The trade deadline has come and gone so rosters for the stretch drive are set. General managers have made their final determinations on their teams for the 2020-21 season and either positioned for a run, or stepped back with a view on the long term.
So how did they all do?
This week’s Power Rankings focuses on how each team fared at the deadline, though as always, the actual ranking of the teams is based on how they’re performing on the ice, with some added weight on recent play.
Here’s hoping the general lack of activity in the lead up to and on deadline day leads to more fireworks in the off-season.
1. Colorado Avalanche: A-
You don’t have to make a huge splash to get a solid deadline grade. Colorado had one clear need, a backup goalie, and they got that in Devan Dubnyk for a fifth-round pick. The hope, of course, is that Dubnyk isn’t needed come playoff time, but his sub-.900 save percentage the past two years leaves some question what he’s got left, or if he was the best option. Other than that, the Avs made the depth defenceman moves many contenders make (Patrik Nemeth), and brought back Carl Soderberg for centre depth in the bottom-six.
2. Vegas Golden Knights: B-
They were in discussions to do something much bigger (ahem, Ryan Getzlaf), but it was always going to be tough for Vegas to do much against the cap. Still, acquiring Mattias Janmark gives them another upside scoring rental who could spend most of his time on the third line, but has played well with top players before and might yet become a top-six player here.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs: A+
They did everything they set out to do. Nick Foligno was the big splash add and he’ll bring not only a captain’s veteran presence, but versatility in that he could be used alongside John Tavares and William Nylander on line two, or to beef up the defence on line three. David Rittich was the No. 3 goalie the team needed in the face of their other two goalies battling injuries all season and Ben Hutton is the depth defenceman add most playoff teams look to make. The Leafs are better and more prepared for the playoffs after the deadline and they didn’t have to give up any of their top prospects.
4. New York Islanders: A+
Honestly, what more could you ask for? The Isles had a clear need to add scoring punch with Anders Lee out and not only did they accomplish that by acquiring Kyle Palmieri, they also brought in Travis Zajac for depth and versatility. Critically, both players seem to fit very well with the Islanders’ style. The cost, a first-rounder, conditional mid-rounder and a couple of AHL prospects, might be about what you’d expect to pay for a rental scorer in a normal season. Huge win for Lou Lamoriello, and adding Braydon Coburn for blue line depth is the cherry on top.
5. Washington Capitals: B
They were involved in the biggest move of the day, but it’ll take a bit of time to decipher how they really did here. Jakub Vrana had good scoring rates, but wasn’t earning any more ice time under Peter Laviolette and was due for a big raise this off-season. In Mantha, at least, they have a goal scorer signed with term who likely will get more usage. The move comes with a bit of risk in that Vrana could still pop, but Mantha also should produce better numbers in Washington than he did in Detroit. What brings their grade down a bit, though, is that the Caps did not bring in the goalie to address their greatest need, and will enter the playoffs with two netminders who’ve never played a post-season game.
6. Carolina Hurricanes: C
Neutral deadline for the Canes, who are pretty well set up everywhere in the lineup. Knowing Tampa Bay will be getting Nikita Kucherov back, while also picking up David Savard, keeps the Canes behind them for now, but the team has been taking natural steps forward and they didn’t have to force an all-in move yet.
7. Pittsburgh Penguins: B-
They said they wanted a big physical forward and they got one in Jeff Carter, though how much he’s got left in the tank to add to their playoff push remains to be seen. The risk is in Carter retiring after the season and costing the Pens some recapture penalty, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. The Penguins added veteran presence to their team without giving up much of consequence, and they maintain flexibility to move in a different direction if Ron Hextall so chooses in the coming months.
8. Tampa Bay Lightning: A
Have to give a strong grade to the Lightning, who found a way to add probably the top defencemen who was traded at the deadline. It cost Tampa another first-rounder to get David Savard, but that price hardly matters when you’re chasing back-to-back Cups. There are no real weaknesses on this team so putting Savard in the top four and adding Fredrik Claesson for depth is a real win.
9. Winnipeg Jets: C-
Hard to grade the Jets here because they had a clear need to add to the defence, were believed to be exploring a big trade or two to address the position, and ended up with only Jordie Benn. That’s less impact than what the capped-out Oilers did. But at the same time, would the Jets have been graded higher if they paid too much for a rental? They’re a conservative team that just didn’t find the right fit in this trade market, but still, there’s a great opportunity to advance to the final four and it’d have been nice to see them take a bigger cut.
10. Minnesota Wild: C
Neutral deadline for the Wild, but remember that this is a team arriving as a bit of a force in the playoff race ahead of schedule. The best days are ahead for this changing core and buying days will be ahead. If it didn’t make sense to push in chips yet, we won’t penalize the Wild much for staying the course.
