NHL Power Rankings: 31 Trade Deadline Grades Edition

Don Waddell joined Hockey Central at Noon to discuss the moves that he made to improve the Carolina Hurricanes at the trade deadline.

Having time to digest the frenzy of moves (and, in some cases, non-moves) of Monday’s trade deadline, we break out our red marker and assigned a letter grade to each of the 31 general managers.

In our annual NHL Power Rankings: 31 Trade Deadline Grades Edition, we give a premature evaluation of all the deals processed as the executives finalized their rosters and game plans for the stretch drive to the playoffs — or stockpile for the draft lottery.

As always, the clubs are ranked below according to their current awesomeness. The write-ups evaluate the work each GM did over the past few weeks.

1. Boston Bruins

We’re on the fence about giving up on Danton Heinen and bringing in Nick Ritchie — who hopefully benefits from a sturdy, no-nonsense dressing room culture. But getting out from the David Backes contract while simultaneously brining in a 24-year-old, 20-goal man with term in Ondrej Kase was a tidy bit of business for Don Sweeney, who hit on Charlie Coyle this time last winter too. Grade: A

2. Tampa Bay Lightning

We weren’t surprised when Julien BriseBois spent one of his first-rounders (on Blake Coleman); we were a little taken aback when he spent his other one (on Barclay Goodrow). Absolutely, Goodrow is a good checking forward, but he has 10 times more PIMs (80) than goals (eight) this season, and this is the best offensive campaign of his career. We get it: BriseBois loves the guy’s cap hit, but a first-rounder?! Take a bow, Doug Wilson. On the flip side: Smart bargain-bin signing of Zach Bogosian for depth. Grade: B

3. St. Louis Blues

Doug Armstrong acted swiftly in the wake of the terrifying Jay Bouwmeester incident, acquiring Marco Scandella from Montreal. He had his sights on Chris Kreider, who decided to stay in New York, and will now bank on a boost from the eventual return of a healthy Vladimir Tarasenko. Grade: B+

4. Colorado Avalanche

While some depth players were getting rented for sky-high prices (see: Goodrow, Barclay), Joe Sakic snatched Vladislav Namestnikov for a fourth-rounder. With all the Avs’ cap space, however, it’s curious they couldn’t upgrade their goaltending any better than acquiring Michael Hutchinson. Grade: C+

5. Washington Capitals

Some excellent work is being done in the U.S. capital—hockey-wise. With barely any cap space to play with, Brian MacLellan managed to land one of the most sought-after scorers (Ilya Kovalchuk) and one of the most sought-after defenders (Brenden Dillon). All in. Love it. Grade: A

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6. Pittsburgh Penguins

That Jason Zucker already has five points in seven games for the Penguins is a positive sign Jim Rutherford may have knocked his biggest deal out of the park. Pittsburgh’s bringing back of Conor Sheary by giving away the younger Dominik Kahun reinforces the mandate to win now, not later. And it’s hard to argue against that. Grade: A

7. Philadelphia Flyers

Some very nice under-the-radar work was done by Chuck Fletcher Monday. His moves will get buried in the fine print, but his veteran depth-centre adds of Nate Thomson (for a fifth) and Derek Grant (for a fourth) are low-risk, high-reward moves that should help out the Flyers defensively and on the PK. Grade: B+

8. Dallas Stars

As a buyer with major hurdles — a cool $815 in projected cap space, no second- or third-rounder — Jim Nill stood pat with a good team. There’s something to say for not doing something foolish, but we would’ve loved to see the Joe Thornton rumours become reality. Grade: B

9. Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights have only been alive for three deadlines, and they’ve been aggressive buyers in every single one. How can you not love that? Despite staring at serious cap issues, Vegas managed to land an excellent 1B goalie (Robin Lehner), a top-four defenceman (Alec Martinez) and a decent depth winger (Nick Cousins). Are they not the best Pacific team on paper? Grade: A

10. Carolina Hurricanes

How many deadlines are you able to acquire a 26-year-old centre with 75-point potential and two extra seasons on his contract? Not only did Don Waddell — early front-runner for GM of the Year? — secure Vincent Trocheck from a wild-card competitor, he bolstered his battered blue line with two youngish minutes-munchers in Brady Skjei, 25, and Sami Vatanen, 28. Oh, and he still has five picks in the first three rounds of the 2020 draft. Bravo. Grade: A+

11. New York Rangers

Opting to re-sign Chris Kreider, the league’s greatest trade chip, says much about how both sides value each other. Few players bring the power winger’s mix of speed, ferocity and skill. The extra term could haunt the Rangers down the road, but re-signing Kreider signals a switch from seller to buyer. Expect Jeff Gorton to start going for it in 2020-21. Grade: B-

12. Vancouver Canucks

Jim Benning has been fearless, getting aggressive when a rash of injuries to key players might suggest it’s not the Canucks’ time just yet. So far, the Tyler Toffoli trade has paid off — the winger has five points through three games — but ultimately, it’s only a win if Vancouver makes the cut. Otherwise, Benning will have egg on his face. Grade: B-

13. Edmonton Oilers

Sticking mostly with players he knows, Ken Holland didn’t surrender any significant roster pieces, picks or top-end prospects and was still able to add three intriguing pieces to help the now: Mike Green, Andreas Athanasiou, and Tyler Ennis. The Oilers got faster and more experienced overnight. Grade: A

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14. New York Islanders

Lou Lamoriello paid a pretty penny for Jean-Gabriel Pageau, the most complete forward moved on Monday, but locking up a responsible, two-way, 27-year-old centre who aligns with the coach’s style of play isn’t a horrible thing. Buy high, hope high. Grade: B

