The 2018 NHL trade deadline saw plenty of movement as several teams added players for what they hope will be a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Here are some notable winners and losers of the trade deadline:
The Bruins acquired top-six forward Rick Nash and didn’t give up a key part of their NHL roster or a huge part of their future. Boston sent the New York Rangers a 2018 first-round draft pick, a 2019 seventh-round pick, forward Ryan Spooner, forward Matt Beleskey and prospect Ryan Lindgren. Lindgren was not one of the team’s most prized prospects, and given their recent drafting of defensemen, the University of Minnesota product was expendable in the right deal. Spooner was set to be an RFA and likely wasn’t part of the B’s future plans, and to their credit, they sold high on him. Getting rid of Beleskey’s contract also gives the Bruins additional salary cap flexibility in the short term.
In Nash, the B’s are getting a highly skilled power forward who should be motivated in the final year of his contract. The 33-year-old should see most of his time alongside David Krejci on Boston’s second line. His willingness to shoot often and his 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame should make him a force on the Bruins’ power play as well.
When you can add a piece of Nash’s caliber without gutting your prospect pool or giving up established talent, that’s a win.
Boston also added great depth by acquiring veteran forward Tommy Wingels via trade from the Chicago Blackhawks and signed veteran forward Brian Gionta as a free agent. The B’s acquired veteran D-man Nick Holden from the Rangers in a deal separate from Nash, too.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning acquired a top-four defenseman in Ryan McDonagh and a quality forward in JT Miller from the New York Rangers without surrendering elite prospects. They gave up first-line winger Vladislav Namestnikov, but Miller should be able to replace a good portion of his offensive production when surrounded by a lot of top-level talent like Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. Tampa sent a 2018 first-rounder, which should be at the end of the round, as well as two B-level prospects to the Rangers.
McDonagh is a top-pairing defenseman who logs 20-plus minutes against top competition and kills penalties. He gives the Lightning the best blue line in the league. Below is a look at their projected D pairings. It’s quite impressive.
Victor Hedman–Anton Stralman
Mikhail Sergachev–Ryan McDonagh
Braydon Coburn–Dan Girardi
Extra: Andrej Sustr
The Lightning had the best record in the league before this move, and now they’re the top Stanley Cup contender.
The Penguins gave up a lot to acquire veteran center Derick Brassard from the Ottawa Senators. The Pens sent their best goalie prospect, a 2018 first-rounder and defenseman Ian Cole to Ottawa as part of a three-team deal. It was worth it for Pittsburgh, though, because when you have a really good chance to three-peat as Stanley Cup champs you have to be aggressive. Brassard gives the Penguins the best 1-2-3 punch down the middle in the league, with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin — arguably the two best players in the world — centering the top two lines. Brassard adds even more playoff experience to the Penguins, too. He’s tallied 55 points in 78 career postseason games, and he’s been to the playoffs in each of the last five campaigns.
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings needed to clear salary cap space and acquire draft picks for the future, and they accomplished both by trading forward Tomas Tatar (and his $5.3 million salary cap hit) to the Vegas Golden Knights for first-, second- and third-round picks.
The Jets have their best team since returning to Winnipeg in 2011-12, and they gave their fans even more reason to be excited by acquiring top-six center Paul Stastny from the St. Louis Blues. Stastny is expected to center Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine and form one of the league’s most skilled third lines.
The Capitals are in a good spot atop the Metropolitan Division, but they are not talented enough to beat the rival Penguins or the Lightning in the playoffs. They had a better roster in each of the last two seasons, and it still wasn’t enough to beat the Pens in Round 2 of the playoffs. Washington didn’t have much salary cap space to work with at this deadline, but to make no moves of note isn’t going to make Caps fans happy.
New York Islanders
The Islanders are two points out of the last wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and they didn’t make any moves outside of swapping fourth-line forwards with the Anaheim Ducks. This team needed another defenseman because it ranks 31st in goals against average and 30th in penalty killing. The major story surrounding the Isles all season has been the upcoming free agency of captain and franchise player John Tavares. New York didn’t do anything to show him they are serious about making the playoffs and doing damage once there.
New York Rangers
The Rangers traded Nash, Miller, forward Michael Grabner and their best defenseman, McDonagh, and failed to acquire a single elite-level prospect. The Nash return gives the Rangers a likely late first rounder, a center in Spooner who’s a defensive liability and is inconsistent 5-on-5, and a prospect in Lindgren, who at best is a top-four D-man in the NHL. That’s not a great package for a top-six forward.
Grabner brought back a B-level defenseman prospect and the New Jersey Devils’ 2018 second-round pick — a solid return but nothing amazing.
The McDonagh return was worse. New York did get a highly skilled top-six forward in Namestnikov, but it’ll be interesting to see how much scoring he generates without playing alongside two top-five scorers in Stamkos and Kucherov on Tampa Bay’s first line. He’s also arbitration eligible this summer and is having a career season.
New York also received prospects Brett Howden and Libor Hakek, as well as two draft picks.
The Rangers have a lot of draft picks in the next two years, but nailing those selections isn’t easy, and none of these trades netted the Blueshirts a potential franchise-changing prospect.
New York should have held out for Sergachev, a potential first-pairing blueliner at 19 years old, in the McDonagh trade, especially since the veteran D-man isn’t a rental and has another year left on his contract.
The Rangers’ rebuild is in its early stages, and it hasn’t gone too well so far.
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