There’s been no trade deadline in recent years that’s been short on trades for fans and media to criticize. Whether it’s paying too much, acquiring the wrong kind of players, or sellers not getting enough back, it’s one of the most fun days of the year for those of us sitting on the sidelines to hurl denigrating words around.
Being a bit more positive, what were the best trades of the day? Whether it’s a perfect fit or just adding a great player, here are my favourite three moves of the NHL’s Trade Deadline Day.
Edmonton Oilers acquire Mike Green for Kyle Brodziak and a conditional 4th-round pick
For starters, the price the Oilers are paying on this deal is incredible value, acquiring any regular defenceman for a player who hasn’t played this season, and a conditional late round pick is a good deal. Green is much more than a regular NHLer as well, and he brings some talent to the Oilers in areas that they’re lacking.
Not including Kris Russell here since he seems to be out long term, the core of the Oilers’ defence has improved in recent years but remains below average at transitioning the puck out of the defensive zone and through the neutral zone.
Green brings a clinical efficiency in exiting the zone with control, blowing away every Oilers defenceman in controlled exits every 20 minutes thanks to his excellent outlet passes and his ability to find routes to skate the puck out of the defensive zone himself, something that isn’t a common occurrence for most Oilers defencemen.
Overall Green transitions the puck forward 21 times every 20 minutes of ice time at 5-vs-5, which is a whopping 23 per cent better than the best Oilers defenceman so far this season; Darnell Nurse.
The Oilers forwards, specifically Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, have been the ones who have had to lug the puck up the ice and carry that load all season long, and adding a player who can help out in that area on the defensive side should allow the forwards to attack with more speed entering the offensive zone, which pairs well with the Oilers’ other acquisition, Andreas Athanasiou.
Adding to his transition prowess, Green brings some stopping power at the Oilers’ blueline, with good instincts and a smart stick to fend off opposing rushes and help insulate the Oilers’ goaltenders from those dangerous chances off of controlled entries.
Green isn’t going to bring the offence he did earlier in his career, but I like this move a lot for Edmonton.
Carolina Hurricanes acquire Vincent Trocheck for Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, Eetu Luostarinen, and Chase Priskie
Acquiring by far the best playmaker on the market for a pending unrestricted free agent, a middle-six forward, and a couple of mid-tier prospects is pretty excellent, and when you consider that Trocheck has two more years remaining on his contract, it’s like the Hurricanes traded a very nice fruit basket for a slightly used Ferrari.
As recently as two seasons ago, Trocheck was solidly in my top-20 centres in the entire NHL, though moving down from the previous year with younger players coming up. Two years of terrible personal shooting percentage have cut into his goal totals would likely have him shooting down the list these days, but his underlying numbers remain fantastic.
Looking at every forward who has played 500 or more minutes this season, Trocheck is an absolute monster and 5-vs-5, among the top-20 in the league in personally creating offence, and top-10 in transitioning the puck up the ice.
Trocheck is high-event with the puck, and highly involved without it. Put him with talented linemates and he will shine, even if his shooting percentage doesn’t recover to his career average, which isn’t that lofty of a goal at just 10 per cent.
To put things in context for how excellent of a 5-vs-5 player Trocheck has been this season despite very little fanfare, his closest comparable in offensive and transition impact at forward is Mathew Barzal. His closest comparables in overall impact at even strength are Steven Stamkos and Nicklas Backstrom.
This is what happens when an organization who is always on the cutting edge of information deals with one who consistently rejects new ideas and operates on a razor thin budget; a top end forward talent goes to a contender for… not much. This is one incredible bit of work by the Hurricanes.
Vegas Golden Knights acquire Robin Lehner for Malcolm Subban and Slava Demin
The team that has been running roughshod over teams all season long but consistently seeing their good work undone by poor goaltending has gone out and brought in the best goaltender available at the deadline in Robin Lehner.
Looking at save percentages by zone, you might think that Lehner is only providing a drastic improvement for the Golden Knights in one area; the high slot. That improvement is huge on its own, as he’s been among the strongest goaltenders in the league from there, but we also have to consider the incredible gap in workload these goalies have faced this season to give context to these save percentages.
Marc-Andre Fleury has faced just 6.2 inner slot shots per 60 minutes this season compared to Lehner’s league-high 8.45. Fleury has faced just 6.6 shots from the high slot every 60 minutes compared to Lehner’s 8.25. Fleury has faced a league-low 11.8 slot passes every 60 minutes played compared to Lehner’s league-high 17.4.
The attrition of facing more and better chances alongside the 10 extra shot attempts Lehner faces every game, compounded with facing over 47 per cent more pre-shot movement than Fleury, Lehner’s performance goes from strong to astonishing.
On a team that controls shot quality against better than any team in the league, it’s a safe bet that Lehner is going to be incredible. If on top of that the decreased pressure on Fleury now operating in a tandem role can help him recapture his game a little, it’s an even bigger impact. This is about as high an impact move as you can make at the deadline.