Quick Shifts: 12 big NHL trade deadline takeaways

Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff responds to if everything was on the table to augment the roster at the trade deadline.

A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep. Sportsnet didn’t trade me at the deadline, but hearing they still found a way to retain salary.

1. The risk associated with trade deadline spending will be front and centre in the first round of the playoffs — specifically the Central Division’s 2-3 matchup.

The race for top seed is tight and critical because one Cup contender will knock out another in seven games or less.

The Colorado Avalanche executed some smart and creative work, realizing Ryan Johansen was an ill fit at second-line centre, snatching Casey “Career Year” Mittelstadt from Buffalo, and replacing the hole vacated by Bowen Byram with Philadelphia’s Sean Walker, whose up-tempo game should be a smooth fit. 

Even better? The whispers of captain Gabriel Landeskog returning for playoffs are growing.

(Sidenote: Man, Johansen has fallen off a cliff. Just two years removed from a 63-point campaign, the 31-year-old centre will be hard-pressed to reach 30 for the second straight season.)

The Dallas Stars acquired the top right-shot defenceman, Chris Tanev, without surrendering a first-round pick, and call-up Logan Stankoven looks legit.

And the Winnipeg Jets — probably the most under-discussed contender, dressing studs at every position — are complementing their Grade-A goaltending and sturdy defence with two impact forwards in Tyler Toffoli and Sean Monahan, plus depth D-man Colin Miller. On paper, this is veteran GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s best deadline to date.

“There’s nothing better than playing in Canada,” Toffoli told the Sportsnet panel post-trade.

And nothing should be more entertaining down the stretch and into Round 1 than watching who survives this dogfight in the Central.

2. Some tidy business by the Florida Panthers‘ (emotional) general manager, Bill Zito, this week, extending top-four defenceman Gustav Forsling through his prime at a team-friendly $5.75-million cap hit, adding character forward depth in Kyle Okposo, and stealing Vladimir Tarasenko from Ottawa at 50 per cent retained for the modest price of a third and a fourth.

Count this as a win for player control, as Tarasenko essentially dictated his destination, thanks to the full no-move clause he had negotiated with the Senators.

Sunshine, no taxes, a strong Russian community, and a legitimate shot at a second ring.

“This was the only place I think about,” Tarasenko said. “A chance to win a Stanley Cup.”

The rich got richer.

With due respect to the additions made by the Hurricanes (Jake Guentzel, Evgeni Kuznetsov, a healthy Frederik Andersen) and Rangers (Alexander Wennberg), the Cats are still my favourite to survive the East.

3. Jake DeBrusk‘s name was run through the rumour mill (again) but ultimately remains in Boston for a seventh playoff run.

The three-time 25-goal scorer’s production has picked up lately — four points in his past three games — but there’s no question this has been a disappointing contract campaign for a 27-year-old about on track to hit the open market for the first time in his career.

“He’s handling it well. I mean, it can be tough when going through a year and not really knowing how it’s going to unfold and playing for your future,” says friend and linemate Brad Marchand. 

When you compare DeBrusk’s platform season to that of other wingers (Sam Reinhart, Tyler Toffoli, Patrick Kane, et al.), it’s difficult not to frame this season as a disappointment.

Among his fellow pending UFAs, DeBrusk ranks 26th in points.

On the upside, he kills penalties, contributes to the power-play and is responsible defensively.

Though there’s no guarantee he re-signs, a strong playoff showing could bump DeBrusk’s stock.

“He’s such a great kid and great teammate, and he doesn’t show it in his mood and in his attitude. He comes in and is very bubbly and phenomenal to be around every day,” Marchand says. 

“He’s always been one of those guys that feeds off when he’s playing well. When he gets a goal, his confidence level gets very high. You can see lately he’s been very good for us and playing very well all around the puck.”

4. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

Love seeing the repeated aggression of the Vegas Golden Knights, who never met an impact player they didn’t try to make fit.

Who knows if Mark Stone (spleen) will return for the postseason?

Regardless, the organization went out and snatched up the best defenceman on the rental market, Noah Hanifin, at a reasonable rate; the best centre to be included in a trade, Tomas Hertl; plus a heavy forward inspired by a summer payday in Anthony Mantha.

So what if the Knights already had one of the deeper bluelines and more balanced forward groups in the league? You can always improve.

That Cup-at-all-costs approach starts with an engaged, cutthroat owner and trickles down.

Most fans would love to see their favourite team run with such purpose.

5. Pat Maroon flipping from Minnesota to Boston and donning a seventh NHL sweater ensures the three-time champ will be involved in the playoffs for a seventh consecutive spring.

For a third straight post-season, Maroon could well face the Maple Leafs in Round 1.

No doubt, Maroon’s rugged style suits the temperature of Leafs-Bruins, which saw multiple fights, an injury, and two cross-checks (by Charlie Coyle and Jake McCabe) worthy of fines during Thursday’s heated final regular-season meeting.

“We were really physical to start the game. We were finishing checks. And, in turn, when we got the lead and the game got out of hand, they got physical in trying to send a message maybe for playoffs,” Boston coach Jim Montgomery said. 

“I liked our physicality. Theirs is a little too late.”

Snap.

6. Two things can be true.

While I won’t argue that Tom Fitzgerald did the wrong thing by firing head coach Lindy Ruff, I will argue the Devils GM did do the wrong thing by extending him for two more years in October, burning money for nothing. 

