zuccarello scored two points then broke his arm during his first game as a Star. For a GM on the hot seat, we liked that pickup — as well as the add of reliable Ben Lovejoy on the back end. Someone’s gotta take a stab at the West wild card.
19. Buffalo Sabres
A. Love the Sabres’ out-of-nowhere addition of Brandon Montour, a young right-shot, puck-moving defenceman with term on his deal. Under Phil Housley’s supervision, Montour has a chance to steady his own-zone play and become a bit of a steal here. Buffalo is now that rare team with more righties than lefties.
20. Minnesota Wild
D. A fervent rental market for Eric Staal turned into a multi-year re-signing of a 34-year-old. And the cumulative return Minnesota fetched for supposed-to-be stars Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund was underwhelming at best. Kevin Fiala better turn into consistent scorer. Oh, and coach Bruce Boudreau lost his favourite player.
B. Chicago has been one of the better stories since the all-star break, but turning buyers would be chasing fool’s gold at this point. Honestly, Stan Bowman didn’t have much to sell either. Quiet is good.
22. Arizona Coyotes
B-. That Arizona is even in the playoff conversation at all, with its injuries and so-so depth, is a testament to coach Rick Tocchet’s work this season. One minor deal, bringing in Michael Chaput, is about as much as we’d expect, considering John Chayka didn’t have many cards to play.
B-. Joe Sakic wisely held onto his five picks in the first three rounds of the 2019 draft and resisted any temptation to hop in the bidding wars for scorers. One mid-level purchase, Brassard form Florida, is a small vote of confidence for his roster’s ability to swipe a wild-card spot. Can Brassard rediscover a swagger absent since he left Ottawa? He should get more ice time in Denver.
24. New York Rangers
A. It pays to know what you are. The rebuilding Rangers now have five(!) picks in the first two rounds of the 2019 draft. Jeff Gorton found new homes for all three of his key UFAs: Hayes, Zuccarello and McQuaid.
D+. Vancouver didn’t do anything silly, like trying to buy help, but I believe GM Jim Benning missed an opportunity to sell high on both Alex Edler and Chris Tanev this winter before they got injured.
26. Edmonton Oilers
B-. Interim GM Keith Gretzky did some nice work finding a buyer for Cam Talbot in a nearly nonexistent market for rent-a-goalies. More important: He didn’t do anything foolish, like trade Jesse Puljujarvi at low ebb or risk a first-rounder to chase a wild card that’s looking increasingly like a long shot.
B+. Ray Shero must be clearing the books for something big, right? Right?! As one of the true sellers, he did find new homes for Lovejoy and Johansson. Shero now has six picks in the first three rounds of the ’19 draft and more cap space than everybody else expect for Carolina. Tons of flexibility to shape the 2019-20 roster here.
28. Anaheim Ducks
D. The Ducks’ Bob Murray released a statement acknowledging his moves “might not make sense at the moment,” and we have to agree. We’re not certain Jakob Silfverberg (24 points, minus-18) has done enough to earn, as reported, a five-year extension. Meanwhile, young, speedy defenceman Brandon Montour has followed Sami Vatanen and Shea Theodore out the door. There are more prospects coming, but some surgery has to be done to the core.
B-. Ken Holland found buyers for two of his impending UFAs, Nyquist and Jensen, getting decent futures in return. Holding on to UFAs Niklas Kronwall and Jimmy Howard might turn out to be the right play, especially if the useful veterans re-sign short-term and wrap up as career-long Wings.
B. The best thing Rob Blake did, philosophically, was stop fighting the inevitable retooling this team needs. So the Kings got a first-rounder and a decent prospect from Toronto for Jake Muzzin and salvaged something — anything! — for Oscar Fantenberg, now with Calgary, and Hagelin, who joined the Caps. None of the big, cumbersome contracts rumoured out there (Jeff Carter, Ilya Kovalchuk) gained real traction.
31. Ottawa Senators
F. Erik Brannstrom could be the second coming of Erik Karlsson, and we’d still rule this deadline as a failure for an organization unable to patch up the shredded trust with its fan base. Watching Mark Stone, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel all leave reinforces the notion that owner Eugene Melnyk won’t pay his talent what they deserve.