Slow down everyone — we have a trade deadline Monday still to get through!
On Saturday night the dam started to break on the rental market, with Claude Giroux going to Florida and Hampus Lindholm going to Boston. They were two big moves for a couple of Atlantic Division teams preparing for hopeful playoff runs. And, in fact, there's still a chance these two will meet in the very first round.
For the Panthers, they moved Owen Tippett, their 2024 first-rounder and 2023 third-rounder for Giroux, 23-year-old AHLers Connor Bunnaman and German Rubtsov and a 2024 fifth-rounder. The Flyers retained 50 per cent of Giroux's remaining cap hit.
With all the moves they've made this year and last, Florida now has one draft pick in the first two rounds of the next three drafts and has firmly declared its high expectations for this team. There's a cap window for the Panthers to go for it right now, with Sam Reinhart's $6.5 million still the highest cap hit among all their forwards. Aleksander Barkov's $10 million AAV kicks in next season, and Jonathan Huberdeau will be in line for a big raise of his own in 2023-24.
Pedal to the metal.
In Boston, Lindholm has an expiring contract, but early indications are that the Bruins hope to lock him in to a long-term deal. They gave up Urho Vaakanainen, veteran AHL defenceman John Moore, a 2022 first-round draft pick, a 2023 second-round draft pick and a 2024 second-round draft pick for AHLer Kodie Curran and Lindholm, and the Ducks retained 50 per cent of his remaining salary.
Boston has been one of the NHL's best teams over the past few weeks, with a strong team defence that tends to translate to playoff success. Sitting fourth in the Atlantic and in a wild card spot, it will be a tough road out of the East for any team and Boston isn't shrinking from that challenge.
Who knows how many more runs they'll have with Patrice Bergeron around, and Brad Marchand isn't getting any younger either. So, Boston took the best available rental blueliner off the market.
Here is a look at the main players — the NHLers and top prospects — involved in the two deals.
TO FLORIDA: CLAUDE GIROUX
The Florida Panthers have spent a ton of assets on this team and the acquisition of Giroux may be the final piece to it. Certainly the final major piece.
Already without their first-rounders in 2022 and 2023 due to other deals, the Panthers moved out their 2024 first in this deal, along with prospect Owen Tippett who they chose 10th overall in 2017. More on him later.
Florida has the best offence in the league and is the only team averaging over four goals per game. Its top MVP candidate, Jonathan Huberdeau, has 86 points in 62 games from the second line. Sam Reinhart is scoring over a point per game from the third. Aleksander Barkov, one of the top two-way centres in the game pivots the top unit.
So, ya — why not add yet another scorer I guess. This is what "all-in" really looks like.
Giroux, a rental, is a distributor and still an excellent playmaker at 34 years old. He was second on the Flyers with 24 assists this season, with a heavy impact on the power play especially.
On a really bad Flyers team this year, Giroux was still leaned on as the go-to playmaker and managed to mostly tilt play in the right direction when he was on the ice. The Flyers controlled over 53 per cent of the 5-on-5 shots when he was out there and his 54.55 on-ice goals for percentage was one of the best marks on the team.
Giroux's most likely starting point in Florida is as the right winger on the top line next to Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe. The Panthers will find some way to get him on one of the two power-play units — and they have an almost endless amount of combinations to consider there.
Aside from his specific offensive contributions, Giroux is excellent in the faceoff dot on either side and has won over 60 per cent of his draws this season. In the defensive zone he's won over 63 per cent of his faceoffs. For those key end zone draws at a critical point in a playoff game, don't be surprised if Giroux gets tapped. Barkov is good on the draw himself, but is nearly 10 percentage points worse than Giroux in the D zone this season.
At his age, Giroux's probably a better fit as a complementary star and that's exactly what he'll be on an absolutely stacked Panthers squad.
The Panthers are looking at the possibility of running a top-three-line unit of Verhaeghe-Barkov-Giroux, Huberdeau-Bennett-Duclair, Marchment-Lundell-Reinhart. Disgustingly loaded.
Scout's Analysis from Jason Bukala:
The Florida Panthers get a proven leader who continues to produce offence, but brings much more to the team overall.
A crafty playmaker on the PP. He sees the ice exceptionally well. His ability to identify openings in the offensive zone is elite.
His transition game remains intact. Between the blue lines with the puck on his stick he surveys the entire ice and adjusts his speed accordingly. At times he will get the edge off the rush. Other times he will slow down and distribute pucks that lead to scoring chances.
What's, maybe, most important to recognize is his contribution in subtle areas of the game. One of the top face-off men in the league, he has won over 60 per cent of his draws this season. He takes key face-offs in his zone at even strength and on the PK. When the team needs to win a draw, leading to control of the play in any zone, he shines in the role.
It will be difficult for opponents to check all the forwards that Florida can deploy offensively. Expect him to produce even more than he did in Philadelphia, but also expect the Panthers' overall team game at even strength and on the PK to improve with this addition.
TO BOSTON: HAMPUS LINDHOLM
A defensively responsible player to lock down Boston's top unit, or strengthen its second pair? Check.
Lindholm's underlying numbers perhaps don't shine as bright as they used to, but that could have much more to do with the deteriorating roster and situation around him in Anaheim than any sort of decline in his effectiveness.