Further, it’s on Fitzgerald, not Ruff, that New Jersey essentially wasted a season because it did not address its greatest weakness: goaltending.

A Jacob Markstom trade made too much sense for both sides. Missed opportunity.

The day Ruff was dismissed, Jersey’s save percentage ranked second-lowest in the league (.882). The only team with a worse saves rate, Ottawa, already fired its bench boss too.

7. Matt Dumba admits optimism had been hard to come by when he saw his former club 20 points out of the playoffs. The onus falls on the Coyotes to pick themselves up as they play out the string. Again.

“No one out there is feeling sorry for us,” Dumba said, a couple days prior to getting dealt to Tampa.

The edgy right shot got “traded” out of Minnesota via social media a zillion times, so he was unfazed by the noise and knew he’d be shipped out of the desert. 

“My name’s always been in the mix come deadline day. So, something that I’m used to, and I don’t get caught up in media, social media stuff. For me, it’s just business as usual,” Dumba said.

“It was kind of a running joke in Minnesota. But you get more comfortable with it and learn how to block it out and rely on the agent more and more to give you the information you need. You can’t really get caught up in it.”

With the Maple Leafs always on the hunt for minutes-munching righthanders, Dumba confirmed that Brad Treliving was one of a handful of GMs who expressed interest in his services during free agency last summer. (Treliving kicked tires again via trade.)

Dumba chose the Yotes because he already owned an investment property near Scottsdale (“Got in there at the right time”), but his decision wasn’t made until August.

“That’s just all part of the process of trying to figure out what works best for you and that team. I’m sure there’ll be more of that this summer,” Dumba said.

“When the floodgates opened, there was a lot going on. I just wanted to be patient.”

We asked Dumba if he felt his status as righty increased his worth on the market, and he lets out a laugh and glances at fellow right shot Sean Durzi in the next stall. 

“Yeah, I figured that. Then I came to the team with six or eight,” he chuckles. “Hopefully it pulls weight down the line. We’ll see.”

Alexander Kerfoot is quick to sing Dumba’s praises, describing his ex-teammate as “a guy who impacts the game with his emotion” and leads with his passion and physicality. 

Kerfoot points to December’s win over Ottawa as an example of peak Dumba.

“Impacts the game with his physicality. Steps up, drops the gloves with (Brady) Tkachuk (who has four inches and 45 pounds on Dumba),” Kerfoot says. 

“When he’s on, he’s up and down the ice making plays on both ends. And he’s physical. Obviously, he’s got a bomb of a shot, and he’s a guy in the room that guys gravitate towards.”

Despite his wise investment in Arizona, Dumba won’t be spending much time there in the off-season. Too hot. And he’s too in love with Minnesota.

“Tough to beat. On the lake every day. Golf courses everywhere,” he smiled. “Pretty nice.”

8. Quote of the Week.

“I don’t know. It’s probably a better question for them.” —Sidney Crosby on the message management sent to the Penguins by trading away Guentzel

9. While sniper Guentzel and reclamation project Evgeni Kuznetsov are intriguing stories for contending Carolina, the Hurricanes most important addition this week may well be Frederik Andersen.

The goaltender was stellar Thursday, allowing just one goal in his return from dealing with a blood clot issue that had sidelined him for more than four months.

Of all teams in playoff position (by points percentage), none has achieved that success with a worse save percentage than Carolina (.891).

If Andersen (.904 and climbing) can re-establish himself as a dependable No. 1, look out.

10. The deadline’s biggest pure “hockey trade” — Buffalo’s Mittelstadt in exchange for Colorado’s Byram — left Dylan Cozens with mixed emotions. 

“Sucks to see him go,” Cozens said of the Sabres’ leading scorer. “Makes it easier for me knowing I’m getting one of my best friends in return.

“He’s going to fit in so well with this group on and off the ice.”

Cozens and Byram’s friendship stretches all the way back to midget hockey. They’ve represented Canada together at two world junior championships, and Byram has even been up to Whitehorse a couple times to visit Cozens and his family. 

The besties hopped on the phone immediately after Wednesday’s trade got finalized.

Funny thing is, the two had been discussing Byram’s potential trade to Buffalo just last month when they were vacationing together in Cancun during all-star break.

“And he told me how much he’d love to be here and play with us,” Cozens says.

Byram is also tight with former Team Canada mates Peyton Krebs and Jack Quinn, so the transition should be smooth. Krebs says he even attended the D-man’s Stanley Cup party in 2022.

“He’s a competitor,” Krebs beams. “He plays with a lot of heart.”

Byram immediately slots into Buffalo’s top pair, with fellow lefty Rasmus Dahlin sliding to the right.

Coach Don Granato felt some trepidation first calling a player who was moving from a title contender to one stuck in a rebuild. 

“I could not believe how excited he was to come to our team,” Granato says. “That picked me up, hearing that.”

11. The Flames got Yegor Sharangovich and a third-round pick in exchange for an expiring Tyler Toffoli.

The Devils got a second- and third-round pick in exchange for an expiring Toffoli and had to retain salary.

Chalk this one up as a win for Craig Conroy and a loss for Fitzgerald.

12. You gotta feel good for Okposo, who was a proud captain in Buffalo but now gets a crack at a Cup and his first taste of playoff action in eight years.

The 35-year-old has well over 1,000 games regular-season games on his resume but only 24 playoff games and has never seen life beyond Round 2.

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