11. Edmonton Oilers: C+
Ken Holland kept saying he wasn’t going to do much because Edmonton had so little cap space, so it’s no surprise they were mostly on the sidelines. Dmitry Kulikov for a conditional fourth in 2022 is a very reasonable price for depth and experience on the blue line, and it keeps the Oilers from pushing any chips in yet.
12. Florida Panthers: B
GM Bill Zito didn’t take the huge cut we were all looking for, but there’s no question he positioned his club to be playoff-ready. Picking up rental offensive defenceman Brandon Montour was the best they could do to patch Aaron Ekblad’s loss, and the move to bring in Sam Bennett was done clearly to make them harder to play against, and add someone with a proven playoff track record. Bennett’s acquisition especially may have been rather expensive (second-rounder, prospect Emil Heineman) for someone who struggles to produce in the regular season, but he was targeted for a very specific reason. If the Panthers win a round or two and Bennett is a factor, the price won’t matter much for a team that hasn’t claimed a series win since 1996.
13. Nashville Predators: C-
From buyers to sellers, the Preds stayed the course to try and get to the playoffs. Instead of trading anything away, they acquired veteran depth in Erik Gudbranson, who likely won’t move the needle much. The Preds didn’t have to do anything, but now do face the prospect of losing Mikael Granlund and/or Erik Haula for nothing in the off-season. The PReds sort of got caught in between and ended up not doing much inspiring.
14. St. Louis Blues: C+
We’ll give the Blues an added “plus” for standing pat at the deadline because it could have been easier to sell at least Mike Hoffman for a pick, but there’s something to be said for pushing on through uncertainty. A surge just before the deadline turned them from possible buyer into a team that will instead watch this play out. And if the Blues get hot down the stretch, they could turn back into the team we expected them to be.
15. New York Rangers: C
Was never shaping up to be an active day for the Rangers, so no surprise they stood pat. Getting a fourth-rounder for Brendan Lemieux, who was no longer fitting their long-term outlook, added a ninth pick to their 2021 draft.
16. Boston Bruins: A
Whether or not you believe in the Bruins this season, the fact is they’re a likely playoff team and even have a shot to move up from their current fourth place in the East Division. They were able to get the upside of Taylor Hall without moving a first-round pick, plus depth defenceman Mike Reilly for a third-rounder in 2022. Hall is the big get and the Bruins didn’t have to move a key asset. If all goes well, they may sign him to an extension as well. Each of the East’s playoff teams made significant moves.
17. Dallas Stars: C
Facing a tough schedule all season, the Stars have done well to stay in the race and still have a shot at the post-season. GM Jim Nill stayed quiet at the deadline, which was its own form of rewarding the team for its efforts. Instead of recouping assets for any pending UFAs, the Stars are pushing ahead, though it will get harder now given the post-deadline news that Ben Bishop and Alexander Radulov are out for the season.
18. Chicago Blackhawks: B-
For a team in Chicago’s situation, they seemed to do rather well around the deadline. Using some of their extra cap space, they were able to get some interesting pieces from the Panthers, notably 23-year-old Henrik Borgstrom, who returned to Finland this season. In Adam Gaudette, they took on an upgrade to Matthew Highmore and will give him a shot in the lineup soon, and by sending Madison Bowey to Vancouver, the Hawks moved up a round in the draft. They moved the pieces they needed to and are left with 15 picks over the next two drafts.
19. Montreal Canadiens: B
Their biggest deals had already been made, so trade deadline season was all about getting depth and veterans. Eric Staal for forward depth? Thank you very much. Jon Merrill and Erik Gustafsson for different skill sets on both sides of the puck adding to the blue line? That works. The Habs still have their first-round pick for the next few years, plus 11 picks in this summer’s draft.
20. Calgary Flames: B
Sam Bennett’s past trade request was granted and, frankly, getting a second-rounder plus promising prospect Emil Heineman back for him is a nice get for Brad Treliving. Bennett will be an RFA in the off-season, had trouble fitting in anywhere consistently with the Flames, and was part of the group that needs to be replaced. They also sent off pending UFA David Rittich to Toronto and were able to get a third-rounder out of it to retain salary. Bigger, more consequential moves are to come, but as the Flames re-tool they did well with the depth pieces they gave up.
21. Philadelphia Flyers: C+
Philadelphia deserves credit for not overreacting to a tough season and betting that things like Carter Hart’s mid-season collapse is a temporary setback. More lasting changes could still be in the cards this off-season though. But GM Chuck Fletcher re-signed Scott Laughton at a reasonable $3 million cap hit rather than move him and still added some picks by moving out depth defenceman Erik Gustafsson and depth forward Michael Raffl.
