It’s all over but for the crying.
The NHL’s 32 general managers have officially made their beds with the trade deadline now in the rearview mirror.
As is tradition and my obligation, it’s time to designate winners and losers.
Bill Guerin had the finest sequence on deadline day.
At the helm of one of the few teams Marc-Andre Fleury was willing to waive his no-trade clause to join, the Wild GM committed only a modest asset to acquire the single-biggest name moved on deadline day. A reigning Vezina Trophy winner and proven postseason performer, Fleury could potentially be a game changer for the Wild, who will need something special to overcome the Colorado Avalanche in a possible second round.
It was reported that Chicago was firm on a first-round selection being the return for Fleury. If it indeed turns out that Chicago nets the desired return, the Wild will gladly oblige, because it will have meant that they have reached the third round for the second time in franchise history.
To complete the impressive maneuvering, Guerin broke up the logjam created with the Fleury addition by dealing Kaapo Kahkonen to the San Jose Sharks for a defender many legitimate contenders had circled in Jacob Middleton.
All told for a conditional second-round pick and netminder determined to be not adequate enough for the moment, Guerin solidified things in the crease and on the back end.
The league’s best team had a tremendous deadline.
Joe Sakic had a head start on things, having used the leverage created by Josh Manson beautifully earlier in the week, acquiring the top-four defenceman — and the player that flawlessly rounds out the unit — for a very modest price compared to other rentals moved. He then added one of he finest utility forwards on the market, Artturi Lehkonen, to offer the same sort of completive effect to the forward group, while still managing to preserve his first-round selections this season and next.
Two prospects — Justin Barron and Drew Helleson — and two second-rounds picks is a very reasonable price to pay for an elite team that has built to this moment without having to completely mortgage its future.
It’s easy to be the team selling premium assets, but not every deadline goes as well as it’s gone for rookie general manager Kent Hughes. Montreal did a fantastic job liquidating assets over the last few weeks and months in an effort to accelerate its rebuild.
All told, in exchange for two expiring assets in Ben Chiarot and Brett Kulak, a secondary scorer with term, Tyler Toffoli, and a high-end utility forward and restricted free agent, Artturi Lehkonen, the Canadiens took back two first-round picks, two second-round picks, selections in the fourth and fifth rounds, a premium prospect in Justin Barron, as well as futures Emil Heineman and Ty Smilanic.
It’s impressive as a single haul, and even better when broken down into its parts.
Hughes has most certainly passed the smell test.
In the eyes of some, the Panthers beat the market on both the top forward and top defenceman to switch hands at the deadline. Trading for Claude Giroux and Ben Chiarot represents nothing short of a power move from Bill Zito, who is not taking any chances with the best team the Panthers have ever iced.
It wasn’t cheap; Florida isn’t scheduled to select in the first round until 2025. But this is truly now or never for a franchise that has never quite been in a position like this one as one of the few realistic Stanley Cup contenders and the chosen destination for a legend of another franchise.
This might be the Kraken’s finest hour.
After failing fairly spectacularly to use the expansion draft as a platform to build an impressive futures portfolio, Seattle GM Ron Francis did some quality work in that regard over the last few weeks. Six players that either didn’t match the contention timeline or failed to carve out an indispensable function were traded in five separate deals, bringing back a bounty of picks, including four seconds and two thirds.
Seattle now has nine picks in the first four rounds in the next two drafts. That’s the foundation for which this team will be properly built.
That is, if they do amateur drafts better than expansion ones.
I’m not sure it hasn’t been a touch reckless, but it has been an immensely purposeful run for Brad Treliving — and one that extends beyond the deadline.
The Flames have hit on just about everything they have done since the end of last season, filling potential gaps at an efficient and uncompromising level. As for what counts as deadline action, the Flames have plugged two holes in the middle six, as well as an unexpected one on the fourth line, to support what’s been an outstanding season for the revamped and re-focused core group.
Premiums were paid for both Toffoli and Calle Jarnkrok, and even Ryan Carpenter didn’t come necessarily cheap, but when the path to the Western Conference Final is clear, and the team is operating in the fashion that it is, not spending assets would be considered a mistake.
It’s been a comedy of errors for the Pierres this season — even if most of what’s happened is largely inconsequential.
The Senators stayed in their lane, for the most part remaining on the sideline aside from the Nick Paul trade to the Tampa Bay Lightning. But even in the moves made at the margins, it points to questionable asset management.
The decision to spend a third-round pick on Travis Hamonic is laughable, given that he was available earlier in the season on a free transfer. There have been nothing but questions surrounding Hamonic aside from is on-ice performance, which has waned considerably over the past few seasons. He really is not much more than a high-priced filler and potential problem in the dressing room, if reports out of Vancouver are accurate.
On top of that, Ottawa moved Zach Sanford out for a lower price than for which he was acquired before the season, which repeats a pattern of players seeing their value crater in Ottawa.
It was a shortsighted move in the first place, and now forever on the record as a net-negative one.
It’s hard to not conclude that Vancouver overplayed its hand with Tyler Motte.
Motte was creating some waves in the trade market, but wound up only bringing back a fourth-round pick for the expiring asset in a trade with the New York Rangers moments before the deadline. The third-round pick acquired for Hamonic will soothe some of the pain associated with potentially mismanaging the market on the depth winger, but if we’re grading first-time executives, Patrik Allvin’s work was not on the level of Hughes in Montreal.
Still, it might be what Vancouver didn’t move that’s more puzzling. Holding onto Luke Schenn, in particular, seems strange, and the price has to drop now on J.T. Miller.
This team needs to turn over its roster aggressively, and moving Hamonic and the expiring Motte serves as barely a start.
It would appear that the Hurricanes were waiting for something to fall in their laps. How Max Domi performs in a Carolina sweater will determine if that was the correct course of acton.
The Hurricanes are the one elite team that didn’t make a significant splash, instead adding a player that’s bigger in name than in impact. It’s possible Domi could help create some sort of mismatch on a fourth line with old buddy Jesperi Kotkaniemi. But what’s more likely to be true is the acquisition cost on Kotkaniemi last summer forced Don Waddell to take a bit of a conservative approach while everyone else improved dramatically.
Vegas Golden Knights
This team bit off more than it could chew.
Desperately moving Evgenii Dadonov — one of the single-most questionable additions last summer — well after the buzzer serves as a reminder of just how tied Vegas’s hands are.
And despite getting out from underneath the deal, suffering the devastating outcome of missing the postseason isn’t any less likely, at least it seems.
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