Deadline day is all about demands by NHL GMs and immediate declarations by the media.
We’re holding up our end of the bargain by identifying winners and losers from a day where the movers and shakers made us sweat a bit before springing into action in the final hour leading up to the 3 p.m. EST cutoff point.
Let’s fire it up.
Vegas got the best player on the market, Mark Stone, and he has already committed to a long-term extension. Stone is a 26-year-old, two-way stud who could be the captain of any team he plays for and is the rare winger who is in consistent contention for the Selke Trophy.
The Knights surrendered blue-chip defence prospect Erik Brännström in the transaction, but even if he goes on to become a perennial Norris Trophy candidate, how much will that really sting for a team that has placed Stone in its top-six for the long haul?
Vegas got the sure thing, and you can’t ask for more than that.
Columbus fans and people who run bars in the city
The tangible part of the equation is, Columbus acquired 49 goals when it picked up Matt Duchene (27 goals) and Ryan Dzingel (22) from the Ottawa Senators. (Duchene already has another 1-1-2 in two outings with the Jackets.) Adding one player on that kind of pace is a big deal, let alone a pair of them. Keeping Artemi Panarin — rumoured all season to be a trade candidate because he won’t commit long-term to Ohio — has the concrete benefit of retaining an elite-level scorer, but it’s also part of a go-for-it mentality that sends a fantastic message to Columbus fans.
We all know the Blue Jackets have yet to win a playoff series nearly 20 years into their existence. Moving Panarin and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (the NHL’s third star of the past week) for futures would have been the safe move, so good on GM Jarko Kekalainen for making the bold and awesome one. If Columbus can finish anywhere above the final wild-card slot — thus avoiding Tampa Bay in the first round — it will land in the Metropolitan Division draw and have as good a chance as anyone to win two playoff rounds.
If it all goes sideways and everyone who can become a UFA decides to leave, you’ve now got a ton of cap space to build a team around young studs like Pierre-Luc Dubois, Seth Jones and Zachary Werenski. You could do a lot worse.
Mikael Granlund is a great two-way forward who will likely line up a right wing, though he has no trouble jumping to the middle. The 26-year-old Finn is under contract through next season, so his dog-on-bone game will be on display for at least two springs in Tennessee. Now throw former Flyer Wayne Simmonds in front of the net — where he’ll be expected to help a power play that’s been abysmal — and the Preds have just the jolt they need for a Cup run. This team is all in, right now.
When you draft and develop as well as the Jets, giving up your first-rounder in consecutive seasons is a hit you can handle. Winnipeg will be hoping Kevin Hayes, acquired from the Rangers, can fit with the club as seamlessly as the guy they surrendered a first for 12 months ago, Paul Stastny. It seems like a decent bet. Hayes is a big boy with 34 playoff games on his career resume, a guy who could very conceivably score at a 30-goal pace when placed beside the quality wingers he’ll get in Manitoba.
The Sabres held three 2019 first-round picks before dealing one — which used to belong to St. Louis — to Anaheim in a deal for right-shot defenceman Brandon Montour. The Southern Ontario boy is 24 years old and under contract through next season, at which point he’s still only an RFA. That’s a nice add for a club that, though it would desperately love to make the playoffs this season, still has to be focused on the big picture.
New York Rangers
The Blueshirts are quietly working through a rebuild that started in earnest at last year’s deadline, when captain Ryan McDonagh was shipped to Tampa Bay. Landing a first-round pick from Winnipeg for Kevin Hayes is a nice get, as are the second- and third-round picks they got from Dallas for Mats Zuccarello. The Rangers selected three times in the first round last June and will enter this year’s draft with at least two first-rounders and three more picks in the second round.
San Jose Sharks
Nothing fancy, just a couple non-first-round draft picks for a guy — former Detroit Red Wing Gustav Nyquist — who could be a critical secondary scorer come playoff time. Nyquist is yet another Shark who can become a UFA this summer, joining Joe Pavelski, Erik Karlsson, Joe Thornton and Joonas Donskoi.
A month ago, all the talk was about Carolina selling off the likes of Micheal Ferland and a top defenceman or two. Now, the Canes are firmly in the playoff chase with everybody in the fold. That alone is a victory for fans who haven’t seen the post-season since 2009.
All the GMs who saw the return for Matt Duchene and Mark Stone
You have to think more than one suit let out a “holy sh#%!” when they saw the modest returns Ottawa got for its two star players, especially Stone. Speaking of which…
I’m going to channel my inner Elliotte Friedman here, a level-headed Sportsnet analyst who is fond of saying he doesn’t like to kick teams and players when they’re down. By all accounts, Brännström can become a fantastic NHL defenceman sooner rather than later, and he’ll join a blue-line crew already headlined by Thomas Chabot. The first-round pick Ottawa got from Columbus for Duchene will add to what is, on the sly, actually a pretty great pipeline of young assets.
The issue is, it’s simply impossible not to take the 30,000-foot view on Ottawa and think about where the organization could be if it had taken a hard look in the mirror last summer and traded both Stone and Duchene with one year left on their deals when good teams, bad teams and everyone in between would have had interest.
There’s no question Duchene and Stone both genuinely loved Ottawa, but just weren’t prepared to burn key years of their prime in a re-building situation. Was that really something all parties just recently figured out?
To not squeeze a first-rounder for Stone when he immediately committed to the Knights? Man, this Brännström fella better be reminiscent of the last Swedish defence stud the Sens had.
Through no fault of their own, the Stars have gone from firmly in the winner category to hard-luck losers. The decision to pick up Zuccarello from the Rangers for two draft picks looked fantastic when “The Hobbit” had a goal and an assist in his Stars debut on Sunday. But before time ran out in that victory over Chicago, Zuccarello blocked a shot that broke his arm, an injury that may keep him out until Dallas is done playing hockey. Just a gut punch for the Stars.
Getting 22-year-old Kevin Fiala — a player GM Paul Fenton knows well from his time with the Preds — could turn out to be a great long-term move, but there’s no denying it’s been a sad deadline season for the Wild, who acted as if they almost just wanted to get rid of Nino Niederreiter (nine goals in 16 games with Carolina) and Charlie Coyle to make a clean break with the past.
New York Islanders
In a roundabout way, this is actually a compliment because nobody outside the organization expected the Islanders would be in a position to disappoint on deadline day by not buying. It’s absolutely fine and prudent that New York didn’t make a big move, but given the relatively reasonable cost for a front-line guy like Duchene, it would have been great to see the Islanders — such unlikely pace-setters in the Metro — jump in.