22. Arizona Coyotes: C-
It’s honestly hard grading the Coyotes, who were one of the few teams that stayed quiet at the deadline. The position in the playoff race made them a bubble team, but it’s hard to see them earning a good grade given all the expiring contracts they have, combined with a need to re-stock the cupboards with prospects and picks. They were very neutral, which leaves behind a ton of questions about what’s next.
23. San Jose Sharks: B+
Wasn’t a day that would knock your socks off, but GM Doug Wilson was active and did some tidy business. First, he was able to offload struggling Devan Dubnyk for a pick and also picked up fourth- and fifth-round picks as the third team taking on salary in other deals. Without much to sell in the way of rentals, Wilson was still able to get his re-tooling team a few picks, plus the addition of 26-year-old Alex Barabanov brings a little upside and another player worth taking a look at.
24. Anaheim Ducks: C
The Ducks were a potential wild card team on deadline day, with rumours around pending UFA Ryan Getzlaf and the potential for Rickard Rakell or Josh Manson to go. It ended up being much quieter, and GM Bob Murray didn’t have to do much. He did move a late pick and Jani Hakanpaa for a younger defenceman (Haydn Fleury) and moved rental Ben Hutton for a fifth-rounder. Nothing major that will move the needle, but a younger player and a draft pick at the deadline is just fine for the rebuilding Ducks.
25. Los Angeles Kings: B
Rather than trade Alex Iafallo the Kings were able to sign him to an extension as they strive to return to the playoffs before too long. It was a shock, though, to see Jeff Carter get traded for conditional draft picks in 2022 and 2023. It was a subtle pick up for the still-rebuilding team, knowing that Carter has one year left on his deal and could be nearing retirement.
26. Detroit Red Wings: A+
The Wings were one of the biggest winners of the deadline as Steve Yzerman worked his magic again. Depth defencemen Jon Merrill and Patrik Nemeth were sold off for late picks and Yzerman picked up a fourth-rounder as a go-between team to absorb cap hit in the David Savard deal between Columbus and Tampa Bay. But his biggest and most shocking move of all was sending Anthony Mantha to Washington for Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik (for the contract), and first- and second-round picks. In Vrana, the Wings get a slightly younger player with a comparable 5-on-5 scoring rate who can be part of the rebuild forward, or even flipped for more futures.
27. Vancouver Canucks: C
It was always going to be a tough deadline for the Canucks, but they were a bit more active than expected. The Adam Gaudette trade ended the time for a player who didn’t take a step up this season, but in Matthew Highmore it might be a lateral move at best. Jordie Benn brought back a late-round pick, though they had to move back a round in a trade with Chicago in order to pick up defenceman Madison Bowey, who will presumably be used as expansion draft fodder.
28. Columbus Blue Jackets: A+
Considering their situation, the Blue Jackets made out pretty well at the deadline. In a year where first-rounders were tougher to get and give out, Columbus was able to get a couple of them for rentals David Savard and Nick Foligno. The Jackets now have three first-rounders in the 2021 draft and a pretty good shot at re-signing Foligno back in the off-season. They were also able to send injured Riley Nash to Toronto for a conditional seventh-round pick and don’t have to pay his salary the rest of the way.
29. Buffalo Sabres: C-
GM Kevyn Adams took a lot of initial heat for not getting a first-rounder back in the Taylor Hall trade, but a no-movement clause gave Hall a lot of control over the situation. Of course, Adams agreed to give Hall that clause in the first place. Adams was able to get a third-rounder back for rental Brandon Montour, which was one of the better returns for an expiring defence contract. Wasn’t a banner day for the Sabres, but one of their best moves could be something they didn’t do. Keeping Linus Ullmark to move forward with in goal would be much better than the mid-round pick they likely would have gotten, but if they end up no extending him Buffalo’s deadline will start looking worse in hindsight.
30. Ottawa Senators: B-
It was all about getting draft picks and the Sens did OK in that regard, moving out three veteran blue liners with the most notable return being a third-rounder. Importantly, that opened up ice time and opportunity for some younger players, and Jacob Bernard-Docker got his debut on Wednesday. Victor Mete, a nice waiver pick up, and Erik Brannstrom will have more room to work now, too, as the Sens commit to their youth the rest of this season. Would have been nice to also flip the two remaining UFA forwards they have for picks, but at some point you need NHLers in the lineup still, right?
31. New Jersey Devils: B-
It was a good thing they were able to get a first-round pick back for shipping out rentals, but they had to move both Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri to do it. Given they were likely to lose both anyway, the return is all that mattered and they weren’t going to get anything better by splitting them up. Jonas Seigenthaler adds a 23-year-old blueliner to give a chance to after he was able to crack Washington’s deep top six, and they got an OK return on Dmitry Kulikov, too.