NHL Trade Deadline Winners, Losers: Panthers Stand Out In Loaded East

The Panthers got even better

by

March 21

The NHL trade deadline came and went Monday, but the real action was mostly reserved for the days leading up to the deadline.

The Claude Giroux blockbuster over the weekend probably involved the biggest name moved at any point in the trade season. The Bruins’ move to acquire Hampus Lindholm, one that should benefit them now and beyond 2022, also went down on the weekend.

Ultimately, Monday lacked the top-end star power, with teams like Arizona and Vancouver largely standing pat. There were a lot of moves made — at one point 33 trades were in the league’s queue — but there was no real major blockbuster, unless you want to include the Marc-Andre Fleury trade (and sorry, Andrew Copp).

Here’s a quick, way-too-early and far-too-shortsighted look at NHL trade deadline winners and losers.

WINNERS

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Pens stayed pretty quiet in the days and hours leading up to the deadline before a relatively stealthy move to acquire Rickard Rakell from the Anaheim Ducks. Rakell is having a bit of a career year, but there’s no reason to believe his productivity will drop. In fact, he should get even better playing alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Putting him next to Crosby should be especially tantalizing for Mike Sullivan, as Crosby’s superb playmaking should put Rakell in a position where he can continue to finish at the net.

Florida Panthers: Landing Giroux solidifies the Panthers’ standing as a Stanley Cup favorite. Giroux still has some playmaking capabilities, but just as important is the playoff experience and leadership he brings to a relatively young team. Reeling in that fish sends a clear message to the dressing room that the Panthers believe they can win this year, and the price was pretty good, too.

Minnesota Wild: Bill Guerin is going for it. The Wild made a splash by swooping in and acquiring Stanley Cup-winning goalie Marc Andre-Fluery from Chicago. They followed that up with an intriguing depth move, swinging a deal for hard-nosed defenseman Jacob Middleton from the San Jose Sharks. No current Western Conference team has allowed more goals than the Wild, so these two moves should certainly help in that regard.

Montreal Canadiens: The Canadiens are very bad. Nothing they were gonna do Monday could change that. However, Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes did all they could in their first deadline calling the shots in Montreal. The best move might have been maximizing the return for Artturi Lehkonen, getting defense prospect Justin Barron and a 2024 second-round pick back from Colorado. Barron was the No. 25 pick in the 2020 draft and was the Avs’ No. 3 prospect, in a recent ranking from The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler.

Detroit Red Wings: Steve Yzerman continues to rebuild the franchise for which he became a legend. Detroit didn’t do a ton, but it did well to turn Nick Leddy and Luke Witkowski into two NHLers (Jake Walman, Oskar Sundqvist and a 2023 second-round pick). It’s not earth-shattering or anything, but it’s another positive step forward.

Vancouver Canucks: They didn’t do much, but holding onto their best assets — most of which still have term left — was the right play. Might as well stay the course and see if you can get hot and go on a run. If not, there’s always the offseason.

LOSERS

New York Islanders: On one hand, you could look at this roster and think it’s still good enough to compete. It’s been an especially unique season for the Isles, and next year will be better, so maybe it’s fine. On the other hand, though, New York had a handful of veteran unrestricted free agents it could have turned into assets. Instead, the Isles inked 34-year-old Cal Clutterbuck and 37-year-old Zach Parise to contract exensions and held on to 45-year-old Zdeno Chara.

Arizona Coyotes: Holding a Jakob Chychrun trade until the offseason makes sense, but what good does it do the Coyotes to keep someone like Phil Kessel? It doesn’t sound like he’d be standing in the way of a deal, either.

Jake DeBrusk: Can one really be labeled a “loser” on the day they sign a two-year contract extension worth $8 million? Especially if they continue to play for a playoff team? It’s not the end of the world for DeBrusk — far from it — but he did want to be traded but will instead stick with the Bruins. Here’s the thing, though: Both the player and franchise can benefit from a strong stretch run and into the playoffs, which is where DeBrusk has shined in the past.

Edmonton Oilers: It was a pretty underwhelming day for the Oilers, who might not even be good enough to go on a deep run anyway. Goaltending is a major issue, and Edmonton could have used an upgrade there which didn’t happen.

Philadelphia Flyers: Does Philly feel any better about the future of the franchise after Monday? The Flyers obviously did their biggest work during the weekend in the Giroux trade. Having to wait until 2024 to get a first-rounder for their franchise legend is a tough pill to swallow and likely speaks to how long the rebuild might be. That all this comes on the heels of head-scratching Rasmus Ristolainen extension only makes it worse for Philly. At least they didn’t trade Travis Sanheim, which apparently was on the table.

Thumbnail photo via Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports Images
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