15. Columbus Blue Jackets

Jarmo Kekalainen, the first star of the 2019 deadline, more or less sat this one out. He dealt the skilled but inconsistent winger Sonny Milano to youth-hording Anaheim, and he promptly sniped two in his Ducks debut. In return, the Jackets addressed a centre-depth issue with Devin Shore, whose blue-collar game should appease John Tortorella. Grade: C+

16. Toronto Maple Leafs

Electing not to reward a team whose confidence might be as hurt as its blueline, Kyle Dubas made a great move early, adding Kyle Clifford and Jack Campbell. On Monday, however, he tinkered with the fringes, scoring a late pick by helping pay for Robin Lehner’s Vegas days, and turning Michael Hutchinson into Calle Rosen — who will suddenly need to play important NHL minutes. Grade: B

17. Calgary Flames

Brad Treliving opted for the prudent course, only spending a third-rounder to secure one of the better right-shot rental defencemen available, Erik Gustafsson, and a fourth for depth D-man Derek Forbort. The core is intact. The playoffs can be seized. Johnny Gaudreau just had to pee. Grade: B

18. Florida Panthers

We can only guess at the pressures Dale Tallon is feeling from above (ownership) and below (coach Joel Quenneville) as he tries to shape a roster that both meets an internal budget and the bench’s competitive demands. That he couldn’t fetch more for a talented centre like Vincent Trocheck, nor improve his shaky blue line, when the playoffs are within reach is a head-scratcher. Grade: D+

19. Nashville Predators

David Poile is not one to shy away from a splash. That the GM to essentially remained silent around the deadline (we see you, Korbinian Holzer) tells you all you need to know about (a) the market value of the players he’d like to get rid of and (b) the faith he has that this is the Preds’ year. Grade: C

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20. Winnipeg Jets

After last spring’s gambit for Kevin Hayes didn’t pay off, Kevin Cheveldayoff restricted his search to the smaller fish in the pond. We applaud the addition of Dylan DeMelo for a third-rounder. We’re less enthusiastic about the Cody Eakin pickup, but hopefully a forced scenery change can jolt him into action. Grade: B-

21. Arizona Coyotes

John Chayka set his own deadline long ago: Dec. 16. After failing to gain a foothold in the standings since his splash, the GM has little choice but to cross his fingers and hope for the best. The Coyotes rank among the NHL’s bottom third in points percentage. Hall has put up decent if unspectacular numbers (25 points through 31 games), but if Arizona can’t rally, the trade will go down as a disaster. Grade: C-

22. Montreal Canadiens

Marc Bergevin did an excellent job flipping both Marco Scandella and Ilya Kovalchuk for more than their acquiring prices. No big splash, some fine asset management, and yet his Canadiens remain stuck in this mushy middle of not truly embracing their seller status. Case in point: keeping Tomas Tatar. Grade: B+

23. Minnesota Wild

Bill Guerin’s trading of Jason Zucker and attempted extraction of Zach Parise indicate that he’s embracing an overdue rebuild. The extra first-rounder he got from Pittsburgh is critical to stocking the cupboard. With almost nothing to pawn on the rental market, Guerin’s major roster surgery should make for a story line to watch this summer. Grade: B-

24. Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres feel rudderless. Keeping so many impending UFAs looks like a miss. That said, we don’t think inserting an edgy, dependable veteran like Wayne Simmonds into the room is a bad thing. And for fifth-rounder, why not? Conor Sheary hasn’t worked out. Maybe Domink Kahun will. He’s three years younger and, as a late-bloomer, we don’t know his ceiling. Grade: C-

25. New Jersey Devils

Tom Fitzgerald reaped returns for five of his available pieces (Blake Coleman, Wayne Simmonds, Sami Vatanen, Andy Greene, Louis Domingue) — a list that doesn’t include the Taylor Hall haul — and will stroll onto the draft floor with three first-round picks to play. The Devils should be awesome in four years. Grade: A

26. Anaheim Ducks

Willing to eat salary and eager to stock up for the future, Bob Murray made a series of small sales (Korbinian Holzer, Derek Grant, Nick Ritchie, Devin Shore) and one biggie, dealing Ondrej Kase for Boston’s first. Grade: B

27. Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks lingered in the race as long as they could, but Stan faced facts, traded a goalie and salvaged what he could for UFA defenceman Erik Gustafsson, adding much-welcome picks. Grade: B-

28. San Jose Sharks

Doug Wilson reaped a nice return for Brenden Dillon, a stay-at-home defenceman and his most coveted rental. That he got anything for a 40-year-old Patrick Marleau (a conditional 2021 third-rounder) is a win. That he somehow sold Barclay Goodrow for Tampa’s first-rounder is a coup. Grade: A

29. Los Angeles Kings

Rob Blake has made his decision loud and clear, stocking up futures by selling Alec Martinez, Tyler Toffoli, Kyle Clifford and Jack Campbell for decent value. The Kings have eight draft picks in the top for rounds of 2020. Grade: B+

30. Ottawa Senators

Funny how time works. With every passing day, the Erik Karlsson trade actually looks like a long-term victory for Pierre Dorion. In his quest to own all the 2020 draft picks, the GM found new homes for Dylan DeMelo, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Vladislav Namestnikov. The Sens now have nine picks in the first three rounds and are looking to acquire a second AHL team to accommodate all these prospects. Grade: A+

31. Detroit Red Wings

Steve Yzerman made what lemonade he could out of his lemons. Andreas Athanasiou wasn’t going to be a building block, and RFA negotiations weren’t going to be simple, so spinning him into two second-rounders was some fine work. He also salvaged something for UFA Mike Green and grabbed Dmytro Timashov off waivers for free. The Wings have cobbled together 11 picks in the first three rounds of 2020 and 2021 combined. Patience, please. Grade: B

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