First thing to know is that Lindholm has a bit of an edge and is great at stopping an oncoming attack at the blue line. On the boards, he's a tough battler, using his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame to wear on opponents. He's not going to pile up numbers in the "hits" category -- his is more of a smart game, playing angles well and forcing players to the outside to snuff out options and engaging in puck battles. Lindholm is exactly one of those players you want on the ice in key shutdown moments when a playoff game is on the line.
A left shot, he would seem to be the ideal partner for Charlie McAvoy.
Lindholm won't be your primary offensive weapon from the blue line, but his offensive impact is not to be underestimated either. He makes a great first pass out of his zone, which extends his defensive impact and puts his team on the attack.
But don't take my word for it. Kevin Bieksa was Lindholm's defence partner for a time and knows the player well.
"Great breakout passes, hangs in there to the last minute," Bieksa said on Hockey Night in Canada. "He's a big guy, 6-foot-2 he's 210-215 pounds, he tries to stay as lean as he can because he wants to be quick and get up and down the ice, but he's not your typical Swedish defenceman. He plays with a nastiness. His greatest asset is his competitiveness and puck battles. He's a guy who can just munch minutes. He can play on the power play if you need him but he'll definitely be a first penalty killer. He'll be on the ice at the end of the game if they have a one-goal lead."
The beauty here, too, is that it seems Lindholm won't just be a rental for the Bruins, but a long-term solution on their blue line. The price of acquisition (2022 first-round pick, second-round picks in 2023 and 2024, Urho Vaakanainen and John Moore) was probably already worth it as a rental given what the defence market has looked like, but if he's going to be around for a while this is a runaway victory for Boston.
Prior to the trade, Boston had the second-lowest shots-against per game average, and fifth-best goals-against average. Over the past two months, the Bruins have the NHL's fifth-best points percentage, trailing only Florida and Carolina in the East. They're making a very strong push for a top-three spot in the Atlantic and now they've added the best defensive defenceman rental on the market.
Florida added Ben Chiarot and Claude Giroux. Tampa added Brandon Hagel. The Bruins now have Lindholm. Your move Toronto.
Scout's Analysis from Jason Bukala:
Fantastic addition for the Bruins. Teams in the Atlantic Division continue to add big names to their already deep lineups.
The Bruins get a top pairing, left-shot D who has the ability to play upwards of 25 minutes per night in all situations. An active defender who is very quick to space. He identifies very well in his zone. His read/react game is solid. He won't punish opponents physically, but he will lean on them and never quits on a play. He gaps up well and intercepts zone entries.
A capable puck mover, he will add to the Bruins power play. At even strength, he will join the rush to add an extra layer going on offence. The Bruins defence core has improved immensely with this addition to their group.
TO ANAHEIM: URHO VAAKANAINEN
The 18th overall pick in 2017, Vaakanainen played for Finland at the WJC three times, winning gold in 2019. He first came to North America in the 2018-19 season, but has not been able to crack Boston's lineup as a regular. He has played 31 NHL games total and most of those (15) have come this season. He has no goals and six assists. With the upside to be a defensive defenceman, Vaakanainen will be given every opportunity to try and crack Anaheim's lineup on the regular and we'll find out if it was just a depth chart situation in Boston holding him back, or if it was something more.
At 23 years old, it's about time for him to make it or break it.
Prospect analysis from Sam Cosentino:
Vaakanainen plays with no discernible identity. He surely doesn’t produce enough to be considered an offensive defenceman. He has decent size, but is not considered someone who’s overly physical. He doesn’t have a reputation for being nasty to play against. He can defend decently because he has reach and an understanding of where he must be in his own zone. He can be an effective puck mover, but probably not someone you would count on to run a power play.
Assuming he steps right into a regular spot in Anaheim’s bottom pairing, it will be interesting to see if he evolves into something more than the up-and-down defenceman he’s been to this point. This can happen if he puts offence aside, concentrates on simple-yet-efficient puck moving and adding a layer of nastiness to his game. At 23, we’re at the point in his development where he’s a relatively known commodity. One thing he has going for him is Anaheim’s organizational ability to draft excellent defencemen. Think Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm and more recently Jamie Drysdale. Maybe its staff saw something Boston didn’t. When going back through my notes, he may have had some false added value as a player who paired with Miro Heiskanen during the 2017 under-18 worlds.
TO PHILADELPHIA: OWEN TIPPETT
Prospect analysis from Sam Cosentino:
Tippet is a shoot-first player. He skates well, is sturdy on his skates and is an effective puck protector. He did get a few sniffs early in his career before Florida’s previous management group decided it would be best to have him settle in the AHL to learn the finer points of the game, improving on his defensive game and his play away from the puck. His shot and release are better than NHL average. He has the size and skating ability to drive the net, and he can score from distance. I’m sure Philadelphia would like to see his game move to the middle of the ice, between the dots.
He wasn’t going to get a shot playing in Florida’s top six, and he has to play there if he’s going to be an impact player. Tippett would be wise to watch clips of Toronto’s Auston Matthews, who has taken his many offensive gifts and applied them to his defensive game. He has great hands that work well in tight, but he has to get there more often. His natural goal-scoring ability is a rare commodity. It was definitely time for a change of scenery and time to move to a place where he can play consistently in the top six. Tippett will never be lauded for his 200-foot game, but play away from the puck has been his biggest challenge dating back to his days in Mississauga as a junior.